Lost & Found
By D. H. Starr
In the Fall of 2012, DH Starr approached me about Featherweight publishing an anthology that he was a part of. It was a special project being organized by Michele Montgomery. All the authors wanted to donate their royalties from the anthology to charity. They wanted the monies to go to a specific cause---they wanted the money to go to a charity that worked with LGBT homeless teens.
The authors donating their royalties to this worthy cause are Dakota Chase, DC Juris, Jeff Erno, Tabatha Heart, Caitlin Ricci, Diana Adams, DH Starr, Michele L. Montgomery, MF Kays and T.A. Webb. We thank them one and all.
The inspiration for the anthology was a picture that they had seen with the text over the image that said "40% of homeless youth are LGBT. The #1 reason they're on the streets is family rejection."
Once we got to final editing stages we realized, we didn't know WHICH charity to donate the monies to. There are so many great charities out there working with LGBT youth that we weren't sure which to choose. We wanted to make sure that no matter how much, it would make a difference. So the search was on.
I was pleasantly surprised to come across one that had the name of the anthology almost exactly---Lost-n-Found Youth, Inc. It seemed like fate talking to me and after speaking with one of the board members, I was convinced of it. You see the board member told me that the day before we spoke, they received a call from a teen that had been on vacation with his parents and when they found a gay romance on his eReader, they left him on the side of the road. Yes, you read that correctly, abandoned him for reading a gay romance.
Our hope is that with these stories, these teens realize that there are many out there that care about them. That no matter what anyone says---THEY MATTER.
Gipson Parker cupped the mug, hoping the coffee's warmth would penetrate his skin. The surrounding heat from the room and from his drink would have to last him the night. The diner closed in ten minutes and once the last customer left, Gipson would need to as well, leaving him to search for a spot to lay his head and not freeze during the cold Chicago, November night.
Slowly sipping the coffee to savor not only its heat but its taste, Gipson ignored the rumbling in his stomach. The flavor of his drink would have to hold him over until he found a shelter or food pantry where he could get a meal. Good thing caffeine was an appetite suppressant.
Yawning, Gipson tried to mentally retrace his steps from the diner back to the last shelter to turn him away because they had no more room. Had there been any structure or building he could use to protect him from the grim fall night? He closed his eyes, hoping he could pick some fragment from his memory that he could use.
Businesses, parking lots, an apartment building. All of them had good lighting and, from the looks of it when Gipson walked to the diner, a cop of some sort who canvassed the area regularly. No, he was shit out of luck tonight. He'd have to push further north and see if he could find a less populated area with a dimly lit doorway, or if he could find a park.
Gipson sipped his coffee again, opening his eyes, meeting the gaze of the waitress who served him. Her lip was caught between her teeth and her brows drew together, wrinkles lining her eyes and forehead. Her grey hair was pulled back in a tight bun, accentuating her severe stare. Pity swam in the dark depths of her dark brown gaze.
"We're gonna be closin' soon, hon. The doors are locked and management asks customers to leave once they're done with their meal."
Gipson dipped his head in acknowledgement. "Okay."
"You got somewhere to go?" she asked as she wiped the sparkling clean counter with a cloth.
"That obvious?" Gipson looked down, trying to gauge his appearance and avoiding the question.
"You're a little ripe, hon," said the woman, grinning ruefully. "So, you got a bed?"
"Ah." Gipson sniffed. Yeah, now that he was warm he did reek. "I'll find someplace." His pride wouldn't let him say otherwise. Stupid, he knew, but Gipson hated saying he didn't have any options. It was hard enough to accept handouts.
"Why don't you clean up in the bathroom some?" The waitress, her nametag said Helen, handed Gipson a hand towel. "I'll keep your coffee warm for ya. Betsy over in booth three will be here for another half hour and she's usually our last out. You got a bit of time."
Gipson grabbed the towel, his throat tightening. His voice coarse as he answered, "Thanks."
Helen reached out with her old weathered hand, liver spots dotting her skin, patting his.
Gipson pulled off his gloves and slid off the stool, walking purposefully toward the bathrooms. He stepped inside the men's room, flipped the light on and let out a sigh of relief, grateful it was a single toilet with a lock. Cleaning up in a bathroom with multiple stalls was awkward when people walked in.
He locked the door, threw the hand towel onto the sink and started stripping. Pulling off the coat and sweater he got from one of the shelters, and then finally his rumpled T-shirt, Gipson tried to focus on getting undressed as quickly as possible. Grabbing his once shiny belt, he tugged it off and then yanked his now grubby designer jeans off.