Raine is lost and alone. Well the helping hands of strangers lead her to a better life?
|Seconds after she stepped out of the scalding water and onto the very cold tiled floor, a very serious thought poured into Raine’s head. She had no clean clothes and she was not about to slip into the very dirty undergarments after she just took the best shower of her life. Filled with panic, she picked up a very fluffy pink towel and wrapped it around her as best she could. Before she could open the door, Gwen Camble’s voice called her name from the hallway. Her body froze and she was scared to find out if she was going to be kicked out of this house, away from the hot showers and smells of potpourri. “Rae, I have some clothes for you out here, I don’t know if they are your size. It’s been so long since we had a small thing like you under this roof.” Raine opened the door without a thought. The Puppet Master had done it again, he made her feet take a step into the doorway and peer into Gwen Camble’s eyes. Stunned at her action, she averted her eyes and clung to the towel around her body. “Your skin is so pink; I hope you didn’t burn yourself in the shower. Here is a shirt and a skirt that I dug up. There is a belt and a pair of underwear in-between them. We can go shopping tomorrow for some clothes for you at the Salvation Army; they always have nice things that are cheap.” Raine slowly took the clothes and met Gwen Camble’s eyes once more. Why was this woman giving her clothes and talking about shopping? She had no money, the pockets in the worn out jeans were very empty, even of lent. The first hot tear she had cried in weeks began to roll down her cheek. Afraid to move, to embarrassed to turn away, she just looked up at the woman, pleading for a way out of having to tell her that she had no money. “Rae, why are you crying? If it’s because I gave you clothes, don’t worry about it, I don’t mind you wearing them.” Raine shook her head and tried to speak. Only syllables came out, fragments of words until she could part her lips enough to mumble out a sentence. “I haven’t any money; I can’t buy any clothes or pay you back for the ones you’ve given me… I’m sorry.” She held out the clothes to Gwen Camble and cringed at the thought of putting those dreadful clothes back on and going back into the streets. “Oh, Rae, this house is to help the people who do not have anything. People give me and my helpers’ money so we can provide food, shelter and clothing for young women like you until they get back on their feet. Now, take those clothes, get ready and come help us in the kitchen make dinner. The girls are eager to meet you.” With that, Gwen Camble turned on her lime green heels and walked down the hall, to the stairs and disappeared. Rae paused for a minute in the door way of the bathroom before she turned around to go back in and change. The moment she was about to close the door she heard the one directly across from her open and saw a blonde haired girl with big green eyes appear. Quickly Raine closed the door and hide herself from view.
The skirt was too big and the belt barely kept it up and the shirt hung from her shoulders like an apron or a smock. The last time she wore a skirt was when her mother had been home for almost two weeks and thought the family needed religion. Raine had borrowed a skirt from her only friend at school but on the way to church her father and mother got in a fight, Raine was in the middle of them and got the first couple of blows. The skirt had been stained with the blood from her nose. Needless to say, her only friend became her new enemy. She said from the memory and began to tie her hair up with one of the scrunchies she found in the bathroom and prayed that the scrunchy wasn’t someone’s favorite hair tie. She walked out of the bathroom barefoot because Gwen Camble had a rule that shoes had to be left at the door. Half way down the stairs she heard laughter and voices drifting up to her ears. It made her pause and wonder if she would fit in. Would they tease her like the kids at school? Would the girls pull her skirt off and laugh because her bones showed or because her breasts resembled nothing more than bee stings? She took a big deep breath and walked down the stairs, praying that she would be ok, praying the scrunchy would not start a fight, praying they would accept her, praying.
At the bottom of the stairs she turned to the left towards the kitchen. She walked through the living room with its tables full of papers and crafts and the lazy orange and white cat. She pushed on the swinging door and was met by the bright yellow and green kitchen and a dozen or so girls staring at her. She froze but the door didn’t, it came back like a good swinging door and smacked her in the face. The surprise of it made her fall back onto her butt, the skirt inch up her thigh and her face to go bright red. Great, just great, I have humiliated myself the first time I meet these people. Laughter bubbled from the kitchen and the door swung out and produced the blonde haired girl. She stood over Raine and smiled at her. It was a warm smile, one that reaches the eyes and shines out. She reached out a hand for Raine to help her up and the Puppet Master gave this blonde haired girl Raines hand. Slowly she pulled her up, the smile never wavering. “Hi, I’m River. You must be Raine. That door is a little tricky isn’t it?” She said the last with a small giggle and began to walk back into the kitchen. That’s when Raine noticed that their hands were still intertwined and she was being pulled into the room of laughter, of blinding color. She couldn’t swallow the lump in her throat, but the Puppet Master was still moving her, making her hand keep a hold of Rivers, making her feet go one in front of the other, brace herself against the tricky swinging door and walk into the bright room filled with all kinds of different girls. He even helped her breath, in and out, but he wouldn’t help her with her thoughts because a Puppet Master can not find away to put a string there. She was left with the feeling of dread, embarrassment, wonder, interest, a child like innocence of what was going on.
The first thing that hit when she finally let her muscles relax was the smell of the food on the stove. It was some kind of chicken soup and the girls were saying something about the fresh bread in the oven. Everyone had introduced themselves but the only name she could put to a face was Rivers. She kept looking for the girls eyes for guidance, to reassure herself that at least there was one person in this room that didn’t mind the tricky door incident. All the girls were different. There were two girls that were pregnant, one girl who seemed to have some type of mental handy cap, a heavy set girl, three black girls who introduced themselves as sisters, River, and 4 girls who, when they met Raines eyes, tried to stare her down. Raine being the submissive girl, always lowered her eyes quickly and tried hard not to get in their way. Raine was placed at the kitchen table to cut celery for the salad next to one of the pregnant girls who was cutting carrots. “So, Raine, how long were you on the streets?” Raine looked at the girl blindly. “I don’t know, I think a couple weeks or so, maybe a month? I didn’t keep track of the days; they all kind of ran together.” She went back to cutting up the celery hoping that she wouldn’t have to answer anymore questions, that the firing squad would leave her be. “Were you kicked out? I was kicked out. Dad said he didn’t was a slut in his house. I came here 4 days afterwards because I was 5 months pregnant and no one would let me stay with them. I heard about this place on the streets and it was my last option. Are you pregnant?” She popped a carrot into her mouth and began to smack loudly. Raine didn’t know what to answer, didn’t know how to answer. “I wasn’t kicked out, but I didn’t really run away. They didn’t know I existed and I wanted some kind of independence. No, I’m not pregnant…I’ve never had a boyfriend…” Three or four of the girls gasped with the pregnant girl cutting carrots after she admitted the last bit. Did she share to much, give out to much information? Would they hate her because she still just didn’t want to have anything to do with boys? “Are you serious? Are you a fucking lesbian or something” One of the hard girls asked. Lesbian? Raine? No, she wasn’t, not that she knew of. And yes she was serious. Guys had asked her out many times but she could never find the way to say yes, even if she thought the guy was cute. She never said no either, just looked at them and walked away, sometimes ran. But some how, at her high school they always thought of her as a slut, someone who was easy though her virginity was still very much in tacked. “Yes, I’m serious, and no, I’m not a lesbian…” Giggles came from behind her and the other pregnant girl was elbowing River in the side. Raine took it for some kind of inside joke and went back to cutting the celery. No one asked her anymore questions for a while; she cut the veggies they put in front of her quietly as everyone talked around her.
Through out dinner conversation was light. Gwen Camble joined them and sat at the head of the table. Two other women around Gwen’s age were also there and seemed to work with Gwen at the shelter. Everyone talked about their days, and job interviews. The two pregnant girls, who Raine finally figured out were Bess and Tina, talked about when their due dates were and if they would prefer a girl or a boy. The mentally challenged girl talked to Gwen most of dinner about how she found a job with a cleaning company and how they promised she could play with the cleaning tools as long as she got the work done. Raine heard someone say her name and looked up. Either Bess or Tina was asking if she was going to finish her soup and slice of bread. The girl’s eyes were bright with need for more food. Raine pushed her bowl towards the girl and watched the smile that was on her face turn into excitement. Sitting with her hands in her lap and eyes searching the girl’s faces, she finally came across River. The girl was talking to one of the 3 sisters who Raine thought could be named Stacie but she wasn’t quit sure. She watched River talk and took in all of what River was. Her skin was a caramel color, maybe she was mixed with something. Her cheekbones were set high and her lips were not too big but they were defiantly not plain. The blonde hair was straight but it curled under at the ends except where it caught the collar of her polo shirt and was forced straight. Her eyes shined like emeralds behind light brown eyelashes. Her eye lids were heavy like a dolls lids. She memorized the freckle on Rivers neck and the curve of her ears. When she finally got back to looking at Rivers eyes they were staring right at her quizzically. Raine jumped in her chair startled by the gaze that was upon her. She couldn’t take her gaze away, couldn’t drawl her head to face the other direction. The Puppet Master was being persistent and would not give any freedom to the tight strings that bound her body. The sound of others talking around her drowned out, the feeling of being underwater absorbed Raines body. She couldn’t breathe through the thick, hot air that surrounded her. Panic tightened at her heart. And then, River turned away to answer a question that Stacie was asking. The moment was gone leaving Raine confused and alone, waiting for the water to trickle away, for the air to become breathable again.