It was cold out here on the streets, and even with my trench coat, I felt the chill sipping through. You would think that with it being the second night in a row I was sleeping in this alley I would get used to the cold, but the opposite was the truth. It only felt much worse.
There had never been a time in my life when I was absolutely out of options. I used to refer to myself as a car; no matter how hard I fell, I always landed on my feet. But this, being homeless, was a new rock bottom, and I didn’t land on my feet. I landed on my freezing ass.
I’d charged the phone earlier in some coffee shop, so I had a few percents left to rummage through my contacts. There must be someone I trusted enough to help me out because there was no chance I was sleeping on the harsh, asphalt ground another night. It wasn’t even the dangers that lurked for a young woman in the streets; it was the cold that was simply unbearable without a warm, soft duvet.
My eyes glued to a name in my contacts list. Amanda Stratham. Yeah, not going to call her. We hadn’t spoken ever since high-school and after a certain incident, we would probably never speak again. So that was a no.
Beatrice Kaminsky. Another old friend whom I had a past similar to that with Amanda, so that was another no.
Jarrod, no last name. A landmine, that one.
Levi, no last name, either. I paused at that name. Despite everything that had happened, maybe I should call him. It’d been years since… But it’d been years with Amanda and Beatrice, too. Time didn’t erase dark memories; it only numbed them. And Levi…
No. I couldn’t call Levi. I couldn’t call anyone, but another night, out here, with my suitcase as a pillow…
Another contact, one right beneath Levi, said, Miranda. The person I had the worst past with, out of all the people I’d ever met in my short twenty-five years of living.
Not many people could say they hated their parents, not even those who were abused by them. Miranda had never laid a hand on me or even emotionally manipulated me. She was, simply put, the worst person I’d ever known. Her behavior was atrocious, her actions disastrous, and she’d ruined my life, leaving me in shattered pieces, before I’d taken my feet and got the hell out of her house when I was eighteen.
Seven years I hadn’t seen the bitch, and I hadn’t planned on changing that. Even if my life was rough and hard at times, it was still much happier and more peaceful without her in it. But I knew that if I called her if I said I was at the end of my rope and needed a place for the time being, she would say yes, and I wouldn’t have to sleep out here, in the cold…
My phone beeped, letting me know I had only fifteen-percent battery left. I had to choose. There was no one else I could call. I had no other blood-family - my unknown father notwithstanding - and no friends, not after what happened yesterday. I couldn’t keep slumming it down in the streets; one night was more than enough. I couldn’t handle another one. It was miraculous nothing had happened to me, too.
But calling Miranda? My mother? Letting her back into my life?
A water drop hit my face just then, and when I raised my eyes to the sky and saw murky clouds hiding the moon and stars, the decision was made for me. I closed my eyes, feeling a lump clogging my throat, and forced the tears down. Relax, Kira, I tried to cajole myself, you’re not a little girl anymore. She can’t hurt you.
I closed my eyes and pressed “Call”.
When she’d given me the address, I should’ve suspected something was amiss, but I was too petrified of staying any longer in the rain to ponder it. I spent the few bucks I had on a bus ride to the neighborhood and tried to catch some sleep until I arrived.
The first tattletale sign that either Miranda was fucking with me or she’d gone through a brain-transplant procedure was that the neighborhood was filthy rich. Skyscrapers that posed as apartment buildings were everywhere, as though it was downtown and not the suburbs, and villas the size of the Everest were spotted here and there. The place reeked of wealth, and it made no sense.
Miranda had always been piss-poor. She could never hold a job more than a week, and when she wasn’t working, she was going out to bars, getting wasted and sleeping with any man she set her sight on. The Miranda I knew would’ve never been able to afford to live in such a neighborhood even if she worked full-time for thirty years.
It’d been seven years since I’d left our dusty apartment on the other end of the city, where the slums were. I assume she might’ve moved out in the seven years I hadn’t been in touch with her, but moving into this place was too much of a surreal upgrade. It made no sense.
There was only one conclusion. She must be sleeping with some millionaire. Yup, that was it. Even if that was as improbable as her holding a job for more than a week, it was the more plausible explanation. But millionaires were smart, and Miranda stank of greed, so who would be stupid enough to stoop so low as to take her under their wing? Was he insane?
The building Miranda told me she was living at was at the end of a quiet road. It was another skyscraper, with at least sixty floors, and it seemed so white and clean, I was afraid of setting a foot inside and mar it with my filth. The lobby had a grand chandelier hanging from the tall ceiling, and large glass windows that showed some sort of a botanic yard behind, and when I stepped on the marble floor, the mud from my shoes and my dripping clothes left a mess of a trail behind me, making me feel a little guilty.
She said her apartment was on the fifteenth floor, and when I reached it, I saw there were only a couple of doors, meaning the entire floor was split into two apartments only. Holy hell. How could she afford it? The millionaire-lover theory was even likelier than I’d thought.
One door said twenty-nine and the other thirty, which was the apartment number Miranda had given me. I was about to knock on the door when the reality of it all suddenly hit me full force. I was going to see Miranda. My mother. After seven years. It felt like it was only yesterday when I told her I hated her to her face before taking off…
But what if she’d changed? What if she wasn’t the same? What if her living here was all her, without external help? What if she’d been freed, as much as I’d been? What if she worked hard and tediously to make something out of herself?
I wouldn’t be able to bear it. Even the thought of it made me want to puke. Because if it was the truth, it meant she had it in her since forever, and she could’ve raised me in a place that wasn’t utter garbage, instead of giving up altogether…
This won’t get you anywhere, I told myself and shook my head. I needed to get a grip and stop jumping to conclusions. I would judge her when I see her, and it wouldn’t happen unless I actually saw her instead of procrastinating like a coward.
You’re not a coward, Kira. Knock, for Chrissake.
I raised my hand, took a deep breath, and knocked.