007 Dear Gaia.
“Where are we going now?”
Gaia stopped in her tracks on the sidewalk. Josie, who had been walking beside Gaia like a wounded puppy walking on three legs, limped to meet her some feet from where she herself had stopped. Gaia suddenly knew how it felt to be like an exasperated big sister and it was a feeling she didn’t really like.
“Just wherever my legs take me,” she muttered.
“Well…” Josie trailed off. Her deep blue eyes were peering at the ground below. Her right foot and torn clothing made her look pitiful. Gaia suddenly felt a trace of compassion for the young teen. After all, she had just been liberated from the clutches of three dangerous men with seemingly nowhere to go. At least she had somewhere to go, even if it was to Natasha’s apartment on the East Side. This poor girl couldn’t find her way out of a paper bag much less conquer New York City at night.
“Look, I’ll take you back to my place,” Gaia told her in a somewhat begrudging tone. Josie looked up, expression neutral. She nodded, not revealing a trace of emotion. What’s up with this kid? One moment she’s hyper and in the next you’d swear she had a lethal dose of Ritalin.
“You live alone?” Josie asked.
Gaia began walking again, hands stuffed in pockets. She sidestepped a guy dressed in drag that must have been trying to get Marilyn Monroe but ended up channeling Anna Nicole Smith. “No. Do you?”
Josie followed, managing to keep up with Gaia’s stride despite her limp. She glanced at the Anna dude with her eyebrows raised. “No. I live with my parents.”
Gaia looked at her from under the hood of her sweatshirt. Bingo. Parental units. “Why aren’t they with you? I mean, you live with them, right?”
Josie gazed back at Gaia. When she replied, her voice was low and heavy. “No. They’re the reason why I’m running these streets alone. They were both captured in their bed this morning. I only managed to get away because my father has a mean head butt and my mother can kick like a bull.”
It was at that moment that Gaia realized that the night had gone mad. First her own life goes through the shredder, now this kid’s. What next? A Dear Gaia column? It would be quite amusing to see what kind of junk she’d spout to solve someone else’s problems.
“So you’re on the run,” Gaia stated, more for her own understanding than Josie’s confirmation.
Josie nodded solemnly. “Yeah.” She paused. “You know, Gaia, I can just find somewhere else to go. I mean, I don’t want to get you into trouble anymore than you should be.”
Gaia chuckled sardonically. It was such a nice gesture. “Kid, you have a lot to learn about me. I’m in a lot more trouble than you think I am.”
“Trouble? What kind?”
Gaia fixed her with a serious look. “Trouble you can get killed for.”
Josie seemed astonished. “How do you live?”
“I adapt. I have to or else I’d be somewhere I don’t think I’d like very much.”
Josie frowned thoughtfully. Suddenly she was staring straight ahead, looking as if she was knee-deep in memories she didn’t want to pursue. Gaia knew the feeling. “Adapt,” she repeated. “Do or die. Kill or be killed.”
Gaia heard Josie’s mutterings and frowned also. When she had first come across the teen, she had seemed innocent, an untouchable angel dressed in purified whiteness. Now her words were that of a girl who had been marred by the evil in the world, the purified whiteness turning into a sinister blackness. Well, not that extreme. Maybe more of gray color. But Gaia could relate. She had once thought the world could be good. Now she knew better.
“Your super parents tell you that?”
Josie thrust her hands into the pockets of her pullover. “Something like that.”