"You're awfully quiet over there Elton."
"Gotta lot on my mind." He gazed out of the window still transfixed on the desert scenery passing by. "It's funny the way life turns out sometimes," he said.
"Yeah, I guess so, if you mean funny in a painful way."
Elton adjusted his position, and turned to face her.
"You know, when I went off to school, I was so glad to leave.
It was like whew, just in a nick of time," he said brushing a hand across his brow."I didn't have to deal with my dad going to jail, or with the family shame. It was just me, and my studies.
That was all I cared about. I was determined not to be like him."
"Like who, Elton?"
He swallowed hard, turned away from her, and looked straight ahead at the long, black stretch of highway ahead that resembled a long empty tunnel with no light at the end. For moments at a time there would be nothing ahead, no detour to take, no road signs for guidance, and no accompanying vehicles to share the lonely road. I’m on my own now, he thought. He turned to look at her.
"Like my dad," he said. His voice was barely audible above the white noise hum of the tires rolling along the highway.
"And in all of this time, you've never once visited him in prison."
“How would you know that?”
“Charles told me.”
"Well no, I haven’t”. Elton shook his head. “It's so weird, but I’ve always had this feeling that he was an innocent man, jailed for a crime he didn't commit. It was like he was buried alive in an unmarked grave. And nothing could be done about it. I think that is why I chose to practice law. This phobia of mine... if it happened to me I wanted to know enough about the law to save myself. I know it's stupid but...”
"You're right," Oda said. “It's stupid. He's your father, and you did the worst thing any son could do to his father, and that's not growing up to be a man. You can't run forever and live motivated by fear Elton. That's what you've been doing, all these years, running."
Elton sat silent as more cars passed by. The drapery of darkness was being raised and the highway ahead was getting brighter as the sun continued to light up the sky.
“It may be too late to fix things, but, that is why I must keep running, until I prove my innocence. And in proving my innocence, I'll prove my dad's innocence too,” he paused and looked straight ahead, squinting now, “and make up for a lot of things that I've done wrong."
Oda patted his hand, "I’ll help you as much as I can Elton. You know that Charles wants to help you too. Why don't you go to him?"
"Oda, he's a police officer. His first duty isn't about saving my ass, it's all about sending me to jail."
"He talks about you often, and is so proud of you," she said.
“Your pillow talk with him is about me? I find that hard to believe."
As soon as he spoke those words Elton wanted to take them back.
It was a juvenile response, but he found it difficult to offer an apology. The remainder of their ride was made in silence.
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