The Bride Wore Red Boots

Free The Bride Wore Red Boots by Lizbeth Selvig

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Authors: Lizbeth Selvig
it’s so good of you to come. This is Aaron.”
    â€œHi, Aaron.”
    â€œI prefer Buster,” he said pleasantly, and held out one hand. The glove was stained but not completely filthy.
    â€œBuster, then. And Gwen. I’m Mia.”
    â€œPlease, won’t you come with us? Buster can tell you his whole story in the shelter where it’s warm. When my replacement arrives, I’ll be happy to take you back home as I promised.”
    That had been a selling point—she didn’t have to ride the subway back home with a cat. Everything else connected to this trip was insanity. “That was very kind of you.”
    â€œCome on, Arthur,” Gwen called. “Bring your earnings and put them in safekeeping for the night.”
    Arthur rose from his seat on the concrete, a lanky grasshopper unfolding angled legs. He was all knees and height when he stood, and not much older than Buster, perhaps thirty-five or forty. He tipped a worn baseball cap at Mia. “Sorry ’bout sayin’ I had a child.”
    â€œWell, you fooled me once,” she said lightly. “Won’t happen again.”
    â€œNo, ma’am.”
    They headed down the sidewalk and turned at the corner, a nippy breeze greeting them with a quick little blast.
    â€œHow is my little dude Rory?” Buster asked, switching his hold on the box to two hands and pulling it close to his chest. “I miss him.”
    â€œHe’s going to be all right,” Mia said. “He talks a lot about you. You two must have had quite an adventure.”
    â€œHe’s a smart kid. We lived pretty good out here, but I knew he couldn’t stay. I just had to convince him it was better to go live in a house where it was safe.”
    â€œGlad you did. Is that Jack there?”
    â€œHa, man, dat’s Jack in the Box!” Arthur hooted at his own joke.
    â€œIt is,” Buster acknowledged. “I didn’t want to leave him alone. Everybody loves Jack. Someone would take him.”
    â€œDo a lot of your friends have pets out here?” Mia asked.
    â€œSome. A couple have dogs. Not too many have cats; they get too wild living out here. Jack is different.”
    â€œI remember him as a kitten. As I recall, he’s a gorgeous cat.”
    â€œThat he is. Rory grabbed him from the house when his mom got in trouble, but then he wasn’t allowed to bring him to the foster home. I never saw a little kid work so hard not to cry. That’s when I said I’d keep Jack safe until Rory could have him.”
    â€œAnd now you can’t keep him either,” Mia finished.
    â€œIt would be hard.”
    They reached the front of St. Sebastian’s; a red sandstone building next to a church, it was caked in the dust and grime of a dilapidated Brooklyn neighborhood but nonetheless wore a dignified air. The instant Gwen opened the door, warmth, light, music, and the lingering aroma of warm bread banished the cold unfriendliness of the street.
    â€œWelcome to St. Sebastian’s Shelter,” said Gwen. “We serve over two hundred meals a day and up to a thousand on holidays. In the winter we can bunk up to a hundred people easily and up to two hundred in an emergency. We have few real amenities aside from cots, sleeping mats, heat, and food. We have toilets and very minimal showering facilities. Our most prized possession is a fairly new jukebox, which visitors can use until ten thirty every day. It’s quite popular, as you can hear.”
    Mia didn’t recognize the rap song playing. It was far out of her limited repertoire of favorite artists.
    â€œWe try to keep current music for them. There are all genres. You could very well hear Miranda Lambert next and Green Day after that. Nothing offensive, but otherwise we don’t discriminate.” She smiled. “We sneak a few hymns in there too. They get played on occasion. Come on in. We can talk in the small office off the kitchen.

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