Clash by Belle Aurora



    And with that look, my entire world changed.



    I hadn’t realized I needed stitches until the paramedics looked me over. It looked worse than what it was, really. Just a tiny cut at the crown of my head. Unfortunately, the medic told me that head wounds tended to bleed a lot, especially in a panic when the heart is pumping hard.

    “We’re going to take her to Glendale Memorial,” the medic explained kindly. “They have a great geriatric unit.”

    Oh. Did they?

    That’s nice.

    I remained seated. “Thank you.” My voice was hoarse.

    Jim put his arm around me and I leaned into him, desperately needing the comfort.

    The woman knelt by my feet then looked up at me. “You’ve done a great job looking after her but, as of now,” her eyes were gentle when she revealed, “she needs more than you can offer.”

    Yes. I was beginning to see that.

    The male paramedic came to stand in the open doorway and I sluggishly gazed over at him as he said, “She’s settled down now. You can come say goodbye.”

    No.

    No, I couldn’t.

    The look on her face as she backed away from me in terror played on repeat in my mind. Over and over again, it taunted me. It was not something I’d likely forget in a hurry.

    A second passed and the medics shared a look. The woman uttered, “Or you can just see her later. Visiting hours are between ten and three.”

    I nodded slowly, my eyes unfocused, and waited for them to leave. They finally did and a long silence settled over the tiny house I loved so dearly.

    As Paul Anka sang “Put Your Head on my Shoulder,” I did exactly that.

    And Jim let me cry for as long as I needed.





Chapter One

Taking Care of Business.



    Emily



    It was the third time I’d been to the recruitment agency in as many days and when the woman at reception saw me, her face fell. I hated that my pride fell right along with it. Before she opened her mouth to speak, I smiled brightly and cut her off. “I know, I know. You said you’d call, but—” I loathed to admit the truth. “—I’m desperate.”

    So desperate. Desperate like you wouldn’t believe. Just give me a darn job. Any job. I’ll scrub toilets. I’ll gut fish. I’ll shovel out manure. For the love of God, I’ll do anything.

    Leah stared at me and in that moment, I could tell she was annoyed. “You come by every day, and I tell you the same thing every single day.” She blinked slowly. “Save yourself the gas, honey. I got nothing for you right now.”

    Hmmm. Shoot.

    I didn’t correct her by mentioning I didn’t have a car because, well, that couldn’t have helped my chances at landing a job. Truth was, I couldn’t afford a car, or insurance, so I caught the bus wherever I needed to go, because it was better than walking the many hours to the city.

    My sigh was purely internal. I wanted to slam my fists onto the reception desk, stomp my feet, and scream in frustration.

    I didn’t understand.

    I had always been taught that when life closed a door, another opened. But, for some unknown reason, life was playing hard to get. There was no open door for me to enter. The windows remained closed. Heck, the blinds were even drawn.

    No. All life was doing was sucking the optimism right out of me.

    My smile waned as my chest squeezed. She didn’t get it. I didn’t want to push, but… “I’ll take anything,” I pled quietly. “Anything at all.”

    “Look.” For a second she actually looked sad for me and I felt that pity like a brick to the gut. “I’m sorry, honey, but you’re out of luck.”

    Out of luck.

    Sigh of all sighs.

    Did that saying count if you never had any to begin with?

    “Well.” I let out a short breath and smiled tightly, determined to remain positive even though it physically hurt. “Thanks anyway.” I pulled my backpack up higher onto my shoulders. “See you tomorrow?” When she rolled her eyes, I laughed quietly, walking backward. I held up my hands and called back, “Kidding.”

    No, I wasn’t.

    I’d be back tomorrow.

    As I made it out onto the sidewalk, I took in a deep breath and silently prayed for a break I knew I wouldn’t get.

    No. Chance had never been on my side.

    It was a shame. I could have used a stroke of luck right now.

    It had been ten days since Nanna had been admitted into Glendale Memorial and, thankfully, they were willing to keep her there until I found a permanent residence for her. There were a few nursing homes I’d been to visit that were merely okay but I had my mind set on one.