Fighting to keep her writing steady despite the lurching of the bus, she carefully lettered her sign.
Then, gathering up her ratty backpack, she clutched the flimsy piece of paper to her chest and pulled the cord. The bus slowed and she stood, hunching over herself as she walked to the exit.
With a hiss, the door opened. As the shock of the icy morning air passed through her, she hesitated. Could she really do this?
In answer, a vision of her daughter sipping watered down chicken broth popped into her head.
She took a deep breath and stepped down and out. As the bus pulled away, she looked over at her chosen spot. Good. It was still unclaimed.
Shoulders sagging, she walked to the grassy median and thunked her backpack down in the frost. Then she turned to face the oncoming traffic and, sending up a silent apology to her younger, more hopeful self, held up her sign.
“Family in need,” it read. “Anything helps.”
But she wished it read, “I’m not a drug addict or alcoholic. Just a single mom who lost her job and can’t find another. I’ve already lost my car and soon I’m going to lose my home. I’m terrified that if anyone finds out, I’ll lose my daughter too. Please help.”
Fifteen minutes went by. Then thirty. Then forty five. No one stopped. No one made eye contact. Once, she saw a woman glance at her. Saw her face contort in sympathy. Saw her reaching for her purse. But then the light turned green, and the woman drove away.
As despair flooded her veins, she heard a tentative, “hey!”
The woman was back. Her hazard lights were flashing and she was getting out of her car.
Getting out of her car? Why would she do that?
“Hey,” the woman said again.
“H-Hi,” she answered.
The woman reached out and grabbed her hand, folding a wad of money into it.
“It isn’t much, but I want you to have it,” she said.
“Th-thank you. I…”
“No, don’t thank me. Just know…it can get better. It will get better.”
As the woman walked away, she counted the crumpled bills in her palm. All told, there was $123. And in the middle was a business card. “Haven’s Cross Women’s Center,” it read. “Counseling, Financial Assistance and Career Services.”
For the first time in what felt like years, she smiled.
This post was written for the Red Wrting Hood. This week’s prompt asked us to revisit an old story and revise it down to 400 words. I chopped 350 from this one. What do you think?