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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Drama · #2320614
A woman's journey through hell
Kandle hung up the phone and simply cried. It was the third time she had called the emergency line asking for help finding housing.

Her mother, Aggie, who wasn’t in good health and dependent on oxygen, and her twenty-year-old daughter, Melinda, who was struggling with mental challenges relied on her too. Up until then the three of them had been living in the house that her father had bought years before when he and Aggie divorced. Now she had no choice but to move out.
Her father was recovering from a horrible motorcycle accident that he really shouldn’t have survived and now had to let his house go.

Kandle was exhausted, mentally, and physically. She had been taking care of everyone for many years. She also had two sons that had already set out on their own so that was one less worry that she had to deal with.

It wasn’t the emergency line’s fault that they couldn’t help. All the housing lists had a two-year waiting list, so there was nothing that they could do.

Kandle herself had mental challenges. She was bipolar and unmedicated. With everything that she was going through she had fallen into a deep depression. Yet she always put on a strong front, like she had everything under control and would figure something out.

It was about a month before a potential buyer put a bid on the house. Kandle had run out of time. The only thing she could think to do was take Aggie and Melinda and move into the winter shelter downtown. The shelter was open until April first, and this was mid-February so she hoped she could work things out before the shelter closed.

No one had explained how the shelter worked so they showed up with a couple suitcases each and were let in and went through the intake paperwork.

Each person at the shelter was allowed to have a laundry bag of clothes and a suitcase with whatever basics they needed.

Now Kandle had to figure out how to get most of what they had back across town the next day to place it in their storage.

The next morning, she called a friend of her mother’s asking if she would be able to help them out. She was able to so that was one thing taken care of.

Thankfully, in the bunk room for women there were two bottom beds open, so Aggie and Melinda at least didn’t have to climb onto a top bunk. One of the beds, which Aggie took had an outlet next to it where she could plug her oxygen machine in at night.

Kandle tried to navigate this new world that the three of them had found themselves in. All the while fighting to keep from going deeper into depression. To everyone she still managed to maintain a confident exterior.

They had been in the shelter for a couple nights. Aggie had already retired to her bunk, Kandle and Melinda were sitting at one of the tables talking when a young man approached and asked if either of the two chairs were taken. They weren’t so he sat down with them. He introduced himself as Douglas.

It had been nineteen years since Kandle had been in any kind of relationship, so she completely overlooked his flirtation. She was in her forties, and he looked a lot younger. Somewhere between her and Melinda’s age. Being so young Kandle figured that she would take a shower to give them a chance to talk. She returned after her shower to find the two of them seeming to be enjoying their conversation.

Douglas was funny and charming. His humor kept her, and Melinda entertained until it was time for everyone to go to the bunk rooms for the night.

The next morning when Kandle, Aggie, and Melinda came out of the bunk room, Douglas was in the lobby waiting for them.

Since nothing could be left behind in the shelter during the day, Kandle was carrying her mother’s and her own bags. Melinda was carrying her bag and a backpack on her back. She was in an art class in college, so she was also carrying a rolled-up canvas that had a sketch that she had been working on.

Without being asked, Douglas took what Kandle was carrying, leaving her only to have to pull Aggie’s oxygen machine as they walked to breakfast. Throughout the next week this became a normal routine.

From their discussions Kandle learned that Douglas was twelve years younger than her and began to realize that it was her that he was interested in. During the time that the four of them spent together Douglas taught Kandle the ropes of living homeless.

Although there was little discussion between them, Kandle and Douglas became a couple.

Melinda went to her classes and her job when she didn’t have classes. Douglas would walk with Kandle and Aggie to the library and help get her settled in. Douglas and Kandle would spend the day outside, returning often to check on and spend time with Aggie. Kandle didn’t give much thought to him disappearing a couple times a day, returning within thirty minutes or so.

There came a night when Douglas asked Kandle if she would like to spend the night in a room with him. Kandle discussed this with Melinda to make sure that she was okay with taking care of her grandmother for the night. Kandle promised that her and Douglas would be waiting for them the next morning when they came out of the shelter. Melinda told her it would be fine with her.

Before going to the hotel room, they bought a bottle of whiskey.

They checked in and started drinking while they laid in the bed and talked. Douglas told Kandle about his background and Kandle told him hers.

It seemed that the more he drank the more he opened up to her. He told her that he would be going to jail in a month. He would be incarcerated for six. He then gave her the option of staying with him or just staying friends with benefits. She decided to stay with him.

At one point during their conversations Douglas simply told Kandle that he had a demon inside of him. Kandle laughed it off.

Kandle stopped drinking early, however Douglas continued to drink until he passed out.
As promised, they were at the shelter the next morning when Aggie and Melinda came out of the door.

Before the shelter closed for the season, Kandle had applied and been added to several housing lists.
As the closing date grew closer it became obvious that Kandle and Douglas were going to end up living in a tent. Aggie and Melinda, however, both moved in with friends.

By that time, without even realizing that she had done it, Kandle has relinquished all her power to Douglas. After everything that she’d been through before becoming homeless she was willing to let him make her decisions for her. If she’d only known what she was doing.

They got a small tent from a local church and found a spot in a wooded area to set it up. Two of Douglas’s friends, Andy and Brenda, who had also been in the shelter pitched a tent in the same area.

During this time Kandle began to realize that even if Douglas didn’t have a demon inside of him, he was definitely fighting one. He was an addict. Kandle hoped that he would eventually outgrow his addictions and didn’t say very much to him about it. In fact, she tried his drug of choice a few times and found that it wasn’t very enjoyable.

During the short time before Douglas went to jail he would let her down many times.

An example is that one day he and Andy helped Kandle and Brenda carry laundry to the laundromat that was around a quarter of a mile away from their campsites.

After dropping the girls and the laundry off both of the guys returned to their tents, Douglas telling Kandle that when the laundry was done to call him. He said that when she called he would return to the laundromat and help her, and Brenda carry it back.

When the laundry was finished Kandle called Douglas several times and received no answer to any of the calls. Kandle finally gave up and her and Brenda carried everything back to the campsite.

When they arrived, Kandle sat the laundry bags outside of the tent and unzipped the door. Douglas was passed out on the blankets and didn’t even realize that Kandle was there until she threw the bags on top of him. She was so angry and yet Douglas only laughed and told her that she was overreacting.

While Douglas was in jail, Kandle and one of her friends moved Kandle and Douglas’s tent and all their belongings across town to tent city.

For six months, one day each week Kandle would walk the seven miles from tent city to the jail for visitation. More times than not she would find a ride back to town but there were times when she had to walk the seven miles back to her tent.

The time that Douglas was in jail was the first time in her life that Kandle lived by herself. It was during these six months that she was happier than she’d been in a long time.

Three years would pass before she was finally able to get an apartment. These years were spent dealing with many drug and alcohol influenced arguments. No matter how much she did for him he straight out refused to change.

Kandle’s had finally been approved for a housing program and she couldn’t have been more excited. Being her partner, Douglas was also added to the lease. Kandle hoped that once he was away from tent city his drinking and drug use would decrease. Although his drug use had ended his drinking got worse. He also began to get mean when he was drunk, but to embarrassed by her situation Kandle remained by his side, still hoping it would get better.

Before Kandle knew it the year had passed. It was time to sign another lease. However, she was informed that the lease would not be renewed. She didn’t understand the denial and when she asked why, they wouldn’t give her a reason. Shortly after that, the director of the housing program called Kandle into her office.

The director told Kandle that if she wanted to remain on the program she had to be willing to live without Douglas joining her.

Kandle had no idea that year they had been living at their apartment he had been harassing the neighbors when he was sitting alone on the balcony. Several times he had gone so far as to threaten to kill one of the neighbor’s dogs because it was yappy. Kandle agreed to the stipulation and went home to give him the news. Surprisingly, he had little reaction to not being able to live with her.

Within a month she had found an apartment, and Douglas helped her move. That night he asked to spend the night and he didn’t leave until two years later when Kandle finally found the nerve to kick him out.

Even though Kandle had broken up with him and he was no longer living with her she felt guilty and hung on for two months longer.

After completely cutting Douglas out of her life for good, she started the process of healing from the abuse that she had been through and learned to take her power back. It took a long time and a lot of therapy, but she learned to live with her mistakes and became the Kandle that she had missed for so long.

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