Rachel checked her coupons and let out a sigh. At least turkey is still cheap. I'll be eating it until New Years, though.
As if the economy wasn't tough enough, she was still trying to recover from her divorce a year earlier. Fortunately, she hadn't given in to her ex-husband's near demands to quit her job. If not for that, she might very well be living in a homeless shelter instead of squeaking by to rent her modest home.
Rachel tugged a strand of shoulder-length, dark blonde hair from beneath her purse strap and headed toward the checkout. Her lips twitched up into a slight smile as she passed a pair of stockers. She could hear them whispering about her, and could feel their eyes on her. At thirty years old, she couldn't help but smile when two such young men found her attractive, despite her inability to have any sort of relationship since her divorce.
With Thanksgiving dinner and a week's groceries in her basket, Rachel returned to her ten-year-old Oldsmobile for the short trip home. She had no more than pulled into the driveway when the local sheriff stopped in front of the house.
Thinking nothing of it, Rachel waved and popped the trunk of her car. As she sorted through her keys for the one to the front door, the sheriff stepped out of his car and walked in her direction. Rachel paused in her path to the door and asked, "Can I help you, officer?"
The sheriff sighed and walked up to her, carrying a piece of paper. "Ma'am, I'm afraid that I'm here to give you all the notice I can. I have an order to evict you."
Rachel's keys clattered to the concrete below. "Evict me? But, my rent is paid. I've always paid it on time."
"I'm sorry, Ma'am. Your landlord defaulted on his mortgage. The bank is taking possession, so you're going to have to move. By law, I should be doing it today, but I found out that you were renting. I have enough other evictions to execute that I can give you a day or two and claim overload."
Tears flowed down Rachel's cheeks as the weight of the words settled on her shoulders. She shuddered as she fought down sobs, her face burning with shame as neighbors turned in her direction. "But, I don't have enough money for a deposit. I don't even have enough to rent a truck. How can they do this? I thought the bank had to give me notice."
"The bank did give notice — to your landlord. I'm sorry, Ma'am, but you're not likely to get back your deposit, either. I recognize the name on this." He waved the document in his hand. "Your landlord has run off somewhere. You're not the first one he's left high and dry in town."
Feeling faint, Rachel stumbled back against her car, no longer able to contain her sobs. Her next door neighbor, Elise, put down a pair of pruning shears and walked over, having overheard the conversation. "Oh, Rachel ... I can have my son bring over his truck."
"I ... I don't have anywhere to g-go," Rachel sobbed.
"Isn't there anything you can do, Gerald?" Elise asked.
The sheriff shook his head. "There's nothing I can do except give her a couple of days, Elise."
More neighbors approached, all concerned for the seemingly shy young woman whom they'd come to like in the last six months since she'd moved into the neighborhood. Despite knowing this, Rachel couldn't help but feel burning shame at having her life turned upside down in such a public manner. Everyone offered suggestions and help, but there was little anyone could do about Rachel's most critical problem — lack of money to start over again.
The sheriff left, promising to give Rachel as much time as possible, but warned her that he couldn't forestall the eviction for long. Rachel managed to regain her composure enough to thank him and her neighbors for their efforts, though she was steadily slipping into a helpless melancholy.
An older gentleman from the other side of the street approached just as Rachel was about to go inside. A couple of obviously Native American descent followed him. "Here now, you should hear these two out," he suggested.
The native man offered a friendly nod and said, "I'm Chaytan, and this is my wife, Mika. We live on Plymouth Avenue, and we might be able to help you. We're looking for a boarder to help keep our utility costs down. Our house was once divided into two apartments. We thought to remodel it, but haven't had the money to do it, yet."
Rachel shrugged her shoulders and said, "I don't have any money for a deposit."
"We want to help," Mika offered. "We won't ask for a deposit."
"How much?" Rachel asked, unconsciously twirling a lock of blonde hair over her finger as she tried to keep from getting her hopes up.
Chaytan answered, "We decided that four hundred would be enough — utilities included. That will pay all of the utility bills and let us save that money for the future."
Tears of joy rolled down Rachel's cheeks, as the price was less than the rent she'd paid to her unscrupulous landlord, and included utilities.
Mika offered a wide smile and suggested, "You can come see it, if you like. We are only using one room on that side of the house for storage right now."
"It would have to be pretty bad for me not to accept with the straits I'm in," Rachel responded with a nervous laugh as she wiped the tears from her eyes.
Chaytan took his wife's hand and said, "Come, then. Let us see if we can help each other."
Rachel thanked her old neighbors as they left to return home, having succeeded in moving all of her things in only one day. She let out a sigh of relief, amazed at her good fortune.
Though she didn't have quite as much room as in her old home, she had more than enough. All of the utility hookups remained from when the house had served as two apartments, which meant she could have her own kitchen and laundry room. She could easily live completely separate from her new landlords, but socializing with the couple as she moved gave her indications that she probably wouldn't.
Mika stood in the doorway separating the two halves of the house when Rachel shut her door. "Care for some tea?"
"I'd love some. Thank you."
Mika beckoned Rachel into the other side of the house and turned. Rachel felt a little envious of Mika's long, dark locks, which reached nearly to her shapely bottom. Rachel tore her eyes away from that sight, not wanting Mika to see the evidence of her constantly suppressed desires. Her attraction to both sexes had awakened at almost the exact same time in her youth, though she'd never indulged her attraction to other women, and felt ashamed of the feelings.
Mika had already prepared the tea, which sat steaming on a coffee table in front of the couch. The dark haired beauty remarked, "It's nice to have some company. I don't really fit into the social circles here."
Rachel smiled as she sat down and revealed, "Neither do I. How long have you lived here?"
"We moved here last year when Chaytan was promoted," Mika answered.
The two women chatted about their past for more than two hours, learning much about each other and growing more comfortable by the minute. When Mika rose to prepare dinner before her husband returned from work, Rachel offered to help.
Rachel quickly proved her capability in the kitchen, prompting Mika to mention, "I noticed you have a turkey. For Thanksgiving?"
Rachel nodded and dried the wooden spoon she'd just washed. "It's far too much for one, but I just couldn't break tradition. I was put in charge of the holiday meals when my mother took sick when I was thirteen. After that, it just became my place, even once Mom recovered."
Mika smiled nervously and chuckled. "My only attempt proved a disaster. We ended up going to a Chinese restaurant that year."
"Do you have any plans for Thanksgiving?" Rachel asked.
Mika shook her head. "Both of our families are out West, and they don't celebrate Thanksgiving."
"It sounds like we can help each other out again, then. I'll cook Thanksgiving dinner, and the two of you can help me eat it so that I'm not still having turkey sandwiches in mid January."
"I was hoping you might say that," Mika said with a slightly embarrassed smile. "I can help, and maybe learn how not to have cardboard turkey hours later."
"I wasn't looking forward to spending Thanksgiving alone," Rachel admitted.
"I thought you looked a little sad when you put the turkey back in the freezer. I guessed that might be it."
Rachel started to ask a question, but thought better of it. The thought must have shown in her expression because Mika asked, "What is it?"
Rachel answered, "It's nothing. Way too personal."
"We won't know that unless you ask."
Rachel took a deep breath and said, "Well ... I just wondered about you celebrating Thanksgiving."
Mika smiled and let out a little laugh. "Our families don't understand it either. There are still hardships for our people, and there's still prejudice, but Chaytan and I believe in moving forward, not looking back. It's a wonderful celebration about family, and reflecting on the blessings of the previous year."
Mika sighed, and then shrugged. "We lost touch with a lot of our heritage to break free of the chains of poverty, but we hope to someday support those who maintain the old customs, and do our part in our own way."
Rachel smiled and said, "I think you understand Thanksgiving better than most people do."
The egg timer on the counter went off, drawing a glance and an odd stare from Rachel. Mika noticed the look and asked, "Is everything okay?"
Rachel chuckled and waved a hand dismissively. "Just reminds me too much of my biological clock — tick-ticking away."
.... There is more of this story ...