Marcy pulled her glove off with her teeth and dropped it into her lap. She picked up the matchbook with the still-gloved hand and opened it and broke off a match to strike. As cold as it was she hated having to take off a glove, but she never could quite manage the operation with both gloves on.
She lit the newspaper and sticks in the fire pit and pulled her glove back on and rubbed her hands together as she sat shivering. Trish watched the entire operation without uttering a word. She moved in closer as the fire took hold and together they huddled close and stuck their hands out to the leaping flames. The heat felt wonderful and for the first time that day they had reason to be glad.
“Girl, you think we’re gonna get anything worth eatin’ tomorrow at the mission?”
Marcy shrugged resignation and tossed her head.
“It’ll be whatever they done been givin’. Better than nothin’, that’s what I know.”
Trish nodded and looked around. Some of the others that shared their space up under the overpass were starting to show up now, having abandoned their begging stations. Some of them pulled out bottles of cheap spirits and began passing them back and forth.
Marcie saw the look on Trish’s face.
“Yeah, it would help us forget the cold, that’s the for sure. Crappy day though.”
“We’ll get something tomorrow. You’ll see. Things are gonna be better.”
Marcie knew better than to answer. Trish needed to be Pollyanna sometimes. If it helped her cope who was Marcie to take that away from her? Things were hard enough on the mean streets of San Francisco’s South of Market district without being negative all the time.
She glanced down at the street as someone rounding the corner caught her eye. Her again. Marcie had seen her a few times in the past week. She was new. She seemed awfully young to be living rough in the area they were in. She couldn’t be more than twenty-one or two, Marcie figured. Her clothes were dirty and torn in places and her hair was stringy and limp. She’d obviously been on the streets for at least a short while already but there was something about the way she carried herself that didn’t add up.
Trish followed Marcie’s gaze.
“You know her?”
“Nope. I was just gonna ask if you’d seen her before. I been seein’ her around lately. Don’t seem right, you know?”
“No, sure don’t. She don’t seem to belong. Wonder what her story is.”
Marcie shook her head.
“None of our business I guess. Don’t pay to ask. You know how it goes.”
Trish went back to gazing into the fire but Marcie continued to watch the new girl move slowly along the block. She stopped and glanced up at the colony of people. She seemed to be considering something.
“Damn. I think she wants to come up here, Trish. Don’t that beat all?”
“Great. Does she really think we’ve got anything for her? She sure as hell must be new.”
Almost as if she had heard them the girl started walking again but turned around after a few steps and started up the embankment.
“Damn, Marcie, you called it right. What you wanna do, should we run her off?”
As the girl got closer Marcie studied her face.
“No. Let’s hear what she’s got to say. Before you say it, I know, but let’s make an exception, okay?”
Tomorrow, Part 2