Cat Pee and Deadlines

Jo threw her toothbrush into her makeup bag, the other hand holding the phone to her ear. She tried not to let annoyance get the best of her as she listened to Avril make life more complicated than it needed to be.

The bad news: At 5000 words short of my goal, it looks like I’m not going to make my May 1 deadline for having this first draft done.

The woman had practically begged to be allowed to take care of Topaz so Jo wouldn’t have to delay her trip downstate, and now she wasn’t readily available to pick up the keys.

“Well,” Jo said, trying to remain reasonable. “Where do you live? Maybe I can drop the keys by on my way out of town.”

“No, no, that wouldn’t be a good idea. You’d be going out of your way. Isn’t there someplace you can leave them for me? Work? Do you have a doorman in your building, or a neighbor? You know, someone who would believe that the six foot tranny who comes by to pick up the keys is the person you told them to expect?”

The writer in 4B did owe Jo a favor for beta reading the tacky romance novel he’d finished last month. Sanjay would count it as her owing him a favor, rather than as payment of his, but he was an agoraphobic who never set foot outside his door so at least he’d be available regardless of when Avril stopped by.

The good news: The writing pace has picked up the last few days. I got over 2000 words done today.

Jo told Avril which apartment number to buzz to gain access to the keys, and which apartment was Keisha’s.

“But you’ve got to promise to be here before seven o’clock to give Topaz her supper. I was only a half hour late one time and the damn cat peed on Keisha’s favorite throw pillow. She will get revenge if you cross her.”

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The Cheese Stands Alone

Like the nursery rhyme game, each Street Story novel stands alone. What does progress throughout the series, though, is Jo growing as a person. Jo’s relationship with Jack is one way to show that growth.

Once the two of them were settled, Jo pulled Jack out into the hallway with a firm grip that left red prints on his forearm. When she saw there was no one else in the corridor, she put one hand on her hip and stabbed him in the chest with her other finger.

“I know you’ve got rules you need to follow, Jack,” she said, seething. “And there’s good reasons for them, I realize that. If there weren’t rules, it would be too easy for assholes to really exploit these kids by pretending they were helping. But I say fuck those rules, Jack. Today I just want to screw all the rules and do the right thing. If you can’t get her into Maddy’s Place, then that’s fine. I’ll figure out something else. But they’re not calling her family, you hear? Please don’t let them do that.”

Then suddenly his arms were around her and she was pulled close to his chest. She stiffened at first, but he felt so good, he smelled so good—all man and dried sweat and some remnant of aftershave. And, God, he was a good hugger. Her arms were trapped between them, so she couldn’t hug him back, so instead she just let herself go, closed her eyes and let herself get lost in the hug.

It wasn’t a romantic embrace, although she’d imagined that happening quite a few times in the darkness of her lonely room at night. It was an “I’ve got you” hug, a “don’t worry about a thing” that was comforting and warm and believable. She never wanted him to let go.

He did, of course. After a long, sweet minute he pushed her away from him, just a little, his hands holding her arms. Were his cheeks flushed? They were. He kept looking away from her, too, like he was embarrassed to look her in the eyes.

Another theme that progresses throughout the books is Jo’s relationship with her father.

What was it about Lily’s scream that had touched a raw nerve in her? Jo almost shuddered as she remembered. She’d been worried and anxious about Lily’s situation and her reaction to the subject of contacting her family, but that scream had taken Jo beyond those mostly detached emotions. The scream had shaken her—she tried not to think it, there had to be a better to way to say it, wasn’t there? But no, maybe not. Jo had been shaken to the core. A gut wrenching, tearing sensation that touched a nerve so deep she didn’t want to know where it came from.

Did it have something to do with her father? With why she couldn’t seem to let go of her distrust? She was reminded of a dream she often had: a young boy dead in the gutter of a dark street, hand stretched out as if reaching for rescue. Was there some deep dark secret memory she didn’t want to look at?

Then she realized Jack was standing there watching her with a line between his eyebrows that couldn’t have been any clearer if it had formed a question mark. How long had she been standing there struggling internally? She was losing it, for sure. And in front of Jack no less.

Jo smiled, a little, her gaze meeting his, then away, then back again. “Thanks, Doc, I needed that.”

She turned and walked back to the office, satisfied. Just the right mix of sincerity and humor, she thought. Confidentiality crisis averted; friendship saved.

Conversation Without Condemnation

As Jo shut the door behind her, something on the bulletin board across the hall caught her eye. The perfect Caucasian family smiled from a poster: mother, father, son, and daughter with bright white teeth and perfectly groomed features. Above their heads the poster read “And God created them in His own image. Male and female he created them.” The words below the model family were “Empowered Identity Workshop: Wednesdays @ 6 p.m.” In smaller print was a notice that the cost for attending the workshop series was $200. The sessions were open only to girls aged twelve through sixteen.

The workshop, and many of Martin Oberhaus’s words, reflect a real pastoral interview I found while researching the subject of gay conversion techniques.

“Did you have questions about the workshops?” someone asked from down the hall.

Jo turned to see Martin Oberhaus smiling widely. His teeth were as white and well ordered as the lion’s mane of hair on his head. He could have been the grandfather of the family pictured on the poster.

“You don’t look old enough to have a daughter to participate,” he continued as he walked toward her. “But if you have concerns about some other young woman, I would be happy to talk to the parents about the benefits of having their child attend.”

“This is only for girls?” Jo asked.

He had stopped in front of her and stood with fingertips tented in front of him. He bowed slightly, still smiling. “We are hoping to offer a similar series to young men sometime in the future. The intent is to offer an environment where the girls feel free to express themselves.”

“What is this, exactly? A support group for gay kids?” Jo was pretty sure the idea was the exact opposite of that. The age restrictions seemed odd to her, and the bible verse quoted inferred otherwise.

Oberhaus’s face creased with anxiety. “Oh no. We specifically gear the workshops to girls who are too young to really grasp the implications of their sexual identity. This is the age where young people may begin to question their sexuality and they often need guidance to make the right decision.”

“And the right decision is …” Jo paused, waiting for him to fill in the words, “To walk the straight and only acceptable path.”

Instead, he hesitated, his smile a bit brittle but only for an instant. “We offer conversation without condemnation. No one demands they make a particular decision. Participation is totally voluntary. I mean, think about it. Who would agree to be counseled or mentored by someone trying to shove an opinion down your throat?”

Someone troubled and lost, Jo thought. Someone looking for a strong role model because of their own low self esteem. Someone like Lilly.

Jo Likes Tequila

“He makes my skin crawl.” Why had she told Lily that? Jo poured another shot of tequila and sprinkled cinnamon on a slice of orange. Keisha’s breakfast nook was already littered with a half dozen naked strips of orange peel, flecks of cinnamon dust, and a quarter-sized puddle of spilled Don Julio.

Jo is not me, the author, although all my characters have traits I can relate to. However, I had fun making tequila Jo’s alcohol of choice because it is mine as well. Especially with cinnamon and oranges.

“Bottoms up,” she told Topaz as she licked the cinnamon, swallowed the alcohol, and bit into the orange. “Mmmm. Better than salt and lime any day.”

The cat blinked, bored, and licked the pads on one paw. She’d been sitting on the chair opposite Jo for the last half hour, watching her every move like a feline federal judge about to pronounce sentence.

“I’m only over here because it’s unhealthy to drink alone, you know,” she told her inquisitor. Then, noticing how slurred her words sounded, she added, “Shit. I better stop now or—”

She lost the thought, ate the rest of the orange pulp, and reached for another slice. Sans tequila this time. “Pace yourself, girl.” She picked up her phone and squinted at it to read the time.

Midnight. Jo spend a good ten minutes trying to figure out how that translated to Keisha’s time zone, gave it up and dialed her anyway. Topaz made a poor substitute for a best friend.

“Hello?” The groggy answer told Jo that no matter what time zone she was in, Keisha had been asleep.

“Sorry to wake you,” Jo said. “But it’s your fault really, for not teaching your cat how to talk.”

“Jo? You drunk, woman? ’Course you are. What time is it? Oh Lord, really? What’s going on? You okay?”

“You kidding? I’m great. Now, anyway. I made an ass of myself earlier today. Yesterday?” She pulled the phone away from her face to check the time. “Yep, yesterday.”

“What did you do this time? You didn’t call your boss a dick again, did you?”

Jo snorted. She’d been a reporter—barely a reporter, a gofer, really—for a short time at the renowned Chicago Tribune but had given that all up when she told her boss to get his fat hand off her fine ass.

“Nah. Nick’s not interested in my ass. Yours neither. Now Kevin Costner’s ass, that he could get behind.” She suddenly realized what she’d said and started laughing hysterically at her unintentional joke.

“Get some sleep, Jo. When you start thinking you’re a comedian you’re way past your limit.”

The Ugly Past Rears Up

What was it about Lily’s scream that had touched a raw nerve in her? Jo almost shuddered as she remembered. She’d been worried and anxious about Lily’s situation and her reaction to the subject of contacting her family, but that scream had taken Jo beyond those mostly detached emotions. The scream had shaken her—she tried not to think it, there had to be a better to way to say it, wasn’t there? But no, maybe not. Jo had been shaken to the core. A gut wrenching, tearing sensation that touched a nerve so deep she didn’t want to know where it came from.

Author’s Aside: The difficulty with character arcs that occur over several books in a series, is making sure that someone who picks up book four, say, without reading one through three, understands what’s going on, without sounding repetitious to long-standing readers.

Did it have something to do with her father? With why she couldn’t seem to let go of her distrust? She was reminded of a dream she often had: a young boy dead in the gutter of a dark street, hand stretched out as if reaching for rescue. Was there some deep dark secret memory she didn’t want to look at?

Then she realized Jack was standing there watching her with a line between his eyebrows that couldn’t have been any clearer if it had formed a question mark. How long had she been standing there struggling internally? She was losing it, for sure. And in front of Jack no less.

Jo smiled, a little, her gaze meeting his then away then back again. “Thanks, Doc, I needed that.”

She turned and walked back to the office, satisfied. Just the right mix of sincerity and humor, she thought. Confidentiality crisis averted; friendship saved.

Jack knew nothing about her father’s past and Jo’s struggle with it. Only Keisha was privy to that secret. But she’d almost told him when he looked at her like that, with the memory of his comforting arms around her.

Jo shook her head slightly and opened the door into the office. Someday. Maybe. Or maybe not.

The Dam Has Loosed!

Jo pulled Jack out into the hallway with a firm grip that left red prints on his forearm. When she saw there was no one else in the corridor, she put a hand on her hip and stabbed him in the chest with one finger.

Author’s Aside:
I have been struggling with the same chapter for about two weeks. Then suddenly when swimming today, this (and a bunch more) came flooding in.

“I know you’ve got rules you need to follow, Jack,” she said, seething. “And there’s good reasons for them, I realize that. If there weren’t rules, it would be too easy for assholes to really exploit these kids by pretending they were helping. But I say fuck those rules, Jack. Today I just want to screw all the rules and do the right thing. If you can’t get her into Maddy’s Place, then that’s fine. I’ll figure out something else. But they’re not calling her family, you hear? Please don’t let them do that.”

Then suddenly his arms were around her and she was pulled close to his chest. She stiffened at first, but he felt so good, he smelled so good—all man and dried sweat and some remnant of aftershave. And, God, he was a good hugger. Her arms were trapped between them, so she couldn’t hug him back, so instead she just let herself go, closed her eyes and let herself get lost in the hug.

It wasn’t a romantic embrace, although she’d imagined that happening quite a few times in the darkness of her lonely room at night. It was an “I’ve got you” hug, a “don’t worry about a thing” that was comforting and warm and believable. She never wanted him to let go.

He did, of course. After a long, sweet minute he pulled her away from him, just a little, his hands holding her arms. Were his cheeks flushed? They were. He kept looking away from her, too, like he was embarrassed to look her into the eyes.

Author’s Aside:
Yes, You’re right, I do see romance in Jo and Jack’s future. But that’s the good thing about writing a series. You can take your time with some things.

“Thanks for doing that, Jo,” he said softly. “For calming her down like that. That girl—” The break in his voice made Jo’s own throat ache as well. “That girl has been through hell somehow. From someone. Probably her father from the sound of it.”

He let go of her and looked around like he had just suddenly realized they were standing in the middle of the hallway where anyone could see them. They were still alone.

“Whenever someone is in physical danger like I believe Lily is,” —his voice was back to normal now, although maybe just a tinge softer than usual?— “we can ask the courts to waive the parental consent rule. It takes a while to go through, and there’s a whole lot of hoops to jump through, but she can stay at the shelter while that’s being done. Or until you find a way to get proof she’s of age, if she is.”

Jo didn’t even blink an eye at the hoop jumping metaphor. Jack’s unending supply of cliches now felt quaint and comfortable.

 

Jo’s Hot for Jack

Jack was playing basketball in the parking lot when Jo arrived at the Night Moves Center. There was an indoor court, too, since the center was housed in an old high school building, complete with gym, but this was just an informal pickup game, two-on-two, not the team builder he organized once a week.

The Night Moves Center is actually a fictional merging of two real life places I knew when I volunteered in Chicago. The outside is the buildings and parking lot where the Night Ministry bus used to park and the inside is the common room of Emmaus Ministries.

Jack looked good, Jo had to admit, even with his dark hair dripping with sweat. Who plays that hard in heat like this, she wondered. His damp t-shirt showed off the muscles in his shoulders and lean belly. And then, of course, there were those delicious, tight-ass buns.

“Good pass, TJ,” Jack shouted, even though the boy he complimented was on the opposing team.

“Yeah, but not good enough to beat us, hey, Jack-man?” A skinny kid Jo didn’t recognize stole the ball and lobbed it in the net. “That’s ten! You got beat down, bro. We the winners!”

Despite his obnoxious glee at winning, all the players shook hands with each other willingly enough, then patted Jack on the back and thanked him for a great game. Jack waited till the others had walked off before he came over to where Jo was watching.

“Lily here yet?” he asked.

I’m thinking one of these books needs to have a little Jack on Jo action, don’t you think? And I’m not talking about basketball.

He lifted the hem of his t-shirt to blot the sweat beads on his forehead. Jo tried not to be distracted by the glimpse of his abs. “I haven’t seen her. I’m early, though. Hopefully she shows.”

She had contacted him first thing that morning to tell him Avril had called and said Lily agreed to talk to them. Jack’s voice had been all professional over the phone, so Jo hadn’t been able to determine whether he was still pissed at her. At least he had agreed to join her and Lily when they met at the Center to talk about Maddy’s Place.

Even now, though Jo studied his face for frowns of disapproval, he seemed neutral enough when he answered, “Why don’t we go stake out a private room inside where we can talk when she gets here.”

“I thought you had an office here,” Jo asked as they walked inside. There were at least fifteen kids lounging in the “front room” area. A small window air conditioner rattled so loud in its attempts to cool off the huge space that they had turned up the television to its max volume. Reruns of NCIS blasted across the sound of talking and laughter.

“Not officially.” Jack led the way upstairs. “Most of my time is spent over at the shelter now, although they’re thinking of changing that. Splitting me between both places more.”

“I suppose that means more work for the same pay.”

“I don’t mind.” Jack walked past the director’s closed door and pointed at it with one thumb. “Marge needs the backup. They lost two caseworkers last month and the number of kids always doubles in summer.”

“Lost as in quit, or fired?”

Jack had opened a door on the right, glanced in, and entered without giving her an answer.

“I’m not asking for a story or anything,” Jo continued, feeling flushed and awkward. “Just curious, not scandal seeking.”

“This should do.” Jack sat behind the desk and waved to a couch along the wall for Jo to use. “Trevor Banks and I used to share it, but he’s one of the ones that moved on. Voluntarily,” he told her with one eyebrow raised. “Are you apologizing for something?”

The question took her by surprise. “What do you mean?”

“You don’t usually try to explain yourself.” Jack’s deep voice grew even more weighty and calm. “Did I strike a nerve the other day? I told you I was sorry. I thought we knew each other well enough by now not to hold grudges.”

Jo took a deep breath and let it out. “We do. Sorry. Just touching a sore tooth with the tip of my tongue. I’ll stop now.”

Jo Meets Franco

Even though they kept their car windows rolled up, the sound of the crowd of young people shouting and throwing blows at someone pinned down on the sidewalk was loud enough to make Jo press down hard on the gas to get out of the line of fire.

Today’s excerpt is a really rough draft that will need some tweaking, but I thought since you met Chris yesterday, you’d like to get a glimpse of Franco, too.

Flight was not so easy, however, since the street was filled with cruising cars, some passengers encouraging the violence and some simply gawking. Then a shout from down the street scattered the mob. Jo almost ran into several people who dove across her path to get to their parked cars.

They were about two blocks away from the melee when Avril finally leaned forward and pointed. “There. That’s him. That’s him for sure.”

Looking nervously in her rearview window, Jo pulled over to the curb where a slim youth in low-hanging jeans and a muscle t-shirt was leaning against a light pole. As the car stopped, he loped up to them. When Avril rolled down the window, he leaned down to look into the car, saw Avril, and froze.

Covering his surprise with bravado, he said, “You away from your home turf, girl. You branching out or something?”

“Get in, Franco.” Avril got out of the car and tilted the passenger seat forward as an invitation. He took one look around—hoping for rescue or fearful of being seen, who knew which?—before climbing in the back seat.

Jo pulled away from the curb, relieved they weren’t planning on questioning the boy in the open on such a busy street.

“Who she?” Franco asked Avril with a head nod toward Jo.

“I’m the person trying to find a safe place for Lily,” Jo answered.

She put the left blinker on and turned down a side street, away from the action along the main drag. The relative silence as they drove past residential buildings was comforting, though she knew it didn’t mean guaranteed safety by any means.

“She safe.” Franco leaned back, but when Jo looked at him in the rearview mirror, he looked anything but relaxed. “We got it covered.”

“Safe? With Riley King?” Avril blew out a raspberry. “You have got to be joking, boy. You put that baby in a viper’s nest and call it good? Where’s your head at, huh?”

Avril was bluffing. They had no proof Lily was actually staying with Riley King, just that he was involved somehow.

It worked. Franco didn’t even look surprised when he answered, “Least she still got the baby. If Lil had stayed in the hospital, that baby’d be gone, and Lily, too, probably, back to that bastard of an old man of hers.”

So her father had been abusive. That confirmed one of Jo’s theories. But that wasn’t the topic she wanted to pursue tonight.

“I’m working on getting her into Maddy’s Place.” Jo made a mental apology to Jack for stretching the truth again. “A shelter for young mothers.”

“A place they don’t make you sell dope to pay for,” Avril added with emphasis, turning in her seat to stare the boy down.

“I know you care about Lily,” Jo said quickly before the two of them could go at one another. “You’ve got to know it’s not healthy for her or the baby to stay with Riley King for long. All I want to do is talk to her, present Maddy’s Place as an option. Offer my help.”

I need to compare this scene to one of Chris in Painted Black, who also almost turned prostitute, to make sure they aren’t too similar.

Jo stopped at a stop sign and waited, her eyes meeting his in the mirror again. She could see his indecision, his distrust, but also the worry that furrowed the ridge between his eyebrows, the haunted eyes of a boy forced too soon into becoming a man.

“I’ll tell her,” he said finally. “I won’t promise anything, but I’ll tell her what you said and let her decide. If—” He frowned and leaned forward again. “If you take me back to my corner right now, before King finds out I skipped out on the job.”

Jo took a deep breath and glanced over at Avril, who was watching her with no expression. An indication that this was Jo’s call, not hers. Letting her breath out in an exaggerated sigh, Jo turned the steering wheel to the right and made a wide u-turn in the middle of the intersection before heading straight back into the mouth of Englewood hell.

A Black Door Painted Red

Today I decided to bring back Chris from Painted Black in a cameo scene somewhere in Cry Baby Cry. If you haven’t met him yet, here’s an excerpt from Painted Black of Jo watching a DVD from a peer group session that includes Chris.

“See,” Chris said, and the edited shot showed him next, leaning forward in his seat. “That’s where it’s different for me than most of you. I’m not homeless because I got kicked out, or somebody beat me up or raped me. I chose this life. It’s better this way. This way, my mom doesn’t have to worry about taking care of me and feeding me. Working three jobs. Taking care of Pete and Josey and the baby. Yeah,” he nodded his head. “It’s better this way.”

His eyes caught the camera for a second, then darted away quickly. Two high spots of color appeared on his cheeks. He fumbled for a pack of cigarettes in his pocket as the camera panned to the guy next to him.

The Chris on the screen struck Jo as slightly uncertain, but covering it with bravado. The bitterness hadn’t yet seeped into his tone.

There wasn’t much more to the video, so Jo fast-forwarded. Chris’s face zipped across the screen, and she backed up to hear him end the session with one last story.

“One day, I walked into Lakeview High with all the other kids. I just wandered around, looked into classrooms—I don’t know why, really. There’s something about the sound of a school bell ringing …. But then the halls started clearing out. Some teacher, or the principal or somebody, caught sight of me and said, ‘Hey, you, where you supposed to be right now, boy?’ I would have tried to bullshit my way out of it, but he was a big guy, so I just ran out.”

The camera stayed on him when he paused. For the long second of silence, he seemed to be lost somewhere, his gaze unfocused, smoldering cigarette forgotten.

“I call my mom sometimes. Just to let her know I’m okay, you know? Sometimes I talk for a while, tell her I’ve got a job, even if I don’t. Tell a few lies. Sometimes I don’t say much more than hi, it’s Chris, I’m okay so don’t worry, and then I say goodbye. She always says she loves me, and that she worries about me, but, you know—”

Some of of my readers will be especially happy with this news because he was a popular character. I won’t tell you when he’ll appear or what he’ll be doing, but I promise he’ll show up.

He looked up and took a drag from his cigarette. The smoke he exhaled clouded his face, making it difficult to identify the expression in his eyes. “She’s never asked me to come home. Not once.”

The camera lingered for a few moments. Smoke from the cigarette trailed in wisps in front of his face. Then the screen slowly faded to black.

Coming Full Circle

The door to the cylindrical chamber opens like a porthole in a submarine. Inside, on a mesh wire tray, petite brown feet with pale soles face outward. Jo wants to look away, but instead her gaze follows the ankles up to the slender calves, the emaciated nakedness with its sunken belly and flattened breasts, then finally settles on the terrified face of the girl cooking slowly inside.

This chapter starts off with a blatant reminder of the first book in the series, Painted Black. In so many ways, including the title, this book brings us full circle to that one.

The nightmare awakened Jo with a familiar bolt of energy. It wasn’t the first time she’d had dreams of her one glimpse of Lexie Green’s fate. It persisted even though it wasn’t even a realistic portrayal of what she’d actually seen when she glanced through a funeral home window looking for the missing girl. All she’d seen then had been the girl’s feet. She hadn’t known until much later what the chamber was for, and that Lexie had been dead before she’d been placed inside the apparatus designed to freeze-dry her into immortality.

Jo had awakened to morning at least, this time. Late morning, it seemed, from the slant of sunlight coming in from outside. The hum of her window air conditioner nearly drowned out the sounds of traffic and cars honking in the Hyde Park street in front of her building. Another sign that Jo had slept in. The neighborhood was up and thriving; it was time Jo joined them.

Padding barefoot toward the kitchen, she paused to pick up a manilla envelope someone had shoved under her door. Scrawled across the front of it, unsigned, but in familiar handwriting, read, “Squee!! I’m famous! I’ll let you buy me champaign and caviar when I get back next week. Don’t forget about Topaz. Love you. Be good.”

Inside the envelope was a copy of the latest Marie Claire magazine with four women on the cover. Building a Seasonal Wardrobe read the large print alongside the photo. Each woman wore highly fashionable clothes symbolic of the season they represented. Jo’s friend and neighbor, Keisha, with her beautifully bronze skin and dazzling smile, was the epitome of summer.

The kitchen was warmer than the bedroom, but cool enough to not prohibit the idea of baking blueberry muffins for breakfast. Her apartment did have central air conditioning, everyone in the building did, but the system was old and unreliable. Plus, Jo liked it glacial while she slept, an excuse to curl up like a hibernating bear beneath a soft comforter.

She dressed while the muffins baked, the sweet smell wafting throughout the small one bedroom flat. Then, grabbing Keisha’s keys, a muffin, and the magazine, she headed across the hall to Keisha’s apartment.

Topaz, the friendliest Siamese cat Jo had ever encountered, greeted her arrival with incessant meows that could have been greetings or complaints that she’d taken too long to come. The cat warbling turned to even louder purrs as Jo used the automatic can opener on a tin of cat food. The purrs and ankle-rubbing didn’t cease until the food dish was placed on the floor. Then, finally, Jo was able to start on her own breakfast.

Keisha had a Keurig, so it didn’t take long before Jo took her coffee to kitchen bar stool to eat and look through the fashion magazine. She found it hard to concentrate, however, barely making it through the article that accompanied Keisha’s photo shoot. The nightmare still haunted her.

I decided on the title Cry Baby Cry for several reasons, but one significant one is that CRY was the tag used by the graffiti artist who was Lexie Green’s friend, Christopher Robert Young.

She had learned of Lexie Green’s fate almost a year before, and the nightmares had, thank God, tapered off since then. Avril’s reappearance in her life, however, seemed to have revived those memories with a vengeance.