“Hi guys. How’d it go today?”
Marcie smiled at her, glad that she’d spoken first.
“Not bad honey. How about you? You doing okay?”
Sophie shrugged and looked down as she picked her fork up again.
“Oh, you know. It’s one day at a time. I guess…”
Trish was never one for beating around the bush.
“You wanna tell us why you didn’t wait for us this morning?”
“I woke up before dawn. Couldn’t get back to sleep. Restless I guess. Hungry too. I got here real early this morning. Didn’t have to wait in line, you know?”
Marcie gave Trish a look and then turned back to Sophie.
“She don’t mean anything by it honey, we were just…”
She realized where she was going and stopped short.
“Anyway, we didn’t get to talk to you all that much. Mind if I ask how you’re getting by? Are you panhandling?”
Sophie stopped eating again and folded her hands on the table.
“Yeah, I get by. I get enough to buy stuff I need most days. I eat here or over at the place on 3rd.”
She shrugged and went back to her food. Marcie could tell there was a lot being left unsaid and she was annoyed with herself for wanting to know what it was. It didn’t pay to get involved in other people’s lives on the street. It was hard enough managing as it was, but this girl was so young and she just didn’t seem like someone who would be in this life. Surely she had family she could turn to. Maybe she was running from something.
“Look, Sophie, I don’t wanna pry but you just don’t fit out here in this world. I’m betting you’ve heard that before. This ain’t no place for a girl like you. You must have family that could…”
Sophie got to her feet and grabbed her pack.
“Thanks, but I’m okay. I have to go.”
She hurried out as Trish followed her with her eyes. She turned back to Marcie.
“Well, that went well.”
Marcie threw her fork down and stood up.
“C’mon, let’s go.”
They hurried outside and spotted her already nearly a block away and moving fast. They tried to catch up, Trish protesting all the way but they soon lost her. They sat down on a bench and caught their breath.
Sophie looked back a few blocks later. Satisfied that she was no longer being followed she walked to a nearby park and sat down under a tree. Taking a leather bound diary out of her pack she got out a pen and started writing. Occasionally she glanced around and then went back to writing.
After awhile she put the diary away and rubbed her eyes. She thought about the events of the previous night and today. She hadn’t been prepared for these sorts of things to happen. She wondered how people could still have it in them to be concerned with others when they had hit bottom.
Putting her thoughts aside she got to her feet and headed back out to the street. It was time to see about finding a place to sleep. Maybe if she headed for the shelter now she could get a bed for the night.
Marcie and Trish had gone back to their encampment under the overpass. They had bought some cigarettes on the way and were indulging as the fire they had built took hold. Marcie found herself thinking about Sophie again.
Maybe I just hate to see her going down this road, she thought. The girl didn’t want any help. What could that be about? She knew they’d see her again. She needed to find a way to reach her.
As they fell asleep that night she found herself dreaming about the girl.
Tomorrow – Part 5