Chapter Three


Dinner found me transfixed to Susan. I held onto every ward she spoke. She talked of many different cities and places she's gone for her job. She's done everything from feeding the hungry to shelters for the homeless. She's more amazing to me now than ever. I watched her mouth eat every morsel of food in front of her. She had quite an appetite. She had a playfulness in her eyes as well as a longing for a time long gone. I wondered why the sadness plagued her so. Who would cause this woman such sorrow?

"Kelly?" Susan broke my reverie.

"Yes?" I replied with a smile.

"I've had a wonderful evening. I don't think I've enjoyed someone's company so fully as I have tonight with you,' she admitted.

"I feel the same way. I wasn't sure if you'd feel comfortable eating with a stranger, but I took that chance. I'm glad that I did," I confessed.

"You weren't a stranger to me, I saw you almost every day for just about three weeks," the blonde woman challenged.

"Well, I guess that's true in a sense, but we really didn't speak until today," I retorted.

"Well, I've spoken enough for the both of us," she smiled. "Why don't you tell me a bit about you?" The brown eyed girl asked.

God, what do I tell her about myself that I actually want to talk about?

Well, that ends this conversation.

Oh shut up!

"Well, I work for Saks right by where you work. I've been there a long time," I began.

"That must be why you dress so well," Susan almost blushed.

"Yeah, I have to look the part, I guess," I smirked.

"What do you do for them?" Susan asked.

"I'm a Regional Director," I shrugged.

"Wow, you are in charge of a lot of people then?" She questioned.

"Yes. I have about fifty stores that I'm responsible for. As you know there are quite a few employees that work in the stores, too. It's been quite a challenge," I puffed out my chest with pride. I really loved my job.

"I bet it has. That's great that you seem to really like your job. I can't say that I always feel that way," she honestly said.

"After listening to you speak earlier, I would've thought that you were really happy," I said confused.

"It's not that I don't like the job per se, sometimes it just gets too much. There's so much sadness in people, especially the ones that I see. The ones that have the courage to keep going are the ones that I hope to model myself after. I really look up to them, if that makes any sense whatsoever," she paused and then started up again.

"There was a time when I would have scoffed at people like the ones I work with," she said softly.

"What happened?" I really was genuinely interested.

"My life did a complete three sixty," she said a little bitterly.

"I'm sorry, I don't mean to be nosy. We can talk about something else," I said as I looked at my watch and realized we had been sitting at this table for almost four hours. "Susan, it's getting kind of late, and as much as I really want our night to keep going, I have an early meeting tomorrow morning." I said rather sadly.

"Sure, it's ok. I have to work as well in the morning. You can just drop me off by my work. I can catch a cab from there." She stated.

I looked at her in disbelief. "Susan, it's after eleven. I wouldn't feel right sending you home in a cab at this hour," I said with concern.

"Well, I live right outside of the city. It'll take you about 30 minutes or so to get there. Are you sure you don't mind?" Susan asked shyly.

"No problem at all," I beamed.

I'd drive all night for you.

Do I hear warm fuzzy tones coming from you?

Oh fuck off! I'm enjoying her company. A lot.

She could be good for you, Kelly.

No one should be that good.

Ha ha.

We walked out of the restaurant and headed back to the car. She walked slowly in front of me and the wind was blowing her scent into my nose. She smelled so good. I didn't want our night to end. I wanted to get to know Susan more than I've ever wanted to know anyone.

What is it about you?


What's wrong with me? I can't stop wanting her to stay up all night with me. I can't believe she's offered to take me home. Watching her all through dinner was making me rather twitchy. I can't tell how she feels. Is she looking for a friend? Or a friieennnddd? I am hoping for the latter.

She's incredible.

She seemed so interested in listening to my tale of woe. I don't know if I want to dredge up those feelings again. My parents abandoning me, is just not the kind of talk before foreplay.

Did I just say that?

Yes ma'am you did. Ho.

Am not. She's just giving me feelings I haven't had in a very long time. I could use some casual sex in my life.

Yeah, because that's what you're all about. That damn casual sex girl.

Shut up! I know I'm not like that, but I'm feeling things for her that usually take a few weeks to feel.

Just admit that you really like her.

Yes I do. Very much. I could get lost in those baby blues.

The car was so comfortable to sit in. The seats in the BMW were heated and hugged me. I forgot how much I liked these cars. Dad had a couple that I remember really liking. Too bad he loved his cars more than his own kid. I'm pretty sure he made my mom's decision for her. I really thought that we had a better relationship than that. She always said she wanted me to be happy. No one said that being gay wasn't in that equation.

"Where should I turn?" Kelly asked as we hit the split in the highway.

"Take a left and get on Touhy," I directed.

"Ok, just keep telling me when to turn," she smiled that beautiful smile at me.

Oh God, I'm so whipped.

"So do you have any plans for Christmas?" The blue eyed woman asked.

"No not really. You?" I had no one I'd want to spend the holidays with.

"I usually go to the movies," she smirked.

"Alone?" I couldn't believe she didn't have someone to share the holidays with.

"Yes, alone," she said rather sadly.

"Don't you have any family?" I could tell that I hit a nerve with that question. "I'm sorry, you don't need to answer that. I don't mean to pry," I apologized.

"No, don't worry about it," she continued to drive silently. "My dad left when I was a little girl, I don't really remember him."

"I'm so sorry, Kelly."

Nice going Susan, wanna put some more salt in that wound?

Hush! I already feel like shit.

"Thanks," she quietly said. "My mom died when I was seventeen. I've been on my own since then. I've actually worked for Saks since then," she revealed.

"Oh God, I'm sorry, Kelly. Remind me to remove my foot from my mouth sometime later ok?" I mentally kicked myself.

"Hey, you didn't know. Besides, I figured if I told you something about myself, you'd open up a little about what makes you so sad," she said softly.

"Oh…" I didn't know what to say. No one other than Carol really gave a shit about me and my life. "If you turn into the next drive, we'll be at my place. If you'll come up for a drink or something, we can talk more. OK? If it's not too late for you?" I asked while pointing towards the parking lot.

"Sounds good to me," she beamed.

"Alright then," I swallowed.

She's coming up… oh God.


Chapter Four


We walked from Kelly's car towards my building. I never expected to have her here. I hope she knows what she's getting into. I have a studio apartment that's barely big enough for myself. I've only lived here a couple years. Carol from work found this place for me when I was at my worst. I'll never forget how she found me. It seemed like so long ago.

"Hey, you ok?" The large woman asked.

"Who are you?" The shivering mouth chattered.

"A friend. Can I get you something to eat?" Carol smiled.

"Why? What do you want in exchange? I won't do nothing for it. I'd rather starve," the smaller woman spat. "I don't have any friends."

"Sure, you do. I'm here aren't I?" Carol attempted again.

"So you've said. I also told you, I'm not interested," Susan said sternly.

"Well, there's a group of us willing to give you and any of your friends around here, some food. We have a van around the corner. It’s good and warm too, if you are interested," the larger woman finished.

The smaller woman just continued to stare at the older one. "Why are you doing this? You some sort of good deed doer? I'm not a charity case," she eyed the floor of her cardboard home.

"I'd never say that. I'm just offering a little Christmas spirit around here. If you're interested, we're right over on Lincoln Ave." Carol pointed.

"Yeah, whatever. Give my best to St. Nick," Susan said bitterly.

"See you later, honey," Carol smiled down at the frail woman in front of her.

"I'm not your honey," she mumbled back.

"God, I was so mean to her. Hell, I was mean to everyone. I just didn't want anything from anyone. It's how I was learning to live," I said as I finished the beginning of my heart to heart with Kelly on my couch.

"I'm so sorry, Susan. It must've been so lonely and scary out there," Kelly whispered while staring around the small apartment. "Can I ask you a really personal question?"

"You can ask… but we'll see if I can or want to answer it," I was unsure what she wanted to know.

Like it matters. You'd tell her anything.


"What put you out there? The streets I mean. You're so young, I guess I'm just really naïve to the idea of young people living in boxes in the city. You read about this stuff all the time, but… I don't know… I guess I don't know how it all happens."

"Hmmm…" I paused. I really wanted to talk about this. As much as it hurt to bring up, maybe it would make me feel better if I did. "Well, I don't know if this is going to bother you at all, but I'm gay. I've known I was gay since… well, shit, I can't remember a time when I wasn't," I smiled at a grinning, nodding face.

"I can relate," she smiled. "Please, go on," she urged.

"Well, my mom and I had always had a great relationship. Or so I thought. I was nineteen when I kissed my first girl. I was a slow learner compared to some, I'm sure. I had finally found out what all the hype was about," I paused to take a sip of tea that I had made before we sat down. "I mean, I had kissed several guys, but there was never any kind of hoopla or fireworks, like people say happen all the time. Nothing. I thought I was defective or something," I chuckled with Kelly.

"Believe me, Susan, I thought the same things. I thought that I just wasn't doing enough of the kissing and touching thing. Well, before I knew it, I'd slept with some guy and I STILL had no idea of what pleasure was all about. Coming to terms with your sexuality is a really hard process. I wouldn't go through that hell again if you paid me to," Kelly said matter of factly.

"Yeah, well, neither would I. It amounted to more than that in my case though. I started seeing this girl named Cindy. She was really wonderful. I thought I'd found the person I would grow old with. We were really good friends first, which made me happy. I'm not the kind of girl to jump in the sack with just anyone," I noted my own disappointment in that last statement. Maybe things wouldn't have been so bad had I just slept around for a bit.

"I can't say that I haven't had one night stands unfortunately. I've had plenty of them. They don't leave you feeling much of anything though. I always felt so empty after them," Kelly admitted quietly.

"Do you still do that?" I asked, my interests peaked.

I noticed our bodies were slightly touching as we continued to speak like we'd known each other our whole lives.

"No… um… I uh… let's just say, it's been awhile," she blushed.

"It's alright, Kelly," I said as I touched her leg. "Don't be embarrassed with me, I won't tell anyone," I smiled.

"Why shouldn't I be with you? We barely know each other and here we are talking as if we've been friends since birth!" Kelly joked.

"I know, it's very odd to me as well," I agreed.

"Hey, I'm sorry. I get off on tangents. Please tell me about Cindy," she urged.

"Oh yea, well, we dated for about three months or so. We had it made, for the most part. Her parents didn't care if I slept over there, and mine loved Cindy coming over. That is until they found out we were lovers," I paused.

"Oh no," blue eyes widened.

"Oh yes." I finished.

"What happened?" Kelly asked.

"I had told my mother and father that I was gay. I knew that I couldn't lie to them anymore. Like good loving parents, they said it was a phase and that I would get over it. Well, I didn't get over it. I told them that it was who I was and I wasn't going to change. They told me that it was nonsense, and that women of the McGovern family got married, raised their kids and lived like they did. I told them I wanted all of that. Just not with a man. They weren't very happy at all," I paused and took a deep breath. The feelings running through me were ones I had kept away for so long. I had forgotten how much they hurt.

"They told me that something was wrong with me and they would get me some help. My father was just so awful about this. He was so mean to me. He called me a mistake, and that I shouldn't have been born. All the things that I never expected to hear out of my father's mouth,"

"I'm so sorry, Susan. That must have been so hard for you," Kelly comforted as she put her hand on mine.

"Yeah, well, I found out the true colors of my dad that day. I think my mom really wanted to understand. My dad wouldn't let that happen. She either agreed with him, or she was no better than I was. It's obvious which choice she made," I took a deep breath knowing the next part of the story. "They told me that if I was going to be a McGovern, that I would get help, medical help to heal the homosexual inside of me."

"Oh, Christ!" Kelly blurted out.

"I know, I couldn't believe it either. Needless to say, I was just about twenty years old, I had one year of college under my belt and I never had to work a day in my life. I knew I had no options at the time, so I agreed to go away on retreat with a group of other 'people like me' to get the help that I supposedly needed.

"Later that evening, I'd told Cindy what was happening. I knew she wasn't going to do anything about it, she was scared to death to tell her parents about her, too. We cried and cried, knowing that we would be apart for about six weeks or so. I guess my parents paid for the 'extra cleansing' package," I bitterly laughed. "Then I told my folks that Cindy was gonna sleep over before I went away, and they didn't think twice about it," I shrugged. "Why would they right? Cindy and I had been friends a long time.

"Cindy came over that night. I had two beds in my room, in case of sleepovers and stuff. Well, we wanted to sleep together in my bed. My parents were supposedly asleep and I really wanted to hold her. I knew that I wouldn't get to do that for a long time. Well, Cindy climbed into my bed and we started kissing. It got really hot and stuff and our hands were all over each other. We stripped off our clothes and started to make love. Cindy tended to get a bit vocal when she reached, well, you know," I blushed in spite of myself.

"Mmhmm," Kelly giggled and sipped her tea, almost snorting the liquid out of her nose.

"So anyway, my mom was up watching TV in her room, she heard Cindy moaning and thought something was wrong. She burst into my room and found me on top of Cindy, naked and sweaty and still inside of her!" I exclaimed.

"Oh, Jesus! What a visual!" Kelly nearly shouted.

"Yeah, unfortunately, it was the beginning of the end for both of us," I slumped back on the couch.

"So what happened to you?" Kelly leaned back with me. She turned to face me and placed her hand on my knee.

"My father burst into the room after my mom screamed. I told my mom to close the door so we could get dressed, but she didn't, so my dad saw us both naked too. It was really humiliating," I continued. "She finally closed the door and Cindy and I were crying because we didn't know what would come next. It was all happening so fast."

"God, I can't even imagine dealing with that." Kelly said sadly.

"Cindy's parents were called by mine, they came to get her and I wasn't allowed to see her again. I was the one who changed her. It was all my fault. I was the perverted one. So my parents kicked me out without any more than the clothes on my back. I had no job, I had no money, I had nothing," I said as the tears threatened to spill. "I went to anyone's house that I could, to see if I could stay with them for a while until I got a place of my own. I thought, 'no problem, I'll just get a job and get my own apartment'. It wasn't that simple. Every house I went to, my friends were either away at school, or their parents called mine to find out what happened, and then they wouldn’t let me stay there either. I was fucked with no kiss. Up shit's creek with no paddles. You get the idea,"

"Unfortunately, I do," she started. "I'm so sorry. I wish I could say more. I just…"

"Hey, don't worry about it. I'm still alive, I'm breathing, and feeling pretty good about myself now."

"How? How can you go through that and be alright?" Kelly was genuinely concerned.

How indeed?

You were there you idiot, it wasn't an easy road.

"Well after my resources ran out, I started getting into a bad scene, drugs, sex, the usual. I never thought that I'd let someone fuck me for money,"
I said with disgust. "I didn't have any choices. I couldn't get a real job. I had no clothes other than the ones I left with, and I hadn't had a shower in forever, it was hell. Luckily for me, it was summer going into autumn and it wasn't that cold out. I found a group of people that pretty much brought me down to the Heights. It was a place they called home, I never knew why they called it that until I found out what kind of heights their drugs took me to. It was outside of the city and it was pretty safe. We hung out together and tried to take care of each other as much as possible. You'd be amazed how fast all your morals go down the toilet when you are scrounging for food. I stole when I could and from whomever I could."

Kelly sat with her head leaning against the cushions of the couch with unshed tears in her eyes. I heard her sniffle once or twice, but it was very hard for me to look at her as I told this story. This was the first time I had told this story in over two years. She continued to silently listen as her fingers brushed softly against the fabric on my pants.

"I continued to get high, a lot. It took some of the pain away. Not enough, unfortunately. I started to need more and more to keep the highs going. I'd lied to too many of the people that I was considering my friends, and they sent me away from them. They told me to get lost and to stay away from them if I knew what was good for me. Needless to say, I didn't know better. I went back begging for a hit… for anything. They beat the shit out of me. I was left to die, bleeding in an alley. Death would've been better then what the next years had in store for me.

"I lived out of a cardboard box. I ate only if I could find something. I stood outside in the back of some restaurants and just waited for them to take out the trash. I never thought that I would be eating someone else's leftovers. I grew up in the North Shore for Chrissakes!" I shouted and whipped my hands around. "I was a savage for lack of a better term. I did what I had to do to survive. As much as I prayed the sun wouldn't come up on some days, it always did much to my chagrin.

"One day, a woman came into view around Christmas time about two years ago. She was from ForOthers, Inc. They had a food van and were driving around giving food to those of us that needed it or just wanted to eat real food for a change. I was very reluctant to take their offered help, to say the least. The last time I hooked up with anyone, I got the shit kicked out of me. There was no way I was trusting anyone else," I paused to drink my almost cold tea.

"What changed your mind about… um, Carol? Was that her name?" Kelly asked with her eyes pinning me to my seat.

"Yeah, Carol. There was just something in her eyes that told me that she wasn't going to hurt me. She really was here to help. I finally gave in to her kindness. It only took about four weeks. Every day she came up to me and asked how I was and if I wanted anything to eat. She was relentless. I swear she was an angel in disguise. She came to me at a very critical time in my life. Right after I met her, I got really sick. I was hit with pneumonia. I thought for sure my number was up. Carol was right there for me. She got me into the clinic right off Randolph Lane and they let me in no problem. Normally, they wouldn't look twice at someone like me. Carol said that I worked for her and they took me in. I was there for two weeks. I couldn't breathe without feeling like I was hacking up a lung. I had lost more weight, if that were possible. They were afraid that I was gonna die just from malnutrition. Carol would have none of that. I didn't know why, but she took me in. She cared so much. She took care of me as if I was her own."

"She sounds like a wonderful woman," Kelly smiled.

"Yes, she was. She died last year from a heart attack," I could no longer hold back the tears that had been wanting out all night. "She was overweight and never even saw it coming. Before we could get her some help, she was gone." I started to cry. Kelly reached around me and held me to her. I had my head on her shoulder as she rubbed my head. God she felt wonderful. I hadn't been held like this for as long as I could remember.

"Shhh…it's ok, Susan. It's ok… I'm right here," she soothed.

"I'm sorry, Kelly," I sniffled back more tears. "I can't remember the last time I felt the need to cry."

"It's alright. You go ahead. I don't mind," she softly said.

I heard her humming as she rocked me gently. I felt myself begin to calm down. I pulled back and wiped my face in embarrassment. Kelly took my chin in her hands and smiled.

"You're a very beautiful woman, Susan. Inside and out. Carol saw that, I'm sure of it. That's why she took care of you. She saw what I see," she continued.

"And what is it that you see, Kelly?" I questioned.

"I see a very strong but caring woman that has fought to be the person she is today. You sacrificed your life to be the person that you knew you were. Even though that meant that you were put in death's alley. You fought to stay alive and you won! She saw the fire in your eyes that I see. That fire keeps you going, Susan. It's the reason you weren't beaten. It's the reason that you help the people that you do on a daily basis. You are truly incredible," she smiled.

"I can only help the ones that will accept my help. There are so many people out there that are stubborn like I was, and won't take any handouts. Those are the ones I feel for. They are the ones that might not make it. I hate knowing that and I'll do what I can to change their minds. I want to be for them what Carol was for me. After I was well, she gave me a job with ForOthers, Inc. She had worked for them after she had been on the streets as well. It's amazing how life comes full circle, you know? I can't not do what I do knowing that there might be someone out there, like I was, that I can help," I said as the tears rolled down my cheeks.

"What about your parents? Have you heard from them at all?" Kelly asked while wiping my cheeks with her fingers.

"Fuck them!" I spat. "They kicked me out. They didn't want me. She chose to stay with him instead of helping her own child, just because I was gay! What the hell kind of mom was she?" I couldn't keep the anger from my voice.

"Shh… I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that," she said as she pulled me close to her again.

God she smelled so good. Her arms around me felt as natural to me as my own skin.

She could be the one that Cindy wasn't.


I felt her kiss the top of my head and rest her cheek there. I knew that I might have said too much. Once I started, I just couldn't stop. She was so comfortable to talk to. I couldn’t help it. I hope I don't become just a sad story line character to her. I couldn't take that.

She isn't like that and you know it.

How do I know? We just met!

Ask your heart. She knows too.

My heart?

Yeah, you know, that thing that's beating incredibly fast because you're in Kelly's arms.

Oh, shut up.


Make me!

"Susan?" Kelly said softly.

"I'm sorry, what?" I husked.

"It's almost 3 a.m. I really hate to do this, but I really have to get going," she said as she continued to rub circles on my back.

"Oh my God. I didn't mean to ramble on the way that I did. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make this out to be the 'Poor Susan Show'."

"Hey, I wanted to know about you. Remember? I asked." I felt her voice vibrate into my body.

I pulled back to look into her eyes. I saw only sincerity and compassion.

"Thank you for sharing your story with me. What are you doing tomorrow night?" Kelly asked.

"Nothing. It's Friday. I'm off all weekend. I usually just do laundry and some errands."

"Not tomorrow. I want very much for you to come out with me again. This time, I'd like for you to come to my home. I'd love to cook for you," She smiled that beautiful smile at me.

"You cook, do you?" I grinned back at her.

"Yes. I make homemade pasta and a killer Alfredo sauce. You game?" She arched her eyebrows and hope filled her eyes.

"I'd love to. But next time it's all about you. Deal?" I asked hoping she knew what I meant. We untangled and stretched our cramped muscles as we stood for the first time in hours.

"Deal. It's my turn to share a little bit of me with you. I feel very honored that you shared your story with me, Susan. I'll take this with me to the grave. I won't ever break the confidence that you've put in me. Thank you for inviting me up. I really had a wonderful time tonight."

"Me too. Thank you for coming here. I hope it didn't feel too cramped for you. There's barely enough room in here for me." I joked and gestured around the one-roomed space.

"It was very homey. There's a lot of you in this little place. I like that. You do a lot with what you are given. That's a rare gift. It's really nice to see." She smiled.

I walked into the kitchen and rinsed our two mugs out in the sink and walked Kelly to the door.

"You want me to walk you to your car?" I asked.

"Nah, I'm a big girl. Besides, it's cold out there and you're already nice and warm in here." She leaned closer and I felt my breathing hitch a bit. She reached out to me and I fell into her arms as if it were out of habit. We fit so well together. It was if we were two halves of a whole. Well, an uneven whole, being that our heights were so different. I didn't care, this felt more right than anything I had ever experienced.

We pulled apart and she gave me a lopsided smile. "I'm gonna pay for this tomorrow morning, that's for sure. I think my meeting is gonna be in the Guinness book for 'world's shortest board meeting'." She laughed.

"Yeah, well there's no way I'm gonna fall asleep on the job tomorrow. I'm sure the wind will keep me wide awake!" I laughed back.

"Oh, God. How do you stand the weather?" she asked.

I reached up and pulled my sweater up so she could see my underclothes. "Long john's save my life." I grinned with her.

"I bet they do." We paused and just stared at each other for a little longer. "Well, I guess I should get going."

"Yeah, it's late. Tomorrow night then?" I asked trying to hold back my excitement.

"Count on it." She winked. "Good night, Susan. Thank you for a wonderful evening."

"I don't know how you could say it was wonderful. I talked your ear off," I quipped back.

"And you have a beautiful voice." She leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on my cheek. "See you tomorrow."

A bit taken back, I stuttered. "Y..yeah… I'll see you tomorrow. Goodnight, Kelly. Please drive safely."

"You got it. Bye," she waved.

With that my mystery woman walked down the hall and out of the building. I closed the door and rested my body against it as it shut. I drew a deep breath and sighed contentedly. For the first time in my life I think I've found someone to fill the hole in my heart that's been there since Cindy and I were together.

I told you so.

Oh just be quiet. Can you do that for me? Please? Just this once? Let me enjoy this.


Thank you.

But I still told you so.


Walking into my bathroom, I started getting ready for bed. I brushed my teeth and washed my face and smiled at my own reflection. I walked over to the couch and pulled out my bed from underneath the cushions and threw the blankets on the wrinkled sheets. I grabbed my pillows from behind the couch and flopped my body into bed. As much as I wanted sleep to claim me, I knew it wouldn't come anytime soon. I closed my eyes and said a small prayer of thanks to Carol. She was truly my angel and she's definitely still working hard at her job.