Family Ties

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“Mind if I sit here?” She glanced up from a text message and found a boy, skinny and pale, looming over her like an unfriendly shadow. His hair was tousled and his eyes were red with sleep deprivation, but it was no concern of hers. He looked better off than she did in her worn leather jacket and holey jeans. He flashed her half smile as she slid up against the bus window to make room for him. Dropping his book bag on the floor, he collapsed in the chair with a sigh and glanced over at her phone.

“Who are you texting?”

“A friend.”

“A friend…a close friend, or just someone you ask for homework from?”

She glared at him. “Why do you need to know?”

“I don’t know, I was just making conversation.” He stared at the floor a minute.

“So where are you headed?”

“Downtown.” She purposely cut her answer short.

“Me too, where downtown?” Was he serious? He must be some psycho stalker waiting for her to give him clues to follow her.

“Just downtown, I have to meet my mom.”

“Does your mom work there?”

“Um yeah, whose parents don’t work downtown?”

“My mom doesn’t, she works from home.”

“That’s nice.” Her phone beeped: finally, a text message to distract herself from this weirdo.

“Do you text a lot?” Now he was annoying the heck out of her.

“I guess so. What is your deal anyway?” He flashed that half smile again and looked at her with puppy eyes.

“I like to make conversation. My mom thinks I act too much like a hermit, so I’m trying to come out of my shell.” Now he was attempting to be funny. Not working.

“Look, I need to answer my friend back without you peering over my shoulder like a creeper. So can you just amuse yourself some other way?” He looked down at the floor again and started to rock with the movements of the bus. She typed her friend a response, but before she could press send…

“So what’s the ‘K’ stand for?” He pointed to the silver keychain on her bag. Does this guy ever give up? Maybe she could please him with simple answers and get him to move on to something else.

“Kaleigh.”

“That’s a pretty name.”

“It suits me, I guess.”

“You don’t hear of many people with that name.”

“No.”

“See I kind of wish I had an unusual name. I mean, David is just so common.”

“Yeah.”

“Well what I mean is that, if I had an unusual name, maybe people wouldn’t be haggling me all the time.” She rolled her eyes. I’m sure you get haggled a lot; you’re such a people pleaser.

“Did your mom pick out your name for you?”

“I don’t know, she never talks about my early childhood.”

“Why not?”

“Because she doesn’t like to talk about the past.”

“Oh, I understand. My mom doesn’t like to talk about the past either. She says it brings back too many memories from a life she never really got a chance to enjoy.”

“Really.”

“Yeah, my dad apparently wasn’t the best guy to hang around. He ran out on her when I was little.” Oh perfect, she actually shared something in common with the psycho.

“Yeah, my dad skipped out too.”

“Seriously! Wow we have similar backgrounds.” David was becoming jitterier by the second.

“Did your mom keep her last name? My mom changed hers back after my dad left.”

“Of course she kept it.”

“Well that was probably a stupid question. She sounds very independent.” Kaleigh looked down at her phone and sent the text message. That’s not the word I would have used.

“You must be a lot like her.”

“Most people tell me that.”

“Do you look like her, I mean most people don’t have the gray eyes and brown hair that you have?” She threw him a what-the-heck look that he completely missed.

“Yeah well like everything else about me, it’s unusual.”

The bus lurched to a stop at the downtown station and people pushed inside the opened doors. A woman with over-gelled brown hair and skimpy leather clothes climbed up the stairs, clunking through the aisle with black boots. She shoved a beat-up cell phone down her leather jacket, glaring at the rest of the passengers as though they were silently annoying her.

“Whoa, look at that lady.” Kaleigh suddenly became aware of how close the guy was leaning into her. Would he really try something that stupid with all of these people around? His eyes were fixed on the strange passenger who was sweeping the rows for empty seats.

“She’s really creepy. How you could not notice her I would like to know.” Kaleigh squirmed in her seat: how did David not notice how close he was to her?

“You don’t see people dressed like that every day. She must do something, um, recreational with her time.” Oh please, a polite, sophisticated stalker; Kaleigh wanted to bang her head against the window. Her seat mate was captivated by the woman who was approaching them, her leather squeaking as she walked.

“I wonder how she fits into that thing; it must fit tighter than a glove?” He was whispering now.

“She looks like she’s seen a hardship or two.”

“Will you shut up?” Kaleigh hissed as the woman was now feet from them. The woman’s gaze swept over them, and a glimmer ignited in her eyes. She walked rigidly past them and sat down a few rows back.

“Whoa, it was like she saw right through you or something, like she knew you.” He was looking at Kaleigh with wide eyes. His expression pulled sharply inwards.

“Wait a minute!” He whipped around and looked at the lady and looked back at Kaleigh.

“What?” she asked suspiciously. David processed a few seconds and then,

“Her face, it lit up like she recognized you. She went stiff for a second, like you did. And she had gray eyes…”

Kaleigh shrugged and checked her phone for a new text. David’s face registered the starkest expression of fear she’d ever seen. But it made her laugh inside.

“So my mom’s a hooker. What’s the big deal?” She had no new messages.





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