Blue(11) by Danielle Steel

“Did I wake you?” she asked apologetically, and he nodded with a grin. “Do you want to go to breakfast?” He smiled at the question and rolled up his sleeping bag, to take with him. He didn’t want to leave it in case someone invaded the shed and took it away. And he had a small nylon gym bag with all his worldly possessions in it. He was ready in two minutes, and they walked back to McDonald’s. He headed for the bathroom as soon as they got there, and when he came out, she could see that he had brushed his hair and washed his face.

They ordered breakfast and went back to the table where they’d had dinner the night before.

“Merry Christmas, by the way,” she said as they dug into breakfast. She had coffee and a muffin, and he had two Egg McMuffins with bacon and fries. He had a healthy appetite like any growing boy.

“I don’t like Christmas,” he said softly as he drank hot chocolate with whipped cream on top.

“Neither do I,” she admitted with a distant expression.

“Do you have kids?” He was curious about her.

“No,” she said simply. “I used to” would have been more information than he needed or she wanted to say. “Where are your mom and dad, Blue?” she asked him, as they finished eating and she sipped her coffee. She couldn’t help wondering how he had wound up on the streets.

“They’re dead,” he said quietly. “My mom died when I was five. My dad died a few years ago, but I hadn’t seen him in a long time. He was a bad guy, my mom was a really good woman. She got sick.” He looked at Ginny carefully. “I lived with my aunt, but she’s got kids and she doesn’t have room for me. She’s a nurse.” Then he looked at Ginny suspiciously again. “Are you a cop?” She shook her head in answer, and he believed her. “A social worker?”

“No. I’m a human rights worker. I fly to countries a long way from here, to take care of people in war zones or bad places where they need help. Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, places like that. I work in refugee camps, or where people have gotten hurt or are sick, or are being treated badly by their governments. I work with them for a while, and then I go someplace else.”

“Why do you do that?” He was intrigued by what she’d said. It sounded like a hard job to him.

“It seems like a good thing to do.”

“Is it dangerous?”

“Sometimes. But I think it’s worth it. I just got back two days ago. I was in Angola for four months. That’s in southwest Africa.”

“Why’d you come back?” Her job sounded mysterious to him.

“Someone else took my place, so I came home. The foundation I work for moves us around every few months.”

“Do you like doing it?”

“Yes, most of the time. Sometimes I don’t like it so much, but it’s only for a few months at a time, and even if it’s scary or uncomfortable, you get used to it.”

“Do they pay you a lot?”

She laughed at that. “No, very little. You have to do it because you love what you’re doing. It’s pretty rugged most of the time. And sometimes it’s very scary. What about you? Do you go to school?”

He hesitated before he answered. “Not lately. I used to, when I lived with my aunt. I don’t have time now. I do odd jobs when I can.” She nodded, wondering how he survived on the streets, with no family and no money. And if he was as young as she suspected, he had to avoid being reported to Child Protective Services if he didn’t want to be taken to juvenile hall or put in the state system. It made her sad knowing he wasn’t in school and was on the streets fending for himself.

They talked for a few more minutes and then walked out of the restaurant. He said he was going back to the shed later, after it got dark. It seemed like a depressing place to spend Christmas Eve, and as she looked at him, she made a decision.

“Do you want to come to my apartment for a while? You can spend the day there before you go back to the shed tonight. You can watch TV if you want. I have nothing to do today.” She was planning to volunteer to serve dinner at a homeless shelter that night. It seemed like a good way to spend it, serving others instead of feeling sorry for herself and waiting for the holiday to pass. Blue hesitated when she asked him, still not sure if he could trust her, or why she was being kind to him, but there was something about her that he liked, and if everything she said was true, she was a good person.

“Okay. Maybe I’ll come for a while,” he agreed, and they walked down the street together.