In his rearview mirror, the cab driver saw the girl pull a handful of tiny blue packages out of her orange backpack. He heard crinkling as she tore one open, and realized by the smell that they were peanuts. Lots of little airline bags of peanuts. She took one peanut at a time and nibbled it slowly, like she was really considering the taste and texture of each one. More likely, he thought, she was rationing them.
Jaheed had been driving his cab for long enough to recognize a kid who wasn’t just on her way home from school, or taking a trip to visit grandma. No, this girl wasn’t on her way to anywhere. She was just on her way away from something, or someone.
Feeling a tinge of pity for her, Jaheed spoke. “I have an extra bottle of water if you want it. Hasn’t even been opened yet.”
The girl looked up, hope flashing across her young face, before quickly looking back down. She had learned that accepting help meant you might be obligated to someone, and she couldn’t afford that kind of risk. “It’s ok,” she said softly. “You keep it.”
Jaheed picked the bottle up and passed it back to her anyway. “No, really, it’s yours. Peanuts always make me thirsty.”
For a second, the girl smiled as she met his eyes in the rearview. She saw only kindness before she reached tentatively for the bottle and muttered a quiet thank you. Then she drank like she hadn’t had water in days.
This is an installment in a series of short stories, as I play with the wonderful world of fiction.
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