If you've been wondering where I've been with my book, Redeemed on Tucker Street; well, here I am! I have finished the first great movement of the plot, and so I have been editing and polishing. I'm only about a quarter of the way done, but I like to work my longer writings in pieces. I also have added more of a preface and also a dedications page, since this work should definitely not be entirely credited to me!
So, without further ado, here is the first movement of Redeemed on Tucker St, revised, edited, updated, and corrected. Please let me know if you have any comments or criticism! I do intend to publish this someday, so any comments to improve the manuscript are greatly appreciated.
*****the formatting did not paste over nicely from my interface. My apologies! I hope that does not hinder the reading of it.*****
REDEEMED ON TUCKER STREET:
THE STORY OF A SOUL
sarah e. lash
This book is the story of a soul, and her journey through this pathway we call life. Hers may be rockier than many, but it is certainly not uncommon. As a peer counselor at the Highway 1960 Houston pregnancy clinic, I have seen many girls come through my doors, sit in a cozy seat across from me in the counseling room, and tell some version of Allie’s story.
It might not seem real to you. It might seem far away, unreachable, unknowable. You might pray for God to send others into this field. You may pray for young girls, pray for the salvation of unborn lives, maybe even work politically to end abortion; none of which is to be taken lightly! But much of the work, the battlegrounds for the lives and the souls of mankind—is right in your own backyard.
As I’ve spent many hours of my twenties serving in prolife ministry, lives and stories have begun to accumulate in my mind. To me, they became one. They became a single story that grew out of the heart of Houston, and metropolises all over America. This life, this girl, became real to me, and in the fall of 2015, I began to write her story.
Therefore, Allie Holmes is not an actual person. Tucker Street is not a real street. Noelle is not a real woman, and Dr. Anderson is not a real abortion doctor. None of the individuals mentioned within these pages are actual lives that I have known. Rather, they are a weaving of many lives and many stories.
Sadly, not every pregnancy center story has a happy ending. I would love to say that every woman chooses life—but that would be a lie. Still, like Allie, perhaps the seed of salvation is planted that will later bear fruit to eternal life; and her story, though broken and bruised, can be beautifully redeemed.
I have two great prayers for this work. First, I want you, my reader, to be inspired and encouraged to go. The Great Commission is not an option. It is not exclusively for the old, the educated, the wise, or the mature. It is also for you. It is not necessary to travel across the world to reach souls that have never heard the name of Jesus. They are right here—right here in your own backyard. Your mission might be the girl in your classroom—the boy you work with, the woman that you see at the grocery store, or your next-door neighbor. Yes, you may be called to the Congo, to Iran, or to Russia. But the field is also white in Houston, Texas; in Miami, Florida; in St. Louis Missouri; and in Los Angeles, California. There are lives that are starved of the truth everywhere; and it is up to us simply to go.
My second prayer is that you will see that nothing—yes, nothing—is beyond the blood of Jesus. Whether you are doubting that a sin-wracked friend could ever be saved, or wondering if you yourself have out-sinned God, please let this story be a reminder that nothing is greater than His grace. It is never too late to turn in repentance to Christ, because God’s great grace runs infinitely too deep for any mortal sin to render it incapable.
“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”. (Romans 10:9) “To this one will I look, he who is of a humble and contrite spirit, and who trembles at My Word.” (Isaiah 66:2)
Told through her eyes, this is the story of a young and broken life; redeemed on Tucker Street.
I do not consider this book to be my work alone; rather, it is the work, indirectly and directly, of dozens of people—perhaps more. Many, many people have touched my life, and enabled me, in one way or another, to write this story. The following are just a few of the souls that I have had the honor and joy of knowing. Redeemed on Tucker Street is dedicated to these men and women, in no particular order:
To my family, who was the first to tell me of the redemption found in the blood of Christ.
To Suzanne Martin, now the director of the Cypress clinic. She mentored me, and taught me to Biblically counsel girls in crisis.
To Gwen Keener, the office manager at the 1960 clinic, who provided endless encouragement and support during my first year of pregnancy center ministry.
To Christine Nunez, a fellow peer counselor, a beautiful soul, and a fountain of joy in the 1960 clinic.
To Emily Burks and Nicki Saunders, who first encouraged me to enter pregnancy center ministry.
To my fiancé, Jacob, whom I love more than life itself, and who constantly challenges me to live a life worthy of the high calling of God in Christ.
To Damaris Ann, and the other writers at ApricotPie, where this story’s first draft was originally published.
To my pastors, Lance Waldie, Bo Andrews, Ken Neumann, and Joe Batluck, who faithfully preach the Word in an ever-darkening world.
To my Grandpa, Lester Couvillion, Jr., whose earthly life I will never know. His desperately and terribly sin-scarred life was also redeemed; and is part of the inspiration for this story. I look forward to seeing him one day!
To the often-forgotten victims of the abortion industry; now over a third of the women of America.
And, last but not least, to the millions upon tens of millions of lives that the world never got to know—lives that were stolen through abortion. May this story give them a voice.
For pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
(James 1:27, 2:26)
(YOU) GO THEREFORE
Scripture references taken from the New American Standard Version.
CHAPTER ONE: A Broken Home
I heard the door slam solidly behind me, and took the stairs two at a time. I dashed through the pouring Gulf Coast rain to the bus stop.
“Hey.” I nodded in the general direction of an older gentleman sitting on the bench, measly inches from the pouring rain. “You doing okay today?”
“Eh, as okay as can be ‘xpected, Miz Allie.” Mr. Smiley wiped a worn and knarled hand over his furrowed brow. “It’s awfully wet out here this mornin’.”
“Sure is.” I adjusted my backpack on my shoulder and shifted to move a little further away from the downspout, which seemed beyond overflowing. Hopefully this bus would get here soon. Seems as though the driver always took his sweet, southern time getting to this part of town.
“Back in school?” Mr. Smiley looked over at me.
“Yeah.” I shrugged noncommittally. “Beats being at home all the time, that’s for sure. I hate summers.”
“Awful early to be leavin’ for school.” Mr. Smiley looked a tad confused.
Thankfully, the bus pulled up with a toot of the horn, ending my awkward predicament. I nodded slightly to Mr. Smiley and boarded.
Winding my way back through the already crowded seats of the Houston metro bus, I searched for an empty seat—one where some chatty local wouldn’t talk my ear off. If you’re a northerner, you might not know exactly what I mean. Well, here in the South, ain’t nobody a stranger. Everybody talks to everybody, if that makes any sense at all.
And for introverts like me—well, it’s just straight up annoying.
A seat caught my eye, far in the corner of the bus. I slid into it, and pulled my faded Dallas Cowboys baseball cap down a little further over my eyes. Tucker Street, a tiny branch off of Highway 1960 here in Houston, was my home when I had been born seventeen years ago. It was really all I had ever known.
Highway 1960 is…well, it’s everything. I don’t know how else to say it. If you take a stroll on a nice day, and walk a couple miles’ length, you’ll see everything. Everything and everyone from successful business people to folks that haven’t had the blessing of a shower in a couple of weeks.
I shoved my hands deeper in my pockets, and shook my head. I had often fallen closer to the latter. My home life is far from pleasant. Or maybe it’s normal. To be honest, it’s all I’ve ever known—kinda like Houston.
I leaned back and closed my eyes, and let this morning replay before me.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
“Allie!” My mother’s shrill voice woke me up, long before dawn.
“Allie, you miserable child, get yourself down here. I’ll not have my daughter grow up to be a lazy bum, no ma’am!”
I rolled over and looked at the dull green glow of the clock. Five AM. “Coming,” I said, with more than a hint of resistance in my voice.
I pulled a t-shirt over my tousled hair, and yanked on an old pair of jeans, noticing the glaring holes in the worn parts of the knees. I glanced at my makeup, scattered across the tattered old vanity in the corner of my room, and rolled my eyes. Ain’t got no time for that when there’s work to do. I could already hear Mom’s voice.
“Mom.” I stepped into the kitchen, which was just a few feet from my tiny bedroom. “Mom, I really, really need a new pair of jeans.” Thinly veiled disgust crept into my voice as I saw her rolling a joint of marijuana. “These are basically destroyed.”
“Ha. Think you’re gonna get new jeans, do you? Well, I’ll have you know that I make the majority of the money in this house, and I also get to say where it goes.” She finished her roll with a flair.
“So you decide that doing that is more important than buying your own daughter jeans.” My eyes narrowed.
“Doing what?” Mom looked up, her face masked with innocence.
“Smoking that garbage.” My words slid through my teeth, cut with ice and nearly venomous. “I know how much that costs.”
For five long seconds, the silence was deadly. Mom glared back into my hate-filled eyes, unnaturally.
Then she shrugged. “Oh, no. You know I have to do this for my nerves. Sure, I wish it was legal, and maybe cheaper, but, gotta do what ya gotta do.” She chuckled oddly.
The silence lasted a mere millisecond longer.
“What does that mean?” I spat furiously. “What in the world does that mean? For your nerves. For your nerves? What about me? What about the men that you bring through here, a new one every week practically? What about my sanity, what about the fact that half of the people you bring here are messed up with the drug trade? What about that?” My breath came in short gasps, and the pressure in my head was building.
Mom looked at me incredulously, like she always did. Like I was a freak at a show—and she couldn’t figure out my problem. She said nothing—absolutely nothing at all.
“Whatever,” I spat. “If you don’t want to get it, I guess you never will.” I spun on my heel and left for the bus stop, without breakfast and certainly without offering any help.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
So that’s how I ended up at the Houston Metro bus stop, early in the morning, in the rain and in the dark.
You see; I didn’t exactly want to explain that to Mr. Smiley.
I dunno where he’s been, or where he’s going. Not sure what he’s gone through in his time, or what he’d think about my dysfunctional life. Not about to risk filling him in though.
Now that I think about it, it’s kind of odd—my life, that is. Not exactly certain where it’s going either. I don’t really have any dreams or aspirations, exactly. I mean, it’s hard enough just to survive day to day. Generally, I’m more focused on making sure I have something to eat and wear, and avoiding as many snags as possible, than thinking about careers or goals or anything of the sort.
Guess I’m just destined to be a checker at a grocery store, just like my mom and my grandma.
Barely existing…living for the next high.
Oh, sorry. Kinda got lost in thought there. My dad, you ask? Eh, never knew him. I’m told he died of an overdose. I think he was considered a Houston gangster. Knowing my family history, he probably was. I’m likely better off without him anyways, if he’s anything like Mom.
I yanked the chemistry book from my tattered backpack and pulled out the half-baked assignment inside. Another grade that was going to suffer because of last minute work. Discouraged, I scribbled out the remainder of the answers, taking wild guesses for probably half of them.
Hey, it's not my fault that I have to work full time at Walmart after school to help make ends meet, while those rich kids get to go to tutoring, sleep eight hours in a warm bed, have plenty to eat, and never have a worry in the world.
Just because they are in AP physics, and I'll likely fail chemistry, doesn’t mean they’re any smarter.
You know, as much as I hated being home, I also hated high school. I love learning, don’t get me wrong. But high school had transformed into a jungle for me. I tried to avoid the kids involved with drugs and partying; dodged the snotty cheerleading or popular girl cliques at every turn; and constantly was chasing after my falling grades. Of course, I wasn’t smart enough to join the nerd squad, nor bookish enough for the library clubs. Never been an athlete, and I’m certainly not musically inclined. Ha. I’d never be able to collect the money I’d need to join anything, either.
Believe me; I tried everything. I truly am a misfit. It’s okay, though. I’m used to it. I just live life in my own little world at Klein.
The bus jolted to a hurried halt on a familiar street corner. Snatching my backpack before it clattered to its doom below the seat in front of me, I glanced up to see Klein Forest High.
With a sigh, I slung my backpack over my shoulder and joined the straggling passengers making their way off the bus. Understandably, few were actually high school students; it was still only about a quarter till six. The bus would be around a little later with the other kids that took the metro to school.
I quit taking the school bus a while ago. Not only did it come too late for me to be out of the house by 5:30, but the kids that rode the bus didn’t think much of me. Or it didn’t seem so anyways. And Kenny doesn’t ride the bus, either.
Kenny. My pace quickened, and something of a smile tugged at my faint dimples. Perhaps my dark-skinned face even showed a touch of pink.
At least there was a hint of happiness in my dark world.
CHAPTER TWO: Kenny
In reality, Kenny’s name is Carlos.
Not sure where I got started calling him Kenny. I guess I always did like the name, and it just fit. Kenny was short, sharp-featured, and pretty much the only reason I didn’t drop out of school the minute I turned sixteen.
My footsteps echoed uncannily in the soundless hall as I hurried toward the lockers on the south end of the school. A few teachers milled about quietly, preparing for another day. I spotted Ms. Noelle, my chemistry teacher, at the far end of the hall. Rolling my eyes back slightly, I breathed a sigh, nearly inaudible in the semi-darkness. She would be disappointed in my last assignment. I could feel the weight of it, dragging down my wearied backpack like lead.
With a shake of my head, I dismissed that thought. I stuffed my things into the old locker I generally used. Nothing I could do about it anyways. Might as well make the most of what I did have. I had another assignment that I could finish before school; for Algebra I. That was a class that I felt I did well in; I actually got an 89\% on my last exam. A smile spread across my face as I pulled the workbook out of my backpack and grabbed a pencil. Hey, I’m good at something. The sharp slam of the steel locker door punctuated my thought nicely.
Spinning on my heel, I nearly ran into another student. Startled and mumbling some kind of unintelligible apology, I looked up into the merrily snapping eyes of an amused Honduran.
“Well, well. If it isn’t my favorite consulting detective.” Kenny grinned lopsidedly, like he always did.
I rolled my eyes, fruitlessly trying to hide my bright grin. “Just ‘cuz my last name is Holmes doesn’t mean I’m a consulting detective.” I tossed my tight curls and smiled up at him.
“Certainly not, Sherlock. It’s most definitely because you invented the job.” He winked at me.
I laughed brightly. “How was book club yesterday?”
“Fantastic. Almost as good as soccer practice, really. This semester is going really well so far.”
My brow furrowed. “Man, sure wish I could say the same. Anyways. Why are you here so early?”
Kenny chuckled as he fell into step beside me. “Because. I knew you’d be here.”
My smile edged a tad bigger. “Really? Just to…to talk to me?”
“Sure I did. Why not?”
“I dunno. Nobody else really spends time with me. And you’re…you’re like…successful or something.” I frowned at the rip in my old, green Converse shoes. It mocked me, dancing below me as I walked.
“Ha. Not really. I’m from the Third Ward, you know.” Kenny ran a hand through his glossy black hair.
“But you obviously don’t live there anymore. You live in Champion Forest.” I could almost see the mansions in my mind. Course, Kenny didn’t live in one of those, but he lived close.
“My mom still does. Remember, I live with my grandma.”
“Yeah. I remember. And your dad…he’s not around either, right?” Somehow, it gave me a vague sense of comfort to know that even the kids who lived in houses, and not apartments, had messed up families too.
“Yeah. Yeah. Good riddance.” Kenny spat on the concrete. “Drugs, women, crime…literally a walking disaster.”
“Heh. Sounds like my life.” I sighed, and a shadow slipped across my face. “Just my mom, though…I don’t have a dad.”
Kenny looked over sympathetically and took my hand. “It’s okay. Don’t think about that stuff. You’re here now.”
“True.” I brightened. “So how’s applications to University of Houston going?”
“Good. I’m hoping my application for pre-med gets accepted.” Kenny grinned crookedly. “That’s like…I’ve been dreaming of medicine since I don’t know when.”
“I do too.” I squeezed his hand. “You deserve it.”
“Eh. I don’t know. I need scholarship money too.” He shrugged, and nodded toward the algebra papers in my hand. “Whatcha got there? Need any help?”
“Yeah. Well, actually more so with Chemistry. I’ve done pretty well in this class.”
“Go get it.” Kenny grinned. “You know how much I love science.”
Chemistry rolled off my shoulders like a weight. “Thanks, Kenny. You’re the best.”
“Anytime, Sherlock.” He winked.
Kenny was a bright spot, that’s for sure. I’m sure you’ve figured out by this point that he’s successful. Maybe not exactly popular, but he’s a smart athlete who could blend in to almost any crowd. He was definitely accepted by the vast majority of the students, unlike myself.
Why he, a beautiful Honduran rising senior at Klein High, chose me; the failing student, the African-American girl from Tucker Street; I didn’t know.
But I was sure glad he did.
CHAPTER THREE: Missing
Mom had been missing. Six days.
It wasn’t exactly unusual. She would sometimes be gone, days at a time. Generally, she would call or something, but I had learned not to expect it.
I guess she had friends she would go out with. She would take a few days off work, and she would never stay home. She’d be in Houston, or close to the Mexican border, or whatever.
I’d honestly rather stay out of it.
My uncle, who I haven’t talked to in years, apparently was looking for her. I think it has something to do with Granny’s old house. He had come by the house yesterday, figuring I would know where Mom was.
Ha. I barely know where my next meal is, much less my mom.
- - - - - - - -
Alex’s low sneer jolted me back to reality. I was in Chemistry class, pencil in hand, and the class was eyeing me.
I glanced around, hurriedly, confusedly. The color rose in my face as a mumbling chuckle filtered through the quiet room.
“Ms. Holmes?” Ms. Noelle looked at me kindly.
“Ah—did you ask something?”
“Stupi—“ Ms. Noelle silenced Alex with a look.
“C—could you repeat the question?” I cringed.
“Of course. What does the nucleus of an atom consist of?”
I answered, easily. If only I had heard the question the first time.
So it was a perfectly normal day, I suppose. And then it happened.
The door creaked, and a few curious heads turned. Of course Alex turned. He was always wanting to be in people’s business. I looked over at him and frowned slightly.
But he didn’t look like arrogant Alex now. His face was unusually drained, blanched. Surprised, I cranked my head to see the door.
Two HPD officers, full uniform, stood, nearly uneasily, in the doorway. Ms. Noelle looked confused. “How can I help you?”
The shorter officer, a young woman, spoke. “Ms. Allie Holmes?” She looked around at the students.
For a second, I sat there; stonily, lifelessly. Why would they need me? I hadn’t done anything.
The officer spoke again. “Is she not here?”
I started, and realized I had to speak. “Ah, yeah. Yeah, I’m here. That’s me.” I sounded like a granddad bullfrog, croaking out my words.
The officer nodded, and I realized she wanted me to follow. Hesitatingly, I looked at Ms. Noelle. She nodded as well.
Outside the schoolroom, I looked from one face to the other, apprehensively. They looked drawn, almost dejected.
“We found her.” The young HPD officer finally spoke. I immediately knew she was talking about Mom. Her steely blue eyes dropped for a tense, chilling moment. She faltered.
Then her eyes met mine.
“We found her body.”
I started. “Dead?” I half-stuttered, half-choked. Mom was missing, sure, but I hadn’t expected…
“Yeah. I’m—I’m so sorry.” She laid a hand on my shoulder. I pulled away.
Staring, dumbly, at her shiny belt buckle, I tried to comprehend the sudden finality of this moment.
I looked back up at the officer. “How?”
She looked at me. “Ah, we had a lead to a cocaine transactions taking place in a certain part of the Fifth Ward. Unfortunately, before we were informed and had chance to take action, your mother attended a transaction. She was with the sellers.” The officer hesitated again, and then went on. “The buyer turned out to be an old ally of a rival gang—it was a setup. There was a knife fight, and your mother was fatally stabbed.”
Drugs. Of course it was drugs.
“Okay.” I didn’t know what to say. “Thanks for telling me, I-I guess.”
I didn’t know what to say; what to feel. Because in this world, I was now alone. Without family; without a home—perhaps even without hope.
The officer glanced at my torn shoes. “Do…do you have someone to take care of you? I’m supposing you’re living with your uncle whom the other officer informed?”
“Yeah, that. Yeah, I’ll be fine.” I turned away. “Thank you.”
My Converse slapped the ground hurriedly as I walked back to class. I slipped back into my chair. Alex glanced over and snorted under his breath.
Ms. Noelle looked at me; concerned and questioning. I looked away, unemotionally.
I had lied to the officer. I was mere months away from being a legal adult, so I knew they wouldn’t investigate. I didn’t live with my uncle, of course. I wasn’t going to live with my uncle. I didn’t even hardly know him, nor did he know me, or care for that matter. I was going to have to figure it out. I would figure it out.
CHAPTER FOUR: A Rainbow in the Rain
If there was one thing about living alone I detested, it was the silence.
It was deafening.
There were days that I would turn on the air conditioner, just to hear it run. I mean, to be honest, one needs air conditioning almost year-round in Texas. That’s if you can afford it.
That reminds me. Bills had become nearly insurmountable. I canceled my phone plan. Then came the TV, then the internet. Groceries were consistently from the 99 cent store on the corner of Veterans Memorial, just the minimum that I needed to make it. Occasionally I’d buy a mango, right when the shipment from Mexico came in. That was a treat. The rent cost me $450 a month, nearly half of what I made at Wal-Mart. I had less than $500 left a month for everything else.
Eight dollars an hour, thirty-five hours a week, only stretched so far.
My life became an endless cycle of school, work, home. School, work, home. The days bled into weeks; and before I knew it, it had been three months since the officers visited my schoolroom. My eighteenth birthday came and went. Kenny brought me flowers; otherwise, it passed largely unnoticed. I didn’t want the other students to know that I was over a full year behind.
“Allie.” My manager, Traci, stopped me on my way out of work, late one Thursday night. “Allie, do you have a moment?”
“Yes.” My voice almost bent the word into a question. I was tired. Surely this wasn’t an extra project.
“Allie, as you know, you’re one of my best checkers.” She smiled at me. “I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but Suzanne is moving to South Houston. She’ll be transferring to Store 435, off Highway 288.”
“Yes? Well, no, I didn’t know.” Suzanne was the managing cashier. She was an older lady, kind but very reserved.
“I can think of no better qualified checker than you, to take her place.”
“Wait, what? Me?” My full attention focused on Traci. The allure of sleep, even the thought of it, left my once-wearied brain.
“Yes, you. That is, if you want the position.”
“If I want it? Yes, yes, of course. Course. Yes! When do I star—I mean, thank you, ma’am!” I stammered.
Traci smiled. “When do you start? Well, Suzanne will begin training you at the end of this week. You’ll have two weeks before she leaves to learn.” She paused. “Also, your pay as a department manager will start on your next paycheck. Thirteen dollars an hour.”
My jaw dropped as Traci turned to go. She was always short, and to the point. She wasn’t going to stand there and watch my half-shocked, half dazed reaction.
Thirteen dollars an hour. I was rich.
Might not seem like much. But to me, those five dollars an hour were the world.
“Allie. Allie!” I heard a voice behind me in the hall. I turned.
Kenny ran to catch up with me, panting. “Allie! I’ve been legit trying to catch up with you all day.” He smiled.
“Kenny! Oh, I haven’t told you yet!”
“What!!?? Tell me, tell me, tell me. What is it? Is it good?”
“Oh yes, so good.” I grinned smugly. “I’m officially a manager.”
“Get outta here! No way! Serious?”
“Yep. Got a five dollar raise, too.” My face split into a pearly smile.
Kenny stepped back. “No way. Dude. That’s a ton. That’s AWESOME!”
“I know. But I needed it. I needed it bad.”
“Yeah, I’ve been wondering if your phone got disconnected. Tried to text you a couple of times this week, but I don’t think you got it.”
I threw him a withering glance. “I canceled that more than a month ago.”
“Really?” His steps slowed. “I didn’t realize you were having a hard time.”
“Nah. I’m not having a hard time. Just glad to have the extra, ya know.” I paused in front of my Algebra classroom. “Gotta go. Have fun.”
“You too. Proud of you, Sherlock.” Kenny winked.
I laughed. “See ya.”
Yet again, though, I had lied. To Kenny this time. God knows that I was having a hard time, a really hard time.
That’s if God actually exists.
That was another thing I wasn’t sure about. Granny had got religion, I guess you call it, late in life. Pretty much right before she died. She quit smoking, quit getting drunk, and started going to that little church on the corner all the time. Well, it’s not actually a church. It’s a little building, if you could call it that, more like a shed. I think they call it Redemption Fellowship. Some folks meet there, mostly homeless folks, on Sundays and Tuesday nights. I guess they sing and read their Bibles. I never went—was either working or sleeping.
Never really had an interest, either. Because I would think that if those church people really believed in God, in a good God, they would be sharing that goodness with the rest of us. I know a ton of people, supposedly good Christian people, that live way too wastefully, and haven’t a dime or a second to spare for anybody.
They’re the same people that turn their noses up to us on the street, that don’t give us more than a nod passing by. They’re the same ones that pretend that poverty and suffering only exists in Africa, or South America.
Granny used to say that Jesus would supply all our needs. Well, I was supplying all my own needs as far as I could tell. If Jesus or His church wanted to step in and help at any time, they were welcome.
Until then, I’ll be here waiting for the church to actually practice what they preach.
CHAPTER FIVE: University
I sat on the bench, nervously. I clenched my sweaty palms, as if that would release some of the itchy tension in my veins. Rolling my eyes back slightly, I could see the entirety of the room, crowded with students. My fingers smoothed over my report card, though it was pressed to perfection.
Would the advisor say I was finished? Could I graduate this coming May?
If only it was easy for me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that girl with the straight brown hair and black glasses, the one that was at the top of every science class. I had no idea who she was, or what she was doing, but I knew that she was the best at almost everything she did. She loved science, math, and almost any difficult subject.
Probably because things were easy for her.
I smirked. Well, she sure wasn’t paying all her own bills, ordering her own employees, and living life pretty much exactly how she wanted to. Independent, and free as a bird. That was me. Not her. She probably lived in one of those spiffy houses on Cypresswood, maybe that one with the five air conditioners. Yeah, it really was that big. Maybe her dad was an engineer, probably made six figures, easy. Every little tuition bill and science book paid for without a worry.
I was stronger than that. I had my own job, my own place, my own money. Try to beat that, brown-haired girl.
A monotone voice broke into my thoughts. “Ms. Holmes?”
Hurriedly scooping my belongings together, I leapt up, all my trepidation returning in a massive, trembling rush. I followed the advisor to her office.
“Well, well, Ms. Holmes, here we are again.” The advisor’s droning voice, now very familiar to my ears, greeted me. “Doing any better in school?”
“I hope to be, ma’am.” Though I resented her condescending tone fiercely, I knew her statement was well-founded. My junior year had been a disaster—hence the extra year in school. I bit my lip.
“Hm.” The clicking of her keyboard was the only alternative to dead silence for what seemed like minutes.
I cleared my throat. “Ah, what I kind of wanted to do was see if I could graduate? I think I may have the grades and the classes to do that, ah, like in May. You know, the end of the semester. I’m pretty sure I’ve passed all the classes I need to, with fairly high grades. I think. I kinda had to retake some classes…ah, like poor grades that one year. But I’ve done that now.” I held my breath and crossed my fingers under the wooden desk.
“Eh?” The advisor looked at me over her tiny, rectangle glasses. “That’s all ya want?”
“Ah—yeah. Is that possible?”
“From what I can tell. I’ll put in the paperwork today. Anything else?”
For a second, I didn’t speak. Then I found my runaway voice. “Oh! Oh, actually, yes. I mean, no. That’s all. Thank you, ma’am.”
I don’t remember walking out of the office. Or down the sidewalk. To be honest, I’m not even sure how I got home.
All I could think of was that I was graduating. Less than three months. High school, with all its pain, was nearly over.
“What’s this?” I peered into a window, looking at rows of tables covered with medical-looking equipment.
“That’s another lab. Umm…microbiology class, I think?” Kenny craned his neck to read the plaque. “Yeah. Doctor Henderson, Phd. Microbology.”
I ran my hand over the shiny windowpane. “Seriously. I am so proud of you. Full scholarship…pre-med. This is like your dream.” I looked at Kenny.
“Yeah. University of Houston is a pretty good place to get my undergrad.” Kenny flipped through a few random booklets. “With all the dual credit I’ve done, plus the classes I just finished taking at Houston Community College, I probably won’t be here but three years max, though. That’s the plan, anyways.”
I smiled wistfully. “You’re gonna do so well, Kenny.”
He grinned. “Hey, but what about you, Sherlock? Don’t you want to do something other than Walmart? I mean, you have a great job over there, don’t get me wrong. But with the grades you ended up getting your senior year, you could probably get into some kind of a college program.” He looked over at me. “And, you know…since you kinda don’t make a ton, you could probably get financial help with tuition, too.”
I shrugged. “I don’t think about that stuff—you know, college. Like ever. I never have.”
Kenny grabbed my shoulder, nearly startling me. “But you should. Look, Allie Holmes, you’re sharp as a tack. Don’t just work at Walmart and waste it! You could be a nurse! Go into medicine…make good money…forget about Tucker Street! Forget Klein High, forget your past—make your own future.” Kenny’s black eyes looked serious.
I drew back. “But, Kenny. I’m just happy to have graduated high school. I mean, I’m the first one I know of on either side of the family to do that. I don’t need to be a nurse, too! I’m…I’m just not sure I could.”
“No, no, no. Don’t talk yourself down. I know you. I believe in you. You can do anything, Allie. Anything. You could be a nurse.” He paused. “Will you at least think about trying?”
“I guess…I guess I’ll think about it.” I turned away, signaling the end of the conversation.
Later, I walked by the nursing school. My steps slowed as I took it in…official-looking scrubs, state of the art equipment, books and papers and…
But I couldn’t. No, I definitely couldn’t. Allie Holmes, the daughter of a gangster and a drug dealer, couldn’t possibly be a nurse.
It was literally impossible.
Days later, I stared out the window at the rain dancing over the worn windowsills. I toyed with my phone.
I had come to a decision. Nursing school was not impossible. Nothing was impossible. I would do it. I had talked myself to the point that I practically had to try.
Determinedly, I typed Kenny a short text. “Decided. I’m going to give nursing a college try. No pun intended.”
CHAPTER SIX: A Student Again
You have been approved for the Federal Pell for the school year 2013-2014. Please access your student account to accept Federal Aid.
Allie Holmes. Track: LVN. Class of 2015. Houston Community College.
That felt good.
Hey, it might just be community college, just an LVN, and just an associates’ for now. But it was still nursing school. I was going to be a nurse.
It had been a while since I decided to pursue nursing. I had graduated Klein High. I had applied and been approved for federal aid, and I had just started school last week.
Not trying to brag or anything, but I looked really good in scrubs. I thought I did, anyways. I felt important. Even if I was just a first year student, I had a lab that was specifically for a nursing class—so I got to wear scrubs. I’d have my clinicals next year, right before I graduated with my A.S.
The hard part was balancing work and school. For the summer, I had started working day shifts. That was really nice. But, when college started, I had to switch back to working the afternoon and night shift most days.
It was alright. It would be worth it in the long run.
Kenny. That was another adjustment that we had made during the summer. I say we because—well, because he had come to live with me.
His grandmother had moved into a home, because of her dementia. His family had sold the house, you know, because of the high cost of those types of places. He had been looking for a place to live…and, well, long story short, we decided to make our relationship official and move in together. He moved into my apartment in June.
Granny’s old pastor had protested. Something about the Bible, and how it didn’t approve of people living together without being “officially” married, or something of the sort. He had all these wacky ideas. Anyways, I just told him again why I hadn’t ever gone to church with Granny, and why I don’t really care what the Bible says. What’s he supposed to say to that?
Plus, if what he says is right, I’m young. Granny did what she wanted when she was young, too. I’ll fix it all when I’m older.
I snorted. I had heard some preacher on TV say the other day that if you needed something, you should just believe that you would have it. Like keep believing really hard, and proclaim that it’s yours. Then God would give you what you wanted.
I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works.
Oh, I mean, maybe it works for him. His house looks more like a palace than a preacher’s house. He says it’s because he has great faith, and God gives him whatever he wants.
Yeah. Ok, if that’s what floats your boat, go ahead. It’s sure not what floats mine.
Granny’s pastor is a lot different. I could see him in my mind’s eye; tall, thin, dark-skinned man. He always had a tattered Bible in his hand, and a genuine smile on his face. I’m not sure where he lived—maybe in those little apartments on Kuykendahl. He had a wife, too; a short little woman with kind eyes and a sing-songish voice.
Anyways. I’m not going to let any pastor tell me what to do. Maybe it’s wrong; but I don’t see that it’s hurting anything right now. Let’s not try to fix what’s not broken.
I pulled up to the gas pump on the corner and shut off my engine. While I pumped gas, I looked around at the familiar surroundings.
Free Pregnancy Test. Hm. Funny I hadn’t noticed that sign before. It was right there on the corner of Wunderlich Street.
Though Kenny and I lived together, and everything that came along with that, we sure weren’t ready to have kids yet. We were careful. Neither of us wanted to sacrifice our careers; really our entire lives; for kids.
The way it was, we both had to work, and go to school full-time, which left zero time for anything else. A kid would throw a huge wrench into that. I’d probably go back to barely living, like I was before.
And who knew how Kenny would react to that.
I chuckled tensely, under my breath. That’s why we have birth control, I suppose.
Still, I did wonder why they gave out free tests at such a place. Seems rather unprofitable for them, anyways. I wasn’t all that interested, though; no need for it.
The gas pump clicked back into place, and I slid into the seat of my old Mazda. I smiled. It might be old, and ugly; but it was mine. I bought it cash this summer.
My smile edged a tad bigger. The summer of 2013 had been a good one. The first in a while.
It was time to go to school.
“Hey, Allie!” A voice behind me turned my head.
“Allie Holmes, right?” Something about the straight, brown hair and the black glasses of the girl before me was vaguely familiar. I nodded.
“I thought it was you! Remember me?”
My confusion only lasted a second. Then I remembered. The advisor’s room; graduating; that engineers daughter; everything was so easy for her—of course I remembered. “Yeah—yeah of course. You went to Klein Forest High?”
“Sure did.” Her engaging, wide smile, the one that seemed to touch both of her ears, was irresistible. “I’m going here now! Hopefully getting my RN. What about you? I didn’t know you had started college.”
I was a little dubious. She had never paid attention to me in high school. Not that I remembered anyways. “Um—yeah, I’m actually nursing, too. Just an LVN for now.”
“That’s awesome. Say, you still work at Walmart, right?”
I mentally raised my eyebrows. “Yeah—why?”
“Well, I’m actually looking for a job. I thought I might ask if your manager was hiring.”
I was confused. “I’m sorry—I thought your dad was like…”
Now it was her turn to be confused. “Like…what?”
“I’m sorry—like, rich. I figured you’d never need a job?”
A painful look flickered across her face. “I—I haven’t seen my dad in years.”
I was speechless.
She collected herself and smiled brightly again. “I live with my mom, and my big brother. But, you know, tuition is tuition, and I’m having to pay for it. I’d rather not go into debt, so I thought maybe I could get a job.”
I blinked a couple times. “I had no idea. I guess—I guess you were just successful in school, so I figured you had it together.” I bit my lip and wished I could disappear into a hole in the linoleum beneath me. Just stop talking, before you say anything else stupid, I told myself.
“Yeah, it’s ok. No problem.” She straightened her glasses. “What about you? Do you live with your parents?”
“No, I actually live with my boyfriend in an apartment off Tucker Street. My dad and mom are both…ah, well, they’re both gone.”
My new friend reached over and laid a hand on my shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
I shrugged. “Eh. It’s ok. It’s been a while now.”
“You’re doing so well though! That’s really something, everything you’ve been able to do.”
I smiled. “Thanks.” I laughed, a little sheepishly. “Um, I’m really sorry, but I have no idea…I have no idea what your name is.”
The girl laughed brightly. “Elizabeth Martin. Lizzy for short. Sorry, I was always kind of busy in high school. I didn’t make many friends. Kind of by choice I guess; high school is just—well, it’s high school.”
“Oh, believe me.” I grimaced. “I know what you mean.”
Lizzy stopped in front of the philosophy classroom. “Well, it was nice to catch up. We should get coffee, or something.”
“For sure.” I turned, and then stopped. “Oh, Lizzy?”
“I’m actually the manager of the checkers at Wal-Mart.” I chuckled, awkwardly. “Ah—you can come in for an interview tomorrow.”
Lizzy looked startled. “Wait, what? You mean—like you could actually hire me?”
I smiled and shrugged. “Hey, if you can scan stuff and do simple math, the job is yours. I had a checker quit last week.”
“Th-thank you! Whe—when should I plan to come in?”
“Ah—4:30? Does that work for school?”
“Yeah! Thank you!”
I walked down the hall, smiling to myself. Making friends was new to me. It was another good feeling.
CHAPTER SEVEN: Two Lines
Nervously, I rung up the single item I had chosen from the shelves at Walmart and made my payment. The grating rustle of the plastic bag rattled eerily in my ears.
The last few days had been torture. If only I knew for sure. No—if only I was brave enough to know for sure.
I didn’t talk to anyone. No one had to know about this, absolutely no one.
It took an eternity to get to Houston Community College that day. But there was no way I was going to risk doing what I needed to do at work.
It had been entirely too long. Either there was something wrong with me medically—or…
I could barely construct the thought in my panicked brain. Or—or I was pregnant.
Either way—I was in trouble.
- - - - - - -
Before I opened my eyes to seal my impending doom, I tried to breathe. It seemed like the oxygen just wasn’t there, kind of like that time I was high in the mountains with Granny, and the air was so thin.
Only this was the college restroom—definitely not a mountain.
I opened one eye—a slit. Then both, wide open. I stared for at least ten minutes—maybe forty.
According to that thin, white test—I was going to be a mother.
The rest of that fateful day passed in a haze. I don’t remember it well enough to tell the story. I think I eventually said I was sick, and went home.
I definitely felt sick enough.
- - - - - -
After the fifth test, I seemed to have partially grasped the reality that my life was about to change. I hadn’t planned it, but there was certainly no way to get around it.
I wasn’t going to be a nurse. Not now anyways.
And Kenny? He had been gone for the last two days, staying with a friend. Who knew how he would feel? I didn’t know how or when I would tell him. He always thought birth control was 100\%. I mean, he knew that the rule was somewhere in the 90\% range…but not us. Not now.
I felt sick to my stomach.
I opened a private browser on our single laptop, and typed in Planned Parenthood. It was where Mom had gone…maybe four or five times.
I scanned through information—birth control, abortion. My face tightened in desperation as a thought hit me. It disgusted me; no, I was disgusted with myself for ever thinking it. But it taunted the corner of my mind.
I could get an abortion. On my day off. When Kenny was at school. Maybe I’d go to Lizzy’s house for a week, and recover or whatever.
Maybe Kenny didn’t even have to know. Maybe I could be a nurse.
But, abortion! The hideousness of the act frightened me. I knew what abortion was. I was studying medicine. It was not a simple removal of tissue.
Or maybe it was.
What about that sign? The one I had seen on Wunderlich? My brain reeled, grasping desperately for alternatives. Maybe they could help. Maybe they could tell me what to do.
It was just a piece down the road from me, so I grabbed my phone from the windowsill and took a walk.
Maybe the cool evening air would release the pressure threatening to split my skull in two.
- - - - - - -
Carefully, I typed the name written across the bottom of the sign into my phone. Care Net Pregnancy Center. Who were those people, anyways?
Know your options… hope… adoption… support… parenting… start a conversation… get answers before you decide.
Maybe I should talk to them. Maybe…but they didn’t offer abortions. And as much as I didn’t like the idea, that frightful procedure was looking increasingly like my only option.
But maybe I should tell Kenny. Maybe…just maybe we could make it work. Maybe Kenny could still go to school, I could still work, and somehow…someway…we could work out a plan for a baby.
But we had no money. No insurance. We had barely enough clothes and food for us after books, gas, and the part of the tuition that we had to pay.
And I wasn’t sure…I wasn’t sure Kenny would give up pre-med to work. Even for a year or two. That would put him a couple of years behind on an already tight schedule.
Medicine was his dream. Children—children were not.
Adoption seemed almost worse than abortion. To carry my own child, for nine months, know it for a day, and then give it to a stranger?
I’d rather get it over with now.
But still, I squared my shoulders and typed the numbers on the sign into my phone. I’d call. Just to see.
“Carenet, this is Noelle. How may I assist you?”
I gulped. “Ah, hi. My name is, ah, Samantha. Well, I have a quick question for you—I’m calling for a friend.” I took another breath. “Well, you see, she’s pregnant, and can’t exactly keep the baby. Could you all maybe help with that? Uh, I don’t know—probably a dumb question.”
“Not a dumb question at all, dear. That can definitely be a tricky situation. So glad I could talk to you today, Samantha.” The tender concern in the voice coming over the line surprised me. “Would your friend maybe want to make an appointment with us? We can see what kind of support we might be able to offer her.”
“Ah, well I’d have to ask her.” I paused. That sweet voice, nearly familiar, made me want to try.
“Is she there with you?”
I remembered how well I could do impersonations. I would…I would impersonate Lizzy. Yeah—with the energetic, smiley voice.
“Well, she actually is. Lemme get her real quick. Hold on.” I put my hand over the receiver and waited.
“Hi!” Lizzy’s voice came across the line. Excellent, I told myself.
“Hello, this is Noelle from Carenet. Samantha was saying that you might want to make an appointment with us?”
“Oh, yeah, totally, that would be great. Thanks bunches. When should I come in?”
“We have 3pm, 4pm, and 6pm tomorrow open, if that works for you.”
I did some quick calculating in my head. “Three would be super!”
“Great. What’s your first and last name?”
Ugh. I had to give my real name. I knew that clinics had to verify who you were with a license. “Allie Holmes.”
“Oh, Allie! Okay, well we will see you tomorrow at three.”
I hung up. Why did she sound like she knew me? Strange.
I took a deep, shuddering breath. What on earth had I just done? I didn’t want to tell anyone about this problem unless they were guaranteed to be able to fix it. Could that woman on the phone, as nice as she sounded, fix my terrible, horrific predicament?
Miserably, I crumpled to the curb and wept bitterly.
CHAPTER EIGHT: A Beacon
I chewed on the corner of the pen in my hands and squinted at the print on the pink sheet of paper in front of me. My neat handwriting, filling the blanks on the page, showed tell-tale signs of my trembling hand.
I sighed and got up.
Ding. Hesitatingly, I tapped the bell on the counter. The secretary’s smiling face appeared.
“All finished there?” At my nod, she went on. “Nicole will be with you shortly.” She smiled again.
“Ah, okay,” I stuttered, faintly.
I’m not sure how long I was in that waiting room. But soon enough, another woman appeared. This one was maybe in her late twenties, with an engaging, yet deeply compassionate smile.
I nodded, and followed her.
- - - - - - - -
Back in the seat of my tiny car, I breathed a tremulous sigh. That hadn’t been so bad. In fact…in fact I may be slightly encouraged. I hadn’t felt that feeling at all this week.
I looked over the paperwork that Nicole had given me. She had given me an opportunity to have a free ultrasound at the clinic, papers for everything from insurance to housing. She had shown me how big my baby was now, and its development over the next nine months.
She had listened to my story with a sympathetic ear. She had talked to me about the consequences of premarital sex. She had talked to me about my lifestyle...about Kenny...about school...about life.
The strange thing was, I was ready for her to judge me. I was ready for her to tell me that I was a sinner, and that I was deserving of hell. I was expecting her to be condescending, and to look at me as the wretch that she thought me to be.
But she wasn’t. While I knew for sure that she believed that what I had done was wrong, she spoke of forgiveness. She spoke of turning from my choices and God making my life new.
She told me a story of a woman who had made the same choice as I. She was training to be a nurse practitioner, and, through her own choices, became pregnant as a single woman. Nicole had said this woman knew her choice could not be reversed, and this woman chose life. She worked hard to provide for herself and her child, and still became a nurse practitioner. Today, she has a beautiful daughter.
Nicole emphasized: unpregnant is not a word.
But I wasn’t sure. If Kenny would support it…then maybe. But the more I thought about it—the more I realized that he would opt for an abortion.
Kenny was studying to be a doctor. Kenny knew medicine, surgery, and biology. He understood abortion as a medical procedure. To him, Nicole was wrong—having an abortion was not taking a life.
I was afraid to tell him—afraid to even try.
When Nicole prayed for me, I shut my eyes tightly and tried to pray with her. But my prayer seemed to bounce right off the ceiling and land tauntingly on the floor.
Nicole had told me to call her with anything. I had been short. I assured her I would figure it out, and Kenny’s mom would probably be able to help us take care of the baby.
Once I was alone though, I laughed bitterly. Not only did Kenny’s mom not exist in my life, but Kenny himself was likely on his way out.
Back at home, I decided what I would do. Kenny would be home late tonight. I would leave a note, saying that I was pregnant. Short. Simple. No frills. I would go to stay at Lizzy’s house for the night, and come back after work tomorrow.
At least he’d have a day to think about it before I saw him. I'm not sure I could tell him in person.
I know this will be a shock, so I thought this was the best way to tell you. I’m pregnant. I’m already six weeks along.
I’ll be back tomorrow so we can talk about it. Staying with Lizzy tonight.
I re-read it, slowly. That was it. If he was upset, I’d know soon enough.
Lizzy didn’t have to know about it yet.
I looked at myself in the mirror and drew in my breath, sharply. I looked like I had just crawled out from under a bed.
I washed my face, and pasted on a big smile before I texted Lizzy. She was excited, as usual. She wanted to go out and get dinner, and walk around the mall.
Maybe I’d just forget about all of this stuff, and enjoy a few hours with Lizzy.