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So Many Crossroads, So Little Time

"Yanaye Smallwood was a drug addict," Suzanne told Ira, flipping through some notes. "Like many people, she was addicted to prescription meds because of chronic pain. She had been experimenting with heroin, but had recently found a doctor who would prescribe Vicodin for her legitimately, her roommate said. But given the kind of schedule this woman kept -- between her graduate work, the rape crisis center where she volunteered, and the family activities -- I can't find any sign that she was doing sex work on the side. Most of her time is accounted for by other people. She was one hell of an extrovert."

"Poor girl," Ira said, shaking his head. "So much promise wasted."

"I know," Suzanne said, staring down at the photo. Ira peeked over her shoulder at the beautiful young black woman, smiling, between two similarly young and beautiful friends. It was Yanaye's graduation photo, the black mortarboard perched jauntily on her head, while her friends were bareheaded. "She was strangled, just like the men, Ira. Just like the women in Pittsburgh."

Ira pursed his lips. "Makes you wonder if the girls in Pittsburgh really were all prostitutes, like the reports said."

Suzanne sighed. "Several of them had records for vice arrests, so I think that at least some of them were." She raked her fingers through her brown, wavy hair, wincing when she hit several knots.

"You haven't had any time for yourself all weekend," Ira said, eyeing her with concern. "Why don't you sit back and relax a bit? I can make dinner."

Suzanne smiled at him and shook her head. "No, I need to get this post written and up. Yanaye's family and friends were very generous with their time and information; I feel like I owe it to them to do my part to correct the misinformation out there as quickly as possible."

"I'll make some dinner then," Ira said, rising creakily. Had his hips been making those popping noises for very long? He couldn't remember.

"There are some frozen dinners you can microwave," Suzanne said, her eyes glued to her screen now.

Ira rummaged about in Suzanne's well-organized freezer, choosing from the stacks of TV dinners -- would they be monitor or computer dinners now? He finally settled on meat loaf for himself and pasta primavera for Suzanne. He found his magnifying glass and carefully read the instructions before popping hers in and turning the microwave oven on.

He watched the little tray turn and turn in the machine, thinking about the self-heating frozen dinners he had eaten during his one sojourn into space to help out Spaceman Sam and his alien friends. The technology was interesting, but the food was tasteless military-grade brown lumps in a brown sauce and gave him flashbacks to his time in Korea. It had been odd to be remembering chewing on his rations in a hot, humid forest while sitting in a cold shining metal spacecraft.

The oven went ding and he put his in to warm. He poured Suzanne a glass of wine and dispensed her pasta primavera onto a plate. It's the civilization of the thing, he thought, and carried both out to her.

She gave him a grateful smile as he set them down on the table next to her. He squinted at her screen and saw the window that he associated with her spellchecking her writing, and smiled back at her. "Almost done?" he said.

"Almost done," she said, taking a sip of wine.

When he'd retrieved his dinner and sat down, he said, "Who was it that sent you the tip on the young woman?"

"The name on her email was Renata Scott," Suzanne said. "She said I could check her reference if I wanted, and named Ruth Thomas."

Ira's eyebrows went up. "The Ultimate, eh? I bet she's one of Dr. Thomas' orphans."

"Does she really do that, then?" Suzanne said. "Save orphans and all that?"

Ira nodded. "A dozen or so, last I heard. Might be more now. She doesn't adopt 'em, just takes care of them. Fosters them, I guess."

"She seems like a very kind person," Suzanne said. "I... had problems reading her when she came to talk to me after."

"I've never been good at reading the reactions of black people," Ira said baldly. He figured he could be honest with Suzanne, at least. Then he thought about it as she ate silently, and added, penitently, "Well, I guess I've never really been good at reading anyone, actually."

"It's easy to think of people we consider 'other' as an impenetrable monolith," Suzanne said, staring at her plate. "A... friend told me that recently. When I said I was worried about going to talk to Yanaye's family."

Ira chewed his meatloaf and nodded. She sounded like she was near tears, her face pale and her jaw muscles working. He decided to change the subject. "Would that have been your boyfriend?"

Suzanne looked up, taken entirely aback, dropping her fork and staring at him with wide eyes.

He smiled kindly. "He's the handsome little black boy at Great Scot, right? The one on the TV show you won't let us miss?"

Suzanne stammered. "How did you find out?" she managed after a few moments.

"Madame," he said. "She saw the two of you together one evening when she was walking to the bus later than usual and recognized him. He was the one that got hurt trying to protect you from Josh."

"Yes," Suzanne said, very subdued. "Are you angry?"

Ira reached over and took her hand. "Just because I'm old doesn't mean I don't understand these things, Suzanne," he said gently. He'd beaten his anger and resentment down just after Madame told him by talking it out with the Outsider. And it helped that he'd met Simon in the hospital, when he'd gone to thank him for trying to help Suzanne. The boy had had a very firm handshake and a big smile, and was very well-spoken. Professor Canis should be proud of him. "I would have to be a very cruel man to have expected you to not find someone during all those years. And yet," he added, cocking his head to one side, "you only found him a few months ago, didn't you? And there wasn't ever anyone before him."

Suzanne shook her head, and finally looked up at him, tears spilling down her face. "Oh, Ira, I didn't know how to tell you."

"Just tell me that young man makes you happy," Ira said.

"Oh, he does, Ira!" she said, bursting fully into tears and throwing herself into Ira's arms.

He wrapped his arms around her and patted her back. He didn't start crying himself until he heard her broken, "Thank you," from his shoulder.


From the Author:
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Date: 2011-04-08 07:56 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Violence against women is disturbingly pervasive. This reminded me of that.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2011-04-11 05:48 pm (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
On the bright side, female superheroes get to hit back.

Date: 2012-01-28 06:13 am (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
I actually physically cried just now at the end of this chapter. This and the last episode were hard-hitters.

...or heart-hitters? :D

But seriously, very very well done.


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