Forgotten Love

By: Cher Etan

Chapter 1


“You want to leave me over some bullshit like this? Okay then, go! Leave!” Frances began pushing Allen until his legs were outside the door. Then she collapsed on the floor and cried until she had no more tears. She didn’t expect that he would try to come back. He was about as mad as she was. It wasn’t her fault; she was trying her best. She couldn’t help the fact that her book had suddenly blown up; that she was now as busy as he was. It wasn’t her fault they didn’t get to spend as much time as they used to together. The problem with Allen St. James is that he was spoiled; being the man with the money meant that he didn’t have to wait his turn for everything. He was always ushered to the front of the line, always the one who kept people waiting. She’d stood by his side these ten years, ever since they were two teenage kids who found themselves on the street with no one to rely on but each other. Allen’s parents had been killed in a plane crash coming back from the island of St. Maarten where they’d been celebrating their twenty year anniversary. Fourteen year old Allen had been left with an uncle for the duration. When the dust had settled and the lawyers had departed, Allen was left with a hundred and thirty million in assets and stock options and a battle on his hands from his father’s former partner on who owned what. As a result of the prolonged and ugly nature of the case he was left at the mercy of a man who cared nothing for him. He ran off at fifteen, opting to live on the streets rather than continue subjecting himself to his uncle’s abusive behavior. He would have been dead inside a week if he hadn’t encountered Frances on his second day.

He was hunched over behind a dumpster, having been robbed of all his belongings but not yet hungry enough to sift through the garbage for food. Frances was just coming off her shift; she worked as a collector for a local bookie and had just finished her rounds. Sure she was a small girl but she was also fast and she knew how to use a baseball bat to lethal effect. She didn’t have to mostly; the customers she collected from knew her, knew who she represented; and knew what would happen to them if they tried anything weird. It was illegal sure, and she spent approximately half her time dodging the cops but it beat turning tricks for a living.

Normally, she didn’t try to get too involved with other street kids; they tended to want to suck you into their sorry existences – whether it was sex or drugs or both. It was a downhill destination and Frances wasn’t having any of it. She had a plan, and she was getting out, going straight and legit. She was going to be a writer. She already wrote; had pages and pages of short stories beneath her bed. She wanted to get a locker to store it all in; she knew that the bunker where she stayed wasn’t safe from vandals. Still it was as secure as she could make it and it would have to do for now. Something about this kid made her stop though. He wasn’t the usual type of street kid. She couldn’t quite put her finger on why though. Maybe it was that his face was just too clean; or his hands were free of tracks…anyway, whatever the reason; she stopped and stared at him.

“Whassup witchu?” she asked him. He looked right miserable slumped as he was between the dumpster and the brick wall that housed the neighborhood soup kitchen. It wouldn’t be open for at least another four hours. He looked up at her with the most extraordinary gray eyes she’d ever seen.

“Leave me alone,” he said dully, sounding defeated by life already.

Frances hesitated; she really should do as he said and keep walking. Her bed was calling.

“You need help man?” she asked instead.

He stared at her speculatively and she wondered what he was seeing.

*****

What Allen was seeing was a petite dark haired light skinned black girl with green eyes and the most unkempt hair he’d ever seen on a female. It was long almost reaching halfway down her diminutive frame and looked like it had about zero acquaintance with a comb. She looked like a strong breeze could blow her over in spite of the baseball bat she was holding in her tiny hand. She couldn’t be more than ten years old and here she was asking him if she could help him?

“I got a bunker if you need somewhere to sleep,” she said, he couldn’t tell if her complexion was naturally glowy or she was blushing. Surely she wasn’t suggesting…

“You really shouldn’t invite strange men to follow you home you know,” he told her chidingly.

She laughed. He raised his eyebrows in disbelief as she stood there laughing at him, a deep rich honeyed belly laugh that seemed to come right from the center of her being. He frowned at her, wondering what was so funny.

“Are you coming or not?” she asked still smiling.

Allen was tired of the cold hard ground. He would be glad of a softer surface to lie down on, maybe somewhere warmer. Maybe she had some food she’d be happy to share with him? He didn’t like to take advantage of a kid, but he was cold, hungry and tired.

“Sure, I’ll come,” he said standing up.

He followed her through convoluted alleyways until she disappeared into a doorway he wouldn’t have seen if he wasn’t specifically looking for it. He followed her tentatively, wondering for the first time if this was a trick of some sort. The inside of the building was dark and dank; with the far off whiff of sewage permeating the air.

“Stay close,” her voice floated back to him from some point ahead. He hastened his footsteps to keep her white reflector jacket in sight. It was the only thing he could see in the black hallway. He heard a door open and then she switched on a light and he could see into the room. It was tiny, with a mattress on the floor, another baseball bat, a cardboard box with items on it that might be knick knacks or treasured family heirlooms for all Allen knew. There were also two pairs of shoes resting neatly side by side next to the bed; a pair of Nike sneakers and a pair of black boots. Allen’s eyes traveled to her feet; she was wearing another pair of sneakers, threadbare and old.

“You can have the floor,” she said gesturing to an empty corner of the small room. He crossed to it as she flopped onto the mattress, fiddling with something Allen couldn’t see. The whir of a machine suddenly filled the room with sound and Frances placed a small box like gadget next to her mattress. The room warmed slowly.

“Electric heater,” she said burrowing into her duvet and curling up. “Goodnight.”

Frances seemed to drop off to sleep and Allen was surprised at her ability to just relax her guard in front of a total stranger like him. Surely she knew better than that! Sure she had her baseball bat next to her but still…he looked around searching for something to use as a pillow. There was a pile of clothes nearby and he pulled the whole thing closer and placed his head on it. It was soft and the room was warm. He folded his hands on his chest and went to sleep.

*****

He woke to the smell of food permeating the tiny space. His stomach growled in response to the stimuli and he sat up almost before he’d even thought about it. Frances was fiddling with two paper plates containing French fries and cheeseburgers.

“Good morning,” she said without looking up.

“Morning,”, he replied eyes on the food.

“Bathroom is down the hall if you want to freshen up,” she said. Allen struggled to his feet.

“Thank you,” he said padding across the room and opening the door. The hall wasn’t so dark, a sliver of light illuminated the way to the bathroom. Allen hoped it wasn’t too gross; he put his shoes back on and walked cautiously down the hall. He pushed open the door, instinctively holding his breath. The bathroom though, was surprisingly clean. Clearly someone took the trouble to keep it that way. Allen used the facilities and then washed his face and hands and went back to the room.

“What is this place?” he asked. “Do you live here by yourself?”

Frances just looked at him with an inscrutable glance. “You didn’t give your name,” she said.

“Allen. Allen St. James. And you are…?”

“Frances Hilton,” she said.

“Oh. Any relation…?” he asked half joking.

“Sure. I’m related to the hotel mogul; it's why I’m living in this palace.”

“No need for sarcasm,” he mumbled sitting down next to her and taking the plate she handed him. He tucked into the food concentrating on eating. He needed to find a way to pay her back for the food and board. Maybe he could offer to be her bodyguard?

“How can I repay your kindness?” he asked.

Frances said nothing just continued to eat; only darting an eloquent glance in his direction as if to tell him to shut up. He continued to eat in silence, taking her lead.

*****

“So why did you run away from home?” she asked after they’d eaten. Allen jumped; somehow, he hadn’t expected that question.

“How did you know?” he asked.

“You’re no street kid,” she said, her eyes on the shoes she was lacing.

“Wow, is it that obvious?” he asked wryly.

“Kind of is, yeah,” she replied straightening up and looking at him. Allen shrugged.

“Okay then, yeah I ran. I don’t feel like talking about it though, if you don’t mind.”

“I don’t mind. You mind pullin your weight?” she asked.

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