No Place Safe

No Place Safe by Kim Reid

Book: No Place Safe by Kim Reid Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kim Reid
hand instead of my algebra text, I’d have felt exactly like one of her alleged victims and not at all like her daughter. “Without that, we can’t do much about finding him.”
    “No, I didn’t get any of the plate. I forgot to look.” I felt guilty, like I’d been neglectful.
    “Well, you did the right thing. You didn’t end up in his car.”
    This made me feel better. I’d accomplished the main goal, even if I hadn’t gotten the plate or a description. I was safe, still here to talk about it. Maybe he was only interested in getting some time from a fourteen-year-old girl. Not to say I was so special to look at, but much of the downtown segment of my commute between school and home was saying no to the men who called to me on the street, taking care not to offend them in my rejection. No need in making one of them angry and forcing him to save face by saying something even nastier to me, hurling threats and put-downs— You ain’t all that, no way . Maybe he was like those freaks on the transit train that got off on scaring young girls, staring at them while touching themselves underneath open newspapers or folded trench coats. I had run into those, too. Maybe he was the one snatching kids off streets.
    Ma didn’t throw her arms around me, kiss away my tears and all that. I didn’t cry, and that wasn’t her style. Mine either. But she did make one of my favorite dinners that night—chicken smothered in cream of mushroom soup with fluffy biscuits from a can.
    The next morning, Ma gave me a ride to the bus stop, but I still had to walk home alone. There was nothing we could do; I had to go to and from school, and she had to work. But from then on, I saved daydreaming for another time. My side of Jonesboro Road was no different than the other side, except for it being more green, a bit more quiet. Turned out that’s what made it dangerous, what lulled me into thinking I was safe. After that day, I focused only on getting home, and walked a few feet away from the street, daring people to scold me about walking in their grass.
     
    *
     
    In mid-May, the seventh child was found dead just hours after his family reported him gone. He went missing and was found in Southeast, and this time I didn’t tell myself all the ways his life was different than mine even if we lived only six miles apart. It seemed I had more similarities to Eric Middlebrooks than differences. He was fourteen, his bike found near his body. The last time anyone saw him alive he was riding his bike around ten or eleven at night. Like the others, he was doing something he did all the time—riding a bike, leaving a skating rink, running an errand—but this time he never made it back home. One thing different between us was that Eric had more courage than I did. He had provided evidence to police that led to the arrest of a school gang on robbery charges and was going to testify. Police had looked for a connection between the gang and his murder, but added him to the missing and murdered list after clearing the boys of suspicion.
    The growing list began to impact even the smallest events of our day-to-day lives. We were shopping for a dress at Southlake Mall. I sat on the only chair in the dressing room area, making Bridgette sit on the floor because that’s the way it works when you’re the biggest. We waited for Ma to emerge in what seemed the hundredth dress so we could say it looked fine and she could disagree.
    “I need a size larger.” Ma always took in a size too small, hoping she could still wear a size eight.
    “Bridgette, go find this in a size ten,” I instructed. She was happy to play grown-up and help out, and I was happy to let her.
    Ma slid the curtain open and looked like she wanted to put the mojo on me. “You know better than to send that girl out there by herself, she’s only ten.” When the curtain was pulled closed again, she added, “You just never know.” That was her newest one-size-fits-all explanation since

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