The cars mostly whizzed by until the green lights turned red. When she was still in school, the little girl could never have fathomed the importance of learning about the three colors of traffic lights.
Red, yellow, green.
There was an entire sea of them, and at her height, a lot of them just looked look giants who would swallow her whole if she dared cross them, but cross them she would, or else it was another night of hunger.
She didn’t want to be here tonight. One might imagine for a street child, the cold would be the major factor for wanting to stay off the roads and somewhere safe, dry and preferably warm. She hadn’t known warmth in a long time now, the nights always cold, the days always tiresome and sleep the only remedy for the agony of being conscious. There was a wedding near the shed where she locked herself in for the night.
She barely had anything other than the tattered school bag on her bag and only needed to sleep peacefully. It used to confuse her when people chased her out of deserted places. It wasn’t as if they were using them so why did they have to make her leave when all she needed was a corner and would do no harm? Soon enough she knew, the world was not built for people like her and other people for whom the world was built didn’t like seeing this dirty little bag of bones.
She stepped back from the large white monster in alarm as it almost ran her over. How many times had she chastised herself for being absentminded today? Far too many to count. She was proud to know how to count. It came in handy when she could count what little she scraped by everyday and would know exactly how much to pay for food.
She thought of all the weddings she had been to. Some had been pleasant affairs and others had her in tears, clutching her empty stomach and quietly crying into her arm. People like her were not allowed to enter those weddings, only linger from afar and watch with longing in their eyes ad most of all, hope, that someone might take pity and offer a plastic bag of food, if not a plate of it. Sometimes, if the people were happy or sad enough, she could sneak into the back while they were distracted and swipe something and run away with it.
On one joyous occasion, she’d sat underneath a table with a plate almost overflowing with food, with so many pieces of meat she might’ve cried had she not been busy gulping them down. Somehow, she had managed to keep it in her belly and not retch. She’d taken the rest home and had tried her best to make it last but hunger can rarely be suppressed when the cure is right in front of it.
She thought of the time she had been caught. The main had grasped her frail wrist in his massive hand and had hoisted her up from behind a table, with her feet slightly dangling off the ground. He had shaken her, muttering curses at filthy little beggars who didn’t work and parents who let their bastard children run wild. It had been the first year of her parent’s death back then. She wondered what her mother might’ve thought of her being called a bastard. She had screamed at him then,
“I’m not a bastard, I’m not a bastard, you’re the bastard!” She’d shrieked, frantically trying to get out of his grasp. He landed a hard blow to her face when the last phrase had left her sorry mouth. Now she knew how mama felt when papa hit her the same way. She’d been literally thrown out of the place, torn between clutching her wrist and her face.
With a deep shuddering breath, the child pushed her mother’s face out of her head and moved towards the silver beast, hoping she could eat tonight.