Many many years ago…
In the late 1700’s when English Captain Malcolm Bond was dropping off a shipment in America, he was given the offer of a lifetime…the hand in marriage to the sole remaining heir to the Rummer’s shipping empire. All he had to do was find the island the Rummer’s owned off the East Coast. An island he hadn’t known existed. He had three days and when a storm hit throwing him off course, he knew his chances of expanding his shipping business to America were sailing away out to sea.
After being afloat and out of control for over twenty-four hours, the sun rose on the third and final day of the offer. Land was before him, so he guided his boat to the shore. What greeted him wasn’t just success or greed, but a vision of loveliness that made his heart pound and hands sweat greater than navigating through that storm. What he faced was his destiny. His future wife. And what many would call love at first sight…fate.
“Melissa, do you have a minute?” Kayla asked. She’d been dreading this conversation, but she didn’t have a choice at this point.
She’d be eighteen in two months and she’d be graduating in three. Not only was she hoping she wouldn’t have to leave her foster home until then, but she was also praying she could convince them to let her stay just a bit longer.
“Sure, Kayla. Why don’t you help me with dinner while we talk? The other kids should be back in thirty minutes.”
Scott and Melissa Fryer’s foster home had been one of the nicest she’d been in. They were young, too young to have teenagers, but they needed the money and they did the best they could. Better than most.
Kayla knew when she turned eighteen they’d stop getting the money for her and would want another kid in her place, but she had nowhere to go.
Crashing on their couch would be the best-case scenario. Worst, the old room above the garage. She wasn’t fussy. She’d take any roof over her head she could get.
Picking up the peeler, she attacked the potatoes with the same confidence as she was forcing for this conversation.
“You know I’m turning eighteen in two months.”
Melissa turned, her brown ponytail swishing about on her head. “I do know. Don’t worry, you can stay until you graduate. Scott and I already talked about it months ago.”
That was a relief, but she needed more. “Thank you. That was part of this conversation.”
“What’s the other part?” Melissa asked.
“I’ve got a bunch of applications in for a full-time job after I graduate. College is out of the question. My grades just aren’t good enough, and well, I’ve got no money and living on campus and everything else. It just wouldn’t work.”
She wouldn’t know what to do when there were breaks. She’d have nowhere to go, no transportation, nothing. She’d be stuck.
Stuck was a pretty shitty feeling she learned a long time ago.
“I know. I’m sorry about that. I wish we could help you,” Melissa said.
“I wouldn’t ask that. I know you’ve got your hands full here. It’s not that. It’s just that I was hoping that maybe I could stay on a little longer until I can get some money put aside to secure my own place or find a roommate or something. I need a car for the job, but I’m hoping to take the bus.”
Melissa’s eyes got a little teary and Kayla thought for sure she was going to burst into the waterworks herself when she got the answer.
“I’ll talk to Scott tonight about it.”
“I can sleep in the loft above the garage. There’s a bathroom in there with a sink. That is good enough, and if you wouldn’t mind me coming over for a shower once a day, I’d be out of your hair. I could pay you rent from my part-time job and I’ll take care of all my food. It’s just…”
“You’d be on the street or in a homeless shelter if we said no. I know. That’s why I’m sad. I wish there was more I could do for you. For so many in your situation. And the garage wouldn’t work. That bathroom is nasty and hasn’t been used in years.”
“I’ll try to fix it,” Kayla said.
She didn’t want to be a nuisance or in their way and she knew she was begging, but the truth was she was desperate. She needed to know now if they weren’t going to let her stay so she could figure out other plans.
“No,” Melissa said, reaching her hand over and laying it on hers. “It’s not safe. There is no heat there or anything. It gets cold in the fall and…no. That won’t work.”
“I know you need my room for another child and my guess is you’ll get one pretty fast.” There were plenty out there looking for homes, which provided a source of income for those who wanted to foster kids. Too bad most kept the money and didn’t give much back to the kids themselves.
Kayla didn’t have a ton, but the Fryers did buy them clothes and necessities. They never went hungry; they even did some fun activities now and again like the movies or bowling. They celebrated holidays on a low scale, but at least it was a celebration of sorts.
“I’m sure we will get someone in there once we tell them we are ready. It’s probably not much, but I don’t see any reason why you can’t sleep on the couch in the basement. That space down there isn’t all that cozy or modern, but it’s warm and I can move some things out of the way. We’ve got the extra furniture there and I know you kids go down there to hang out at times.”
The basement wasn’t that bad. It was old and musty, but it was dry and warm in the winter. Warmer than the loft above the garage would be. And she’d be in the house to use the bathroom too. It was better than she could have hoped for. She’d say luck was on her side, but not many would consider her future living arrangements as lucky as she did at the moment.
“That’s good. I can do that.”
She couldn’t help it when a tear escaped down her cheek. It was one of relief and happiness, not fear or stress. Kayla hadn’t shed too many tears in her life that weren’t associated with negative actions or thoughts.
“I’m sure Scott will be fine with it,” Melissa said. “Maybe I’ll clean out that back storage room and move the couch in there to give you some privacy. You’ll need a place to put your clothes and things.”
Her things…she didn’t have much more than enough clothes to fit in one dresser. What Melissa was offering was more than she could have hoped for.
She set the peeler down and hugged Melissa. “Thank you so much. I appreciate it. And I’ll pay you rent and I’ll feed myself. Really I will. I won’t be a burden. I just don’t want to be on the streets.”
“We wouldn’t let you stay on the street. Scott and I knew one day this might happen with one of you kids. You’re the first to age out on us. I just didn’t realize it’d be so hard.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” Kayla said and held onto Melissa a bit tighter.
There was no reason to tell Melissa how scared she’d been to have this conversation. Or how terrified she was that she might not find a job and that she would be on the streets at the end of the year because she wouldn’t overstay her welcome.
Kayla wasn’t looking for a handout, just a little help standing on some wobbly legs.