The big city was a lot different in the daylight than at night.
Sallie Shadow liked it better at night because she could slide around everywhere and remain mostly hidden in the darkened corners away from the streetlamps at her own volition. Hardly anyone knew Sallie's last name was Shadow because she never used it unless she was caught in a situation that demanded she repeat her full name. Usually, that was in places like some silly soup kitchen or even a Police Station when she got scooped up in a net looking for street people.
She was not certain exactly how old she was but figured she was somewhere around eighteen because she already had all those physical changes that young girls get when they pass puberty. At those times she would tell them about her mother Agnes and explained how she had to stay at the factory to work overtime or she would have been with her. Strangely, they never asked her about her father. It was just as well, since she never used the same story twice when queried about her elusive parent. Sallie had never seen her father but she knew he must exist somewhere. She enjoyed making up stories about him and even describing how he had passed from this existence in some exotic way like being eaten by a tiger.
Her mom Agnes was her rock and she followed her everywhere she went without question. Well, at least she had until she had been swept away by a fast-moving bus right on Fifth Avenue. In a way, she was glad it was on Fifth Avenue and not Eighth Avenue because her mom set a lot of store in sticking to nice neighborhoods. One minute she was stretching out her hand to run across the broad street with her mom and the next instant her mom was bouncing under the heavy wheels of the huge bus. She wanted to run up and sob out how much she loved her but she instinctively knew their transient nature was frowned upon by most people who lived "normal" lives and it was best to remain an innocent bystander.
Now, she was on her own.
Sallie had gone to school for almost a full year several years back when she was much younger. That was when she had gone with her mom to live in a little shack way over in New Jersey that didn't even have a frigging bathroom. She had gotten used to just finding a place in the woods keeping her eye out for inquisitive snakes or resorting to asking her cousins to use their bathroom with her eyes down on the floor.
In all honesty, it was a lot easier using the woods.
The girl cousin was all right but the two boy cousins were a pair of devils and she had caught them playing with her undies just to embarrass her in front of the other teenagers. They were as much as insinuating in real bad words that if they had access to her intimate apparel they had access to her young girl goodies. She was not amused by their "jackass" tactics and was glad when her mom decided they would make the trek back across the river because she had enough money to pay the back rent on their shitty little apartment over by the docks.
Well, now that mom was gone as well, she decided to rough it a bit because she was too young to get a job without proper identification and no wardrobe to speak of at all. The deserted pier warehouse had hardly a single pane of glass window that wasn't broken by enthusiastic vandals a long time ago but there were a few corners inside that stayed reasonable dry even in wet weather. The rats were a problem but it was a minor one because she knew enough not to bring in any food to her sleeping area and kept herself well bundled at night. She made friends with a couple of scrawny disdainful looking cats that were like tigers in appearance. For some strange reason she was deadly afraid of black cats but was not sure exactly why that was the case since they had never done her any harm. Those tiger cats were like sentries on duty keeping one eye open on the scrabbling vermin around them.
Sallie had become adept at "fishing" out the coins from the steamy grates on the wide avenues that vented the subway system for the hordes of passengers rushing hither and yon in the darkened tubes beneath the city streets. An older boy had clued her in on all the refinements of searching for coin treasure right beneath her feet. She used the thin twine from her mom's old sewing kit because it was "heavy-duty" and yet light enough to get into any small space and stay hidden in her pocket for abandoned quarters. Quarters were the best for many reasons but she would go for the dimes and nickels if she was in a desperate condition and needed the cash for an egg cream or a pickle at the factory. Pennies were a waste of time because they seemed to not adhere well to her weighted bubble gum or other sticky surfaces. The only exception were the silver colored ones that came out in the 1940s and looked a little like dimes in poor light or partially hidden by debris. Several times she had tried for the half-dollar bonanzas but their frustrating weight and size made it all but impossible to either lift up the entire distance or to get through the narrow grate without losing them again and having to start all over.
Things came to a head on the night that she got arrested just for being in the vicinity of some hooligans playing with fireworks on a quiet side street. All she was doing was watching the roman candles arcing up and bouncing against the undefended fire escapes. The cop that collared her was sympathetic but when her jeans gave up a tiny knife that she had failed to mention, he had no choice but to pull her in. The very next morning, she was called into a small office because they had located her birth certificate on file down at city hall and it showed she had just passed her eighteenth birthday so she had complete control over her own destiny. If she wanted to live in an abandoned building, it was her constitutional right just so long as she was not trespassing or vandalizing the premises. There was no law against "fishing" in the steam grates on the avenues and she was not even required to go to school because she was no longer a minor. They let her go after making her take a lengthy shower and even gave her a fresh set of clothes to start her off on the right track in adulthood.
The cop that arrested her was called Dennis. He told her that he was Irish and that he was separated from his wife and four children because of "irreconcilable differences" whatever the hell that meant. He told her that she could stay at "his place" for a few nights just until she got on her feet. He seemed like a nice guy and she hesitated to ask why he got "separated" for fear it would be for something embarrassing. She found out later it was because his wife was doing it with almost any male that knocked on the door to sell something or make a delivery.