Squeak. Squee-rattle. Kick. Squeak. I pushed my cart containing all of my worldly belongings down the alleyway. I had upgraded since last we met, her and I. In her younger, cleaner days. I might have approached her.
"Wait." She called out.
I decided she wasn't that dirty, besides, who was I to talk.
"You were there. You saw him. You have to help me."
I dig in the top basket of my cart, pull out a half eaten hot dog. No mustard this time, but I had bought it that way. Had a good day on my corner.
"No, I don't need your food."
Her sunken cheeks told me otherwise but I don't argue. I push the food back into it's wrapper, back into my cart. "Coulda' fooled me miss."
"Uh, um." She stumbles over her words. She has not been doing this very long. Still does not see herself as one of us.
"You can call me Subway Charlie."
"Oh, I'm Mary," she makes to hold out her hand and looks at the grime covering it, laughs nervously.
She does not know her nickname down here yet. Dairy Mary, on account of her big... People can be so cruel. I light up half a cigarette. Offer her a drag. She looks at it and then at me. Takes it from my outstretched hand and finishes it in one long, slow pull. I take the burning butt from her and use it to light another. She does not see the glance I give her. She is looking over her shoulder.
"What's wrong Da... Mary?"
"He's still after me."
"Who is?" I knew the answer. But did she?
"The man with the knife!" A police car passed the mouth of the ally, the red and blue lights briefly illuminating her face. It was not just dirt on her face, the bridge of her nose was busted open, the blood still wet.
"Cyrus." I looked over her shoulder myself, but did not see him. "It's not safe here." I took her hand. Despite the dirt, the skin is still soft. I expect her to pull away but she does not. I look her in the eyes, and she nods. Mouths 'Okay.'
I reach into my cart, hand seeking a glass orb. I see him break from a nearby shadow. He is running, something glints in his hand. But I find the sphere, clasp it.
We are safe.