pass to get him back into the mission. As luck would have it, he did.
Sio took up two seats on the Bay Area's answer to the subway system as it shuttled him back to the shoe box apartment he managed to afford on his own. On any normal occasion he went out of his way to avoid mass transit. It was too claustrophobic, contained too many strangers who were blatant with their assessments, and their needs, and their agendas. Tonight, he was too beat to shit to care. He must have looked bad though, because almost everyone in eyeshot was pointedly directing their attention elsewhere.
A few seats in front of him a girl was sketching. Her electric blue bob stuck up at precarious and endearing angles like she'd forgotten to comb it. It framed a pale heart shaped face with delicate bone structure. She was biting her lower lip with the utmost concentration as she appraised him with gigantic cobalt Bambi eyes before burying her head back toward her pad. The way she was mooning between bouts of artistic assessment made him uncomfortable. She was pretty, no question, but too young, and way, way too damn innocent. He had no business anywhere near someone like that.
A small insistent vibration rocked the left pocket of his gym bag distracting from her scrutiny. Sio cursed the difficulty it took to extract his cell from the abyss and wondered how women ever found anything in the zeppelin sized purses they carried. According to the display screen it wasn't even midnight. He felt like he hadn't slept for a week.
"Hey Jay. What's going on?"
"I'm screwed, man, that's what."
"Good to hear from you too," Sio said. He smiled which made his split lip start to bleed again. He was thrilled to discover that his voice sounded sturdy considering the collapsed lung. Bambi snapped the lead tip off her pencil and, red faced, started digging for another one in the Betty page Caboodle where she kept all of her supplies.
Sio let out a self-deprecating chuckle. "Unbelievable."
"Scuse, what?" came the response from the other end of the line.
"Nothing, never mind. How are you screwed, Jay? And if it's in that fun life-affirming kind of way, hang up the phone and quit crying."
"Asshole, I wouldn't have called you in the first place."
"Good man. Why did you?"
"Bren's coworker Rachel, you remember her, blondish, too much makeup? Anyhoo, Rachel got tickets to a show at The Gates tomorrow night."
"Christ, it's eleven forty-two and you're calling me about dinner theater?"
"Uhh, yeah, and Bren really wants to go, says it's supposed to be life altering or some nonsense. You're sort of the catch."
"Here I thought you enjoyed the pleasure of my company."
"We do asshole. So if you won't do it for me, take one for team Bren, she really wants to go man."
Sio cringed at the thought of Bren's co-worker. The woman was pushy, self-important, and too damn handsy. He'd still go. Bren was good people. Hell, she was practically family.
"You know me," he replied in a falsely bright tone. "I'm all about a cultured evening of frivolity with you and your girl."
"And Rachel," Jay added.
"Her too. Meet you there?"
"The show is at ten. We can swing by yours and collect you."
"You collecting my date?"
Of course she did.
"I'll meet you there," he said.
Jay sounded relieved. "Thanks, Sio. I owe you."
"Yeah, yeah, you do."
Sio looked at the blue-haired pixie and her drawing as he got up to debark. She was a good artist and her sketch was impressive, mostly devoid of idealism. Kid had some serious talent. Then again, if he actually looked the way she'd drawn him he wasn't showing half as bad as he felt, which wasn't damn likely. Ahh, vanity. Maybe that's what prompted him to say what he did. Maybe he wanted one image out there to be more than an illusion of normal. A shooting pain tore through his neck as he leaned down. He ignored it.
"The eyes should be pale."
Sio selected a bleached yellow/brown from her bin as she gave him a startled look out of