It was a cold February night and Mary-belle was on the street. She huddled under a cardboard box, trying to make herself as small as possible. The street lights were lit all down Central Avenue, but she didn’t see them. She didn’t even see the plumes of frozen breath she made as she she shivered within the darkness. She felt something in the pit of her stomach. She must be hungry. She was beyond hungry. Her body had begun to feed on itself. She had not eaten in two days. Her body needed food to produce heat.
She thought she heard her stomach growl, but she wasn’t sure. She was too cold to look for food. The street wasn’t safe, but she had no choice. She felt safer in the ally than she would have out on the Main Street. She was closer to the street than she wanted to be. The noise from the sound of buses gearing down for the red light at the corner and driving off again when the light changed filled her senses. She needed help, but there was no one out on the street but thugs and the occasional wino looking for another bottle. She wished she just had a piece of cheese to put in her stomach, and maybe a piece of bread. Her thoughts moved from her empty stomach to the ice cold tentacles of the night air enveloped her in a frigorific shroud. Would this be the night she would die? She wanted to cry, but she didn’t have the tears. She needed to relieve herself, but she was too cold and frightened to move. The urge to empty her bladder was a welcome distraction to keep her from falling asleep.
Police sirens cried out in the night and faded as the officers raced down the lane were protecting and serving. They were not there for her. She was alone. She was beyond tired, but she had to stay alert. She wouldn’t survive this night if she were to fall asleep. She tried to keep her mind occupied. She thought of anything and everything to pass the time and to keep her from falling into the abyss.
It would be so easy to go to sleep right now. Maybe death would be an escape. Mary-belle contemplated what a frozen death would mean. It would mean the end of her dreams. She wasn’t a young woman anymore. That, alone, was terrifying, not the getting older, but being a mature woman on the street and her only shelter a cardboard box discarded by Walmart.
She fought the urge to give in to sleep. She had survived too much in her lifetime to let this blistering cold take her out of this world. She still had a future to carve. She didn’t know how she would ever become what she always wanted to be from childhood. But she had to make it. She would not die tonight. Mary-belle huddled in her box, grateful that her cardboard shelter blocked the wind that cut through the ally.
To be continued
Image credit: Me