“My home,” she said, indicating the contents of the plywood shack with a delicate sweep of her hand.
“It’s nice,” I lied, knowing she knew it wasn’t but not wanting to give offense.
“Sit,” she said, pointing to an ancient sofa with springs poking through the dirty brown fabric. I sat avoiding the sharp metal springs and the worst of the dirt. I acted as if I were sitting in a mansion, my smile as ever disarming.
“How long?”I asked. She flashed a smile and corrected an errant strand of dark brown hair.
“Not long enough,” She answered, ” I’m sure you’ve heard that before.”
“Many times,” I agreed. We sat for a moment in silence. Then she looked up.
“What do I get?” She was all business this one, there must not have been much time left.
“What do you need?”
“My daughter… she only has me to look after her.”
“She will be cared for.” I smiled, “I will see to it personally.”
“You won’t… my daughter I mean, no catches?”
“No, you need not worry. I realize my reputation is poor but that is the doing of others. I assure you I am an honest… man.”
She seemed comforted, I continued.
“As for you, there is no denying it won’t be pleasant but you will have the knowledge that your daughter is safe and her future her own. That is more than most. No strings. No tricks.”
“When… when will it happen to me.” She asked, bravely.
“Sometime within the next three days.”
“I would have thought you more precise, timed to the exact minute.”
“Oh it is,” I said, “but… better for you if you don’t know.”
“I see,” she said and smiled.
She then stood and held out her small thin hand. I took it gently and turned to leave. I moved slowly to give her a chance to change her mind. She didn’t. We had a deal. So many others had seemed strong until this final point then faltered. This one was strong. I stepped out into the fresh night air and started off towards my next visit without looking back.