Standing Against the Wind

Traci L. Jones

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

From Standing Against the Wind
Most days, Patrice Williams really didn’t know which she liked least: walking home or actually getting there.
            “Just two more blocks,” she whispered to herself as she stood waiting for the light.
            During the bitterly cold days of winter, the thirteen-year-old had gotten into the habit of counting the blocks until she was safe at home—safe from the freezing cold wind, safe from the nasty comments made by girls who had cut school and were always hanging out in front of the local drugstore, safe from the gang of boys who had all but quit school and who hung out in the broken-down playground in front of her building. They all seemed to have something mean to say about her.
            “One more block.”
Patrice’s quick steps slowed as she noticed the gang of boys from her middle school gathered at the foot of the stairs in front of her building. She had hoped that Chicago’s frigid cold would have driven them inside. But even in this weather they were assembled at the only unlocked entrance, attempting to make everyone else’s life miserable. They were talking and laughing, looking like teen dragons as the puffs of warm air from their mouths mixed with the clouds of cigarette smoke they blew nonchalantly. Those not smoking blew on their hands and rocked back and forth on their feet, trying to keep warm and look cool at the same time.
            The January wind blew directly into Patrice’s face. It seemed to reach right through her coat’s thin fabric and under her hand-me-down sweatshirt, and pinch her arms with icy, sharp fingers. With the straps of her old backpack long since broken, Patrice’s hand felt frozen in a tight fist around its tattered handle. She shivered again, this time more from nervous anticipation than cold.