A man named Johnny Red drove her to private school every day since she was old enough to go. They went in a big black car. She liked the way it shined and never put finger prints on it. Everyone usually went through a car line, but Johnny Red got to pull right up to the front door to drop her off, and he would always be there to pick her up.
She told Johnny Red all about her day, showed him her pictures, drawings. He drove and their conversations were jovial. She loved Johnny Red. He was her friend.
When she got home, she’d go to the kitchen for a snack with her Mother. Her Father would come from his office and praise her, their only child, for something as simple as an endless row of whatever letter of the alphabet her class happened to be working on at the time. Afterwards, her Father would go back to his office. He did his business in his office. She wasn’t allowed in her Father’s office.
She never knew a credit card, only stacks of cash, nice and straight, in large bills, wrapped carefully. She once told a schoolmate that her Father was a banker. The older she got, the more she heard about who her Family really was. All of her Family.This thing of ours. She heard terms and learned never to ask what they meant. The meaning would come in time, heartbreakingly. She began to get used to comings and goings in her home. Meetings. Exchanges. Who was a friend of who. Who was a friend of ours.
One of her final days as a student, she came out to greet Johnny Red and instead was met with a face she didn’t recognize. She stopped in her tracks and ran inside, screaming for her Father. He met her, rushing from his office. She was breathless and afraid, stumbling over how Johnny Red wasn’t at the car. Someone was inside the gates. She didn’t know him! Her Father hung his head and nodded, adding a comforting arm to her shoulders as he explained that Johnny Red wasn’t going to be around anymore. And how Salva was a friend of ours. He would take over for Johnny Red.
Years of unexplained attachment to her beloved driver rushed over her and released in tears and demands that she’d never made of anyone before, especially her Father. He grabbed her by both arms and gave her a shake, a jolt back to reality. Their reality. Johnny Red wasn’t a friend of ours anymore. Her heart sank and met her stomach on the way down. He had been someone’s work.
She didn’t want to be a friend of anyone’s.
No one should be a friend of hers.