Slowly, the bus made the awkward turn around the corner. It wobbled precariously as the driver maneuvered it around the curb, careful to spray the puddle across Kevin’s pants and shoes enough to make them muddy and wet. With a sigh, he stood, shook his left leg and then his right. None of the mud left his pant legs but he didn’t care. The wino stood up straight and fished out a crumpled dollar as the bus doors opened; Kevin just waited. From the back stepped Isabel. Kevin noted that she looked worse than the week before. Her shirt struggled to cover her ever-increasing round belly as her hair continued to tangle itself into a mass of dreadlocks. With an outstretched hand Kevin helped Isabel gain her footing on the wet pavement. Silently they walked down the street, dodging the advances made by the drag queen on the corner.
Kevin hadn’t done that to her, made her into who she was, but he still blamed himself. He had made it out of the cycle by 18; Isabel hadn’t. A string of bad relationships got them both into the system and more bad relationships continued after for Isabel. When the nuclear power plant had shut down the Shapiros moved to the city. Kevin and Isabel were young then. Their mother went to work at the dry cleaners below their apartment as their father looked for part time work. Things didn’t get better for them. Within months Kevin knew something was wrong. His father was staying out late, coming home early in the morning and their mother had started to do things in secret. One day, though, they were gone. A woman with hair pulled into a bun and a starched suit came and took Isabel and Kevin away after three days on their own. They bounced from family to family for the next ten years. As with a lot of foster children they were not treated well. While Kevin reacted by becoming withdrawn, Isabel acted out. They now saw where it got them.
Kevin and Isabel continued to walk down the street in silence as the sun moved slowly overhead. They didn’t speak. They didn’t need to; all they needed was the company. Kevin wondered who the father of Isabel’s unborn child was but didn’t ask. Isabel wondered how Kevin had gotten a new CD player but didn’t ask. Neither ever asked what the other one did or how they lived.
The bell chimed as the two Shapiro orphans walked into the dingy diner. One rather shabby man wiped down the dirty counter with an equally dirty cloth. Kevin easily sat at the counter while Isabel struggled to sit comfortably with her swollen belly. They both ordered hot chocolate and cinnamon-raisin toast. In silence, they consumed their food from grimy cups and plates. Without another word they paid, left the dark diner and stepped into the fading sunlight.
The street lamps hummed as they warmed up, casting an orange glow on the pair. The feeling of being watched followed them along the road. Even under the awning of the covered bus stop bench things did just not feel right. The silence between Kevin and Isabel became uneasy, tense and forced. Just as the silence was about to snap, the bus rumbled around the corner again. It came to a halt with a loud squeal of its breaks. The driver opened the double doors with a hiss. Kevin helped Isabel into the bus and she held the rail for stability. Abruptly the doors shut and the bus departed, leaving Kevin in silence again.
From his pocket he dug out his headphones and placed them on his head. Bass lines pulsed through his head and he walked from the bench. The final street lamps were burning bright by this point. Kevin turned into a dark and silent alley. Something sparkled, glinted or winked at Kevin from a distance. He ignored it for the CD had hit a skip. A quick shake of the player and it righted itself. He knew he would never come out of the alley but kept walking anyway.