I said I wasn’t going to post any more, but I still don’t have blog fodder. My mind is consumed by Evil Day Job fun and Vicki. So I guess you get a little more Vicki.
This scene takes place in Chapter 2 (I didn’t paste all of this section). Elias and Jesse are sitting at the breakfast bar while Vicki makes chili. Here, you see Jesse’s background, and Elias isn’t such an asshole. You also see Vicki’s vow…and yes, her mistake. She doesn’t fully understand what she’s promising Jesse in this scene. For him, this scene shifts from “nice lady helping a homeless person” to “my lady, my whole world.”
“I left home when I was fifteen, just a proud, stupid kid who thought I knew better than my old man. He was a washed-up wannabe country singer doing bars in Nashville, trying to catch a break, and I thought he was a mean bastard. I hung with the wrong crowd, made some bad decisions, dropped out of school, got arrested for shoplifting, drugs, you name it.”
Vicki turned so she could see his face. He smiled, a strange, beautiful twist of his mouth that made her want to cry for him, and then dropped his gaze to his hands wrapped around his cup.
“When you’re young and stupid, you don’t think the bad stuff could ever possibly happen to you. You can drink and drive and not get caught, certainly never wreck your car or hurt anyone else. You can go to class or your job high and no one will ever know. You can walk out on your old man, call him every name in the book, and laugh when you find out the mean SOB died of a heart attack. Then you realize that you were the only one stupid enough to buy your bullshit, and the only person left in the whole world who ever cared about you is gone.”
She couldn’t help but take his trembling hand in hers. He clung to her but didn’t look up.
“I’ve done bad things. I’ve seen and lived worse. I’ve tried to leave those things behind, but they aren’t as easy to wash off as the dirt.”
“There are shelters…” Elias began in a gentle voice, but Jesse only shook his head on a harsh laugh.
“I’d rather go back to prison. At least then I’d know the man raping me would protect me in the yard tomorrow.” He raised his head, his eyes pleading for understanding. “When I got out of prison, I was clean and I’d earned my GED while behind bars. I had two minimum-wage jobs and I gladly worked my ass off. I had an apartment—wasn’t much and I paid by the week, but it was mine. I could lock the door and sleep almost through the night without waking up in a cold terror that someone was coming in.
“But then I got sick. Just the flu, but as soon as I missed a day of work, they fired me. I didn’t have much money saved, and I lost my apartment as soon as I missed the first week’s rent. I didn’t have any place to go, no family left, no one to take me in but the drug dealers I’d known before jail.
“I could have gone back to running drugs for them, selling on the corners and in the schools, but I didn’t. It would have been a hell of a lot easier. I live on what I earn with my art, drug-free and legal, but once you lose everything, it’s hard to get people to see you. If I walk in for an interview in the only decent pair of jeans I’ve got left, it won’t matter if I shaved or if my fingernails are clean, because I still stink of the streets.”
She didn’t realize she was crying, until Elias slipped an arm around her shoulders and drew her against him. Jesse loosened his fingers on her hand, but she gripped him tighter, refusing to let him go. “See?” She sobbed against Elias’s shirt. “See why I had to help him?”
“I know,” he whispered, rocking her gently. “You were right. I apologize, Jesse, for slamming you up against the wall like that. I should have trusted her judgment.”
“You saw me. Me,” Jesse whispered, but his voice rang with intent. “You’ve already given me a chance to get a real job just by letting me take a shower. I look like a normal, decent person, someone who is hire-able, and for that, I can’t thank you enough.”
“You’re going to stay here.” Wiping her eyes, Vicki straightened and shot a firm glare at Elias, silencing whatever arguments he might throw at her. “I’ll help you find a job and get back on your feet. No matter how long it takes, you won’t end up on the street again. Do you hear me?”
A ghost of a smile flickered on Jesse’s lips and he ducked his head, as though tipping his hat to her. “Yes’m.”
“If something happens to you again, if you’re ever out there, lost, alone, then you call me.” Her voice broke but she didn’t soften her stance. She leaned across the counter, squeezing his hand to make sure he met her gaze. “Call me. Anytime. Anywhere. Reverse the charges. Mail me a letter [hahaha, had to get a Dear Sir reference in somewhere]. Whatever it takes. I’ll come get you and bring you home. You can count on me to be there for you.”
His eyes gleamed with unshed tears, crystal jewels in spring water. “You…I…” He bowed his head, shoulders shaking, and she felt his tears falling like rain on her hand still gripping his. Raggedly, he whispered, “I’ve never had a real home.”
“You can always come home to me.”