Author:S. Walden

I speared a burger wrapper near the back of the tire, and his face shot up.


My immediate reaction was to turn and run. I was afraid. I remembered a discussion in youth group a while back about angels and how every time they’re mentioned in the Bible, the first thing they say is, “Do not be afraid.” My youth pastor said that this was because angels were scary looking—eyes all over their bodies and under their wings. First of all, how did he know what an angel looked like? And second, why would God make his angels look like a bunch of freaks?


No. I didn’t think angels looked like that at all. I thought they looked like perfect symmetry, and that’s what scared the hell out of people. A form too beautiful to look upon. Like this young man bent over his tire, staring at my orange jumpsuit and trash stick, wondering what a little girl like me could have done to land in juvenile hall. Because I was little, after all. I stood at 5-foot-2 and weighed 100 pounds.


“I’ll be out of your way in a minute,” he said, wiping his brow with the back of his hand.


I nodded and watched him finish tightening the bolts, then stand and stretch his back. He wore the male version of skinny jeans and a black T-shirt that read “Midnight in a Perfect World” across the front in stark white letters. He sported red Converse All Stars, and a bunch of braided bands of various colors were wrapped around his left wrist. His black wavy hair stuck out in all directions, and I couldn’t tell if it was by nature’s blessing or hair product. I hoped it was natural. I didn’t want to think he spent a lot of time styling his hair.


He smiled at me, revealing soft dimples on both cheeks. I smiled back. His eyes were light. Good combination, I thought. Dark hair, light eyes. He was sexy. No doubt about that. Tall and lean. He looked like an intellectual. I figured he was some scholarly Emory University boy. Probably a philosophy major, I thought, smirking. I imagined he sat around chatting about existentialism with his hipster friends in some dive coffee shop (never Starbucks) sipping cappuccinos.


I giggled.


He stood at the trunk of his car putting away his tools and turned around when he heard me.


“What’s funny?” he asked. The smile still lingered on his mouth. “Did I split my pants or something?” He strained his head to look behind him at the butt of his jeans.


I laughed harder. “No. You didn’t split your pants.” I tried not to look at his butt.


“Phew!” he replied. “You know, I’ve done that in the past. Squatted on the ground to change a tire, and rip! Right down the middle. I happened to be on a date at the time.”


“No!” I cried, feeling just the slightest bit sorry for this stranger.


“Well, the date was on shaky ground once the tire popped. The pants-splitting sealed the deal, though. I guess she equated both of those things with ‘loser’ or ‘no money’,” he said.


“That’s awful,” I replied.


“Atlanta women are tough,” he went on, leaning against the trunk of his car. He looked me over and grinned.


“No, I’m not tough,” I replied to his unspoken question. “Don’t let the jumpsuit fool you.”


He shook his head. “What in God’s name could a little thing like you have done to wind up in juvie?”


I tensed. His demeanor. The way he talked to me. Like he’d known me for years. And he used “little thing” like a term of endearment. I knew I wasn’t imagining it. He did.


I opened my mouth to reply then shuddered at the sound of my name.


“Cadence Miller!” Officer Clements yelled.


“Shit,” I whispered, and turned around.


She was coming right at me, her formidable frame swinging side to side, and I had an instant vision of her pulling her nightstick out of its holder and beating me to death on the side of the road.


“Get back to work! What do you think this is? Social hour?” And then she turned to the man. “Sorry, sir. These girls aren’t supposed to bother anyone,” she said. She addressed me again. “Somebody must not be hungry for lunch.”


I reared back in indignation. They can’t not feed me, can they?


“It’s my fault,” the man said. “I spoke to her first. She said she wasn’t allowed to talk to me, but I pressed her. Completely my fault.”


Officer Clements pursed her lips. I don’t think she believed him, but she nodded anyway.


“You’re cleaning the courthouse bathrooms this afternoon,” she huffed at me.


Of course I was cleaning the courthouse bathrooms. I always cleaned them.


“Midnight in a Perfect World” turned his face. I think he was embarrassed for me. I was mortified and outraged, and picked the wrong time to roll my eyes.


“Are you rolling your eyes at me?” Officer Clements demanded.


“No, ma’am!” I said.


“Then why were you rolling your eyes?” she pressed.


“I was just thinking about something,” I said.


“Were you thinking about the bad choices you made that landed you in juvie?” Officer Clements asked.


I shook my head and thought quickly. “I was thinking about a Bible verse.”