I stand in the crowd, just another face, another pair of eyes trying to find their way through the tightly packed main street. Bodies push against me, anonymous, annoyed voices grunt and yell at me from all sides. Everyone here knows each other, I realize. Every silhouette a familiar one to everyone here - except me. It's a strange thing to be the only outsider in a crowded street, when only weeks ago I was the face everyone looked for, I was the person with all eyes at my bidding. Two weeks ago, I had a place. Now, who am I?
I finally reach the entrance to the backstreet where I've been sleeping. I've found an alcove in the wall, relatively dry and deep inside the lonely dark streets for me to pass without much question. The public school I managed to get myself enrolled in starts tomorrow, and I know it's going to be painful. The dark times I had as a younger child that had faded away in a bad dream are now painful memories reminding me of how bad it can be. And as a child, emotional pain seemed easier to deal with than now. In the streets, I had tried to keep my eyes down, I'd vowed to not look at those judging, mean eyes. But now, who do I promise anything to except myself? Of course, not everyone is horrible, but those who are not controlling are controlled in this part of town, and eyes that look away too quickly, or stay too long are just as hurtful. With my baggy, ripped sweatpants and flannel jacket, I look out of place. Jeans, clean T-shirts, all clothes to wear on a Sunday before school.
Nostalgia takes over me as I walk down the dank, dirty street, commemorating naughty nights out with friends, times where backstreets and alleys were the best part of town, and leaving for school in the morning with my friend was the best part of the day. With the money I received from my hours of work at the sandwich restaurant today, I bought enough canned food for a few days; a twinge of resentment passed through me as I remembered my mother's warm meals and fresh fruit, every night. When I first arrived here, I hadn't eaten for three days, so I didn't realize what I was eating, because all I wanted to do was get food in my system, but now, I see what I've lost. And I've lost everything.
I reach my little hole in the wall, now my only home, and crawl onto my quilt. It's dark, and I can't see anything, but I can feel something is different. My heart pounds in my chest, and all my muscles are taught, ready to spring at any sign of danger. I take one more cautious advance inside before my hand touches something warm and soft - a person. I spring back, hitting my head on the ceiling. There is a whimper. "Um... hello? Are you alright?" The accent is strange, the voice a croak, but I'm on my guard. "Who are you? And what do you think you're doing here?" There's a small beam as the boy turns on a flashlight. He's tough and muscly, but about my age and size. All I see are green eyes. Green eyes I could get lost in forever, and that remind me of the sea. He clears his throat. "I escaped from the ship I'd been working for, and I ran to here, the furthest town I could run to, which is not very far away." So that explains his strong looking frame and tanned skin. "What's your name?" I ask him. "Oh, my name is..." he hesitates, "David." I don't understand his hesitation, that moment where he wondered what he was called, like he was making it up... but I don't ask. "How about you?" His flashlight turns off, so that we are now plunged back into darkness again, the only light coming from the street and the moon. "I'm just Claudia." I can see those hypnotic eyes staring into mine. "That's a nice name." He whispers pensively.
We arrange ourselves to eat and sleep, and decide that we should stick together and go to school tomorrow, and we will figure out how to live later, once we're settled enough. He's mysterious, and only answers personal questions with riddles, and not once do we mention family, or where we came from, we're both too tired to say a word, waiting for our future to come to us.
(To be continued)