27: Porcelain in Pieces

The thing that would replay itself over and over in Smile’s head, the thing that eventually made him so sick he actually vomited, kneeling humiliated over the stainless steel toilet of his jail cell, was that it was so easy.  His first thought had nothing to do with shock or shame or horror, but more awe, at how easy it was to knock a girl down.  He had just swung, and Dori had gone down.  He’d seen twelve year-olds take harder hits than that.  He hadn’t even hurt his hand.  The realization went through Smile’s brain and was gone before Dori even hit the floor.

The shock and shame and horror took over the next moment.  Dori was on her back in a splattering of distressed plates, mouth open, pushing herself backward with her heels but not going anywhere.  There was a glazed, dumbstruck look on her face, like she wasn’t sure what had happened.  Oh, God, Smile thought.  I did that.  I did that.  The impulse had come without warning.  He’d felt the anger boil and all of a sudden she was falling down.  There had been no conscious decision to hit Dori–how could there have been?  He still liked her, a lot.

But now the Horrible Thing had happened, even if he wasn’t exactly sure how.  It was the second Horrible Thing this week in fact, she’d probably take out a restraining order on him!  It had to be dealt with, regardless.  Smile knew this, but he froze anyway.  Daniel screaming at him didn’t help.

In fact, everyone was screaming at him:  Daniel, Dewayne, Kristi (the other waitress), and a few people from the dining room.  He put his hands up, an abortive attempt to cover his ears, and said, “I’m sorry,” his words drowned out under the pandemonium and really not all that helpful anyway.

When Bill returned from his delivery and opened the back door, Smile took the opportunity to escape.  Daniel shouted at him, ordering him to stay where he was, and someone grabbed his shoulder, but Smile shrugged it off like he was making an end-zone run and was gone into the night.

Smile just drove.  Where to go?  He didn’t know where he was going, just that he was driving, and as long as he was in the car, nothing would happen.  He was in limbo, and wished he could stay there forever.  Why had Dori said that?  She had a propensity to get nasty, but none of her comments had ever set him off like that before.

He wanted to blame her, but he couldn’t make it stick.  He was the one who should have kept his hands to himself, and that was that.  There wasn’t an excuse.  There was no sense in driving around wishing it hadn’t happened, either.  Shit.

Maybe he could go to Jay’s house.  It was late, but he’d still be up.  Crash there for a while.

Smile discarded the idea.  Jay was still pissed off about breaking the band up.  There wouldn’t be any safe haven there.  That was just as well.  He’d done this thing, and he’d take his punishment like a man.

That was what he told himself, anyway, as he went against every instinct in his head and drove home.  Sure enough, there was a police car in the lot when he got there, parked off to the side and trying to look unobtrusive.  Two uniformed cops and Khalid met him at the door, and he went with them.