Out In The Wind

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CHAPTER 24

When you have no idea where you are going it makes it difficult to put on foot in front of the other. Every road that you take feels like the wrong one. Every single turn you take feels like it will lead to certain doom. You have no idea where to find actual shelter and your only hope is to make it through the night and stay awake so that in the daylight you can go to the park and pretend that you fell asleep feeding the ducks at the pond where happy couples and children are walking around you while you are sleeping.

That was the plan. That is the plan going through my mind as I walk down the street, counting the amount of streetlamps that are not working anymore. So far I have counted four in total in this street alone, which is not good at all. Certain places in the street are hulled in complete darkness, the perfect opportunity for someone who would want to rob or mug me to hide. Still the park seems to sound like the safest place to spend the night. It seems less scary in a way with all its bushes and trees to hide in. Maybe if I get rope tomorrow I can be like Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games and climb a tree, tie myself to a branch and sleep in there.

I have made sure I have enough fresh water, but this will be the very first time since we have become homeless that I will be going to sleep hungry, nothing to eat in sight and no money to buy it with. The only things on my quest that I took with me was my backpack with Teddy, a few pairs of clean clothes, three books which consist of my dad’s birthday book from Mr. Graham, Charlie and the Chocolate factory, and the last book my dad ever brought me. I was hoping to read it tonight, but thanks to the city’s lamp problem there’s no light actually inside the park at all.

I walk past two men sleeping in the entrance of the park and I can’t help but wonder why they sleep out in the open. Would it not be better to be hidden than here in plain sight with the chilly frost of the winter setting in blowing over them, but maybe they do indeed know something that I don’t.

Feeling the fear in my heart I make my way over to the bench at the far sight of the damn where a lamp is illuminating the entire scene before I take out the blanket I stole from my mom and pushed roughly into the top of my backpack and wrap it around me before taking out the last book my dad got me.

“History is all you left me,” I whisper the title and then I look at the author’s name. I haven’t given this book much thought at all after my dad died. I didn’t try to read it. I just kept it with me. Now I am looking at the author and I recognize the name.

“It’s the same author as the book I saw in the bookshop. The orange book,” I say to nobody in particular and mouth the author’s name, Adam Silvera silently.

Without thinking twice, in the little bit of light the lamp is giving me on the bench I sit and begin to read about Griff who lost the person who meant the world to him. I learn about his small little ticks because of his OCD and I can’t help but relating to him. By the time I get to page twenty-five I am crying so hard that I am shaking, wishing that I could be anywhere but here, and anywhere but in the book that I am reading, but at the same time it feels nice to know that there is an author, or just a character out there in an alternate universe that at least knows how I might be feeling at the moment. Someone going through just as much sadness and trauma as what I am.

“You’re in my spot,” a voice says behind me and the fright is so much that I jump up from the bench and drop my book on the ground, which I both grab and get ready to run before I turn around to see who was speaking.

“Sorry?” I say, my voice trembling, my breathing elevated like I have run a marathon.

“I said you’re in my spot. There’s rules in the park you know,” the man says allowing me time to look him up and down. He has a long, very dirty beard that falls down all the way to his stomach and covering most of his face which alone makes it hard to guess his age. The leather jacket around his shoulders has seen better days, but the most peculiar part about his must be the pointy beanie he is wearing and the pointy shows, making him look like a wizard from a Rowling novel.

“I’m sorry… I didn’t know…” I mutter looking into his powder blue eyes that seem harsh and cold.

“New in town?” he asks, pushing his trolley to right beside the bench and taking a seat right in front where I am standing, the space I had occupied no more than a minute before.

“No. New on the street,” I mutter looking down at his shoes that shines in the light of the lamp. “You make me think of Dumbledore. He’s a character in the Harry Potter books.”

I feel like I need to add where it comes from, because this guys doesn’t look like the type who reads at all. Actually I don’t think he can actually read.

“You think I don’t know who Dumbledore is?” the man says. “Everyone knows who Dumbledore is. So what’s your deal? Ran away from home?”

“No,” I answer as I start shoving my book and blanket back into my backpack.

“Not? Well that’s something new. Most kids that come to the park ran away from perfectly good homes with little sob stories about how mommy and daddy took their phone away because they didn’t study. Believe me, I have seen it all in my day,” he says, pulling a very old and musty pillow from the trolley next to him and putting it behind his back. Then he pulls out an army knife and a can of spaghetti and meatballs.

“You can’t run away from home if you didn’t have one to run away from,” I say trying my best not to look too hungrily at the can in his hands.

“Too bad. You look like a good kid. Most kids don’t sit and read when they end up on the street. Most would’ve been drinkin’. Maybe shootin’ up. You don’t seem like the type, but you’ll see. You’ll turn…” he says opening the can with a bit of a struggle.

“I won’t,” I say, turning around to walk away because the smell from his can is a little bit much to bare. I thought I would be okay without food for one night, but it seems like the first night might be the worst out of all of them.

“Don’t walk away kid. Do you have somethin’ in that backpack to eat?” Dumbledore asks.

“No,” I say, turning around to face him. “I didn’t think that far.”

“Well you should,” he says holding the can out to me and producing an old spoon from his trolley before he digs in there and retrieves another can that he opens quickly.

I stare down at the contents of the can that smells so good that it feels like I’m going to faint. The coffee and rusks that made up last night’s dinner feels far away from me, like I have had it in a dream long ago. I have always vowed that I would never eat what I used to call dog food out of cans, but here I am staring at the contents, feeling that I have been given a meal fit for a king, and wanting to cry because some weird stranger that might kill me after I eat this can of food gave me something I could not help myself to get at all.

“Thank you,” I mutter trying to contain the tears that have already dried on my face since I dropped the book that started the complete roller coaster of emotions in me.

“Come sit down,” he says and taps the bench next to him, and I take the seat. Even if he does kill me it wouldn’t matter in any case. It was my plan to off myself in time anyways. What would a day or two earlier matter?

We sit and eat in complete silence until every piece of food is out of the can. I can’t stop myself from cramming my hand into the can, making sure I don’t cut myself and scraping off the leftover sauce onto my finger that I lick from it as not to leave any evidence that this can was once filled with food. When I am completely finished the man takes the can from me and stuffs it back in his trolley.

“If I get enough cans together they give me a few cents at the recycling plant,” he mutters.

“Yeah,” I say, almost as if I know his struggle for the few cents that he had to put with to buy the two cans we have just devoured in a few minutes.

“So… What’s your story?” he asks sitting back on the bench and pulling a blanket of his own from the trolley, wrapping it comfortably around him. It smells musty, like it had some water on it and it didn’t have time to dry properly before being put into the closet. I wrinkle my nose, but I decide not to judge.

“My dad died. We lost everything. We’ve been living in a car and my mom and sister can go to my aunt if I’m not with them. So I lied and now I am here because my mom just needs a few nights of sleep in a real bed,” I give him the short version.

“No friends to go and stay with?” he asks raising his eyebrow that almost disappears underneath the bright purple beanie on his head.

“No. Not anymore. People don’t like being friends with the homeless kid,” I answer, which is true and not true at the same time. They want to be friends, but only so it can make them feel good about themselves. None of them will want to do it out of actual love or friendship.

“I get that,” he says. “What’s your name?”

“Cory. Yours?” I ask.

“I’ve been called many names. I liked the one you gave me earlier. Dumbledore. I like it,” he says grinning so that I can see all the missing teeth in his mouth. “Tell you what. I’ll make you a deal. You sleep here with me tonight. Nobody will bother you. I’ve been in this park forever. Everyone knows this is my turf.”

“You mean it?” I ask even though I know I should actually be running for the hills, but whether Dumbledore kills me in my sleep, or if I take my chances against some junkies on the other side of the park, it seems all the same to me.

“I’ll make you a deal. You read me a part of that book you were reading and you can sleep under the bench. Nobody will even know you’re there,” he answers. “Think of it as a favor for a favor.”

“You like books?” I ask in disbelief.

“I like stories. If the story is good you can come and sleep here again tomorrow night as well. I don’t like not knowing how a story ends,” he says.

“Sure,” I say smiling a little bit. Maybe Dumbledore is not so bad at all. “How long have you been sleeping here?”

“Probably since before you were born,” he says avoiding my eyes completely. “Now get out that book and start readin’.”

I take out my blanket again and wrap it around me in a similar manner as Dumbledore has done. Then I take out the book and watch him close his eyes as I turn to the very first page of the book.

You’re still alive in alternate universes, Theo, but I live in the real world, where this morning you’re having an open-casket funeral. I know you’re out there, listening. And you should know I’m really pissed because you swore you would never die and yet here we are. It hurts even more because this isn’t the first promise you’ve broken,” I read into the night sky.

For the next hour or longer, because it feels like time is flying and standing still I read, and read and read. At certain points I stop to wipe the tears from my eyes, and once I even catch Dumbledore sniffing a bit and wiping a few tears away.

“…the service comes to a close, which is good for my heart and head, but I would suffer through a thousand more stories about you if there were people here to tell them. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Tomorrow morning we’re burying you,” I read into the darkness, listening to Dumbledore sniffing and still wiping tears away from my face as I go on.

“That’s enough for tonight,” he says. “We should get some sleep.”

He takes out a thin mattress and shoves it in underneath the bench and then he puts one on top as well.

“It’s not much but it will help,” he says.

“Did you like the story?” I ask as I crawl in underneath the bench with my backpack and my blanket, taking Teddy out and squeezing him tightly against my body.

“Yea, why not? You can come back tomorrow. I want to know how it ends,” he answers as he curls up right above me.

Those were the last words he spoke to me that night before both of us fell asleep. Him out of habit, and me out of pure exhaustion and too many emotions.

A/N: I have quoted two paragraphs of a book in this chapter and I would just like to give the author of those two paragraphs proper credit before I continue with the next chapter. They are both from the book, “History Is All You Left Me,” by the amazingly talented author Adam Silvera. I discovered his work last year and I haven’t been able to get enough of his books, even though they always make me cry and put me into moods for days at a time after reading them. Please do yourself a favor and check out his work. He is really amazing and you will not be disappointed at all – I promise.

Even though Adam Silvera doesn’t know I exist I am going to take a moment here to thank him for the inspiration his books has brought into my life as well. In my alternate universe I am co-writing a book with him and pulling out all the stops, making it the saddest book in the world, but also one that will make a difference in the world.

Since I very seldom write author’s notes, I also want to take the opportunity to thank everyone for reading, sharing, voting, commenting, writing on my message board, sending inbox messages, and just in general being all around awesome people! You guys and girls keep me going and I am so thankful to have each and every one of you in my lives. “Out in the Wind” is especially special to me for various reasons, one of them being the fact that I know what it feels like not to know where you will be sleeping tonight. It was a very difficult time in my life as well as the lives of my family. So I hope that by the end I can do what I did in “Behind Drawn Curtains” which is to give helpline numbers, statistics on homelessness, people and information that can help you, or someone you know if they ever get into a situation like this. So each of you reading this, thank you so much for helping me spread the word and bringing awareness to a situation that weighs so close and heavy on my heart.

All my love,

C.A. Kerst

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