She was just a wisp of a girl. I spied her across the parking lot standing against the telegraph pole a cigarette in one corner of her mouth and an odd checked coloured cap on a head that said there was a lot going on in there.
She gave the impression from her body language to enter at your own risk.
And that much was true. When I did approach her she stood her ground, there was no backing away, it was as if she was daring me to try her on.
I asked her name, and she continued to stare me down, not smiling, and in hindsight, I’m sure she even blinked the whole time I stood there.
She drew in a mouthful of cigarette smoke held it for a moment before blowing into my face.
I told her she wasn’t allowed to smoke in the car park and she ignored me. She said in a small but defiant voice that she was waiting for a friend.
She was looking straight through me, her eyes focused on something she was imagining and I could only speculate about. She rubbed her old dirty sandshoes in the dust as she extinguished her cigarette and looked me in the eye.
She said she was actually waiting for me. Said the office ladies had told her the best place to find me was in the car park. With her hands on her hips her height came up to my chest, and I looked at her wondering what she might want with me.
She laughed at my ignorance and then announced she was my cousin Daphne. Then it all fell into place. My cousin Alice had rung the night before asking me to look out for her daughter Daphne and that she’d be in need of my guidance.
Daphne and I sized each other up, she looked like she was in need of a good feed. Her clothes were old, and there was a rip in the shoulder of her t-shirt. It matched I thought the rip in the knee of her jeans.
Behind her was a small backpack and that was all she had in this world.
Later over dinner, she told me her story. The rejections, the abuse, the failures and the need to get away from her mother.
This wisp of a girl, aged 17, sat at my dining table and I thought I really don’t know about girls this age.
Daphne sensed my apprehension and offered to leave if I was uncomfortable. In the end, I told her she could stay and that she’d have to take me as I was. I showed her my spare room and said for her to get some sleep.
Tomorrow we’d start afresh.