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Joined: 12/11/2008
Msg: 1
Christmas in VegasPage 1 of 1    
Fran clutched her daughter's tiny hand until the child complained.

"Mama!" Kayla wiggled her fingers, trying to escape her mother's grasp.

"Sorry, baby."

The steady stream of traffic along the highway made Fran intensely nervous, which translated into a death grip on her 4-year-old daughter.

"Mama, I'm cold, and I'm hungry! Mt feet are tired! You're walking too fast!"

Now that Kayla had begun to complain, it seemed she could not stop. It was just past midnight in Las Vegas, and they had been chased from the cardboard box behind the grocery store that had been their unofficial home since early December. The store manager had been anything but sympathetic.

"I told you if I caught you out here again, I'd call the cops. They're on their way."

Thankfully Fran knew the short cuts and hidden passages around the city better than the police did. Now if she could just find a place for the night ...

With a burst of confidence, Fran raced across the 8-lane highway tugging Kayla in her wake. A backpack filled with their meager belongings bounced against her back and she mentally cursed the store manager for not giving her time to collect the two mission-issued blankets that they had been sleeping under since Tom disappeared.

"Mama, slow down!"

The child's little shoes slapped the pavement pitifully as she stumbled, trying to run as fast as her mother. The child was normally as spry and graceful as a deer, but the layers of clothing she wore to head off the chill of the desert night and to make traveling faster and easier, slowed her down.

"Kayla! You have to keep up!" Fran snapped, and then sighed with relief as she and Kayla safely reached the opposite curb. Kayla yawned, and murmured her discontent at having been rousted in the middle of the night and Fran's heart lurched in her chest as she fought back tears. She bent and lifted her daughter to her hip. "I can carry you for a little while, okay?"

The yawning jaw of a dark alley ahead beckoned, and Fran made her way toward it, hoping the alley was as empty as it appeared. Christmas music played softly somewhere off in the distance and Fran suddenly remembered that Christmas was less than a week away. Kayla had gone back to sleep, her soft, warm breath tickling Fran's neck as she snored softly.

A male voice drifted out of the darkness of the alley and Fran's senses were suddenly on high alert.

"There's a place here," the voice whispered, and Fran froze. In her experience, nobody did anything nice for free. Nobody did anything out of the kindness of their heart ... everything had a price.

She moved away from the voice without replying; better to pretend she hadn't heard than risk a confrontation.

"Look ... I ain't gonna hurt ya," the voice insisted.

Fran stiffened; these were the exact words that a man used before he turned right around and hurt you anyway.

"I'm leaving for awhile," the voice continued,"and I'd just as soon you stayed here, so nobody will steal my spot."

There was a shuffling sound and a shadow, darker than the gloom of the alley fell over Fran, and she hated how small it made her feel.

"There's a couple blankets and a foam mattress. You won't find anything better. If you stay here, then I won't have to tote this stuff around with me." A large hand wearing gloves with the fingertips cut out, came toward Fran in the darkness. It might as well have been a rattlesnake for the impact it had on Fran.

"Don't touch me!" she hissed, and the hand instantly withdrew.

"I was just going to introduce myself," the voice said apologetically, "name's Jed. I'm from Houston."

The shadow moved away and Fran breathed a sigh of relief.

"So, do we have a deal?" Jed asked. "Will you take care of my stuff if I let you use it? Promise not to go off and leave it before I get back?"

Fran stood like a statue, considering. The thought of a soft mattress and warm blankets whispered to her like a siren song.

"I'll even leave Joe with you, he won't let nobody mess with you."

Fran heard the sound of a dog's toenails on the concrete and then a cold nose pressed itself against the back of her left hand. The invisible dog whined as if to prove to her that he offered no threat. If only it hadn't been dark, if only she could see the man ... see his eyes, because his eyes would tell her what he was really thinking. Kayla chose that moment to whimper and shiver in her sleep.

"All right," Fran said, finally, "but if you mess with me or my daughter, I swear ..."

"You'll what ... ?" the voice challenged, and then Jed chuckled. "If you're gonna threaten someone, you oughta at least know what you're threatening them with."

Fran listened to Jed's footsteps as he moved away. "Stay, Joe," he said softly and the dog whined again.

After getting her daughter settled, Fran lay down beside her, grateful for the warmth of the dog who stretched out against her back, and despite her fears and worries, was asleep before Jed's footsteps faded into the darkness.

Fran woke the next morning to the sounds of traffic, the smells of cooking food from a nearby restaurant and the immediate, and bone-chilling knowledge that her daughter was missing. Gone too, was the dog, Joe, leaving her back exposed and cold.

"Kayla!" she cried, as she felt around in the blankets, hoping that she'd somehow simply overlooked her sleeping daughter's form. A man who leaned against the opposite wall of the alley with an empty liquor bottle in his hand, gazed at her quizzically, and then grinned a toothless grin, and pointed.

Fran's eyes followed his outstretched finger and there at the mouth of the alley sat Kayla with a large man in a tattered overcoat, and a German Shepherd with a grimy blue bandana tied around its neck. Jed and Joe, Fran surmised, and she felt her anger rise and heat her face like the first rays of the morning sun. She scrambled to her feet, and hurried to Kayla's side.

"What did I tell you about staying with me?" Fran ground out as she grabbed Kayla by the shoulder and shook her.

"Hey, hey ... easy now," Jed murmured, and Fran got her first look into his eyes. They were a startling shade of blue, like a clear sky on a summer morning. His face was square with a firm jaw, and Fran tried to guess his age as his eyebrows knitted slightly in amusement tinged with understanding. "She's fine ... we didn't want to wake you, but now that you're up, are you hungry?"

"Mama! Mr. Jed brought us biscuits and milk!" Kayla sang as she struggled out of Fran's grasp. "Let me go, I'm feeding Joe!"

The child was breaking off bits of stale biscuit and feeding them to the dog, who took each morsel with graceful patience.

Jed stood and stretched, while Fran fumed.

“Well, I've got things to do,” Jed announced, and Joe trotted to his side and stood, a silent canine sentry, poised to follow his master. “I don't know what you ladies have planned for today,” Jed said, “but if you can stay here and mind the home front, I'll bring back supper.”

“Mama, we can, can't we?” Kayla begged.

Jed turned his brilliant blue eyes on Fran expectantly.

“I ... I don't ... I was planning on going to the Christian Ladies Shelter, to see about getting a bed for Kayla and I.”

“You're too late. If you wanted to sleep there tonight you should have been there last night to ensure a spot. It's not the best system in the world. Look, for some reason the cops leave us alone here, but if I leave and take all my stuff, someone else will claim my spot, and it's a good spot. The further back in the alley you go, the worse it smells. If you stay here and guard the spot then we can all sleep here tonight.”

“Mama, I don't want to go to the shelter again,” Kayla whined, “I want to stay here with Jed!”

Fran thought of the relative pleasure of one day not spent walking around feeling the stares of pity and disgust from passersby. The gift of spending one day knowing that she wouldn't have to beg for money or food to feed her daughter.

“All right, but this doesn't mean we owe you anything,” Fran snapped.

“Perish the thought,” Jed quipped, and then he leaned down and gazed into Kayla's brown eyes, “see what you can do about making her smile while I'm gone, will ya?” he said, and inclined his head in Fran's direction.

“Okay!” Kayla agreed and then impulsively hugged Jed's neck. “Thank you for the biscuits and milk.”

Jed stood and winked at Fran. “Nice manners,” he said, and then he was gone.

Kayla spent the day running up and down the alley finding a dozen things to do to keep herself occupied as Fran shook out the blankets, folded them and then rolled up the mattress. There was a rucksack nearby filled with odds bits of clothing and Fran emptied it out, shook the sand out of the bottom and proceeded to refold and repack everything that was in it. Unlike her backpack, there was nothing in the rucksack that hinted at who Jed was. Aside from a crude jade cross at the end of a length of frayed yarn, there was nothing personal ... the items inside could have come from any used clothing thrift store.

After neatening Jed's things, Fran dumped out her backpack and began to tidy hers and Kayla's belongings; Kayla's Teddy bear, her pink hairbrush, and the odd bits and pieces of the only reminders of better times. Her hands fell on the framed photo that she carried of her and Tom and Kayla at Virginia Beach. The photo spoke to better times; they'd had a home, a decent car and friends. They'd had a life. The type of life that comes before crack cocaine finds its way in and shatters any illusion of normalcy. She gazed at the photo and tried to remember what it had been like before Tom had abandoned them. Memories flitted in and out of her mind and she pored over each one, like a woman with leprosy picks over her scabs and wounds, never letting them close, never letting them heal. Where was he now? Had he found a place where crack flowed like wine at a Roman feast? Had he been arrested? Was his body somewhere out in the desert ... waiting to be discovered by a hiker only to be planted in a grave marked with a John Doe marker?

“Mama! Mr. Jed is back!”

Fran was startled to find that she had been sitting as still as a statue as day crept into evening. How long had she been sitting there staring at the fragments of her life?

As Fran began to shove items back into her backpack, Joe trotted up and began to lick her face, offering an ecstatic greeting that made Fran giggle despite her morose thoughts.

“Stop ... crazy dog!” The more Fran tried to push the dog away, the more determined he became to heap his dog joy upon her. He arched his back, his rear end in the air and wagged not only his tail, but his entire south end while he attacked with his tongue, his head darting in and out, deftly dodging Fran's hands. Kayla threw herself into the mix, her squeals of delight warming Fran's heart as the dog turned his lavish attentions on her and licked the child's face and neck.

“Now that,” Jed said, as he eyed Fran's smile, “is a sight for sore eyes.”

He smiled, and Fran noted that he had perfect, straight white teeth. Under the grimy stocking cap he wore on his head, his face glowed with an almost ethereal quality. Fran was captivated again by eyes that were the color of fresh, clean water.

“Looks like you've been busy,” he remarked as he studied the area and the neatly stacked blankets.

“It was something to do,” Fran admitted.

“Well, we need to hurry, they'll be here soon,” Jed said. He squatted and began to unload items from the large plastic bag he carried.

“Who'll be here soon?” Fran queried, and Kayla rolled over and stared at Jed as he lined food items across the end of a blanket that he'd spread on the concrete. There were two loaves of 3-day-old bread, a tin of canned ham, a jar of pickles and a box of crumbled holiday cookies.

“The others,” Jed said simply, and nodded in the direction of a woman who had suddenly appeared at the entrance to the alley. She was dressed in typical bag lady fashion, and was pushing a shopping cart that was heaped with a variety of odd and ends that spoke to a nomadic existence.

The woman smiled and nodded at Kayla, ignoring Fran completely, and handed Jed an unopened gallon jug of drinking water.

“The drug store,” the woman muttered, “they threw it out because it was sticky on the outside. I washed it off ... poof! Good as new.”

Directly behind the woman, was the man that had been in the alley when Fran woke up that morning. In one hand he carried an empty liquour bottle, in the other he carried a bag of smashed and sticky marshmallows, which he laid on the blanket at Jed's feet.

As the sun sank into the western sky they came, one after the other like ghosts in ragged, tattered, clothing, while Kayla stared with round eyes.

“Look at them all. Who are they, Mama?”

“They're homeless, honey.”

Each one carried some item of food or drink, and deposited it on the blanket on the ground.

“Are we homeless, Mama?”

Fran's heart constricted and she swallowed around the hard lump in her throat. How did she go about admitting to her little daughter, who looked to her for everything, that she had allowed them to become street people? She thought of her own mother, who had turned her down flat when she called, looking for a place to stay.

“But, Mom ... we have no place else to go.”

“Your father and I told you that if you married that boy, you were on your own. You've made your bed, now you must lie in it.”

Fran gathered Kayla into her lap and kissed her cheek.

“No, honey, we're not homeless. We're waiting for a miracle.”

Jed's head came up, and he smiled at Fran and as if on cue the string of Christmas lights behind him at the store on the street corner winked on, and twinkled in the gloom of early evening.

“It's the season for miracles,” he said, and winked at Kayla, who giggled and accepted the sandwich that Jed offered, and bit into it hungrily.

By midnight the alley was filled with sleeping bodies. A fire burned in a metal can and Kayla slept, one arm thrown over Joe's neck, while Fran stood at the fire, trying to find enough warmth to take the cold knot of worry from the pit of her stomach.

“We're a family, you know.”

Jed's voice came out of the darkness and Fran jumped slightly. She had thought everyone was asleep but her. He nodded at the sleeping forms. “We look out for each other, and we help each other. I'm glad you found us,” Jed said.

“I'm glad I did, too,” Fran admitted honestly.

They stood together, their hands dangling near the dancing flames, their faces orange and rust in the glow of the fire.

“What are you going to do, Fran? You can't live like this forever.”

“Don't you think I know that?” You tell me what to do, she thought. You tell me how to fix this.

“You can do anything you want, you know, if you want it badly enough,” Jed said.

“Big talk coming from someone who is in the same boat as I am.”

Jed smiled, and once again Fran was help captivated by his face. She forced herself to look away, blushing furiously.

“Would you believe me if I told you that it was my choice to live this way?”

Fran scoffed. “Why would anybody choose to live this way?”

Jed was silent for a few moments and then he shrugged.

“Do you see old Pete lying over there? The one who always has the bottle in his hand? He's in his 70s and he's schizophrenic. He has no one, and he needs someone probably worse than anybody. I do my best to help him. That bottle he carries is always empty. He stopped drinking when I showed him that it was making his condition worse.” Jed smiled again. “When he first saw you he told me that you were an angel.”

Fran hugged herself and frowned. To her, Pete had been just another old drunk, looking for his next bottle.

“And Mable over there, lost her home to a fire. She's been on the streets for almost 5 years now. She has no other place to go.”

Fran gazed at the still form that was the woman who brought the gallon jug of water, and frowned. Jed went on, calling each of them by name, telling her their stories.

“Willie over there, at the mouth of the alley, has Alzheimer's. We all look after him.”

“And you do this out of the kindness of your heart?”

“Let's just say I kind of fell into it ... and besides, they look after me, too. And Joe.”

“You said you were from Houston ... how did you end up here?”

Jed, shrugged. “I'm from Houston of late, I'm from everywhere, really.”

“Everybody is from somewhere,” Fran said, “where is your family?”

“I don't have family.”

“You have to have family. A mother and father?”

“They've been gone a long time.”

“Aunts .. uncles ... cousins?”

“My parents were never married ... I don't know who my relatives are or where they are.”

“You have to have someone ...”

“I do,” Jed said, softly. “I told you, they,” he nodded at the alley, “are my family. You and Kayla are my family. Anyone who needs help becomes my family.”

“Well, we didn't need your help, you needed our help, remember? To watch your things.”

Jed chuckled, “Okay,” he said simply.

“I think we should get some sleep,” Fran said, and turned to walk away.

“You go ahead, I'll be along shortly.”

Fran wandered over to the mattress where Kayla was sleeping and slid in beside her. The cold desert night had penetrated her bones, and she was chilled throughout. She shivered as she pulled the blankets up over her arms, and tucked her chin into the crook between Kayla's neck and shoulders. Just before she closed her eyes she glanced back to the fire and watched as Jed bent down and knelt on the cold ground. Then he folded his hands together before his chin, and began to pray.

Days went by while Fran and Kayla got to know the alley people. Without exception, she found that they had no other recourse but to live on the streets. Jake Hall was a diabetic, and his medicine was so expensive that he couldn't afford to pay rent and utilities. Elizabeth Haley had lost her home when her apartment building was bought by a casino and torn down to build a parking garage.

“Sometimes I sleep on the fourth level, right where my apartment used to be. If I close my eyes and hold my breath so I can't smell the motor oil, I can pretend that I'm still living there.”

One after another, they told her about their losses, while Jed walked the city looking for whatever they needed most at the moment. Sometimes it was scraps of wood for the fire barrel, sometimes it was food, or more blankets. He amazed them all by somehow finding whatever it was that was needed.

Five days before Christmas, Jed returned to the alley carrying a plastic bag and deposited it at Fran's feet.

“What's that?”

The alley people began to gather around as Fran picked up the bag and held it on her lap.

“Just open it,” Jed urged, and the onlookers murmured encouragement.

Fran opened the bag and found a dark blue dress in her size, and a pair of matching shoes.

“It's your size isn't it?” Jed asked hopefully.

“Well, yes, but what do I need with clothing like this? It's not like I have anywhere to go ...”

At that point Pete handed her a scrap of newspaper. It was a section of the classifieds with one item circled, which Fran read out loud;

“Case worker needed for county homeless program. Must be
compassionate and nonjudgmental and willing to work closely
with indigents. Must have high school diploma. Experience
preferred, but will train.”

Fran folded the paper and gazed at Jed. “What is this?”

“What does it look like? It's an opportunity. An opportunity for you and Kayla ... to get off the streets. You graduated high school, right?”

“Well, yes! But I can't do this job!”

“Why not?” Elizabeth pressed. “Why couldn't you?”

“I have no experience with this kind of thing,” Fran argued.

“Experience!” Pete scoffed. “You have the best experience there is! You've lived on the streets! You know what needs to be done. You could help!”

“They won't hire me!” Fran objected. “They must have hundreds of applicants for this job.”

“So, that's it?” Jake Hall grumbled. “You won't even try?”

Fran gazed down at Kayla's upturned, hopeful face.

“Mama? You'll try, won't you? Show them you'll try,” Kayla said, her little chin firm as she gazed up at her mother.

“Well, I suppose there's no harm in trying ... the worst they could do is say no.”

The next morning Fran stood at the mouth of the alley. The dress and shoes fit her perfectly. Elizabeth had used Kayla's little pink brush to do Fran's hair in a very professional topknot and for the first time in months, Fran found a little of her self confidence returning. She knew deep in her heart that she didn't stand a chance against other more professional people who had college educations, and ... homes. But she also knew that she didn't stand to lose a thing by trying. She didn't know what she would do if they hired her, what she would wear ... how she would keep herself clean. She would have to worry about that if the time came to worry about it. She stepped out onto the sidewalk and with one look back at Kayla, who was perched on Elizabeth's lap, she walked away.

By the time Fran returned the sun had begun to sink into the western sky. Willie and Kayla were building the fire in the barrel and Kayla raced to her mother's side.

“What happened, Mama? Did they want you to work for them? Why are you cryin', Mama?”

The alley people surrounded her, and Fran stared at them helplessly.

“They hired me!” Fran squealed. Kayla began to jump up and down like a joyful Jack-in-the-box, while the others applauded.

“Pete!” Fran cried, “did you know that you can get your medicine free? The local pharmacy has a program for people over 65, and you qualify! And Willie! They have an inpatient program for people with Alzheimers! You can have free medical care and a free place to live!”

“Who has Alzheimers?” Willie demanded, and everyone laughed.

“And Elizabeth! There are grants for people like you, who have lost their homes for reasons beyond their control!”

Kayla went on to tell them about the new food kitchen that was in the planning stages, the traveling physician program and the clothes closet for women who are trying to get back on their feet.

“They know that I'm homeless!” Fran said excitedly. “I decided that honesty was the best policy, and they gave me a voucher for the clothes closet and a furnished apartment to stay in rent free for 3 months.” Fran bent down and picked Kayla up and kissed her. “Tonight, you sleep in a bed, sweetheart! You'll have a bath in a real tub and a meal at a real table.”

Kayla squealed with delight, and Fran hugged her until she complained. “They gave us food from the food pantry and soap and shampoo ... we won't need anything until I get my first paycheck,” Fran said. “Where is Jed? I can't wait to thank him.”

“He said he had something to do,” Jake Hall replied. “He said he might be gone a few days. He left me his bedroll.”

Fran's heart sank when she realized that Jed was like the wind; he may come back and he may not ... most likely not. But she couldn't allow herself to be sad at the moment. She had too much to think about. She needed to find out what the alley people needed and make a list of ways that she thought she could help each one of them.

She gathered hers and Kayla's things and said her goodbyes. The key to the apartment lay in her pocket and she marveled that it was the very key to hers and Kayla's futures. She had already visited the clothes closet and left two bags of clothing for her and Kayla in the apartment. The job and all the help she'd received was the best Christmas gift she could have hoped for.

“I won't forget any of you,” Fran said to the alley people. “ I'll be back as soon as I get settled into my office.”

“Her office,” Elizabeth said and nudged Mable, “did you hear that? She has an office!”

The apartment was modest but clean, and Kayla spent the first few minutes doing what any excited child would do under the circumstances; she bounced on the bed while Fran went into the kitchen to muster something up for dinner.

It was when she reached into the cabinet for a box of macaroni and cheese that she found the envelope. Inside was a note and even though she had never seen Jed's handwriting, she knew instantly that the note was from him. As Fran removed the note, the jade cross she'd found in Jed's rucksack tumbled into her palm. Fran held the note in trembling hands and read ...

They say that the Lord helps
those who help themselves, and you
are a classic example. Never forget
the people that you have been hired
to help. Never forget what it's like to
be homeless. There is one last thing
you must do. The first test of your
new life is at 1313 River Street.

All my best ...


The next morning Fran got Kayla ready and took her to the woman's shelter day care center.

“Will you be all right?” Fran asked her daughter nervously. “It will only be for a few hours, sweetie, while I am at work.”

“Uh huh ...” Kayla said absently; her attention was on two other little girls who were sitting in the floor playing with a toy kitchen.

Fran's nervousness passed as Kayla left her side without a look back, and wandered over to where the two other little girls smiled at her, and Fran watched as Kayla sat down and picked up a plastic pot and spoon, preparing to help cook a plastic meal.

Fran went to her office where she was given orientation on her duties, some materials and contact information for local services, and then she was basically left alone. Just before lunch she remembered the note from Jed and she pulled it out of her pocket and studied it. The address was just down the street ... she could visit during her lunch hour and solve the mystery of “her first test.”

The building was a nondescript brown brick with double glass doors in the front. Fran reached for the door handle and found the door locked. A moment later a buzzer sounded and Fran heard a click and knew that the door had been unlocked. She stepped into a tiled foyer and walked to the reception desk.

“Can I help you?” the receptionist asked, and Fran stood there mutely wondering what to say; she had no idea why she was there.

Finally she reached for the note in her pocket -- it was the only tie she had to the place -- and handed it to the receptionist. The woman scanned the note, and then smiled.

“Jed,” she said, and smiled dreamily. “Doesn't he have the most gorgeous blue eyes? Like ... like ...”

“Fresh water,” Fran supplied, suddenly making up her mind.

“Yes, fresh water! That's it! Well, anyway, you need to go down the hall to room 125.”

“What's in room 125?”

“If Jed wanted you to know, I suppose he would have told you,” the woman replied mysteriously.

Fran wandered down the hall to room 125 and then paused with her hand on the knob. She could hear muted male voices inside and had no idea what she was preparing to interrupt, but she had been sent there, so she turned the knob and entered the room. At a table in front of her sat four men; three in hospital gowns and one in a business suit. Two of the men had their backs to her. The room, other than the scant furnishings and the four men, was empty.

“Yes?” the man in the suit asked.

“I ... I was sent here,” Fran stammered, “I'm not sure why.”

“Well, neither am I -- this is a drug rehab for men, we don't take women here.”

As Fran spoke, the man nearest to her began to turn in his chair, slowly at first, and then he whirled around abruptly, and for the first time in months, Fran found herself face to face with her husband, Tom.

As Fran stared, Tom's eyes welled with tears and he began to sob.

“I thought I lost you! How did you find me?” he wailed.

“I ... I ... Tom?” Fran was frozen in place, she couldn't think, much less form a coherent sentence.

“Yes, it's me!” Tom stood and walked toward her, his hands out in front of him like a blind man.

Fran thought of the hours, days and weeks that she and Kayla walked, searching for Tom. Praying they would find him, and that he wouldn't be in the morgue. And now here he was, pale and thin, but standing before her ... his hands capturing hers, his face leaning in close, she thought, to kiss her, but then his lips reached not her lips, but her ear.

“You gotta get me out of here!” he hissed, “I'm losing my mind!”

“What?” Fran went as rigid as a cold, steel beam.

“I'm gonna go crazy -- you gotta get me out of here!”

Fran's eyes met those of the drug counselor and he stared back, his face expressionless.

“You can sign him out,” the man said dubiously, “but I don't recommend it. He's only been here a week. He's still in denial that he has a problem. You take him out now, and he'll go right back to his old tricks.”

“You shut up!” Tom screeched, pointing a shaking, boney finger at the man, and Fran blanched.

“I don't need your advice, thank you,” Fran said coldly. “I don't need your help.”

The man in the suit shrugged, and Tom's face split into a wide rictous grin.

“Thanks, Baby, let me just get my stuff ...”

“And I don't need you, Tom,” Fran said, as she pried her hands out of Tom's grasp and stepped back. “In fact, I've never needed you, I just didn't know it. You threw us away, Tom, for a drug, for a high. You left us alone not knowing where we were, or if we were safe or hungry or cold. Your addiction may be an excuse to you, but to me it was an escape from your duties as a husband and a father ... and if you did it once, you can do it again, and I won't go through it, again. I certainly won't put Kayla through it.”

“But, baby, I'm sick ...”

“Yes, you are, and you probably always will be. I know that, now. I hitched my wagon to a falling star, Tom, and as you fell, you took us as low as I am ever prepared to go. I have a new chance now, and I can't let anyone or anything jeopardize that. I wish you the best.”

Fran turned to reach for the doorknob, leaving Tom standing there with his mouth hanging open.

“Merry Christmas, Tom. Here's hoping your next one will be better. But whether it is or not, it will not include Kayla and me.”

Fran stepped back into the hallway and closed the door behind her. Her heels clicked as she walked down the hallway and waited until the buzzer sounded, and then she let herself out into the crisp, cool, December air.

Somewhere in Vegas in a warm, clean room, her daughter was playing with other children and not worrying about where her next meal was coming from. Somewhere in Vegas, the homeless were waiting for her to help them find their way. Somewhere in Vegas, a man who made it all come together was looking for a ride out of town, because anyone who needed help became his family and there were people who needed help everywhere. Somewhere in Vegas someone was hanging another star on top of another Christmas tree, because Christmas was only a few days away, but at her apartment, the tiny tree that she and Kayla had rescued from the side of the road because it was too small and missing branches, stood in the corner by the door.

At the top, dangling from a grimy piece of yarn, was a crude, jade cross, and Fran vowed that no matter how big or expensive her Christmas trees were in the future, this cross would always have the place of honor ... at the top, because as long as she lived she would never forget the man who found his family in the arms of those who needed him most ... anymore than she could ever forget her first Christmas in Vegas.
Joined: 10/4/2007
Msg: 2
Christmas in Vegas
Posted: 7/21/2009 8:51:59 AM
You are so talented, enjoyed it very much
Joined: 12/11/2008
Msg: 3
Christmas in Vegas
Posted: 7/21/2009 10:16:35 AM
Thnak you Shan ... some people think I'm too sugary.
 Wyatt Earp1
Joined: 7/15/2009
Msg: 4
Christmas in Vegas
Posted: 7/21/2009 2:12:14 PM
Be yourself; you have loads of talent.
 Written by Hank
Joined: 3/8/2008
Msg: 5
Christmas in Vegas
Posted: 7/21/2009 4:27:25 PM

some people think I'm too sugary

When I got to the part where she follows the note and ends up at the treatment center and finds her husband there, I was thinking, "Oh no, don't send the story in that direction - way to sappy if they all get back together again and live happily ever after." Better the way you've got it.

I liked the story - plus it is very well written. Las Vegas is probably the worse place to be homeless - of course no place is a good place, but some are worse than others.
Joined: 12/11/2008
Msg: 6
Christmas in Vegas
Posted: 7/22/2009 4:42:57 AM
Thanks for taking the time to read it guys, I was thinking, oh yeah, this one will sink into oblivion, it's way too long.

Thanks again.
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