Someone groaned as they rolled over on their cot and fourteen year old Pepper’s eyes popped open. Slowly, so she didn’t wake up her sisters, Pepper looked to see if anyone else was awake. Silence. Sloane’s eyes were still closed, thankfully, and Rayne was…well, she had her chemistry book open and was using a flashlight to study.
Rayne noticed Pepper’s movement and turned, lifting a finger to her lips, silently saying, “Be quiet”, then tilting her head slightly towards their oldest sister. Pepper’s eyes focused and she noticed that Sloane was still wearing the uniform from the fast food job she’d worked last night. Had she taken a second shift? Probably, Pepper thought. Sloane was doing everything she could to help them get out of this homeless shelter.
Which was exactly what Pepper was going to do as well!
Shifting out from beneath the stiff sheets and rough blankets provided by the shelter staff, she slipped out of the “bed” and quickly pulled the sheets up over the thin cot, grabbed the clothes she’d set out last night, then hurried to the shower area. At this time of the morning, it was empty but…they all knew that an empty area wasn’t necessarily a blessing. Sure, the showers were all free. Unfortunately, there was a danger in being alone. So Pepper hurried through her shower and dressed, her body still damp as she pulled her clothes on, but she didn’t dare spend any extra time drying off. She didn’t like being in the shower area alone. But also, she had a plan! Pepper had an idea on how to make a bit more money!
When she was dressed again, she grabbed her precious belongings and hurried out of the shower area, ignoring the leering gaze of a man walking into the men’s shower area.
Finding a quiet space over in the dining room where there was a bit more light and a table, she pulled out the pair of scissors she’d borrowed from the staff, laid out the clothes she’d pulled out of the charity bin and started cutting. After snipping all the seams, she stretched the fabric out and cut some more. Shifting the fabric to the right and left, she cut and snipped and tugged…then started sewing. Since she only had a thread and needle, the process was slow going, but by the time the rest of the “guests” at the shelter started meandering into the shelter for breakfast, Pepper was almost finished.
“What are you doing?” Rayne asked, dumping her stack of textbooks onto the table next to Pepper’s pile of fabric.
“You’ll see,” she said, adding several more stitches. She kept her head bent over her project, all of her focus concentrated on the task. A moment later, Pepper lifted the fabric up and shook it out. “What do you think?” she asked, displaying the new garment.
Rayne looked up from her textbook, about to snap out a rebuke but…the denim skirt that Pepper was holding up was…really cute! “What did you do?” she asked in awe. “How did you get that ruffle to go across the middle like that?”
Pepper laughed, literally bouncing in her chair. “You like it?” she asked.
Rayne opened her mouth to reply, but words didn’t come out. She stared, her hands coming out to touch the fabric, trailing down the complicated pattern of the ruffle that swirled through the denim skirt. “This used to be a pair of jeans?” she asked.
Pepper nodded. “Yes, but the jeans were torn at the bottom. So I cut off the hem, pulled out the seams and…voila!”
Rayne laughed, shaking her head at Pepper’s genius. “What made you think about doing something like this?”
Pepper’s smile faded and she looked around. “We need money,” she whispered. “I know that we do and,” she shrugged, her blue eyes lighting up once again. “Well, I just thought that this is something that might help. The clothes are free, just stuffed into that bin and these are the pieces no one wants because they’re so messed up. So I just thought that this would be a good idea and maybe I could sell the skirt and make a few dollars.” Pepper paused, feeling self-conscious all of a sudden. “I just…”
Rayne lifted her hand, stopping Pepper’s explanation. “I think it’s brilliant,” Rayne whispered, then reached over to hug Pepper.
When Rayne pulled back, Pepper’s eyes were brighter than normal. “Really? Do you think so?”
“I do,” Rayne replied softly. “It’s very cute and innovative.”
Pepper leaned forward, her normal exuberance back in place. “I can make more,” she whispered. “If I can sell this one, then I can make more and help contribute the money to our apartment fund. I also have a babysitting job after school for one of our teachers’ kids. She has some conference that she needs to attend and needs help with her kids.”
Rayne’s eyes widened. “That’s great!”
Pepper’s head bobbed up and down, her curls bouncing right along with her energy. “She’s paying me five dollars and hour and I figure I can work on another skirt while also watching her kids.”
“Make sure that you get your own homework done,” Rayne cautioned.
Pepper gathered up all of her supplies, glancing around as the dining area started to fill up. “I will!” she announced, then bent and threw her arms around Rayne’s shoulders. “Thank you! I really needed your approval!” A moment later, Pepper raced through the area to the sleeping quarters, being extra quiet since Sloane was still sleeping despite the others moving around. She packed her personal items into their case, which they would store in the trunk of their mother’s old car before Pepper and Rayne went off to school. But things were looking up! Yes, they still lived in a homeless shelter. Yes, their wonderful mother had…she couldn’t finish that thought. Pepper missed her mother terribly and the jerk who had hit her mother’s car, killing her instantly, was still walking around, free and clear. Sometimes, life wasn’t fair!
The ball whizzed by him. Sixteen year old Dimitri sprinted forward, gaining on the soccer ball. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a member of the opposing team coming towards him…fast! Not gonna happen, Dimitri thought and pushed himself harder. He reached the ball and kicked it towards his teammate, safely out of the way of the guy behind him.
He’d saved the ball, but Dimitri knew that it wasn’t enough to just keep the ball away from the other team. The ball had to go into the net. With a spurt of energy, he raced down the field, his cleats throwing up clumps of dirt, until he reached the perfect position. “Now!” he called out.
The team member that was controlling the ball heard his bellow and, with fast reflexes, kicked the ball towards Dimitri. With agility that could only be found in teenagers, Dimitri moved himself into a better position as he waited the fraction of a second for the ball to reach him. Then…with a decisive kick, he shot the ball towards his target.
For the next few seconds, time stood still as everyone watched. The goalie threw his whole body towards the soccer ball, his big gloves giving the man a couple of extra centimeters of reach…but in the end, it wasn’t enough! The ball flew maybe an inch away from his fingers…landing in the soft net behind him.
Dimitri’s teammates roared with success, rushing the field to claps him in a victorious man-hug. Dimitri gave himself a moment to experience the rush of success before he turned to the teammate who had shot the ball to him. “Good job!” he said, shaking the guy’s hand. Dimitri knew that, without that pass, he wouldn’t have scored.
“Thanks man!” the guy said, both of them breathing still breathing heavily after that exertion. “Good shot!”
And then the moment was over. The referee blew his whistle, indicating that the ball had been retrieved and the team members on both sides should line up for the next play.
Dimitri moved back into his place, his eyes once again intense as he looked over each of the members of the opposing team, silently evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. Then the ball was in motion and he was in the moment, determined to succeed.