His One and Only(4)

By: Theodora Taylor

“Thanks, Nancy,” she said, as she waited to be buzzed through a second set of doors that led straight into the actual shelter part of Ruth’s House.

This part of the shelter was much nicer, with a carpeted front room where their temporary residents could congregate and seventeen small private rooms with beds for sleeping.

Sam, who had come to Alabama five years ago to open the center, had somehow managed to make the industrial space look cozy, painting the walls a pale yellow and adding quality furniture, which was holding up well despite having seen better days.

Josie walked down the center’s main hallway and knocked on a wooden door that had Director of Center Services written across it in peeling gold letters. She made a mental note to redo the sign herself when Sam wasn’t looking. Her friend would pay for a hotel out of pocket if it meant keeping one woman safe for the night, but wouldn’t ever divert funds to the upkeep of her office—if the converted broom closet that barely fit Sam’s desk could really be called an office.

“Come in,” Sam’s lilting voice called from inside.

Josie walked in and found Sam digging through a file cabinet. “Hey, Josie. I’m just looking for this one thing that might be able to help me figure out how to get this other thing we really need if we want to—aha, found it!”

Sam pulled out a manila folder and waved it around triumphantly.

Josie shook her head. Samantha “Sam” McKinley was pretty, bright, warm, and generous, almost to a fault, but she wasn’t exactly known for being succinct or even comprehensible at times.

“You’re going to have to be more specific than that, girl,” Josie said, dropping into Sam’s guest chair.

Sam winced, her soft brown eyes clouding over as she dropped into her own chair. “It’s this other grant we got at the last shelter I worked at. Technically, it’s only supposed to go to shelters in Missouri, but maybe they’d be open to giving it to us, I mean considering all the good work we’re doing.”

Now Josie winced. “So we didn’t get the grant.”

Sam shook her head, a glum expression overtaking her usually sunny face. “I wish it was only as bad as we didn’t get the grant. They made a point of saying our application was exceptional and we would have gotten the grant, but unfortunately, they lost funding for it, so they’re no longer able to offer it.”

Josie fell back in her chair, more than a little disappointed. Sadly, funds for social service grants were being cut all over the place, even as demands for those services were going up.

“But maybe…” Sam flipped through the application literature inside the folder, but then her shoulders sank a couple of pages in. “Shoot, has that stupid restriction, too.”

Josie’s heart sank. She didn’t need a translation to understand what that meant. This grant also required whoever Sam hired with the funds it provided be in possession of a bachelor degree, which Josie didn’t have because she had oh-so-stupidly followed her former husband to Atlanta during what was supposed to be her senior year of college as opposed to finishing up at University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Back then, it had finally felt like she was achieving her dream of leaving Alabama behind, but now her lack of degree had come back to bite her in the worst way. She’d been looking for work ever since moving back to Birmingham, and hadn’t been able to find any. Even the lowliest office jobs seemed to want a college degree these days, and the twelve year gap on her resume didn’t help either. Not for the first time, she cursed herself for letting Wayne convince her not to get a job after they got married. And she wondered once again how she could have been so stupid.

Sam let the folder drop out of her hand. “Okay, back to the internet. There’s got to be something out there.”

But Josie stopped what she could tell was going to become one of Sam’s pep talks with a weary raised hand. “No, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to start applying for those other grants you passed up in order to get me in here.”

“No,” Sam said.

“Yes,” Josie insisted. “I never should have let you put all your eggs in this basket in the first place. You really do need another intake worker and new mattresses for the beds and all the other stuff we listed in our application.”

“But you’re the best intake worker we’ve had since starting this place! There’s nobody better than you. I can’t just let them take you away from us,” Sam said.