Since this is the first fifth Wednesday, it’s serial story start time. There are only a few fifth Wednesdays, so I hope to post more of these segments on Saturdays at least once a month, but since it is not scheduled, you’ll just have check back or sign up to get my blog in your e-mail, which you can do at the bottom of this page (down there↓) . 🙂
I will take title recommendations. I plan to publish with the winning title, though I reserve the right to create my own title. Winner will receive a free copy of the finished book. I’ll probably use some form of this cover. This was a QUICK one, thrown together in like five minutes. (UPDATE: I bought the pic and created this cover for now.)
Serial Story, Chapter 1—Title TBD
Eleanor Ball stared out her apartment window, waiting for her ride to church. The leaves from the few trees around the building hadn’t been raked and blew in swirls on the sidewalk. The low cloud cover made it look chilly out. She glanced at her broken-down heap of a car in the parking lot. It had quit working earlier this week. Stupid car. She hated depending on other people to do things for her. With a sigh, she turned back to her drab apartment. Everything in sight she’d found at a thrift store or on the side of the road. The place looked relatively bare since she’d never bothered to spend her money on beautiful pictures and knick-knacks. Soon, it wouldn’t even be hers, not if she didn’t find a way to pay her rent.
Another glance out the window showed that Mrs. Rosenblume had arrived. To keep the woman from traipsing up the rickety stairs, Ellie grabbed her purse and jacket and raced out the door.
She met Mrs. R at the bottom. “Good morning. How are you today?”
“Fair to midlin’. The cooler mornings do a number on my poor joints, but I manage. How about you, Ellie girl?”
“Let’s get in the car where it’s warm, and I can tell you on the way to church.” Ellie walked to the passenger side. She’d made the mistake of trying to help Mrs. R get in the car once and received a dressing down for it. The woman was older—probably close to her seventies—but didn’t cotton to being treated like an old woman. She even cared for a young girl during the week.
Once they were in the car and traveling, Mrs. R glanced at her. “All right, spit it out. I can see the worry marring the features on your young face.”
Ellie rubbed at the perpetual frown between her brows. “Sorry. I know the Bible says we’re not supposed to worry, but it’s hard not to sometimes. I’ve lived on the street and in homeless shelters before, and I never wanted to return, but it looks like I’ll be spending Christmas homeless this year.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know the zoo cut my hours?”
Mrs. R nodded as she made a careful left across the four-lane highway.
“Well, with the most recent cutback, I don’t have the funds to pay my rent. I haven’t been frivolous with my money. I just didn’t make enough to pay for much more than food the last few months. Even then, I only ate cheap cereal and soup.” Ellie sighed.
“What about asking your folks?”
“No.” She adamantly refused to ask her parents for anything. Ever again. She’d rather die on the street.
“I’ll pray about it and talk to some people I know who might be able to help.”
Ellie nodded. “Thanks. I need all the prayer I can get. A new job and a decent place to live would be nice, too.”
“I wish I could invite you to live with me, but since my fall last year, my son insists I live with him. We’ve even put my house up for sale.” Sadness invaded her words. “I’d offer to let you stay there until it sells, but it’s on the other side of town and would make getting to the zoo a nightmare each day. Especially without a car.”
“Thank you. I’m glad your son is taking such good care of you. I worried about you.” She leaned forward and patted the older woman’s hand where it held the steering wheel. “God will provide for me. Somehow.” I hope.
Mrs. Rosenblume edged into the church parking lot and found a place to park. They walked into the service together, but Ellie preferred sitting about halfway back, and Mrs. R sat with her family close to the front.
Ellie took her seat and bowed her head, trying to get into the right frame of mind before service started. The pre-service worship music filled her spirit and allowed her to relax. She struggled with gratitude, but thanked God for nice weather, friends like Mrs. R, and a job, which some people didn’t have. Even if hers didn’t pay much.
After service, she waited in the foyer outside the sanctuary for Mrs. R, who often chatted with her friends for several minutes. Waiting didn’t bother Ellie. She was just grateful for the ride.
Mrs. R walked toward her, followed by the handsomest man Ellie had ever seen. She’d noticed him around church, but when she’d seen him with a little girl, she assumed he was married.
“Ellie Ball, I’d like you to meet Todd Parker. He’s the man I work for,” said Mrs. R.
If he was the man Mrs. R worked for, he was widowed.
Ellie’s gaze connected with eyes so dark they almost looked black. She shook his hand, endeavoring not to yank hers back when the contact sent shivers down her spine. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Parker.” Ellie couldn’t get past her childhood training not to call people by their first names until asked to do so.
“Todd, please. Nice to meet you, too.”
“And this sweet girl is Kaitlyn.” Mrs. R beamed with pride as if the child were her own family.
Squatting down, Ellie reached out to shake her hand. “Nice to meet you, Kaitlyn.”
The girl glanced up at her dad, who nodded, and she shook Ellie’s hand. “Hello.” Kaitlyn squeezed her stuffed animal tighter.
“Who do you have there?”
“Harold.” She held him out for Ellie to see.
“Is Harold a hippopotamus?”
“Uh-huh. Daddy bought him for me when we went to the zoo.”
“Did you know the hippo who lives at the zoo is named Harold, too?”
She shook her head and glanced at her dad again before refocusing on Ellie. “Really?”
“Yep. And I have it on good authority that he likes the name. I work at the zoo, and I go visit his human friends sometimes.”
“Do you visit other animals?”
“Yep. I like to watch them.”
“Me, too. When we went it was too hot, and they were all sleepy.”
Ellie nodded. “That happens. It’s disappointing.”
The girl nodded.
“How old are you?”
“Five. I’m in kindergarten.”
“Wow. That’s old.”
The girl giggled. “Daddy’s older.”
“Is he now? Well, let’s see … is he six?”
She giggled again and shook her head.
“Way older,” she said from behind her hand.
“Oh, well, then. I suppose it’s not polite to talk about his age if he’s more than … I don’t know, ten.” She winked, which sent the girl into another round of giggles.
Mr. Parker mouthed a thanks.
She nodded. “Are you ready to go, Mrs. R?”
“Not just yet, dear. I spoke with Todd about your situation.”
Ellie’s face heated, and she couldn’t bring herself to look up. When Mrs. R had said she’d talk with a few people, she didn’t realize it would be today.
Todd Parker swallowed. Mrs. Rosenblume’s beautiful friend was obviously uncomfortable with him knowing her business. Maybe Mrs. Rosenblume’s idea for Ellie to take her place wasn’t such a good one after all.
“Ellie, you need a place to stay and a steady job. Todd needs a new caretaker for Kaitlyn. I’m getting too old and slow to keep up with her. She needs someone who can run and play. I’m not that person anymore.”
Ellie sidled closer to Mrs. Rosenblume. “But Mrs. R, I can’t live in the same house with him. We’re not married. People will talk.”
The older woman nodded. She seemed to have thought of this already, even if he hadn’t. “I have a solution to that.”
Todd’s eyes widened. “What kind of solution?”
“You have that workshop that you use for storage. You could clean it out, add a rug and some furniture, and it would be a cute little place for Ellie to live. It already has power and a small bathroom with a shower. That way she wouldn’t have to worry about transportation, and she would be available to watch Kaitlyn, do the housework, and the cooking.”
He inhaled. “It could work.”
“But Mrs. R, I’m not a very good cook. Or housekeeper. And I know very little about children.”
The distressed look on Ellie’s face didn’t affect Mrs. Rosenblume, but he wondered about her ability to care for his daughter.
“I’ll stay around for a week or two and teach you the basics. You’re a smart young woman. You’ll do fine. And I believe Miss Kaitlyn has already taken a shine to you.” Mrs. Rosenblume patted her on the back. “Now, I am late for my luncheon with the girls, so if you’ll excuse me. Todd, you will see that Ellie makes it home, won’t you?” She sauntered off without waiting for his response.
Ellie gasped. “Mrs. R!”
“No use fighting her. She’s made up her mind. I realized a few weeks after she starting working for me that once she did that, nothing would change it. She called it wisdom’s prerogative.” Todd rested his hand on Kaitlyn’s shoulder.
“But …” Her voice trailed off as Mrs. Rosenblume exited the church without her.
“Daddy, I’m hungry,” Kaitlyn said.
“We’re just about ready to head for lunch, sweetness. Just a few more minutes, okay? Where’s your jacket?”
Kaitlyn looked at her arms and then around the foyer. She ran to the bench they’d been standing beside when Mrs. Rosenblume told him about someone she wanted him to meet. His daughter ran back to his side, struggling to tug it on and hold Harold.
Before he could help her, Ellie had leaned over and lifted the jacket so Kaitlyn could get her arm in. He was impressed. Most women would have snatched the stuffed animal from her arms, which would not have ended well.
For some reason, Kaitlyn had attached herself to the hippo and rarely went anywhere without him. He even slept in her backpack while she was at school.
“Better?” Ellie asked.
“Yes. Thank you.” Kaitlyn snuggled against Todd’s leg.
“Would you like to join us for lunch?” Todd asked. “We can discuss Mrs. Rosenblume’s plan.”
Ellie blanched. “I couldn’t impose.”
“It’s not an imposition.” A sudden thought occurred to him. “My treat.”
“Since you’re my ride home, I guess I’ll take you up on your offer.” She shrugged and looked at the floor.
Kaitlyn took his hand when he held it out, and he started for the door. He stopped a few steps later, realizing that Ellie hadn’t followed them.
“Ellie? Are you coming?”
“What? Oh, yes. Sorry. I’ve never quite been in a situation like this before. I was trying to work out how I could let you off the hook and still get home without walking.”
He took a deep breath. “It’s not a problem. I’m a pretty laid back guy. Mrs. Rosenblume knows that. She knew I wouldn’t get angry with her little stunt. It’s not a problem, and you don’t have to worry about letting me off the hook.” He glanced at a few women glaring in Ellie’s direction. “Besides, it keeps several others from truly imposing on me.”
I hope you enjoyed the first chapter in Todd, Kaitlyn, and Ellie’s story. I’ve been working on it for several years in between other projects. Maybe posting it here will get it finished. 🙂
Be sure to ponder a title. This one has had me stumped. Its working title is Todd and Ellie. lol