Most of my stories are centered on female/female relationships and everything that goes with it. This story is about family. Not about blood relatives or the people that donated to your conception, but about the people that love you. The ones who hold you when you cry or roll in the floor in laughter beside you. This family loves you as you are and nothing will ever change that. Blood doesn't bind family together, love does.
"Foreman Estate, this is Maggie Dempsey. How can I help you?" Maggie tucked the cordless phone between her ear and shoulder. Her fingers sped across the keys to finish the article she was working on.
"Hello? Is anyone there?" Maggie could hear the open line, but whoever was on the other end hadn't said a word.
"Yes, ma'am, I saw your post online about having a place for young gay people to stay if they needed it. Is that true?"
"It is true. I've been doing this for quite a while now. Are you calling because you need a place to stay?" Maggie grabbed a pen and opened up her notebook.
"Yeah, I got kicked out of my parent's home two days ago. I don't have anywhere else to go."
"What's your name, honey?" Maggie asked the nervous young woman.
"Where are you from, Shea?" Maggie asked as she wrote down Shea's name.
"I'm from Memphis. I've been crashing at a train station for the last two nights. I'm out of money, and I'm hungry. I'm scared to death someone is going to attack or rape me every night in my sleep. I can't stay here." Shea's hand shook as she held the phone to her ear. Her other hand was gripped in front of her chest.
"Shea, honey, it's okay. I'm going to do everything I can to help you." Maggie heard Shea take a long, shaky breath into the phone. "Where are you at right now?"
"I'm at the convenience store near the train station," Shea answered.
"Can you find out the exact address for me, please? I'm going to call a friend of mine from Memphis and have her come pick you up." Maggie pulled her cell phone off the desk and flipped through her contact list until she found Betty's number. She hit the call button and brought her cell phone up to her other ear.
"I'm at fourteen twenty one Chestnut Road," Shea said.
"Okay, good. Are you calling from your own phone or a telephone booth?" Maggie asked. "Hi, Betty, can you hold on just for a second?"
"Sure," Betty sang into the phone.
"I managed to get out of the house with my cell phone. I'm surprised my parents haven't had it shut off by now."
"Shea, I have a friend of mine from Memphis on my other phone. I'd like to tell her where you are and have her come pick you up. Is that okay with you?" Maggie asked.
"Yeah, I guess. She's a good friend of yours?" Shea wanted to trust Maggie, wanted to trust anyone who would get her off the street, but it wasn't easy.
"She is. She also helps me with kids like you when I need her to. Betty will take care of you for the night until we can arrange something else, okay?"
"Okay," Shea said.
"Hold on just a minute, Shea. I need to talk to Betty." Maggie laid the cordless phone down on her desk and stood up from her chair.
"I'm here, Maggie. What's the address?" Betty asked as she slipped her coat on.
"Fourteen twenty one Chestnut Road. I don't know much about her yet. Only that her parents kicked her out of their home two nights ago. She's been sleeping in the train station close to that address. She's broke and hungry. I'll need for you to find out as much as you can about her." Maggie paced back and forth in her office, one hand holding the phone to her ear and the other planted on her hip.
"I know what to do, honey. This isn't my first time. When we get back home, I'll get her some food and find out what you need to know. Don't get your panties all bunched up. It's going to be at least an hour before I call you back." Betty got in her car and hit a button to open the garage door.
"I love you, Betty," Maggie smiled into the phone.
"I know you do, honey. Everyone loves me. I'll talk to you in a bit." Betty laid her phone in the seat beside her and headed to Chestnut Road.
Maggie shook her head and smiled as she slipped her cell into her pocket. She loved that Betty jumped when a call came in like this one. Betty cared about homeless youth as much as Maggie did. They met during her travels to help gay and lesbian youth. Betty is just one person on a list of people scattered across the states who all work together to help each other when young adults need assistance. A handful of other people across the U.S. house homeless teenagers like Maggie did, and she helped them as often as she could.
"Shea, are you still there?" Maggie sat back down in her seat and pulled up to her desk.
"Yes, ma'am, I'm here. Is your friend coming to get me?" Shea asked as she paced back and forth in the parking lot.
"Why don't you call me Maggie. Betty's on her way to get you. She'll take you to her home and make you some delicious food to eat." Maggie tried to relax in her chair, but this part of the conversation helped Maggie judge the type of person that was calling. Either Shea accepted what Maggie would tell her, or she wouldn't be coming into Maggie's home.
"I need to ask you some questions and tell you some rules that I have at Foreman Estate. The first and most important rule is to never lie to me. If I bring a new person into my home, one of the questions I ask is 'Do you do drugs, and do you have any on you'. I don't judge people for things like this, but I can't and won't have them in my home. If one of you kids told me you had drugs in your bag and was addicted to them, I would get them the help they need. If they told me no, and brought them into my home and lied to me, we're done. I don't put up with anyone lying to me. Does all of that make sense to you, Shea?"
"It makes perfect sense. I don't do drugs. I've smoked pot, but that's it. There's been a few parties where I drank alcohol, but that doesn't happen very often." Shea swung her bag up over her shoulder and walked over to a place where Betty could see her.
"Thank you, Shea, for telling me the truth. How old are you?"
"I'm seventeen. I'll be eighteen in two months. I hadn't planned on telling my parents I was gay until I was eighteen, but I got caught with another girl in my bedroom. We were making out and my parents came home early. They kicked me out right after that."
"Since you're under eighteen, it's going to make things a little more difficult. I can't legally bring you across state lines and into my home. I can be charged if I do that without your parent's permission. We have two options. We go to your parent's and get permission from them for me to become your guardian. If they say no, we'll have to wait until you're eighteen to bring you here. Do you think your parents would allow you to stay with me?" Maggie scribbled notes in her notebook as she talked to Shea. She always wrote down everything when someone called her office number. The only time it rang was either when someone needed a place to stay, or someone in another city needed help. She liked knowing as much as possible about each person that came into her home, as did everyone else that helped the homeless youth.
"Dad said I was no longer his daughter," Shea said softly.
"Oh, honey, I'm so sorry. I could sit here and tell you they still love you and maybe they'll come around, but I don't know that. Many parents just can't handle having a gay son or daughter. I'll have Betty deal with your parents, but she's likely to want you to go with her." Maggie leaned back in her seat and propped her feet up on the desk.
"They don't want me back. Dad told me to forget my nonsense, or I was dead to him. I tried to tell him that it wasn't nonsense, that it's who I am. That's when he said I was no longer his daughter and wasn't welcome in his home anymore. He led me to the front door and locked it behind me. Mom ran out with a couple of bags of clothes for me, but she won't go against what dad says. She never does." Shea looked up when she heard a car pulling into the parking lot. "Does your friend drive a silver Lincoln?"
"Yes, that would be Betty. She's a nice older woman and a great cook. She's likely to have all sorts of cookies and desserts at home. She'll take care of you, Shea. Betty will call me later, and we'll decide how to handle all of this, okay?"
"Thank you, Maggie, for everything. I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't seen your post." Shea stood up as Betty headed toward her. "I guess I need to go."
"Thank you for calling me, Shea. I'll talk to you later on tonight."
"Bye, Maggie," Shea said.
* * * *
The next afternoon, Betty and Shea talked and laughed as the GPS led them to Shea's parents' house. Betty is the local representative of the LGBTQIA Association and uses her years of experience as a lawyer to handle the conversations with the parents. As a lawyer, she excelled at communicating in front of the judge and jury. It wasn't much different with the parents. Betty warped each conversation until the parents were convinced it was all for the best. Since she still worked part time as a lawyer, she handled all the paperwork if someone was under eighteen. Betty loved being able to help kids like Shea. Just as her GPS announced their arrival, Shea pointed at a brick house with a neatly trimmed lawn. Betty shut off her GPS and pulled up in front of the house. After shutting off her car, she turned to look at Shea.
"I'm not going to ask you to walk up there with me. If your dad meant what he said, I doubt he even wants to see you. If he's changed his mind about things, I'm sure he'll ask you to come up to the house. Either way, I'll explain to him who I am and what our organization does. Once I describe how we help young people like you, I'm hoping he'll agree to sign over guardianship to Maggie. Your parents aren't the first to kick their child out of their home. Even after doing that, most parents still worry about where their child is and how they're doing. If I can assure your mom and dad that you'll be taken care of, I'm hoping that will be enough for them to realize that this is for the best." Betty laid a hand on Shea's arm before grabbing her bag and getting out of her car. She made her way up to the home where Shea was no longer welcome.
Shea couldn't believe her parents had spoken to Betty after she explained who she was and what she wanted. Not only did they speak to her, they invited Betty inside. Shea had been sitting in the car for almost forty-five minutes when she noticed Betty come out the front door and head toward the car. Shea got out and leaned against the car as she waited for Betty to reach her.
"Well?" Shea asked impatiently.
"We're good to go. They signed the paper, and they're going to let you in to pack up anything else you might need to take with you. They still don't agree with your lifestyle, but they do agree with me that your future is what's most important. They want to make sure that you don't end up on the street doing anything you can to survive. Your dad will be watching what you pack, so don't take anything that you don't really need. If you're not sure about something, let me know, and I'll speak to him about it." Betty grabbed two suitcases out of the back of her car and handed one to Shea. She wrapped an arm around Shea's shoulders as they headed toward the only home Shea had ever known.
Because of Betty's gift of the silver-tongue, Maggie became Shea's guardian and would have her enrolled in a school in Little Rock within a couple of days. She witnessed Betty's talent one evening after a conference in Nashville. It surprised her how, by the end of the conversation, the parents believed it was their idea to sign over their son to a woman who lived in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Betty praised both parents as they signed the slip of paper that she had produced from her bag. Her praise became ridicule as she and Maggie walked away. Maggie valued Betty for her gift of gab and for caring enough to help. Now, if Betty could just talk the bus driver into arriving sometime in the near future, there would be nothing for Maggie to worry about.
Maggie called company after company, but she couldn't find a bus going from Memphis to Little Rock until today, Sunday, of all days. Since she'd arrived almost an hour ago, Maggie's impatience turned into nervous pacing outside of the bus depot. When a bus pulled under the awning, she glanced at the numbers on the front of the bus and confirmed that it was Shea's bus. Maggie stepped back out of the way, but made sure she was visible.
The day after Shea's call, Maggie received a text from Betty with a photo attached of Shea. Maggie sent a text back to Betty with a photo of herself, telling Shea she looked forward to meeting her. She kept an eye out for bleach blonde hair as people started pouring off the bus. When Maggie saw Shea step down and look her way, she thrust her arm up and waved at Shea. Each of the previous evenings, Maggie received a call from Betty's phone and talked to Shea. She tried to sound confident and comfortable with everything that was going on, but Maggie heard the fear and worry in her voice.
Shea waved at Maggie and pulled her bag tighter on her shoulder as she headed toward her. She tried to keep her head up high and shoulders back to portray confidence. As she got closer to Maggie, her throat started to knot up. Her shoulders slumped from the tension she'd been trying to hide, and her eyes dropped to the ground as she stopped in front of Maggie. Suddenly, arms wrapped around her and held her tight. Shea dropped her bag and buried herself in Maggie's arms as she cried.
Maggie held Shea tight as she sobbed against her. She never knew what to expect when meeting her guests for the first time. Most stayed quiet and took forever to open up to her, which made it hard for her to become a part of their life. On a few occasions, it was a relief to be somewhere where they were wanted. She could only guess what Shea was going through and feeling. All that mattered was for Maggie to be there for Shea with whatever she needed.
"It's okay, sweetie," Maggie said softly. She felt Shea try to take a calming breath, but she ended up sobbing uncontrollably. She cried as if she had lost everything, and mostly, she had. Shea just didn't realize who had found her yet.
Shea tried to get herself under control, but every time she thought she could do it, she would lose that little bit and start crying all over again. She hardly ever cried, and on the few occasions she felt the need, she did it alone, not with someone holding her. Maggie felt like a lifeline that had finally pulled her back to shore. Of course, the incident between Shea and her parents upset her, but at that moment, Maggie's willingness to help and care for her had Shea all mixed up inside. She didn't know any other way to show how thankful she was except to cry. Shea finally pulled herself up off of Maggie's chest and looked up at her.
"Thank you so much for this, Maggie. I don't know what I would've done if you hadn't agreed to let me come stay with you." Shea stepped back and wiped a hand across both cheeks.
"All I've done is offer you a place to stay. It's up to you where you go from here." Maggie grabbed Shea's bag from the ground and placed an arm around her shoulders. "Come on. Let's get the rest of your bags and head home."
Once they reached the house, Maggie and Shea dropped her bags next to the staircase. "As you can see, I have a very large home that I inherited from my grandmother. There are eight bedrooms upstairs, four on each side. The girls are on one side, and the boys are on the other. That's the way it's supposed to be. Sometimes, I have to stick a girl or a boy on the other side if the other rooms are full. Right now, I have three girls, including you, and two boys." Maggie led Shea into the kitchen, where they both fixed themselves a sandwich and something to drink. With their food and drink in hand, Maggie led Shea down the hall to her office, closing the door behind them.
"This is where we talk about the rules of the house. What is my number one rule?" Maggie asked as she took a seat at her desk.
"Never lie to you," Shea said and took a seat.
"Very good," Maggie smiled. "I don't allow drugs in my home, but I will help anyone who needs it. There is no underage drinking because that's something that can close this place down if people were to find out. Do you have any sort of weapons in your bags?"
"I have a pocket knife. That's it." Shea said.
"You can keep your pocket knife, but if I ever see it used as a weapon against someone, I'll take it from you. Understood?"
"Yes, ma'am," Shea smiled.
"Okay, the next topic is relationships. I recommend the same thing to all the kids that stay here. It would be best if you don't get involved with someone else in the house. I won't tell any of you who you can be friends with or who you can or cannot date. If you started dating one of the other girls that live here, and it ended up going bad, you would both be stuck here living together. I won't kick anyone out of this house just because you can't get along with them anymore. Like I said, that's a strong recommendation, not necessarily a rule. You just need to be aware of the circumstances, if things were to happen." Maggie paused to let everything sink in. It also gave her a bit of time to feed her growling stomach.
"No one drops out of school here, unless there's a very good reason. If you haven't graduated yet, we need to get you signed up and back in school in the next couple of days." Maggie took a drink of her lemonade and looked over at Shea.
"I was a senior at a Baptist school," Shea said.
"I wondered if religion was a part of this," Maggie admitted and made a note in her book to get Shea into school.
"My father is the principal of the school and pastor of the church," Shea said without looking up.
"What is your opinion of homosexuality and religion?" Maggie asked as she leaned back in her chair.
"I was raised to believe it's wrong, and I tried to fight what I felt for years. It was like trying to deny I was a female, or that I needed water. Even though I knew how my father and the church would see me, I couldn't deny what I was feeling. I just hadn't planned to admit it quite this early. I wanted to wait until I could support myself before I ever told anyone. I knew how my dad would react." Shea sat her empty plate down on a small table next to the chair she was sitting in.
"Do you believe God hates you because you're gay?" Maggie asked.
"I believe God loves all of us, no matter what our sins are. I just don't see how it could be wrong to love someone," Shea answered.
"I agree, as does the church that I go to. If you would like to go with me some time, just let me know. Your choice, though. No one is required to go." Maggie finished her sandwich and sat her plate down.
"Since your parents signed over guardianship to me, I'm the one who's responsible for you. If you're sick, it's up to me to get you to a doctor to get you treated. It's my job to make sure you're prepared for school and have everything that you need. I only tell you this because our relationship will be a little different from everyone else. I'm available to them, just as much as I will be for you, but I can't override their decisions. I can veto any choice you make, not that I will." Maggie grabbed her plate and stood up from her desk, motioning for Shea to follow.
"Let's get you settled in your room." Maggie headed into the kitchen, where they laid their plates and glasses in the sink. Once they were back out front, they both grabbed Shea's bags and headed up the stairs. "Some of the kids here have full-time jobs. Others go to school and work part-time. If someone has trouble keeping their grades up in school, I don't usually let them work at all. Once they're over eighteen, it's their decision, and all I can do is make suggestions. I help everyone apply for college and for grants, and I teach everyone how to type up resumes for a job. Everyone, even the boys, learn how to run a household and works all positions in the house. Cooking, cleaning, budgeting, you'll work every area and rotate the jobs with the others."
Shea stopped and looked at the wheel that had everyone's name on it. Maggie had the household assignments listed on the outer wheel, and each week, the inner wheel, where their names were, would rotate around to a new job. Shea heard a door open and looked up to see Maggie waiting on her. Shea gave her a small smile and headed to her new room.
Shea spent the afternoon getting her clothes hung and her personal things placed around her room. She was standing in the middle of the room, circling around, when she heard footsteps bounding up the stairs. Shea headed to the doorway of her room and looked out to see a tall redhead land at the top of the stairs. The girl had to be over six feet tall and was all legs.
"Hi, are you Shea?"
"Yeah, I just got here today." Shea watched the girl walk into a room a couple of doors past her own.
"I'm Lisa, and I'm running late for soccer practice, which means I'll have to do extra skill sets. So forgive me for seeming to be rude." Lisa stuck her head out the door and looked back at Shea. "I'm not, usually," Lisa smiled and stepped back in her room.
"It's nice to meet you, Lisa. You're the first person I've met beside Maggie." Shea headed down the hall to stand outside of Lisa's room.
"Everyone else will be heading in and out this afternoon sometime. This place is usually empty during the mornings, with school and work. By the time everyone gets home, you'll be wishing it were morning again. It gets a little loud up here sometimes, especially when everyone's home." Lisa smiled over her shoulder at Shea before pulling her shirt over her head and putting on her practice uniform. "Will you be around this evening when I get back? I'd like to get to know you and hear about where you're from?"
"I'll be here, I haven't got anywhere else to go." Shea watched as Lisa pulled her long, red hair out from under her shirt. It flowed around her shoulders as Lisa shook her head. It was so long that it hung just above Lisa's butt, which was covered by tight soccer shorts. As Lisa turned around, Shea dropped her eyes down to the floor.
"There's no need to be shy around me. One thing you'll need to get used to around here is everyone looking at you. It's either the girls checking you out, or the boys trying not to get an eye full. Either way, body parts are often seen and talked about between all of us." Lisa grabbed her workout bag and stepped out of her room. She stopped in front of Shea, and with one finger, lifted her eyes up off the floor.
"Don't be ashamed of wanting to look. There's nothing wrong with being curious." Lisa gave Shea a wink and headed back down the stairs. "I'll talk to you later tonight, Shea. I'm glad you're here with us now."
Maggie had heard Lisa pull up and come in. She wanted to let Shea get to know everyone on her own terms, but she couldn't help but be curious about how She would handle living with four teenagers. So she had stepped out of her office and eavesdropped on Lisa and Shea's conversation. Maggie leaned against the hallway wall and smiled as Lisa headed out the front door. She was glad that Lisa had been the first to welcome Shea into their home. Lisa was the friendliest out of everyone who lived there and could sit and talk to someone for hours. Maggie couldn't have chosen a better person to greet Shea.