It was kind of like a knack. This thing her son could do to people. They simply liked him, wanted to do things for him, take care of him. He was decent looking, but not what you would call traditionally handsome, his hair was dark and his eyes light and that combination was always striking, just like his father he was hard to miss in a crowd.
Ever since he was a child, Grady he had figured out that with the right tone, half smile, head tilt, or appropriately placed crocodile tear, he could get just about anything he wanted. It started small, toys and candy, then later it was baseball cards and sports gear. A new hat there, a new glove here. He was such a charming boy she would tell her friends; they would coo over him and tell him that he was special. He would smile and bow and charm them into giving him coins and chocolates and other little favors. He took everything that was presented to him, but it never even occurred to him that he would ever need to give anything back. She supposed it was her own fault.
Highschool had been a breeze for him. Friends, acquaintances, well wishers were always there, to buy lunch, or beer, pick up smokes. He waltzed through life upon the kindness of strangers until they became friends, when the money, influence or good will ran out, he would simply move on to his next best friend. Over and over again until the town he was born in became too small, to cramped, too hostile.
He went to collage, and in his brief stay he discovered that if he played his cards right, he need never have to pay to get a place of his own. By 22 he was an experienced couch surfer of the very first class. Managing to stay for weeks, sometimes months on one couch or another. When the hospitality ran out, he would cry to his other friends, usually new ones by then, about the injustice and cruelty of the world. This would get him onto a new couch and so the cycle would continue.
His mother was sure that when he found the right girl he would eventually settle down. After all, she reminded herself, that is what happened to his father. Charles had been a strong, capable man, charming like his son, but with a temper. She shuddered as she remembered his temper.
She had fallen for him the moment she had laid eyes on him and was determined to win him over. She had tried all the tricks available to her in those days, articles clipped from magazines told her how to dress, put on make up for the first time, how to talk, what to say, how to say it. She had spent weeks cocooned in her tiny room transforming herself into what she was sure all men had wanted. She emerged a butterfly, gossamer, transparent, ready to win the man of her dreams. In the end it was all much simpler than she had imagined.
She approached him, holding the box of cookies she had baked just for him, as he sat with his friends, perched on a motorbike, wearing that leather jacket she had loved. They ignored her, that is to say they, began to speak louder, jockey for position, trying to get her attention with out getting her attention. She only had eyes for him though. She took a deep breath, stepped forward and with a confidence she didn’t really feel she said,
“Any one want to trade a ride for my cookies?” it was a risk; she knew any one of them could have volunteered. She stared at him, until he finally looked up into her eyes. She held his gaze, while the other boys clambered and joked, pushed each other and flung insults. She noticed nothing, locked into his blue eyes as he stared back into hers. That was the real power she knew, if they could just spend enough time locked into eye contact, he would be hers. He broke it off though, took the box of cookies from her and handed it back behind him to his crew. He looked resigned when he lifter her up and put her on the back of his bike, together they had ridden off into the sunset.
That was how she liked to remember it, any way. In the end her mind had cut out the less pleasant parts of that first meeting, then went ahead and edited out the rest of the unpleasantness of their short lives together, before the fight, the midnight ride drunk on the country road. She cut out the sirens, the lights, the tears, and broken bones. Her son had survived and that was all that had mattered then.
She wondered if Grady would have turned out differently if he had been raised by two parents instead of just one. She had spoiled him, she knew, but she could never help herself. He was just so charming, looked so much like his father. She could see the dark road he was marching down with a vengeance, once she had tried to sit him down and have a frank conversation about how he treated people. He only laughed though and told her that there were billions of people, and he could always make new friends. She warned him that one day those words would come back to haunt him. He was still so young though.
One day a girl would steal his heart, she was sure of it, when she did, he would finally learn a little humility. It wasn’t that she wanted her son to suffer, but she knew that a life of getting everything you want with out working for any of it was no way to live. He was such a happy go lucky kid, unaffected by stress, worry, or care. She wondered if he would mourn her after she had passed away, if he would even notice that she was gone. She wondered if she had done the right thing that night, when she had cut the breaks on that old Motorbike.