Link pulled himself up onto the wall beside his blond companion, eying her with some amusement. “Not with your new friend Jake? I thought you were joinin’ his act!”
“Ha ha very funny, Link.” Roxanne scowled. “I just mess about with him, s’all. Saves me being bored and sometimes he lets me have some of his food or change, if he has a good day. Least then I get to eat without rippin’ someone off. I’ve no mind to be taken down the police station.”
“You mean like Joe?” Link frowned. Joe had been a
Red Ace, well, in spirit he still was, but the previous weekend he had
been arrested for breaking and entry, and all of his friends knew only
too well that it would mean a certain jail term. They were not afraid
for themselves, for
loyalty in the group ran fiercely through the veins of each of them,
Roxanne, and they knew that Joe would not name any of them as criminals
And they didn’t consider themselves to be such. After all, for them it was a case of surviving.
Roxanne was now twenty two, a very different Roxanne from the girl who had crept out of home eight years before to make it on her own. She was still naïve in some ways, still ignorant to the world at large, for she had never been out of Philadelphia before, but she was streetwise and knew how best to survive on the meagre food and money that came their way. Most of their survival depended on illicit activity, stealing from passers-by, breaking into parked cars and occasionally scrounging what they could from other people’s discarded junk.
Roxanne had always had something of a fascination for cars, and spending the majority of her time over the past few years surviving with a group of boys had made her even more of the tomboy she’d begun as. The group scorned ‘girls’, but they never scorned Roxanne. In fact, quite the opposite. She had always commanded their respect, and in many cases, their fear as well. Only Link ever dared to talk to her as an equal without fear of retribution, which spoke a great deal for Roxanne’s strength of character, for she was smaller in build than most of her associates. She was in a lot of ways a ringleader for some of their more reckless activities, for she did not always think before she acted, and more than once she had had the group fleeing as fast as they could, chased by a group of angry policemen.
For Roxanne, though, it was all part of the fun. She had watched and learnt when Link had taught her to hotwire a car, several years earlier, and had amused herself many a time by breaking into junkyard vehicles and driving them haphazardly around the yard. Crazy and dangerous as it was, it had the effect of teaching her how to handle the machine, and though she had never taken a driving lesson or a test in her life, she had been able to drive a car fairly competently since she was sixteen. Though she was intelligent enough where machines were concerned to recognise what the limits of the vehicle she had chosen were, she often chose to ignore them, preferring to push the car (or van or even on one occasion, goods train) as far as she could go. She had had a number of brushes with death and lucky escapes, but none of them had phased her.
It took a brave man to get willingly into a car with Roxanne Pelligrini at the wheel.
Despite the hardship, Roxanne had enough vanity in her to both care and fret about her appearance. As a surprise one birthday, Link had broken into a cosmetic store and had swiped a clutch of make-up for her, which she had greeted with some delight. Though she was thin and undernourished, and her clothes were worn and faded, there was no mistaking the fact that the girl had grown into a good looking young woman…but the trust was not there. Roxy had faith in the Red Aces, for they had looked out for her and she had done the same for them in her turn. She did not consider them anything but ‘her people’ and she was more than willing to lay her neck on the line for any of them, though such things were never spoken of. But of the people ‘outside’, the people who lived even a block from their crumbling squat she had a marked fear…a decided distrust in all that they did and all that they stood for. They were the lucky ones, the ones with careers and homes and families to go home to. Roxanne could not and did not relate to the idea of a happy home, and could not comprehend the ways of these people…therefore they were the enemy, and fair game to be preyed upon.
Equally, she had no time for affection, and even less time for love. It was her firm belief that love did not exist anyway, for noone had ever shown her any, so she had scorned it with a dismissive wave of her hand, and though she was game to flirt if she felt there was an advantage to be gained, she had never let anyone get beneath the surface. Inside of her she was still the bewildered, abused child who had taken life into her own hands and had run away, but outside she was tough and impenetrable…and few dared try to break her down.
“Yeah, like Joe.” She agreed now, kicking her legs idly against the wall. “How long d’you reckon he’ll get?”
“Who knows?” Link shrugged. “Not a lot we can do, anyway.”
“I say we should break ‘im out.” Roxanne mused.
“Out of jail? Girl, you lost your mind?” Link stared. “Quickest way to get us all behind bars!”
“You chicken, Link?” Roxanne teased.
“No, I ain’t. I just haven’t gone cracked.” Link retorted. “You know well as I what security is like at those places. We’d be caught for sure. You don’t want to wind up a caged animal, do you? Joe’s one of us and it stinks, but we can’t do anything to help him now.”
“I guess you’re right.” Roxanne sighed. “I dunno. I’m just bored, Link. I want some excitement. There’s never anything to do any more!”
“Well, then find something. Make something.” Link replied with a wink. “C’mon, Rox, use your brain! There must be somethin’ goin’!”
“Maybe.” Roxanne slid off the wall, a thoughtful look on her face. “It’s all the same thing though, Link. Same dump, every day. I don’t wanna be stuck here forever. I’m better than that!”
“Listen up, Rox, you can’t just up and quit this place like the people with money can.” Link chided her, as they made their way slowly down the road. “You’re stuck here. We all are. Gotta get work, y’know? Get a job. Get money. Then we can get outta this dump.”
“I don’t want to work…I don’t want a job.” Roxanne pulled a face. “Can you see me in some joint somewhere flippin’ burgers for some braindead manager and his beanpole girlfriend? I don’t think so. Work ain’t my style, Link. You know that.”
“Yeah, I know.” Link nodded. “Fact of life though. Job means green.”
“Can get money without it.” Roxanne shrugged.
“And then we gotta make sure we don’t get caught.”
“You goin’ soft, Link?” Roxanne stared at him. Link shook his head.
“No. I just wish we had more cash to throw around, that’s all.”
“Well, don’t we all.” Roxanne smirked. “Life ain’t like that, though. It’s a bummer.”
“Hey, Roxanne, Link!” The two turned to see Juan and Flint, the two remaining members of the Red Aces that had set up their own lives eight years earlier. “What you doin’? Game for some action tonight?”
“Are we ever.” Roxanne rolled her eyes. “I am so bored of this place I could scream! What you got in mind?”
“Thought we might slip over to old man Peterson’s workshop and have ourselves some fun with his old delivery van.” Flint sniggered.
“You gonna let me drive this time?” Roxanne demanded.
“Yeah, sure, if you wanna take us on a one way trip six foot under.” Juan retorted.
“You got a problem with my driving, smart mouth?” Roxanne’s eyes narrowed.
“No…” Juan faltered slightly, for he was easily intimidated by the girl’s threats.
“If Rox wants to drive, best let her.” Link sniggered. “Otherwise you might need a straw to suck food through.”
“Too right he will.” Roxanne smirked. “Well, I suppose it’ll do…I’m still so bored, though. This place is such a dump…One day I’ll get out of this pit and show everyone what Roxanne Pelligrini is really about.”
“Yeah? How you gonna do that, Roxanne?” Flint looked interested.
“Grow wings and fly outta here?” Link snorted.
“You think you’re so clever?” Roxanne bristled. “Hah. You’ll see. I could get any place I wanted, you name it. I’m not stupid. Why I…I could even get to Hollywood and make myself a star if I wanted to.”
“Yeah?” Juan demanded. “Dream on, sister.”
“Wake up and smell the coffee, Rox.” Link smirked. “You’re a dropout – we’re all dropouts. We don’t read, we don’t work, we don’t got anything but a stinking squat that’s falling apart to call home. And that’s fine and good, cos we know how to survive and we’s tough and all that. But Hollywood? Get real, girl. Noone in California would look at you twice.”
“Oh yeah?” Roxanne demanded. “Well, we’ll see about that, Link. You just wait, you’ll see! I’ll go to California and I’ll make myself a star, and then I’ll show you what I can do! You just watch. I’ll be all over the press before you can say Philadelphia.”
“Yeah, in prison most likely.” Flint put in.
“Shut your face, Flint, I’m serious.” Roxanne put her hands on her hips. “You guys don’t think I got it in me?”
“Listen, Roxanne, we all think a lot of you, and all, but you gotta stop talking crazy.” Link took her by the arm, but she shook him off. “We do okay here, so stop with the silly stuff, huh? Let’s go crash Peterson’s van or something. That’ll take your mind off it.”
“No way, Link. I’m not going.” Roxanne shook her head, her expression stubborn. “I’ve had enough of this place and of always scrounging about and of you guys not taking me seriously! I’ll get to California and change my luck, just watch me!You no-hopers can do what you want, if this is all you got planned for your lives. I want bigger, guys, and I’m gonna get it, too. I will be a star! I will! Just you wait and see!”
The lorry driver grabbed his companion by the arm, an amused look on his face as he pulled the other man towards his vehicle. “I think maybe you better look see this!”
“See what?” Rick, a heavy set man in his forties lumbered across the parking lot, his expression curious. “What you got, Harry? I gotta get moving soon if I’m gonna get this junk to Connecticut by sunrise.”
“Just spare a few and take a look.” Harry responded, throwing up the back of the vehicle and leading the way inside. “You see it?”
“See what?” Rick squinted, then, “Holy…there’s a girl in there! Where in heck did she spring from?”
“Beats me, but she’s sure made herself comfortable.” Harry glanced at the interloper, who had curled herself up in a secluded corner of the truck and had gone to sleep. “What do you think I should do, huh? Should I wake her? She’ll be gettin’ in a fine mess if my supervisor hears about this. Not s’posed to carry passengers, and all.”
“Where do you s’pose she’s come from?” Rick peered at the girl, his curiosity piqued. “In all my years in this job I ain’t never seen a thing like it, Harry.” He paused. “She ain’t much more than a kid…you s’pose she’s run away from something?”
“That’d be my guess. Don’t rightly like to disturb her, mind you. She looks so peaceful, and all.” Harry grinned. “Perhaps I’ll just pretend I never saw her…she’ll most likely sleep all the way through to California any road.” He beckoned to his friend to leave the rear of the vehicle, pulling down the back once more. “Guess I’d better be moving. You won’t mention this little affair to anyone, I hope? Just wanted to show you – cute as she is, and all.”
“I won’t speak a word to a livin’ soul.” Rick promised solemnly. “Where you gonna drop her? Someplace in Cali?”
“Yeah, most likely.” Harry nodded. “She looks thin, the poor girl, and she’s clearly exhausted. Maybe it’ll be that I can help her somehow.”
“You always were too much of a softie where other people were concerned, Harry.” Rick looked amused. “Guess I’ll be seein’ you in a week or two, anyway. Be sure to tell me what happens, huh?”
“Will do that.” Harry nodded, hauling himself up into the cab of his lorry. “Be seein’ you!”
In the back of the vehicle, Roxanne slept, oblivious to the fact her hiding place had been discovered. She had found the truck not many hours earlier, and had overheard enough of a conversation to realise with some glee that the vehicle was headed to the same destination as she was herself – California. She had no idea which part of the western state the lorry was going to, and cared less. At least once she was inside Californian borders she’d have more of a chance to find what she was looking for. At least, that was her theory.
In her years living rough, she’d learnt to sleep in the most awkward of places and, exhausted by events, for she had not slept once in the twenty-four hours since she had made her boast to Link and the others, she had found a quiet corner of the truck and had fallen asleep. She had spent much of the day walking, anyway, and it was with some relief that she had found an alternative means of transport. Undisturbed by the noise around her, she had slept on, able to block out the disturbances with amazing ease. She did not feel the vehicle begin to move, slowly rolling out of the forecourt of the truck stop to begin it’s long journey across the United States. In fact, she did not know anything until some hours later, when she felt a hand on her shoulder, firm but reassuring, shaking her awake.
She was alert in an instant and immediately defensive, pulling back against the wall of the vehicle.
“What do you want?” she demanded.
“Well, this is my truck, little lady.” Harry seemed both amused and concerned. “I thought you’d sleep straight through but I couldn’t let you cry out…I think you were havin’ a nightmare.”
Roxanne stared at him, her guard not lowered for a moment.
“You knew I was here?” she demanded.
“Sure. It gave me quite a shock.” Harry laughed. “Don’t look so frightened, missy, I ain’t gonna hurt you. You heading to California? That’d be my guess.”
“What’s it to you?”
“Well, it’s where I’m going. I was wonderin’ if you wanted setting down anyplace special.” Harry looked amused. “And I’d be honoured if you’d tell me your name. Can’t keep callin’ you missy or lady, can I now? Not if we’re goin’ all the way to California together.”
Roxanne paused, gauging her companion slowly. Then,
“Roxanne. That’s me.” She said abruptly.
“Well, pleased to be meetin’ you, Roxanne. I’m Harry.” Harry told her. “You want to tell me what a young lady like yourself is doing in the back of my truck?”
“Its none of your business.” Roxanne told him firmly.
“Well, I’d be guessing you’re running away from something. You’re not in any trouble now, are you?”
“No, I’m not, and I’m not running away, either.” Roxanne snapped. “I do what I want to do and have done for years, you hear me? Nobody tells me where to go or what to do, I make my own choices. I wanted to go to California…so I’m going. You got a problem with that?”
“Not one.” Harry grinned at her. “You’d be a mite more comfortable if you came up front in the cab with me, though. Can get awful drafty down here at night.”
Roxanne fixed him with a thoughtful gaze, then she nodded.
“All right. But no funny business. I can take care of myself.” She said finally.
“Hey, no ulterior motive, I promise. It’d be nice to have the company. Long and lonely drive it is, all the way to Cali.” Harry held up his hands.
Roxanne did not reply, merely following the driver to the cab, and pulling herself up into the big passenger seat.
“Neat wheels.” She observed in approval.
“You drive?” Harry asked her.
“Sure.” Roxanne shrugged. “Nothin’ to it.” She glanced out of the window, and bit her lip. “I never knew these things were so high up.”
“What’s the matter, kid, scared you’ll fall out?” Harry teased her gently. Roxanne’s eyes narrowed once more.
“I ain’t scared of anything, you better know that now.” She said, her tone menacing. “Else you’re gonna be having a miserable journey, you got it? And I’m not a kid! I’m twenty-two, if you really wanna know!”
“Hey, no offence intended.” Harry shrugged, starting up the engine. “Guess we’d better get goin’, huh? There’s a long way ahead of us before we get to California.”
(The Misfits and Holograms and other animated Jem characters are copyrighted to Hasbro Inc. All characters who do not appear in Jem episodes are my own creation. This story is copyrighted to E.A Woolley (2001). Background image was drawn and edited by me and therefore is copyrighted to me (E.A Woolley). Roxy is copyright of Hasbro Inc.