And yet looking in the trashcan for food isn’t the lowest of lows for me. Worse things have happened to me for a piece of bread and I don’t feel ashamed at all as I fumble around in the trash. At least I am free, alone, safe. Well, safer.
“Hey, girl!” I hear a voice beside me and turn startled.
There is a black woman at the back door of the place and she holds one brown bag in her hands. I pull my hood tighter as I eye her, looking around as if someone is going to attack at any moment.
“Come on, girl. Have this.”
She extends me the brown bag and I look at it as if it was to explode in my face. The bag has grease stains and I know it has food in it. Food not thrown in the trash but I have no idea what that woman wants me to do for it.
“I ain’t got all day, girl. Take the goddamn food.”
I approach her and my eyes still shoot around in full alert. I grab the bag and run away till I am in a safe corner, free to gobble whatever is in the bag quickly. Around me the day is bright and sunny but for me it is dark and gloomy. I can barely remember a time in my life when that was not true. I have to survive. I have to. I must find some way to provide for myself and a shelter. I won’t last long on the streets. It won’t be long before someone notices me, notices that I am unprotected and alone. That I am a girl. And then I will have to run again. If I am lucky to be able to run.
That last thought makes me shiver and I go for the screwdriver in the pocket of my hoodie. I am not going down without a fight. I am not going to roll on my back and die. I have to survive. She would want me to survive. Problem is that I can’t simply get any job. That needs names and papers and I don’t have that. Never did. Plus, I’d rather live out on the street than risk being found.
“Shit!” I hear a voice near me.
I get out of my thoughts and look around. There, by the curb there is a white Prius with the hood open. I can see someone is bent over the engine and I can tell it is a woman but other than that nothing else.
“Fuck! Shit!” the woman keeps going.
I go closer not sure if I really want to help or not. After all the woman seems too pissed off. But then again it is a bad, bad neighborhood for a woman with a white Prius to be lost in. I swallow hard, tighten my hood and walk up to her. Broken down cars appeal to me and I can’t resist the challenge. Only thinking I am under a hood, fixing a problem makes me calmer.
“Uhm...” is all I manage to say.
It is all it takes. The woman gets out from underneath the hood and straightens her body. She is tall but then again against my frame everyone that isn’t a child is more or less tall. Her long ebony black hair falls on her shoulders and she turns to me with her green eyes. Quickly she looks at me up and down as if she is assessing me. Were she to wear a suit, I would assume she is a businesswoman. But her loose gray blouse over simple black tights and soft ballerinas say otherwise. Could be the daughter of a businesswoman. Although her calculative, hard look reveals that she is no spoiled brat stranded in the wrong part of town.
“Uhm...” I dare again “Can I help?”
“If you know anything about cars, you might.” her voice is strict but not cold.
I look around. Instantly, I wonder why I am being such a fool. This could be a trap, plain and simple. A woman with car troubles, I bend over to help, a hit on the head and then I am back in the Hell I fought so hard to get away from.
“It’s OK.” the woman says “I doubt I’d help my own mother in this neighborhood.”
She smiles at me and goes around her car. She turns her back and leans in through the window to get the cell that is charging on the panel. I let out a sigh and go to check the engine. There are a lot of things in the world that I don’t understand and a hell lot more that I don’t want to understand. But I know motors. From a mixer to a tanker I know how things work and even when I don’t, I catch on quickly. Thinking how that came to be, a shiver goes through me. I choose to focus on the engine.
“Pick up!” I hear the woman mutter as I am bent over the engine.
“Try it!” I turn to her.
She looks at me surprised and she hangs up her phone. She slides in the car and hits the START button. The engine comes back to life and the woman gets out of the car with a smile on her face.
“Thank you!” she says “I am already picked on for choosing a Prius by my boyfri...Shit! I guess I should say by my fiancé.”
She smiles as if to herself and shakes her head. I turn to leave as quickly as I can. Hearing about how other people have normal lives is not my thing.
“Excuse me!” she calls behind my back.
I turn slowly, still trying to hide most of my face from her. I trust no one and I am better off alone. Other people are welcomed to go on being engaged and married and whatever people do. I want none of it.
“You are good with engines?” she asks.
“Are you looking for a job?”
I frown. I have heard about people praying but I doubted anyone ever answered. I know that no one will answer my prayers. Not now, not ever. Oh, how I have prayed. I have prayed with eyes shut over and over again sometimes for hours at a time. I have prayed for someone to save me and when that never happened I begged for death. No one ever helped me, no one ever answered my prayers. I doubt anyone will start now.
I say nothing and the woman across me nods pouting her lips. She studies me some more and then raises her eyebrow as if an internal dialogue was concluded. She then moves to the driver’s seat and reaches for her bag. She takes out pen and paper and writes something.
“There is a garage here.” she says and gives me a piece of paper with an address written on it “If you are looking for a job, go there and say that Ava sent you.”
“Is...Is it a kind of job that...” I hesitate “That would pay in cash?”
“Pay in cash, pay well and ask less.” her beautiful eyes narrow.
That is neither a businesswoman nor a brat. There is something in the way that she bears herself that gives off an almost dangerous vibe. Yeah, I should have seen it earlier. That is one dangerous woman. It was the Prius that threw me off. Yet, her face as she looks at me is warm. All I do is nod, put the paper in my pocket and walk away.
If you want to know how dangerous Ava really is, I suggest you read BAILING OUT, the first book of the Riders of Tyr. It’s a whole new story.