A girl walks home alone at night.
Her father was never there, and it's past five so her mother is drunk by now. She doesn't have a ride home from work so she walks just over two miles in the dark six days a week.
Five of which she spends walking there after school.
She does her homework on her fifteen minute break sacrificing accuracy for time and good grades for the money her mother will use to destroy herself.
Her friends at school ask why she never has time to hang out. She replies with fractured words in an offbeat tempo. It's not her fault. But she doesn't know that. She saw a therapist once.
That was before the tv was repossessed.
She didn't mind taking the long way home sometimes.
She'd walk past the old park she used to live by, she'd walk down the alleys behind the stores she used to shop at.
She'd rest her head on the stone where her hopes died; it was her grandmother's grave.
She wasn't sure how to show love,
but twice it had been taken from her on the way home. She didn't cut herself after the second time. She had lost too much faith in God to let him see her wrists cry.
Her nights were infested with the sounds of bottles being dropped onto already wet cement. She didn't have to clean until morning.
She has a bottle of prescription painkillers in the drawer next to her bed. She tried taking them all at once but she couldn't swallow them all because she had too many words stuck in her throat.
She gets up the next morning and cleans the flood of alcohol streaming down the kitchen tiles before she goes to work. She won't bother taking a shower.
There isn't enough water to wash off what she's been through.
She has a new girl to train at work today.
So she gets there early and waits. New girl walks in. Looks a lot like her. She shows her what to do, where to clean, how to greet customers, where to throw out the trash, and everything else.
She asks about her life. New girl has some problems. No parents; lives with her widowed aunt. No siblings, no cousins. She sleeps at home alone; her aunt has her own room down at the precinct.
Talks about how she walked here from school today and has to walk home at night. It's not going to happen. She won't let it happen.
Doing what she wishes someone would've done for her, she takes her hand and tells her she will never walk home alone. She will keep her safe. And she did.
Until the made the fourth page of the local paper one morning: Teenage Girls Found Brutality Raped and Murdered; Police Have No Suspects.