Up ahead, the four-way stoplight blinks to an empty intersection. The video store’s lights print squares on the sidewalk, but all the other businesses are closed. Dark. Harley’s doorway looks half-flooded. We cross the street. A dog barks…
Harley will freeze out here tonight. He’s wet already, wet and lonely and dirty, and I’ll be warm and safe right across the street. Can I live with myself if I let him crawl into the alcove? Can I live with the consequences if I invite him inside?
“Do you —” The question grates in my throat because it’s dumb. “Do you have anywhere to go?”
Harley swallows. And he looks at his hiking boots, wrinkles creasing up his forehead. “Yeah, yeah I’m fine.”
“You don’t have anywhere to go.”
“Birch, forget about it. Forget about me.”
“The doorway is flooded.”
“I’m already wet. Doesn’t matter.”
I close my eyes for a second. Mom will kill me — well, probably him. Everything sane, normal and safe inside me says no. But since I'm none of those tonight, I say, “We have room.”
“Can’t,” he says quietly. We stop on the curb, right in front of the video store. The neon open sign reflects red and blue on half his face. He chews on his lip.
He shrugs. “Dangerous.”
“Me,” he says.
Harley grabs his hair, shuffles his feet. “Birch, you’d be fine.”
“I don’t know if I believe you.”
“You asked me in.”
True. “Please come,” I say. “You can have the couch — it’s warm — and the TV and a shower. And breakfast.”
His hand falls. Fingers clench. Something desperate ripples across his face and he closes his eyes.
Squeezes them shut. And I think I hear his stomach growl.
“Dinner,” I say, hating that aching look on his face, “and breakfast.”
Starving boy — he can’t resist.