"In two or three days, between the flophouse and food...and I was in a growth spurt, always hungry...I was completely out money. I spent one night outside, and it was...it was worse than the flophouse. I kept hearing *things*...I didn't sleep at all. And someone stole my other clothes. And I knew...I knew what I was going to have to do. Blair, I was a virgin with guys, and..."
"You had to have been terrified out of your mind."
"I was. And this...this guy...this *old* guy sees me. He was at least *thirty*. And I'm too scared to even move. He comes up to me. And he says, 'Oh, no, no, no, NO, baby girl. Aunt Freddie is *not* letting this happen.'"
"Oh, my God. *Our* Freddie?"
"Our Freddie. He took one look at me and just *knew*. Next thing you know, I'm in their apartment. Miss Melly is nowhere in sight, and I'm convinced that this...creature was going to have his way with me without *even* discussing the price. I'm even *more* convinced when he shoves me into their bathroom and insists I take a bath and that I hand him *all* my clothes. Babycakes, I was terrified."
Blair couldn't help laughing. "I'm sorry, Jim. I'm really sorry, but I cannot picture Freddie as this...dirty old man."
Jim giggled. "What did *I* know? I *was* a baby girl. On the other hand, I was also filthy and I couldn't stand my clothes anymore, so I did as he asked. I had *never* seen such a bathroom. Or the bath soaps or *anything*. I was actually having fantasies about being *kept*, between total *panic* attacks."
"Oh, you poor kid!"
"Eventually, I had to get out of the tub. I couldn't *believe* the towels...or the robe he had left for me. It was...incredible. And then...and then..." Jim giggled some more. "And then he sat me, in this silk bathrobe, at their kitchen table in front of a bowl of soup."
"Now, *that's* Freddie."
"Yep. He'd tossed my clothes into the wash, and I wasn't going anywhere until they were dry and I'd eaten at least one real meal. And he assured me that 'baby girls' weren't his dish and just then Melly walked in, and she took one look at me and scolded poor Freddie for not giving me something more than soup and silk. Next thing I know, I'm wearing a velour running suit...it *was* the seventies, darling...and telling them *everything*."
Jim fell silent. When he spoke again, there was a catch in his voice. "They...they listened. They *understood*. They said I could stay as long as I wanted. And two hours later, and I *still* don't know how they managed it, I was on a bus home, and I slept that night in my own bed, still very much a virgin with men, but I also had their phone number in my pocket."
Blair bit his lip. "He *did* save your life."
"Yeah. They both did...not just then. You *can't* imagine what it felt like to have someone to *talk* to, who *understood*, where I didn't have to be Jim Ellison, jock. And that made the rest of it easier. When...when I ran away again, after the car thing, that's where I ran. And that's when Freddie told me about his own stint in the army. 'The most *fabulous* non-com that ever was.' So I joined. Best thing I could have done, too."
"Did...did they do that a lot? Rescue kids?"
"No. Mostly they happened on hustlers too late to do anything but give them some cash or something. I know now how *incredibly* lucky I was. And yet...I totally lost touch with them when I joined Major