Blue(9) by Danielle Steel

She stood in front of the shed for a minute, then knocked cautiously on the door again. She didn’t want to pull it open and startle them. There was no answer, so she knocked a third time. She was going to offer help if the person was sick. And once she had tended to their needs, she would address her own. She had it all worked out in her head. She was a classic suicide about to happen. She knew people did things like it every day, and it no longer seemed shocking to her.

“Are you all right?” she asked in a firm voice. There was still no answer, but as she started to walk away, a small voice finally spoke up.

“Yeah, I’m okay.” The voice sounded very young. It could have been male or female, she couldn’t tell. Her instincts took over then, and she forgot about herself.

“Are you cold? Do you want something to eat?” There was a long, long pause, as the person in the shed thought about it, and finally answered again.

“No, I’m fine.” It sounded like a boy that time, and then he added, “Thank you.” Ginny smiled. Whoever it was, was polite. She started to walk away, and thought about her plan again, although the interruption had slowed her momentum and distracted her. She didn’t feel quite as determined as she had a few minutes before, but she started to walk back to the railing, wondering who was in the shed and what they were doing there, when she heard a voice in the distance behind her shout “Hey.” She turned in surprise and she saw a boy who looked about eleven or twelve in a T-shirt and torn jeans, and high-top sneakers, with his hair uncombed and a little wild. He was looking at her with wide eyes, and even from the distance she could see that they were a bright, almost electric blue in a pale light-coffee-colored face. “You got food?” he asked her, as she stood looking at him, shocked at how little he was wearing in the snow.

“I could get some,” she answered. She knew there was a McDonald’s nearby. She bought breakfast or dinner there often herself.

“Nah, that’s okay,” he said, looking disappointed and shivering in the cold, standing near the shed. It belonged to the city, but clearly someone had left it unlocked, and he was using it as shelter and a place to sleep.

“I could bring you something,” she offered. He hesitated, then shook his head, and disappeared back into the shed, as Ginny went back to the railing to gaze down at the river. By then she was beginning to feel awkward about what had seemed so right only moments before. She was about to go home when he was suddenly standing beside her with his bright blue eyes and jet-black hair.

“I could come with you,” he suggested, in answer to her earlier offer of dinner. “I’ve got money to pay.” It was a clear sign, as she looked at him, trying hard not to shiver, that she wasn’t meant to leap into the river and die that night. She was meant to feed this child instead. She started to take off her parka to offer it to him, but he bravely declined. They began walking away from the river side by side. She had intended to die moments before, as the final escape from her sorrows, in a bout of cowardice that was rare for her, and now she was going to dinner with this unknown boy.

“There’s a McDonald’s about two blocks away,” she said to him as they walked. She tried to walk quickly so he wouldn’t get too cold, but he was shaking visibly when they got to the restaurant and she got a good look at him in the bright lights. He had the bluest eyes she’d ever seen, in a sweet, still childish face that gazed at her full of innocence. It felt as though their paths had been meant to cross that night. It was warm in the restaurant, and he jumped up and down to warm himself. She wanted to put her arms around him to help him but didn’t dare.

“What would you like?” she asked him gently. He hesitated. “Go for it,” she encouraged him. “It’s almost Christmas, live it up.” He grinned and ordered two Big Macs and fries and a large Coke, and she ordered a single Big Mac and a small Coke. She paid for it, and they went to a table to wait for their order, which was ready a few minutes later. By then he’d warmed up and had stopped shivering. He dove into the food with a vengeance, and was halfway through the second burger before he stopped to thank her.

“I could have paid for it myself,” he said, looking mildly embarrassed, and she nodded.

“I’m sure you could. My treat this time.” He nodded.

She watched him, wondering how old he was, still startled by how blue his eyes were. “What’s your name?” she asked cautiously.

“Blue Williams,” he answered. “Blue is my real name, not a nickname. My mama named me that because of the color of my eyes.” She nodded. It made perfect sense.