She was gangly. I was early. While I waited, sipping my cappuccino in a corner, I watched her. Except for one scraggly strand at her temple, her thin yellow hair was pulled tightly to a bun on the top of her head. The loose strand was hot pink. Piercings filled with metal ran up and down her ears. Her jeans fit like tights.
She went outside to smoke a cigarette; icy air blasted the store as she went. I shivered and shook my head: she was all of about sixteen.
My friends arrived, and, for the moment, she was forgotten. Lost in conversation and the catching up of years, I failed to notice her reenter the store or the way she was camped out, vacant, on a sofa in the corner.
That is, until the text.
“Oh my gosh,” her cry was loud enough to fill the room. She was staring at her phone. “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh.” She stood up and went over to a friend. She showed her the text. “What am I going to do?”
Her friend, whose dark makeup gave one the alarming feeling they’d been inexplicably transported to a set of Twilight, looked concerned.
“My mom’s . . . on the property. She got in a fight. She’s . . .” The girl was babbling. “He should have known better: mom’s got the gun. But what if she goes to jail? The last time . . . Last time . . . What if she goes to jail? What am I going to do?”
The girl was practically shrieking now. Her friend started sniffling.
The room was uncomfortable. What was this poor girl going to do?
This a partial republishing (with edits) of a post I wrote last December. As I am trying to return to my thoughts on what makes us “us,” this story seemed to fit. For those of you who’ve read this story before, please forgive me. For those of you who are just tuning in, be sure to check out “just like mommy” and “meanwhile . . .” for other posts in this series.
Image: Getty Images