So, what if it's Saturday night... Valor carefully placed a loaf of bread into a bag by itself. He had traded days off with Jermaine. Truth was he would gladly work any of Jermaine's hours; he needed the money. Not to help out at home. No, his mother wouldn't take his money; she was like that. One could say she was a single parent, only she wasn't single. Just married to an alcoholic. Now at sixteen, he was bagging groceries and paying his own way while attending Fairmont High.
One thought occupied his mind: getting his first car. He was working all the hours available so he could put back at least one hundred dollars each payday. He'd had forty-six paydays.
He already had the car picked out. It was a sweet, Petty-blue Pontiac convertible that sat in Mr. Cox's garage. At night, he lay in his bed mentally waxing it or driving down Main St. with the wind blowing through his shoulder-length dark hair. Sometimes, a laughing, golden-haired Margie Rowe sat next to him. Other times, his father, sober and smiling, rode shotgun. Well, he could dream, couldn't he?
Mr. Cox was Valor's next door neighbor. Valor cut his grass and did odd jobs for him. The Pontiac had been parked in the garage since Dr. Gressom had declared Mr. Cox legally blind. The car had been well-kept and even now Mr. Cox would have Valor get it out and wash and wax it. It was one of those times when Valor set his heart on buying it. Mr. Cox had remarked he was getting tired paying taxes and insurance on it. Valor was hoping his bank roll would do it.
“Valor, whatcha thinkin' bout?” Eight-year-old Sarah Godfrey tugged at his shirt, shifting the baby from one arm to the other as she removed her hair from the baby's small fist. They were like light and shadow, her complexion fair and freckled, the baby's dark. Her hair red, the baby's black.
Sarah had been coming into the store with her mother, Anne, since she was a babe in arms. Back then, it was a family affair. Parents and child. That was before Sarah's daddy walked out of the house and out of their lives on the same day her baby sister came home from the hospital. Sarah didn't understand what really made him leave. He had been different since that bad man had forced her mommy into his car and hurt her.
“Hi, Sarah. Just doin' my job. Why the long face?'” Valor reached down and touched the baby's face.
“Ma says we won't be comin' here no more.” Tears welled up in her sky-blue eyes.
“Gotta' leave our house. Ma's been cryin' for days.”
Valor looked up to see Anne Godfrey start putting her meager groceries onto the check-out counter. Canned beans, rice, milk. No meat. No treats. He quickly bagged her groceries and picked the bag up to carry it out before she could stop him.
“Mrs. Godfrey, Sarah says you're moving... I hate to see you go.”
“You're sweet, Valor. It can't be helped. We're behind on the rent since...well, you know. I'm working, but, it's all I can do to take care of this month's bills. No money left to pay the back rent. Westarm Apartments wants their money.”
“Maybe, if you talk to them?”
“I did. They said to pay up or move by Friday. Thanks, Valor.”
Valor watched them as they crossed the street and headed toward their apartment building before he grabbed all the buggies in the stalls and pushed them hard, crashing back into the store.
Later that evening as Valor lay in bed, he had a hard time thinking about the Pontiac or Margie Rowe. Sarah's tear-stained face kept getting in the way. By morning he knew what he had to do. By noon he had it done.
“I'd appreciated it if you don't say anything to Mrs. Godfrey. She's been through enough.” Valor counted out the bills, took the receipt and shoved it under the door.
The walk home took a little longer than normal. He was surprised to see Mr. Cox sitting in the Pontiac outside the garage.
Walking over to him, Valor asked, “Time for a wash and wax?”
“No. Time to see she has a new home. Take her, son.” And he handed him the keys.
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