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Haven

Tuesday.
12:25.

Darkness clawed at the charcoal metal, penetrating the thick steel frame to find Eve shivering inside.
Outside an angry wind whipped bushes and branches into a frenzy; threatening to topple trees and cables. She shivered as she made her way down Vangaurd Drive heading south to find her young man who would be waiting for her.
The rain pelted misty window panes with raindrops thick and heavy. They zigzagged their way down to drains already full, and bursting.
Voortrekker Road was deserted this time of night: gone were the fruit peddlars and persistent beggars. Gone were the daring jay walkers criss-crossing busy streets and exuberant gaatjies hanging out of overfull taxis.
All the lights inside the smarties-building were downed, or dimmed. It's occupants were down for the night, or getting down.
Either way, Eve was alone on the darkened street.

Frantic eyes darted around the intersection, caution clawing at her like an over-eager cat; fear simmering just beneath the surface.
Her left foot flattened the foot pedal firmly, ready to spring into gear if the need arose. Chards of broken glass glistened along the curb where bottles were tossed by careless hands. She revved the engine, more purr than grrr, the 1.4l engine would barely suffice if her baby needed to morph into a getaway car in a heartbeat.
A shadow flitted catching the corner of her right eye.
A bobbing branch?
Litter dancing on the wind?
She pivoted her head to the right finding only darkness.
Green lights laid thick on wet tar warning her that it was not her turn to go.
She cursed, scoffing at the part of her that always played it safe.
Tap-tap.
The sound so soft, it was nearly drowned out by the rain.
Louder now.
Tap-tap!
Eve jerked her head to the passenger window. And whipped it right back to the right keeping an eye on dancing shadows.
"@#&, where the hell did he come from?"

The phantom appeared out of nowhere. He clung to his sign, his knuckles set in a deathlike grip. He held up his sign to her, the battered cardboard barely whole, the koki streaking down the board forming mis-shapen words pleading for help.
His pale face was pressed up against the window, blonde hair matted to his head. The darkness claimed his features for their own and he kept on tapping his SOS.
He gave up as she hesitated, stepping away from the car and gave two thumbs up.
"Ah...." Eve knew those thumbs.
The headlights of a speeding car momentarily brought his face into view. His dull blue eyes batting as the rain poured forth.
25 going on 60. His face was mapped with a thousand lines. It was beet red and the overwhelming stench of alcohol and urine wafted through the crack in the window.
Eve wanted to gag.
"What was he doing this far out?"
She rolled down the window an inch more and motioned for him to come closer.
"What you doing here?" Eve inquired, her curiosity peaked as the intersection he had claimed as his own was situated at the end of her street, "this area's dangerous!"
He held the board up to her, refusing to speak.
"I can give you a lift on my way back," she suggested, afraid to be alone in the car with him.
He held the board up to her, refusing to speak.
"I'll be 15 minutes, wait on the opposite side of Vanguard for me and I'll drive you back to Blouberg."
He held the board up to her and pointed:
NO JOB!
NO FOOD!
NO MONEY!
GOD BLESS!

Exasperated by his refusal to engage, Eve struggled with the change in the ashtray fishing for a voucher for the night shelter. He grabbed the piece of paper and flashed her prayer hands, then swore under his breath as he realized it wasn't cash. He limped off  mumbling and scratching his head. He turned back round, wagging his finger at her as he came to accept his fate. He knew that the haven he was seeking would remain elusive on one of the wettest nights in the Cape.

He flung the sign away in disgust, it gathered water and "GOD BLESS" was washed away onto the pavement, disappearing down the drain.

The robots finally changed and Eve engaged the gears and flew across the intersection - 0 to 100 in a heartbeat. She looked back in her rearview mirror and could barely make him out amongst his bundle of possessions; equally soaked, equally tattered.

Eve could see the set lights from a distance as she neared Gunners Circle. She found her son waiting for her under the awning of the studio. He was shivering as he waited, his beanie pulled down low, his collar flicked up. Lights cast shadows on his dark skin, and his big brown eyes lit up when he saw the car coming round the  corner. The headlights brought his face into view. He smiled and waved as he made his way to the passanger side.
25 going on 40.
"Good day?" she asked.
"Yeah, " he grunted, settling deep into the seat, as a sigh of sheer exhaustion escaped his lips.
He wiped the rain from his face with the towel she had handed to him, and turned the music on: Spandau Ballet singing Gold as she reversed.
"Tomorrow again, 12 to 12?" she asked of her half sleeping son.
He gave two thumbs up. and summarily fell asleep, soaked to the bone.
Eve flicked the heater on high, and angled the vents to warm him up against the cold threatening to come in from outside.

She  hummed as she sped through the peaceful streets of Cape Town. Passing the deserted intersection of Voortrekker and Vanguard, she sang softly as she made her way home oblivious to the broken souls lurking in the shadows.

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