i still can't believe i didn't die that night in the doorway. It was a crisp March night yet i somehow survived without hypothermia. i did have frostbite to some degree but it didn't bother me too much.
When i sat up, i noticed my little furry heating pad was gone. The cat was nowhere to be found and my only way to remember him was with some grey hair left on my sweater.
"Like a one night stand," i joked a bit and stood up to stretch. It didn't hit me until now about how much of a pickle i was in. i had nowhere to go, no way of supporting myself, not even friends to fall back on. Man was i screwed.
i decided then that i should try looking for Rue again. Maybe she could help me, let me sleep on her floor until i was able to support myself. i could hope at least. If not, then that doorway was going to be my bed for a long time...as long as nothing bad happened to me in the meantime.
i began walking the streets of downtown early that morning. By noon, i'd learned to shoplift for food. It felt terrible doing it but it was either that or go hungry. i'd already gone without food for a few days and decided i'd only do it to keep up survival. Hopefully i wouldn't have to keep this gig up for long.
By dinner i'd walked all over the place and never found Rue or even a trace of her. i made my way back to my doorway to see it had been taken by another girl. i was about to turn and find another place when i felt something playing with my pant leg and looked down to see that same graphite-coloured cat looking up at me playfully.
"Hehe, hey there!" i said and picked him up again.
"So that's why he's been gone so long lately," i heard a girl's voice say about the cat. i looked over to see the girl in the doorway looking at me cuddling him.
i felt guilty for mauling her cat with love so i put him down. "i'm sorry, i didn't mean to keep him from you," i said apologetically but she just seemed to shrug it off.
"Hey it's cool, he's a cat he can go where he pleases. Plus, he's not mine, he's just a stray I've been feeding for a while, isn't that right Chip?" she said standing up and looking down at the scraggly cat now with a known name. She wasn't very tall but slender. She dressed modestly and held her frizzy blonde hair in a very untidy bun. She was a pretty girl by many standards, but i had to look away when she saw me looking at her with such intensity.
"So what brings you here?" she asked me, "addiction, gangs, runaways?"
"The last one," i mumbled softly but she seemed to catch it.
"Me too but I've been here a while. Managed to get a place over my head. The name's Dusty by the way," she said extending her hand.
"Asterix, good to meet you. i was hoping to find someone. She ran off here about a year ago. i was hoping to find her again, maybe you've heard of her?" i asked hopefully.
"Probably have, I've made connections with a lot of the street youth here like myself. What was her name?"
"Well, her name was Robin but she probably was preferred to be called Rue," i asked, eyes becoming very interested in the ground.
"Not too familiar but sometimes kids change their names or acquire nicknames when they get out here."
i paused defeated for a second until the memory dawned on me. "Oh wait! Last time i saw her, she was going up against a group of guys harassing me but they didn't call her Rue, they called her Red."
There was a slight pause before Dusty spoke again. "Red? You sure you didn't mishear it for Rue?"
"Nope, they called her Red i'm certain," i said with conviction. If there was anything i remembered it was that.
"Sorry, don't think I know her, maybe she wasn't here for very long. Hey, if you have nowhere to stay, why don't you stay with me? There's a ton of us squatting in one of the old apartment buildings on the east side. It's not much but it's better than nothing," she said a little quickly.
Happy for the offer, i accepted. "Thank you so much."
"No problem," she said and scooped Chip up, leading the way to my new home.