• Katerina Winters

Chapter 2 of current WIP

"Will you take thirty for both?" The woman asked, holding out the folded money towards Sapphire.

They were standing in the small yard of her home next to the for sale sign. Sapphire looked at the woman's waiting expression and caught a note of impatience flickering across her face as she waited for Sapphire to consider her ridiculously insulting offer.

Looking down at the shining toaster oven which sat on the black mini-fridge, Sapphire didn’t bother hiding her dissatisfied frown. A few years back, she had paid that just for the toaster oven alone. Looking back at the woman's now obvious impatience, Sapphire flicked her gaze to the man who shifted nervously behind her. Sapphire guessed it was the cheap cow's husband. His eyes, however, weren't narrowed with irritation like his wife. His were glued to Sapphire's breasts. Resisting the urge to self consciously pull at her shirt in order to loosen the material, Sapphire quickly considered her waning options.

It was already nearly six, and tomorrow her mother was leaving for Mexico. This was her last real chance to get the last of her items sold. Although the shitty two-bedroom, frame house never really had much stuff, it gutted Sapphire to get rid of the few things she did have.

The mini-fridge and toaster had been a lifesaver for her. No more random men walking half-dressed from her mother's bedroom into the kitchen at night and eating all of Sapphire's food. Getting the little fridge and toaster oven for her own room had ended the routine of being unceremoniously kicked out of the dining room and sent to her room in the middle of her dinner just so her mom could have a date. The ability to store and cook her own food had given Sapphire a level of sanctuary in her room that she would never forget.

But despite all of that, she needed the money, and she couldn’t very well travel from Houston for three and a half hours by bus with a clunky mini-fridge and toaster oven--no matter how much she didn’t want to part with it.

Sapphire sighed and nodded, holding out her hand for the money.

Like a cat that stole the cream, the woman gave her a satisfied smile and handed her the money. "Come on, Fred, get the fridge," she ordered the man before hoisting up the toaster oven under her arm and marching to their car.

The man moved to stand next to the fridge and bent at the waist, and paused. Glancing hurriedly to his wife and back to Sapphire, at her eyes this time, the man shoved a hand down his pocket and produced a twenty-dollar bill.

"Here, take this," the man said with an apologetic smile. "Fifty for all of it is still a good deal."

That's what I thought when I marked it as such, Sapphire thought but refrained from voicing. Giving him a tight smile in return, she took the money and watched as his face flushed a little in response.

"Fred!" The sharp disapproving sound of his name made them both jump as the woman stood by the car, giving them both a caustic look.

Sapphire didn’t even blink as she stared back at the woman's hateful glare while her poor husband huffed and grunted as he picked up the fridge. She was used to looks like that from women. Resentful, jealous scowls from women whose men could not control themselves around Sapphire's presence. Ever since she was in middle school, the world around her changed as her breasts grew, her face softened, and her body began to fill out. Boys and men alike began to focus their attentions on her while the female population seemed to unanimously hate her on sight. It was something her mother found amusing and told her to be proud of. That she should be happy, she inherited her good looks.

"You much rather be pretty than ugly, trust me. You think women have it hard in this world? Just try being ugly too." Her mother had made a scoffing noise under her breath. "I know a few girls who are ugly as fuck and are working their asses off every day for it."

Sapphire had rolled her eyes at that. She could never take anything her mother said to heart. Jennifer Water's version of hard work was anything that required clocking in every day and actually working for money. If a woman couldn’t get through life on her looks and by a man's wallet, then that woman was just a poor sap who couldn’t play the game of life right, according to her.

A cold breeze whipped through the trees and down the street, cutting into her thoughts and through her thin skinny jeans and sweater. Sapphire closed her eyes for a moment and tried to let the breeze take the thoughts of her selfish mother along with it on its current.

Turning back to her porch, she sat down on the concrete stairs. Earlier she had a folding chair and a folding card table that had been in the house since she and her mother moved in three years ago, but she sold them. So now, with her few remaining things precariously laid out on the tops of a couple of cardboard boxes in the yard, she sat on the cold steps and waited and hoped for a few more sales.

~*~

With her head leaning against the cool window, Sapphire watched as the fields of brown wheat-like grass passed by her on the other side of the bus window. Everything looked so desolate and dreary this far from the city. Maybe it was the gloomy February weather, or maybe it was her oppressing lack of a future, Sapphire thought with a sigh. Turning her head ever so slightly, she glanced at the girl sitting across the aisle from her. The strawberry blonde passenger was finally all cried out.

Thank God, Sapphire inwardly groaned.

Earlier, Sapphire had watched the girl from her seat on the bus as her parents hugged and kissed the girl goodbye at the bus stop. All three sets of eyes glistened as the girl handed off her matching pink hard-case suitcases to the attendant to store under the bus. Making her way down the aisle, the girl's large teary green eyes had invoked sympathy from the other passengers until she finally settled into the seat across the aisle from Sapphire. As soon as the girl sat down, Sapphire could feel her inquisitive stare burning at the side of her face. She probably wanted to commiserate, no doubt thinking Sapphire was surely one of her fellow collegiate students bound for Oakes University in Stardust Cove.

Sapphire did not return the girl's gaze. She had kept her eyes purposely focused out the window and watched the girl's tearful parents watching the bus as they waited for it to pull away. Something her mother never even considered.

That morning her mother had parted ways with her on the front porch after handing the realtor the keys to the house. With all of her worldly possessions reduced to one duffel bag, a backpack, and an old, forest-green fabric suitcase, Sapphire had stood there watching her mother hand her own shiny new suitcases to the Uber driver.

Pushing back her long, silky chestnut hair over one shoulder, Jennifer Waters gave the house one final glance as a smirk spread over her red lips. Sapphire knew what she was thinking without it even needing to be voiced. Good riddance, you run-down piece of shit. And goodbye forever, Houston.

Eventually, she had turned to Sapphire, and her smile warmed by a few minuscule degrees. Giving her one hug, she slipped an envelope into Sapphire's hand before whispering in her ear. "Take care of yourself."

And with that, her mother turned and got into the car.

Honestly, Sapphire was a little surprised she didn’t add any of her usual anecdotes, like how she had left home much younger than her and survived and had a baby to deal with as well. Jennifer loved adding in that little garnish of detail whenever she could. Always insinuating her life would have been oh so easier if she hadn't gotten knocked up. But she didn’t say any of that, just a whispered take care and an envelope.

Pursing her lips, Sapphire resisted the urge to double-check for the envelope in her inner coat pocket again. She had discreetly checked it five times since she had gotten it. A thousand dollars sat stuffed in an envelope with a torn piece of paper that nearly brought tears to her eyes. Ruthlessly, she blinked the stinging feeling away and ground her teeth at the tightening in her throat. How dare that irresponsible woman make her want to cry like this?! She had planned on mentally condemning the woman for the whole trip, but now…all she could think of was that damn note.

After a few minutes, the urge to see it again grew too strong. Carefully, she reached into her pocket and felt for the jagged edges of the note amongst the bills, and pulled it out.

Protect yourself

Go to school

And be happy.

I love you.

The words on the torn paper blurred, and Sapphire quickly turned to face the window. Two fat tears rolled down her face as she scowled at nothing in particular. She was probably one of the worst mothers out there. Sapphire had dozens of stories to attest to that fact. Hell, her current situation was proof enough. But somehow, reading these four lines took some of the edge off the anger she had been holding in for what felt like years now.

Eventually, her shoulders relaxed again in her seat, and Sapphire turned her thoughts away from her flighty mother. It was time to focus.

"Let's go over the plan," she whispered to herself, not giving a shit if the girl across the way from her was awake to see her muttering to herself or not.

Because, unlike the strawberry blonde, she wasn't going to Oakes University--well, not just yet. Taking out her phone, Sapphire pulled up her list appropriately titled Plan of Action.

First step was to get to Holter, Tx. Next, enroll in school to finish out her last year of high school. And third, was to find a job for the summer until the fall so she could then enroll in Oakes University in Stardust Cove.

And to do it all with one thousand five hundred dollars to her name.

Closing the app with a swipe, Sapphire shut her eyes. "Yeah, a piece of cake."

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