Today I decided to bring back Chris from Painted Black in a cameo scene somewhere in Cry Baby Cry. If you haven’t met him yet, here’s an excerpt from Painted Black of Jo watching a DVD from a peer group session that includes Chris.

“See,” Chris said, and the edited shot showed him next, leaning forward in his seat. “That’s where it’s different for me than most of you. I’m not homeless because I got kicked out, or somebody beat me up or raped me. I chose this life. It’s better this way. This way, my mom doesn’t have to worry about taking care of me and feeding me. Working three jobs. Taking care of Pete and Josey and the baby. Yeah,” he nodded his head. “It’s better this way.”

His eyes caught the camera for a second, then darted away quickly. Two high spots of color appeared on his cheeks. He fumbled for a pack of cigarettes in his pocket as the camera panned to the guy next to him.

The Chris on the screen struck Jo as slightly uncertain, but covering it with bravado. The bitterness hadn’t yet seeped into his tone.

There wasn’t much more to the video, so Jo fast-forwarded. Chris’s face zipped across the screen, and she backed up to hear him end the session with one last story.

“One day, I walked into Lakeview High with all the other kids. I just wandered around, looked into classrooms—I don’t know why, really. There’s something about the sound of a school bell ringing …. But then the halls started clearing out. Some teacher, or the principal or somebody, caught sight of me and said, ‘Hey, you, where you supposed to be right now, boy?’ I would have tried to bullshit my way out of it, but he was a big guy, so I just ran out.”

The camera stayed on him when he paused. For the long second of silence, he seemed to be lost somewhere, his gaze unfocused, smoldering cigarette forgotten.

“I call my mom sometimes. Just to let her know I’m okay, you know? Sometimes I talk for a while, tell her I’ve got a job, even if I don’t. Tell a few lies. Sometimes I don’t say much more than hi, it’s Chris, I’m okay so don’t worry, and then I say goodbye. She always says she loves me, and that she worries about me, but, you know—”

Some of of my readers will be especially happy with this news because he was a popular character. I won’t tell you when he’ll appear or what he’ll be doing, but I promise he’ll show up.

He looked up and took a drag from his cigarette. The smoke he exhaled clouded his face, making it difficult to identify the expression in his eyes. “She’s never asked me to come home. Not once.”

The camera lingered for a few moments. Smoke from the cigarette trailed in wisps in front of his face. Then the screen slowly faded to black.

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