LOSING IT ALL
Frank Barnes is content living on the streets of Atlanta. A soup kitchen and a makeshift shanty sure beat his days as a POW in Vietnam. But Chloe Roberts can’t handle the eviction that sends her into the hell of homelessness. With no family or friends to turn to, Chloe and her children are sucked into the traumatic world of night shelters, and dangerous predators.
When they bump into each other at the soup kitchen, Frank offers Chloe a glimmer of hope that she can pull her life back together. She rekindles his lost sense of self-worth by taking his mind off his own problems. But they will not meet again until Frank is riding high as a working man, and Chloe has hit rock bottom.
By helping Chloe rebuild her broken life, Frank banishes the demons from his own past. Unfortunately, the past comes strolling back into their lives, threatening to destroy the happiness they have finally found.
Targeted Age Group: All ages
The Book Excerpt:
Clutching a metal cash box, Chloe slipped into her checkout lane at Foodtown, a pitiful excuse for a grocery store, with rusty stains on the floor tiles, and the rancid odor of old meat. She slid the box into her drawer and turned on the light.
In the next lane over, Jennifer popped her gum as she swiped food items across her scanner. “You’re late again.”
“Sorry.” Chloe gave a weak smile. Just because she worked in a rundown part of town didn’t mean she shouldn’t look her best. It took time to find just the right shade of eyeshadow to coordinate with her lavender blouse from K-Mart. Chloe wasn’t the type to just smear a quick coat of lipstick on her mouth. She outlined her lips with a deeper shade, like she’d seen in the magazines. And after what she had paid to get her hair colored, she wanted to make sure it was teased and sprayed to look just like Lucy Ewing on Dallas.
Jennifer’s Foodtown smock was unbuttoned enough to show a peek of the red bra she wore. Chloe bristled as a construction worker buying a sub sandwich and a quart of beer bent in for a closer look. His hands were filthy. Was he going to wash those hands before he ate?
Puffing out her chest, Jennifer grinned at him! Sure, Duane loved to see Chloe dressed in short skirts and low-cut blouses. But not the whole world.
Once the construction worker left, Jennifer leaned against her register, and dug something out of her teeth with a polished fingernail. “So, what’s your excuse today?”
Chloe reached under the counter for a bottle of glass cleaner and spritzed her scanner. “You know how my niece Staci has been babysitting for me? Well, she was late because she had to stay after school to meet with a teacher.”
“Yeah, right.” Jennifer snorted a laugh. “You believe anything, Chloe. That’s why you’re in deep shit.”
Chloe glared at her. “I do not.”
“Right. Your husband took off, and you think he’s looking for a better job in Chattanooga.”
“He is!” Chloe felt the heat rising up her neck. “He should be back any day now.”
“Back my ass.” Jennifer’s glossy red lips curled into a sneer. “It’s been three months.”
“He’s training for a career,” Chloe repeated what she had been told. “Not just a job.”
Jennifer wasn’t buying it. “Wake up. He hasn’t even called you. And as close as Chattanooga is, surely he could get away to come home some weekend.”
Chloe’s bottom lip quivered as she swirled her paper towel around the glass.
Duane had been in such a rush, he’d tossed shirts into his suitcase without even folding them. Chloe had tried to slow him down by buttoning every button on a white dress shirt so she could fold it properly.
Her lip had quivered then, too. “When will you be back?”
“Christ Almighty, Chloe, we’ve been over this a thousand times.” Duane slapped his hands to his sides like he was fussing out Ethan for spilling his milk. But he wouldn’t look her in the eye. He just stomped back to the closet for pants.
If she hadn’t pulled the freshly-folded shirts out of the suitcase, Duane would have flopped his pants right down on top of them. She remembered how he’d bared his teeth when he jabbed a finger at her. “You’re the one who complained I never stick with a job. This is my chance for a real career and now you’re nagging me about it.”
Just because he was right, didn’t make it easier.
“I’m afraid . . .”
“Look . . .” He pulled fifty dollars out of his pocket. “It’s a five-day course and then they place us with a rep so we can meet the customers. If I’m lucky I’ll get a territory around here, find us an apartment and be back in a couple weeks, tops.”
“What if . . .” She choked on her questions. What if he didn’t come back in two weeks? What if somebody called about the bills and the rent? What if she ran out of money?
Duane slammed the suitcase lid shut and clicked the latches into place. “Stop worrying. Don’t I always take care of things?”
An elderly woman pushed her shopping cart toward Chloe’s lane but Jennifer flagged her down. “You better bring that over here. She’s having a moment.”
Tears welled up in Chloe’s eyes, threatening to damage her make-up. She blotted with the corner of a clean paper towel.
Once Jennifer ripped the receipt out and handed it to the woman, she hissed at Chloe. “For God’s sake, get it together. Do you want to get fired?”
“I can’t help it,” Chloe said as she shook her head. “I’m in deep trouble. My rent’s past due and they keep sending me eviction letters. I got the electric bill, the car payment’s due . . .”
“Car payment?” Jennifer screeched. “You don’t even have the friggin’ car!”
“I know.” Chloe dabbed at another tear.