# 89 – Homeless House Guests and Mistletoe


Liza ran her fingers through the dark hair on Bruce’s chest.  He continued his deep, rhythmic breathing.  She wondered if he slept this heavily when he was outside, or only when he was somewhere safe.  The thought of him sleeping anywhere near Scary With Hat Guy made her numb.  Liza didn’t want him to go back there, but she wouldn’t try to make him stay if he didn’t want to.

She pushed the bad thoughts away and rested her head on his chest.  Liza knew that she would remember this as one of the best Christmases of her life.  It was because of Michael and Jake and Sam, but mostly Bruce.  It was no fairy tale, but that was kind of what she loved most about it.

Liza amused herself for a while by thinking up alternative lyrics to popular Christmas songs.  Just swap out the chestnuts and open fire with Bird Dog and cigarettes.  Deck the halls with buttons and bottle caps.  Good tidings to you and your homeless house guests.  Jake and Sam under the mistletoe.

Liza smiled.  She pulled the blanket up around herself and Bruce.  His mouth hung open a little and his five o’clock shadow was practically a beard, making him look both handsome and cute.  When she kissed him on the cheek, she lingered for a minute, breathing him in.  She laid her head back on his chest and drifted off to sleep.


# 58 – The Last Six Months


“Mind if I take a look at your eye?” asked Bruce, just like that, as if they saw each other yesterday, as if they were walking through the garden together.

“I thought you were a PhD, not a MD,” said Liza.  Bruce ignored her comment.  He pulled her hand from her face and tilted her head up.  It was flurrying.  The cold snow felt good on her face, but the sunlight felt like a laser.

“I don’t think there’s any major damage, but you should have a doctor look at it.  Where’s your car?”

Liza pointed.  “On Front.  Near the frat houses.”  Before she could organize any of the questions in her head, he was leading her by the hand toward Front.  She could barely see.  Her foot clipped a light post as they were exiting the garden.  Bruce slowed down and put his arm around her waist.  He was wearing khakis and a grey hoodie like he was the night she and Jake saw him in Adams Square.

When they made it to her car, he led her around to the passenger side.  “Where are your keys?” he asked.  Liza dug them out of her purse.  The eye hospital wasn’t far.  She could probably make it herself.  He took the keys out of her hand and clicked the car open.  Then they were winding through the city.

The pain dulled to a simmer.  Liza thought about everything that had happened over the last six months:  Scary Witch Hat Guy, her econ paper, escaping from Brad in Adams Square, Jake’s theories.  She turned her head so she could watch Bruce’s reaction with her good eye.  “So, how’s Michael?”

# 51 – Cookies



Mick was ushering her down a path quicker than she would have thought him capable of moving.  She wanted to see if Brad was following, but every time she started to turn, Mick would place a hand on her back and say, “Come on!”  It occurred to her that she could be getting herself into more trouble by blindly following this random homeless guy.  Scary Witch Hat Guy popped into her head.  Mick seemed alright, but then, she had thought the same thing about Brad.  She decided to keep following him.  They were headed in the direction of her car, and the park was filled with people.  A lot of them turned and stared as Mick and Liza power walked past.  She had on heels and a skirt from her date.  Mick was wearing stained jeans, over-sized black boots, and a pea coat that looked like it had caught fire on the one side.

They exited the park and walked up to her car.  Mick motioned for her to get in.  She fished the keys out of her purse.

“You ok to get home from here?” he asked, puffing away on his little cigar.  He turned and looked behind him.

“Yes…thank you.”

“Don’t worry about it.  Get in.”  Liza got in the car, started it up, and lowered the window.  “You be careful,” he said.  He leaned down and patted the back of her hand that was resting on the steering wheel.

She had a thought.  “Hang on.”  Liza dug around in her purse and pulled out a bag of breakfast cookies and a ten-dollar bill.  She passed them through the window to Mick.

“No, no.”  He took a step back and waved his hands in front of him.

“Take it!”  Liza hated feeling like she owed people.  She also liked this guy and genuinely wanted to help, even if it was in a small way.  She thought of the two extra bedrooms in her house, but didn’t mention them.  He wouldn’t come and it probably wasn’t a good idea anyway.  “Please.  Just take it.”

He glanced behind him, then turned back to Liza.  “Ok.  Thank you.”  He took the cookies and the money, patting the back of her hand again.

“It was nice meeting you.  Thank you again for helping me,” said Liza.  “Do you mind if I ask your name?”


“Michael.”  Liza laughed.  “No way!”

He regarded her, mid-puff, from under raised yellowy white eyebrows.  “That funny?”

“No.  It’s just…it reminded me of something.  Sorry.”  Nice.  Be rude to the guy who just saved your ass.  “Really.  Thank you again.”  She handed him one of the business cards that she used when she did freelance work.  It had only her name, email address, and cell number.  “If you ever need anything…I don’t know if you have access to…”

“Thank you.”  He stuck it in a pocket without looking at it, and took a step back.

Liza put the car in gear.  “It was nice meeting you, Michael.”

“Nice meeting you too, Liza.”

# 38 – Class 8

Liza sat on the edge of the marble bench outside of Norton Hall.  Saint Francis Hospital discharged Bruce yesterday afternoon, but he was still a mess.  Besides a bunch of cuts and bruises, he ended up with a severe concussion, a broken nose, three missing teeth, and two cracked ribs.  Liza visited him every night for the six days he was hospitalized.  Casey was in Saint Francis’ pediatric oncology division, so Liza would sit with her until she fell asleep, then go up to Bruce’s room and sit with him until he fell asleep.  Bruce had been quiet all week.  He wouldn’t talk about what had happened that day or much else.  Liza didn’t press him, but she was frustrated and hurt that she apparently didn’t rate any kind of explanation.  What was he hiding?  It had to be something significant. Maybe he thought that she wouldn’t see him anymore if she knew.  Liza couldn’t see that happening.  The secretiveness made her consider not visiting, but then she found herself drawn to his room every night.  She told herself that she was going because Nurse Bill told her that Bruce had no other visitors.  Really, she just missed him.  He always seemed glad to see her when she showed up.  Even though it pained him to move, he would slide over and pat the bed.  He would wrap his arm around her and they would watch TV until he dozed off.
Liza would ease herself out of the bed, pull the covers up over his chest, find an uninjured spot on his cheek, and kiss him goodnight.  Usually, she would end up standing there watching him sleep, thinking.  Was he a drug dealer?  An alcoholic?  A serial killer?  A serial rapist?  Maybe he was as crazy as Scary Witch Hat Guy, only he hid it better.  Her cynical nature had her convinced that he was bad news. Then, what happened yesterday confused her all over again.