Sam fled, running even though the needles of feeling were still returning to his legs. He stumbled once, and then fell, scraping his hands against cold, hard cobbles, but then he rose and ran on. He found his way to a small coffeehouse, still open despite the late hour and near empty main room, and slipped in out of the cold. There was a large fire in one corner of the main room, and a few people sat around it, drinking from steaming mugs. Sam slipped into a table away from the fire and did his best not to be noticed. He coveted the heat of the fire, especially on his now painfully chilled legs, but he couldn’t bring himself to move again. He had been rejected many times, but tonight’s series of escalating travesties was worse than most, and he needed time to recover. There was no one good in the world, and so few who would even make the attempt to be so. It was profoundly sad.
Someone slipped into the chair on the other side of his table. He glanced up to see a shivering woman in scandalous dress. She smiled at him and said, “Mind if I share yer table? I ain’t exactly welcome with that crowd.” She tilted her head towards the men by the fire.
Sam glanced around at the many empty tables. “Why would you want to sit with me?”
The woman gazed at him with big, brown eyes. “Just thought ya might be needing some company.”
Sam shrugged, motioning at his pockets. “I’ve got no money, ma’am. Afraid you’re wasting your time.”
The woman laughed, it was a high, clear sound. “I’m off for the night. Ain’t nobody on the streets to work anyways. I ain’t tryin ta sell you nothing. Just thought ya might want someone ta sit with.”
“What about the scars?” Sam asked, a confused frown dominating the mobile half of his face.
The woman smiled. “What scars?”
Hope bloomed in Sam’s heart, but he hesitantly motioned at his face, and the woman looked at his scars, bringing her hand to her mouth, as if seeing them for the first time. “Oh,” she said softly, “I didn’t even notice them. What happened?”
The woman laughed again. “Darlin, I deal in lust.” She waved at her scant clothing and attractive face before continuing, “and lust is all about looks. But love.” She leaned in close. “From what little experience I’ve had, love doesn’t see scars.”
Sam stared at her and, though he knew the answer, asked, “If you don’t mind my asking…what experience have you had?”
The woman twirled a bit of her auburn hair around a finger as she shrugged. “You think that a whore can’t know love?” Her eyes stared at Sam, but he could see that she was not looking at him. “I was loved once, and loved well. He was a wonderful man, we were going to have a home, and a family…” she paused, distant reverie ending as her attention snapped back to Sam. “But he died a long time ago, and I am here, and you remind me of him.”
Sam’s hand went back to his scars but she waved it down. “No, no, not your looks. You look nothing like him, but your heart is the same. The kindness, and the sadness that I see in your eyes. A little bit of the resignation too, but you have more of that than he did.” The woman placed her hands on the table. “I don’t know your name, sir, but I know your type, and I would be proud to meet you.”