Hometown Star - By Joleen James Page 0,1

back onto his butt.

“Are you okay?” she asked. Dirt streaked his face. Blood oozed from a cut on his lip. “You’re bleeding.”

He wiped his mouth on his shirt sleeve.

“Let me see.” She reached for him, but he scooted away. “Come inside. I’ll clean you up.”

He shook his head.

Star changed her tactics. “That’s right. I’m a stranger. No wonder you don’t want to go inside with me, but let’s be fair, you were in my house.”

The guarded look didn’t leave his eyes.

Star tried again. “Let me introduce myself.” She smiled. “My name is Star. Patsy Cooper was my aunt. Well, she was my mother’s aunt, and my great aunt. Did you know Patsy?”

He nodded enthusiastically, his eyes lighting up. “Star’s a funny name.”

“Tell me about it,” Star said. “My mother is the Queen of White Trash names. We all have them. My real name is Starlene. My sisters are Ruby Sue, Tawney, and Brandi.”

“What’s white trash?” He cocked his head to the side, as if he were trying to figure her out.

“You’re lookin’ at it, kid,” she said with a half–grin. “Well, maybe not so much anymore. I’m still white but not nearly as trashy.” Star pushed to her feet and bent to dust the dirt from her black slacks, frowning when she spotted the layer of dust coating her expensive sandals. “Come on. Let’s go inside and get you cleaned up before your mother sees you.”

The boy stood. “I don’t got a mother. Not anymore.” He retrieved his shoe, shoving his foot inside.

“No?” she asked, curious. “I’m sorry about that. Do you have a dad?”

He nodded.

“You going to tie those shoes?” Star pointed at his feet.

He shrugged but did as she asked, making two neat bows.

Satisfied he wouldn’t be tripping again, Star started for the steps, the boy on her heels.

“Let’s fix you up for your dad,” she said. “Then I’ll walk you home. I’m assuming you live around here. I need to find a phone so I can call the power company. Maybe I can borrow yours?” At the sink, Star moved to turn on the tap, but remembered without power there’d be no water. Instead, she removed a bottle of water from her grocery bag. She twisted off the lid, then wet a cloth.

“Let me see your lip. I used to be good at this kind of doctoring. It’s been a while, but I think I can remember how to give first aid.”

The boy stood still as she washed the blood from his lip and the dirt from his face, a cute face, a familiar face. Twenty plus years rolled away. She knew his face, had seen it on another boy long ago.

Star’s stomach plummeted. “What’s your name, kid?”


“Finn what?” He flinched when she scrubbed too hard at his lip.

“Finn O’Brien.”

Star’s fingers tightened on the rag. The kid was an O’Brien. Suddenly she was twelve years old, just off the school bus, racing for home, but Cade O’Brien had blocked her way. He wouldn’t let her pass. She’d had to pee. She’d given him a shove, but he was older, stronger. He’d laughed at her, asking her why she was in such a hurry to get home to her white trash aunt. Star could still remember the warmth of the pee running down her legs, still remember the smile slipping from Cade’s face. He’d let her pass after that and she’d run all the way home, cleaning herself up, telling no one about the intimidation.

Just thinking about Cade O’Brien made her blood boil. Was the kid his or Ron’s? What difference did it make? An O’Brien was an O’Brien. As far as she was concerned, they were all as rotten as the wood on Patsy’s porch.

Star tossed the washcloth in the sink. “There. I think I have some bandages. Wait here.”

In the bathroom, she found the bandages, but when she returned to the kitchen, the boy was gone.

“Finn. Where are you?” She went to the front door. “Finn, are you out here?” Star scanned the yard but didn’t see him.

A thick grove of spruce and hemlock trees separated Patsy’s place from the O’Briens. Did she have the nerve to go over there? She needed a phone and they were sure to have a landline. It was either face the O’Briens or drive the ten miles back to Seward where her BlackBerry worked.

Cade and Ron O’Brien had made her life a living hell each time she’d come to stay with Patsy, especially Cade. To this day, Star had no