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Blue(13)
Danielle Steel

Listening to her sister made Ginny realize how little she knew about his illness, and how much Becky had to do to cope with it. It made her feel guilty hearing about it, but not enough that she wanted to share the burden of taking care of him. She felt overwhelmed just listening to her.

“What are you doing tonight?” Becky asked her. She hated knowing that Ginny was alone on Christmas Eve.

Ginny didn’t tell her that she had picked up a homeless boy, fed him twice, and brought him to her apartment for the day. She had done it for him, but he was company for her, too. But she knew that Becky would be panicked if she told her. The idea of a homeless boy she didn’t know in her apartment would have sent Becky into a tirade of warnings, worry, and fear. But Ginny felt confident, and was convinced he would do no harm. She had gotten much braver and more adventuresome in the past few years, after her many experiences in strange places abroad. It wasn’t something Ginny would have done a few years earlier, either, but in the context of how she lived now, she was at ease, and he had been very polite, respectful, and well behaved.

She told Becky about her plan to serve meals at a homeless shelter that night, and a few minutes later, they hung up. Ginny and Blue both got hungry around three o’clock, and she asked him what he’d like to eat. His eyes lit up when she suggested Chinese food, and she ordered them a feast that was delivered in an hour. They sat down at her table in two of the ugly, unmatched chairs and devoured most of it, and then sat back, too full to move. Blue headed back to the recliner, watched some more TV, and fell asleep, while Ginny moved quietly around the apartment, putting things away from her trip. He woke up at six and saw that it was dark outside. He stood up with a grateful look at her. They had spent a nice day together, and she had enjoyed having him there. It added a warm feeling to the apartment, which usually seemed cold and impersonal to her. And it had been a godsend for him. He didn’t have to hang around the bus terminal or Penn Station, looking for a warm place to sit and wait for the day to go by so he could go back to the shed for another night. That was his home now, as it had been for several weeks. He knew he’d have to give it up eventually when some city worker discovered him, but for now he was safe in the small shed where he spent his nights.

“I’ve got to go now,” he said and stood up. “Thanks for all the food and the nice day.” He looked as though he meant it and seemed sad to leave.

“Do you have a date?” she asked, teasing him with a wistful smile. She was sad to see him leave, too.

“No, but I should get back. I don’t want anyone taking my shed,” he said as though fearing squatters in a palatial home. But he knew that safe, cozy spots like that, where he could be undisturbed and undiscovered, were hard to come by on the streets.

He put her parka on as she watched him, and it tore at her heart as he went to the bathroom and then came back and put his sleeping bag under one arm. “Will I see you again?” he asked her sadly. Most people were transitory in his life. This was the longest he had spent with anyone in months, since he’d been on the streets. People disappeared, went to shelters or other cities, or found shelter somewhere else. It was rare to meet up with someone again.

“Are you sure you don’t want to go to a shelter for the night?” She had checked the Internet while he was sleeping, and had found that there were several for young people that offered bed space, free meals, and even job opportunities, and reunification with their families if they wanted, which she knew Blue didn’t. At least he could have a real bed in a warm place, but he was adamant about not going to a shelter.

“I’m fine where I am. What are you doing tonight?” he asked her as though they were friends.

“I’m going to volunteer to serve dinner at a homeless shelter. I’ve done it before when I was in New York. I thought it would be a good way to spend Christmas Eve. Do you want to come with me?” He shook his head. “The food is pretty good.” He had eaten a lot of the Chinese food and said he wasn’t hungry. “Breakfast tomorrow?” she offered, and he nodded and walked to the door. He thanked her again, and then he left.

She thought about him while she got dressed. She knew it would be hard work carrying heavy pots and ladling out hundreds of dinners. The shelter served thousands every night, and she welcomed the opportunity to exhaust herself so she wouldn’t think about how things used to be.

She took a cab downtown to the West Side, and signed up when she got there. They assigned her to the kitchen for the first two hours, carrying the heavy pots full of vegetables, mashed potatoes, and soup. It was hot, backbreaking work, and then they put her on the front lines, helping to plate and serve meals. There were mostly men that night and a few women, and people were in good spirits, wishing each other merry Christmas. All she could think about was Blue as she worked, and how cold he must be in the shed. It was nearly midnight when she finished and signed out again. The last stragglers had left by then, and volunteers were setting up the long tables for breakfast. She wished everyone merry Christmas and left, and stopped at a church on the way home, to catch midnight mass and light candles for Mark and Chris, Becky and her family, and their father. And at one in the morning, she took a cab the rest of the way home. But as soon as she got out at her address, she knew what she wanted to do.

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