It was 7 in the evening. At least I think it was.
I was still lacking shoes.
I still had the $5 Frankie gave me.
I was still carrying my iPad and two books.
And Daniel and I had seen the first policemen all evening.
“Fudge fudge fudge fudge, expletive, curseword, son of a biscuit-” I grumbled, as I hobbled after the policemen on their bikes.
Fortunately, they stopped at the traffic lights, so I only had to walk to catch up. Then I asked them how to get to the Mallymkum Police Station.
Of course, it happened to be the one night of the year where there were drunks and winos galore! With no one to spare, they could only direct me along Salazen Street, though their gazes lingered on my bare feet for a moment.
Fortunately, a guy who introduced himself as Rabbit (of course he didn’t, the world’s not completely mad) overheard this, and said he’d take me along to the police station. So we walked along, and we joked about, and Daniel was giving me foul looks.
Of course, the subject of why I was lacking shoes came up.
“So were you drunk or something?” Rabbit asked.
“Nope.” I thought for a moment before deciding to tell Rabbit. “Ran away. Didn’t have time to pick up shoes.”
“Ah. Bad boyfriend?” Rabbit asked. Daniel responded with the most poisonous look he could give him.
What? I mouthed to my delusion. He just turned his head away and ignored me. He’s even more sulky than me… “Nah, parents,” I told Rabbit.
“You still live with your parents?” Rabbit asked incredulously.
“Well, I did,” I responded. “I’m not 18 yet.”
“Get out!” he said.
I then realised the reason for Daniel’s foul mood. “Well how old did you think I was?”
“Old enough for me to buy you a drink.”
“I don’t drink anyways.”
“Too bad,” said Rabbit. “Well I’d better leave you now.”
“Look.” He pointed at the building in front of us.
I looked, and I saw the police station. “Thanks so much,” I breathed. After ages spent walking around the city barefoot, I could finally relax a little.
“It’s o’right,” said Rabbit. “Do me a favour though?”
“There’s a reason you left,” Rabbit said. “I’m…I’m not usually the one to pry, does that reason have to do with…bruises?”
“Not exactly,” I said slowly. He had taken me this far, but I wasn’t too sure how much I could trust Rabbit. And the last thing I wanted to do was burst into tears in front of him.
Rabbit gave me a wry smile. “Suit yourself. Well then, see you around, Cat. Well, actually, I hope I don’t see you around because the city’s a bad place at night…but take care of yourself, o’right?”
I grinned back at Rabbit, and started up the stairs. As I reached the door, he called back up. “You’re not alone, you know.”
I quickly scanned around for Daniel. When I couldn’t see him, I turned back and told Rabbit, “I know”, even though I did not believe it one bit.
At the police station, the only other person there was a young man, waiting on a chair. “Where’s the police?” I asked warily.
“Just stand in front of the counter, they’ll turn up.”
He was right. About thirty seconds after, a police officer turned up, and asked if I needed help.
It was harder than it should’ve been, talking. How many times had I explained to people what had happened, why I was by myself, barefoot, penniless.
As soon as I opened my mouth, she said “Runaway?”
She indicated my bare feet.
“Ah. Right. Yeah.” I exhaled. “I need somewhere to go.”
She immediately gave me the phone for the crisis centre…who immediately put me on hold.
In the five minutes I was on hold, I listened to the other guy tell me about how he had to go down to the police station to pay a fine, and how he’d been waiting there for 2 hours, and was now late to his own going away party.
I was telling him that I was probably going to do the same when the phone finally picked up.
I could answer the questions off the top of my head. Are you pregnant? No. Are you suicidal? Borderline. Is there anyway you can go back home? No. Do you have anywhere to stay? No. Have you any money? No.
Was it alright if this call was transferred to Tinoca House, where they could give me shelter for a few nights? Yes please.
And then they put me on hold for ten minutes.
In that time, another woman entered the station. One who had been attacked by a bar owner. Overhearing my problem, she made it very very clear that she did not approve of my decision. Even when Tinoca picked up, she wouldn’t stop talking.
I went through the questions again. Pregnant, no. Under the influence, no. Anywhere to go, no. After the endless questions, I was told that they could accommodate me.
There was just one problem.
This Tinoca house was about half an hours drive away from Mallymkum. I had zero money for a taxi, and because it was grand final night, there were no police cars available to take me.
I looked at the clock. It was 9:45. Already it was dark.
I felt sorry for the police officer who told me that I had some more walking to do. He uncomfortably told me that there was a train I could take, but there wasn’t anything else he could do.
It was then that the guy, who had finally paid his fine, offered to take me to the train station, and spare my poor blistered feet. I accepted.
Off we went again…