It was October when I came back to Ohio. It wasn't graceful by any stretch. I didn't have anywhere to stay, I didn't have any money, and I wasn't sure if I would survive another night on my own. For right now, though, I was free and clear.
Crouched down behind the concrete barrier, I was invisible to passersby. I had been here since the breakfast rush and no one had bothered me. I even managed to snag a pumpkin donut and a cup of coffee. People did not pay attention to where they put things. The barrier separated the sidewalk from abandoned construction. There were two coffee shops on either side, a bus stop just up the block, and the entire place smelled like cars and echoed with traffic sounds.
I used to come here a lot when I was hustling. It was a good place to meet businessmen on their way home from work, looking for a little something before they headed home to the old lady, and resumed being whatever it was they were at home. I kind of wondered if any of them thought of me when the screwed their wives.
I hadn't heard my nickname in a long time. I looked up to see someone peering over the barrier at me.
Julius Wright, one of the guys I used to hustle with. He was tall, broad shouldered, and the same color as cocoa powder with incredibly white teeth that gave him a predatory air whenever he smiled, which was always. His eyes were green naturally, something that used to get him a lot of interested parties. Probably still did.
"I haven't seen you in forever." He smiled and hopped over the barrier easily and slid down next to me. "Where you been hiding?"
I smiled. "Here. There."
"What brings you back to the C-bus?" He used the slang for Columbus. I guess I would wonder why someone came back here too. It wasn't a bad place, but there were better places. Sunnier places. Less rainy places. I wanted to go to California, told everyone that was where I was going too but… that never happened.
"Maybe I missed you." I grinned. "Eh, Jules?"
He punched me half-heartedly on the shoulder. "Come on, Kis, I'll treat you to some dinner and you can tell me why you're sitting here with a duffel bag and looking like you haven't had a meal in weeks."
He was a sharp one, that Jules. "Sure. Where're we going?"
"Well, I live in Hilliard these days, ten minutes away. We'll go to the Gold Dragon. You still like Chinese?"
"It's only been a year; I haven't had that much time to decide I hate Chinese food."
"You never know, people change." He got up and pulled me to my feet more easily than I cared to admit. Julius topped my height by a good six inches and hit the gym a hell of a lot more than I did.
"Not that much. Not me. You changed your hair though." The Julius of a year ago had bleached blond hair; he was completely shaved now.
"The blond was a little 1984, you know?" He grabbed my duffel bag and led me to his car, parked a few streets down in the library garage.
"I guess." I took a look around the cramped, dark garage, a bit wary. "Why'd you park here? How'd you even fit that monster in here?"
"Louise is not a monster, she's a classic."
"She is a rusted Cadillac that would be better off in a lake than on the road," I rebutted.
Julius grinned. "You haven't changed a bit; you're still the same aggressive little bastard, aren't you?"