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Authors: Danielle Steel

Blue (6 page)

BOOK: Blue
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“I just want a room somewhere and a job,” he said. It was a tall order for a boy his age, no matter how bright he was. No one hired eleven- or twelve-year-old boys, except as drug runners in bad neighborhoods, and Blue seemed to have stayed clear of that.

“How old are you, Blue? Honestly this time,” she said with a serious expression, and he didn't answer for a while, clearly deciding whether or not to tell her the truth. And then finally he spoke up.

“I'm thirteen,” he growled at her, “but I can do a lot of stuff, I'm good on the computer, and I'm strong.” He was slight from lack of food, but he was willing.

“When was the last time you were in school?” She was afraid it might be years.

“September. I'm in eighth grade.”

“That means you could go to high school next year.” She thought about it for a minute and looked him in the eye. If Christopher had been alive, he would have been six. She had no experience with teenage boys, except her nephew, whom she had been too busy to pay much attention to while he was growing up. Her sister knew a lot more about kids than she did, but she couldn't ask her about Blue. “I'll make a deal with you,” Ginny said quietly. “If you go back to school, I'll pay you for odd jobs you can do for me.”

“Like what?” He looked suspicious of the deal.

“There's plenty you can do for me. The apartment needs regular cleaning. I want to move some stuff around. I guess I could get rid of my lovely furniture, and upgrade it a little.” She glanced around, and he grinned.

“Yeah, maybe we could burn it,” he quipped, and they both laughed.

“Let's not be that extreme. You can do errands for me. We'll figure it out.”

“How much do you pay?” he asked seriously, and she laughed again.

“Depends on the job. How about minimum wage?” He considered it and nodded. It sounded good to him.

“Why do I have to go to school? I always get bored there.”

“You're going to be bored for the rest of your life if you don't graduate. You're a smart boy—you need to go to school. You can't get a decent job unless you at least go to high school, and maybe one day you can go to college.”

“And then what?”

“That's up to you. But without school, you'll be dishing up fries at McDonald's. You deserve better than that,” she said, convinced.

“How do you know that?”

“Trust me, I do.”

“You don't even know me,” he challenged her.

“That's true, but I know you're smart, and you could go far if you wanted to.” She could see that he was a good kid. He was resourceful and enterprising—all he needed were some decent breaks. “Will you do it, go back to school, I mean? I'll help you register in the public school near here. We can say you were away for a while.” It seemed like a lifetime before he answered, and then slowly he nodded and looked at her. He didn't look happy about it, but he agreed.

“I'll try it,” he compromised, “but if it's boring and full of dummies, or the teachers are mean, I'm out of there.”

“No. Dummies or not, you stick it out till June, and go to high school in the fall. That's the deal.” She stuck out her hand, wanting him to shake it, and finally he put his hand in hers.

“Okay. So when do I start work for you?”

“What about now? You can do the dishes, and vacuum the apartment. And we need some more groceries.” He had already finished the milk they bought the night before and she'd forgotten to buy fruit. “How about going to the store for me? I'll make a list. What do you like to eat?” She grabbed a piece of paper and a pen off her desk and wrote down the basics, and he added his wish list of too-sweet cereals, fruit roll-ups, potato chips, cookies, beef jerky, peanut butter, all the things kids like to snack on, and sodas of every kind. “Your dentist is going to love me,” she said, rolling her eyes as he dictated to her, and then she realized he probably didn't have one, but she didn't want to ask. First things first, and getting him into school was top of her list. If nothing else, if she could get him off the streets, to a safe place, and get him back to school, her mission would be accomplished.

She sent him to the store a few minutes later with three twenty-dollar bills and the grocery list. And as soon as she heard the elevator doors close, she went to the laptop to the site he'd been on, and found the message to Blue from Charlene. It was dated the day before. Ginny responded quickly, hoping it was his aunt—she remembered that he had referred to her as Charlene when they talked about bowling.

“I have information about Blue. He is safe, well, and in good hands. Please call me, Virginia Carter,” and she added her cell phone number.

Ginny was sitting on the couch, innocently reading a magazine, when he got back, carrying the bag of groceries, and he diligently gave her the change. And then he started a list of the time he was spending doing errands, so she could pay him for his time. She smiled when she saw him do it and nodded. “Very businesslike,” she said approvingly, and she was surprised to see that his handwriting was steady, legible, and neat.

He spent part of the day vacuuming and cleaning her apartment, and helping her move furniture, and he threw out her long-dead plant with a look of disgust. And that afternoon they went for a walk. They walked past the public school she had in mind for him, it wasn't far away, although they didn't know where he'd be living, and he made a face. They walked past a church then, and the face he made was even worse. He looked angry and venomous.

“You don't like churches, either?” She was surprised. He had very definite ideas. She wasn't deeply religious, but she had an ongoing sense of communication with God, in a loose form that worked for her.

“I hate priests,” Blue said, nearly snarling.

“Why?” She wanted to know more about him, but he was very private about his life. Like a flower, she had to wait for the petals to unfurl on their own. She didn't want to push, but she was intrigued by what he said about the clergy.

“I just hate them. They're jerks. And really fake. They pretend to be good people and they're not.”

“Some are,” she said quietly. “Not all priests are bad or good. They're just people.”

“Yeah, but they like to pretend they're God.” He seemed agitated as he said it, and she didn't want to upset him, so she didn't argue the point. Blue clearly had total contempt for them all.

They went to another movie after dinner, this time not in 3D, but they enjoyed it anyway, and talked about it on the way back to her apartment. It was beginning to feel familiar walking along with him and talking, almost as though they had known each other for longer than they had. He had a good sense of humor, and was very articulate, and as soon as they got back to the apartment he asked her how much he'd made that day, helping her. They added it up, and he was pleased at the amount. He grinned happily at her and turned on the TV. She kept checking her phone for messages from Charlene, but she had none so far. She wondered if she'd call back and hoped she would.

She did some work that night on her laptop and saw that Blue had been on the kids' homeless site again. She wondered if he was looking for a message from someone in particular.

And in the morning, while Ginny was still in bed, Charlene called on her cell phone. She was indeed his aunt.

“Who are you?” she asked Ginny immediately. “Are you a social worker, with an agency for kids? Are you a cop?” She sounded both suspicious and relieved. Ginny explained how they had met and that Blue was sleeping on her couch.

“How long has it been since you've seen him?” Ginny asked, curious about her and what had happened, and she wondered if the woman on the phone would tell her the truth. She had a pleasant, intelligent voice.

“Not since September. It just wasn't working out here. I've got three kids in a tiny apartment with one bathroom and no space to move around. My kids sleep in the bedroom. I sleep on the couch, and Blue was sleeping on the floor. That's no way for a boy to live. It would break his mama's heart if she knew he has no home.” She regarded his situation with Ginny as temporary, as Ginny did herself. “And he doesn't like my boyfriend,” she added cautiously, once she knew that Ginny had no official capacity. “He drinks a bit, and they fight all the time. Blue doesn't like the way he talks to me. He's very protective, a little too much so at times. They got in a bad argument, and my guy took a swing at him. Blue left after that. There really is no room for both of them here, and Harold stays here sometimes. When he does, Blue was sleeping in the tub, and we only have the one bathroom. Blue's father was a lot like Harold—he beat Blue up a bunch of times, and his mama, too. She was such a good woman, and she loved that boy to death. There was nothing she wouldn't have done for him—it was all she was worried about when she died. I took him in, I promised her I would, but I only had one baby then. With three, I just can't. No money, no space, no time. He needs to get in the foster care system and get a decent home.”

“He doesn't seem to want that, and he might be too old for people to want to foster him. At thirteen, kids can be tough.”

“He's a good boy, and smart,” his aunt said lovingly. “He's had some bad breaks with his mama dying. And his daddy was never around. He went to prison for dealing drugs, and died there three years ago, but Blue hardly ever saw him anyway. I'm the only blood relative he's got.” It sounded like a sad situation to Ginny, and her heart ached for him. She knew there were thousands of kids like him, but there was something special about Blue, which had touched her heart.

“I'd like to get him into an adolescent homeless shelter, and he's agreed to go back to school,” Ginny said hopefully.

“He won't stick at either,” his aunt said knowingly. She knew him too well, far better than Ginny. “He always runs away, from everything. He'll run away from you, too. He's like a wild thing now—if you get too close to him, he runs. I think he's scared, or maybe he thinks we're all going to die like his mama and daddy.” It was a valuable insight into him. “But he's a nice kid,” she said again.

“Do you want me to try to get him to come and see you?” Ginny offered.

“He won't want to. And if Harold shows up, it'll be a mess. Just let me know where he is. I can't do anything for him myself.” She had basically given up on him—he was one more mouth to feed, and a problem she didn't want, particularly if it upset her boyfriend. Her allegiance was to Harold, not to Blue. It was obvious she didn't want to see him. He really had no one in the world. He was an orphan in every sense of the word.

“I'll let you know if I get him into a shelter. I'm leaving town in a few weeks, and I'll be gone for several months. I'd like to get him situated before I leave,” Ginny said, but she was even more worried about him now. He had no one to fall back on, no support system, and not a friend in the world, other than her.

“Wherever you put him, he won't stay. He'll be back out on the streets again. He knows how to make it there. And I don't think he'll ever go back to school.” It sounded like a dismal fate to Ginny, which his aunt was all too willing to accept. “I'm a nurse's aide at Mount Sinai Hospital. I tried to get him interested in nursing for a while. He said it sounded like filthy work. He dreams a lot, and thinks he's going to get a good job one day because he's smart. You and I know that's not enough.”

“That's why I'd like to get him back in school,” Ginny said doggedly. “He agreed for now.”

“He always does,” his aunt Charlene said with resignation. “Don't let him break your heart,” she warned. “He doesn't get attached to anyone since his mama. I think he just lost her too young.” Ginny was surprised that Blue's aunt was willing to accept that he was damaged forever, and to let him seek his own fate on the streets, without at least trying to turn the tide. Ginny was willing to do that, just the way she did for the people in the areas where she worked, to change their situation. And Blue was a bright thirteen-year-old boy, living in a civilized city and country. She wanted him to have a chance. He deserved it.

“I'll let you know where he is and what he's doing before I leave,” she promised, but his aunt didn't sound nearly as worried about him as she was. Charlene knew him well, and his strong drive to detach and run away.

Ginny was thinking about it as she made breakfast for them that morning. She wanted to tell him that she had spoken to his aunt, but she didn't dare. She didn't want him to think they were in some kind of conspiracy against him.

“How about we look at some of those youth shelters today?” she suggested after breakfast, and saw his eyes get cold and stony.

“I'd rather do work for you and make some money,” he said, dodging the issue. He didn't want to face that she would be leaving soon, and she could see that it upset him. But she was determined to find him a safe place to live and to enroll him in school before she left. It was all she could think of now.

Without saying anything to him, she bought him some binders and notebooks, pens and pencils, a calculator, and all the things he'd need for school. She left them in a bag in her closet, and didn't say anything about them.

They spent New Year's Eve watching TV and saw the ball in Times Square fall, and all the crowds of people there. He looked excited about it, and they had fun together.

And on the Monday afterward, she and Blue went to the school she'd shown him and met with the vice principal about enrolling him. Ginny gave them her address and didn't say the arrangement was temporary—she wanted to give him the best shot she could of getting him into the school. They asked where his last school had been, and he explained that he had been living with his aunt then and no longer was. The school was used to kids moving around and asked no questions about it.

BOOK: Blue
11.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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