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.”
“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.