It took about an hour to get back to the group home. Tess didn’t have to walk far, she was just dreading seeing Greg or having to deal with reporting her time in jail. If she did have to report it, she wouldn’t have many days left in the home. They would kick her out for sure.
When she arrived, she signed in and made her way to her room. There were a few people up, but most of them were either out or already sleeping. She decided to get some rest.
She was called down in the morning to speak with some of the group home leaders. They brought her into the office and spoke to her about getting in trouble the night before. They told her she’d have to find a job and someplace to live within the next two weeks because she’d have to leave.
“We just can’t have you causing trouble and we can’t pay for you to be here anymore,” the supervisor said, in a matter-of-fact voice.
Tess wanted to say that they didn’t pay anything for her to be there because they never really gave her anything besides a dirty cot to sleep on and some stale food to eat, but it wasn’t worth it.
“I understand,” Tess said.
“So, two weeks,” the supervisor reminded her, looking accomplished. As Tess was leaving, she called out for her. “A police officer came by and left this for you. Good luck with everything, Ms. Galvin.”
Tess slumped back to her room with the envelope and tore it open as she sat down on her cot. She had to appear in court in a week and then pay the rest of her fines or she’d be arrested. She’d have to make money fast.
She packed up her things, which was only a few extra pairs of clothes, a journal, and her backpack, and left the group home. She headed back toward the city and walked until she reached the board walk. The city, Chiyoko, was an overpopulated beach town and the boardwalk was packed with people.
Tess never minded visiting the boardwalk because no one really looked at her there. Everyone was a bit of an outsider, so it made her feel a little less like one.
She scanned into a local bar and walked past all the drunks. There was a holographic waitress spouting all off all the drink specials blocking the way toward the game room, but Tess stepped right through her.
“Hey! Excuse me, Tess Galvin!” She shouted. “Very rude!”
The game room was in the back of the bar, which was a massive arcade filled with all types of gamers. A few boys were trying to play and old game of Pac man, but more advanced players were gathered around a virtual reality game. There didn’t seem to be any open spots, but Tess did recognize a friend.
“Kate!” Tess shouted, getting her attention.
She was wolfing down a burger at a table with a couple other friends, but she motioned Tess over.
“How are you doing?” Kate asked, patting the seat next to her. Tess slid in the booth as Kate wrapped her arm around her shoulder. “What are you doing here?”
“I got kicked out of the group home,” Tess explained. Kate had been there a year ago until she turned eighteen. “I’m looking for somewhere to work.”
“You’ll find something,” Kate said. “I’m working as a bartender down the boardwalk. There aren’t much hours, but I can ask. What type of money are you looking to make?”
Tess pulled out the paper that listed her court fees and fines and slid it in front of Kate. She nearly spit out her food.
“A thousand dollars!” Kate shouted. “In a week?”
“I’ll go to jail.”
“That would take me at least a month to make, Tess. I don’t know what to tell you. Do you have any rich friends?” Kate asked. “What about Cameron?”
“I can’t ask her for help,” Tess said.
Tess could tell by Kate’s expression how hopeless it all was, unless she wanted to ransack the junk yard again. That wasn’t an option.
Her conversation with Kate was cut short when she spotted someone familiar across the room. Greg was having a drink with some friends at the bar, laughing and joking like nothing had happened. Infuriated, Tess jumped up and started over to him. When he spotted her walking toward him, his eyes went wide. The initial shock quickly subsided and he smiled cruelly. Tess was face to face with him as he hopped off his stool.
“What are you doing here?” Greg asked. He took a sip of the beer he was holding. “You’re not in jail yet? Did they chop off your other hand?”
He grabbed at her left arm, but she pulled away. His friends laughed.
“Why didn’t you get in trouble?”
“Because I work with the cops, so I tip them off sometimes. Comes with some nice perks,” Greg replied. He dug into his pocket and pulled out a wad of money. He handed some to his friends to buy more drinks. “Trying to get ugly people off the streets, anyway.”
“But you live in the group home. I’ve seen you.”
“That’s where I keep an eye on things,” Greg explained. He raised an eyebrow. “When are you getting locked up?”
“I’m not,” Tess said, through gritted teeth. “I’ll be fine.”
“You won’t find the money,” Greg said. He looked down in time to see Tess’s hand ball into a fist. He started to laugh again. “Are you going to hit me? Do it. I’ll get the cops here so fast, your head will spin.”
Tess held her ground.
“It’ll be worth it,” Tess said.
She held up her arm, but someone grabbed her and spun her around.
It was Nate.