During the school year of 1967, my friend Lynda said to me that there was someone I should meet. "She writes, too."
So she took me across the classroom and said, "This is Linda."
We talked. We were both 13. We had all the same interests. We were writing what would later be called fan fiction for all our favorite shows. We exchanged Star Treks and High Chaparrals. We had lunch together every day and several classes together.
I'm not sure how long it was before I realized that our skin color was not the same. It didn't matter, not then, and not later -- not to me and not to her.
By the next semester, I'd moved back to Iowa again. This was part of the constant yo-yo movement my parents did between the two places. This time, though, I was miserable in school. Then my father decided it would be far easier to move back to LA without his wife and two daughters. We had no income. Before I turned 15, relatives had found me a full-time babysitting job that started as soon as I got home from school until 3 AM and all day Saturday. Three children, the youngest 1-month-old when I started. I wrote late at night there, waiting for the mother to get home from her night shift as a nurse. By then I had started writing my own original stories, but there was still a bit of fanfic tossed in.
Linda and I wrote each other. We shared stories still. We wrote stories together, too, sending stuff back and forth. She was a bright spot in a miserable few years.
I was 18 when dad came back and decided we should all go to LA again.
I went to the same school as Linda. A lot of our old friends were there. 1972 and the school had been large enough to get caught up in the race troubles sometimes. During one of these, Linda and I went to the admin. She called her mother -- and her mother told the person in charge to let her daughters leave.
I remember the woman looking from Linda to me and back.
And she let us go. We walked to Linda's house.
After that, I spent a lot of time at Linda's house. My mother and sister had gone back to Iowa, and I did not get along with my father. Linda's mom, Dorothy, treated me like I was her child. Linda's older brother, Lonnie, was a little longer coming around, but he did. In fact, Dorothy later started telling people that she had three children and they just kept getting lighter.
The day after graduation my father kicked me out of the house for not already having a job. This after years of supporting his wife and daughter because he never sent any of the money he was supposed to.
I called Linda.
I moved in with them. I was the only white person in the neighborhood. It didn't matter.
We traveled all over LA, Linda and I. To the beach (Leo Carrillo was a favorite), China Town, here and there. Dorothy talked to my father and later called him a lying bastard. I was not going back. Instead, she got me enrolled in a local tech school for secretary training. Linda did nursing school, but it never suited her.
We wrote. We went places. We did insane (and sometimes stupid) things, but we did it together.
I will not say it was perfect. Linda was the most stubborn person I ever knew. If she decided something, that was it. I remember her getting mad about something and storming off into the house, leaving her mother and me on the doorstep. Her mother turned to me and said, "Yeah, I know. Can't live with her, and can't live without her."
But you could work around those times, and then we'd be off doing something goofy Going to China Town, splitting up, and then meeting at the fountain and pretending we hadn't seen each other for years and we'd always planned to be here. Yeah, silly. Imaginative.
Dorothy paid for both of us to take Kung Fu lessons, and not from just any place. Sil Lum Kung Fu on Van Nyes Blvd had some well-known teachers. (Some of them were later in Big Trouble in Little China, among things.) Linda met Lloyd. Things began to change as she went
And I was not always there in LA. I would get messages -- my mother needed me. If I didn't come back and take care of her, it was my fault if she died. (Yeah, they pulled this a few times, relatives who told me that all the problems at home were my fault for not working hard enough.)
I would stay in Iowa as long as I could stand it and then run back to LA for a while. Then back to Iowa to take care of things. Then to LA. Those were the only times I cared about and remembered -- but yeah, things were changing. Linda had a boyfriend.
I went to Iowa for a longer stretch.
Linda and I stayed in touch. Then we got this insane idea. I had a vacation coming from my job. Let's both get a 15-day Greyhound Bus Pass and traveled.
Yeah, I only thought we were crazy before this. Linda came from LA to Sioux City. We spent a day there and then hit the road heading east. I have a few sharp memories of the trip:
Me pointing out the window and saying, "Look! Cows! Being from LA, I know you never saw such things." Doing that maybe a few too many times.
At one stop, Linda misunderstanding what I said, and when I corrected her as we got on the bus, turning to me and saying "Well, fine. Then the engagement is off!" and handing me one of her rings. That won some amusing reactions. So we repeated it when we loaded onto other buses.
We went to Washington DC, but not anywhere near anything worth seeing. We went to Toronto, which was beautiful, then Quebec, which was foreign, and then back to Toronto where we sat on a bench overlooking the lake and napped in the warm sun. Sleeping at night in a bus between stops was taking a toll. We headed west. Fargo -- the night crew had duct-taped one of their workers to a column. Montana, where one old guy kept asking people if they knew why Butte was named Butte. 'Cause it's on a butte!' he'd says and laugh.
He got off at Butte. We did not.
Montana. Time with some really nice people who took us on a picnic into Glacier National Park.
Pointing out to Linda that we were leaving the town of George in the state of Washington.
Back to LA and a few days there before I went on alone to Sioux City.
Our lives went on. Linda had a daughter. I got married. Linda married and had two boys. We kept in touch, but not as much as before. I took two trips out to LA and visited with her for a while. But our worlds had gone different ways. That was only natural, you know. We couldn't go hiking through LA. I had no reason to run back to LA to escape to my fun life. Email got us in touch again. She talked about her sons, her house, her job. She talked about making quilts. Honestly, I could never imagine her doing anything so normal. Then we both found Facebook and a better way to contact each other. I was devastated when her mother unexpectedly died of a heart attack.
I helped Linda publish a few books through ACOA. Her vampire stories were often just fun.
I had always imagined that as her kids got older, she and I might take one of those nice sedate bus tours to some place and relive our insanity.
I always imagined that we would write more books together.
I never imagined a world without her.
Linda died on March 31, 2018, after a long fight against cancer.
This doesn't do justice to our times together. I just know the world is less for her passing.