Leila was awakened as the sun’s bright rays struck against her closed eyes. She was curled into a small ball near the edge of the chair, clutching the blanket tightly to her body. When she realized how high the sun was in the sky, she quickly but quietly grabbed the pillow and blanket and climbed back down the fire escape and back into her room. She glanced at the clock that sat on a nightstand next to her bed. Her father would be gone to work and she wouldn’t be able to make it to school any time soon.
This wouldn’t be the first time Leila had missed a day of school. And hey, on the bright side, she wouldn’t have to use any make up today. Leila’s stomach grumbled. She had been so exhausted last night that she didn’t even realize how hungry she was. Leila walked over and examined the contents of the fridge. There were more beers in there than actual food. She moved the bottles around searching for something edible. There was a half-gallon of milk and a package of opened lunch meat that smelled three miles beyond questionable.
Leila poured herself a small glass of milk and grabbed a granola bar out of a cupboard.
She had the entire day to herself. What would she do? Leila was used to being alone and it didn’t bother her very much. She contemplated fetching a book from her bedroom and re-reading it, but she knew every plotline so well that the books were losing their appeal.
And suddenly, Leila knew what she was going to do.
Inside her room Leila had a small change purse, small enough to fit comfortable in the palm of her hand. She raced to her room and grabbed it now, weighing its contents. She unzipped it and poured out its contents onto her bed. An assortment of change and dollar bills fell out. Leila scrambled through the array and pulled out a twenty dollar bill. She stuffed it into her pocket and carefully placed the remaining money back into her change purse, counting it as she went along. Five, ten, twenty… when Leila was finished, she sat back astounded. In that small change purse she had just over eighty dollars, not including the twenty she had just taken out.
One hundred dollars.
Leila shook her head in an attempt to clear out that sudden flood of thoughts that crashed around inside. She placed the change purse back into its hiding spot. Leila grabbed her sweater and left the apartment.
It was only a day later but already the November chill seemed to be replaced by a brisk December wind. She left the apartment unnoticed by any of the neighbors. Pulling the sweater tighter around her, Leila hurried off down the street. Just a few blocks over was one of Leila’s favorite places. Neverland’s Treasures was a bookstore located far off the beaten track, hidden away behind abandoned little shops. Because Neverland’s Treasures was so hidden it attracted very few people. Leila had only come across it by accident and she was ever so thankful for that accident…