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Angel with a Gun
“Don’t worry, okay,” Kenny said, “Rod knows what he’s doing. We’ve done it before.”
Sienna threw him a sideways glance then looked again over each shoulder. Their little group of four stood in front of room 107 at the Dryson Inn, waiting while Rod dipped into his handful of plastic keycards and tried another one. Sienna rubbed her arms and watched her breath ascend as a cloudy mist, hoping this key failed like the rest.
“Whew! We’re in man.” Rod’s smile stretched between almond-shaped dimples as he walked to the farthest bed and began unloading his backpack. “Let’s get this party started.”
Sienna hesitated just inside the door. The entire room was dingy–the floor, the walls, even the thin quilts on the lumpy mattresses–as if each cigarette ever lit in the place had vowed to tag the room with its smoke stains and ash scent.
Kenny applied pressure to the small of her back until Sienna approached the other, closer bed and perched on its edge, hugging her purse to her stomach. He sat beside her and pulled her close.
“You cold?” he asked.
She nodded. “You sure we won’t get caught in here?”
“Positive,” he said. “Rod’s got the hook-up on rooms. We’ve–um–he’s done this a million times.”
“Yeah, you said that.” Sienna pressed her lips together and looked at Kenny.
He tried to laugh through clearing his throat. “It’s nothing. We just use these spots to hang out. Besides,” he put a finger under her chin, “the last time was over two months ago, before you and I got together.”
She rolled her eyes and turned her face away.
“Look at you getting all jealous,” Kenny said.
Jealous wasn’t the word, more like petrified that the night–which should’ve landed them at the movies–was headed south on a bullet train.
She gulped and watched Rod light a joint while his girlfriend Lex poured brandy into styrofoam cups.
“Pour us a couple, Lex,” Kenny said. He leaned back and tried to pull Sienna with him, but she stayed where she was, hugging her little purse like it was a pole cemented in the ground.
“And cut that heater on. My girl’s freezing.” He rubbed Sienna’s back. “What’d you tell your mom?”
“That I was going to Jennifer’s to study.”
“On a Friday? Your mom bought that?”
“Yeah, well, right after I told her she got a call from her office about the system crashing. She had to rush out so she didn’t question me much.”
“Nice,” he said. “Baby Bird gets to flap her wings.”
Baby Bird wanted to flap her wings all right, but not for the reasons strutting around Kenny’s brain. For the first time Sienna found herself wishing her mom had been as vigilant as always.
She looked at Kenny. He wasn’t very good-looking. His fun personality and daring ways had attracted her. She realized now why “daring” hadn’t made her father’s list of admirable qualities in a guy.
Thoughts of her dead father shamed her.
“What are you thinking about?” Kenny asked, tugging on her elbow. “Come here.”
She cringed at his touch, hating him for putting her in this position. God, get me out of this. She knew the desperate prayer was futile, she and God hadn’t been on speaking terms in over a year.
Just then the door shook with pounding. “Open up! Police!”
The room erupted in activity–Lex poured brandy down the sink, Rod flushed weed and batted at the smoke with pillows, and Kenny peeked out the window. Only Sienna froze where she sat.
“It’s really them!” Kenny said.
Rod cursed and paced the small room looking for ways to hide any lingering evidence. He took the brandy bottle from the tin wastebasket and stuffed it under the mattress, then threw his backpack and the keycards in the closet.
“Don’t make us kick the door in. Open up!”
“What do I do?” Kenny looked at Rod, his face almost the same color as his white sweater.
Rod sat on the bed and ran a hand over his blonde spikes. “I’m screwed.”
“Open it already,” Rod said, his gruff voice turning angry.
Kenny had barely removed the latch when three officers pushed the door open and entered with guns drawn.
The offenders lifted their hands while the room was checked. Sienna, however, remained faithful to her purse.
One of the officers looked at Rod. “Can’t say I’m surprised to see you. Still on probation?”
Rod only glared.
“Well that answers that question.” He turned to the officer standing near the window. “Take him, Sanchez.”
As Rod was being cuffed, Officer Reed–according to the name on his badge–spoke to Lex. “And you are?”
Lex put her hands on her hips. “Sarah.”
“Lie to me again, not-Sarah, and you’re going downtown with loverboy. Name and age.”
She hesitated only a moment, “Alexia Peterson, seventeen.”
“Are you high, Ms. Peterson?” He moved closer. “Yep, she’s yours, Wright.” Sienna’s stomach churned with the quick formality of it all.
When Kenny refused to give his real name, he was cuffed and ready by Sanchez’ return.
Then Reed turned to Sienna. “And what about you?”
“My name’s Sienna,” she said just above a whisper.
“How old are you, Sienna?”
“Fifteen.” Sienna detected a hint of disappointment in his voice and it forced her to look up. His eyes were surprisingly soft.
“Do your parents know where you are?”
“Ever been arrested, done drugs, or any other kind of trouble?”
He studied her a moment. “Okay, here’s what I’ll do. If I reach your parents and can get them to pick you up I’ll allow it. If not, I’ll chauffeur you to where you’ll be staying often if you ever do something like this again.”
Sienna didn’t know which was worse: going to jail and getting bailed out, or having her mother pick her up directly from the no-tell motel.
“What’s it gonna be?”
She cleared her throat and gave her mom’s number, then suffered through his end of the conversation when he made the call.
“Where’s your dad?” he asked after hanging up.
“He died a year ago,” she said.
Officer Reed paused. “I’m sorry to hear that,” he said finally. “Is that why you’re running with that crowd?”
She shrugged, and he continued, “I have a daughter your age. I don’t pretend to know what kind of man your dad was, but I’m guessing he wouldn’t be too happy. Am I right?”
Sienna avoided thoughts of her dad as much as possible. Suddenly he was alive and fresh in her mind, smiling at her out of his olive face. That he would be grieved was an understatement. She began to weep.
Officer Reed sighed and pulled her into a hug. The embrace–performed by strong arms and a broad shoulder, and scented with some spice version of aftershave–undid her. It was a man’s embrace, not unlike her father’s, and she clung to it for dear life–melting into it and pouring out her pain upon it.
“I miss him so much,” she said, her fists clutching pieces of Officer Reed’s uniform.
She cried like that for a time, and Officer Reed held her and told her about what he and his daughter endured after losing his wife some years back. “It took a lot of prayer, but eventually we healed, and–“
“Sienna.” Her mother’s voice sliced into the moment. Sienna pulled away and wiped her eyes.
“Ms. Takana.” Officer Reed stood and introduced himself, then explained what happened.
“Does that mean you aren’t pressing charges?” She didn’t take her eyes off of her daughter, and Sienna squirmed under the cold stare.
“The owner of the hotel just wants the kids out of here, ma’am. He’s not pressing charges.”
“Thank you. Let’s go Sienna.” Despite the sweats and scrunchy-tied hair she had rushed off to work in, Sienna thought her mom had never looked angrier–or more hurt.
“Yes?” She looked at Officer Reed for the first time.
“I have a daughter the same age who has experienced the same kind of loss. This isn’t protocol, but I’d be happy to have her contact Sienna if that’s okay with you. It might…help Sienna deal with some of her grief.”
“I’ll have to think about that,” she said. “Do you have a card or something?”
Officer Reed checked his many pockets before producing the small slip. When he offered it, Sienna noticed that the look on his face mirrored the same expression many men had given her mother since she became a widow. Sienna despised that look…until now.
Her mother took the card, thanked him again, then walked ahead of Sienna with an unspoken command for her to follow.
Sienna looked at the handsome officer one last time and found him watching after them. Her father’s smile mingled with the memory of the officer’s embrace, and for the first time in a year, in the inner recesses of her heart, she spoke to God.