Within the shadows down the back streets of New York City, an old woman walks alone down an alleyway. A light drizzle falls from the sky. The woman wastes little time taking a white umbrella with black polka dots out of her carryall. She gladly opens the umbrella up into the air shielding perfectly brushed flowing gray hair from getting wet. Two men dressed in business suits from the opposite end of the alley approach with umbrellas drawn.
“What a strange sight?” The woman thinks to herself, “An old woman and two well-dressed gentlemen walking through a dark alley in the middle of the night. My how times have changed.”
She smiles whilst the amusing thought passes, but the men do not. All three of them stand there as rain pours, staring at each other for a few moments. The sound of the umbrellas getting beat by droplets would surely drown out hope of anyone attempting to listen in on this conversation.
“What’s new, Blanche? Anything? Please tell me something,” one man pleads. The other one nods his head in agreement.
“Nothing yet. I’ve watched her for months just as you’ve requested. Are you sure she’s who you think she is?” The disdain in her voice obvious.
“Are you begining to sympathize with her, Blanche? You know what will happen to your grandson if you don’t complete this mission.” Threatens the other man.
“It’s been months. This girl does nothing wrong. She keeps to herself, and just works in that diner. I’ve never seen her talk to anyone, especially like the man you’ve described.”
“She’s a doper. A piece of shit. And I don’t even know why I’m calling her a she because she was born a he. It’s disgusting. If it wasn’t for this case, we would’ve eradicated her as soon as we found out. And that fag friend of hers is now helping us, so it won’t be long. So I take it, you have no information, yet?”
“Correct,” Blanche grunts.
“I want you back on tomorrow again,” commanded one man.
The other man follows, “Do you understand? We know about your grandson and he will disappear if you fail us. But, if you succeed, they will send him to the safe city and live a life of happiness.”
“How do I know I can trust you?” Blanche questions.
“Because you have no other choice. Look at this, bitch,” one man pulls a cell phone out of his pocket and touches the screen a few times. He hands the old woman his phone.
On the screen she sees a live view of her grandson and his lover in their apartment watching television. They intertwined their legs as they held hands lovingly, suspecting no one would spy on them in the privacy of their own home. In this reality there was no longer any privacy, and if they deemed your way of life unnatural you WERE a target. Blanche only knew this too well as some people she worked with years ago had disappeared without a trace.
She lowers her umbrella and allows the rain the wash over her face. She didn’t want to give these bastards the satisfaction of knowing they made her cry. Her tears hide amongst the rainfall as she responds, “Okay. Here is your phone. See you next week unless something happens.” Blanche quickly turns around, pushes drenched hair out of her face, and storms off from the two men without so much as a ‘bye’.
“You have our number,” one man yells across the alley. Blanche never looks back.
The next day Blanche parks her minivan outside the diner in the hopes today would finally be the day she completes this mission for which they forced her to take. It was almost the time of day she enters the diner and orders her usual club sandwich—hold the mayo, side of steamed broccoli. Skylar was always so courteous and sometimes they’d sit there and talk for ten minutes or more.
Blanche knew Skylar Rose was transgender only because the Zealots who threatened her grandson’s life told her so. Otherwise, she would never have known, nor cared. The frustrated old woman grabs for her purse. At the exact moment she exits the vehicle, she sees a well-dressed man in a fedora walk up to the diner from the opposite side of the street. Her heart pounds as she squints from the distance trying to identify the stranger. Was he the ONE?
As she spies through the front window, she notices Jagger waltz out the door. Her eyes follow him around the corner. As she glances over, she notices one man she’d been in contact with for all these months stop and talk to Jagger.
“Is there no one safe around this poor girl?” She ponders. Blanche walks across the street to get a closer look.
She walks into the diner trying to keep her eyes forward and smiles at Skylar. The gentlemen sitting at the counter matches the description of the person she’d been searching for all these months. Blanche becomes nervous with excitement, but tries to maintain her composure drawing no attention to herself. She’d heard Sklar so many times say the words, ‘don’t trust anyone,’ while Jagger was visiting.
Skylar addressed her almost immediately, “What can I get for you Miss Blanche?”
As the strange-looking man walks by, Blanche studies his every move without making eye contact. She smiles wide, looks back at Skylar and responds, “The usual dear. Who was that young man? A love interest of yours? He was quite handsome?” They had built a relationship over the last few months and Blanche didn’t feel the question was out of bounds. She figured Skylar would label her as a nosey old woman rather than a spy.
“No. Just a nobody wandering through.”
Blanche‘s cell phone promptly rings inside her purse. She reaches for it, puts it up to her ear and casually walks away from the counter.
“Yes,” Blanche begins, “it is him without a doubt in my mind. Your description was perfect. No. She doesn’t know him. Because I can tell. Trust me, she doesn’t know him. He just left. He went down fifth. Okay. Bye.”
“That’s too bad, dear,” Blanche replies as she walks back to the counter.
“What’s too bad, Miss Blanche?”
“That he wasn’t a love interest. He was so handsome, and I never see you with anyone. A girl as pretty as you ought to have a boyfriend.”
“Oh. Yeah,” Skylar hesitates, “I don‘t need a man in my life. I’m focusing on me. Have a seat your food will be right up.”
“Sure will, dear. I’m so sorry.” Blanche stares at the ground. Her heart sinks inside her chest. She was sorry for so many things other than asking a personal question.
“Don’t be sorry,” Skylar places her hand on Blanche’s shoulder. “I don’t mind if you ask me about my love life. I know you’re one of the good ones. Thank you for caring.”
She thought impossible to feel any worse but Skylar‘s etiquette and pleasant demeanor often did. Blanche’s focuses on her grandson and his safety which according to the Zealots was now official. She smiles again.
Skylar smiles back.