1. Copyright: These are all my characters. Copyright © 2012 All Rights Reserved. Send comments to JLNickymaster@yahoo.com

Trouble Times Ten

Chapter 2

As she walked into the apartment uninvited, a trace of guilt rushed through her. In that one moment, her second thoughts of stepping back and leaving, letting these strangers alone, came and went as she looked toward Charlie. The younger woman met her gaze with evident worry on her features. Becky stiffened her spine against intruding when she caught a brief look of fear in Charlie’s glance over at the living room occupants. For Becky it was an instant confirmation to the rising suspicions that something was not right. For the second time she crossed the line and trespassed, once again, hoping to discover the cause of that growing concern.

Danny pressed his small frame back against the wall, amazed brown eyes looked slowly upward over the giant form of the tallest woman he’d ever met. She entered the doorway with one long step. He didn’t understand it but a niggling feeling of relief flow through him. With just his brief encounter, he knew she was strong and scary but yet she had been so kind. She reminded him of how policemen were on TV. With a sudden surge of fear in that realization, he blurted out his concern, innocently.

“You’re not the childcare welfare police are you?” His high-pitched voice trembled as he stiffened preparing to run. Becky looked down at him and smiled softly, shaking her head. His abrupt sagging let her know he was extremely relieved. Her eyes narrowed slightly as Charlie close her eyes in disbelief hearing his remark. Becky turned to look around.

Her dark gaze encountered two young boys watching her curiously. Their matching identical features of red hair, freckled faces, and sparkling green eyes denoted identical twin brothers. She guessed they were ten years of age. They showed some unease at seeing her by moving closer together. But the recent task of holding down a third boy between them was distracting their complete attention.

“Get off Manuel, Trevon. Terry and you need to get busy on your homework. We have a visitor so be on your best behavior.” Charlie stated with a nervously drawn breath before she spoke.

The captured boy wrestled to escape beneath the twins more relaxed hold. He kicked against the wall for leverage. Becky recognized the source of the thumping from out in the hall. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Charlie turn away and move toward a hallway, her arms seemed to shake from the weight of her burden. I hope she doesn’t just drop her in a bedroom somewhere and come back to kick me out. Leaning back, she carefully shut the door. The firm click hopefully let everyone know she was inside and staying.

Danny took off after Charlie, holding the broken crutch tightly against his body. The boy beneath the twins, Manuel, sat up catching sight of Becky coming further inside. He wasted no time in whispering ‘let me go’ to the other two. All three stood together watching Becky silently. The third boy was slightly taller than the other two, his brown skin told of a Latino or Spanish decent. He looked a few years older than the other boys.

“How you guys doing?” Becky greeted, watching them watching her intently. Before she turned to follow Charlie her eyes swept the sparse room taking in the single sofa, rolled up bedding or mats near a side wall, and some crumpled and bent text books stacked on a small table. The overhead light was too bright showing just a light bulb. No other furniture was in the room. What looked like the boy’s jackets and shoes were spread around the room where they had obviously dropped them. Becky returned her gaze to the three boys and gave them a slight smile. She didn’t know what to say to them or what she was really doing at the moment but she wasn’t there to scare these children. The twins simultaneously looked at each other then turned to look at Manuel, who never took his distrustful eyes from Becky.

Moving into a hallway she went past a small kitchen where two girls sat at a table with color crayons and some paper or books. The bigger girl was obviously helping the other to understand the picture she was coloring. Becky surmised the older girl to be around fourteen and the younger one about the same as the twins. She filed that thought away. The younger girl gasped when she saw Becky looking inward. Scrabbling to the other side of the table, the two girls stood together looking scared and almost ready to cry.

“Just looking for Danny and Charlie. “ Becky pointed toward the direction she saw Charlie take.

“Lla..last bedroom…on the right.” The older girl pointed nervously.

Becky thanked her and headed further in.

“Who was that, Natalie?”

“I don’t know, Penny. But, she knows Danny and Charlie so…she must be OK.”

Becky heard the young voices become silent as she moved down the hallway. She wondered if Charlie might have thought she left. Avoiding stepping on the small articles of toys and junk littered in two small stacks, she maneuvered around some boxes as well. Charlie came into view crossing from one room to another with a stuffed toy in her grasp.

Passing the room Charlie just left, Becky glanced in. She took in a single twin bed, mattress on the floor, and nice flowery sheets across the surface. A shade-less lamp glared whitely on the floor nearby. A huge stack of what looked like documents or mail was spread across the floor in distinct piles. A large duffle bag was pushed against the far wall, filled with clothes. Again, no pictures or other furniture decorated the room.

Moving to the room where Charlie, Danny, and Gwen were, she arrived in time to see Charlie hugging a now awake and shivering Gwen. The little girl was lying on an army cot type bed with some Little Mermaid sheets covering her. She was pushing her face into Charlie’s side, listening as Charlie stroked her hair and spoke softly to her.

“It’s alright, Gwen. You’re home now. Everything is gonna be Okay. Here is Bugs. He asked to sleep with you tonight.” The young woman handed a beat up stuff animal of Bugs Bunny to the smaller girl. Charlie looked up to see Becky’s tall form filling the doorway. The ramble continued. “Look Gwen. The nice lady brought you home and wants to say goodnight. You want to tell her goodnight, sweetheart?” Charlie’s face showed softness toward the little girl but as her gaze lifted to meet Becky’s a growing twitch of sullen anger covering her expression. Whether because of Becky intruding or over the situation with Gwen, Becky couldn’t tell.

Looking at the little girl, dressed in her pink t-shirt and shorts, her metal incased limb stretched out down the bed, Becky felt anger rising all over again at the creep that would take advantage of someone so obviously already disadvantaged. She watched as Gwen shivered and Charlie tried to cover her up with the sheets. Shrugging off her heavy cotton jacket she moved forward and dropped down to the side of the bed. The jacket fell over the girl’s body and Gwen seemed to snuggle into it gladly. The shivering slowed. Charlie pulled the jacket up around the little one and looked over at Becky, nibbling her lip. Becky didn’t really know what to say but she tried.

“Hey there, sweetie, I just came to say goodnight.” Becky caught Gwen peeking at her from the crook of Charlie’s arm.

“Thank you.” Gwen whispered. Becky smiled and nodded.

“Anytime.” Becky replied with solemn conviction.

Charlie pushed Gwen back into her pillow and ran her fingers through the black locks. With the soothing touch and the heavier coat, smelling of something Gwen now associated with safety, her eyes started to close.

The two women stood as the same time. Turning to look around Becky saw two more cots, covered only with sheets as well as dropped clothing and toys defining taste of little girls. A few stapled color crayon drawings were on the wall and Becky noticed they were very artistic.

Danny sat on one of the beds and watched Gwen with a worried look on his young face. On his lap was the broken crutch of the little girl. Stepping over, she got his attention with a light touch. He looked up at her and tears glistened in his eyes.

“Thank you.” He whispered. Becky just nodded. She reached over and took the crutch from his hands.

“I’ll bring it back. I promise.” Danny just nodded accepting her word.

Charlie stepped in front of her scrutiny and their gazes met once more.

“Thanks again for helping Gwen and Danny out. But there is no need for you to do that. I can get it fixed.”

“We need to talk.” Her grip tightened on the already bent metal as she looked down at the small girls sleeping form, only a slight bump underneath the adult size coat. She motioned to Charlie to move out of the room. Charlie nodded as she glanced back at Gwen then stepped out into the hallway.

She stopped at the room with the twin bed and single lamp. Shrugging she grimaced and moved into the empty room. Becky followed.

“This is as private as it gets around her. If you want to talk to me about anything let me close the door.

Becky just nodded. Her large presence there seemed to make the small room extremely crowded as far as the other occupant was concerned. Becky saw the strain on the younger woman’s face and tilted her head to the side. This conversation would be a doozy of a waste of time if she couldn’t get the girl to talk.

Looking around she found an empty wall. Putting her back to it, she slid down to sit cross-legged, her tall body bending gracefully. The young woman silently watched Becky get situated and nibbling her lip again she sank down on the opposite wall, as well.

Animated fingers played with the zipper tab of the jersey top Charlie wore. Blinking blue eyes looked at Becky, a solid poker face displayed blankly across the freckled features.

OK mama, how do I talk through this one?

Start at the beginning! Becky heard an inner voice suggest.

“My name is Becky Anne Barton! I’m retired. I live about six blocks from here.” Becky spoke quietly and introduced herself.

Charlie looked at her as if she were crazy for a moment. Then with a slight indrawn breath she looked Becky in the eye and introduced herself as well.

“My name is Charlene Jordan. I work at Tony’s Grocery….” She paused to speak. “I live here with my foster siblings. What the hell are we discussing this for?”

She looked very uncomfortable. Becky tilted her head down and looked at the contents of her hands. The crutch looked brittle and clunky, not very comfortable. Her fingers ran over the metal and dipped into the crunched section.

“How many foster siblings do you have, Charlene?” Charlie looked anywhere but at Becky.

“It’s Charlie, alright? I have eight. My Aunt Angie fosters us. This is her apartment.”

Becky looked at Charlie and nodded with a small shrug.

“Yes. I overheard Danny mention her. She passed away? And her pension checks have stopped.” The pregnant silence Becky received at that comment was enough for her to sigh heavily.

Charlie responded with an abrupt defensive attack.

“Why are you here? What do you want? What do you care about it anyway? We are not your problem. Why don’t you go back to your own little world and forget about us. We will be just fine, lady.” Charlie gritted her teeth and began to rise from the floor.

“What if I could offer you a better solution?”

Charlie looked at Becky and grunted as she quickly rose to her feet.

“I don’t know what your game is but I won’t put out for that slimy bastard Landlord Robert who by the way is going to die when I see him next. Nor will any of these kids be used again, being tossed around, in that crap of a system.” Her voice dropped low and deadly soft as her ire flew off the handle. “Your one sick bitch if you think you can just come in here….”

Becky raised her hand to stop the growing diatribe. Charlie stopped speaking waiting to slam down whatever twisted suggestions Becky might come up with.

Becky leaned forward. “I will just pretend…” Her voice was firm and controlled, focused control toward Charlie, “…that you didn’t just suggest something like that to me. I don’t have any intention of hurting any of you. Let’s just get that clear!” She urged Charlie to look her in the eyes. “I just want to help.”

Charlie looked away again. Her guard up, filled with distrust.

“What I meant by a better solution was to help you figure out a better way to raise these kids than leaving them here by themselves. Or having you work yourself to exhaustion.” Becky spread her hands out before her in the air. Charlie still looked over at her duffle bag, probably contemplating ways to grab it and run. Fighting the urge to stand up. “Look. I’ll give you a contract, anything you need to make you believe me, although my word is solid. I’ll give you something that’s valid and you can use in court if you want to. I’m not a crook and I’m not one to break my promises. All I’m suggesting is you let me help.” Becky knew she needed the big guns on this one. “My foster mother would strike me down from heaven if she knew I was aware there were kids suffering needless and I didn’t help them. I could never disappoint her that way.” Becky saw a shoulder lower just an inch. She spoke as earnestly as she could to convey her faith.

“At least think of Gwen, who obviously needs medical attention. She needs real insurance and possibly surgery.”

Becky leaned forward, almost sitting on her heels. “I’m not here to hurt anyone. If that were the case I’d have never interfered with that creep on the stairwell. If…” Becky hesitated to compromise but the stubborn look on Charlie’s face made her add a clause to the offer. “If after she and the rest of you have gotten some real medical care and improved your situation, you still want to do your own thing, I promise to let you do it.”

Becky stopped talking and leaned back against the wall. She hoped Charlie was willing to sacrifice her own distrust so the kids would get things that every child deserved. To Becky it looked like anything was more than they had currently. Looking down at her hands she softly continued. “The least you can do is…let me take Gwen to a docto…”

“You’re not taking her anywhere…” Danny said vehemently, exploding the door open and pushing his small form into the room. His sharp childish warble pierced through Becky’s remark. He stood obviously distraught and breathing heavily. Charlie got up and stood beside him, her hand resting on his skinny shoulder.

“Gwen is not going anywhere, Danny. You know I would never let a stranger…”

“I’ll bring a doctor here!” Becky interrupted with a firm voice. She couldn’t allow Gwen to needlessly suffer. The day she didn’t look after a little one was the day her mother would rise from the dead and slap her down. “You don’t have to pay a thing, the kids get examined, and the doctor can see to Gwen’s issues directly.” Becky hardened her features just a bit to make sure they understood. “I wont take no for an answer on this.” She sat up and kneeled in front of Danny. “She needs some medical attention, Danny. You know that right?” Her dark eyes looked into his. “I want her to get help from a real doctor. A Doctor that knows kids and will help Gwyn recover from her injuries.”

She looked up at Charlie from her kneeling position, ready to beg if needed. She tried to convey Gwyn might need more than medical help for the vicious assault that had occurred. A tightening of her lips conveyed Charlie’s recognition of the statement being made.

For a full minute Charlie and Danny both stared at her; one with confusion written all over his face, the other with evident distrust.

“Why?” The young boy questioned; the solid conviction of being let down a thousand times behind his motivation. Becky shook her head and caught herself silently wondering the same thing. She looked at Charlie and felt the weight of her stare drape over her from the distrusting blue eyes that bore straight into her soul. I’d explain it if I could Charlie but, I don’t really know myself.

“Let’s just say I’ve had similar hard times and been knocked off my feet from time to time. But, now I’m on my feet and I want to do something right.”

Danny stood trembling, his wiry frame taut with the need to trust her.

Becky stood up slowly and looked down at the boy.

“I promise with my word of honor that I won’t let anything bad happen to her. I swear it on my mother’s grave.” Becky put her hand to her heart and held it there. Danny bit his lip and struggled to believe. He wiped his instantly teary eyes and nodded. Charlie ran her comforting hand over his short cut hair but her blue eyes looking anywhere but Becky.

“Thank you Danny. I won’t let you down.”

Charlie stiffened at the remark. Her gaze snapped up at Becky as her lip twitched with suppressed anger.

Looking at her watch, Becky missed the dagger filled stare. She reached for her cell phone on the clip at her waist. Looking at the two before her she almost didn’t know where to start. Her first instinct was to get help from one who would know this stuff.

She made her way to the living room where the other five kids sat in various poses, all nervously fidgeting. Jumping into corporate mode the cell phone became her dictation machine.

“Doreen. Good, your still there. I need you to do something’s for me. Do you have a pad? OK. Order two GG’s, extra large with two…three orders of those cinnamon breadsticks and dipping sauce. Have the guy deliver them at...” she held the receiver away from her ear to look back at the slowly following Charlie.

Charlie gave the address and apartment number with no inflection in her voice.

Finishing the food order, Becky started listing what she wanted after the specialty pizza’s were on their way.

“Call Mike and have him come to the same address. I need him to pick something up to take to Jerry’s Hardware.” Becky looked down at the mangled crutch and shook her head.

“Call Sabrina and tell her to get over her now. No, everyone is not fine. I need this house call and tell her to bring checkup supplies for eight kids and one adult. Have Michelle come with her, she may need some help.” Becky ignored the sudden stiffening of Charlie from across the room. “Yes, the works! If she has any questions she can give me a call. Tell her 30 minutes max.”

She hung up the call with a resounding click of the mobile device. The silence around her was deafening. The kids were all looking at Charlie. Except for the Latino kid who was fidgeting with his waistband and eyeballing Becky and the door behind her.

“Charlie. Would you mind introducing me to your foster siblings?” She tried to be less intimidating as she pushed back her sleeves and moved with a casual intent into the silent room. Charlie bit her lip and took a deep breath looking at the kids sitting around the room.

They all sat down on the carpet as Becky slid down near the official kicking wall. Manuel moved his position from behind Becky to where make sure the doorway was a clear shot. Charlie stepped over and sat down next to him, calming him with a light touch on his arm. He gave her a look with an entire conversation attached for the three seconds of understanding. Charlie whispered a quick ‘stay’ and he reluctantly sat down. Becky caught the entire thirty second byplay even as she introduced herself to the kids staring back.


Thirty-five minutes later she was involved in learning to bounce from answer to answer as the younger kids talked randomly asking her questions. The older children and Charlie sat quietly.

“Yes I’m retired and no I’m not old.” She ignored the soft snicker from the small blonde and almost wiped her forehead to try and feel sweat as they all paused speaking from the sudden knock on the door. Charlie crossed to the entrance and peeped out the eyehole.

She frowned and gritted her teeth as she opened the door. Outside stood four complete strangers to her once un-popular address. One held the delicious aroma of cardboard filled boxes and bags of food. He was young and was obviously ready to drop his load and get his money.

Becky stood and whipped out three twenty’s handing them to him as she took the huge boxes. He grinned as he handed over the bags and jetted out the door with her waved hand at his attempt to give change.

A woman with the complete opposite of looks to Becky’s darkness moved into the room. With pale features and dishwater blond hair, just as tall as the one that called her over, she held a very large and overstuffed Doctors leather satchel. She looked a little grumpy, but her sharp gaze was instantly keen for the kids the moment she crossed the threshold.

Behind her was a much shorter woman with short spiked hair and tattoo’s showing around the edges of her polo shirt neckline. She was carrying a duffle bag brimming with mysterious bulky items. A metallic clanking of the contents sounded as it brushed against her leg with every step. Her stocky frame was overly muscular and obviously well developed as she handled the big bag with ease. A snaking tattoo ran down one arm, twisting underneath, a visible art fest at its finest.

Both women stopped in place as they stepped fully inside the apartment.

“What the…?” The taller woman began…then stopped when her eyes met Charlie’s angry gaze. “Hmm, Bee? What have you found here?” The blonde turned back to face Becky. Shaking her head slightly, she turned away from the two very different blondes to put the Pizza on the floor with all the bags goods of napkins and boxes of dessert.

“Two slices each, Manuel. And two sticks after they finish the pizza.” The kids were licking their lips and the young Latino moved to begin ripping slices and putting them on plates. He made sure everyone got some before he dove in for his own.” His distrustful gaze never left Becky the entire chewing session.

The twins, Trevon and Terry, were trying to be quiet but were ecstatic at the pizza delivery. The bumping shoulders and quickly swapped toppings that one liked and the other did not, interspersing the moment with lip smacking and low moans of delight. The girls watched the adults as they ate their slices quietly.

Danny took a slice and disappeared into the back room the moment he saw the black bag arrive. Becky noticed the boys maneuver and turned to Charlie.

“This is my friend, Sabrina Chella. She is a Pediatrician. This is her wife Michelle Chella. She is a physical therapist and today she is Sabrina’s helper. I’d like Sabrina to look at Gwen and make sure she was not hurt.” Charlie nodded nervously. Sabrina moved into the conversation quickly.

“Who’s Gwen and what happened?”

Charlie looked at Becky, then down. A light finger touched her arm made her lift her gaze. She met Becky’s concerned glance. “It was not your fault, Charlene. Just like I told Danny, it’s not his fault and it’s not your fault. Some people are just bad. Sometimes you can’t always figure it out.” Charlie looked away from the dark eyes that called to trust this stranger.

Michelle can you show Charlie how to start some files on the kids while I show Sabrina to her patient? We need to get their backgrounds and info. Michelle sat the bag down and saluted a cocky wave. She held her hand out to Charlie and smiled. Charlie looked at Becky and Sabrina and Michelle then ignored Becky turning to Michelle. Ignoring the sting of disregard piercing her ego Becky slowly turned to Sabrina and motioned for her to follow.

“What the hell, Bee? Who are these kids? That woman looks ready to drop. Is she ill. She looks exhausted. Shouldn’t we be calling the police?” Sabrina whispered as they moved down the hall.

Before Sabrina could launch into any further interrogation or suggestion about contacting any security Becky grabbed the tall blonds arm.

“No, Sabrina. I gave my word. No cops. No Child Protective Services. I promised.” She glanced back toward the living room. The kids were tearing into the pizza quietly and consistently. Michelle was opening some manilla file folders and jotting down names and ages. “We just need to help these kids out and I need your promise that you wont say a word about this situation.” Sabrina stared at the other woman her mouth open then closed then open.

“I promise you I will be their guardian angel until they are all straightened out.” Becky crossed her fingers over her heart and held them up like a scouts honor. Sabrina frowned and stared at Becky solemnly.

A quick sharp nod was all Sabrina managed as Becky sighed with relief and urged her toward Gwyn’s room.

“We can figure out all the details later. I’ll keep you in the loop.” Becky murmured a quick description of what transpired on the stairwell. When she finished the disgust in Sabrina’s expression left no doubt she was on the children’s side.

“I trust you completely, Bee. Just don’t make me say a prayer to your mama. Cause you know she will come kick your butt if you don’t handle this situation right. You’ll have to tell me more soon, but for now I’ll let it rest. Show me to Gwyn.”

Sabrina entered after Becky and paused her forward motion upon seeing Danny sitting on the floor in front of the bed. He was nibbling his pizza slice. Beside him was a small plastic bat. He was definitely ready to protect Gwen if needed.

Becky approached him, her voice full of warmth. “Danny, this is Dr. Sabrina Chella. She is going to take a look at Gwen to make sure that guy didn’t hurt her arm or injure her leg. She would really appreciate it if you could help her by talking to Gwen. We don’t want to scare her.

Danny put his pizza on his paper plate and folded it setting it in a secure place a few feet away. He stood to shake Sabrina’s hand and looked over at Becky briefly.

“She hurt her bad leg I think. And I saw him twist her arm. I’ll wake her up. She is really brave but she probably won’ like a Pedi-tricktion.”

Sabrina raised her perfectly blonde arched eyebrows and looked over at Becky. Becky shrugged trying to hide the slight smile.

“Danny you do have a way with words. I’ll leave you two to figure everything out.” Sabrina nodded and was already pulling out a thermometer.

“What’s that do, ma’am?” Danny asked, stepping in front of Gwyn. Sabrina blew a loose strand of her hair from in front of her eyes and gave Danny a direct stare. He never flinched. She mentally rolled her eyes and started explaining the purpose of taking Gwyn’s temperature.

Returning to the living room Becky saw Michelle taking the blood pressure of the youngest girl and talking in a low voice to the older. Her two new best friends were rapt with attention. The older one was tracing the snake tattoo around the bicep of her arm almost obsessively.

Mike was squatting near Manuel and talking about skateboarding. Excusing himself, he stood quickly when he saw her. Mike was Doreen’s errand man. He was a young 22 years of age and ran the household errands as well as doing minor repairs around the estate. Doreen swore he was very reliable and that all it took to bring Mike into the household.

He greeted her as if he met her here 1000 times before this day.

“Hi ya, boss. Something I can do for you?”

“I just need you to take this…” she handed him the mangled crutch “…and have Jerry…fix it!” She sighed. “See if he has something similar but lighter and sturdier. I’m sure this one is finished.” Mike took it and nodded agreement.

“Done, boss. I’ll give you a call when he gives me a timeframe. Nice meeting you guys. See ya later.” He waved at everyone. Manuel’s gaze followed him until the front door closed. His intent gaze swung back to Becky and stared directly until she felt the small hairs on her neck stand. Just let him get used to you, Bee. He is probably just scared.

But he obviously wasn’t scare of Charlie. Looking around, Becky didn’t see her. A shadow crossed over the wall within the kitchens light. Charlie was folding up the delivery bags to store in a drawer. The almost empty pizza boxes were stacked on the table. The crayon collection was neatly pushed back against a wall on the table. Even with her back to the door she tensed at Becky’s entrance somehow knowing the other woman was nearby.

“Do you need any help cleaning up?” Becky’s low timber made Charlie flinch. Her hands reached out and held onto the kitchen counter edge, knuckles white.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Charlie’s eyes darted everywhere but at Becky. A quick brush of her hands across her face wiped away a clear wetness. Her poker face was solidly back in place.

“I’m fine.” She began to wipe over the counters. “Thank you for the pizza. We will be…fine.” Her voice was tremulous, exhaustion apparent as she rolled her shoulders to release some tension. Becky moved toward the table and picked up the last slice of pizza on the cardboard box. She placed it on a napkin, setting it on the clean counter a scant few inches next to Charlie. Turning back she folded the cardboard to put in the garbage.

“I think you may want to sit down and eat some Pizza before it gets too cold.”

Charlie gripped the rag she was using and stared at the slice silently.

“Have all the kids eaten?”

Becky reached over and pushed the slice closer.

“They are all fed. Please eat.”

Charlie took the slice of pizza and walked to the table to sit down. She took a bite and within seconds the slice was gone.

Becky blinked. Charlie used the napkin to wipe the corners of her mouth and looked at the table as if more might appear. She never noticed Becky staring.

“Sorry. Umm...I think you missed out on the cinnamon sticks. The kids devoured them.” Becky made a distracting gesture of going to the sink and washing her hands to recover. When is the last time she had a meal? She does look a little wan! She is awfully pale.

Charlie tossed the napkin in the garbage container and sat looking at the crayons.

“When did you last have a solid meal?” She uttered aloud.

Charlie tilted her head to the side and tonelessly stated ‘Friday’.

Becky was aghast. It was Tuesday.

“But the kids get lunch at school and nightly meals at the shelter on 5th street. And the little ones get breakfast and lunch at the center where they attend school during the week. But I only work at the restaurant on Wednesday through Friday. I get one free meal a night.”

Becky absorbed the speech and wondered what else this lady did to keep 7 kids fed and clothed.

“I work at the grocery Monday through Wednesday stocking shelves on the night shift. During the day I walk dogs and I work at the art gallery setting up lighting for the shows every two weeks. It pays the bills.”

Becky’s cell phone rang.

“Hey Mike. OK. Can you go to Hueys and pick up my weekly order and bring it back here? Umm…make it double. Yes! Get what you know is good. Thanks for the call.”

She hung up and looked over at Charlie.

“Mike says the crutch isn’t fixable but he had something that might work a little better. So he is bringing it over.”

A loud pounding on the door to the apartment had them both jumping up to see what was going on.

“Tell that bitch I want her out of here, her and all you kids. You hear me? I’ve had it.” The still drunk Landlord was outside yelling.

Becky stalked to the door and reached out to open it. Her clear intention to tell this guy where to go was apparent in her rigid features.

Charlie stopped her.

“No! I can take care of this.” She stated flatly.

Charlie took a deep breath and opened the door to find the drunken lout Richard his breath putrid with the stench of alcohol.

She moved forward quickly pushed his larger form off balance backward against the other hallway wall. His head cracked hard against the surface. Beckys lips twitched with pleasure. He grunted and weaved as the stars circled in his eyesight.

Charlie’s voice was low but firm. “I don’t think you have anything to say to us. I am pretty sure I could have at least 3 buddies of mine come over and break your legs, you stupid creep.” Robert’s vision cleared and as he went to stand up he noticed Becky standing at the door. His eyes darted between her and the small blonde standing in his face. Becky casually cracked a few knuckles while flexing her hand.

“I really think you should go back to your filthy apartment and lock the door, you bastard. If that little girl is hurt I’ll come cut your balls off myself. “

Robert took the opportunity to slide to the side and back away.

“You have two days before I call the cops. I’m not kidding this time, Bitch. Get out!”

Charlie and Becky watched him waddle his fat butt out the stairwell door at the end of the hallway. She began a nervous hand movement fiddling with the zipper tag on her jersey, again. Becky reached over and with a single finger froze the movement.

“It will be alright. I promise.” Her honestly whispered words had just the opposite effect. Charlie’s expression closed up, her posture became rigid.

“Don’t make promises you won’t keep.” She gritted out between clenched teeth, every muscle in her body stiffly screaming disbelief.

“I don’t!” Becky stated confidently. She turned to go back inside leaving the shorter blonde to stare at her retreating back. Narrowed blue eyes suddenly widened with vulnerability and fear.

Continued in Part 3.


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