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Blue(12)
Danielle Steel

“I live a block away,” she explained, and they were there a few moments later. He followed her into the hallway when she unlocked the door, and they went up in the elevator. She opened her apartment door with her key, and they walked in. Blue looked around as they did, and he took in the tired furniture and bare walls, and then grinned at her in surprise.

“I thought you’d live somewhere nicer than this.” She laughed at what he said. He was polite but truthful, with the honesty of youth.

“Yeah, I haven’t done much decorating since I moved here. I’m away a lot,” she explained with a sheepish smile.

“My aunt has three kids in a one-bedroom apartment uptown.” By uptown she could guess that he meant Harlem. “And her place looks better than this.” They both laughed at what he said, Ginny even harder than he did. It was the ultimate damning statement when a homeless boy thought her apartment looked like a dump. And looking around, she couldn’t disagree.

“Try the recliner, it’s pretty comfortable.” She pointed to it and handed him the remote for the TV. She felt totally at ease having him there. There was nothing dangerous about him, and she felt the connection of a kindred soul. They were both homeless in their own ways. He walked around the room for a minute before he sat down, and noticed the photograph of Mark and Chris on her desk. He looked at it for a long moment and then glanced back at her.

“Who are they?” He could sense that they were important to her and there was a story behind the photo. He had surprised her with the question, and it took her breath away for a minute before she answered as calmly as she could.

“My husband and son. They died three years ago. The anniversary was yesterday.” She tried to keep her voice even as she said it.

Blue didn’t answer for a beat and then nodded at her. “I’m sorry. That’s really sad.” But it was no sadder than losing his parents and winding up homeless on the streets. She wasn’t officially homeless, but Mark and Chris’s deaths had changed her life forever, too, and left her adrift.

“Yes, it was. It was a car accident. That’s why I travel so much now. I have no one to come home to.” She hated how pathetic it made her sound. “Anyway, I like what I do, so it works out.” She didn’t tell him that they’d had a beautiful home in Los Angeles, with decent furniture, that she’d had a great career that she’d abandoned, and that she actually used to dress up every day in real clothes, not army surplus. It didn’t matter anymore. All of that was over and history now. Now she lived in this tiny apartment with threadbare mismatched furniture she’d found abandoned on the sidewalk or at Goodwill, as though to punish herself for what had happened. It was her version of sackcloth and ashes. But he was too young to understand that, so she said nothing while he turned on the TV and channel-surfed for a while. She saw him glance at her laptop, too. Someone else might have worried that he’d steal it. The thought never crossed her mind. And after he’d watched TV for about an hour, he asked her if he could use her laptop, and she told him he could.

She saw him check several Web sites for homeless youth where they could pick up messages people left for them. He didn’t write anything, but she had the impression he was looking for something as he scanned the screen.

“Do friends leave you messages on there?” she asked with interest. His was a world she knew nothing about. He seemed to know his way around the Web sites as well as the streets.

“My aunt does sometimes,” he said honestly. “She worries about me.”

“Do you ever call her?”

He shook his head. “She’s got too much on her mind already. Her kids, her job. She works nights at a hospital, and she has to leave the kids alone. I used to baby-sit for them at night.” But from what he said, four people living in a one-bedroom apartment sounded difficult. But at least he kept in contact with her on the Internet, Ginny thought.

He went back to watching TV then, while Ginny checked her own e-mail and had none. A little while later her sister called her, and apologized profusely for not calling her the day before, on the anniversary. She had meant to but never got around to it.

“I’m so sorry. The kids drove me crazy all day, and Dad had a bad night the night before. I never got a moment to myself. He was agitated all day yesterday, he wanted to go out, and I didn’t have time to take him. It makes him nervous being in the car with the kids. They play their music too loud, and they talk all the time. He does better when things are quieter and he can rest. He has trouble sleeping at night, though, and I worry that he’ll go outside in the middle of the night. He gets worse after dark, more confused and angry sometimes. They call it sundowning. He’s better in daytime hours.”

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