Strangeness was in the air that night. Although the full moon lit the sky, I thought I saw mysterious shadows dance across it's face. Moments later, alien beings invaded the street. These were not the beings of daytime. These could not be creatures of this world. Their shapes and features were so varied that I could not guess their origin. A small green one with tentacles emerged from the crowd. "Not so scary", I thought. Then it came at me with startling speed. "Trick or Treat, Grandma" yelled my favorite Martian.
Nessa at the Chrysalis Stage is hosting a new meme called Tales on Tuesday. This week's theme is My Favorite Martian. Hope you'll head on over and check out the other submissions. Or enter your own.
“I've figured out a way for you to work at Pinnacle.”
“I thought you said ...“
“I said that Pinnacle doesn't hire those convicted of certain crimes. Not everyone who works at the store is a Pinnacle employee. Sample distributors, for example, are staffed through temporary agencies. And those agencies have different hiring criteria than Pinnacle.”
“I've noticed distribution stations throughout the store. I'm sure I could cook and hand out samples.”
“I think you'd do well. It requires more than cooking skill, but that is an important part of the job. No amount of persuasion will convince shoppers to buy something that doesn't taste good. Customer service skills are important too. Your familiarity with the store will be a real asset. You'll need to watch for unsanitary conditions as well.”
“I've had a lot of practice keeping things clean."
“It's more than that. You'd be surprised how many people will pick up food, take a small taste and put it back with uneaten samples.“
“I'd never thought of that. Not very appetizing. I'm sure it's a quick way to spread germs too.”
"Pinnacle expects to see an increase in the sale of featured products. Don't worry, it's not high pressure sales. If the food is good and the distributor is pleasant, the products almost sell themselves.”
“You think I'll be hired?“
“I can't guarantee it, but I can help. I'm one of three department managers who make decisions regarding those positions. If I send someone to the agency, that carries some weight.”
He pulled a business card from his wallet.
“On The Spot is the agency we use most frequently. Estelle Sterns does our hiring. Let her know that I've referred you. We just lost one of our morning distributors, so be sure to go there tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Cal. If I get this position, I'll make sure the store is very happy with my work.”
“I know that you will. “
“In a way, Beth, Pinnacle's policy works to my benefit.”
“How is that?”
“Pinnacle does not like their managers to date other employees.”
A blush tinted her cheeks as his words sunk in.
“Would you have lunch with me on Sunday, Beth?”
“Depends, Cal. Do I have to cook?”
Cal laughed and assured her that wasn't the case.
The next morning, Beth headed to On The Spot. She approached the receptionist's desk and asked to speak with Estelle Sterns.
"Are you looking for a position with our agency?"
"Then you'll need to fill out our application first."
Beth took the application and began to fill it out. It was similar to the innumerable ones she'd completed over the past few weeks. This time, however, she had a good chance for the job. She returned the completed application to the receptionist, who scanned it quickly.
“Thanks. Someone will call you if a position becomes available.”
She should have known. This would be no different than her other employment attempts. Beth turned and started out. Then she stopped and faced the receptionist.
“Mr. Kaufman at Pinnacle Grocery referred me. He said I should speak with Estelle Sterns while I was here.”
“In that case, have a seat. I'll see when she's available.”
Fifteen minutes later, Beth sat across from Estelle, waiting as she reviewed the application. Estelle was interested in Beth's cooking experience at Redemption House. She asked a few questions, then paused. Beth knew what came next.
“You've been convicted of a felony. Although it doesn't necessarily disqualify you from employment, I do need to know the charge.”
“Did it occur at your place of employment?”
“Did you ever threaten or harm someone at your place of employment?”
“Any other convictions?”
“Any parole violations?”
“Any history of drug use?”
When Beth had answered “No” to each of the questions, Estelle stopped and made a note on the application. Beth braced herself for a dismissal.
“You seem to be well suited for this job, Beth. Pinnacle has a morning shift available. You'd be needed Monday through Friday from 9am to 1pm. And Saturday from 10am until 4pm. Can you work those hours?"
For a fleeting moment, she wondered what Pastor Bob would say. Then Estelle drew her back to the present.
“All employees are required to pass a drug screening. The lab we use is just across the street. Can you take the test when you leave here?”
Beth nodded, barely able to believe her luck.
“The position begins at minimum wage. If your work is satisfactory, you can qualify for a raise in three months. While you are at the lab, I'll be checking with Redemption House.”
Estelle consulted the application.
“You didn't list a referral.”
"Cal Kaufman referred me."
"I noticed and I'll give him a call. I need to talk to someone at Redemption House too."
Beth felt her luck slipping away.
“Who is your supervisor there?”
Her supervisor? Beth could barely restrain a smile.
“Cassandra Forbes is my supervisor.”
Estelle made a note.
“Come back to see me when you've finished your screening."
Thirty minutes later, Beth was greeted by a smiling Estelle.
“Cal speaks highly of you and Miss Forbes gave you a glowing recommendation. Can you start work on Monday?"
“Yes. Even sooner if they need me.”
Estelle gave Beth's attire an appraising glance. The jeans and top were clean, but worn.
“Why don't you take that time to do a little shopping for your work attire. I'd recommend a crisp white shirt and black slacks. Can you manage that?”
Another affirmative. She'd find a way.
Beth checked the time as she left the agency. She should be back at Redemption House and starting dinner preparations. Judith did well with single dishes, but still lacked the ability to coordinate a meal. She'd deal with the time crunch when she got back. She needed to make one more stop.
Jane Watkins was talking to the receptionist when Beth entered the parole office.
“Hi Beth. Didn't I just see you on Tuesday?”
“You did. But I've got a question and it won't wait until my next visit. Do you have a minute?”
Fifteen minutes later, Beth left the office and raced towards Redemption House.
First she'd deal with dinner. Meatloaf took too long to cook. She'd make that tomorrow and serve pasta tonight. Later, she'd deal with Pastor Bob. If only he was as easy to handle as the menu.
Want to read more. Come back next Saturday for a new installment.
What capricious god controls her mind
and denies access to the vital location?
I can do this. I CAN do this.
She concentrates and tries again.
She fails once more.
Bystanders watch hope ebb from her face.
Wait! Use The Force.
She closes her eyes and clears her mind.
Her hand reaches out.
It hovers, then moves in a random pattern.
She opens her eyes. It has failed her.
"Hey, lady. People are waiting.
You can't negotiate with those things."
She backs away, avoiding the eyes of the crowd.
Easier to look down at the evidence of her rejection.
Invalid PIN. Invalid PIN. Invalid PIN.
Three Word Wednesday. is a meme that challenges writers to create something using three selected words. This week's words are ebb, negotiate and random. Click on the link to view other entries or submit your own.
Kelti loved all their celebrations. Still, she had known that this one would be special.
For days the women had searched woods and fields to gather nuts, grains, and berries. Kelti and her sister had helped make flour, pounding the grain for hours until it became soft and fine. They had watched closely as it was transformed into loaves of bread, some enhanced with the delicious berries and nuts. The tantalizing smell had wafted through the air as the loaves baked over the fire. Her brothers had joined the other young men, hauling water from the river to fill the huge pots. Her mother had carefully tended the fire underneath. Finally, the men brought the meat and added it to the steaming pots. For hours her mouth had watered with anticipation. Finally it was ready.
As was their custom, the tribe formed a circle around the cooking area. Their leader offered thanks to the gods. They raised their voices in song and danced around the fires. At last they sank to the ground. Hardly a word was spoken as they shared the crusty breads and speared chunks of steaming meat from the pot. Kelti's heart was warmed by the closeness of her tribe and the love of her family. Especially her beloved uncle, Yetto. She took another bite of meat, savoring the flavor. He was truly delicious.
Nessa at the Chrysalis Stage is hosting a new meme called Tales on Tuesday. This week's theme is All In The Family. Hope you'll head on over and check out the other submissions. Or enter your own.
Beth waited at the door until Pastor Bob looked up and motioned her in. She had brought him a cup of coffee and a plate with two donuts.
“I thought you might like to try these. They're fresh from the kitchen.”
“Thank you, Bethany. That's very thoughtful of you.”
Good cooking had gone a long way towards softening Pastor Bob. Perhaps this would work. She waited as he tasted one of the donuts.
“These are excellent, Bethany. Our Lord has blessed you with many culinary skills.”
“Thank you. But the compliment should be for Judith. She made them.”
“Even more impressive, you have teaching talents as well.”
“Hopefully, I've taught her enough to takeover, when it's time for me to leave.”
Hardness returned to his face.
“There will be no talk of leaving, Bethany. You're not going anywhere.”
“I've enjoyed cooking and learning to manage the kitchen, Pastor Bob. But parole has different requirements. They agreed to employment here for one month. I still owe part of last month's parole fee. I'm expected to find a job and pay those fees. I need to begin saving as well. We both know that I'll have to leave eventually.”
“I understand your concerns, Bethany. But there is no need to leave. You have become a valuable asset to Redemption House and your skills should be compensated. Redemption House can continue to provide room and board. In addition, we'll pay your parole fee and provide you with $100 per month. I'll handle the parole office.”
“Thank you. I lack your experience with parole, but I'd understood that everyone must seek outside employment.”
“Everyone must seek it. Not everyone will find it. You were young when you went to prison. Had you ever held a job?”
“I had a part time cashiering position at Findlan's Grocery when I was in high school.”
“Not likely to get you a job in this economy. Many people with far more experience and clean records are looking for work. So follow parole's requirements. Attend their training sessions and do the job search. When that has failed, I'll make the offer to keep you employed here.”
“And if I get an offer?”
“I think that is highly unlikely.”
Pastor Bob gave her a nod and reached for the phone. Their talk was at an end. Beth knew she'd never get a job recommendation from him.
“You're getting to be one of my best customers.”
Cal Kaufman smiled at Beth as she perused the meat specials. She rarely missed the opportunity to check the day's markdowns.
“I'll probably be a permanent one, given my success at finding another job.”
She hated to admit it, but Pastor Bob had been right. Four mornings per week, Cassandra did the shopping while Beth joined twenty other parolees in a job search program. For six weeks she'd applied for the jobs on their list. These employers had indicated willingness to hire those with felony convictions. Tax incentives spurred some. Others struggled with a plethora of low pay positions that were difficult to fill. Parolees with a work history and specialized skills were hired first. Those with fewer skills looked longer, but eventually found minimum wage positions. Beth watched as drug dealers, thieves, sex offenders and white collar criminals found work. The group had dwindled to two. Both Beth and the remaining parolee had homicide charges.
"Have you applied for a position here?"
Cal's inquiry took Beth by surprise. She'd focused on the employment list provided by parole.
“No. As you know, I'm staying at Redemption House. Does Pinnacle Grocery hire those with convictions?”
“All the time. As long as you haven't been in trouble since release and weren't convicted of a violent crime."
Beth tried to find the right words. Cal looked at her face and didn't wait for a response.
“I'll put your selections aside back here. You can come back for them later. Meet me at the coffee shop next door in 15 minutes.”
Beth nodded and left without another word.
The futile job search had shaken her confidence. The pattern was always the same. Complete the application. Meet with a manager. Answer questions about job skills. Then the pause at the critical question: “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” No one showed surprise at the checked box. Their employer was listed with parole. Some were encouraging, mentioning that her answer did not disqualify her. “What was the charge?” The manager would nod and quickly finish the interview. There are currently no jobs that match your skills. We'll certainly keep you in mind. Good luck with your search. The words varied, but the message was clear. No job offers would be forthcoming. She had known it wouldn't be easy, but never anticipated the shame. Prison was an equalizer. Everyone had been convicted of a crime. Interviews were different. She became a lesser person, as though a scarlet M had been placed on her forehead. With each rejection, she became more demoralized.
She entered the coffee shop and took a seat. She looked forward to seeing Cal when she shopped. He was handsome, personable and just two years older than herself. Their conversations had focused on daily specials, then gradually expanded to more personal exchanges. She had sensed Cal's interest in her. He'd want nothing to do with her now. Probably why he'd asked her to meet here. He'd wanted her out of the store and hadn't wanted to create a scene.
She didn't need to wait for another rejection. There were other grocers in the area. Perhaps they had similar buys. She waived away the waitress and headed for the door. She pushed the door. It didn't open. Pull. It opened quickly. Too late she realized that Cal was pushing from the other side. She teetered backwards and his arms stretched out to steady her. He didn't let go immediately. Beth felt her embarrassment replaced by another emotion.
“Were you trying to stand me up?”
“No, but you don't need to waste your time on me.”
“I don't consider it wasted, Beth. I see you as a person, not as a conviction. And I like what I see. I don't want to be judged by my crime, so I certainly wouldn't do that to you.”
He steered her towards a booth and ordered coffee. Beth began to calm and his words registered.
“I did two years for a drug crime. A foolish and costly mistake. I lost my job, my family and my pride. When I was released, I had to start over.“
“You have a great job now.“
“Yes. But I started as a stock boy. That's a job for teenagers, not a man nearing thirty.”
"It must have been difficult. But right now, I'd jump at a job like that.”
“I understand and I wish Pinnacle's policy were different. But I have an idea.”
You have to leave your home and everything in it. There will be basic furnishings, linens and food at your new place. Your family and pets can come too. After six months, you can purchase other items. But you can never go back and retrieve the things left at your home.
What could you live without for six months? How about forever?
Here's what I'm taking.
Medications. Wouldn't last 6 months without them.
Clothes. I'm not sure what the weather's like at the new location, but I don't want to freeze. Even if it's warm, Grandma's not into scaring people.
Cosmetic Case. No need for lipstick and mascara, but I'd prefer not to spend 6 months without soap, toothpaste and deodorant. Bet my family would prefer it too.
Computers. Even without an internet connection, although that seems like a basic from my perspective. I'm not sharing with Calico and Miss Muffin either, so their's are coming as well. No that doesn't count as multiple items. Afterall, I am making the rules.
Keyboard. What's life without a little music? And Miss Muffin can entertain herself for hours with it.
Photos. If I had them scanned and uploaded, I'd leave the hard copies and download them when I reached my location. But many of the treasured ones have never been introduced to the virtual world. There's some motivation to start scanning.
Glasses. Don't want to spend 6 months in a blur.
Canes. Mobility rates.
Complete Works of Stephen King. That will keep Calico happy for a long time. If it's in large print, I'd enjoy it too.
Miss Muffin's Security System This is a cheat and I know it. But my granddaughter still has her security blanket and enough stuffed animals for 10 lists. Without them, none of us would sleep.
My Parent's Coffee Mugs. They feel close each time we use them.
My Grandparent's Antique Desk. It's been with me for years. It spells home.
The car. Assuming we are provided with transportation to the new home, I could easily live 6 months without going anywhere. Not so sure about the rest of the family.
The list surprised me a bit. I just started writing items as they occurred to me. At the end, there were more practical items and fewer sentimental than I'd anticipated. But I don't think I'd change it.
What would you bring?
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Cindy nudged Kay under the table. It had been years since he'd accompanied Sylvie. Kay, still single, always had a date. She could be so thoughtless.
“No, Kay. I'd hoped so, but he's still out of town.”
Cindy, Jen and Sylvie had met at Calcine, Inc. nearly twenty years before. Soon they went everywhere together. Happy hours, ski weekends, exotic vacations. Cindy married first. Jen followed a few months later. Sylvie, already in middle management, had little time for the dating game. They conspired to find the right guy. In the end, Sylvie picked her own. Jeff , a freelance writer, traveled frequently. When he couldn't be home, Sylvie flew to meet him on the weekends. With five preschoolers between them, Cindy and Jen viewed her trips with undisguised envy.
The girls still met frequently for lunch. One day Cindy invited Kay. Although several years younger, she'd fit in well and soon became part of their group. There was little time for socializing outside work, but all looked forward to the company Christmas party. It was a gala event and each year they sat together. Then Jeff stopped attending. Sylvie made excuses, but it must be difficult. He'd send flowers for important occasions, but special lunch dates ended. Kay dubbed him “the invisible husband”. Cindy and Jen suspected an affair. No job should keep him away that much.
Dinner was sumptuous. Dancing followed. By unspoken agreement, the men took turns dancing with Sylvie. It was not a hardship. Sylvie was a lovely woman and a graceful dancer. Before the final dance, she wished them a happy holiday and left.
Sylvie drove fifty miles to the Hilltop Long Term Care Facility. Just as she had done every Saturday for almost ten years. She headed to Room 304. Her face was somber, but she smiled courteously at the staff.
The only sound from the emaciated man on the bed was the whir from machinery that kept him alive. She knew the staff admired her. Pitied her as well. Of course, they didn't understand. Marrying Jeff had been a strategic move. Good corporate image. No more speculation about her unmarried state. A husband who was frequently away. Perfect until he'd confronted her with the affair. She'd begged him to forgive her. They reconciled at a favorite mountain retreat. Hiked to the top of that breathtaking waterfall. Then Jeff slipped on the wet moss. It had only taken a tiny push to send him into the cascading water. How had he survived?
The accident made the local news in the small mountain town. But back in the city, no one knew. A death would have been much harder to hide. It had truly worked out for the best.
She'd sit here for an hour holding his withered hand. A small price to pay for freedom. Then she'd head west for a few more miles. Kay was waiting.
Nessa at the Chrysalis Stage is hosting a new meme called Tales on Tuesday. This week's theme is The Invisible Man. Hope you'll head on over and check out the other submissions. Or enter your own.
Beth looked around the kitchen with pride. The storeroom was clean, organized and fully stocked. The kitchen sparkled and sported a new freezer. A work table, converted to a desk, contained grocery specials, menu plans and expense reports. Hard to believe that only three weeks had passed since she had become the Redemption House Cook.
A trip to the food warehouse had helped expand her limited budget. Many baking and canned goods were regularly available. Cheese and other surplus items were not as reliable, but all could be used to ease the tight budget. Staff were courteous, but surprised. It had been almost two years since Redemption House had used their services for more than a few items. But they were encouraging when they learned her intentions. She was delighted to learn that delivery was available for non-profit groups.
The canned meats available through the warehouse were useful for casseroles or sandwiches, but Beth had no desire to serve canned meat at every meal. On her third trip to the grocery store, she asked to speak with Calvin Kaufman, the meat manager. Some larger meat packages had lower prices. She hoped that discount would be increased, if she purchased substantially more than those packages held. Calvin told her that wasn't possible, but suggested meats nearing the end of their shelf life. Prices on these were dramatically slashed. The meat should be used with 48 hours or be frozen, but the quality was as good as the higher priced packages. Although availability couldn't be predicted, mark downs were made each morning. If she checked with him before 9am, she could pick before they were made public.
She developed a flexible menu. When she found good markdowns, the meat was used for the following day's dinner. When none were available, she used the canned meats provided by the warehouse. Cal also told her about a nearby farmer's market. Fruits, eggs and vegetables could be purchased there at prices significantly lower than the store's. Beth wondered if the store would approve of Cal's suggestion, but hurried to check it out. Not only were the prices good, but they were decreased again at the end of each day. Bruised or very ripe items were sold for next to nothing. If she purchased other items, they were frequently added at no cost.
“How I wish I had a cart”, she'd moaned to Cassandra, as they lugged their finds back to the house.
"I could take advantage of a lot more if I had a way to transport it. And I've had dreams about a freezer.”
“What would you do with a freezer?”
“Freeze meat specials. Make extra dinner portions and freeze them for another night. Do our baking in larger quantities. That would save so much time."
Beth realized her error when Cassandra pushed a cart into the kitchen the next day.
“Pastor Bob found a little extra money.”
More than a little, it seemed. At the end of the week, an upright freezer was delivered. The rolling cart was removed from the storage room and the freezer took it's place. The cart now resided in the dining area and served as a coffee station. Residents loved the opportunity for a second cup of steaming coffee. Beth left it up after breakfast and began to add freshly baked pastries around mid-morning. Beth wondered if Pastor Bob would protest, but she had no need to worry. Minutes after the pastries appeared next to the coffee, so did Pastor Bob. Although Lord's Servant Margaret had nothing complimentary to say, she was also a frequent visitor.
A voice jolted Beth back to the present.
“Wake up, girl. I've fixed us some drinks and a plate of Judith's cookies. Let's relax for a bit.”
Beth smiled and followed Cassandra to her small sitting room, where they settled into the comfy chairs.
“Her cookies are almost as good as yours.”
“Judith has really come a long way. I was happy to have anyone who could help, but a bit disappointed when I learned she'd never done any cooking. She certainly has talent. Did you know she made the bread today?”
“Wow. Of course, she'll never have potato peeling talent like mine.”
“I'm thrilled that you do so much of the prep work, Cassandra. You've saved me a lot of time. That's not really part of supervising us. I'm sure that you and Judith will be a big help to our next cook.”
“Next cook? What are you talkin' about, girl?”
“My month is up in a couple of days. I'll be looking for a real job. Wish I could keep these quarters though. It's been great having my own private place.”
“Don't worry about leaving it. Pastor Bob isn't going to let you go. Have you said anything about this to him?”
“No, but he must know. I'm only supposed to work here for my first month.”
“Things change. I've been here over a year now and I've never worked outside. Pastor Bob talked to the parole office and they were happy to let me work here. I don't have any skills and went down for some money troubles. That rules out a lot of jobs. I get my room and meals, Redemption House pays my parole fee and I get $100 spending money each month. I have a lot of freedom and all I really have to do is keep Pastor Bob happy.”
“But what will you do when you have to leave?”
“You know what will happen, Beth. We've both seen women who rotate from outside to prison. I'll be back there within weeks of leaving here. And I'm okay with that. Not as much freedom, but there's a bed to sleep in and three meals a day. No boyfriend beating me or spending the rent money on drugs. I'll do a little time and soon I'll be back here for another two years.”
“You could have so much more, Cassandra.”
“Nothing in my life has convinced me of that. I know you want more Beth and I hope that you get it. But I don't think that Pastor Bob is going to let you go.”
“I do want more, Cassandra. I want to live an unsupervised life. I want a home, a career and someday, a family. None of that will happen while I'm cooking here. Anyway, I don't think he can stop me.”
“He can tell parole that you're not ready for outside employment. Or plant some drugs in your quarters. Then find them and have your parole revoked.”
“I've never done drugs.”
“Who do you think parole will believe?”
“But I can't stay here, Cassandra. I've got to find a way out.”
“I hope you find it. But be careful of Pastor Bob. He can be very vindictive. He'd rather lose a good cook than let you walk out on him.”
Want to read more? Check back next Saturday for a new installment.
Writing a novel in weekly installments on my blog has some inherent problems. One is that the time gap between installments can make it more difficult for readers to follow the story line. Another is that new readers arrive part way through the story and may not have time to read all the previous installments. To help, I've created a summarized version of previous installments and will update it after new installments. The summary follows. I hope that you will find it helpful. Please check back tomorrow evening for a new installment to Convictions
At the age of 33 years, Bethany Holister is released from fifteen years in prison. She walks to the bus terminal carrying all her possessions in an over-sized handbag.
On the bus, Beth recalls her youth. Her parents, Amanda and Greg Hollister, are frequently away on business trips and seem uninterested in her. In their absence, Beth is cared for by “Gran” who loves her and calls her Angel. Her best friend, Rick, lives next door. They spend a lot of time together in Beth's secret tree-house. His mother, Miss Pauline, is a loving but extremely anxious parent. His father, Mr. John, is more relaxed. Although frequently away on business, he finds time to spend with Rick. Beth recalls the day that he taught her how to ride a bike.
Beth's memories continue as she recalls how Gran assisted them in unearthing a treasure box found in the backyard. The "treasure", a red toolbox buried during landscaping, disappoints Beth, but Rick decides to make it a real treasure box for his coins, marbles, and shells. On the same day, Beth's mother, Amanda, leaves to help her husband with a business emergency. Beth is allowed to spend her first overnight at Gran's cottage. The walk to the cottage takes them along a woodland trail that emerges at the back of Gran's property.
Beth attends a potluck supper at Gran's church and meets Skyla, a shy girl who shows Beth her favorite hiding spot in the church's unused choir loft. Beth tells Skyla that her mother does not like churches, although she doesn't know why. She also reveals that she was named for her two grandmothers, Bethany and Elizabeth, giving her the nickname of Beth Beth. Beth loves her sleeping spot in the tiny loft bedroom in Gran's cottage and wishes she could live there.
When the bus reaches it's destination, Beth walks to Redemption House, a halfway house where she is required to stay as a condition of her release. It is not a house, but the tenth floor of an old office building in a deteriorating area of the city. Beth is discouraged by the dismal settings and the barred windows, but knows it is her only chance for freedom.
Beth spent five years attempting to receive parole approval. Many halfway houses refused admission to those convicted of a violent crime. She began attending the prison's religious services despite a lack of belief, since some religious affiliated houses had more liberal acceptance policies. This strategy eventually gained her acceptance to Redemption House, a halfway house run by a small religious sect, the Redemptarians.
She meets Pastor Bob and his wife, Margaret, who are the only full time staff at Redemption House. Pastor Bob tells her that he did not approve of her acceptance, feels she is deceitful and expects her to fail. She also learns that she must work full time at the halfway house for her first month and will not be allowed outside with the exception of supervised visits to the parole office.
Beth is assigned to a tiny bedroom with four other residents and a senior resident named Cassandra. The dining area doubles as a room for the morning and evening services. Pastor Bob's focus on sin and damnation is a stark contrast to the themes of love and forgiveness that Beth experienced at Gran's church. Residents who don't attend services, don't get meals. After a dinner of mushy pasta and a breakfast of burnt oatmeal, this doesn't seem much of a punishment. Beth learns that new residents are assigned kitchen cleanup after meals in addition to their regular duties.
The following morning Beth is accompanied by Cassandra to her first parole visit. Cassandra questions Beth about her cooking skills and is delighted to find that Beth is a good cook. She points Beth to the parole office and goes to a nearby restaurant to get “some real breakfast”.
Beth has an uneventful meeting with her parole officer. When she and Cassandra return to the house, Margaret assigns her to cleaning duties. Later, she is summoned to Pastor Bob's office and receives a new assignment as the house cook. The food budget is tight and so is time. Pastor Bob expects her to serve the evening meal for fifty people with just three hours notice. There are unexpected bonuses. Because the cook rises early, she has her own private quarters off the kitchen. Beth will be allowed daily shopping trips under Cassandra's supervision.
Beth displays her resourcefulness and cooking skills to prepare the evening meal with staples from the storeroom and produce from a hurried trip to the store. She enlists Cassandra's help with the food preparation. Everyone is delighted with her meal except Margaret, who informs Beth that she is still required to do the cleanup and that the other assigned resident “is no longer with us.”
Already exhausted, Beth struggles to clean the kitchen and complete food preparation for the next day. Cassandra discovers what's happened and sneaks back with several other residents after lights out to assist her.
The next day, Margaret tells Beth that two other residents will do cleaning. One of them will also be a full time assistant for Beth. Margaret makes it clear that she does not approve of these decisions.
Beth and Cassandra leave to do shopping. Beth asks Cassandra how she managed to get her the cooking job and an assistant. Cassandra grins and tells her that she helps Pastor Bob "satisfy his appetite".
The beginning of Amanda's story. Bethany(Annie) and Jacques(Jake) Cantreau, Beth's maternal grandparents, marry after high school and struggle to put Jake through college. His career is successful, but his obsession with image and his self-righteous religious beliefs endanger their marriage's happiness. Annie does not become pregnant and Jacques refuses fertility testing. After five years they have a child. Jacques is thrilled and let's Bethany choose a name. She feels this baby will help restore their happiness and names her Amanda, which means loveable.
Amanda meets with Lucy Smith(Gran) and asks if she is willing to be named in their wills as Beth's guardian, stating “she loves you far more than she loves us”. Greg's parents died many years ago. Amanda no longer has a relationship with her parents, because her father didn't approve of her life. Her mother is more loving, but always conceded to her father's wishes. Beth does not know that they are alive and Amanda doesn't want her raised by them. Lucy agrees and Amanda gives her a packet containing information about herself and her parents to be given to Beth when she is older. Amanda spends another hour talking to Gran. The conversation is not revealed. She also has something to show her and they go upstairs for a few minutes. After their talk, Amanda seems calmer than she has for many months, but Gran regrets that she will have to keep secrets from Beth.
Beth and Cassandra discuss their futures. Cassandra predicts that she will always rotate between a halfway house and prison. Better than living with a boyfriend who beats her and spends the rent money on drugs, she tells Beth. Beth wants more - freedom, career, family. She tells Cassandra that she will seek outside employment at the end of the month. Cassandra predicts that Pastor Bob will never allow it.
Pastor Bob wants Beth to remain as the Redemption House cook and offers to pay a small allowance and her parole fee. Parole requires her to search for work, but he tells her she won't be able to find a job. Beth knows that he won't give her a job recommendation. After 6 weeks of futile searching, Beth believes that Pastor Bob is correct. Cal, the meat manager at Pinnacle Grocery, asks if she has applied there. When he learns of her charges, he tells her that Pinnacle won't hire her, but he has another idea.
Cal tells Beth about a temporary employment agency that may hire her. Pinnacle uses the agency to staff their sample distribution positions. Beth interviews and is offered the position to begin on Monday. Cal asks Beth for a lunch date on Sunday and she agrees.
Beth shares the news of her employment with Judith and Cassandra, who have successfully cooked their first dinner without her. Beth and Cassndra search outlet and thrift stores to find work attire for Beth. Purchasing one outfit leaves her with only two dollars in her wallet. When Judith and Cassandra learn about her upcoming date, they come to the rescue, loaning a dressy top and high heels. Cassandra gives her a beautiful rose quartz necklace. Beth protests, but Cassandra tells her that it's too small for her neck
Beth shares a romantic date with Cal. When Cassandra's heels hurt her feet, he carries her back to his car and they share a first kiss. Cassandra and Judith have promised to cook the evening meal, but haven't revealed their menu. Beth returns to Redemption House, anxious to see the results. She is greeted by a kitchen with no signs of dinner. Judith is in tears. Margaret enters the kitchen behind Beth and announces that "Cassandra is no longer with us."
Beth struggles to put the Sunday meal on the table. Pastor Bob talks to Beth about Cassandra, issuing a none-too-subtle warning that actions have consequences. Margaret is once again the kitchen supervisor and stands in a corner making malicious comments. Judith tells Beth that Pastor Bob planted drugs with Cassandra's possessions. He had listened to Cassandra's phone conversation with the temp agency that hired Beth. This was his revenge. Beth tells Judith that there is nothing that they can do to help Cassandra. Any action could get their parole revoked too. Judith retorts that Beth is already imprisoned by her fears. Later, Beth finds more work clothes that Cassandra purchased and left on her bed. She cries and vows that she will stop living in fear.
On Easter morning, we awoke to overflowing baskets. The Bunny knows us well, so our loot included plenty of jelly beans. Not ordinary jelly beans, but Jelly Belly beans.
The Jelly Belly history dates back to 1869 when the Goelitz brothers came to the US and started a candy factory. But it was almost one hundred years before they began to produce jelly beans. Ronald Reagan became a fan while he was Governor of California and they traveled with him to the White House. The blueberry Jelly Belly was created so that Reagan could serve red, white and blue jelly beans at his inaugural parties. Jelly Belly also holds the honor of being the first jelly bean in outer space.
These quality jelly beans come in a wide variety of flavors. One category, the Harry Potter inspired BeanBoozled, includes Toothpaste, Dog Food, Rotten Egg and Skunk Spray flavored beans. I'm not that adventurous, but there are plenty of other flavors to choose from. If you haven't guessed by now, Grandma's favorite jelly bean flavors are the subject of today's list.
If you'd like to learn more about the history, buy some beans or get a degree in Beanology, just head over to Jelly Belly and check it out.
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Mary Smith hurried past her mother and headed to her bedroom. It was the easiest way to avoid questions about her day. Not to mention the freshly baked cookies. Bad enough that she was plain, she didn't need to be fat too. Her day had not been good. Like her life, it had been average. Average grades, average looks, average friends.
What would you expect when a clerk named Jane Brown married Bob Smith, auto parts associate? Just what they had. A small rented bungalow in a tired neighborhood. Homemade clothes. Vacation trips to the local beach. And an average child named Mary.
Why not Tiffany or Crystal or Jewel? Girls with those names lived differently. Homes resembling small mansions. Designer clothes. European vacations. Looks, brains, popularity. As if some leprechaun had sprinkled them with enchanted gold dust. Why couldn't she be a golden girl? .
Suddenly inspired, she grabbed a blank pad of paper and stretched out on her bed.
I, Mary Smith, hereby change my name to Tiffany Worthington.
Was it legal? Would it make a difference? She closed her eyes for just a minute.
A tap at the door awoke her. A maid set a tray by her bed.
"Here's your breakfast, Miss Tiffany."
The luxurious bedroom was bigger than her house. The mirror reflected long golden hair and a perfect face. Dreaming, of course, but she planned on enjoying it. Eat every bite of that calorie-laden breakfast. Raid the huge closet and try the designer outfits. Perhaps she'd experience an entire day as a golden girl before she awoke.
"Tiffany!" Crystal looked shocked and repulsed.
"You wore that outfit last month. What are people going to think?"
A quick retreat. "Gotta run."
Honor classes weren't easy. A "D" on this composition? It's better than anything I've ever written. Jewel and Amber are pointing at me. Probably the outfit. Do I have other friends? I'm going to find Jenny. She may be average, but she's kind. Wait, she's having lunch with ... Me? Only it's not me, it's Mary. This is a weird dream. I've been watching too many of those body-swap movies. Except they are funny.
Glad that school is out and I'm heading home to the mansion. Wish I could wake up now.
"What's that, Clarice? Dinner in my room? No, I'm tired of eating alone. Where are my parents?"
"Oh yes, Dad's still doing business in China. No, I didn't remember that it's one of Mom's nights out. How many does she have?"
"Five or six. Right."
Someone wake me up now. Please. I want to wake up now. Please... Please.
"Great dinner, Mom. I loved the meatloaf."
Tiffany loved the attention too. A mother who asked about her day and baked cookies from scratch. A father who came home to their little bungalow each evening. A true friend. And a new name. "Mary" was so pretty and unpretentious. Who needed empty mansions? Had a leprechaun sprinkled her with enchanted gold dust?
It had to be a dream. But this one had lasted for over a month. Please, don't let me wake up.
Nessa at the Chrysalis Stage is hosting a new meme called Tales on Tuesday. This week's theme is The Golden Girls. Hope you'll head on over and check out the other submissions. Or enter your own.
What are you grateful for today?
Life. Here's a small rhyme I wrote a couple months ago that says it well:
When I was young, I'd wonder why
bad times would come to make me cry.
What had I done? What was the cause?
Were these the fruits of divine laws?
Now that I'm old, each day's a gift:
the good, the bad, the subtle rift.
My life flows swift towards end of time
and I am glad that they are mine.
What's missing in your life?
A fully functioning heart. My damaged one doesn't pump blood effectively. That creates other health problems and restricts what I can do physically. But even so, my life is good. If I'm missing anything else, I guess it's too insignificant to remember.
Has the conflict and harm religion has caused outweighed the good it has produced?
Conflict is a constant in our world. Religion is one of the excuses used for conflict. I think the same holds true of good. The world is filled with good people and loving actions. Some are the product of religious belief, some are not.
Check out Manic Monday for more answers to these questions. Or join in the fun and add your own answers