The girl took no notice of the rain, even as the drip from her stringy hair fell into her eyes and off the end of her nose. Her arms hugged her shins, chin resting on her knees. Through her shirt she could feel the pockmarked brick from the rundown convenience store she was huddled up next to digging into her shoulders, but she didn’t care. Where else could she go?
Not home. Wherever that was. Her ears were still ringing with her boyfriend’s—well, ex-boyfriend’s—voice screaming, “And don’t bother coming back, sweetheart!” as he hurled her duffel bag out the door, where it fell into a puddle on the sidewalk. The few things that she owned were inside that bag, now covered in mud.
Just like she was. All the years of living in dirty places, sleeping wherever she could, doing whatever anyone wanted just to make a dollar and know she would have a next meal—all of it had seeped inside her when she wasn’t looking. And she wasn’t at all sure how to clean it off.
It had been awhile since she’d been alone on the streets. Zach had rescued her a few months ago, or it seemed so at the time. She’d thought he was cute and when it was clear that he was interested in her, she made sure she didn’t let him get away. He had his own place, even if it was a dump. Better than living on the sidewalk, or down by the pier, she figured. So what if she’d done some things she didn’t like because he’d asked her to? Sometimes you have to make your choices and she’d decided she wanted to live with a roof over her head.
Your parents have a roof. The thought of her childhood home suddenly came back to her. Her bedroom had white lacy curtains and a purple bedspread. There had been teddy bears and wicker furniture and a porcelain tea set on a cupboard in the corner. She’d left them all in the middle of the night. Could she even remember why now? It seemed so long ago.
Give your parents a call. Why should she call them? They hadn’t wanted her years ago. Why would they want her now? She was dirty and there was no way that they’d let her back into their museum-like house or their sanitized, sterile, perfect, religious lives.
Or would they? Did she have anything to lose if she called her parents and they said they didn’t want her back? She was no worse off than she was now. But what if they wanted her to come home? Could she face them, face all the things she’d done? Would she have to tell them what living on the street was really like? They’d ask too many questions, how could she answer them?
She shifted her position on the cold concrete and reached into her pocket. The decision was made. All she needed was a quarter. But her pockets were empty.
Oh, God, if you’re really there, I think I’m ready for some help. She sat back against the bricks again and waited, for what she wasn't sure. The rain still gushed from the sky and mingled with her tears as she cried. Pedestrians, trying to stay dry scurried by, not even noticing her.
Clink. The noise made her look at the sidewalk and next to her hip, rolling on its edge, was a quarter. Someone had kicked it in their hurry. With wide eyes, she picked it up with one hand and brushed off the seat of her dirty jeans with the other. She hoisted up her muddy duffel bag and walked to the corner of the building.
Dropping the money in the slot, she waited for the dial tone and punched in the numbers she’d never forgotten.
“Hope? Honey? Is that you? You’re really there?” The phone dropped to the floor and she heard a muffled, “Praise you, Jesus!”
Hope knew she was finally ready to go home.
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