Have You Seen Luis Velez?

Have You Seen Luis Velez?

Catherine Ryan Hyde

Chapter One

* * *

Those Eyes

Raymond slipped out the door of his family’s apartment and across the hall to the railed stairs. He looked down the long, rectangular stairwell, four floors down to the lobby. At first he saw no one.

It was morning, and a glare of light hit the stairwell from the windows at the end of every hallway on every floor. Still, as there was nothing but another building outside those windows—which hadn’t been cleaned—it only looked dank and muted. It didn’t match with Raymond’s idea of sunlight.

A moment later Andre’s face appeared all the way down in the lobby. He looked up at Raymond. Raymond held up one finger in a signal, asking his friend to wait.

Then he slipped back inside.

His stepfather, who had only just arrived home from his night shift job, sat at the kitchen table, drinking coffee. Reading the sports section of the paper. Raymond’s youngest half sister, too young for school, sat eating cereal, tapping the bowl with her spoon in rhythm several times between each bite. She looked up at Raymond and smiled.

“Hi, Ray Ray,” she said.

“Hey, Clarissa.”

Apparently his two other half sisters had already left for school.

Raymond grabbed a granola bar out of a box in the cupboard and slid it into his shirt pocket. Then he stood—as tall and obvious as possible—in front of his stepfather’s newspaper.


It should have worked. Tall was something of a specialty of Raymond’s.

He cleared his throat.

Still nothing.

Raymond didn’t call his stepfather “Dad.” Not ever. He was allowed to call him Ed, but he had never felt comfortable doing so.

“Um . . . ,” he began.

Ed lowered the paper and looked up at him. Waited.

“I was hoping you could . . .”

“Unless you tell me what, I probably can’t.”

“Give me some money for school lunch?”

Ed sighed, and Raymond knew he wouldn’t get the money.

“How many times do we have to go over this? It’s cheaper to eat the lunch your mother made.”

“She didn’t make me one.”

Ed dropped his newspaper onto the table. He rose, walked briskly to the refrigerator, and threw its door wide. That, Raymond could understand. But he did not understand why the man just stood there, letting all the cold out. There was no lunch prepared, waiting in a brown bag. That much was obvious already. Did he think staring would make one appear?

Clarissa dropped her spoon into her bowl of cereal, splashing milk onto the table. She wrapped herself in her own tiny arms, as though suddenly thrust out onto a frozen Alaskan tundra in her jammies.

“Brrrrrr,” she said.

Ed grabbed a package of baloney from a refrigerator shelf. The mustard from inside the door.

Raymond sighed. He would have happily made his own lunch, but when he did his stepfather always complained that he used far too much meat and cheese.

“I’ll be late.”

“It’ll only take a minute.”

“Andre is waiting for me.”

“He can go without you if he’s in such a hurry. You don’t have to walk with him every day.”

“It’s his last day.”

Ed’s hands stopped moving. He had been opening the bag around a loaf of bread, but he stopped. Looked over his shoulder at Raymond.

“What, you mean . . . on earth?”

“I told you,” Raymond said, desperately wishing he could transport himself somewhere else. Anywhere else.

“I don’t remember.”

No, of course you don’t. Because you don’t listen.

“He’s moving.”

“So? You’ll take the subway and see him. You’re a big boy. Big enough to ride the subway by yourself. Hell, you’re nearly grown. Old enough to work a job. I had a job when I was sixteen. You’ll go see him.”

Ed had an uncanny ability to work the getting of jobs into every conversation.

“He’s moving to California.”

“Oh,” Ed said. “I guess that does sound familiar.”

He swiped a knife across one slice of bread, spreading far too much mustard around. Then he dropped a single slice of baloney on the mustard and slapped another piece of bread onto that. He slid it into a plastic sandwich bag. Grabbed a sad-looking orange from a bowl on the counter. Dropped both into a brown paper bag that looked as though it had made twenty or more trips to school and back.

“On his own?” Ed asked as he handed it to Raymond. “Or with his family?”

Of course with his family. He’s not even seventeen yet. Where’s he going to go on his own? And if you say, “In my day we . . .”

“With his family.”

“Tell him I said bye.”

“Right. I will.”

Raymond grabbed up his book backpack from the hall on his way to the door. Slung one of its straps over his shoulder. He threw the door wide, and almost bowled Andre down on his way out. He grabbed one of his friend’s arms to keep him from tipping over backward. When he was sure Andre had steadied himself, Raymond let go, and they just stood that way a moment. Even though they both knew they were late.

Catherine Ryan Hyde's Books