(NOTE: some of this is repeat, just want to post chapter by chapter. Had to finish Chapter 1, so here is the entirety of that. Currently working on Chapter 2, so stay tuned.)
A BROKEN HOME
I heard the door slam solidly behind me, and took the stairs two at a time. I dashed through the pouring Gulf Coast rain to the bus stop.
“Hey.” I nodded in the general direction of an older gentleman sitting on the bench, inches from the pouring rain. “You doing okay today?”
“Eh, as okay as can be ‘xpected, Miz Allie.” Mr. Smiley wiped a worn and knarled hand over his furrowed brow. “It’s awfully wet out here this mornin’.”
“Sure is.” I adjusted my backpack on my shoulder and shifted to move a little further away from the downspout, which seemed beyond overflowing. Hopefully this bus would get here soon. Seems as though the driver always took his sweet, southern time getting to this part of town.
“Back in school?” Mr. Smiley looked over at me.
“Yeah.” I shrugged noncommittally. “Beats being at home all the time, that’s for sure. I hate summers.”
“Awful early to be leavin’ for school.” Mr. Smiley looked a tad confused.
Thankfully, the bus pulled up with a toot of the horn. I nodded slightly to Mr. Smiley and boarded.
Winding my way back through the already crowded seats of the Houston metro bus, I searched for an empty seat—one where some talkative local wouldn’t talk my ear off. If you’re a northerner, you might not know exactly what I mean. Well, here in the South, ain’t nobody a stranger. Everybody talks to everybody, if that makes any sense at all.
And for introverts like me—well, it’s just straight up annoying.
A seat caught my eye, far in the corner of the bus. I slid into it, and pulled my faded Dallas Cowboys baseball cap down a little further over my eyes. Tucker Street, a tiny branch off of Highway 1960 here in Houston, was my home when I had been born seventeen years ago. It was really all I had ever known.
Highway 1960 is…well, it’s everything. I don’t know how else to say it. If you take a stroll on a nice day, and walk a couple miles’ length, you’ll see everything. Everything and everyone from successful business people to folks that haven’t had the blessing of a shower in a couple of weeks.
I shoved my hands deeper in my pockets, and shook my head. I had often fallen closer to the latter. My home life is far from pleasant. Or maybe it’s normal. To be honest, it’s all I’ve ever known—kinda like Houston.
I leaned back and closed my eyes, and let this morning replay before me.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
“Allie!” My mother’s shrill voice woke me up, long before dawn. “Allie, you miserable child, get yourself down here. I’ll not have my daughter grow up to be a lazy bum, no ma’am!”
I rolled over and looked at the dull green glow of the clock. Five AM. “Coming,” I said, with more than a hint of resistance in my voice.
I pulled a t-shirt over my tousled hair, and yanked on an old pair of jeans, noticing the glaring holes in the worn parts of the knees. I glanced at my makeup, scattered across the tattered old vanity in the corner of my room, and rolled my eyes. Ain’t got no time for that when there’s work to do. I could already hear Mom’s voice.
“Mom.” I stepped into the kitchen, which was just a few feet from my tiny bedroom. “Mom, I really, really need a new pair of jeans.” A hint of disgust crept into my voice as I saw her rolling a joint of marijuana. “These are basically destroyed.”
“Ha. Think you’re gonna get new jeans, do you? Well, I’ll have you know that I make the money in this house, and I also get to say where it goes.” She finished her roll with a flair.
“So you decide that doing that is more important than buying your own daughter jeans.” My eyes narrowed.
“Doing what?” Mom looked up innocently.
“Smoking that garbage.” My words slid through my teeth, cut with ice and nearly venomous. “I know how much that costs.”
For five long seconds, the silence was deadly. Mom glared back into my hate-filled eyes, unnaturally.
Then she shrugged. “Oh, no. You know I have to do this for my nerves. Sure, I wish it was legal, and maybe cheaper, but, gotta do what ya gotta do.”
The silence only lasted a millisecond longer.
“What does that mean?” I spat furiously. “What in the world does that mean? For your nerves. For your nerves. What about me? What about the men that you bring through here, a new one every week practically? What about my sanity, what about the fact that half of the people you bring here are messed up with the drug trade? What about that?” My breath came in short gasps.
Mom looked at me incredulously, like she always did. Like I was a freak at a show—and she couldn’t figure out my problem. She said nothing—absolutely nothing.
“Whatever,” I spat. “If you don’t want to get it, I guess you never will.” I spun on my heel and left for the bus stop, without breakfast and certainly without offering any help.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
So that’s how I ended up at the Houston Metro bus stop, early in the morning, in the rain and the dark.
You see; I didn’t exactly want to explain that to Mr. Smiley.
I dunno where he’s been, or where he’s going. Not sure what he’s gone through in his life, or what he’d think about my dysfunctional life. Not about to risk filling him in though.
Now that I think about it, it’s kind of odd—my life, that is. Not exactly certain where it’s going either. I don’t really have any dreams or aspirations, exactly. I mean, it’s hard enough just to survive day to day. Generally, I’m more focused on making sure I have something to eat and wear, and avoiding as many snags as possible, than thinking about careers or goals or anything of the sort.
Guess I’m just destined to be a checker at a grocery store, just like my mom and my grandma.
Barely existing…living for the next high.
Oh, sorry. Kinda got lost in thought there. My dad, you ask? Eh, never knew him. I’m told he died of an overdose. Knowing my family history, he probably did. I’m likely better off without him anyways, if he’s anything like Mom.
I yanked the chemistry book from my tattered backpack and pulled out the half-baked assignment inside. Another grade that was going to suffer because of last minute work. Discouraged, I scribbled out the remainder of the answers, taking wild guesses for probably half of them.
Hey, it's not my fault that I have to work full time at Walmart after school to help make ends meet, while those rich kids get to go to tutoring, sleep eight hours in a warm bed, have plenty to eat, and never have a worry in the world.
Just because they are in AP physics, and I'll likely fail chemistry, doesn’t mean they’re any smarter.
You know, as much as I hated being home, I also hated high school. I love learning, don’t get me wrong. But high school had transformed into a jungle for me. I tried to avoid the kids involved with drugs and partying; dodged the snotty cheerleading or popular girl cliques at every turn; and constantly was chasing after my falling grades. Of course, I wasn’t smart enough to join the nerd squad, nor bookish enough for the library clubs. Never been an athlete, and I’m certainly not musically inclined. Ha. I’d never be able to collect the money I’d need to join anything, either.
Believe me; I tried everything. I truly am a misfit. It’s okay, though. I’m used to it. I just live life in my own little world at Klein.
The bus jolted to a hurried halt on a familiar street corner. Snatching my backpack before it clattered to its doom below the seat in front of me, I glanced up to see Klein Forest High.
With a sigh, I slung my backpack over my shoulder and joined the straggling passengers making their way off the bus. Understandably, few were actually high school students; it was still only about a quarter till six. The bus would be around a little later with the other kids that took the metro to school.
I quit taking the school bus a while ago. Not only did it come too late for me to be out of the house by 5:30, but the kids that rode the bus didn’t think much of me. Or it didn’t seem so anyways. And Kenny doesn’t ride the bus, either.
Kenny. My pace quickened, and something of a smile tugged at my faint dimples. Perhaps my dark skinned face even showed a touch of pink.
At least there was a hint of happiness in my dark world.
Chapter one of Redeemed on Tucker Street, a novel that follows the story of a true to life, yet fictional, abortion vulnerable woman.