If you missed Part Three, click here.
The small dry cleaning outlet where Tash worked every day after school and on weekends was busy. She was glad for the distraction because having time to think about her life wasn’t something she especially wanted to do at the moment. She greeted regular customers with her usual smile and a few comments about the weather or the news or to inform them that the spot on their favourite dress was gone. Tash wondered what they’d say if they knew that the girl behind the counter was homeless.
“You might as well go now, Tash,” Jim, the owner, came out from the back room at the end of the day. “Only ten minutes till closing and there’s not going to be much more happening.”
“Thanks, Jim,” Tash removed the green vest with Kwik As A Wink Dry Cleaners embroidered on the pocket, hung it on a hook behind the door and grabbed her backpack. “See you tomorrow.”
“Don’t forget your pay,” Jim called to her as she was on her way out. He waved an envelope in her direction.
Tash smiled awkwardly. “My brain must be somewhere else.”
“Yeah, I noticed.”
Tash shot her employer a glance. She didn’t think her turmoil had been obvious.
“You okay?” Jim asked.
Tash nodded. “Just a lot going on. You know, homework and stuff.” She headed to the front door of the shop. “Thanks again.”
Outside, Tash took a quick detour into a nearby alley. She had hidden her suitcase there before she’d gone in to work and now, as she retrieved it, she took a deep breath. It was time to find a place to stay for the night.
She knew she had to stay under the radar. It concerned her that she’d drawn Jim’s attention to her dismal state and that could not happen again. All she needed was for some well-meaning person to report her to the authorities and she’d be popped into the foster care system faster than she could blink. She didn’t need that. She could take care of herself.
Tash knew of several abandoned buildings located a few blocks away. She’d walked past them every day on her way to and from school, and she’d kept an eye on them as possible options for shelter, should the need ever arise. She’d never considered living there on her own, though, since her plans had always included her mother. She wondered where Barbie was now. Did she have regrets about what she’d done? Tash doubted it.
But she wished she didn’t.