The rain had nearly soaked her thin leggings up to the knees; her shoes were saturated through and through, and the fleece zip-up from Target had long-before taken on the appearance of a spent dish sponge with shriveling edges and the discoloration of overuse. The young woman looked as if she might have survived a horrendous car accident and walked away on foot, her bags in tow – literally, in tow.
The cashier was standing in front of the register obviously at a total loss; his hand hovering over the buttons impatiently.
“I f you don’t have I.D. then I can’t sell you cigarettes…” he repeated for the third time to the inebriated teen. “And if I were you, I’d go find somewhere to sleep for a while before the police find one for you, Kiddo…you stink like…”
The young woman’s eyes darted up at him at the mention of the police, her expression sobering within seconds.
“I smell like what?” the interruption had caught the young cashier off guard, and at first, he could only stuttered gibberish in response to her unlikely retort.
“Ahhhh, er um…like…. “
She grinned at his clumsiness, and leaned in closer to his face in a successful attempt at releasing a mouthful of the world’s most foul party breath as she spoke quietly.
“You know what I smell like?...I smell like freedom…so, no wonder it’s offensive to someone like you.”
And with that, the suddenly sober young woman scooped up the bags that she had dumped at her mud-rinsed feet – and was out door, the whir of the automatic opener drowning out the profanities that spewed from her mouth.
The girl was angry when she dropped down at the concrete picnic table across the parking lot from the liquor store; she never thought about these things before she ran away from home – the weather, the unhelpful people, or the fact that she tended to spend the majority of her “freedom” being heavily under the influence of a wide variety of illicit street drugs and alcohol, rendering it quite difficult to function within the parameters of “normal” society. She knew her mother had to be worried sick by now; the girl had not been able to charge her cell phone in over two days and had not been in contact at all.
Just as the girl’s mind began to wonder in the direction of a healthy and positive turnoff in a mental fork in her road, a dark green SUV pulled up about fifteen feet from the table where she sat in a semi-daze, quite the polarity in presence from the overly-alert man behind the wheel.