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Flipping through rack after rack grew tiring, still unable to find the right shirt for the job interview. She flipped her stringy drown hair over her shoulder with a huff.
Only an hour, she recalled telling herself before walking through the doors to the small overcrowded thrift store. It was an easily ignored store set back in a strip mall she had passed many times but never glanced at. Had it not been for the measly four dollars and seventy eight cents in her starving wallet, she would have been anywhere else but there.
“Oh, hello there.” She excitedly muttered as she pulled a shirt from the rack, holding it up to admire the find.
A deep purple shimmered as she turned the blouse around to admire the pleasantly placed breast pocket. Flipping the tag over her face lit up when she saw the one dollar price listing. “Not my thing, but who’s being picky.” She thought tossing it over her arm before moving down the aisle.
Black dress pants appear to be a frequently passed on garment. Screeching of metal hangers pushed across the metal bar drew the occasional look from a couple of ladies wading through a dress rack. She look up and met their eyes with an apologetic smile before diving back in. Size five, size ten, size twenty.
“Woah, can I get some kind of organization?” she grumped before finally finding the only pair in her size and tossing them over her arm.
“Did you find everything you need today?” the kind elderly woman at the register asked as she scanned the small tags.
“I did, thank you.” Her quiet voice drew attention, the woman’s eyes rising to meet her own. She looked away, embarrassed for the red flush covering her cheeks and she forced herself not to rescind and walk out.
“Don’t think so much about it sweetie, everyone needs help sometimes.” The older woman smiled warmly, guilt swimming in her gut for not hiding her struggles better. Her tight smile
“Five dollars and sixteen cents.” She read out the total as she shook open a black plastic bag.
Coins dumped out onto the counter caught her attention, watching as the young woman began to count her pennies.
“I have four seventy eight, but I might have more with these pennies…” she started counting into stacks of ten.
The woman watched her in a stunned silence for a moment, the young woman’s cheeks reddening further as she felt the eyes of other customers fall on her back.
“I’ll tell you what,” the older woman leaned over the counter, placing her hand over hers and stopping her. “How about you take these coins, and the dollars and we’ll call it a deal for the seventy eight cents.” Their eyes met in silence, tears welling up in the young woman’s eyes. “Just make sure you get something to eat today, okay sweetie?”
Tears started to fall as she nodded, overwhelming gratitude pouring from her eyes.
“Don’t cry sweetie, we’ve all been there at one point or another.” She cam out from behind the register wrapping her arms around her. “It’ll all be okay, don’t you worry.”
Sitting in her car with a tissue pressed to her eyes she breathed deep. Things had been wrong for so long it had become a way of life for her, but before this very moment she had never had an issue affording clothes.
She looked at the black plastic grocery sack on the seat beside her.
One week later she had her interview at the office park, all things going well. She was offered a permanent position from the get go, even making a deal for a great pay rate. With a smile she stared at herself in the rearview mirror in the parking lot.
“Things will definitely get better from here!” Her smile radiated, spreading warmth and a renewed sense of hope throughout herself.
Digging through her purse for her keys, her smile started to fade as panic started to rise.
“I just had them, how far could they get?” complaining as she opened the center counsel, tossing out dried out pens, candy wrappers and wadded paper balls but no keys.
Patting her pockets she froze over the breast pocket. Looking down she pulled out a single small metal key. The little brass key was unoriginal in every way, the only identifying note about it was the UPS H53 stamped on one side.
Knocking on her driver’s side window startled her with a shock, the apologetic smiling woman waving as she lowered her window.
“Hey Jan, I didn’t mean to scare you! I noticed you left your keys on my desk.” The coveted car keys dangled before her eyes as relief filled her.
“You are a lifesaver!”
Parked out front of the UPS store only miles from her one room apartment she pulled out the mystery key once again. There were no clues with the key, only a box number.
She smiled at the man behind the counter, turning to the mail boxes without starting a conversation with his smiling face.
Sixty-three, fifty-eight… she read the numbers in her head as she reached the end of the row with confusion. There were no other rows when she turned around, the man’s eyes on her as she started toward him.
“Can you help me find box number fifty-three?”
“Of course, it’s a little hard to find.” Leading her across the store he pointed toward a small nook behind the main row of boxes.
“Thank you so much!” He went back to his post with a conservative smile and a nod.
Looking over her shoulder she waited for him to turn his back before pulling the small key out of the deep purple pocket, UPS H53 staring up at her silently.
Pressing into the lock the key fit like a glove, a sigh of relief escaping from her without thought. When she turned the key and pulled the door open breath evaded her.
A gasp, her hand pressing over her open mouth and a tear falling from her eye as she read the notecard propped against a small bag.
“There is always hope.” It read, a bright sunshine printed on finely embossed cardstock.
She removed it carefully, looking it over for a name or any hint of the giver but slipped it into her purse when she found nothing.
The bag was a nondescript black plastic grocery sack, the plastic crinkling as she pulled it out. A small black zipper pouch inside the sack met her curious hands, pulling it open slowly.
A stack of small bills and a business card from a local church met her before her eyes blurred over again with tears. The back of the church card read “All people are loved, even in the darkest of times.”