Tag Archives: girls

Some Things Need Said

First day of your life
As a writer, a lesbian, and a woman, it is time for me to say a few things. As those of you who have read my novels, visited my Facebook pages or even just read my blog know everything I write has the underlying motivation of empowering women and girls. I address those issues that affect women and girls on a daily basis.
With the elections looming closer every day, I find myself compelled to weigh in with what I have seen and heard and think. What many of you may not realize is that simply being an out lesbian has cost me an education, my home, everything that I had worked for years to acquire. I have been fired for being a lesbian. I have endured harassment on my job for being a lesbian. And, I know without a doubt, if Trump is elected I will lose more. I will once again live in an environment where violence against those who are different is either ignored or in some cases actually encouraged.

I am not the only lesbian to have lost things and people that matter to us simply for the crime of being a lesbian. I have known women who have lost their children. In the repressive and violent environment that Trump would encourage as president–has already encouraged through his campaign of hate–all of the civil rights gains that we have made will be negated. It is for that, as well as for many other reasons, that I am compelled to speak out.

I have heard people say they might abstain from casting a vote because they like neither candidate. Rest assured that NO DECISION is a DECISION BY DEFAULT. Others say they will vote for a party that has no standing in this current election. That is the same as making NO DECISION–you are making a decision for a major political candidate by deciding on that action. When you do cast your vote, I want you to remember those people you know–those people are lesbian, gay, those people who are female, those people who are Muslim or some other minority religion, those people who are of a different race or ethnic background than you. Ask yourself: what will my vote mean for them as well as for me? Will it bring about peace? Will my vote count for securing civil rights for ALL Americans? Or only for the privileged few?

Trump has made it abundantly clear that he considers anyone who is not white, male, heterosexual, and Christian to be inferior. He has made statements that make it clear that he does not believe anyone different than himself deserves to have their rights, and their well-being, protected.

YET, when we look at the natural world we can see one grand truth:
diversity (2)

If you are a woman, or if you have a daughter, mother, aunt, sister or wife, here is what Trump thinks about women. To one reporter’s question do you consider women to be human beings, Trump’s response was: I would have to consider that on a case-by-case basis. Some people might try to excuse this statement by saying he was only joking, but such a statement is not a joking matter, especially for a candidate for the highest office of our country.

He has threatened multiple times to deport millions of people and has led the American people to wrongfully assume that such deportation of “illegal aliens” would help the economy and provide more jobs. In reality, the jobs that illegal immigrants hold are the meanest, the lowest paid, and the hardest jobs such as migrant workers in the fields. There are plenty of those jobs for the asking; all you have to do is apply. What such deportation will mean to our economy is that farmers, especially the larger farmers who depend on migrant, and yes on illegal immigrants, will lose crops due to a lack of workers. Though I do not approve of such exploitation of illegal immigrants, the fact remains that they a necessary labor pool. Deportation will inevitably harm our economy. (Much moreso than say meeting the basic needs of those workers!)

He wants to ban people of a specific religion from immigrating to our country. Yet, this nation was founded by men and women seeking to avoid religious persecution. Remember, not all sects or practices of Christianity were tolerated in the Old World.

Even forgetting the beginnings of the United States, let’s examine refugee impact on one American city, St. Louis, Missouri. During the Bosnia war, thousands of refugees fled their homeland and some of them came to America. Over twenty-two thousand of those refugees who came to America landed eventually in St. Louis. At the time, St. Louis was a “dying city”.

The results of the flux of Bosnia immigrants into St. Louis, according to a 2012 Saint Louis University paper titled “The Economic Impact of Immigration in St. Louis” resurrected that city. (Please note that the immigrants they are speaking of were mostly Muslims)

They (the refugees) revitalized parts of South St. Louis City and South St. Louis County by moving into older neighborhoods, opening businesses and rehabbing housing. Bosnians opened many thriving small businesses including bakeries, butcher shops, coffee shops, construction and heating and cooling companies, insurance companies and a truck-driving institute, and continue to be a key source of high skilled production work. To read the entire article go to: http://fusion.net/story/238682/the-miracle-of-little-bosnia/

According to Trump poor people are poor because they are genetically coded not to succeed; they are doomed to remain poor for the rest of their lives. This statement came from a man that some people would vote into the presidency because they believe he is a good businessman. Good business people know that hard work and determination frequently overrides the circumstances under which a successful person is born.

While I am on the subject of Trump’s so-called business acumen–Trump has bankrupted a number of his own companies. (And some folks want him to run the business of our country?!) One interesting business deal which he instigated was with the Scottish government. He promised the Scottish government that he would build and run a golf resort in Scotland that would employ 600 people, yet the resort foundered. At no time did he employ more than 300 people on that project and even that was temporary. He blamed his own failure on the fact that the Scottish government refused to FORCE a citizen of Scotland to sell his property to Trump. When Trump sued the Scottish government, they allowed the suit and subsequently, Trump, of course, lost the suit.

He has proposed building a wall between Mexico and the United States. Drugs come through tunnels (some of the best engineered tunnels in the world, by the way) to the United States more often than across the border. What makes him think that illegal immigrants would not also come through those tunnels if he builds a wall? A costly wall. A wall that mimics the futile wall that once divided Germany. Surely, the Berlin Wall is not so far in the past that we have forgotten it.

He has shown blatant disrespect toward women. Such disrespect of the more than half of our population does not bode well for women’s rights and freedoms.

And, he’s lied about charitable giving. According to the Washington Post, there’s no record of Trump donating any of his own money to charity in the last five years.
“Not a single one of those donations was actually a personal gift of Trump’s own money,” the Post reported. “Many of the gifts that Trump cited to prove his generosity were free rounds of golf, given away by his courses for charity auctions and raffles.”
Specifically, Trump listed nearly 3,000 rounds of golf as charitable gifts, even though some of the golf passes were given to his business clients and wealthy celebrities. As the Post explained, the donations list “reveals how Trump has demonstrated less of the soaring, world-changing ambitions in his philanthropy than many other billionaires. Instead, his giving appears narrowly tied to his business and, now, his political interests. Read the entire article at: http://www.salon.com/2016/04/16/the_charity_double_standard_partner/

Everyone can undoubtedly agree that the First Lady is an important asset to the president. Every president that we have had, so far, has proven that to be true. The First Ladies are nearly as well known and are definitely judged by the world community. With this in mind, what do you think the impression of our nation will be if we have a First Lady who plagiarized another First Lady’s speech? Trump’s wife did just that. She plagiarized the speech of First Lady Michelle Obama. Such a move indicates two things: she could not think on her own and she had very poor advice from her advisers. First Ladies have a delicate and important job to do for our country. They need to be widely read, intelligent, perceptive, and able to think on their own. (And that is just a few of the attributes they must have)

Trump’s campaign has been based on divisive, racist, misogynistic and plain hateful rhetoric to the point that England debated whether or not to allow him into their country.

For the past months I have heard many negative things said or written about Hilliary Clinton. What is not so widely known and spoken about are the many good works she has performed out of the glow of the limelight. I learned about some of those endeavors from a video on this site: https://www.facebook.com/TheDaily.BuzzOnline/videos/1062989120456530/ I learned that Hilliary has championed women and girls worldwide from Northern Ireland to North Thailand to Senegal to the United States. She was the driving force behind the passage of laws against human trafficking. And all of this from a woman who as a little girl once wrote to NASA and said she wanted to be an astronaut. NASA’s reply was: girls can not become astronauts.

For years, Republicans have used taxpayer money—thousands upon thousands of dollars—in a witch hunt against Hilliary Clinton. After wasting all of that money—money that could have been better used for the American people—they FAILED to prove any wrongdoing by Hilliary.

Even the latest so-called scandal that claimed she had sent classified information over unsecured email servers has been proven false. She did not send classified information over unsecured servers. Likewise, she was cleared of any wrongdoing in the Benghazi affair.

People who value family should rally to Hilliary Clinton. In spite of everything, she stuck with her husband when many women, myself included, would have felt she was justified in leaving him. Hilliary has proven her commitment to family.

Whether you like Hilliary or not, if you are a woman or an LGBT person, or if you care about the civil rights of ALL Americans, be aware that during the upcoming presidential term three Supreme Court justices will be appointed. This will greatly impact the civil liberties of ALL Americans! For women, for those who have children, for minority people, for lesbian and gay couples, and for all LGBT people, this should be an enormous consideration before voting.

Change (2)
Will you be an agent for positive change?



#Reviews: The Good, Bad, and Ugly

REVIEWS: The Good, Bad, and Ugly
Your opinion counts—especially with Independent Authors AKA #IndieAuthors—those of us who choose to write and to publish our own work. I read every review I receive, and I take them seriously. What the reader says matters to me.
What is even more important for the reader to understand is that reviews and word-of-mouth can make or break an Indie book. We swim, or drown, in an ocean of books. creeping fog on ocean
Between 600,000 and 1 million new books are published every year. With limited advertising budgets and no large house to create “buzz” for us, we have to depend on rankings, especially rankings on Amazon, to have our books placed far enough toward the top of the queue that readers who are randomly searching–say ‘mystery’–will happen upon our books. Two ways to get good rankings on Amazon is to either sell a lot of books every day and/or amass at least twenty-five 4 and 5 star reviews.
Unfortunately, Indie authors also face the terrible monsters of the deep. Beneath the choppy waters of the ocean of books lurk Review Trolls. Here is a rare photo of a Review Troll, note the wide open mouth getting ready to gobble up a Indie Author: Sea Monster Yawning
Review trolls are people who purchase a book, keep it a day or two and then return the book without reading it. That person can now post an Amazon VERIFIED purchase review. The reviews that trolls publish are always meant to wreck an author’s ratings. Like black hat hackers, review trolls are about unnecessary destruction. Their ratings, however, will pull down the ranking of the book that they attack unless that book has enough 4 and 5 star ratings to successfully counterbalance the trolls’ attacks.
With the challenges involved in getting very busy people to write and post reviews and fending off troll attacks, Indie authors face advertisers who won’t even consider their book for their publications and email blasts unless the book has at least ten 4 and 5 star reviews on AMAZON! They don’t count Barnes and Noble or Smashwords reviews. Everyone knows that advertising is one way to get your book in front of a larger audience. Classic chicken and egg situation. Advertising could result in more reviews, but you can’t advertise with the really good advertisers without ten reviews.
You see, a reader’s opinion really does matter, especially to an Indie author. The next time you finish a book, please consider zipping over to Amazon and quickly posting an honest review.
For me, and for many Indie authors who put in incredibly long hours, we thank you!
Everyone with a social conscience who also loves a good mystery should read this well written book.
The mixture of police procedures and Native American spiritualism are needed to solve the crime and rescue the two women. The author knows the setting well and uses it to enhance the story.
I love crime novels, and this really hit the spot.
I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a story about life and finding the will to overcome adversity.
Thought provoking about the injustices of bigotry and racism, and the ray of sunshine that there are people “out there” willing to accept, love, and help others even though their lifestyles are unlike their own. Well done.
HARD ROAD HOME (LITERARY, COMING-OF-AGE) pwindsinspirations says:
This story brought out emotions in me I had hidden away. I, too, was abused and afraid to tell anyone for fear of only making it worse for myself….. I liked how it took me from despair to triumph and the way the writer brought that about.
A very good read. As a mother of 2 girls, the subject matter is a bit difficult at times. But, in the end, it shows that young women pitted against adversity through no fault of their own can come back strong and live good lives. Is thought provoking and makes me realize there is much that needs to be done in this society to help young people thrive.
THIS is why I write! Thank you, Readers! YOU are my inspiration!
katrina leavereview

SKETCH OF A MURDER, Special Crimes Team, is FREE. Run over and grab your copy! http://www.amazon.com/Sketch-Murder-Special-Crimes-Team-ebook/dp/B00KU6AIPQ

To view my other titles go to: http://www.amazon.com/Aya-Walksfar/e/B00CMVAKKK



Words are powerful. We ingest words like air, almost unconsciously. And, like air they wend their way deep inside of us, carried into our brains just like oxygen.

What happens if you are a young girl and all the words that feed your brain tell you things like:

1.  Girls can’t do science (check out my pinterest board about #GREATWOMEN


2.  Girls should have babies and stay at home  (IF this is what a woman wants then it is an appropriate career, and a tough one. But, not all women want to have children–in our overcrowded world–and many want to have a career outside of the home.  #womenshould do whatever their talents and desires lead them to do)

3.  Girls can’t be athletes  (Girls, and women, can be and do whatever they choose. There are many outstanding #womenathletes )

4.  Girls don’t do math (I refer the reader to my pinterest board GREAT WOMEN)

5.  Only lesbians want to be independent women (This one is too silly to even answer)

6.  Lesbians are women who are too ugly to find a man (Personally, I think Portia is very stunning. Ask #ellendegenres I bet she would agree)

7.  “There is no such thing as rape” (This statement shows that there are people who are dangerously ill-informed, or there is no such thing as a brain among the people who say this!)

8.  “Rape is just a snuggle with a struggle” (on a t-shirt that was being sold in a mall in the Phillipines!) (This one is extremely dangerous and goes along with “there is no such thing as rape”. Until we understand that rape is violent assault with the same objective as a perp tying up and beating another person–which is to control and terrorize that person– we will not be able to understand the full extent of this horrendous crime. That the perp uses sex–what is normally considered a tool of intimacy–to control and terrorize is part of what makes this crime so devastating. )

9.  If you would use a little makeup, you’d be pretty (and if you don’t use makeup, obviously you are ugly) (Cosmetics are a huge industry and it behooves that industry to spend billions of dollars every year to convince women of this fallacy. This is pretty egotistical. These people are claiming that they know what beauty is better than Creator/God/Goddess and they are willing to help the Dieties/Diety make their creations beautiful! YOU are BEAUTIFUL just as you are!)

10.  Honey, you’d look so much nicer if you lost a few pounds (translation: if you don’t loose a few pounds, you’re el blimpo) (Women and girls come in all shapes and sizes. All of them are beautiful. The only time a person should worry about their weight is if it is adversely affecting their health, by THEIR standards.)

11.  Women are weaker than men; they can’t fight back (hmm, there are undoubtedly a few men out there who wish they hadn’t believed that one!)

12.  #Feminists are women who hate men (how about Feminists are women who want the best for women and men?)

These 12 statements are why we need to have novels which paint a true picture of the diversity, the strength and the courage of women. Girls, and women, need to hear positives; need to see role models of women who confront all sorts of evils and obstacles and triumph on television, in songs and in novels.  There are many wonderful pinterest boards about #remarkablewomen

We do not need more Manic Pixie Dream Girls who only exist to help the boy fulfill his destiny! We do not need more damsels in distress feeding the idea that girls and women are helpless without a man/boy to rescue them. Women, and girls, often rescue others and this needs to be celebrated in literature.

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To read books with remarkable, strong female characters visit Aya at http://www.amazon.com/author/ayawalksfar






My momma has always been a quiet person. The only time I’d seen her raise a hand in anger I was ten and came racing from the woods with a bloody nose, yelling at the top of my lungs. Some big boys were stoning a broken winged crow. Momma ran from the garden, passing me as we raced back up the hill.

By the time them boys circled around that poor bird realized Momma was there she’d done snatched one boy by the collar of his shirt and flung him to the side. As she reached for the second boy, those boys must’ve got a good look at Momma’s face. They rabbitted out of there, crashing through the woods in several directions.

Momma stands only an inch taller than my four-foot-eleven and at a hundred-ten, I outweigh her by five pounds. But, that day, there was something in Momma’s face…. I saw it, too. As much as I love her, I felt a shiver run over me.

That evening Daddy kissed Momma on the nose, calling her his lioness. Said she never showed her claws unless something needed protecting.

Grandpa laughed. “She’s the only lioness I’ve ever heard of that drags the critters home and heals them!”

Ever since I can remember, I’ve helped Momma with the critters that wind up at our house. Sometimes, neighbors brought possums and raccoons and squirrels injured by traps, dogs, cats and cars. Other times we found the poor things dragging themselves along ditches or down the center line of a roadway. Grandpa brought Gimp, the mongrel, home. Truckers down at the big truck depot where Grandpa worked had a bettin’ pool on and the money went to the man who ran over the little dog. Grandpa cornered Gimp, threw his jacket over the small dog and grabbed him in his arms. Gimp gave Grandpa a smart bite on the hand, but my grandpa never let go.

Occasionally, even Dad hauled a critter home. The last one was a hawk. The slipstream of the big rig ahead of Dad’s snatched the hawk as it dove for dinner along the road’s shoulder, slamming it to the ground. Momma put on a heavy pair of leather gloves and examined the frightened bird. No broken bones, just a few outraged muscles. Two months later, the four of us drove further out into the country to release Redtail.

It was the last release Dad ever did with us. Two weeks later when the brakes on his rig failed, Dad hit a sharp, West Virginia curve too fast. The state police found him and the wreckage of his rig at the bottom of a ravine.

After Dad died, Grandpa gave Momma his old .38 Smith and Wesson. He said the four inch barrel made it accurate enough to be useful. At the time, I thought Grandpa should’ve known Momma well enough not to do that. Momma doesn’t like guns.

I thought for sure that Grandpa wouldn’t be able to talk her around, but like Dad he can be what Momma calls “mulish”. Maybe that’s why she gave in when for the ten-thousandth time, he insisted she needed to have the gun. “Dag gum it, Natalie, what is the matter with you, girl? Whatever happened that you’re so agin guns?” A shrewd look settled over Grandpa’s whiskery face. “Somethin’ happen back when you was a kid? Somebody you love got kilt with a gun or maybe just bad hurt?”

“My childhood is irrelevant and you know it, Amos. Guns are for killing. I don’t like killing, that’s why I’m a vegetarian, remember?”

“Look, honey, I ain’t gonna be around here forever. You need to be able to protect yourself and Amy. Please, just humor an old man?”

Since then I’ve wondered if Grandpa somehow knew. Eight months after Dad died, Grandpa was building a new pen for Stanley, a wild rabbit with a milky film over both eyes. At the hospital, I heard Dr. Randolph tell Momma that Grandpa was gone before he hit the ground. Massive heart attack.

Grandpa’s pistol gathered dust on the top shelf of Momma’s closet ever since that day. That’s why I never expected Momma to do what she did. But, I’m getting ahead of myself now. Momma’s always reminding me to start at the beginning of things. Soo…..

The day IT happened I’d just turned twelve the weekend before. Looking at my bean pole self, nobody coulda told how old I was. I still wasn’t wearing nothin’ under my shirts. That day I was out back of our older brick house. Calling for Gimp, I grabbed a hammer and the plastic jar of nails. I needed to finish the plywood shed Momma and me had started building.

I’d wanted a horse for the longest time, but grocery store cashiers don’t make much. Besides, we had quite the collection of critters already and Momma said horses were too expensive. She didn’t see how we could stretch our budget that much further. Now, climbing between the salvaged boards of the four-rail horse fence, I slowly edged my way towards the bay filly with the white star on her forehead, trembling on the far side of the small paddock.

A few days before Momma and I had sat up till the eleven o’clock news come on trying to figure out how we could make-do so we could afford the little filly. I volunteered to wear last year’s school clothes since I hadn’t grown much over the summer. Momma suggested we could eat a few more beans and a few less veggie burgers. We knew we had to find a way to do it.

Ever since early spring, Momma had been watching this little filly on old man Hampsen’s place, five miles up the road. The filly’s field bordered the road Momma took to and from her job at Darrelson’s Grocery. By August, the last weeds in the field had been eaten. Momma said she could see the little horse getting thinner than she already was by the day.

The first week of September, school started along with the fall rains. The bony filly soon stood knee deep in muck.

That Friday night, I rode along with Momma when she wheeled her junker Ford into Hampsen’s drive. Though she ordered me to stay in the pickup, I could easily hear Momma’s usually soft voice. It wasn’t like she was shouting; something so strong in her voice carried it across the crisp September air. “You can either sell me that poor little horse or I swear I’ll call the animal welfare people and keep after them till they’re pounding on your door.”

Hampsen pulled a raggedy red bandana from the hip pocket of his dirty overalls. Loudly blowing his big, red nose, he eyed my momma as he stuffed the bandana back into his pocket. “I reckon I could let ‘er go for fifty dollars cash money.”

“Fifty dollars! I’m not goin’ to give you a dime over thirty dollars and I want a halter and lead rope, too. You should be payin’ me to take that poor creature.”

I held my breath. Then, just in case it might help, I crossed my fingers.

“Weelll….” He drawled. With an abrupt swing of his arm, the head of the ax he’d been leaning on thunked into the chopping block. “Ya gonna haul ‘er outta ‘ere on that?” He shoved his bristly chin at our truck.

Momma pulled her wallet out of her back pocket. “My daughter and I will walk her home.” We stalled her in our garage. I hand grazed her on the lawn while we built a pasture fence.

As I ran my hands down her brittle-coated sides, Momma and me had done the right thing. I was still talking to her when I heard them. Squinting towards the brown hill sloping up across the back of the twenty acres Grandpa’d left us, I watched as a slender doe staggered into sight. Even from where I stood, I saw the red stain on her shoulder.  She bounded clumsily away moments before two, orange-hatted, bow hunters lazily trailed after her.

“Momma!” I yelled. As I scrambled towards the house, the back door banged open.

Momma’s feet pounded across the wooden porch floor. “Hey! Get off my land!” Her voice rang across the autumn afternoon.

“That’s our deer.” The heavier hunter shouted back.

“I said to get off my land, now!” The boom of Grandpa’s .38 punctuated her words.

The hunters stopped, staring down the hill at us. They were close enough for me to see the angry flush on the heavy one’s face.

Momma, straddle-legged, faced them, the black pistol aimed in their direction.

“Lissen, lady, back off. I’ve already marked that deer with my arrow.” Arrogance echoed in his words as he turned to continue the slow pursuit.

The gun barked again. The shot kicked up dirt in a bare patch a few feet ahead of the hunters. “Next time it won’t be the ground I shoot.” Momma’s voice didn’t sound nothing like her. The hard edge made my stomach clench up.

The men hesitated a moment longer. The shorter man gestured towards Momma, obviously arguing with the heavier man. Finally, they turned, stepping quickly back the way they’d come.

Momma didn’t waste time watching them leave. She hurried up the hill. Stopping where the hunters had stood, she gazed down a moment then picked up the deer’s path of flight, moving off silently, quickly. It wasn’t too long before I heard the gun boom again, just once.

I waited for Momma by the porch steps when she came down the hill. She caught my eyes then glanced away towards the pens holding the raccoon we’d patched up from an arrowhead infection in his shoulder and the raucous crow whose broken wing had never healed quite right. When Momma looked back at me, her smoky-gray eyes were tear filled. She lowered herself wearily to the steps. “Wasn’t anything else to do. She was so beautiful.”

Then Momma laid the gun on the porch and buried her face in her hands. For the third time in my life, I saw her cry.

The End.

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“Take a little time out of your busy day/To give encouragement/To someone who’s lost the way
(Just try)/Or would I be talking to a stone/If I asked you/To share a problem that’s not your own
We can change things if we start giving/Why don’t you
Reach out and touch/Somebody’s hand
Make this world a better place/If you can…” Diane Ross 1970

The wrinkled, smudged envelope lay stuffed among my junk mail. I studied the faded words. Neither the handwriting nor the no-name return address rang a bell. The barely legible postmark read: Ukiah, CA,  but the zip code had faded out. The date stamp read: Aug 21 20…  The rest of the year had smeared into  blue oblivion.

As I trudged back up the potholed drive, I wiped the liquid August heat from my brow with the tail of my dirty t-shirt. The mystery letter provided a good excuse to take an iced tea break. Inside the old two-story, clapboard farmhouse, I reached toward the sink sideboard to flip on some music. My hand groped empty air then I recalled that the DVD/CD player had been one of last night’s casualties.

No-last-name-revealed Susie, a girl who couldn’t have been more than fourteen that I’d brought home from the Seattle streets the week before ran off sometime during the night. Three hundred dollars in cash and the compact disc player ran off with her. It’d been a long time since that had happened. The missing material items didn’t hurt as much as the feeling of failure.

Maybe Tim had been right. His shouted accusations from six months earlier still gnawed at me. “Just because you can’t have kids, doesn’t mean my life should be embroiled in chaos created by other people’s juvenile delinquents.” His lip had turned up in that hateful way he had as he’d shouted, “Do you really believe you’ve changed a single one of those brats’ lives? All you’ve accomplished is to wreck our marriage!”

Life would certainly be simpler, and quieter, without rebellious teen girls and angry parents who stormed up to my door in the middle of the night. They refused to take their child home, yet demanded I turn her out. Facing aggressive abusers at fifty is a lot scarier than at forty.

The month before Tim stormed out of my life, I’d had to call the police on a stepfather waving a handgun outside my back door. After the police hauled the man off, Tim issued his ultimatum. “Sandra, it’s either me or those damn girls. One of us isn’t staying here.”

How could I close my door against #girls whose only other choice was often sex for food?

I carried the letter into the living room and folded onto the faded sofa. One foot tucked up under me, I took a sip of lemony tea then set the glass on the scarred cherry wood end table. Carefully, I slit open the envelope. A sheet of yellow tablet paper with scrawled lines fell out.

“Dear Sandy,

It’s been ten years since I split in the middle of the night with all the cash I could find as well as the clothes you bought for me. I hitched a ride with a trucker from your place in Bellingham to Mom’s house in Ukiah. Two weeks later I caught a bus back to the streets of #Seattle. I’d picked a fight with Mom. Mays, of course, grounded me. The truth: my running had nothing to do with Mom or with my stepfather, Mays. I just couldn’t seem to get comfortable anywhere.

After living with you for those eighteen months, I viewed street life differently, somehow. Maybe it was those late night gab sessions that you, Stoney, Jaimie and me used to have. Slowly I realized that none of us street kids were the glamorous outlaws whose personas we tried to don. Those outlaw clothes hung on us like baggy rags. Just scared, hungry, stoned kids running from one thing or another, but not running to anything, except a dead end life.

Eight months after I hit the streets again, my best friend, Lydia, died from an overdose. She lay dead, there on the filthy mattress in the back room of a crack house next to me. I woke up from my own drug run and felt her cold arm against mine.

As tears rolled down my face, I could hear you telling me the first time we met on First Avenue in Seattle, “It’s up to you, Michelle. You can stay here on the streets where there isn’t any future, except death of one kind or another, or you can walk away now and with work become anything you want to become. It’s your choice.”

When I dragged home, neither Mom nor Mays ever said a word. Back at school, whenever I felt like quitting, I’d recall how you took me in and told me I could make my life count for something good. You peered through the caked on makeup, the green hair, all those piercings and saw me. I promised myself that I’d write when I became someone you’d be proud to know.

So, I’m writing.

When I received my degree in psychology, Mom and Mays helped finance the opening of a halfway house for street girls. We call it Phoenix Rising. It’s not much. Five acres and a rambling old farmhouse that Mays and the girls are helping me remodel. In the pasture are two horses, Lost and Found, both from auction, both headed for slaughter. They keep company with a goat named Bad Manners. Our orange housecat was a feral kitten a friend of mine live trapped, injured and flea ridden. Her name’s Welcome and that’s what she does to every girl who walks through the front door. Our lab mix came from the local shelter. We named her Friend, and she’s been one to every living thing on this place. Every day those animals keep teaching me the lessons I first learned from you, lessons about having an open heart, believing in others, and giving.

Currently, ten girls live here. Kathy and Melody have been here since a week after the house opened. Kathy’s a computer genius who has already been scouted by a couple of colleges. Melody plans to attend a nearby vocational tech school to learn carpentry.

Sandy, do you remember that night about two weeks after I arrived when you and I were standing, leaning on the top rail of your pasture fence? I told you that a person needed a nice car, good clothes, a fine house and money if they wanted to be happy.

You studied me for a few minutes then turned back to stare out at your Arabian, Angel, prancing across the field. Then in that quiet voice of yours, you told me that after your baby had been born dead and the doctor said you could never have children, you swallowed a handful of pills. The nice house, the fancy clothes and the big car couldn’t give you a reason to live.

Your friend, Rachelle, found you and rushed you to the emergency room. She stayed with you for days. The day you were discharged, Rachelle drove you down to First Avenue then on up and around the university district. She pointed out the street kids as she drove then she pulled over to the side of the road and turned toward you. In a furious voice, she said, “Of course, you can have kids! There they are!” She’d swept her arm to include a young girl probably no more than thirteen huddled in a doorway and another young girl panhandling on a corner.

“There are your kids. If you don’t claim them, if you don’t reach out and touch their lives, who will? And if someone doesn’t give a damn, they’re going to die. Same as your baby died, but for a whole lot less reason.”

You looked at me then. Tears glistened in your eyes as you told me, “The important things can’t be purchased. They can only be handed on, from one person to another, a priceless inheritance.”

Sandy, thank you for my inheritance.

Love, Michelle Dryer.”

Double-checking the phone number on the letter, I smiled as I punched it in.

“Hello?” An older woman’s voice answered.

“I’d like to speak with Michelle Dryer. This is Sandy Harmer.”

“The Sandy from Bellingham, the one Michelle stayed with for a while?”

“Yes, that’s me.”

“I’m Eleanor. Eleanor Dryer. Michelle’s mother.”

“Oh, I thought the number on the letter was Michelle’s. You’re not going to believe this, but I just received a letter from Michelle that apparently got lost before it wound up here. In it she told me about her halfway house for girls, Phoenix Rising.”

“That letter must be almost two years old!” Eleanor gasped.  “Michelle…” I heard a catch in the woman’s voice, a hiccup much like a strangled sob. “Michelle was killed a bit over a year ago.”

“Killed?” I sank back against the couch.

“Andrea, a little thirteen-year-old, was sent to Michelle by a street worker. The mother and her drunk boyfriend found out where Andrea was and showed up one night. They tried to force her to go with them, but Michelle got Andrea loose then the boyfriend pulled a gun. Michelle jumped him and yelled for Andrea to run.

“Poor child, she ran to the house and called the police and before she even hung up she heard a gunshot. She ran back outside. Her mother and her mother’s boyfriend were gone, but Michelle had been shot. She…she died before the ambulance arrived.”

“I’m sorry. So sorry,” I whispered as tears trickled down my cheeks.

Eleanor sniffed, cleared her throat. “It’s a great loss to all of us. Mays was devastated. He and Michelle had grown very close.”

Tim’s angry words echoed in my heart, “If you keep playing around in other people’s business, you’re going to get yourself or someone else hurt!” Now, Michelle was dead.

Almost as if she could read my mind, Eleanor said, “Sandy, we want you to know how grateful we are that you were part of Michelle’s life. We could’ve lost her on the streets, but we got to share our beautiful daughter’s life. We’ve been blessed to see all the good that she’s done.”

“I…I feel like I somehow got her…her killed.” My throat ached with tears and sorrow.

“Why, Sandy, you should see the girls who came when they heard. Some of them were just girls Michelle talked to on the streets, and others she helped in some way. And, the girls who lived here when it happened, they all stayed on with Mays and me. Said this was home. I don’t think we could’ve gotten through this year without them.” I heard her sigh then she said, “The life Michelle lived because of you was so much better than the life she would’ve lived without you. Thank you.”

After I said good-bye to Eleanor, I laid the phone softly back on its’ cradle and wandered outside. I headed up to the barn. Across the miles and years, Michelle had reached out and touched someone. Had renewed yet another person’s faith and given hope where hope seemed gone.

This time that someone was me.

The End.

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