Coward he might have been, but I was sure the kelpie would show up again, sooner or later, in some form or other. For right now, I had a different problem.
Named Kanesha. She seemed suddenly determined to work out what was happening with me, and as the summer went on, I knew I’d have to go back in the fall. Or drop out of school and anything resembling a normal life.
If I could have such a thing. I was pretty sure no force in heaven or hell could grant me such at this point. Except maybe myself, and I didn’t know how.
No, that wasn’t true. I didn’t think I wanted it. Now I scowled at her. She was standing on a corner. Between her and hoodie guy? I wanted to worry about protecting one person at a time. I’d managed to find out that he was going to end up back on the streets. No room in rehab. Plenty of room in jail, but the hospital was managing not to send him there.
In a perfect world, it would have been…no. There was no perfect world. “One person at a time,” I murmured. At least Kanesha deserved it in a way hoodie guy didn’t.
She’d been good to me in her own way and she was in danger because she insisted on still being good to me. She could tell something was wrong and she wanted to help.
I knew I had to cut her off, to be absolutely rude to her, but I couldn’t. Instead, I stood facing her. Our eyes met.
“Jane, whatever’s going on, it’s eating you alive.”
“I…don’t need your help.” I couldn’t say it more harshly than that. I couldn’t bring myself to hurt her even to save her life.
I wasn’t cut out for this. Not this part of it, anyway. Not the telling people to go away before they got hurt or killed.
“Bull. You do.”
“Kanesha, you need to stay out of this and stay away from me.” She was burning my bridges behind me. She was making it so I couldn’t go back. “You hear about what happened to Barry Clark?”
“He took drugs.”
“They kidnapped him, forced drugs on him, and left him like that. To get to me.” It was safe to talk. She was the only one who could hear me. Upstairs in the group house, us the only people there. The first time I’d been back. “As bait. Can you imagine what they might do to you?”
I was envisioning things you only think about happening to females.
“Jane…how well do you know me?”
“Well enough.” I did, though, search my memories. She’d always been the only one to reach out to the white girl.
“I’ve got a black belt in aikido, for starters. Heading further up.”
My eyes widened. “You…do?”
“What, didn’t expect it from a kid from the hood?”
“…no.” I didn’t. I didn’t know what I expected, but my image of somebody good at aikido was, well, not Kanesha, who was short and a little on the plump side. “But martial arts won’t do you much good against guns.”