I had seen her around both the Park and some of the stores in town. Back then it had been warmer, by now, there was a slight chill in the air, but she wore the same clothes she had back then.
It was bottles and cans in the torn and worn bag she carried so dearly. She looked around eight years old. She was a very cute girl, if you looked under the dirt on her face. Her face, it was not the face of a little girl one would expect to see back home. In Iraq, I had seen the same look. It was one of a person who had given up. I had seen many like that, especially in the faces of other soldiers in hospital. I was one of the lucky ones, I was able to walk, well almost, walk out.
I was twenty-two, my loving girlfriend wrote me exactly one note, 'Dear John... ' My name was Bob though. In a way it was funny, I wanted to be alone. The waif in-front of me seemed to have no choice though. I thought about five seconds before I called out to here.
"Honey, could you come over here and help me, a bit? I'm usually just fine, but this cold snap we are having has made it hard for me to walk home."
"I'm not supposed to go near strangers! Your not going to hurt me are you?"
"No Honey, I'm not. I was hurt in Iraq. My legs take some getting used to. Tell you what, see that policeman over there, he knows me. I'll watch your bag, put it down on the ground there and ask him if it is OK if you help me? I'll be glad to pay you for your time."
She did that, talked to Joe, an old neighbor and came skipping back. "He says he has known you a long time. He also said that since you came back, he was not sure if he would trust you around a pretty girl. Did he mean me? Do you think I'm pretty?"
"Honey, you are the prettiest girl I have ever met. Yes, I think he meant that you were that pretty girl. I know it will be hard, but I will try to be worthy of your trust. What is your name?"
"Samantha, my Mom usually calls me Sam or Sammy."
"Well my name is Bob, what do you want me to call you?"
"Sam is OK."
"OK Sam, I live pretty close to here. Since you have such a big bag of stuff with you, could we go to the store, you turn your things in and I'll get us some food for lunch. We can make a picnic outside. If you live close, we can even call your Mom or have one there."
I did not want her to be afraid, but I was starting to worry that she just did not look well-cared for. The store was small but Mr. Peters, had some clothes and toys for kids there.
"Gee Mr. Bob, we don't have a phone. My Mom, she, she, has not been feeling real good. I try to get something over at the 'hall' for her when I go home."
The 'Hall' was the homeless shelter in town. I knew some of the guys that had been in Hospital with me had 'kidded' that if, if they ever got out, that might be the next stop for them. I remembered one though. James, Jimmy, he had a sister, she saw him almost every day at the Hospital. They both told me to come see them and had given my their information, it was back at the house, somewhere.
The house was where I grew up. Mom and Dad left it to me. It was a bit small, and old but it was paid for.
"Sam, up to you, let's go to the store, get our stuff, make lunch and you can take enough back for you and your Mom and maybe decide if we can have a picnic today."
"Can I take another something back for my little Sister, if we don't have enough though, I can share mine with her, she does not eat much."
"I think we will have plenty, and I'll make sure you get paid so you get some rest today after, OK?"
"OK Mr. Bob."
We walked on, her little arm around my waist, the other holding the nearly empty bag.
We got to the store. "Hi Sam, where did you find this old 'Devil dog'? Hello Bob."
Mr. Peters' son and I had been at Boot Camp together. Our families were old friends.
"He's not a dog Mr. Peters, he's my new friend, Mr. Bob."
Amazing how in such a short time little kids make friends.
"Oh, I see now, I guess he is a little big for a dog, Sam. What do you have for me today?'
"I had to help Mr. Bob, so I did not get much today Mr. Peters."
"That's ok Sammy, here's a dollar."
"Bob, you need anything?'
'Yes Sir! We need a whole bunch of stuff for lunch, Sam will take some back to her mom and sister too, so if you can fix up what we need, that would be great." I gave him a wink.
"Mr. Peters, it sort of turned cold today, do you still have any of those warm clothes for me and Sam, and, maybe even pack up some stuff for her Mom and sister. Honey how old is your sister?"
"She's almost five Mr. Bob, but she is small too."
I motioned to total everything up and put it on my bill.
"Mr. Peters, it may be hard for us to carry everything, could Johnny or someone bring it on over to the house. If Sam has a little extra time, maybe she can help me some around the house and yard, make some extra money before she has to go home. What about it Sam?"
"Sure, I guess, I usually don't finish looking for stuff till 5 PM or so, then try the "Hall' for some dinner for us."
"Mr. Peters, I'm not sure if we will get everything even done today, could you add some stuff for Sam to take home for dinner too?"
He nodded, "Sure Bob, I'll even bring the rest of the stuff over and get Sam home about 5:30 from your place. Here take lunch fixings with you and these warm clothes."
Sam and I got to my place. I took the bag and gave here the key. She opened the door and handed me back the key. We went in.
"Wow, she said. This is a neat place. How big it is."
My thought that she was living a life tougher than me seemed to have merit. "Sam I'll show you around, see if there are some things you will help me with but first, let me show you the laundry area. Bring those clothes with you please."
"Sam, see that pile of laundry, do you think you could wash and dry that for me. There should be plenty of room too if you want to wash your clothes. Across the way there is a bathroom. Take your old clothes off, run in here, put them in the wash, then relax in the big bathtub there. You can use the shower, and do your hair, there is a bunch of good smelling stuff my Mom had around then try on those new, warm clothes in the bag. I young lady, promise not to peak, and will be in the kitchen working my magic to make us a picnic lunch."
"You promise not to peak, well not too much anyhow, He, He."
When did eight year olds become such teases?"
I heard her splashing around. It never dawned on me that was a sound of life that I had not heard since Mom, Dad and Sis had died. It was also a sound that I never expected to hear again.
"Lunch, Madam, is ready!" She must be having fun, it had been nearly an hour and a half. I had heard feet scamper and the sounds of a washer and dryer going, so I knew she had stared a couple of loads. I was tempted to 'peak' at the little minx, but I had promised not to. "Lunch", I yelled out.
When she came out, sans shoes and socks, I was not sure it was the Sam that had gone in. I had a beautiful blond wearing a checkered shirt and denim slacks help up with a wide Western Style belt. No longer was there the little brown headed urchin. "MMM" she said, "something smells wonderful."
For eating MRE's as long as I did, I could rate my lunch pretty high. It was a lot better fare than the hospital cuisine too. Sam seemed to think so. "Milady will want to sample the Tomato soup with Basil, followed by the expertly prepared toasted ham and cheese sandwiches. For desert, a rare mix of 'Oreo' and 'Nilla' wafers, served with a 'carafe' of chocolate milk.'
She raised her hands. "Oh Garcon', MY favourites." and gave me little kiss on the cheek.
"If Madam shall excuse me, I shall return to clear the table and serve tea." Tears were running down my cheeks. If my little sister had lived, she would be about Sam's age. She had been blond too. It was like Deja Vu. My attempt to help a little girl was turning into much more now. Here was a chance to try to help, maybe the only help she ever would have.
"Hey Sam, was there a cap or jacket in your bag?'
"Yes Mr. Bob, there were some other things, us 'girls' wear too, private things."
Good old Mr. Peters. I remembered Mandy and Jimmy and looked for their number. I found it in a drawer, dialed the number and a girl answered. "Mandy, It's Bob Rogers. Bob from Bethesda hospital. Yep, I'm ok, how are you and Jimmy. Finally, that's great Mandy. I hate to be a pest but I need your help. Not that kind Mandy, but, now that you mentioned it ... No kidding, well sort of. I have a little girl here who needs some clothes and was wondering ... Mandy no, I did not bring her naked from Iraq, she ... Mandy stop laughing, I did not bring her back with clothes either. Mandy, She is seven or eight and ... Mandy Please, I am not starting them young in a harem. Mandy, please be nice. She is a wonderful little girl who needs a break. I was hoping you could take her shopping and buy her and her sister and Mom anything they need, on me. I don't know when or if they all will go but I'll ask her. Her name is Sam and she is the sweetest girl, she has stolen my heart. Please call me back and tell me when you could go. Thank you Mandy."
As I turned around, Sam was staring at me, mouth wide and a blank look on her face. In a few seconds I had a curled ball of girl hugging and kissing me with tears streaming from here eyes. "Did I really steal your heart?"
"Yeah Sam, I want to be there for you." I began to tear up as I held her. "Sam, how much do you weigh, your getting heavy or ate a huge lunch?"
I cleaned up the kitchen, Sam folded and got the laundry. We sat down and looked out the front window for Mr. Peters. I handed her some money. It was $50 and she tried to hand it back. "Mr. Bob, I never made more than $2 finding things. I can't take this.'
"Sure you can Honey. I want to help you and your family. I also don't really know how yet. That's why I asked Mandy to help. Her brother and I were both in rehab together. They are good people and she is the only other girl I know, except you."
"Am I your girlfriend now?"
"Huh, Sam you ... Well yes, You are my girlfriend, and a girlfriend will let her boyfriend buy things, so I don't want to hear the 'you can't' anymore."
She got that 'Cat that swallowed the canary' look on her face. She took my hand then leaned on my shoulder. I felt like my sister had been returned to me from the grave.
When Mr. Peters came, we met him outside. I decided not to go with them, but told Sam there was a lot more work I needed her help with. It seemed that if she was told, rather than asked something, it would be done. 10 AM OK Sam?" There was a nod.
Mr. Peters stopped back. "Well MR. Bob, you might to know your little 'girlfriend' did not stop talking about you all the way home. When I brought the stuff in, it started again. Her Mom and the sister looked like war refugees. When they saw the food and clothes and the new Sam, I almost could not get out of the house. If Mrs. Peters hears about three women hugging and kissing me to death, you'd better be ready to tell her I was only doing you a favour. Although, she is a 'looker' all three are. Maybe you are a dog, Sam kept saying she was running around her 'boyfriend's' house naked a lot today."
I let out a groan.
The next morning I was wondering if my 'girlfriend' was showing up. There was a soft knocking on the front door. When I opened it, the three western hats were a foot or two below my line of sight.
"I'm Jenny, Sam's mom, and this here is her sister Lucy. Are you Mr. Bob, and what have you done with my daughter?"
"I, err, ahh, Hi, I'm Bob. and, Gee, I don't know? Nothing I think!"
A little bright face looked up at me with a devilish grin. "Hi 'boyfriend', you want me to do anything else for you today?" Then she and the others laughed.
"May we come in if we promise not to attack you?"
"Ahh, I'm sorry, y'all got me really confused."
"Sam told us about her new 'boyfriend', I guess we wanted to see if there were any more openings, we wanted to apply. We heard you wash, dress and feed us if we run around the house naked, then give us money at the end of the day? Sounds like a good deal to me, my five year old will join us at half price."
"Oh man, I just was not thinking! Oh NO, I never even..."
"Relax, 'boyfriend', when Sam told us how you treated her and everything you did for us, we all wanted to thank you. I got to go to work but Sam said you had some things you needed help with. Lucy wanted to help. I work two jobs and Sam and Lucy have the key to get in. I wanted to meet you and say thank you. OH, your Sam's first 'boyfriend' so be gentle with her." She looked back and smiled.
"Can I be your 'girlfriend too" Lucy asked?
God, what had I done. Just then the phone rang. It was Mandy, she was coming over to talk. "Mandy, great anytime. Sam and Lucy are here, but Jenny won't be back till ... Mandy, no. I told you Sam is eight, Lucy is almost five and ... No I do not start my harem's young! I mean, I do not have a ... Mandy, just anytime, I don't know what I mean anymore."
I started talking to myself, "yesterday I was all alone, today I have two, maybe three 'girlfriends' and people think I'm starting a harem."
I heard, "Am I your 'girlfriend' too. Is Mommy going to be your 'girlfriend'?"
"What's a harem?"
"Can I be naked and get a bath too?"
"I need to go potty?"
I sat down, a grand daddy of a headache coming on, and just knew my next buddy was going to be called 'Bubbah."
Maybe the Foreign Legion need 'A Few Good Men'?
I held my hands to my head. I heard a doorbell. "Come in Mandy!"
"Hi Stud, any more room in your Harem?"
"I did not think things could get any worse. Then two dripping wet, naked girls came running down the hall, and we heard. "Honey, Lucy won't put on any clothes unless you give her a bath first!"
Mandy just looked at me as I started to cry. "Why me Lord? Why me?"
"May I have a bath too, Master? Mandy said with her best little-girl look.
Mandy sat with me the entire day. "I need to make a call, Sec. Jimmy, Mandy, I'm staying here tonight. NO ... I did not get lucky, but your buddy is starting a harem and I might get my 'test drive' tonight. And your the wrong species so there. Seriously though, I think the houseful of females he has here are too much for him alone, Already there are two of them running around with no clothes on. No Jimmy, he does not need your help, He, He."
Yep, two naked girls were running through the house, dusting, cleaning and raising 'Holy Hell' around the house. Mandy just kept me close, patting my head and saying, "There, There!" every now and then. When one of my 'bare bunnies' came out and asked if they could make dinner, I did not even look up, merely raised my hands in defeat and said "whatever" and she ran calling to her sister, "Yes".
I must have fallen asleep. Mandy was not around. I called out.
She walked out of the bathroom, a towel on her head and one, rather small one, wrapped around her. The doorbell rang and Jenny was at the door.
"Well, I see the harem girls are getting older now, there may still be hope for an old lady. Who are you and where do I sign on."
"I'm Mandy, you must be Jenny. Well, the Master is resting after chasing after all his naked girls, but you have time for a bath first. As you can see, Master is sort of lenient on what we wear or don't."
"Mommy," there were hugs and kisses. "We are making dinner!"
Jenny looked at me then Mandy, "I hope he was gentle with them, he is their first you know?" Then followed into, I guessed the bathroom.
Maybe a harem might not be such a bad idea, I thought. At least four naked girls running around would certainly make things interesting.
My naked little chefs came out and called out "Dinner".
Jenny and Mandy came out. They had on mostly open flannel shirts and, thank God, panties on.
The girls all knelt down, spread themselves like slaves and I just stared at them. "Can we do anything for you Master," they all said with a smirk.
They were carrying this on too far. I guy might think they were serious. The more I thought about it, a guy could get used to this.
"We need to talk!"
"Yes Master, I heard in unison."
Dinner was not what I expected. The two girls actually had made some real food. We had soup, canned of course, hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, a salad and sort of warm beans. It was all washed down with milk and sodas. I actually had this stuff often. I hated to admit it but the 5 and 8 year olds cooked better than I did.
Since the next day was Saturday, I began to think about the night. Where would they sleep?
"Will we all be sleeping at the foot of your bed Master or in it?"
"Now that's enough, cut this right now. I have not done, nor will I, do anything to hurt you or the girls. Although, this has all been a little tempting."
That was the wrong thing to say. I had four naked and partially naked women/girls all hugging and kissing me. What's a guy to do. I hugged back, all of them.
That night, they got the bed, I got the couch.
I sniffed an aroma I had not smelled since I had left for Iraq. Coffee, real coffee, bacon, eggs and maybe hash browns. I was in heaven. Little Lucy scooted in to me and stared.