I once read a novel where the life of a cop was described as hours of pure boredom broken by seconds of sheer terror. That seems to be a favorite way for writers who don’t know a damn thing about police work to impress their readers. They’d be better writers if they rode shotgun in a squad car for a year or so. Then they might have a better idea of an average cop’s life. They’d never go for that, though. A lot of people who write for a living are convinced their opinion is the absolute truth, and think facts just get in the way of a good story.
After a lot of years of wearing a badge, I think I pretty much qualify as a real expert. Yes, it gets boring riding around in a squad car for hours without seeing anything. I’m not ashamed to say there have also been a couple of times I pissed my pants because of the situation in which I found myself. A cop’s job is much more than that, though.
Writers probably pick the boredom and terror thing because that’s what people who aren’t cops think they usually see. They see us walking up to their car to give them a speeding ticket and we probably do look bored. We’re taught at the academy not to show emotion in order to maintain control of the situation. If they happen to see us when under fire from some guy who thinks he can shoot his way out of going to jail, we probably do look scared. That’s because we are. We’re human beings and have the same emotions as all human beings.
It would be nice to be able to show emotion sometimes. It’s difficult not to when we’re called out to a serious crime.
If we’re nabbing a perp, we really can’t display the emotions we’re feeling inside because we’re happy. Once we have the guy in handcuffs, they’re probably headed for a few years out of touch with anything except a cell mate named “Slash” who works out every day and likes fucking men in the ass. Those days are pretty good for cops because we take a bad guy off the street for a while.
Sometimes that day is the worst day of their entire life because they met up with the asshole now in handcuffs and it didn’t go well. I’ve investigated murders, rapes, and robberies, and none of the victims was having a good day. Those days aren’t so good for cops either. We can’t do much after the fact except say we’re sorry and we’ll do what we can.
Then there are the times cops love, the times we help someone who needs help but can’t get it. I’ve had all of those times, a lot of hauling in the bad guys, more than I’d like of consoling victims, and a few of helping someone who needs help. The times I’ve helped someone more than make up for the others. Ashley was one of those good times.
Like most cities, even relatively small ones, we have our share of homeless people. They tend to congregate in places that offer them some measure of safety. I suppose it’s the old thing about safety in numbers and they do need that. Homeless people are prime targets for those monsters in people suits with a desire to hurt and maim.
Homeless people also like a place that’s at least a little protected from the weather. During the day they can walk through a mall or city building and stay warm and dry, but at night they’re on their own. The pavilion in McGregor Park was just such a place.
It had been built in the thirties as a way for the federal government to inject some money into the local economy and served as a place for entertainment. Bands would play on the stage at one end and people would dance on the concrete floor. There was also a local amateur theater group who put on a play once a month. In the days before everybody had television and air conditioning, those bands and plays were about the only entertainment available on a hot Saturday night. They were also free, so anybody could have some fun to take their minds off the Depression for a while.
The place would have seated about two hundred on folding chairs for the plays, maybe seventy five on chairs around the edges if there was a dance. Now, it had seven picnic tables and nothing else. The stage was still there. It was a platform about three feet above the floor, with doors on the front of the structure underneath. Those doors opened to the space where the city used to store the folding chairs.
That space was empty now, and under that stage is where about a dozen of the homeless community lived. It was sheltered from the weather and the closed area under the stage helped concentrate their body heat. Getting under there meant they had to crawl on their hands and knees, but with the blankets they sometimes got from the local churches or found in some dumpster, they could stay warm in the winter and out of the rain year round.
The pavilion was so dilapidated nobody ever used it and the homeless people didn’t tear things up, so we cops pretty much ignored them. The people who lived next to the park didn’t. The Captain got a call one day from one of those irate citizens.
“They’re living there like they owned the place. They’re dirty and they wear rags and every night they crawl under that stage like a bunch of animals. I don’t want my kids seeing that.”
The Captain didn’t have much of a choice but to send me out there. He didn’t need another group speaking at the meeting of the city council like the last time.
“Don, go out there and see if you can get them to go to a shelter or something. If you can’t, I’ll have to send out enough men to clear the place and that’ll just put them back to sleeping in the alleys again. One or two will get hurt and the newspapers will have a field day.”
He was worried about the newspapers. I was worried about the people because I knew most of them. I didn’t really know them by name, but I saw them panhandling on the street corners when I drove my beat. Usually, they’d wave when I drove by. I’d talked to some as well.
They were a very diverse group and most were over forty. A few were ex- military who were messed up mentally when they came back from fighting in somebody else’s war. They couldn’t adjust to what most people think is normal and couldn’t hold a job. With no income, they had no place else to live, so they lived on the street.
Some were people who got slammed in what the government called a recession. It wasn’t a recession for them. To them it was a full-fledged, fire-breathing depression. They lost their jobs and couldn’t find anything else that paid enough to keep up with the mortgage and credit card bills. After the house and car were gone, they ended up on the street too.
We’d hauled in a couple on drug charges, but for the most part, they were just people trying to survive in a society that didn’t care as long as they didn’t have to look at them.
I drove out to McGregor about four. They’d be coming back to what they called home then. When I drove up there were already a few people sitting at the picnic tables. I locked the squad car and walked over. The people at the tables eyed me suspiciously. I smiled and said “Hi, I’m Officer Jenkins. How you doin’ tonight.”
One of the men who wore an Army field jacket spoke up.
“You’re that cop what drives around here aren’tcha?”
“That would be me.”
“You come to tell us to leave?”
“Yeah, that’s what they told me to do.”
“It was that asshole who lives in that big brick house, wadn’ it?”
“I don’t know who placed the complaint.”
“Nah, it was him all right. Comes out by his fence every night and watches us. What’s he care anyway? We ain’t hurtin’ nobody and nobody ever uses this place.”
“He told the desk sergeant he didn’t want his kids seeing you.’
Another man spoke then.
“Maybe he’d do better to make sure his kids get an education so they don’t end up like this.”
There were nodding heads and muttered conversation then, and as that went on a few more joined the group. That led to another round of conversation as the early arrivals explained what was going on. I finally got it stopped by raising my voice.
“People, calm down and listen to me.”
Gradually it got quiet. When I figured I didn’t have to yell to be heard I explained what I’d done before I drove over to evict them.
“Yes, you have to leave, but there are places you can go, at least temporarily. There are three shelters within ten blocks from here. You can get a bed and a meal, and you can stay for three nights.
“I called the church in the next block and they’ll take four for a couple nights. The church on the other side of the park can take another four if you’ll sweep up and clean the kitchen.”
That started another round of loud conversation until the man in the field jacket cleared his throat and everybody stopped talking.
“Officer, that’s all well and good, but we’ve been there before. What happens after those three or four days?”
I didn’t know, and I wasn’t about to lie to him.
“I don’t know.”
“What if we won’t leave?”
I took a deep breath.
“If you don’t leave, the department will send enough officers to make you leave. If you resist, you’ll be arrested and taken to jail.”
“Not much of a fucking choice is it?”
“No, but it’s the best I can do. I can give you until tomorrow. If you’re still here tomorrow night, well…there’s not much I can do for you.”
I spent my shift the next day doing what cops usually do. I cruised my route watching for things that looked suspicious like some guy quickly running down an alley when he saw the squad car or the car that was weaving in and out of traffic. While doing all that, I listened to the calls on the radio.
That day, none of the calls were close enough I’d have made any difference by the time I got there. I did stop one car for running a red light. The little blonde girl was seventeen, and started to cry when I handed her the ticket. I tried to calm her down.
“Miss, the ticket will only cost you fifty dollars. Running red lights could easily cost you your life. Promise me you won’t do it again.”
She sniffed, blew her nose in a tissue, and nodded.
I smiled when she drove off. Maybe, just maybe, she’d leaned a lesson today and wouldn’t be in such a hurry the next time. I’d watched the Fire Department and the EMT’s pull too many young kids out of crumpled up cars.
About four, I drove over to McGregor Park to see if the homeless people had done what I asked. I figured they would have. Those people didn’t have a place to live, but most of them weren’t dumb. They’d stay away from McGregor and look for somewhere else. There were a lot of abandoned buildings down by the railroad yard. I figured they’d probably end up in one of those.
There was only one woman sitting on one of the picnic tables when I drove up, and she didn’t look homeless. Most of the people who live on the streets wear a mix of clothes they find or that are donated to one of the shelters in town. They carry everything they have in either a bag over their shoulder or in a small cart or buggy they pulled out of a dumpster somewhere.
This woman was dressed like any housewife – jeans, a button up short sleeved top, and running shoes - and she had one of those suitcases with little wheels sitting beside her. Her long, brown hair was clean and brushed and fell in waves around her shoulders.
I pulled the squad car into a parking space, locked the doors and walked over to the woman. I saw fear in her eyes as I got closer. She got up and started to walk away, but I stopped her.
“Miss, please don’t go. Do you need help? Looks like you might.”
She turned then, and though she tried to be calm, I could tell she was nervous.
“No, officer, I was just out for a walk. I’ll be going now, if that’s OK.”
I walked closer and smiled.
“I don’t know many people who take a suitcase with them when they go for a walk.”
She looked down at the case, and then back at me.
“Oh, this? I was just…just…”
It was then that she started to cry. In between the sobs I got part of her story.
“A month ago I had a job and an apartment. Now, I don’t have either. I got what they call down-sized, but that’s just a nicer word for fired. I tried for a month to find another job, but with the economy like it is, nobody’s hiring. Without the job, I couldn’t pay my rent. The super kicked me out this morning. All he let me do was take whatever I could put in this suitcase. He’s keeping the rest to sell. I don’t know what to do. I heard there were people with no place to go who lived here, so I walked all the way across town. There’s nobody here and I’m afraid to stay by myself.”
I’m not good at consoling women. It’s not that I’m a complete asshole where women are concerned. I like women. I just don’t know what to do to make them feel better in a case like this. I’m ashamed to say I let her cry until she apparently cried her self out. When she stopped sniffing, she looked me square in the face.
“Are you going to arrest me?”
I tried to smile.
“No, not tonight, but you need to find somewhere else to go. The reason you didn’t find anyone here is I told them all they had to leave. The Chief had a complaint from one of the homeowners who live next to the park.”
She frowned then.
“That would be why all the shelters say they’re full then.”
“Yes, I expect so. You don’t have family you could stay with for a while?”
“No, not here anyway. I’m originally from Indianaplolis. I have a brother there, and he’s all that’s left of the family. Before you ask, I can’t call him. We haven’t spoken since my father died. Jack thought he should get everything because he took care of dad before he died, and he sued to get it. I got half of Dad’s estate, but it cost me almost that much in legal fees. He’s still mad at me. He wouldn’t talk to me even if I had a phone and I don’t have one. They cut off my service last week.”
I wasn’t really sure what to do with her. I couldn’t just leave her there, but I knew the shelters were already full because they’d told me that the day before. I’d had to talk long and hard to get them to accept any more. The churches I’d called had been reluctant to take as many as they already had. They wouldn’t want any more either. Unless I could find a shelter with one empty bed, the only thing I could really do to get her somewhere safe was take her to jail, but I didn’t have anything to charge her with. I didn’t really want to see her in a holding cell either.
For lack of anything better to do, I tried to get any information that might help her out.
“What’s your name, Miss.”
“Ashley Dunhill, and I’m not really a miss anymore.”
“What kind of work do…did you do, Ashley?”
“I’m an artist. I did the artwork for CD covers for one of the recording companies here, well, until they hired a kid who was good with a computer. They kept me long enough to teach him how things worked, and then they let me go. They paid him less money than they did me, and what he drew on his computer was more like what the company wanted for their type of music. They also didn’t have to transfer it to digital. It already was digital.”
“What kind of music was that?”
“It’s that God-awful rap stuff. It’s not really music at all, and what they wanted on the CD covers was stuff I just couldn’t make myself do very well.”
“I know it doesn’t help, but I know that type of music so I can understand, a little anyway. I’m no artist, but I’d have trouble doing anything with that too.”
She smiled half-heartedly.
“Thank you for saying that. It does make me feel a little better. I just wish they’d given me some warning instead of just calling me in and telling me I didn’t have a job any more. If I’d had some time…well, maybe I could have moved to another city where there was a job. Now, I can’t do anything except try to find someplace to spend the nights where I won’t get robbed or…well, I suppose you know what could happen to me better than I do.”
I did know, and it didn’t make things any easier for me. As bad as it is to say, if she’d been a homeless man, I wouldn’t have been so concerned. Most men are big enough and strong enough to defend themselves. Ashley couldn’t have weighed much more than one ten and she didn’t look very strong.
The voice in my head was telling me to take her to my place and let her stay until she got back on her feet. I listened to that voice and really wanted to do just that, but the cop in me said that was a bad idea. I didn’t know Ashley at all and for all I knew, this could be just a scam to convince me to do just that. Once I was gone, she’d call her boyfriend and they’d waltz off with most of what I owned that was portable.
I’d investigated a case like that just last year. The guy felt sorry for the girl who knocked on his door and told him a similar story. He left her in his house when he went to work, and came home to find his TV, stereo, three cameras, and most of the tools in his garage gone. The neighbors said a pickup truck drove into his drive about half an hour after he left, and the guy and girl loaded everything and then drove off. We never caught them.
“Yes, I know. Don’t you have any friends who’d put you up for a while?”
Ashley’s face was a mask of anger.
“You actually want me to call one of my friends, tell them I’m homeless and ask them to give me a place to stay and feed me until I find a job? I don’t think so. What would they think? Good people don’t just lose their jobs for no reason. They’d think I was…well, I don’t know what they’d think, but it wouldn’t be good, and they wouldn’t let me stay.
Ashley sniffed again.
“Besides, I don’t have any women I’d call a friend. Most of the people in the recording business are men, and the only reason any man would let me stay is if he thought I’d sleep with him. I got those come-ons at work all the time. I’m not into that sort of thing and before you start thinking what you’re probably already thinking, just because I’m an artist doesn’t mean I like women that way either.”
The more I listened, the more I was convinced Ashey was telling me the truth. It wasn’t just her voice. At the police academy, and in some refresher training over the years, I’d learned a lot about body language. Ashley didn’t have any of the “tells” that would indicate she was lying. I didn’t really like the decision I made, but it seemed like the only thing I could do for her at the time.
“Ashley, I can do one of two things to get you a safe place to spend the night. I can arrest you and take you to jail, or I do know of a place that might take you for a night or two. You probably won’t think it’s great, but it’s a roof over your head and it’ll be safe.
“Jail doesn’t sound very nice.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“Where is the other place?”
“I know a woman who owes me a favor, but before I call her, I need to explain a couple of things. She’s an escort. Do you know what that is?”
“Sure. She’s a prostitute.”
“Well, not exactly. Jennifer doesn’t stand on the street corner or hang out in a bar waiting for some guy to make an offer. She’s a beautiful young woman who, for the right price, will accompany a man or woman who needs or wants to be seen with a beautiful young woman.”
“A man or a woman?”
“Yes. There are women who like being with another woman, and Jennifer doesn’t judge.”
“So, they pay her to go out with them and that’s all? Doesn’t sound like she’d be making much money.”
“Well, Jennifer will do more if she likes the man or woman and they’re willing to pay her, but she’s doing quite well money-wise. A night out with her will cost you somewhere around a thousand, more if you want a little more personal attention.
“If she owes you a favor, you must have done something for her, but I can’t imagine what that would be. She must know a lot of rich and powerful people who could help her. Why would she go to a cop?”
“Those rich and powerful people would prefer not to be connected with her outside of the special occasions when they take her out, so no, she couldn’t go to one of them. I sort of helped her out one night when one of her dates got a little rough with her. He split her lip and gave her a black eye. I took her to my place and let her clean up and spend the night. Afterwards, we set a trap for the guy and he took the bait. Maybe you read about a director of one of the city departments who resigned last year?
“Jennifer was happy he got what he deserved, and she was happy I didn’t arrest her that night. She told me if she could do something for me to call her.
“Jennifer is away from home a lot at night, and she has a spare bedroom. She might let you stay there to watch the place. Should I give her a call?”
“I never thought I’d be staying with a pros…with an escort, but then, I never thought I’d be homeless either. I guess it won’t hurt to see what she says.”
I called Jennifer and got her answering machine. After I left a message saying who I was and what I wanted, I asked Ashley if she’d had anything to eat.
“Yes. I grabbed some cold cuts and cheese from my fridge when the super wasn’t looking. That was this morning though.”
“It’ll take Jennifer a bit to get back to me. How about a burger and some fries? Think you could handle that?”
My shift was over by that time. I put Ashley and her suitcase in the back seat of the squad car and drove back to the station. I let her out in an alley a block before we got there and told her where my car was parked. Police officers aren’t supposed to taxi civilians around, and I didn’t want to answer any questions.
Ashley was standing beside my SUV when I walked out of the station. I took her to a fast food place to wait for Jennifer’s call.
“Ashley, what else can you do besides draw CD covers?”
“Well, I just thought you might be able to find a job doing something else since you can’t find one to do what you were doing before.”
Ashley swallowed the bite of cheeseburger and took a sip from her drink.
“I never wanted to draw CD covers. It was just the only thing I could find when I got out of college and I sort of stuck with it. What I really like is painting and pastels, but that old saying is true. An artist eats hot dogs until he dies. His heirs eat steak.”
“Norman Rockwell did all right.”
“Yes, but he was an exception. I’m not that good anyway.”
“Oh, I’ll bet you’re better than you think. Any other things you like – hobbies maybe?”
“You’ll laugh if I tell you.”
“No I won’t, I promise.”
“I write children’s books, you know, the kind with little words and lots of pictures. I make up a story and then do the pictures with pastels or acrylics.”
“I would think there’s a market out there for that. Haven’t you tried to sell any of them?”
“Yes, I’ve tried, but that market isn’t as big as you’d think. Kids today, even if they’re only three or four, are getting those stories on tablets or cell phones now. Haven’t you seen them in the grocery store - Mommy pushing the cart while the kid is sitting there looking at her cell phone? The publishers still print books, but they’ll only talk to an agent and none of those agents need any more clients. They don’t want to go to the cost and effort of trying to sell someone who’s going to compete with their current writers for the same volume of business.”
My phone rang then and I recognized Jennifer’s number. I thumbed the icon sideways and said, “Officer Jenkins”.
Ashley sipped her soda while I explained to Jennifer what I wanted. Jennifer didn’t sound all that enthused at first, but after I assured her Ashley was telling me the truth, she agreed. She said she’d be home for another two hours and for me to bring Ashley by so she could talk to her for a while before she had to leave.
When I pulled into the drive of the two story house in one of the up-scale areas of town, Ashley couldn’t believe we were in the right place.
“She lives here? Are you sure? These houses cost upwards of two hundred thousand, or at least that’s what those realtor magazines say they cost.”
“Yes, this is Jennifer’s place. I told you she does pretty well.”
“I think I picked the wrong occupation then. All I could afford was my little apartment.”
“ Let’s go get you introduced. Jennifer wants to talk to you before she has to leave.”
Jennifer answered the doorbell a minute or so after I rang it. To see her like she was then, you’d never guess how she made her living. She wore jeans and a sweatshirt, and her long blond hair was done up in a ponytail. She looked about like any other woman you might see in the grocery store or walking in the park.
She smiled when she saw me.
“Hi Don. How you doin’?”
“I’m doing fine. How about you?”
“I’m OK. I see you’re still helping girls in trouble. This is Ashley?”
“Yes. Jennifer, this is Ashley Dunhill. Ashley, Jennifer Robbins.”
Jennifer held out her hand, and when Ashley took it, shook it gently.
“Hi Ashley. Come in, both ot you.”
The inside of Jennifer’s house was just as nice as the outside. I watched Ashley as she stared at the furnishings in the living room. Everything looked new, and unlike my stuff, it something wasn’t a match for something else, it complimented it.
Jennifer sat down on her black leather couch and patted the seat beside her.
“Come sit down, Ashley. I need to hear your story.”
Ashley went through the same story she’d told me. I was relieved when she didn’t change anything. I liked Jennifer even though her occupation was on the shady side of legal, and I didn’t want her to think I was pawning off somebody on her. Jennifer listened intently as Ashley talked, nodding here and there. When Ashley got to the part about being evicted, Jennifer put her hand on Ashley’s and squeezed it gently.
“You poor girl. He wouldn’t let you take anything except what you could put in your suitcase? What an asshole. Where was this job you lost?”
Ashley named the company and Jennifer frowned again.
“I know the guy who owns that company. He’s a bigger asshole than your super. I went out with him once and that was enough for me. Wouldn’t keep his hands off me and laughed when I said he couldn’t do that if he was only paying for being seen with me. He said I should be paying just to be seen with him. I don’t know how you could have lasted so long with him.”
“Well, he never did anything like that to me. He was just a little hard to work for.”
Jennifer looked at me.
“OK, she convinced me too. I’m going to be out of town for a few days starting tonight, so she can stay here.”
She turned to Ashley.
“Honey, there are a few rules you need to know about.
“First, nobody except Don knows where I live and I want to keep it that way. There are too many crazies out there who might think me going out with them was more than just a business arrangement. I don’t have a landline phone. I use the cell phone on the end table for personal calls, and I carry another for business calls. Both are pre-paid so there’s no address connected to either number. If that cell phone should ring, let the call go to my message box. I’ll take care of it when I get back.
“Second, none of my neighbors know what I do for a living. I’ve told them I’m in sales and that’s why I’m gone so much of the time. I doubt any of them would come over, but it they should, you’re my sister. Don said you grew up in Indianapolis. Well, you still live there. You’re just here house-sitting for me. I’m in New York and I won’t be back in town until a week from tomorrow.”
“Third, you can’t have any visitors. That means you too, Don. That also includes ordering out for pizza or anything else. There’s plenty of food in my pantry and freezer. Take what you want.
“Fourth, don’t go outside unless the house is burning down. I don’t want my neighbors to think I have a live-in girlfriend.
“And last, this can’t go on for very long. You need to be thinking about what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. We’ll talk about that when I get back.
“Can you live with all that?”
“I don’t think I have much of a choice. I won’t do anything, I promise.”
“I know I sound like a bitch, but when you do what I do, you can’t be too careful. Now, I need an hour to finish getting ready. I’ll show you the rest of the house before I leave.”
While Jennifer did whatever she was doing, we sat there in her living room. I could have left, I suppose, but I wanted to stick around in case Jennifer had any more questions. About forty five minutes later Jennifer walked down the wide staircase that led to the second story and into the living room. She grinned at Ashley’s astonished look.
“What’s wrong, Ashley?”
“Nothing is wrong. It’s just that before, you looked like anybody else, but now…you look like a woman on the cover of a magazine.”
“That’s what I get paid for.”
I’d seen her before like this and figured she earned every penny she charged. Jennifer was the dream most men have but never really find. Her black dress hit her a little above the knee at the hem, and the two tiny straps that held it up at the top bared her soft, smooth, rounded shoulders. It dipped low enough in the front to show some equally soft and smooth cleavage, but not enough to make one think she was advertising for something more.
Her long blonde hair cascaded in waves over her bare shoulders. Black stockings and shiny black heels completed the picture of a woman any man would lust for unless he was gay or blind.
I left after asking Jennifer if she had any questions for me, and then thanking her for letting Ashley stay. She just smiled.
“You didn’t have to help me that night, Don, but you did, and you didn’t try to make it into anything else. I’ll still owe you after this time.”
My week was about like all the others. I did drive by the pavilion every night just to be sure none of the people had come back. They hadn’t so the Captain was happy.
Jennifer was due back on Friday, and I thought I might get a call from her or Ashley then, but I didn’t. That was a bit of a let down. I really wanted to know how Ashley was doing. Call it being proud of myself that I’d found her a place to stay, or call it something else, but I was interested in her. No, I didn’t have any thoughts about anything happening between us. Well, I did like any man would, but I was sure that wouldn’t come to pass. She’d want to get on with her life and I’d just be someone who helped her do that.
It was two weeks later that I learned Ashley had found another job. I found out when I walked out to my car at the end of my shift and saw Ashley standing beside it. She smiled when I asked what she was doing there.
“Jennifer helped me find another job. I thought I’d thank you for what you did. I didn’t know where you live, so I took the bus here.”
I said I’d buy her dinner so we could talk about her new job. This time, I picked a small Italian restaurant that was usually pretty quiet. I figured Ashley deserved to celebrate a little.
I didn’t find out much as we ate. It was over coffee she told me what had happened.
“One of the things I took with me from my old apartment was my pastels, my sketch book and my stories. While Jennifer was gone, I wrote two more and did the illustrations for them. When she came back, she saw them on the kitchen table.
“She wasn’t too impressed with my stories, but she did like my pictures. She said I should be drawing for something other than children’s books though, and she thought she knew someone who might hire me to do that.
“Did you know there’s still a huge market for romance novels? I didn’t either, but Jennifer did. She introduced me to Beverly Wells. I’m not sure I want to know how she knows Beverly, but she does. Beverly owns a publishing company that only does those. I’d seen them in the stores but I didn’t ever think about someone doing the cover art. That’s what I’m doing now. Beverly liked the first one I did, and she paid me five hundred dollars for it. I’ve done two more for her and she liked them too.
“I moved into a different apartment yesterday. It’s nicer than my old one, and I won’t have any trouble paying the rent. Beverly needs eight covers a month and her other artist couldn’t keep up. I won’t be getting rich, but I’ll be able to make ends meet.”
“Remember when I said you were probably better than you think? It looks like somebody else thought so too.”
“Yes, I remember. Would you like to see what I’ve done so far? If you’ll take me home, I’ll show you.”
The building was in a nice neighborhood, and it looked well-kept. Ashley’s apartment was a little bare and she apologized for the furniture she did have.
“After I paid the deposit for the apartment, I didn’t have much money left, so what furniture I have is from a re-sale shop. The only thing I bought new was my mattress.”
“It looks as good as anything I have.”
“Well, I still want some better stuff as soon as I can afford it. Would you like some coffee or a soda?”
Ashley started her coffee maker and then came back into the living room with a folder. She took a sheet of heavy paper from the folder and handed it to me.
“This is the first one I did.”
Now, I’m no art critic in any way, shape or form, but even I could see that Ashley had a rare gift. The picture was done in soft colors and was of a man and a woman in a passionate embrace. In the background was a fenced, manicured lawn dotted here and there with several different kinds of flowers. Ashley had drawn the couple in a very erotic position. The only way it could have been more erotic was if the woman’s nearly nude body hadn’t been mostly covered by the guy.
The man was taller than the woman. She was standing on tiptoes in order to reach high enough he could kiss her. He had dark hair and a suntan that accented the muscles that bulged from his bare back, shoulders, and arms. It was obvious he was just as muscular under the tight, faded jeans he wore.
The woman was what I call “generously endowed” and that endowment was apparent by the rounded side of the breast that was partially revealed by the arm he had around her. Her figure was just as generous – not fat by any means, just very curvy. The guys arms were positioned in a way that made it look like he was cupping her ass cheeks.
“I’m supposed to make it look like they’re going to have sex. Beverly says that’s what the women who read those novels want to think. They want to fantasize that they’re the woman in the book.
“I always read the novel to understand who the people are and what they think of each other before I start to draw the covers. This one was titled “The Reluctant Gardener” and it’s about a wealthy woman who falls in love with the guy who takes care of her flowers and lawn.
“She likes him at first but he doesn’t pay any attention to her other than to keep her flowers and lawn looking good. About half way through the book, she decides she loves him and hints that she’d like him to take care of more things, if you know what I mean. By then, he knows he loves her and wants to do that, but he thinks he’s too far below her status so he quits.
“They each mope around for another couple chapters and then in the final one, he realizes he can’t live without her. He goes to her house to tell her that. She doesn’t believe him at first even though she wants to, so he kisses her. She, of course, melts into his arms and tells him she can’t live without him either. They end up in bed and have the greatest sex ever. Then, they live happily ever after. My picture is of that first kiss.”
“I’m no artist, but I see why your Beverly liked your art. You got all this from reading a book?”
“Well, sort of. When I was reading the book, I started thinking about how I’d feel if I was in the same situation. That’s why the woman is trying so hard to press her body against his. It’s what I’d probably do.”
I had to think about that for a few seconds. Ashley was wearing a snug, knit top that hugged her breasts like a second skin. They weren’t as big as the woman in her picture, but they weren’t tiny. Her ass wasn’t quite as wide either, but it didn’t take much imagination to think about how she’d feel pressed against me.
Ashley saved me from having to comment about that by showing me another painting.
This one was more erotic than the first. It was of a red-haired woman in bed. She had the sheet pulled over her heavy breasts enough to just cover her nipples. I couldn’t understand how it was staying put because she had both arms stretched out to the guy who appeared to be unbuckling his belt as he walked toward her.
He was also a muscular guy with no shirt. His tight jeans accented his narrow waist, hips and strong looking thighs.
Ashley started to explain the picture.
“This book was titled “Take Me, Toby”. It’s about like the other one except she’s the one who tells him she wants him instead of the other way around. They’re all like that. The guy meets the girl and they each fall in love with the other without realizing it. Then they split up for some reason and feel miserable for a while, and finally get together again in the last chapter. That’s what she says to him – Take Me, Toby - before they have the best sex ever and live happily ever after.”
“They’re kind of hokey, but they’re kind of true too.”
“They sound like fairytales. Do the women who read those really think something like that could happen.”
“I think they want to believe it can. Most women need to be needed. I’m no different. I want to believe it can happen.”
“Maybe one of these days you’ll find the right guy and it will.”
“I think I have, but I’m still waiting to see if he feels the same way about me. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen though.”
“Well, your books are right about a man taking a while to figure out how he feels. Give him some time.”
I looked at my watch. It was almost ten.
“Speaking of time, I should probably be going.”
Ashley walked to her door with me, and touched my arm before I could open it.
“Officer Jenkins, I’m really happy you liked my pictures. It’s all happened because of you, you know? If you hadn’t found me a place to stay that night, I don’t know what would have happened to me. I wouldn’t have met Jennifer and she wouldn’t have introduced me to Beverly. I’d probably be living in a cardboard box instead of here. I owe you a lot.”
“Nah, you don’t owe me anything. I was just helping out a woman who needed a little boost to get going again. You did the rest all by yourself. It makes me happy to see that it worked.”
I left then and drove back home. I knew I probably wouldn’t hear from Ashley again. She was back on her feet now, and didn’t need my help. It made me feel really good to know I’d had something to do with that.
In the grocery store on Saturday a week later, I was walking down the aisle where the paperback books and magazines are, and saw a familiar picture on the cover of one of the paperbacks. It was the first picture Ashley had shown me that night. When I opened it to the first page, there was her name – Art by Ashley Dunhill.
As I put the book back on the rack, I wondered how she was doing. That’s all it was at the time, just wondering if she was still happy. After finishing my shopping, I went home and puttered around the house for a while, then fixed dinner.
My Saturday night dinners were usually just something out of a can. That night it was spaghetti. That’s what I’d eaten when I bought Ashley’s dinner that night, and it made me think about her again. I wondered if the guy she’d found had either figured out she meant something to him or if he’d dumped her.
I couldn’t see why a man wouldn’t see what a great woman she was. In addition to being very talented, Ashley was both pretty and intelligent. She didn’t seem to be submissive, really, but neither was she a woman who has to have everything her way. A man could do a lot worse in life than a woman like Ashley.
The next Saturday, I walked down past the paperbacks agaub when I shopped for groceries. Mid-way through the rack, I saw the second picture Ashley had shown me, and when I looked at the other covers, I saw another that looked kind of like the other two. Inside that cover was the same credit for the artwork – Ashley Dunhill.
Yes, I thought, Ashley was doing well. I found myself wondering if she ever thought about me anymore, then dismissed that thought. She’d probably be too busy to think about anything except what she was going to do for the next book cover. I was just a cop who’d helped her once.
I couldn’t get her out of my head after that. Even if she was busy, wasn’t it possible she thought about me once in a while? It was my ego showing, I know, but I wanted her to think about me.
It was a little odd to me that I’d never had that thought before even though I’d helped more than a few people when they needed it. With all the rest, it was enough to know I’d done what they needed. With Ashley, I needed to know she remembered. I remembered her. Why couldn’t she remember me? As I sat in front of the TV that night, I started to realize why I was thinking that way.
I’d known several other women over the years, but none of them were like Ashley. A couple had been absolutely beautiful, but they were more concerned with how they looked than with about being with me. Most had been just normal women, pretty enough and smart enough to make them interesting to talk with.
Being with them had been good and the sex had been good as well, but I’d never felt really connected to them. I didn’t even remember half their names or faces even though I’d dated some of them for weeks. I hardly knew Ashley, but I knew I’d never forget her name or the way she looked.
I kept remembering her as the woman dragging a suitcase that day at McGregor Park. She’d looked fragile and vulnerable that day. That’s why I’d helped her. Then I remembered her at her new apartment. She’d looked strong and confident. I hoped the guy she’d found would see both the vulnerable Ashley and the confident Ashley. He needed to see both to really appreciate the woman Ashley was like I did. If he saw both, he might not be so slow to understand he needed her and that she needed him.
That last thought sort of slipped up on me. I’d seen both the fragile and vulnerable Ashley – a woman who needed someone to give her strength – and the strong and confident Ashley – a woman who’d found her place and was happy. Yet, when I thought some more, the strong and confident Ashley was still fragile and vulnerable. I realized that when I remembered her saying she wanted to believe what happened in the romance novels could happen to her.
She needed to be needed by someone. It had sounded like a fairy tale when she said it and that’s what I’d told her. Now, I was ashamed about that. Ashley really wanted someone to live happily ever after with.
The more I thought about it, that’s what I wanted too. I was happy being a cop, but I’d been happier having dinner with Ashley and then being with her in her apartment. It just seemed natural, somehow, to have her sitting across the table from me and smiling, or sitting on the couch and showing me the pictures she’d done. I found myself wishing that could keep happening.
The only problem was she already had a guy she liked. She’d told me she was hoping he liked her too. If I said anything now, I’d just mess that up. She might think she should drop the guy for me out of some sense of obligation for helping her. If it didn’t work out, she’d be left on her own again, and I couldn’t do that to her.
I struggled with that for an hour or so, vacillating between just leaving well enough alone and going to her apartment and telling her how I felt. In the end, I decided I had to at least talk to her again. If I could talk to here, maybe I could get a sense of what she really thought about me.
When Ashley answered my knock on her door the next day, I had to stifle the chuckle. She had a reddish paint blob on her nose and her T-shirt had some smudges of other colors. She was kind of cute because of the paint, and more than a little arousing. That T-shirt fit her as tight as her jeans did. She grinned.
“Officer Jenkins, I thought you’d forgotten about me.”
“I didn’t have anything else to do and thought I’d stop by to see how you’re doing. If this is a bad time I can come back later.”
“No, it’s not a bad time. I just wasn’t expecting anyone and I must look awful.
“You look fine to me. You’re just like you always are, well, except for the paint on your nose.”
She rubbed her nose and then looked at her finger and laughed..
“The cover I’m working on has to have stronger colors, so I’m doing it in acrylics. I guess I should remember to wipe my hands before I scratch an itch. Come in and I’ll show you what I’m painting. It’s almost finished.”
I followed her into what had probably been the second bedroom. It was now her studio. The painting sitting on the easel was quite different from her others.
The background was a dark sky filled with black clouds. A bolt of lightening slashed from those clouds to the ground. The grass glistened with water drops, and it looked like it was raining hard. In the foreground were a man and a woman locked in an embrace that could only mean they were very much in love.
The woman was clinging to the man with her arms around his neck, and though she was dressed, her thin white dress had been soaked by the rain and didn’t leave much to the imagination. The water made the dress mold itself to her heavy breasts, and also made it somewhat transparent. Her nipple and nipple bed were visible as a slightly darker color.
The man was another of Ashley’s heavy-muscled men. He was leaning over the woman and kissing her, and he’d put his hand under her knee and lifted her thigh to almost his waist. That caused the dress to ride up to her waist, and her soft, slender thigh and the underside of her hip were exposed. It was easy to imagine she was feeling his cock against her mound.
Ashley’s voice was soft.
“The book is titled, “Rain On The Moor”. It’s a gothic romance about a servant girl and a Baron. The servant is just one of many in the castle, but she catches the eye of the Baron because she’s the prettiest one. One day he hears someone talking in his bedroom. He peeks around the door and sees the servant girl there, changing the bedclothes.
“She talking to herself about how she’s just a servant girl and can’t expect him to think any more of her than that, but that she thinks she loves him. He leaves then, but he keeps thinking about what she said. He does like her, but of course, their stations in life mean it could never be more than that.
“Over the next couple of chapters, the servant girl tries not to show him how she feels, but the more she tries, the more interested in her he becomes. At first, it’s just interesting that she wants him, but slowly, he starts to want her too. He doesn’t know why, but she attracts him like no other woman ever has.
“He has a fiancee who acts like she loves him, but she’s really only after the money he has. After a while, when he’s with the fiancee, he starts thinking about how much different the servant girl is.
“His fiancee is pretty, but she’s always finding fault with other people and always has to have things her way. When he thinks about the servant girl, he realizes she’s always smiling and always goes out of her way to help the other servants do their work.
“His fiancee suspects he likes the servant girl and she’s a threat to her plans, so she demands that he get rid of the servant girl. Reluctantly, he does, and then spends the rest of the chapter wishing she was still there.
“In the next chapter, he finally sees what his fiancée is really after and breaks off the engagement. Then, he starts thinking about the servant girl again, and sends his manservant to find her. The manservant finds her and tells her the Baron wants her to come back.
“She’s been heartbroken since he sent her away, but when the manservant tells her the fiancée is gone and the Baron says he needs her, she has hope that he needs her for herself and not just as a servant girl. Then she tells herself that it could never be because he’s a baron and she’s just a servant girl.
She tells that to the manservant. He tries to convince her that the Baron doesn’t care about status. She finally says she’ll come to the castle the next morning to talk to the Baron. The manservant goes back to the castle and tells that to the Baron.
“In the last chapter, she start out for the castle. She’s almost there when the sky turns dark and she hears thunder. She can see the castle in the distance and starts to walk faster, but she’s not fast enough. It starts to rain, and she gets soaked.
“He’s watching from the window for her to come back when it starts to rain. When he sees her coming down the lane, he can see that she’s soaked through to the skin and that she’s shivering. He grabs a blanket and runs out to help her.
“When he gets to her he wraps her in the blanket and says he was worried about her. She asks him why he would worry about a servant girl. He looks at her
and says he was worried because he loves her. She throws off the blanket when she puts her arms around his neck. He wraps her in his arms and they stand there in the rain while he kisses her.
“She’s breathless after he does that, but she’s still not sure it can work. She looks up at him and asks if he really loves her. He looks into her eyes and says he’ll love her as long as there is rain on the moor. That’s where the title comes from.
“He takes her back to the castle. A week later, they get married and she becomes a baroness. They have the best sex ever that night and they live happily ever after.”
“I don’t think I’d have been standing in the rain when I told a woman I loved her.”
“Well, it’s romantic to a woman. He was the strong man she loved who realized he couldn’t live without her. When he ran out of the castle to put the blanket around her, she felt safe. When he told her he loved her, she felt safe and like everything was going to work out. A woman wouldn’t like standing in the rain either, but she would if the man she loved was telling her for the first time that he loved her.”
“You’d do that, stand in the rain?”
“If he was the man I loved, yes, I would. I’ve given up on that ever happening to me though.”
I wasn’t really sure what to say because Ashley looked pretty sad after those last words. I felt sorry for her, but I was also hopeful.
“I take it your guy hasn’t told you anything?”
“No, he hasn’t.”
“Well, if he hasn’t, you should probably forget about him.”
Ashley sighed again.
“I know, but I don’t seem to be able to do that.”
I saw the vulnerable Ashley again, and even though it might mess things up, I couldn’t stop the words that came to mind.
“Maybe if you had dinner with me tonight, it might help. What do you think?”
Ashley gave me a funny look for a second or two, then grinned.
“It might. Are we eating Italian again? I liked that restaurant.”
“Italian it is, then. I need to go home and change clothes. I’ll pick you up about six thirty, OK?’
I hardly tasted the food because I couldn’t keep my mind focused on anything except Ashley. The night before, I’d struggled with what I felt for her. That night, it was like she was the only thing in my world. It was a little strange to feel that way about someone, because it had never happened that way before. It felt strange, but it felt like I’d found something that had been missing.
When I pulled into her drive and shut off the engine, Ashley touched my hand.
“I had a really nice time, and it did help a little. Would you like to come in for a cup of coffee?”
As soon as Ashley had locked the door behind us, she turned and smiled.
“Make yourself at home. I’ll go start the pot, and I think I’ll change clothes while it’s brewing. I don’t wear a dress very often and it feels weird.”
For the next five minutes or so, I sat on her couch and looked at the four walls. There was a painting on one wall, so I went to look at it. I couldn’t figure out what it was, even after I’d looked at it for a while.
The bottom left third of the painting had a black background with random splotches of dark purple. From the center of that area, a stream of colors emerged kind of like coiling ribbons. The colors were muted purple, a muddy looking orange and a weird looking green. As the stream flowed out of the black section it started to brighten a little.
The bottom right third of the painting had a light blue background and a similar stream of colors flowed from it. Those streams were a bright red, a bright blue, and a bright yellow.
The middle third of the painting had a pale yellow background. As they flowed through it, the two streams began to intertwine, like the way the parts of a rope wrap around each other but farther apart. They got closer and closer together until they merged into the top third of the painting. There the colors of both streams were wrapped tightly together. The muted purple, orange, and green had changed to colors just as bright and vibrant as the red, blue and yellow.
The background color of this section was basically blue, but there slashes of bright yellow that looked a little like sunbeams, and there were a lot of subtle color changes. The color changes created some sort of optical illusion that made that section seem alive. The only way I can describe it is it looked like it was breathing because as I looked at it, one area would seem to move out of the surface and then go back in.
“Do you like it?”
I turned and saw Ashley standing behind me smiling. I didn’t see the smile at first. She’d changed from a dress and heels to a thin, dark red satin robe and fuzzy slippers. The robe didn’t have any fasteners other than a single belt tied around her waist. The bottom was molded around her round hips, and her breasts pushed out the top enough there was a noticeable gap in the front. Her long brown hair fell in waves over her shoulders.
“I’m not sure. I haven’t figured out what it is yet. Who’s the artist?”
Ashley walked to my side.
“I painted it a week ago. It’s me.”
“You don’t look anything like this painting.”
“Yes I do…it’s what I look like inside.”
“You’ll have to explain it to me then.”
Ashley slipped her arm in mine like she had when we came out of the restaurant. She pointed to the black corner.
“This is how I felt when I lost my job. That’s why everything is dark and moody. The middle section is when I stayed with Jennifer and found my new job. That’s why the colors get brighter as they go up. I started feeling better about myself. The area at the top is me now, or at least, how I want to feel now. I tried to make it seem alive and happy.”
“OK, I understand that part. What about the other part?”
Ashley looked at the floor.
“That’s you. I know you don’t feel that way about me, but it’s what I feel inside.”
“I thought you already had a guy.”
“The man I thought I had is you.”
“Me? How do you know that? You hardly know me.”
Ashley sniffed and wiped a tear from her cheek.
“I’ve asked myself that a million times. I don’t know how I know. I just do.”
I put my arms around her.
“Ashley, it took me a while, like in your romance novels, but I came to the same realization about you last night. I didn’t say anything because I thought you were seeing another guy.”
Ashley looked up at me. I saw a couple more tears trickle down her cheeks..
“Are you going to kiss me like the men in the books always do?”
“Do you want me to?”
Ashley put her arms around my neck and pressed her breasts into my chest.
“If you don’t I’m going to be really disappointed.”
I took Ashley in my arms and kissed her while she tried to mold her body to mine. I felt her breasts pressing into my chest and there was no bra keeping them from flattening out. They were just Ashley and they felt firm but soft. I let my hand stroke down her back. Ashley shivered and hugged me tighter. When I eased away, she wiped her eyes and smiled.
“Are we going to do the other thing they always do in the books?”
I stooped down, put one hand behind her knees and the other around her shoulders, and then picked her up.
“If that’s what you want, it’s what I want.”
“It’s what I want you to do.”
“How do I get us to your bedroom?”
I laid her gently on the bed, and while I took off my clothes, Ashley opened the robe and pulled it to her sides. Her pale skin against the dark red robe made her look small and fragile. Her breasts were large enough to stand off her chest, and firm enough they didn’t roll to the side. Her tummy was a little rounded instead of flat, but I love that about a woman. From her tummy down, she was all very feminine woman from the rounding of her hips to the dark triangle of hair between her smooth, slender thighs.
I eased onto the bed beside her and kissed her again, then whispered in her ear, “Ashley, you’re beautiful.”
She put her arms around my back and pulled me on top of her. Her voice was soft and sultry.
“Then take me like a man takes the woman he loves.”
I didn’t “take” her, at least not in the way that word means to me. I’d never done that to a woman, and I wasn’t going to start with Ashley. Instead, I enjoyed the softness of her breasts as I gently fondled them. I enjoyed the little ripples and bumps of her nipple beds that rose when I circled her nipples with my fingertip. I enjoyed the turgid firmness of her stiff nipples when I licked the tips and then gently suckled them. I enjoyed the little moans Ashley made with each touch.
She shivered when I trailed my fingertips down her chest, and her tummy tightened when they reached the soft skin there. I kissed her as my fingertips moved lower, then lower still until they swirled through the crinkled hair on her mound. She moaned into my mouth when my fingertips found the top of her slit. After a few more caresses there, Ashley opened her thighs wide. She caught her breath when my finger slipped through the hair, then between her puffy lips and stroked the wet softness between them.
Her nails dug into my back a little when my finger found her entrance and slipped inside her. She was wet warmth there, that wet warmth that’s slippery and sticky at the same time. I moved my finger in and out a few times, then slowly stroked it up from her entrance to the soft hood at the top of her lips. Ashley gasped at that touch, then reached between us for my cock.
She wasn’t ready for me, I knew, and it was an exquisite torture to continue exciting her while my mind told me to ram my cock inside her and stroke until I couldn’t stop. Though I’d have loved feeling her body against mine as I stroked through her soft lips, I was enjoying the way she responded nearly as much.
As I slipped one and then two fingers inside her again, I bent my head and inhaled her right nipple. Her hips rocked a little then, and when I curled my fingertips up and gently massaged, she began pulling on my rigid cock.
“I want you so bad”, she whispered. “Take me now.”
I did then, but just as slowly as I could make my body move. My cock inched inside her a little at a time. She kept rocking her hips up to force it deeper, but I wouldn’t let her. When my cock head slipped through the tight ring just inside her entrance, I teased both of us with short, slow strokes through that spot. Ashley moaned, then raised her knees and pulled at my hips to force me inside her.
I gave up trying to go so slowly then, and pushed my cock into her depths. She sighed when the base of my cock spread her lips flat, and searched for my mouth with hers. I felt her tongue slip between my teeth and then a sensation that threatened to make me lose control. Ashley felt it too. Her moan reverberated in my mouth, and I felt her tummy roll against mine.
I got lost in her that night. My world became her soft body pressed to mine, her soft lips clinging to my shaft as I stroked in and out, and her moans and murmurs as she climbed the peak of arousal.
That peak was approaching rapidly for us both. I knew that when Ashley began to grow tense under me. It was just a little, at first. Her body arched into my slow thrust and she gasped.
“Oh God…I’m close…Oh…so close.”
I did speed up then a little. I was trying to match the speed of Ashley’s hips as she rocked them up into my stroke. I kept up for a while, but then she started to pant. She arched higher, then fell back to the mattress for a couple strokes, then cried out and arched her back high enough her tummy was pushing against me.
“Oh Don…don’t stop.”
I didn’t because I didn’t want to and couldn’t have anyway. Ashley’s body was writhing under me and putting my cock in all sorts of angles that were rapidly taking me past waiting for her. I made my strokes a little faster, and Ashley cried out again. She eased half-way down, and then screeched as the first wave raced through her body. All the motion that caused made me lose what little control I had left. As her body strained and shook with the release, I felt the blinding sensation of seed shooting through my cock and inside Ashley’s rippling depths.
Ashley hung there in the air, shaking and mewing as the last of the waves of her orgasm ebbed, then pulled me down on top of her. Her mouth found mine and kissed me until I had to come up for air. Then she wrapped her arms around my back and whispered in my ear, “See, fairy tales do come true.”
That all took place a little over thirty one years ago. We celebrated
this year at that same Italian restaurant. Ashley is a little fuller in the bust and hips than then, and I’m carrying a few more pounds as well, but our celebration afterwards was better I think. Maybe it was because we’ve lived together for so long neither of us has to guess what the other needs.
I found out being married to an artist is a little different. Ashley is very talented, and along with that talent comes a tendency to be emotional. It’s great when those emotions make her feel like cuddling on the couch. Cuddling always leads to both of us needing to feel the other shaking through the orgasms that always follow.
It’s not so great when I’ve screwed up enough to make her mad. I try to avoid doing that, but as the old saying goes, opposites attract, so we’ve had our differences. We always make up afterwards. I have to admit making up afterwards is pretty fantastic and almost worth the stress of the argument.
She still paints covers for the same company, but she’s also expanded into something else. A year after we were married, she decided she could write a romance novel as well as anyone, and started writing. Her first was called “ From Homeless To Heaven” and was about a cop who finds a homeless woman and helps her get her life back.
It’s like all the others. They both realize they’re in love but don’t know how to tell each other. In the last chapter, they confess to each other, have sex, and live happily ever after.
She’s on her twentieth now. She won’t tell me what it’s about until it’s finished. I’ll have to read it then and tell her what I think. I don’t particularly like romance novels, but she always puts in something that reminds me of us, and that makes them pretty good. Beverly thinks they’re good too.
That same weird painting still hangs on our living room wall. Once in a while, I’ll see her looking at it and smiling. I know what she’s doing. She’s remembering how it felt to go from dark and drab to bright and alive. She believed all along that fairytale could happen to her and it did. I didn’t believe, at first, but I do now.