Overnight the snow had blown as a full force blizzard, leaving behind drifts that snow plows hadn't yet cleared. I couldn't help thinking about my homeless acquaintance from the day before and wondered how he would manage to stay warm. I trudged my way to the metro station and down the steps to wait.
Three trains passed on my side. My breath came out as frosty huffs of air. I tapped my foot nervously and peered around the lady beside me.
"Got a light?" A brown tattered glove waved in front of my face. She clenched the cigarette between chattering teeth.
"I don't smoke."
"That a thermos you have there?" She eyed the container I clasped between gloved hands.
"I'll bet it's tea." She smiled. "Hot tea."
"Yes it is. I brought it for a ---,"
"A friend? That would be me. I'm now your best friend." Both hands came towards the thermos.
She must have thought I would say no to her request.
"I'm so cold," she added.
I unscrewed the cup and poured. She took off her gloves and wrapped her hands around the warmth of the cup.
"You're an angel in disguise. My name's Penny." She blew into the hot steam and sipped.
"Penny, are you homeless?" I dared to ask.
"I live in my car but this morning it wouldn't start. Melody's in there hoping I bring back some food."
"A child is in your car? Alone?"
She caught my surprise and laughed. Her eyes were a beautiful green.
"We go everywhere together. No shelters for me if I can't bring Melody too."
"What happened to you, Penny? You're not too old to find a job."
"And just where do you think I'd leave Melody?" Her eyes narrowed into slits. "I was married for years and had a couple of kids. When my husband left me and divorced me, he took everything."
"You must have family you could call."
"Nope." Her eyes widened. "No one must know I can't make it on my own."
"But it's dangerous out there." I pointed towards the tunnel.
You'd be surprised how many of us there are in the same situation." Penny sighed. "We help each other when we can."
Tears welled on my lashes. I swiped at one as it fell.
"Hey, don't worry about me. Everything will work out in the end."
The corners of her mouth lifted in a smile.
"Several of us have built a shack. One room but now we've stocked it with blankets. It'll keep us warm when the weather's like this." She glanced at the beamed ceiling over the tracks. Maybe thankful the roof was sturdy and dry.
Penny rose and outstretched her hand with the thermos. "Here."
"Keep it," I encouraged. Maybe you could fill it with hot water from one of the fast food places."
"Yea, sure," she smirked.
I reached in my pocket and pulled out a ten dollar bill. "Food for Melody and maybe some left over for you."
"Thanks." Penny pocketed the bill. "Come see our shack some time. It's over there."
She pointed to the tunnel, as Garth had done to indicate where he lived. Maybe they knew each other. Maybe not.
I sat in awe long after Penny left. Homeless people. Our own and what do we do to care for them?
The names in this story have been changed to protect the identities of the characters.
Remember some of our Veterans are homeless too. Volunteer at a homeless shelter if you can.
Read more about author C.K. Alber and The Promise Series at: http://www.amazon.com/author/ckalber