Archive for Novel category

Refrigerators and Convictions

Posted on October 21, 2010 6:53 pm under Convictions, Novel

Thursday Thirteen - Grandma isn't listless anymore

Throw out 90% of the refrigerator’s contents? Insane? Not if you saw the contents. On Saturday, Calico will be bringing home lots of edible food. But it won’t last long, if we can’t refrigerate it. So today we bit the moldy bullet and tackled the job of cleaning our refrigerator.

Psychiatrists lay the blame for many of our problems at our parents’ feet. The condition of our refrigerator is my mother’s fault. Perhaps it was growing up in the Great Depression, but she couldn’t bear to throw away edible food. Half a green bean left after dinner? Put it in a plastic container and wait three months. It will be much easier to discard when it’s covered in an inch of mold. No wonder she dreaded cleaning the refrigerator. When she finally did, she enjoyed the results and swore she’d never let it deteriorate again. But a few months later, it would once again be filled with containers more fit for antibiotic research than human consumption.

I knew that I would do better when I had my own home. To some extent, I did. I was never guilty of trying to preserve atomic-sized food remnants. But if there’s enough for a single serving, I rationalize that it could be incorporated into another meal or used for any easy-fix lunch. That does happen, but not often. I am NOT my mother, Then why do I hear myself saying, “From now on I’m going to clean this regularly.”?

13 things we removed from our refrigerator today.

  1.  Five containers of sour cream. Each holding about a teaspoonful. If you count the mold
  2.  A huge container of beef stew. It was a wonderful stew and could have made another meal. I think that was the plan, but it got lost in the depths.
  3.  Most of a chocolate Christmas penguin. I’m not sure if my granddaughter ever tasted it. But it was so bad that even chocolate addicts like Calico and Grandma hated it – even when it was fresh.
  4. Four maraschino cherry containers with a little liquid in each. Not a cherry in sight.
  5.  A hardened lemon.
  6. A hardened lime.
  7. Dozens of crispy little pieces that had fallen out of something with a Mexican scent. Thought they must be taco chips, but they turned out to be petrified burrito.
  8.  A vegetable crisper that was almost full… of soggy veggies.
  9.  An almost full container of Cool Whip that had gone bad. If you’re not familiar with the stuff, let me assure you that this takes a LOT of aging.
  10. Several wrapped dinner plates that my granddaughter had half eaten. She’s always asking to have something saved. And the sins of the parents (and grandparents) are visited on the children.
  11.  A pork chop. I think. Not brave enough to search below the blue covering.
  12. The newest formulation for super glue. We really should have it analyzed. A chisel and several power tools were required to remove it from one shelf. And it had securely bonded two rather hefty containers.
  13. Taco meat. Several small containers of it. One of them was less than a week old. But we couldn’t figure out which one. Safety ruled and we threw them all.

 I’ve already reached 13? But I’m only on the first shelf.

I know. Today I was going to talk about the future of Convictions, my first attempt at a novel. It’s not dead, but it is being postponed until next spring. Hopefully, it will not be covered in mold, when I take it out of cold storage.

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Convictions – Installment #18

Posted on May 30, 2010 3:53 am under Convictions, Novel

New to Convictions?
Full story:  Index.
Quick Story: In a Nutshell 

“I’m sorry.”

Judith and Beth laughed at their synchronous apologies and shared a hug.

“I was out of line, Beth. It’s not my place to judge what you do.”

“But you were right. I’ve lived in fear for far too long and it’s going to stop. I want to go to parole after work today. Can you handle things until I get back?”

“Of course.”

The morning service started. Conversation stopped as they began their breakfast preparations. Time passed quickly. Soon the meal had been served and eaten. The usual camaraderie was missing from their cleanup. Margaret stood in her corner issuing complaints and insisting that Judith re-clean a sparkling counter. When she finally left, they breathed a sigh of relief.

“Go get ready for work, Beth. There’s not much left to do and I can handle it.”

“Thanks, Judith.”

Bethany took a quick shower and started to dress. The sight of Cassandra’s gifts brought new tears to her eyes. She quickly gained control and focused on her job. In a few minutes, she was ready. She returned to the kitchen and said goodbye to Judith.

Cal was at the main door watching for her.

“Come on, Beth. I’ll take you to the office. Even though you’re not a Pinnacle employee, there’s still a little paperwork. Then you’ll be joining some other new hires for a tour of the store. I’ll meet you for a quick break before you get started on your new job.”

Although Beth was quite familiar with the store, she enjoyed learning about the work that kept it running smoothly. Behind-the-scene tours of the bakery, deli, and dairy sections introduced areas she hadn’t seen before. Cal met her at the conclusion and they hurried to the coffee shop.

“It’s okay for me to leave the store during work hours?”

“Yes. You’ll get a fifteen minute break each day. Besides, you’re with me. Since I’m one of your managers, you can take this time without worrying.”

“Speaking of worrying, what’s wrong Beth?”

Beth gave him the quick version.

“Don’t make any waves, Beth. I know how much you care for Cassandra. I like her too. She’s a kind and genuine person. But there’s nothing you can do to help her. Please take care of yourself. I don’t want anything to happen to you. Promise me that you won’t go to parole or confront Pastor Bob.”

“We’ve been sitting here for almost twenty minutes, Cal. Let’s get back to the store. Even though I won’t get in trouble, I’d still like a chance to learn about my job.”

Cal paid the bill and they returned to the store without talking. Beth felt the weight of his disapproval. Still she would not be swayed from her decision. She hoped he would understand.

Cal led her to the bakery and maintained a professional demeanor as he introduced Beth to Diana, a 2 year veteran of the sample distribution position.

“Diana will train you, Beth. She’s taught many of our distributors. I know you’ll learn a lot from her, so I’m leaving you in good hands.”

Their eyes followed him as he left.

“There’s a bit of a learning curve, Beth, but this position can be fun. You get to meet a lot of people. Including some cute single guys.”

Diana gave a nod in Cal’s direction.

“And not all of them are customers. Isn’t he a hunk?”

Beth gave a noncommittal smile, but refrained from commenting.

“Will I work in one area of the store or do distributors rotate positions?”

“We rotate. You’ll work in the bakery for a few days, since it’s one of the easier positions. Once you’re comfortable, I’ll introduce you to other areas.”

Diana stayed with her as they distributed samples, giving occasional tips. Soon it was time to go. Beth didn’t see Cal and didn’t look for him. She didn’t want to argue with him and she wasn’t going to change her mind. She left the store and headed to the parole office.

“Hi Beth. Parole isn’t usually this popular. This is the third time I’ve seen you in a week.”

“I need to talk to you.”

“Something that wouldn’t wait until tomorrow? This sounds serious.”

She listened as Beth explained her suspicions about Cassandra’s setup by Pastor Bob.

“You are a good friend, Beth. I admire your courage in coming to me with this information. Now I’m hoping you will listen carefully to what I’m going to tell you.”

“I am not allowed to divulge information about the staff of Redemption House or any other parole residence facility. Neither am I permitted to discuss other parolees. Is that clear?”

Beth stood and prepared to leave. Obviously, this wasn’t going to help.

“Don’t go, Beth.”

“I can tell you that it is parole’s policy to think carefully before removing a halfway house from our list of approved residences. As you know, many halfway homes don’t accept parolees with violent crimes. We are willing to make exceptions for houses that do. We may choose to disregard policies and practices that might otherwise disqualify them. This is done to benefit parolees like yourself.”

“But he “

“We are also likely to give less credence to claims made by the staff of such houses. While action may be required, we do not casually revoke a parolee’s freedom. For example, if a person has been paroled for over a year without incident and has no history of a drug crime, we would question a claim of drug possession. If we felt that such a claim was fraudulent, we would look for alternative placement.”

“Alternate placement?”

“Approval for their own residence when appropriate. Placement in another halfway house or shelter. Each case is different. I’m just sharing our general guidelines.”

Her words began to sink in.

“So Cassandra wasn’t sent back to prison?”

Jane Watkins smiled and shook her head.

“As I mentioned before, I can’t provide information about another parolee.”

“I understand. Thanks for the information, Officer Watkins.”

“You’re welcome, Beth. No need to come and see me tomorrow. I think we can count this as your visit for the week.”

As she left the office, Beth felt both relieved and frustrated. Perhaps Cassandra hadn’t been returned to prison. But where was she?

Want to read more? Check back next weekend for the next installment.

Don’t forget to head over to the Weekend Writers’ Retreat to enjoy submissions from more authors.


Convictions – Installment #17

Posted on May 16, 2010 4:58 am under Convictions, Novel

New to Convictions?
Full story:  Index.
Quick Story: In a Nutshell 

“Cassandra is no longer with us.”

Questions sprang to Beth’s lips, but Margaret continued without a pause.

“It’s obvious her supervision was poor. It’s time for dinner and nothing is prepared. Are you concerned? No. You stand there dressed like a hussy with no thoughts of your responsibilities. Things are going to change. Immediately. Dinner will be served after the service or there will be consequences. A suitable dinner. None of your peanut butter sandwiches.”

She turned and left the kitchen. Seconds later, the sounds of the evening service began.

For a moment, Beth stood stunned. Then she spun into action. She had never served peanut butter sandwiches and had no intent to begin now.

“Judith. We need to talk later. Please prepare a salad.”

No time to change her clothes. Beth removed the shawl and covered her clothes with a large white apron. She saw that Judith hadn’t moved and grabbed her shoulders.

“Judith! Now!”

Judith rose and moved listlessly towards the refrigerator. Obviously Beth could not rely on her for much else. She thought quickly and moved into action. Thank goodness for the freezer. She quickly removed apple pies, beef tips and dinner rolls. She started cooking rice. Hopefully, there would be sufficient time for it to cook. Forty minutes later the beef tips were hot and the apple pies and rolls had been removed from the oven. Judith had finally produced a salad. Only the rice remained. Beth heard the final hymn and began to despair. All that remained to the service was Pastor Bob’s closing prayer. The rice needed five more minutes and there was no way to speed that. The hymn ended.

“Lord, we ask your saving powers for Cassandra, who fell from your way. We know that she must pay the wages of her sin. Do not spare your wrath, but use it to direct her back to the path of righteousness. May she serve as an example to other sinners, who are tempted to stray from the fold.”

His tirade continued for nearly ten minutes. Before it reached it’s conclusion, the rice was ready.

Beth had no appetite for dinner. Lord’s Servant Margaret glared at her from across the room, obviously disappointed that Beth had met the deadline. Finally the meal was over. Pastor Bob approached her as she rose to leave.

“You’ve heard that we’ve lost Cassandra?”

She nodded.

“I’m afraid this will mean more work for you. But this cannot be helped. She must reap the consequences of her actions.”

He paused a moment and gave Beth an intent look.

“It’s good for all of us to remember that there are consequences for our actions.”

He left without saying more. Beth hurried back to the kitchen, anxious to talk with Judith. Conversation proved impossible. Margaret stood in one corner occasionally breaking the silence with a criticism of their work. When the dishes had been washed, Margaret instructed the others to leave.

“She can finish cleaning. She’s done very little today.”

To Beth’s relief, Margaret left as well. She was just starting preparations for the next day, when Judith tiptoed back into the kitchen.

“Pastor Bob planted those drugs, Beth.”

“What drugs?”

“He did a room search and found found a small stash of marijuana under Cassandra’s mattress.”

“Cassandra doesn’t do drugs.”

“Of course not. But it’s an easy way to create a parole violation.”

“Why would he do that?”

Judith was suddenly quiet.

“Judith, tell me. I can see that you know.”

“Cassandra said not to tell you. She didn’t want you to worry. Guess that doesn’t matter now. Did you know that his phone has access to all of the house’s phone lines?

“I assumed he did. There are several line buttons on his phone.”

“Cassandra was sure that he listened to her conversation. The one she had with the temp agency. She said it was worth going back to prison, if you got the job. She just hoped he didn’t hurt you as well. Guess he didn’t want to mess with good meals.”

Beth sat in stunned silence.

“What are we going to do, Beth?”

Beth knew the answer to that.

“There’s nothing we can do, Judith.”

“We could go to parole.”

“Like they would take our word over his? Be real, Judith. We’d accomplish nothing. Except earn Pastor Bob’s wrath. And we’ve seen what that got Cassandra.”

“I can’t believe you’re saying this, Beth. Your friend risks her freedom and you are going to do nothing.”

Beth felt her eyes dampen, but quickly controlled her emotions.

“Cassandra sacrificed her freedom to get me a job, Judith. I won’t repay her by causing trouble and returning to prison. Cassandra always expected to go back. I’m not happy that it’s because of me. But in a few months, she’ll be out again. It took me five years to get parole approval. Redemption House was the only halfway house willing to accept me. If I go back, I’ll spend the next ten years in prison. I won’t do anything to jeopardize my freedom.”

“Freedom? You call this freedom? All I see is someone imprisoned by her fears. You might as well live behind bars.”

Judith left. Beth resumed her work, but Judith’s words kept replaying in her mind. No, she wasn’t free. But Redemption House was her road to freedom. One day she’d be able to speak her mind. To defend the people that she cared for. Or would she? Did fear become a way of life? Would there always be a reason to stay below the radar? She pushed back the thoughts. She needed to focus on the future.

Her job began tomorrow. She needed to be alert and ready to do her best. Suddenly she remembered that she was wearing her only pair of black pants. Despite the oversized apron, her pants had been spattered by food. The laundry room was already closed. She would have to do her best to make them presentable.

She removed the apron and headed towards her bedroom. She turned on the light, looked at her bed and felt tears well in her eyes. There were the pants from the consignment shop. Next to them were two new tailored white shirts. And a note.

Congrats on your new job. This is just the beginning. I know you’ll go far.

Tears overflowed. She sank to the bed and sobbed. When she finally stood, she hung the new clothes in the closet and got ready for bed. Sleep did not come quickly. Judith was right. She could not let her friend disappear without a word of protest.

Tomorrow, she started a new job. Tomorrow, she would find a way to help Cassandra. Tomorrow, she would stop living in fear.

Want to read more? Check back next Saturday for the next installment.

Don’t forget to head over to the Weekend Writers’ Retreat to enjoy submissions from more authors.


Convictions – Installment #16

Posted on May 9, 2010 8:41 pm under Convictions, Novel
Tags: | 3 Comments

New to Convictions?
Full story:  Index.
Quick Story: In a Nutshell 

“It’s okay to use a fork.”

Cal smiled at Beth’s chagrined face, then adeptly used his chopsticks to eat the shrimp fried rice.

“It takes a bit of practice. Next time I’ll order Mu Shu pork.”


“Mu Shu’s served with Chinese pancakes. A lot easier than rice when you’re learning to use chopsticks.”

“That’s a good idea.”

“It’s my mother’s. I wanted to learn when I was young, but got quickly frustrated. And hungry. So she started serving pancakes for breakfast. Each day she’d cut them into smaller pieces and hand me a pair of chopsticks. It made learning easy and fun.”

Beth barely remembered her mother’s face, but the memories of Amanda Hollister’s indifference were still vivid.

“She must have been a wonderful mother.”

“Still is. Better than I deserve. I disappointed her, but she’s never stopped supporting me. In prison, she was my only visitor. She even convinced Gloria to let me see the children again.”

“How old are they?”

“Jed is eleven and Tracy is nine. Gloria obtained a divorce and full custody of the children after I was convicted. Tracy was only two years old. She wouldn’t let me see them after I was released.”

“That doesn’t seem fair, Cal.”

“I can’t blame her. I began selling drugs for extra cash. My career had good prospects. But I was just starting and money was tight. Gloria learned about it and begged me to stop. I swore that I would. She believed me and I betrayed that trust. So why would she believe me after my release? She was trying to protect our children.”

“But you see them now?”

“Yes. Gloria always let the kids visit their grandmother. Eventually, she let me visit them there for a couple hours a week. My mother promised that we would not leave the house and that she would not leave me alone with the children. I was happy to see them on any terms. And my mother’s presence really helped. They knew her. Tracy had no memory of me and Jed’s were faint. It took time to rebuild. It was almost three years before Gloria let me have time alone with them. Now they stay with me on alternate weekends and we took a vacation together last summer.”

“It sounds as if you’ve regained her trust. Have you considered a reconciliation?”

“No, she’s got a new life now and I’m not a part of it. I’m just grateful for the relationship with my children.”

He paused a moment.

“I can’t believe we’re talking about this, Beth. It’s certainly not first date material. Next you’ll be telling me about your old boyfriends. You were too young to be married, right?”

“Right. Although I was engaged for a while. Don’t worry about old boyfriend tales, the list was pretty short.”

The conversation lightened and they enjoyed the rest of their meal, lingering over another cup of tea and fortune cookies.

“Your wealth will be vaster than the stars.”, Cal read. “What does yours say. Beth?”

“Fortunes are like birthday wishes, Cal. They don’t come true if you reveal them.”

“In that case, I’ve just ruined my chance to be rich. Care to go for a walk with a pauper?”

They left the restaurant laughing. The sun was bright, but the air was crisp. She mentally thanked Cassandra for loaning a black fringed shawl. They continued to chat and stopped occasionally to admire merchandise in the small storefronts. Her enjoyment was tempered by aching feet. The slingbacks were gorgeous, but not intended for long walks. She said nothing, hating to end the moment. Soon the ache turned to pain and Cal became aware of her plight.

“Beth, I’m so sorry. I should have realized. Let’s head back to the car.”

They started back. She struggled not to wince at each step.

“Stop, Beth.”

He turned and lifted her into his arms.

“No, Cal. I can walk.”

“No sense in blistering your feet, Beth. Just relax.”

Relax? How? She felt the strength of his arms and the warmth of his body. The clean scent of soap mingled with that subtle male muskiness. She sensed more than saw the scrutiny of his dark eyes. Imagined the feel of those sensuous lips. Emotions restrained during years of incarceration began to break free. The intensity sent shivers up her spine.

“Cold, Beth?”

She didn’t trust her voice. Then realized there was no need to speak. He knew.

He stopped and bent his head. His lips brushed lightly across hers. Then returned. Firmer. Testing. Tasting. The world receded.

A car horn returned them to the present. Cal resumed walking. Beth searched for words but found none. In a few minutes they reached his car. Cal started to drive. Finally he broke the silence.

“I’m sorry for my impetuousness, Beth. This is our first date, but I’ve been wanting to do that for two months. I promise to behave. I’m not ready for this date to end.”

“Neither am I. Although you’re going to get tired of carrying me.”

They laughed and the tension eased.

“Take those shoes off, Beth. I’ve got an idea.”

She sighed in relief and wiggled her toes.

“I fear that a career as a fashion model is out of the question.”

He gave her a look that said otherwise. Tension returned. Beth grew quiet and gazed out her window. Soon Cal turned into a shopping plaza and parked the car.

“I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

She was content to stay. Cal had been gone for a couple minutes before she realized that one of the slingbacks was missing.

“Try these. I hope you like them.”

Cal returned the missing slingback and handed her a shoebox. Inside were a pair of black leather loafers.

“Try them on. I want to be sure that they don’t hurt your feet.”

The look of pure bliss on her face assured him that they didn’t.

“They’re wonderful, Cal. So soft. But I really shouldn’t accept them.”

“Only candy or flowers? I know it’s not proper and it certainly isn’t romantic, but you need a comfortable pair of shoes. If you must, consider it a business investment. I can’t have the newest sample distributor hobbling around on blistered feet.”

“Or the meat manager suffering from a broken back? Don’t say otherwise, Cal. I’m not that light. Thank you for the shoes and for your thoughtfulness.”

“You’re welcome, Beth. Feel up to doing something else now?”

“What do you have in mind?”

She caught that look on his face again and regretted her choice of words.

“There’s a planetarium nearby. They have a 2pm show. We’d have time to see the afternoon show and return you to Redemption House before supper.”

“I’ve never been to a planetarium, Cal. But I’m sure I’d love it.“

The show was wonderful. Beth relaxed. When Cal slipped his arm around her, she rested her head against him. Time passed quickly as they enjoyed the night-like surroundings and the beauty of the star show.

They kept the conversation light on the ride back. Far too soon, Cal pulled the car to a stop in front of Redemption House.

“I’ve had a wonderful day, Cal. Thank you so much.”

“It was wonderful for me too, Beth. Our schedules won’t make it easy, but we must work at finding more time together.”

Cal turned towards her and placed a gentle hand against her cheek. Then he leaned forward and Beth met him halfway. Their kiss was tender, but lingering. Finally they separated.

“I’ll see you in the morning, working girl.”

He watched until the door hid her from his view. As she rode up the elevator, Beth drew the Chinese fortune from her pocket.

Your heart is a place to draw true happiness.

Good friends, a new job and now Cal. Her heart had felt empty for so long. The drawing was not complete, but it it had begun to fill her heart with warmth and color.

Cassandra and Judith had insisted on preparing supper, but wouldn’t reveal their menu. She hoped it was a success. Cassandra’s confidence could use the boost. Judith had quiet self-assurance, but Cassandra couldn’t see her own skills. Suddenly Beth couldn’t wait to see them and hurried towards the kitchen.

Judith sat at the worktable, but there were no signs of dinner.

“Is everything alright, Judith? Where’s Cassandra?”

Judith turned towards her, revealing a face streaked by tears.

From behind Beth came the haughty voice of Lord’s Servant Margaret.

“Cassandra is no longer with us.”

Want to read more? Check back next Saturday for the next installment.

Don’t forget to head over to the Weekend Writers’ Retreat to enjoy submissions from more authors.


Convictions – Installment #15

Posted on May 8, 2010 2:24 am under Convictions, Novel, Weekend Writer's Retreat
Tags: | 3 Comments

New to Convictions?
Full story:  Index.
Quick Story: In a Nutshell 

Beth hurried towards the kitchen. Time was tight, even for pasta. But as she approached, the tantalizing scent of beef, garlic and spices floated out to her. Cassandra was tossing a salad, while Judith mashed potatoes. They looked up as Beth entered.

“That smells wonderful. I’m so proud of you.”

“My timing is still off. The potatoes are ready, but the meatloaf is still cooking.”

“We can keep them warm, Judith. You’ve both done a terrific job with dinner.”

“So tell us how it went.”

“Thanks to you, I have the job, Cassandra”

“You messin’ with me?”

“I’d never joke about a job. It’s part-time and temporary. But it’s a start.

“Will parole accept that?”

“Yes. I spoke with Officer Watkins. With my history, she considers any job an achievement and said it would fulfill the employment requirement. I don’t have to continue cooking here, but I’m hoping Pastor Bob will let me.

“I hope so too. Hold on, I’ve got to get the brownies out of the oven.”

“You made brownies?”

“Judith helped me.”

“Not that much”, Judith interjected.

“You’re baking, Cassandra. I knew you could do this.”

The sounds of the evening service began in the dining room and the trio stopped chatting as they hurried to finish the meal.

After dinner, Beth approached Pastor Bob. There was no sense in avoiding it. Better to deal with reality then worry about the unknown.

“Congratulations, Beth. I should have known you’d find a job. I am continually amazed by your resourcefulness.”

Was she dreaming? His words seemed spontaneous and sincere.

Thanks, Pastor Bob. The job is only part-time, but I’m delighted to have it.”

“You should be. You’ve certainly beaten the odds. Is this acceptable to parole?

“I’ve spoken with my parole officer and she agreed to it.”


What was she missing? It shouldn’t be this easy.

“Would you consider keeping your position here on a part-time basis? We would certainly miss your wonderful meals.”

“I was hoping you’d let me do that. I could be here for breakfast and dinner. Judith would be responsible for lunch and some of the shopping. Since I’ll be at Pinnacle, I’ll be able to shop there after work.”

“That sounds fine. You’d still be doing a lot of work, so I’d continue to waive your housing fee. You could keep your current rooms too. Does that sound fair?”

Fair? It was far better than Beth had hoped.

“Yes it does. I’m committed to making this work, Pastor Bob.”

“I appreciate that Bethany.”

Beth hurried back to the kitchen with her news.

“And he agreed to everything?”

“Without a single argument.”

“That worries me, Beth.”

“I know what you mean, Cassandra. But it’s hard to argue, when I’m getting what I want.”

“I hope you do, Beth. But be careful. Pastor Bob will find a way to make you pay for this. I hope it’s not too costly.”

“Relax, Cassandra. It’s going to be okay. Besides, I need your help with something else.”

“What’s that?”

“I need clothes for work. Nice, but not expensive.”

“Judith just got some great stuff at an outlet store. And there’s a consignment shop in the downtown shopping district. The prices are a bit more than a thrift store’s, but the clothes are high quality.”

Cassandra took a woeful glance at her own girth.

“Not that any of it would fit me. Wealthy ladies seem to be a lot smaller. Of course, if I stopped buying junk food, I’d be thinner and have more money.”

Beth had to laugh and Cassandra joined her. They agreed to meet the following morning.

She enjoyed the outing, although her cash shortage severely curtailed purchases. She bought a tailored white shirt at the outlet store. There were black slacks as well, but they exceeded her budget.

“I can buy them for you, Beth.”

“You’ve done enough for me, Cassandra. You don’t make that much money. Let’s check out that thrift store.”

There were lots of black slacks, but only two pair that fit. Price governed her selection. Beth left with two dollars remaining in her wallet. She’d have to wash her outfit every evening until she had got her first paycheck.

When they returned to Redemption House, Beth modeled her new clothes for Cassandra and Judith. Finally, she told them about her upcoming date with Cal.

“Did you get anything to wear on your date?”

Beth’s face fell.

“No, I didn’t even think of that, Judith. Not that I could afford it. So I’ll be wearing black slacks and my new white shirt. Not quite what I’d chose for a date, but it beats my t-shirt and jeans.”

“I’ll be back in a minute.”

Judith returned with a gorgeous rose-colored top.

“Try this, we’re about the same size.”

A black embroidered filigree followed the wide scooped neckline that ended near her shoulders and flowed into loosely draped sleeves. A diagonal ruching outlined her bust and waist. The angular bottom touched her waist on the left, then narrowed to a point over her right hip.

“Now that’s what you wear to a date, girl. But it needs something more.”

Cassandra was back quickly carrying a bag and a small jewelry box.

The box held a slender gold necklace with a delicate teardrop pendant of rose quartz surrounded by a multitude of sparkling diamond chips.

“Oh Cassandra, how beautiful.”

“It’s yours now.”

“No. I’d love to borrow it, but I couldn’t take it.”

“Please keep it. It was a gift, but it doesn’t fit around my thick neck. I do want these back.”

She reached in the bag and pulled out black slingback heels.

“My feet are the only slender part of me. I’m hoping these will fit.”

They were perfect. Tears welled in Beth’s eyes as she hugged her friends.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this pretty. You know what I mean?”

They knew. There were no dry eyes as they returned her hug.

I promised two installments this weekend. Here’s the first. I’m working on the second one, which will be published on Sunday. Hope to see you then.

Don’t forget to head over to the Weekend Writers’ Retreat to enjoy submissions from more authors.