I walked into the warehouse with a small smile on my face. As I’d run, my rush of elation had dwindled to a small flow of pleasantness that went directly against my usual demeanor. Luckily, the group wouldn’t know me well enough to call me out on it.
Everyone stopped moving as I walked in and Lynon stepped out of the mass of people. “You’re back.” He observed.
I smirked at him. “Well, I wouldn’t want to impose on you too much.”
Lynon grinned, obviously getting my version of a joke. “Hey, Devin!”
“Yeah?” The voice called back.
“Your target’s back. Intact and not winded.” Lynon laughed.
“Ugh. Seriously?” The group of people moved back to whatever they were doing before and Devin stepped forward, limping slightly.
I cast an odd glance at the leg he was favoring. “What’d you do?” I crossed my arms.
Devin shot a disgruntled look at me. “I don’t know. Tried to find the girl I was supposed to follow after she ran off again? You wouldn’t happen to know her, would you?”
“I wouldn’t say I know her.” I shrugged, grinning. “More like I know of her. Personally, I’ve never been introduced.”
Lynon laughed harder. “Oh, man. I like you.”
Devin sighed, glancing over at him. “Well, then. She’s all yours.”
Lynon shook his head, still laughing but calming down a bit. “Nope. Russ assigned her to you, so she’s your responsibility.”
“Russ wouldn’t even know!” Devin protested, a reluctant smile spreading over his face.
“Russ wouldn’t know what, Devin?” A man asked as he seemingly appeared next to us. Despite myself, I jumped. Immediately following, a thread of frustration wrapped around me. I’d never missed it when someone was around me. Even in the dark, I was ready and would hear almost anything. It was a big blow to my independence, that was for sure.
“Nothing.” Lynon chortled.
Devin sighed. “Since I’m injured...”
The man stopped him before Devin could even say anything. “You strained a muscle. That’s hardly an injury.”
I couldn’t resist a snicker.
Devin cast his eyes up at the ceiling. “Okay, so can you at least tell her,” He gestured to me. “To stop running around and purposely losing her tail?”
“You know, I can’t lose a tail if I didn’t have one in the first place.” I looked back at Devin and Russ after glancing around the room again. They were both staring at me. “What?”
A small smile played along Russ’s lips. “Well, Dev. I think I’ve finally got you one that’s going to give you a run for your money.”
Devin looked frustrated. “I didn’t ask for one that would give ma run for my money, though!”
“You didn’t ask for me. No one does. Blah, blah. You don’t want to work hard trying to trail me because you’ll just fail and fail. I get it. Now, what am I supposed to do here other than get talked about incessantly?”
Finally, Russ burst out laughing. “We’ll find you a spot to get settled. The younger ones are already sleeping, but the rest of us are just getting settled. They,” He waved towards a handful of people off in a group of their own, joking around and laughing. “Are going to be on night watch.”
I nodded slowly, studying them. I looked back to see Devin shift on one foot, a resigned look crossing his face. “We have space in our group.” It looked almost like it physically pained him to say it.
Russ smiled. “Well, look at that.” He sounded so not surprised that I wondered if he’d orchestrated it himself. “Why don’t you show...” He looked at me. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t here earlier. I don’t know your name.”
I doubted that, but I answered him anyway. “Calypso. Callie for short.”
He nodded. “Devin, why don’t you show Calypso the ropes for getting ready for bed.”
Devin looked uncomfortable, but he didn’t dare argue. “Follow me.” He all but grumbled, walking off.
I cast one last look at Russ before following him. Since Devin was determined to say the bare minimum, I looked around. All around us people were setting out bedrolls and settling down on different colored blankets. In one corner, around ten children laid in one close mass like they were clinging to each other. The sight filled me with memories that I’d tried to shake away.
I ran down an alley, ducking behind a trash can as I tried to hide. The apple I’d managed to steal was too big for my pockets, so I ate it as quickly as I could.
“Thief!” The storeowner was still shrieking as he looked for me.
I took another hurried bite and did my best to chew it quickly. Chewing quietly wasn’t even worth the effort. Since he was across the street, he didn’t hear the crunching.
I stayed there behind the trash can even after the man went back into his store, grumbling. As I squatted, I hurried through the food. Even as hungry as I was, I couldn’t afford to do anything but be aware of my surroundings.
Right before I threw the core into the trash, a small cat came out of under it. “Meow.” It said, looking up at me. I looked down at it, my expression softening.
“Hello, little thing,” I said softly. I offered the apple to the cat, but it didn’t want it. Popping up briefly, I tossed it in the trash. I held my arms out to the cat as I squatted back down. “I can keep you warm if you want.”
As though it understood me, the cat climbed into my arms. Immediately, it started purring as I held it tightly against me. I walked quickly out of the alley and turned away from the store, trying to find a new place to sleep for the night. I came across a gap in the sidewalk where the road went under a bridge and I ducked under it. Still moving, I wandered into the park. It was after closing hours, so no one was there except for some unruly teenagers.
Finding a large tree, I curled up by the roots, leaning against it. I let the cat move and curl up against me more and I drifted closer to sleep. “Thanks for the company, Kitty.” I smiled softly at it, too far past counting the days that I’d been alone on the streets.
The next morning, the poor malnourished kitten had moved on, leaving me with a cold memory of having a friend.
“Hey.” Devin said, waving his hand in front of me as I snapped out of it. “You okay?”
I swallowed, trying really hard to gather up the wall that had fallen as I remembered. “Fine.”
Devin looked concerned but knowing, so he didn’t say anything. “I’ll get you a blanket and see if I can find a toothbrush, and then I’ll bring you over and introduce you.” He took another look at my blank face. “Or,” He amended, “You can walk over there and unleash yourself.” He pointed towards a group of teenagers in the corner. Come to think of it, I knew all their names.
Finally, I smiled slightly. “I think I’m too tired for that.” I blinked a little more. “I’ll just wait here if you don’t mind.”
Devin nodded and went to go before turning back. “By the way, you can talk to us.” He gestured around. “Whatever you’ve gone through, someone else probably has, too.”
I looked at him, sincerely doubting it but appreciating it all the same. “Thanks. I might take you up on that.”
Looking slightly disappointed, Devin walked off. But as I glanced at the group, I didn’t regret my decision.
No one could’ve gone through what I did. No one would understand.
They never did.