Her mother used to tell her that, so it isn’t just the streets that does it to them. It’s just common knowledge, a fact of life. Boys go bad like milk – a matter of time. And when they’ve gone bad, they’re called men.
She pushes her mother from her thoughts, but she’s been away from home for over two years. The only male that she’s met the entire time who hasn’t eventually hurt her is right in front of her, and she’s only known him two days.
That’s sort of how it goes – you can only give them as long as you can give a gallon of milk, and then you have to keep moving. Otherwise you’re suddenly a farm animal or a prostitute or a punching bag.
“I’ve got kind of a job,” Rose tells him. “Some things I have to do. I can do what I want during the day, but I need to get downtown tonight. I’m in sort of a…”
She throws her hands in the air and drops them against her hips. “I have to work, James.”
He frowns. “You’re not…”
“Hooking? Dancing? No. That’s the point. I’m doing what I have to do, to not have to do those things.”
“Doing what you have to do,” James repeats, his voice flat, his eyes wandering up to the ceiling. “That sounds kind of ominous.”
“Grim,” Rose says quietly. “That’s what we call ourselves. The Grims.”
“We? Who’s we?”
Rose cocks her head at him, not liking the sharp tone he uses all of the sudden – something else they all do. Instantly hate the notion that anyone else ever talks to you at all.
She says, “James, I’m just going to tell you right now, if you start acting like some kind of psycho I’m just going to disappear. You don’t have any right to judge me or interrogate me or…”
“Protect you? Do I have the right to care about you or protect you?”
“Why? Because you got a boner, James?”
“No!” He claps his hands to his forehead and runs them through his hair. “Damn it, Rose…”
“No? No you don’t? Then did you have a little flashlight in your pocket in there or what?”
James drops his eyes back to hers and says, “Rose. Let me show you this, just one night. Let me show you how you can be safe. I’ve got some money saved – hell, I’ll buy you dinner. You want some dinner?”
“That’s charming, James,” Rose says, but she’s listening. Not hungry at present, but dinner is always a question mark. “You think I’m going to…”
“How’s this sound?” James asks. “We’ll watch a movie in a nice den, and have a pizza and some Dr. Pepper, and if you want to go downtown at ten o’clock, I’ll drive you there.”
Rose looks around and says, “You want to have a pizza here, after Terry and Captain Crunch just came in like that?”
“No,” James replies, looking out the window again. “This place is a madhouse from about an hour from now until midnight, and it’s got teenagers in it. All the good hiding places are being used by them to hide something.”
“First help me close this place up and let’s get out of here. Just stick with me, and if at any point you want to leave, no problem.”
“No more closets?”
“Well,” James shrugs, his smile crooked and alive. “I can’t promise anything – shit happens. But next time, if it makes you feel better, I’ll sit on you.”
They clear out of the computer room, and James takes Rose on up to Lindsey’s room and she turns out to be really close to Rose’s size.
Lindsey’s room is a mess, and Rose gets a little weirded out again by how comfortable he is in it. Does he hang out here, by himself, doing gross boy things? What looking at her underwear, bras?
James roots around in her comically cluttered closet and comes out with a tangerine duffel bag. “I don’t know if you’re attached to that sweatshirt and jeans or whatever, but sometimes a pair of clean underwear is nice, and you could get away with taking pretty much any outfit you want out of here.”
“You don’t think she’ll miss it?”
“Oh, she’ll probably miss it, but nobody will care. Teenage girls run around freaking out about outfits they can’t find all the time. I literally wear clothes and then bring them back the next time, drop them in the laundry, wear something else.”
Rose peers into the closet, instantly liking Lindsey’s taste in clothes. A green dress jumps out at her – very cute, but probably too cute. She wouldn’t want to be too cute, not tonight.
James picks up a pair of sandals and says, “I’m going to go and put these by the table, just in case the dad says something to Lindsey about the back door. Keep things confusing. Pick something out and let’s go.”