I saw him again.
I always saw him when I was out in town. He'd be on that same street corner, curled up in filthy clothes that absolutely reeked and a scruffy pillow. He did have a lantern at one point, but I hadn't seen that in a while. We'd always laugh at him as we passed him, mostly because it wasn't us on that street corner scrounging for food and money, fighting to survive. Some people may consider it heartless, but it always just gave us something to do. Some lower form to take our own insecurities out on.
'I bet he's got a home you know,' El muttered beside me. She sipped at her cappuccino, a little frown creasing the skin between her elegant eyebrows.
'What makes you think that?' I asked, amused.
'It happens all the time,' she told me earnestly. 'Stacie Miller from the year above said that she saw some homeless dude she'd given money to not five minutes earlier pick up his things and head off into a comfortable looking home.'
'Right, Stacie being the girl who also said that she spotted a UFO outside her house?' I laughed.
'You don't know, it could happen.' El shrugged. 'Whatever. Homeless people really tick me off.'
'I don't know, they just do.'
'Great logic there El,' Lucie joined in the laughter. It was the usual group at Starbucks, me, El, Lucie and Rachel. Everyone knew us for our popularity at Wyvell High School, we were the "it" girls - or at least that's what I had heard spoken many times in the corridor before. I often wondered if people were ever intimidated by us, but then decided that I didn't care. I should be happy with the social status I was given.
'Come on,' Lucie stood up. 'Let's head back to mine.'
We dumped our empty cups in the nearest bin and headed back out into the sunshine. Almost simultaneously, we covered our eyes with over sized expensive sunglasses and began walking down the street. I always felt strangely adored when I was with my friends. Heads would turn and guys would smile appreciatively. It gave me a sense of power, as ridiculous as it seemed.
'Eurgh,' Rachel scoffed. 'We've gotta go past the homeless guy.'
'Hold your breath,' Lucie joked.
I ignored the pang of guilt and shame that shot through me.
'Oh my god, you know what would be funny?' El suddenly declared excitedly. 'What if one of us walks over with some water, ice cold, and pretend to be all sympathetic to get his hopes up. And then we just tip it over him!'
'Oh my god you're awful!' Lucie laughed. 'But a genius.'
'Guys,' I said uncertainly. 'Don't you think that's a bit harsh?'
'Who cares?!' Rachel giggled. 'It'd be hilarious!'
'You know you should do it Evie,' El said slowly, turning to face me. I tried to hide my horror.
'Why?' I smiled easily. 'Why not you, seeing as it was your idea?'
'Cos you're the hottest out of all of us,' El said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. 'You'll certainly get his hopes up.'
'That's not fair!' I protested. I really didn't wanna do this.
'Tough luck,' El grinned, handing me some water. 'Now do it.'
I accepted the water reluctantly. Maybe if I "tripped" and spilled half of it before I actually reached him... Sure it was fun to say a few words, but actually tipping ice cold water over him? Even I wasn't that cruel. I can shamefully say though I was insecure enough to give in to peer pressure.
I walked over to him, my heels clacking against the concrete as I did so. He didn't look up and for that I was thankful. I don't think I'd be able to look him in the eye as I did it.
Right on cue, I "stumbled" forward, the cup tilted and clear, cold liquid drenched the homeless guy. It certainly made him jump. He cried out in surprise, looking up to see who had done such a horrible thing.
Then his eyes met mine.
He was just a kid. He wasn't some 60 year old drunkard, he was just like me. He couldn't have been more then seventeen/eighteen, and right now looked so utterly vulnerable and hurt that it broke my heart. I could only stare at him, hoping my expression conveyed enough of my regret that he'd understand why I had to do it.
I walked away in a daze, quickly circled by high pitched giggles of my so-called friends. I was numb though. Their words of praise didn't affect me.
He was just a kid.