“Listen, the city bus is no place for a 9 year old kid, so go home before Momma licks you!”
Paulie’s eyes begged me not to go. The tears shone in the corners and I felt a lump grow in my throat. But he was the reason I was leaving. I had to go for the good of the family.
“Momma ain’t gonna lick me, Shelby. She’s too passed out.” Paulie reasoned. He was right. my logic was weak.
“Paulie, I have to go. I have to make money so’s you and Ellie Mae can have new shoes for school. Don’t you want new shoes?”
He almost smiled, but then the realization that I was abandoning him washed the happiness from his face. The bus roared to the stop. Paulie suddenly wrapped his arms around me. “I’mma miss you, Shleby.”
“I’ll miss you, too, Paulie. You take care of Ellie Mae while I am gone.” I unwrapped myself from his stick-like arms and held my head high as I gave my money to the driver. I sat and looked one last time at Paulie who was too stunned to wipe the tears from his cheeks. I was finally on my way.