I love adventure novels. I always have. But when the word adventure begins to apply to your every situation, it tends to lose its novelty quickly. As it was, the cold street corner of Vancouver I currently had to occupy looked more like another sleepless night to me than a thrilling tale. My head hurt and I shivered through my sweater. It turns out running away from home is not quite what it is made out to be. It's lonely and a little sad. It's cold and hard and hungry.
I held out the hat I had found on a nearby street corner, my eyes wide and pleading as the people nearby hurriedly moved away from my stare. "Please?" It was a cracked whisper and I mentally kicked myself once more for my stupidity. Sure, my parents hadn't understood me. Sure, my sister was a brat who was their princess. Sure, my best friend told the world all my secrets. I had been bullied. I had been crushed. But at least I had been warm. At least I had been fed and looked after. Now I was just cold and alone.
A hand dropped quickly into my vision, placing a loony in my hat before quickly drawing away. By the time the words "thank you" had formed on my tongue the figure was across the street and out of sight. I sighed, staring at the three dollars I had accumulated over the last two hours. It would at least be good for a bite to eat, but not much else. No bus ride home, that's for sure. But would I go home, even if I managed to get enough money? Could I face my family again? Could I talk to my friends?
It had been six months since I had seen any of them. It had been wonderful the first week away. I had stayed in a hotel, feeling independent and free. I had flirted with a young busker, laughed when he called me cute. And then my savings had dried up. I wasn't able to get a job. I couldn't afford the hotel. And here I was, scraping a survival out of other people's scant generosity. I just wanted to go home.
"You're a bit young to be on the street," a voice said, jerking me from my thoughts. I looked up into the dark eyes of a thirty some year old man. A look of concern was painted on his face and his suit was crumpled as he bent down towards me.
"I'm sixteen," I mumbled, holding the hat out to him. He ignored it, crouching down beside me.
"I don't have much money to spare," he told me. "But I have a couch you can have in my apartment if you want it. I could try to get you a job too. My friend is looking for workers at the store he runs."
I looked at the ground, studying the worn black shoes of the man. The offer was tempting. And yet... I had heard horror stories of the shady dealings of strangers. "Why?" I asked him, still staring at the ground. He looked a little taken back at the question, but answered none the less.
"I want to help you. Good karma, doing something nice for other people... those things are important." His words seemed genuine in my ears. But I still didn't want to drop my guard.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Could you come back tomorrow? I need some time to decide if I want to take your offer."
He frowned, then stood. "Alright," he answered. "You'll be safe another night out here?"
I laughed at his question, a laugh that only had a small grain of humour to it. "I've been okay so far." I told him. "I'll be okay one more night."