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Catching onix, p.2
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       Catching Onix, p.2

           Renee Conoulty
 
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  * * *

  “Did you see my handstand?”

  Grace ruffled her son’s hair. “Sure did. That was your best one yet.”

  “I held it for, like, a hundred and seventeen seconds.”

  More like five seconds, but Grace simply smiled and passed Finn her phone.

  “Let’s see what we can catch on the way back to the car.”

  They followed the footpath around the YMCA.

  “There’s a lure on. Can we stay here for just a bit?”

  “Ten minutes.”

  “Twenty?”

  “Fifteen. I’ll sit over there.” Grace gestured to a nearby park bench.

  “Can we cross the road, please? If I stand over there, with him, I can reach all three Pokéstops.”

  Grace looked over to where Finn was pointing. A man leant up against the corner of the building. “No.” She grabbed her son’s arm. “Don’t point at people.”

  The man looked up from his phone and caught Grace’s gaze. She looked away, catching a glimpse of the familiar green ute parked on the side street.

  “You guys playing Pokémon too?” The words carried clearly across the street.

  “Yeah,” Finn called back.

  Grace tightened her grip on his arm.

  “You can reach all three Pokéstops from here,” the stranger called out.

  “I know, but my Mum won’t let me come over.”

  “Finn,” Grace hissed through clenched teeth. Memories of a dark-haired stranger looking for his lost dog rooted her feet to the ground.

  “C’mon, Mum.” The voice was too deep to be Finn.

  Grace looked up. Did he just call her Mum?

  “You can come over too. Promise I don’t bite.” The man smiled, running his fingers through his chocolate brown hair.

  Grace’s stomach knotted at the sight of his brown hair, her heart rate rocketing as if she was running down the footpath. She lowered her gaze to his face. His smile widened, unravelling the knots in her stomach then twisting them up again. She’d trusted her gut instinct back then and escaped but she wasn’t sure what her gut was saying now. She gripped her car-key weapon.

  “Mum?” The tiny voice brought her back to the present. She nodded, slipped her free hand into his and they crossed the road.

  “Hi, I’m Jackson.” The man held his hand out.

  Grace automatically reached out to shake his hand. Metal clanked against concrete. Grace looked towards the sound. Her keys. She squatted to pick them up, rising to see her son shaking hands with the stranger. Icicles of fear slid down her back. She thought she’d drummed “stranger danger” into her son but it seemed the manners lessons had made more impact with him, just like they had with her.

  “I’m Finn and this is my Mum. What level are you on? I’m on level 16.” Finn shoved her phone into Jackson’s face.

  “I think I saw you in a gym yesterday.”

  “Yeah, I took over a gym on the way home from school. Are you JBoy8?”

  “Finn, don’t talk to strangers,” Grace mouthed, pulling him closer to her.

  “He’s not a stranger, he’s Jackson,” Finn said, much louder than Grace’s whisper.

  Heat flushed up her neck.

  Jackson smiled at her then spoke to Finn. “Yep, I’m JBoy8.” He studied Finn’s phone. “SharkO33. Let me guess, Shark because sharks have fins?”

  “Yeah! You’ll never guess the O though.”

  “Nah, got me stumped there.”

  “The O is for my middle name, Onyx, and the 33 because I like the number 3 but SharkO3 was already taken.”

  “Onyx, hey. So have you caught an Onix yet?”

  “Nope. I saw one once, but it got away. I really want one, though. Have you caught one?”

  “I’ve got two.”

  “Wow! Where did you find them?”

  “I caught one just here the other day and the other one along the Esplanade.”

  “I hope we see one today!” Finn hopped from foot to foot. “What level are you?”

  Jackson smiled at Grace, then lowered his phone so Finn could see.

  “Wow! You’re on level 23. That’s, like, the highest level.”

  “Not quite, but I’ve been stuck here for a while.”

  “Why are you called JBoy8? You’re not a boy, you’re old.” Finn tilted his head to one side.

  Maybe those manners lessons hadn’t quite sunk all the way in.

  “The J is for Jack and a son is a boy. The 8 is for the eighth month, for my birthday.”

  Finn tapped his fingers in turn. “That’s August. It’s August now. When’s your birthday?”

  “Ah, tomorrow.”

  “Are you having a party? I had a party at the water park.”

  “That would’ve been fun. I’m not doing anything special, and anyway, I’m too old for parties.”

  Grace watched the scene unfold before her, her emotions fluctuating between the terror of the unknown and the joy of seeing her son bond with a man. His father was nowhere to be seen and her parents lived across the country. She’d moved far from the bustling Melbourne metropolis she’d grown up in, but running from her memories also meant leaving her family behind.

  “You’re never too old for parties, are you Mum?” Finn looked up at Grace, his face glowing.

  “Maybe he doesn’t want to celebrate his birthday.” Grace didn’t want to think about how old she was going to be next month. She’d always thought she’d have it all together by the time she was thirty.

  “I don’t mind birthdays, but they’re better when you have someone to share them with. I just moved here a few weeks ago so I don’t know many people yet.” Jackson squatted down beside Finn. “Does your mum like cake?”

  “She loves cake.”

  “What’s her name? She forgot to tell me.”

  Finn pointed at his mother. “She’s Grace Diamond Mulligan.”

  Don’t point.

  Jackson rose to his full height. “Well, Grace Diamond Mulligan, would you and Finn like to meet me tomorrow for coffee, cake and some Pokémon catching? There’s a great bakery near the water tower.”

  Her instinct was to shout “no” but the word caught in her throat.

  “I’m not old enough to drink coffee,” Finn said.

  “How about chocolate milk?”

  “Chocolate milk is for babies. Can I have a Coke?”

  Jackson chuckled. “You’ll have to ask your mum.”

  Grace’s resolve weakened as two pairs of eyes pleaded with her. They’d be in a public place and she could leave if she didn’t feel safe. She knew she was overprotective. Of herself as much as Finn.

  “Okay.” She pushed the fear down and let a smile slip onto her face. “What time?”

 
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