His One and Only(3)

By: Theodora Taylor


She could barely see the expression on Beau’s face without her glasses, but it was easy enough to tell he was hopping mad by the sound of his voice. “I won’t fight him,” he repeated. “But this ain’t over.”

With that, he headed back to his truck, Mike once again right behind him. Meanwhile Colin and she stood together, both breathing hard like a couple of prizefighters that unexpectedly managed to go the distance.

“How am I still alive?” Colin asked. “What just happened?”

“We showed them,” Josie said with a happy smile. “We finally showed them that our mamas might work for them, but that don’t mean they can push us around.”

Colin was close enough that she could see the skeptical look on his face. “Yeah, but now I’m going to have to put up with Mike making my life hell.” He bent down and looked at something on the ground. “Plus it looks like Beau broke your glasses.”

Josie’s heart sank when he pointed out her broken glasses. There was no way her mother would be able to replace them any time soon, without raiding Josie’s college fund. And heaven forbid if Beau told Loretta how her glasses got broke. She’d be in so much trouble. Josie couldn’t even remember a time when Loretta hadn’t lectured her about how important it was to always be respectful around the Prescotts, how she should never, ever cross them, no matter what any of them said to her.

“You should have just let us fight,” Colin said beside her, his voice laced with the same dread she was now feeling in the pit of her stomach.

She shook her head. “I hate Alabama. I can’t wait to get out of here.”

“Me either,” Colin said. Then he took her hand in his. “But no matter what happens, just keep on thinking about the leaving part. One day we’re going to get out of Forest Brooks and nobody from here is going to be able to touch us.” He squeezed her hand. “You just wait and see.”

Josie squeezed his hand back. Colin was right. She’d figure out how to get out of Alabama one day and when she did, she’d never think twice about Beau Prescott ever again.





1





Fifteen years later



Josie was not have a good week, a good month, or even a good year. And waking up in a freezing mobile home pretty much confirmed she wouldn’t be having a good day either.

Luckily for her, her grandmother’s trailer had been paid off years ago. However, unluckily for Josie, rent-free didn’t mean utilities-free, and apparently the Alabama Gas Corporation had grown tired of her inability to respond to all of their “pay now” notices. The frigid air hit her face like a slap with a wet towel and sent a cold tremor down the spine of her overly thin body.

She put on her old, chunky cat-eye glasses and got out of bed anyway, if only so she could grab one of her grandmother’s quilts and wrap it around her shivering shoulders. It was Alabama, she reasoned with determined cheerfulness, so the poorly insulated mobile home would warm up later in the day. Maybe she could run to Wal-Mart after her shift at the shelter and use the last of the money left on her only credit card for a space heater to get her through the night.

But then, she flipped on the trailer’s main light switch and nothing happened.

She groaned. Not the electricity, too!

Less than an hour later, Josie arrived at Ruth’s House, a small, unmarked domestic abuse crisis center in a recently gentrified area of Birmingham. And she was still shivering from the super cold shower she’d forced herself to take before reporting for duty.

Technically, she could have showered at the shelter. But mornings were basically rush hour for the shelter’s communal showers, especially when they were over their 17-bed capacity as they had been lately. She didn’t want to further tax the shelter’s already over burdened resources.

Still, she didn’t think she could take too many more cold showers, and she definitely didn’t think she could take another night in the freezing trailer.

“Hey, Josie,” Nancy, Ruth House’s latest receptionist, said after buzzing her through the outer glass doors. The young, sloe-eyed brunette sat behind a panel of bulletproof glass toward the back of a small outer room pebbled with a few banged up folding chairs. “Sam said she wanted to see you as soon as you got here.”

Josie’s heart lifted. A couple months ago, she and Sam had applied for a grant, which would enable Ruth’s house to promote Josie from her volunteer position to one of the shelter’s official intake workers. If Sam was asking to see her right away, maybe she had some good news.