Justin pushed open the back door of the diner and dragged the heavy bag of garbage over towards the dumpster. It had been a long day of hard work with several rushes that had him on his feet for hours straight. It was after nine p.m. and his shift was over. He had just raised the lid on the dumpster when he heard what sounded like a child crying. He listened for a moment and didn't hear it again. He gave the bag of garbage a hefty jerk and tossed it into the dumpster. Then he heard it again.
He waited, not closing the lid until he figured out what was going on. He stood in silence and listened.
"I'm hungry, mama," a child's voice cried.
"I know, Davie, I am too," a woman's voice replied.
"I want some sketti."
"We don't have spaghetti," the woman said crossly. "We don't have anything." Justin could hear the weariness in her voice. It sounded like they might be homeless, and it made him feel small for being so tired after working. At least he had a job. This woman would probably love to have his job.
"But I'm hungry," the child pleaded.
"Shh, we have to wait till the diner puts out the trash and we can look through it to get some leftovers."
"I don't want leftovers," Davie gulped. "I want sketti."
Justin took all of this in without making a sound. He could see the shadows of two people reflected on the sidewalk by the streetlight not far from the diner. He gently shut the dumpster and went back inside.
"Tony," he said to the cook, "can you make me some spaghetti and put it in a takeout container?"
"Sure, but why not eat it here? It'll be cold by the time you get home."
"I can reheat it," Justin said quickly. "Make plenty."
"You got it, Justin."
Justin went out into the diner to say goodbye to Debbie and get his tips organized. He had made quite a bundle during his long shift.
"Is the big guy picking you up?" Debbie asked as she started a new pot of coffee for the current customers of the diner.
Justin shrugged. Even though he technically lived at Debbie's, Brian often came by at the end of Justin's shift, and they went to the loft together. However, Justin had learned never to presume that Brian would appear. That wasn't the nature of their relationship. Justin knew never to expect too much from Brian.
The bell over the diner door rang. Justin's face lit up as Brian walked in. Most heads turned to take in the tall good looking man.
"You ready?" Brian asked looking into the familiar blue eyes.
"I have to grab something from the kitchen."
"Okay, but make it fast."
Justin grabbed the container of spaghetti that Tony handed him and took a fork from the ones that were freshly washed. The diner would never miss it. He went out the back door and saw the woman holding the little boy against her body. She wiped at the tears that still ran down his cheeks. The bag of trash he had brought out lay at their feet. They had been searching for something to eat.
"Excuse me," Justin said.
The woman jumped and shoved her son behind her. "We're not doing anything wrong," she said defensively.
"I know. I heard your son say he wanted some spaghetti, so here you go." Justin held out the paper container and fork.
"I ... I can't pay," the lady said uncertainly.
"It's on me."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," Justin said shoving the spaghetti toward her. "There's some crates back here where you could sit down."
"Thank you, thank you so much," the woman said. She and the boy moved to a crate and sat down. The little boy dug into the pasta as soon as his mother opened the container.
"I hope it's enough," Justin said, as he watched the little boy shovel in the spaghetti as fast as he could.
After several mouthfuls Davie handed the container to his mother. "Have some, mama," he said. "It's really good."
"You can have it all," the woman replied, but she looked longingly at the container that was now more than half empty.
Justin wished he had asked for a double or triple order.
"You need some, mama," the child said handing the paper container to his mother.
She looked at Justin for approval that she should eat some of the food. Justin nodded. She immediately gobbled forkfuls of the spaghetti as fast as she could. She left a little in the bottom of the container and gave it back to her son. He quickly finished it off revealing a happy face covered with spaghetti sauce. Justin pulled a paper napkin from his pocket and handed it to the woman.
She quickly wiped at her son's face, getting as much of the sauce off as she could. "Thank you so much," she said softly looking at Justin once more.
"That was real good," Davie said with a smile.
"Glad you enjoyed it. "I'm Justin."
"Mary Bartlett. This is my son Davie."
"Um, if you don't mind me asking, how come you and your son are out here on the street at this time of night?" Justin thought he already knew the answer, but he wanted to confirm his suspicions.
"Since you've been so nice, I don't mind telling you. It's the usual story, I suppose," she said wearily. "I lost my job several months ago - downsizing they call it. I can't seem to find work anywhere, especially since I have Davie to look after. We got evicted from our apartment a couple weeks ago, and we've been living in the car ever since. The last of my money ran out a few days ago."
"That's horrible. What did you do when you were working?"
"I worked in an office, pretty much a manager."
"And you can't find any work?"
Mary shook her head.
"Taylor, what the fuck are you doing?" Brian bellowed as he stuck his head out the back door. "I'm not waiting ... forever." Brian saw the two people with Justin and wondered what the hell was going on.
"Sorry, Brian," Justin said. "I was just talking to Mary and Davie."
"You know these people?" Brian asked joining them by the crate.
"Just met them. Mary, this is my friend Brian."
"Hello," Mary offered softly.
Brian frowned. "Are you ready to go?" he asked Justin. Justin could clearly hear the annoyance in Brian's voice
"In a minute," Justin replied softly. "Mary, I had a good night tonight, so I want you to take this." He peeled off half his tips and held out the money to Mary.
"I can't take your money," Mary said definitely, but she looked longingly at the cash, knowing what it could provide for her and her son.
"Yes you can. Get a room for the night and some food. You can make a new start tomorrow."
"Justin, what are you doing?" Brian asked, knowing how hard Justin worked for his money.
"Are you sure about this?" Mary asked. She still had not taken the money.
"I'm sure," Justin said.
Mary took the money. "I don't know how to thank you."
"Just take care of yourselves."
"I'll try," Mary said as she stood up. "If only I could find a job..."
"They don't need anybody at the diner or I'd suggest you," Justin said with a shake of his head.
"Thanks," Mary replied. "We'll get by somehow."
"Do you have a profession?" Brian asked.
Mary looked at him quizzically. She had felt the hostility from the man when he first appeared. She wasn't sure why he was asking what she worked at - probably to make fun of her. "I don't know that you would call it a profession, but my job was as a secretary and office manager."
"Couldn't you temp?" Brian asked knowingly.
"I can't leave Davie alone, and temping doesn't make enough to cover daycare."
"Were you good at your job?" Brian asked.
"Brian, what are you doing?" Justin tried to pull him away. "It's none of your business."
"It might be."
"I was very good at my job, but the company ran into trouble and had to downsize."
"Kinnetik is looking for a secretary," Brian said. "That's my company. Come see Cynthia in the morning." Brian pulled a business card from his wallet and handed it to the woman.
"Are you serious?" Mary asked, her eyes as big as saucers.
"Brian doesn't joke," Justin said with a huge grin.
"I ... I can't believe this."
"Believe it, and don't let me down," Brian said seriously.
"No, sir, I'll be there bright and early," Mary said. "Thank you both." She took Davie's hand and hurried down the alley. "We need to find a cheap motel," they heard her tell her son. "I have to look good for the interview."
"Is it going to be all right?" Davie asked. They could hear the tears in his voice.
"It just might be," Mary said giving her son a hug before she disappeared around the corner of the diner.
"That was nice of you," Justin said.
"Not nice at all. We need a secretary."
"Sure," Justin said.
"How did you get involved with them?"
"I was throwing the trash in the dumpster when I heard the little boy crying because he was hungry."
"So you just had to help?" Brian said in a teasing manner.
"Just like someone else I know." Justin rubbed against Brian.
"I'm hungry too, Sunshine," Brian said, but not for food.
"I'm sure we can work that out."
"Counting on it. Let's go." Brian threw his arm over Justin's shoulder as they headed for the car.
Justin smiled to himself. Brian was certainly going to get well rewarded for what he had just done. Little did Justin know that Brian was thinking the same thing about Justin giving his tips to the woman and child.
Even though Justin tried not to expect too much from Brian, the man rarely let him down when it really counted. That was what made him love Brian, even when he couldn't tell the man that.
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