by Charles Stone
photo by aqueous-sun-textures
After raiding the bargain bin in Barnes and Nobles; Ella brushes through the door into the cold air.
Her auburn hair flaps like the Union Jack. Exactly what I need, another cold weekend alone.
“Excuse me please.”
A small woman is sitting on the ground; her back against the facade of Whole Foods Grocery.
“Can you spare some change?”
Ella instinctively reaches in her purse. “Oh, I sorry I don’t carry money when I come to this part of town.”
“God bless you.” The woman replies. A small child-like hand juts from the mounds of blankets and pulls the tattered scarf from her face. “Have a blessed day.”
Ella looks around the shopping mall. “Come with me; I’ll buy lunch for us.”
The woman removes a natty bright pink ski cap.
Ella averts her eyes from the very short-cropped, auburn colored haircut.
“How long have you been out there, on the street?”
“Oh, I had just settled in when you strolled around the corner, swinging your bag like baton.”
Ella “Oh, no I meant…”
The woman thin fingers drum on Ella’s wrist. “Teehee, I understand sweetie. I lived on the streets for three years. I came to this cold city twenty years ago to … huh to find myself. Isn’t that the cliche we use. But I couldn’t run from breast cancer. It finally crush my spirit and at the time living alone felt right.”
Ella braves the eye contact.. “The hair.”
The woman sips her coffee, “and the pink cap; you like it?
“You appear to be a stable successful young woman. You’re well spoken, and intelligent. Your family is proud of you I’m sure. The woman is stacking biscuits into a plastic dish.
The eyes… Ella is drowning. “Very sorry, what did you say?
“I sense you’re not very happy with your life.”
“Is it that plain?”
“A mother knows things.”
“Hmm, you probably think I’m a horrible person. I can go home to a warm house and all the comforts and yet I have the audacity to be ungrateful.”
“I am not judging.”
Ella sips her tea. “Do you have children?”
“Haha, you mean why aren’t my children taking care of me. My children are out west; where I left them over twenty years ago.”
The cardboard cup hovers an inch from Ella’s lips.”I was born and raised in a small town – Amado, Arizona.”
A fire in the woman’s eyes blaze and just as suddenly dims. She rises. “I must go.” The woman rakes her remaining lunch into a plastic bag.
“Thank you for everything.”
“Wait, wait we can talk.”
The woman turns. “No we cannot.”
“Take my card. A mother and daughter should talk.”
Ella watches the woman stop in the open doorway. Two young women brush past her, they turn and laugh. The woman smile, turns to stare at Ella and places the card in a pocket over her heart.
I am a retired educator, mentor,and child advocate. In my new life, I am a writer and colorist. I live in Pittsburgh PA USA with my wife, Cornis, and our Pit Bull mix named Tango. I am a lover of children, animals and the written word. Currently I am putting the finishing touches on an anthology of short stories depicting human interactions in an array of different genres.