Liza shut the laptop and stared across the dark bedroom. Her eyes were burning and her head was overflowing with thoughts. Two hours of scouring the internet turned up nothing for Bruce other than a short bio on the University’s website. She’d restrained herself from searching for him before. It turned out that there was nothing to find anyway. Liza slid the tattered story from Casey’s copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that now lived on Liza’s nightstand. Bruce had apparently given it to her when she was in the hospital, though Liza still didn’t know when. She hoped that it had brought Casey some enjoyment.
Liza thought about her nice for a while, but then her thoughts snapped back to breakfast. Bruce admitted that he was homeless, but offered no explanation other than that it was “a long story”. Jake wanted to throw him and Michael out. Sam glided around the kitchen, silently cleaning up. Michael stared between Bruce and Liza from under a halo of smoke. He didn’t say a word. It was tempting to side with Jake, throw them out, and end all this drama. But just like that day at the underpass, she didn’t have a choice. As annoyed as she was with Bruce, she felt compelled to defend him from Jake’s verbal attacks.
Liza unlocked the door and crept into the hallway. Laura’s old room was empty. She wondered if Michael left. He had been uncomfortable accepting Liza’s invitation to stay the night. She continued downstairs. An old black and white movie was playing on TV. Bruce was asleep on the sofa. Jake was snoring in the recliner. He had the remote in one hand and his roofing shears in the other. Liza smiled and shook her head.
The rest of the downstairs was empty. So was the basement. The back door was locked. She was about to write Michael off when she noticed that the door to the deck was cracked. Little puffs of smoke floated by the kitchen window. She put on her coat and boots, grabbed her cigarettes and two bottles of beer, and went out to join him. Michael was standing under the large awning that ran the length of the kitchen’s bay window. Only a dusting of snow had accumulated here. Liza walked over and stood next to him. He didn’t move. She handed him a beer, which he downed in two giant gulps. He was silent for a few minutes before letting out a huge sigh. “Thanks, Liza.”