Forgotten Love

By: Cher Etan


Allen was cautious about agreeing to things blind but she’d proved legit so far. “Sure, I’d like to. Just tell me how.”

“Come with me,” she said heading for the door.

*****

Karl Valence, her employer and local bookie was only too happy to take on another collector. Business was good and kids were cheap. Besides, Allen looked like a capable individual if a bit soft. At fifteen years old, he was already six feet tall and well built. Karl decided to pair him with Frances; she was a tough cookie but small. If she had ‘enforcement’ with her he could expand her scope of collection. She was a remarkably effective collector; never left without getting her cash. Karl had his eye on her.

Allen and Frances worked well together; they complemented each other quite well and Karl was happy with the work they did. Allen had been reported missing by his uncle though, because you couldn’t be the guardian for someone if they weren’t present and accounted for and his uncle had been cut off until Allen was found. A reward had been put out for his recovery; and one of the clients they collected from recognized Allen. He wasn’t about to pass up a two hundred thousand dollar pay day so he called the number given on the poster. Two days later, police showed up at their bunker and tried to take Allen away. He refused to leave Frances behind despite her reassurances that she would be just fine. Allen’s uncle was not on board with having another mouth to feed but Allen went around him and spoke to the administrators himself. His three months on the street had taught him to stand up for himself and he felt like Frances was the only real friend he’d ever had. At least the only friend who wanted nothing from him. All she had done was look after him and helped him without asking for anything in return. Allen owed her.

The administrators proposed a one off pay off to Frances but Allen felt that would be too tacky. Besides he was pretty sure Frances would refuse it. His counter proposal was that they could take her in. The administrators were reluctant to do that and insisted on doing a background check on her. Allen was fine with that, if only because she’d kept her history pretty close to her chest and Allen was curious. It was a typical story though; her mother was a crack addict who over dosed one day when Frances was ten years old. Frances was home at the time and waited for two days for her mother to come home. When she didn’t, and Frances got hungry, she ventured out to look for her and for food. For a few days, she surfed the dumpsters, and filched fruit at the market. She avoided soup kitchens because they might want to know where her guardian or parent was. Even at ten years old, she knew what could happen to her and she wanted no part of foster homes and she didn’t want to leave her mother. She went back to the apartment to sleep and check to see if her mother had returned; until the landlord threw her out for not paying rent. Then she was out on the street, alone and penniless. She was a survivor though and quickly found an abandoned building to live in. She joined up with Karl Valence not long after. The administrators were worried that Frances would bring her shady past into Allen’s life with her and tried to dissuade him from his plan to give her shelter. Frances was fine with just going back to her crib; she had lived on the street for four years; she was used to it.

“Shut up and eat your breakfast,” Allen said the first time Frances tried to suggest she mosey on out and head back to the bunker before someone else discovered it.

“Why? Would you want to do this to yourself. You don’t really know me-“ she began to say.

“You didn’t know me when you took me home with you,” he interrupted her.

“Yeah well…” Frances smiled and shrugged one shoulder. “You wouldn’t have survived a week on your own.”

“True,” Allen agreed smiling back.

“You don’t owe me anything,” Frances said.

“Sure I don’t. Do you not want to stay with me?” he asked.

“What’s not to want?”Frances asked spreading out her hands to indicate the lavishness of the room they were breakfasting in.

“Well then? Stay.”

“Okay then.”

“Cool,” Allen said happily.

“What shall I do while you’re in school all day?” she asked.

Allen frowned at her. “You’ll come with me,” he said, like it was a foregone conclusion.

Frances frowned. “I don’t think so. I don’t really have any formal education; I’d have to go to the first grade or something.”

Allen looked perturbed. “Oh…well. We could hire a tutor,” he suggested.

“Hey, don’t stir yourself on my account, I’ll be fine.”

Allen said nothing but the next week, he went to discuss with his administrators the possibility of getting a tutor for Frances. They told him that as guardian, his uncle would have to sign off on that. Allen knew his uncle was resentful of Frances’ presence in their household, he called her a gold digger to her face and was rude to her when Allen wasn’t around. Still, Allen had learned to stand up to him, stand his ground; so he knew he would get what he wanted. He had his uncle’s number now, knew how to handle him. So he went in with a proposal; he would agree to endow his uncle with ten million dollars as soon as he attained his majority if he didn’t stand in the way of Frances staying with them, and signing off on anything they needed him to. If he refused, Allen would leave him on the street as soon as he was legal. His uncle could hardly refuse.

Frances got a tutor and Allen’s uncle signed off on her staying with them. She wasn’t in the system which meant nobody was looking for her. She would have to get into the system at some point, if she wanted to be a productive member of society so Allen had his lawyers working on that.

Frances turned out to be pretty bright and soaked up knowledge like a sponge. Her tutor was very impressed with her progress and informed Allen’s uncle as the legal guardian that he most likely had a genius on his hands. Since Michael St. James couldn’t care less how bright Frances was, he just grunted and handed the tutor his check for the week.

*****

Allen was a popular boy in high school. He had street cred for running away from home…And bringing back a street kid to live with him. He was also an orphan, a rich one at that, which added to his allure. He had no problem getting dates but he didn’t really have a steady girlfriend. He didn’t feel like anyone really understood him…except maybe Frances. She was his best friend and confidante. She made no effort to fit in with his school friends, tending to go off on her own with a book. But she always had time for him. His friends thought she was a strange girl, whose hair could use a trim maybe, possibly a stylist. Frances thought it was a huge compromise that she combed it everyday so she wasn’t about to sit in a salon chair and allow herself to be transformed into some stranger just so Allen’s friends could feel that she was less strange. She was strange, she accepted that; she didn’t see how it was anybody’s problem but hers. she figured she was making a major concession combing her hair every day.

When Allen was eighteen he met a girl; she was new in town, worked at the coffee shop where he stopped off every morning on the way to school. She was tall and blonde; beautiful in a fragile sort of way. Even though she was almost five foot eleven, there was something delicate about her that awakened Allen’s protective instincts. The first time they met, her boyfriend was bothering her at work, and her supervisor was inclined to let her go because of it; he had no time for that sort of drama in his establishment. Allen stepped in, defended her and saved her job. He also gave her (ex) boyfriend a black eye. It was the beginning of a tumultuous relationship.

Frances didn’t like her on sight; she felt that Kristen was too clingy, needy and manipulative for Allen’s good. She didn’t try to step between them though – she knew it was none of her business much as she wanted to tell him to kick her to the curb. She kept to herself instead, especially when Kristen was around. Kristen didn’t like her either; she viewed her as too much of a threat since she lived in Allen’s house and was his best friend. She tried her best to drive a wedge between them as subtly as she could. She came over during the weekends to see him, and when she found them together, she got sulky. She tried to complain to Allen about Frances ‘always’ being around like she was cock blocking them. Allen didn’t see it though; he was used to Frances always curled up somewhere nearby with a book. It comforted him to know she was there. And she didn’t really stop them from doing anything. They could make out if they wanted, or even get to third base, Frances didn’t so much as look up. She’d seen her fill of sexual acts on the street; she had told him that she had no interest in voyeurism as a result. Allen wondered sometimes if she’d maybe experienced more than witnessing sexual acts because she seemed to have absolutely no interest. It worried him sometimes, how aloof she was from the whole teenage romance scene but then she didn’t go to school; maybe she just hadn’t met anyone she was interested in. Still, Allen preferred not to leave her completely to her own devices and he didn’t see why Kristen couldn’t just get along with her.

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