Silas shivered. He rearranged the blanket around his shoulders, trying for better coverage but only succeeding in disturbing whatever warm air had settled between him and the swirling snow.
He should've gone to the shelter, but it was too late now. The streets were empty aside from an occasional plow, and the shelter was a nearly a mile away, farther than he could manage on foot over icy roads. At the rate the snow was falling, he'd be buried in it by morning. Maybe literally.
An SUV trundled slowly up the street, its tires slipping at the intersection where the last plow had left a sleety track. A Volvo. Driven, he imagined, by a suburban mom too stupid too realize soccer practice would be canceled or too selfish to know that whatever errand she was on wasn't more important than keeping the streets clear so the plows could work.
Not that he cared about the plows. No one cared about him, so why should he care about anybody? Let the Volvo be in the way.
The SUV rolled slowly past him, its tires carving grooves in the unplowed side street, then reversed. The passenger's side window lowered and a woman leaned across the car to speak to him.
"Are you all right out here?"
He was sitting in a doorway in the snow wearing a blanket. What did she think?
"Nowhere else to be."
He expected her to drive away, but instead she said, "Get in the car."
Why not? If she murdered him, she murdered him. He collected his bundles and got in the car.
"I thought it'd be warmer in here." He stripped off his ragged gloves and held his hands to the air vent, then put the gloves back on. The air coming out of the vent was nearly as cold as the air outside.
"Heater hasn't been working right."
"You should get that looked at."
"Yeah, I suppose I should." She wore a pair of dark slacks topped by a thick fur coat. There were gold hoops in her ears and a chain around her neck, but her fingers were bare. Whatever she'd been doing out on the road in the snow, it involved carting around a lot of junk. The back of the SUV was stuffed with garbage bags and boxes.
"Where can I take you?"
He gave her the address for the shelter and she pulled out, one eye on the gas gauge pegged at empty.
"Don't know if there are any gas stations open in this storm," he observed.
"Don't have money anyway."
"They take credit cards."
That seemed unlikely, so he changed the subject. "Where were you headed?"
"Nowhere. Can't park anywhere with the parking ban, so I'm just circling until I run out of gas. Then I'll freeze to death, I guess. But there's enough gas to get you to the shelter. At least one of us will live."
Silas took another peek into the back seat. "You're homeless too?" Shit, how was a person with a Volvo and a fur coat homeless?
"What you see is what I've got."
"So hock some of it."
"Fake gold," she said, touching an earring. "Fake fur. Whatever could be hocked, has already been hocked."
"How?" He knew his own how—his parents had thrown him out for being a fuck-up, and maybe they'd been right because look where he'd ended up, but he'd started with nothing too.
"Douchebag husband committed fraud, went to jail. Apparently, what I thought we had, we never really had."
"And you just have … no one?"
"Pride," she said. "I have pride."
Pride was bullshit. If Silas had learned one thing in nine months of homelessness, it was that.
"Come to the shelter with me."
She shook her head.
"You call someone," she challenged.
"I will if you will."
She pulled over and put the car in park. From the pocket of her coat she removed a phone. Silas traced a finger over it in wonder.
"It works?" He hadn't had his hands on a working cell phone in months.
"For another few days. Call."
It was fate—meeting her, being given a phone. Fate had to be obeyed. He dialed his parents' home phone number, his heart flooding with relief when he heard his father's voice. "Dad?"
A short time later, he handed the woman back her phone. "Well, I guess that's not going to work out." His eyes filled with tears. There'd always been that last ray of hope, that when he really, really needed them, his parents would come through.
The woman wrapped her hand around his and they held the phone together, this last, useless link to the people they'd once been.
"You try." He pushed the phone into her hand. "That was the deal."
"Phoebe?" A woman's voice played over the car's speakers.
"Mom? Mom, I need help. I don't have any money, anywhere to live."
"Phoebe! You said everything was under control."
"I lied," Phoebe admitted. "I didn't want to tell you what a mess everything is, but it is. Can I come home?"
Phoebe's hand reached out for his. "Is it OK if I bring a friend?"