“What's this?” Bill asked, catching the package Mike threw at him. Mike grinned at him, pulling out a chair and sitting down at their usual table.
Well...'usual' didn't really mean anything, not to Mike. He was having the time of his life, touring the continental United States, crawling all over the old tourist traps and finding new and weird things to take photos of and journal. He'd even set up an Instagram, taking photos of the places he sought out, little hidden corners of Americana, sometimes long forgotten and covered with the patina of old age.
At forty, he'd more than earned his chance to give into his wanderlust, finally free from the terrible burden he bore in Derry. Bill didn't blame him, either, because hadn't he done the same thing? Run wild as soon as he hit the Derry city limits and left that rotting carcass behind?
Better late than never, in that respect.
But it was their usual table, in that Mike always seemed to gravitate back around to California eventually.
It helped that most of them lived here, as though three thousand miles from their home town was enough (and it honestly wasn't but it was as far as they could get without immigrating). Richie and Eddie both lived in LA, and Bill's own house in Redding was just a day trip away, meaning that weekends often meant Bill went down to visit the others, or vice versa. Bev and Ben visited often from Chicago, and there were often round trips to see Stan and Patty in Georgia.
But Mike? Mike was so transient that it seemed he would never set down roots again. But every few weeks, there was a phone call, letting Bill know that Mike was in the area, and that he and Audra should meet with him for lunch. It was rare that they missed those meetups.
Audra was running late this afternoon, re-shoots were taking longer than expected. She sent her love, pinging both their phones and Mike smiled soft as he read her message. Bill's gaze wandered back to the little parcel.
“You gonna stare at that, or are you gonna open it?” Mike asked, taking a sip of his iced tea.
Bill put down his phone and finally undid the paper on the package. It was a small box, but he popped the lid, not really knowing what to expect. Mike often brought back trinkets, not just for him and Audra, but for everyone, finding little things that were right for the person he wanted to give them to, and weirdly, they always seemed to match.
Mike's insight to people really was amazing, Bill thought, even as he opened the little box. A pendant lay on protective foam, oblong and oddly shaped, a little bigger than a quarter. Brilliant whorls of color caught the light: red and green, brilliant yellow and deep orange, deep blacks and bright whites, all oddly shaped circles that were almost like tree rings in their near-symmetry. The funny little cabochon was held with a leather cord.
“What is this?” Bill asked, picking up the pendant and turning it over in his hand.
“Fordite,” Mike said with a smile, leaning back in his chair. “People call it Detroit Agate, too. It's car paint.”
“Car paint?” Bill asked. “How d-d-did car paint get this pretty?”
“They used to put them through on the assembly lines, and then bake the car bodies to cure the paint quick to keep up with production,” Mike said. “Eventually the factories were shut down, but someone started chipping off chunks of the stuff, polishing it, and selling it as jewelry.”
Bill rubbed his thumb over the pendant.
“I know it's not your regular style,” Mike said. “But I saw it and it made me think of you.”
Bill slipped the leather cord over his head, feeling the pendant come to rest against his sternum.
When Mike decided that something belonged with you, he was usually right. Bill looked down, finding new things to like about the necklace as he studied it.
“You like it?” Mike asked with a grin.
“Yeah,” Bill said, looking up and smiling. Mike turned toward the menu, but the way his eyes flicked up over the laminated page and studied Bill showed that he was pleased. Bill rubbed at it gently, and then went back to the menu, knocking knees comfortably with Mike as the conversation turned to other things.
By the time lunch was over and he, Mike and Audra left in the warm summer air, the pendant was as much a part of him as anything else. Maybe that was Mike's magic. Or maybe it was a good luck charm. But then again, maybe it was just Mike, alive and open and free in a way Derry never let him be, that made it special.
Either way, Bill decided he liked his new necklace very much.