"I CANNOT believe we just did that!" I laughed, clutching my pink teddy bear. Yes, pink.
"Oh come on! You know you had fun," he insists, possibly laughing even harder than me. We are sitting in his car, him driving, me in the passenger seat.
Jackie leans in from behind me. "I know I had fun! Henry," she giggles, "you really suck at skee-ball." He glances at her for a second to scowl, then his eyes are back to the road. He is a very conscientious driver, I'm learning.
We were returning to their house after a long day of skee-ball and laser tag at the local arcade. It was...fun, actually. I had never been to an arcade before. My mom had always been too busy to do extra activities with me. Busy as in going to the local bar to get drunk, sleeping off her hangover, complaining about it when she woke up, then getting drunk again. It was a busy life for her. Not that I'm complaining- I had never thought in my wildest dreams that I would enjoy that kind of thing. But I had, and we already had plans to return next weekend.
Now we are driving through the south end of town. With its narrow streets and crowded sidewalks, Henry is being overly cautious. Jackie is still chatting away, not really noticing that neither of us are paying attention. I am content to look out the window at the trees and people, children playing hopscotch on the sidewalk, old men playing cards on their patios. We pass a run-down soda shop on a corner, where a group of young men are sitting in a circle. They all have black hoods on, some glancing over their shoulder seemingly at random, a small stream of smoke wafting from the center of their arrangement. One of the men turns around, and his green eyes meet mine.
"Stop!" I shout, pressing myself up against the window. The car is passing the group, and I will it to stop. Henry is trying to calm me, but I can't listen to him. "Stop the car!" I order urgently. He pulls over in the first available spot on the road, and I rip open the car door. I'm running before Jackie or Henry can stop me, and I almost get run over by a car while I sprint across a driveway.
The men aren't looking, the one I want with his back towards me.
I don't say anything until I'm right up behind him. "Sam! What are you doing?" The green eyed, dark-skinned man stands up, his eyes scrutinizing. The rest of his friends mimic his movement, all with threatening stances. Sam has a joint between his fingers and I knock it to the ground. His friends start protesting, but he just gets this look on his face that reminds me of the kind you see when a lion is about to devour its prey.
"Ada!" A voice, unmistakably Henry's, comes up behind me. I can imagine his concern. Even though Sam is a good foot taller than me, I am not afraid of him. I'm very afraid of his "friends", but not of him. He stares at me coldly looking me up and down. By his dirty, torn black sweatshirt and jeans with more holes than swiss cheese, I know he has been living the hard life. He probably sees me as one of those rich, preppy girls who always back away from him when they meet him on a street. I can tell he probably wants to push me away, to scare me, but before he can move his I put my hands on either side of his face.
Now he has no choice to look into my eyes. I can feel Henry pulling my shoulders, but in the next moment recognition flares in Sam's eyes and I smile.
"Ada Laney, is that you?" He asks, his voice deeper than I remember. I nod and he steps forward with a grin, wrapping his big arms around me. It's like being suffocated, but in a good way.
"You know these guys?" Henry asks from behind me. His voice is layered with confusion, and I step back to look at him.
"Just Sam," I explain, gesturing to the green eyed giant behind me. "We went to middle school together back when I lived with my Mom in Birdsboro. That was when she was dating the, what, dentist?" I ask Sam.
He shakes his head. "The pediatrician."
"Right, right. Anyway, we were really good friends, and I haven't seen him since eighth grade!" The guys behind Sam are grumbling, something about keeping the joint lit, but he ignores them, putting an arm around my shoulder.
"That's right. And who's this guy?" Sam asks me, nodding his head towards Henry.
"This is Henry. We go to school together now." Henry nods, his mouth set in a grim line. He is obviously uncomfortable here. I can hear the other men retreating, deserting Sam, but he doesn't care. He is grinning easily at the two of us, like a ghost from the past happens to him everyday.