A grin stretched across Alex’s face as Roger walked over to him. “Hey, Alex. Good to see you again. How are you doing?”
“I’ve been better,” Alex said, still smiling. “Do you know that the employees who wash dishes in the basement of my family’s restaurant have it better than me?”
Roger just stared at Alex, without uttering a word.
Alex continued, “I used to think that was below me, but I can’t take this anymore. If my family will take me back, I’ll wash dishes in that hot basement for the rest of my life.” Alex stopped, expecting a response from Roger. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
Roger smiled and offered his cell phone to Alex. “Wanna call him now?”
The Return Alex took Roger’s phone and walked outside to the church’s concrete bench, where he had slept the night before. It was quiet there, and Alex wanted complete privacy for what he was about to do. He dialed Papa’s number and then paused. He took a deep breath and hit Send.
It seemed like an eternity, but on the third ring, his dad answered. “Hello?”
Alex froze. Warm emotions streamed through him at the sound of his father’s voice. He was choked up and did not know what to say.
Again, he heard his dad. “Hello. Is anyone there?”
Afraid Papa would hang up, Alex managed to summon enough air from his lungs to say, “Dad, it’s me. It’s Alex.” Alex braced himself because he was certain his father would yell or sigh in utter disappointment.
But Papa’s reaction was quite the opposite. He was ecstatic to have a call from his wayward son. “Alex! I am so happy to hear from you.” Alex could hear the emotion in his father’s voice. “Are you OK?”
Alex was not sure why, but his father’s concerned words had him suddenly sobbing uncontrollably. A massive wave of guilt came crashing over him, and he needed to purge every last bit of shame.
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