Secrets Kept, Lies Told

Secrets Kept, Lies Told
By Sarah
Chapter 1

    Alexa ran around the corner and jumped up on a crate, then on top of a dumpster.  She hauled her small frame over the fence and stood up on the other side as the man chasing her reached the fence.
    "You damn whore!  Get back over here!"  He hollered.
    Alexa smiled, tossing her long brown curly hair over her shoulder.  "Sorry, Lenny, you'll have to find another source of entertainment for your guests tonight."  She turned and ran out of the alley, turning onto another street of Orlando.  She finally came to rest at another of her hiding places, behind a church.  Lenny and his pals never thought in a million years that Alexa would go there.  But then again, they didn't even call her Alexa, they called her everything but Alexa.  Old girlfriend's name's, whore, slut, ho, anything in the dictionary except for Alexa.  It didn't bother her, especially since she never let them get their way.  If they wanted her, she always told them that they'd have to call her by her full name, a name even she didn't know.  All she knew was that her first name was Alexandra, but everyone called her Alexa.  She didn't care that she was a homeless girl, just that she survived.  And on the streets of Orlando, that was pretty hard to do.
    "Alexa!  There you are, girl, come inside and get something to eat."
    Alexa looked up and saw Sherry looking down at her.  Alexa stood up, brushing off her shorts.  "Hey, Sherry, how's the food tonight?"  She asked the woman.
    Sherry smiled and led Alexa to the back door.  "Same as every night.  Were you running from Lenny again?  Or Richard?"
    "Damn pimps are fast, let's just put it that way," Alexa said as she followed the woman inside.  Sherry was a woman who ran the 'Help the Homeless' program in Orlando, a former homeless person herself.  She was especially close with Alexa, she'd found her when she was about four, wandering around the streets of Orlando.  She took care of Alexa, as well as she could on the meager money she had from her horrible job, and then let Alexa take care of herself when she wanted to.  She knew it was a way of life for Alexa to constantly be running from people, and didn't stop her.  The only problem was, she didn't know exactly why Alexa ran from everywhere she went.  Alexa didn't have the heart to tell Sherry that she stole from people.
    She had to survive and pick pocketing was still the best way to get money besides prostituting yourself.  Alexa refused to prostitute and often pick pocketed at least three or four people a day.
    "Come on, Alexa, Rudy will give us free food in the back," a perky voice said.  Alexa turned and saw Lolly standing in front of her.  No one knew Lolly's real name, they just called her Lolly because she liked lolli-pops. Alexa snuck away from Sherry and snuck into the back with Lolly.  The two received extra rolls and a piece of fruit from the cook, then walked back out and got on line with everyone else.  Alexa took her tray from the woman behind the counter gratefully and started eating it right then and there. 'Running makes a girl hungry,' she thought, 'very hungry.'  She finished her food before she got to her seat and threw away the tray.  She waved goodbye to Lolly and hurried out the door, starting a banana.  She tossed the peel in a garbage can and heard some screaming.  It wasn't ohmigod-someone's-trying-to-kill-me kind of screaming, but excited screaming.  She crept down the corner and spotted a big crowd in front of the record store.
    'Ooh, lots of people, lots of people with money.  It must be an appearance of some sort,' Alexa thought.  She shrugged off the thought.  'Don't matter, its money in my pocket instead of theirs.'  She snuck over and started through the crowd, searching for someone who looked like they had a lot of money.

    "Sheesh, the crowds get bigger and bigger everytime," AJ said, looking out the window.
    Denise nodded, sighing to herself.  She wasn't as excited to be back in Orlando as the boys, for some reason.
    "What's wrong, Ma?"  AJ asked, sitting in a chair in front of his mother. Denise looked up and looked at her son.  He was a spitting image of his father, with the hair to match.  She smiled and ruffled his hair.  "Nothing, hon, go wave hi, I can't hear anyone," she said jokingly.
    AJ laughed and got up.  Denise didn't have to watch him, she knew he had gotten to the window as the screaming got louder.  She looked at her watch, it was July 14, 1999, 6:35 p.m.  In exactly one day, eleven hours, and twenty minutes, her baby Alexa would turn eighteen.  She never had found out what happened to Alexa, she was kidnapped when she was four days old and was never seen again.  The police found nothing, her ex-husband knew nothing, and Alex, or AJ as he was now called, never knew about it.  He couldn't remember anything about Alexa or his mother suddenly getting a round belly.  Every year, however, Denise got sad during July, wondering about her daughter.  Her son never made any connection when it happened, no one did.  Denise forced a smile on her face as her son's friends walked in the room, ready to start their autograph signing.  AJ sat at the end of the table, hamming it up for the camera's as people came in.  Denise's son was a natural at his profession.  His profession as a performer of a group called the Backstreet Boys.

    'There,' Alexa thought.  That made three wallets in the last half-hour.  She shoved that one in her pocket, then walked to the side, behind a building corner.  She looked through the wallet, finding about forty-five dollars and a few credit cards.  'Ooh, an Old Navy card, new clothes!'  Alexa thought excitedly.  She shoved everything in her pockets, tossing the wallet in the garbage can, and then walked back into the crowd.  She wanted to hit one more, and then she would head away from here.   'Spending too much time in one place could be dangerous,' she thought.  'People will start to remember my face, and that wouldn't be good.'  Alexa weaved in and out of the crowd, looking for another wealthy-looking person.  She found herself in the record store, on a line to see people.  She spotted the people sitting at the table, but didn't pay much attention to them.  She waited until a security guard had turned away, then darted forward, heading for the bathrooms.  She walked in and, instantly seeing herself, wondered why no one had really noticed her.
She looked rather dingy, dirt covering her arms and legs.  She washed up quickly, then worked her fingers through her curls.  It never worked the way she wanted it to, but hey, it was better than nothing.  She stepped out of the bathroom quietly and looked around behind the banner.  It was the rest of the music store, the area closed off for the time being.  She snuck back there, wondering if there were any interesting people to be had.

    "Yes, sir, I understand.  Ok, great, we'll see you in a few months.  Ok, bye," Denise said, hanging up her phone.  She crossed a name off her list and looked next to her at one of her son's group's managers.  "Well, Jeff, San Francisco is on the list, once again."
    "Great job, Denise, you always seem to have the touch for getting people to say yes," Jeff said, smiling.
    Denise grinned back and looked back down at her list.  She did enjoy her job, as long as she didn't think about Alexa.  She turned her phone back on, dialing another number.

    'Sheesh, you'd think she were super woman or something,' Alexa thought, looking at the woman from behind.  The woman, who's name appeared to be Denise, had just convinced people to allow those guys to perform wherever it was she just called.  Alexa was amazed, she was a sweet talking woman who got
what she wanted.  Alexa liked people like that.
    'It's a shame, though, she's about to lose her wallet,' Alexa thought as she took a thick wallet out of the purse on the floor.  She ducked around a corner and opened the wallet, then realized it wasn't the woman's.  It was some guy's, but it was loaded.  Alexa pulled the fifties and twenties out, stuffing them in her pocket.  She shifted through the cards, looking for something she could use.  There wasn't anything, so she just left them.  She looked at the driver's license, Alexander J. McLean.
    'Hmm, he's from Orlando, like the rest of the world,' Alexa thought.  She closed the wallet and returned it to the woman's purse, then turned to sneak out the back way.  She reached the back door and pushed it open quietly, stepping out.  She closed the door behind her softly, then turned and ran.

    "Hey, Ma, do you have my wallet?"  AJ asked as he walked over to Denise.
    Denise nodded and reached behind her, picking up her purse.  She pulled her son's wallet out and handed it to him.  AJ opened it and a confused look crossed his face.  "What's wrong, honey?"  Denise asked.
    "My money is gone!"  AJ exclaimed, showing his mother the empty wallet.
    "So is a lot of other people's.  A pickpocket must've came through here, we've had about three people report missing wallets and money.  We found two wallets in an alley, a third in a garbage can.  Whoever it was must've gotten in here and taken your money," Officer O'Malley said, walking over.
    "Damn," AJ said, closing his wallet.  "And I had a lot in there, I went to the bank this morning to get some because we're going out tonight."
    Denise frowned.  "I'm sorry, sweetie," she said.
    "Yeah, sorry, AJ, wish I could help you.  We've had a rash of this lately, it comes around every year about this time.  Its like someone is trying to buy themselves a new home or something," Officer O'Malley said,
patting AJ on his shoulder.  He walked away, helping the rest of security clear out the building.
    "Every year around this time," Denise repeated aloud.  She shrugged off the thought of Alexa, despite having the strangest feeling that maybe, just maybe, her baby was alive and trying to survive.
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