Marcy studied the girl as she climbed. There was something in her step that bespoke knowledge of better things. Her demeanour lacked the ragged edge of one resigned to the streets. She wasn’t an innocent, but she wasn’t feral.
She nodded at them as she approached.
“It’s cold. Do you mind if I warm myself?”
Trish eyed Marcy and then nodded back. The girl sat opposite them cross-legged on the hard concrete and held her hands out to the fire. After a few minutes she took off her gloves and Marcy noticed how soft her hands were. She decided to test her.
“What’s your name girl?”
She didn’t look up. Her eyes were unfocused but she was present.
“Where you dossing down?”
She looked up. Her eyes darted between them and then back down at the fire.
“Wherever I can. Sometimes I get in at the shelter on 4th.” She coughed and looked away. “Not tonight though.”
Marcy felt something move inside herself and she silently cursed.
“Gonna get real cold tonight.”
Sophie nodded and looked around at the others.
“Are they all regulars here?”
“Why you askin’?”
“No reason. Just making conversation I guess. Sorry.”
“When did you eat last?”
“I had some food at the Mission. You know…”
Marcy cocked her head and stared hard.
“Tell me girl.”
“Okay, yesterday. I just…”
She trailed off and waved her hand in the air as it finished the matter. Marcy sighed and shook her head. Trish could see what was coming but held her tongue. She wanted to disapprove but it wasn’t on the cards.
“You can sleep here tonight. If you don’t have any cover you won’t fair well in the cold. Just don’t go thinkin’ we’re soft, you got that?”
The girl nodded and mumbled thanks. She seemed disinclined to be any more forthcoming.
“We get up in the mornin’, you come with us to the kitchen girl. Get some food.”
Sophie nodded and lay down. She put her pack under her head and closed her eyes. Trish and Marcy exchanged glances but stayed silent until they were sure she was asleep. Trish took out a cigarette and lit it and passed it to Marcy.
“You gone soft?”
“Don’t start with me. Something not right about this one and I know you feel it too. Ain’t you curious?”
Trish considered and shrugged.
“She’s no threat anyway.”
They finished the cigarette listening to the crazy laughter and bullshit all around them. Marcie gathered up more fuel for the fire and as the cold descended on them like an icy blanket they lay down and huddled together.
Marcie lay awake long after Trish began snoring. She stared at the girl wondering who she was. Maybe in the morning she’d be more forthcoming. As the noise died down around her she closed her eyes and drifted off.
The next morning when she gained consciousness she knew even before she opened her eyes. The girl was gone. Confirming it, she sat up and looked around. Some of the others had moved already. She woke Trish up.
“Early start today. We better go get in line if we want to eat.”
Trish rubbed her eyes and sat up.
She nodded and stood up and stretched.
“Let’s move girl.”
Marcie hid their few meagre possessions behind a stanchion and they trooped off to begin the day.
Tomorrow, Part 3