“C’mon girl,” Mama said over her shoulder as she pushed through the library doors.
A little girl followed in her shadow, wearing a dirty red coat, fastened by two, shiny black buttons in the front. Her hair was separated and twisted into many black snakes that writhed around her head, a tiny Medusa. She toddled forward, with quick and uneven steps.
Mama dropped down into a chair at a bare table. She was not a heavy woman, but the weight of her world was sometimes crushing. Leaving her purse on the floor, she pulled out a folder and opened it. She started her work by flipping through the paperwork.
Blowing out a sigh, she focused on the first page.
“Girl, you being bad,” Mama reprimanded the child.
She had the special eyes of a mother that saw everything around her, with or without actually looking. Not once did she raise her head or eyes, yet she saw Girl shredding a Kleenex that she extracted from her purse. She saw Girl opening drawers and cabinets against the wall, taking off her shoes, and standing in her purse.
Mama continued, flipping through the pages, one after another.
“Girl, I’m warning you.”
She signed by the x’s and filled in the blanks. She was doing was she was supposed to be doing, she supposed.
Meanwhile, a man at the next table watched Girl. His nails were jagged and dirty. In front of him were a stack of Tom Clancy books and a half-empty bottle of Mountain Dew.
He also had a special set of eyes, the kind that noticed everything and waited and planned.
He quietly got Girl’s attention. She turned her big, brown innocent eyes in his direction, curious and playful as a kitten in a cardboard box. The man reached into the pocket of his stained, baggy sweats and pulled out a piece of candy wrapped in gold foil.
With a smile of brown and broken teeth, the man held out the piece of candy. Girl crept forward, cautiously, but with her eyes locked on the prize.
Mama signed the last page and shut the folder with finality.
“Girl, don’t go messin’ with that man.”
In a different world, she would have hissed and bared her teeth at the man.
“C’mon, we’re done.”
The wolves of the past, present and future were held at bay, not meant to meet for another day.