By: Linda Barrett
Tears ran down Isabelle’s face as she left the homeless shelter. They created shining rivulets on her dark chocolate-colored cheeks. The old woman walked out into the freezing rain, holding all her worldly possessions in a plastic shopping bag in one hand. Her other hand gripped her thin coat. It didn’t keep out the frigid February cold. She walked along the sidewalk, trying not to slip on the insidious ice patches with her battered Crocs.
“Where will I go now?” she thought walking facing the traffic on Roosevelt Boulevard.
She couldn’t figure out where she should go next. She hadn’t lived in Northeast Philadelphia too long. Her son and his wife treated her just like the stereotypical homeless person. They feared when she might act up with her schizophrenia. Now, the homeless shelter treated her the same way.
Isabelle paused to wipe her eyes and nose on her thin coat.
She could go to the nearest convenience store and use their telephone. Despite struggling with her voices, she managed to memorize the Philadelphia Homeless Shelter’s toll-free number.
The corner Sunoco station was filled with people lined up to the door. Isabelle realized today was Lottery Friday. Her heart sank because the clerk behind the counter wouldn’t let her use the phone.
He also treated her like the volunteers in the homeless shelter by fearing and shunning her. Maybe she could stay in there in a warm corner.
The counter clerk spotted her when she entered. His black brows furrowed.
“Get out!” he roared. Heads turned to stare at Isabelle.
Embarrassed, she turned and almost ran into a car pulling into the parking lot. She slid on a patch of ice, landing on her backside. The customers roared with laughter at her pratfall.
“What else can go wrong?” she thought.
Isabelle’s petite, thin body shivered down the street until she came across a fast-food place. She smelled the hot food emanating from the roof’s vent. Her stomach growled. She made her way to the dumpsters in the back. At least she could feed herself enough to keep warm.
Chewing on a greasy, icy hamburger bun, she regretted not having friends. The voices in her head considered themselves as her constant companions. Yet, they couldn’t feed or keep her warm. They only made her fear people. If only she could have medicine to make her sane.
It dawned on her.
“Lucy can help me.” She said aloud.
Lucy lived in this neighborhood. Lucy was the lady who shared a cup of coffee on New Years’ Day. Would she still be around?
Isabelle jumped up and ran to the restaurant’s door. Bursting in, she shouted to the two people at the counter
“Can I use your phone?”
Isabelle blabbed in disjointed sentences about a Lucy who had no one to celebrate New Years’ Day with her. The two counter clerks looked at each other.
“Oh,” The acne-faced giant wearing the name tag of Trevor said. “Is she little and blonde like you?”
Isabelle nodded until her head nearly fell off.
“She wear glasses.” She told Trevor.
“What kind of glasses?” the counter clerk named Wendy asked.
“White frames,” At least Isabelle still remembered Lucy’s face.
“She comes in here and cleans the place when we close. I have her number,”
“I can’t find a place to live. The shelter threw me out.” Isabelle said.
Wendy pulled out her phone and jabbed in the number.
Isabelle’s heart soared as Lucy entered the restaurant. Just as Lucy went through the door, Isabelle embraced her.
“They threw me out of the shelter on Roosevelt Boulevard!” Isabelle sobbed.
Lucy placed her hands on the shorter woman’s shoulders.
“They raised my rent. If I had someone to share it, I’d stay there. I was so worried I’d wind up homeless. You can come home with me, and we can work together at the restaurant. How would you like that?” she smiled.
“Oh, yes!” Isabelle wept, but this time with joy.
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