Burrillville, RI

Mom always said it was best not to lie, but sometimes, in a time like this, a lie could mean the difference between life and death. So, being a generally honest kid, I reminded myself of that when I climbed in the truck of a complete stranger who had stopped when she saw me thumbing for a ride.

"Where you headed?" She asked.

I had to think quickly, because to be honest, I wasn't really headed to any specific place, except from away from my dad.

"To the mall." I said convincing myself it wasn't really a lie. I had decided just that moment that I wanted to go to the mall.

"What's your name?"

Without thinking I blurted the first thing that came to mind. "Logan Stone."

"Nice to meet you Logan Stone. I'm Jessie. I work at Border's Café in the mall. So what are you doing alone, thumbing a ride to the mall at eight in the morning?"

Because I was in a big pickle, and a decent storyteller, I said, "I live about a mile from the mall in an apartment building. My dad lets me go to the mall when I want to meet up with friends, except my bike crashed."

"If you live so close, why don't you just go back home?"

Now this I could tell the truth about. "My dad drinks a lot, and I ride to the mall to get away from him when he's drunk."

"What about your mom?"

I felt a twinge of aggravation at having to spill my guts to this woman to get her off my case. "She's dead."

"I'm sorry to hear that. How'd she die?"

"Do you really want to know?" I asked, desperately wanting to dodge telling her that my dad had abused her so much that she just up and died.

The woman looked at me, really looked. She had thought I was lying and I knew it. But she believed me now. "Maybe not. Well, here we are." She pulled in to the parking lot and got out. I did the same.

"Thanks for the ride."

"You know most of the mall doesn't officially open until ten, right?"

"Yeah, Borders is open though."

She nodded, and looked at me strangely. "Are you anorexic or something?" She asked.

"No, Dad doesn't keep food in the house, and there's no where I can go to get food."

"Don't you have an allowance or something?"

"No way."

"Do you have a way to earn money at all?"

"Yeah, but Dad always takes it for beer and stuff."

"Ahhh. I tell you what, I'll get you something."

"Really?" I wasn't exactly used to handouts.

"Yeah, sure. I get breakfast at the café all the time. No one'll notice if I get an extra cinnamon roll."

"Thanks a lot."

"Not a problem. How long do you intend to stay at the mall, today?"

"I'm gonna be staying a lot longer than today. I'm gonna live here for a while."

Jessie stopped in her tracks. "Live? At the mall?"

I nodded. The idea had just come to me, and I myself wasn't sure it was a good one, but it was better then going back to the apartment.

Jessie laughed unbelievingly as she unlocked the black gate door of Borders. "How old are you, anyway?"

I knew better than to tell her I was actually thirteen. "Sixteen."

She raised her eyebrows. "You don't look it, height wise anyway."

"Is it okay that I'm short for my age?" I asked sarcastically, placing my hands on my hips. I could do a lot of things when I was backed into a corner, so to speak, and acting was one of them.

"Look at me," Jessie said. "I'm forty." Truth be told, Jessie only had a couple of inches on me.

"You have a point." By now I was sitting on a barstool at the counter of the café and Jessie was ringing up our order.

I studied her. She was plump with thin, dishwater brown hair, gray eyes, a cleft chin, and a sunny smile.

"Order up!" She said placing a cinnamon roll in front of me.

I started in on it ravenously. We both ate until I had finished, and then she placed a hot chocolate with all the works in front of me. "For you. It'll help you warm up. It's pretty cold out."

"Ain't that the truth?" I replied, thinking of the frigid January air.

"What do you intend to do today?" She asked.

I shrugged. "Don't really know. Can you think of some place here that's hiring?"

"Pampered Pets is always looking for part-time people. Maybe you could check there. Ask for Max and tell him Jessie sent you."

"I'll do that. You know him?"

"Um… we're really good friends."

"You mean like really, really good friends?"

She blushed. "You ask a lot of questions, you know that?"

I shrugged and ignored the comment. "I'm gonna go upstairs now."

Jessie nodded as I slipped off the barstool. "Come back tomorrow at the same time and I'll get you breakfast again."

"Thanks, Jessie."

I slipped into the elevator. This was crazy, really crazy, but it might just work.

I know this is stupid, but it wouldn't leave me alone. Could you review anyway please?