Driving the battered, gray pick-up at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning was a new experience. The streets were nearly deserted and light rain drizzled on the windshield. The wipers groaned with every pass. Tina sat right next to her on the bench seat staring straight ahead. A few blocks ahead Eva caught sight of a police car parked at the curb. It was impossible to tell if anyone was sitting behind the wheel, and, just to be on the safe side, Eva turned right at the corner to avoid driving past the police cruiser.
Even as she had been dressing her, Eva knew she would not be able to take Tina with her. Tina would slow her down and two girls, sixteen and three, traveling alone, would attract too much attention and would certainly be easy to find. And Eva didn’t have enough money for both of them. Dwayne’s wallet had contained a twenty dollar bill and two singles. Eva would leave Tina somewhere safe and promised herself that she would return for her as soon as she could.
Off in the distance, Eva saw St. Catherine’s Hospital, its upper floors obscured by the clouds. It was a twelve story structure with twin buildings joined by a cat walk, glass panels on each side.
The parking structure beneath the hospital was nearly deserted, and Eva chose a parking spot near the exit. Hand in hand, she and Tina took the first elevator to the first-floor emergency room. As the elevator doors slid open, Eva saw three people in the waiting room. An elderly black man sat half dozing in his plastic chair, holding a white paper cup. Across the room, a round gray-haired Hispanic woman sat next to an eight-or nine-year-old boy, probably her grandson, gently stroking his hair and whispering into his ear. The emergency room desk was behind a glass partition and it was deserted.
Eva chose seats close to the desk and sat Tina down next to her. Looking around warily, Eva pulled Dwayne’s wallet from her jeans and extracted the two one-dollar bills.
“Tina sweetheart” Eva said quietly, “I want you to wait here for me for a few minutes. Can you do that like a big girl?”
Tina stared at her suspiciously, silently.
“I want you to hold this money tight in your hand,” Eva continued, pressing the two one dollar bills into Tina’s tiny hand. “I want you to sit here and wait like a good girl, okay?”
Eva spotted the tear drops starting to pool in Tina’s eyes, and she felt nauseous. Wrapping her arms around Tina, she hugged her and kissed her forehead. “Don’t worry, sweetie,” she whispered, “everything will be just fine. I promise.”
“Kitty?” Tina asked.
Eva smiled and swiped the dampness out of her own eyes. “Kitty too, sweetheart. Kitty will be just fine too.” Eva stood and studied Tina’s round, puzzled face, silently cursing Loretta for losing track of Tina’s father. “You wait here like a good little girl, Tina, and I’ll be back as soon as I can.” Eva smiled and felt her lip and chin quivering.
She hugged Tina, kissed her once more on the forehead, and briskly walked away. Tears began welling in Eva’s eyes and spilling onto her cheeks as she rapidly walked toward the elevator. Behind her, Eva heard voices, but she never turned back.
Tina was saying “With you? With you?” while another voice, an older, official-sounding voice, was saying, “Miss, can I help you? Miss? Miss?”
Jumping behind the wheel of the pick-up, Eva checked the gas gauge, which was inching toward empty. No matter, she wasn’t planning on driving far. Once Dwayne realized Eva had his truck he would report it stolen. She had no intention of being arrested for car theft, so keeping the truck was out of the question. Eva was careful not to exceed the speed limit as she headed directly toward the bus station, which she spotted two blocks ahead.
Carefully easing the pick-up to the curb, she parked directly in front of Jimmy’s Grill. On the empty lot next to the grill was an open dumpster. Emptying Dwayne’s wallet of all identification, Eva shoved the wallet, with the twenty dollar bill inside, back into her pocket. Sitting behind the steering wheel, Eva tore the identification cards and driver’s license into tiny pieces. Eva checked the side-view mirror—nothing—and slid out of the truck and slammed the door. After checking for witnesses up and down the street, she carefully deposited the shreds of identification and the truck keys into the dumpster, shoving it beneath the trash and discarded uneaten food people had left on their plates; tough luck starving people in China, she thought. Eva walked straight toward the bus station.
Time: 7:25 a.m. Eva checked the departure board for the next outgoing busses. A bus to New York was scheduled to leave at 7:38 a.m., and the bus to Las Vegas left at 7:50 a.m. The next two busses, one to Portland and one to Miami, did not leave until 8:22 a.m. and 8:37 a.m. respectively. Eva thought Florida sounded nice, but she did not want to linger in the bus station for over an hour.
“One ticket to New York,” she said, pulling the wallet from her pocket.
The plastic teller window had a hole in the center through which wisps of cigarette smoke seeped, but the mass of it swirled around a fat face with glasses.
He barely glanced at Eva. “Round-trip or one-way?”
“One-way,” she said.
“$21.87,” he said.
Eva looked at the twenty dollar bill in her hand and thought about the two one dollar bills she had left with Tina. Bad decision, she thought, Tina won’t know what to do with the money and some jerk will probably steal the two bucks from her anyway.
“$21.87,” the man repeated, staring at her for the first time.
“How much to Las Vegas?”
“Round-trip or one-way?”
“$18.84,” he said.
Eva slid the twenty-dollar bill under the plastic partition toward the man’s chubby, nicotine stained fingers.