Alahna shivered as the cold wind swept in. She wasn’t sure what she would do the next morning. She needed to be out of here at the crack of dawn.
Her eyes squinted when a bright light shone in them. “Seriously! I got this spot fair and square!”
“Alanna, I’m not here to take your spot, I’m here to take you in.”
She peeked over the soggy blanket, “Officer Neil?”
“What are you doing here, Alahna? It’s freezing, it’s raining, and you have school tomorrow.”
She closed her eyes, “Mind getting the light out of my eyes at least?”
He lowered the high-powered beam, walked to his car and opened the front door, and tapped the metal roof, “Let’s go.”
He kept glancing at her intermittently as he drove through the dark, slick streets. As they passed the streetlights, she could see her own Samoan reflection in the rain-spotted window of the cruiser.
“What were you doing out there, Alahna?”
He wasn’t going to let her go quietly, she sighed and turned to him, “I’m doing what I have to.”
“Your mom bad off again?”
“I couldn’t sleep there.” She crossed her arms and looked back out the window, hoping he would take the hint that she didn’t want to talk.
“Officer Megan told me you guys have a test tomorrow?”
Alahna nodded but continued to stare out the window.
“Couldn’t study, huh?”
She shook her head no, and her body involuntarily shivered.
“Officer Megan can help you when we get there.”
The remainder of the ride was quiet. When he pulled up to the station, it was still raining, and they walked gingerly through the parking lot. Inside the building was warm and dry.
Officer Megan came to her and pulled her aside, “I’ve got some clothes you can use to sleep, and I can wash yours overnight. Go get some rest and I’ll wake you up early to study, okay, baby?”
Alahna nodded and followed Officer Megan down to her locker.
“Here we go. So, this is the big test, huh? The one that says you can graduate?”
She looked down to her feet, they were soggy, “I haven’t studied much.”
“You don’t need to, sweetie, I know your grades. You forget I’m the Recourse Officer at your school part time. That makes me entitled to know your info.”
Alahna let a smile slip through, “That, and being an officer.”
“Yeah,” Officer Megan laughed, “That too. Be back in a sec to get your wet clothes.” She left, leaving Alahna alone to change.
She felt so warm in Officer Megan’s dry clothes. She laid down on the cot and closed her eyes, trying to not feel like a burden to everyone. She was a burden to her mother as she had a drug and alcohol fest at the house complete with loud music and loud people, she was a burden to her father that never loved her, she was a burden to her teachers that helped her at school, and she was a burden to law enforcement. No matter her score on that test, though she didn’t need to study, she couldn’t wait to be out on her own, with a full time job, paying the bills and trying to survive.
The next morning, as promised, Officer Megan woke her up early. “The ladies’ shower is clear if you’d like to freshen up, and I brought some dry shoes from my house.”
Alahna was dressed, clean and felt more refreshed than she had since last time she stayed at the precinct. She found Officer Megan, “Thank you.” she pulled her in for a hug, “I’ll never forget all you’ve done.” She pulled away to see the Officer’s eyes teary.
“You’re welcome, now go ace that test.”
Alahna walked away with a renewed bolster to do what she had to do. Her scholarships were already lined up, all she had to do was show up, do her thang, and graduate Friday night. A determined smile spread her cheeks as she spread the doors to the precinct, today would change her life forever.