I’ve had a chance to rest, and as promised, I am ready to tell you what happened next.
For a second, we all stood there in stunned silence. Then Keith rushed forward. “Lilaaa!” he wailed, embracing the golden statue as though hoping his touch could revive her. When nothing happened, he whirled toward D.J., eyes flashing with anger. “Bring her back!” he said. “Bring her back now!”
D.J.’s eyes had lost their glassy look. He took a step back, eyes flitting from Keith to the Lila statue. “I — I don’t know how.” He glanced down at his fingertips, which didn’t look at all like supernatural weapons that had just transformed a bunch of furniture and a woman into solid gold.
Keith let out a furious bellow, then struck D.J. across the face. D.J.’s face turned a deep shade of red. I could almost feel his anger boil over, the dam no longer held back by breathing exercises. When Keith lifted his hand to hit him a second time, D.J. threw a punch that connected with Keith’s jaw. Next thing I knew, the two of them were full-out brawling in the middle of the antique store.
Moments later, the scuffle came to a halt. For one brief, foolish moment, I was relieved, thinking they had stopped fighting. But no, D.J. had only stepped away, and was now lifting his finger. I watched, paralyzed, as he pointed his finger at Keith.
“NO!” I said, too late. Keith, our roommate Keith, was already changing — his brown skin, his too-short jeans, his unkempt black hair – all transformed into a statue of gold.
D.J. met my horrified expression with one of his own. “Oh no, oh no,” he said over and over, backing away from the pair of golden statues. “Oh my god…I’ve killed Keith.”
“D.J.,” I said in a whisper, peering over my shoulder, certain that the shopkeeper had overheard the ruckus and would emerge from the back room any second. “We’ve got to get out of here. Okay? We need to leave.”
I didn’t have to tell him twice. We both grabbed out jackets and quick-walked out of the shop. The moment the door closed behind us, we took off running. After a few blocks, D.J. stopped me. “Leon, we’ve got to go. Leave town. Tonight.”
I nodded, my quick, panting breaths forming clouds in the frozen air. He was right. We couldn’t stay here, not now. People would wonder where Keith had gone. The antique store owner would raise questions about the two human-sized gold statues. Maybe someone would remember that D.J. had been studying alchemy with the genie. Maybe I would be implicated along with him.
We didn’t have time to pack much. Just like when we had left Detroit during an impulsive whim, we hurriedly threw some clothes into garbage bags. Then we bid adieu to D.J.’s dear Aunt Mabel’s house. Just before we left, D.J. used his golden touch to transform a couple of rocks into gold. “Could come in handy,” he said, shrugging. Then we climbed into his van and left the town of Asteria.
“To California?” asked D.J.
“To California,” I said in agreement.
A few hours before reaching California, we ran out of gas in some dusty desert town. I am writing you from a cramped motel room, which smells like Pine-Sol and old cigarettes. We have been here for five days, and D.J. has barely left his bed. He just stares at old TV shows, or, if the TV is off, at the bare walls. I think maybe he’s run out of gas, too.
Your fugitive friend,