I've been writing my Write 4 Ten stories in the actual prompt but now that my online time is sporadic and limited, I will be posting them here...when I have ten minutes to spare.
This is for today's prompt of "The Raise" and yes, I did write more than ten minutes. The story just grew under my fingers and I had a hard time stopping.
Jocelyn stood with her back to the door, hoping against hope that he hadn't heard her enter. Times were tough and she wanted to delay the bad news as long as she could.
"Joce, is that you," came the soft voice from the bedroom.
Her shoulders drooped. "Yes, I'll be in to see you shortly," she replied to her younger brother, the one who lay sick in bed, all because of her. If only...no, she wouldn't do that. She couldn't turn back time and change things so she, they, had to live with the consequences.
Letting out the breath she hadn't realized she was holding, she dumped her purse out on the table. $14.33. That was it. All of it. Without the raise she had thought she was getting, their food wouldn't last through the month. Without the job that she just got fired from, they wouldn't make it through the week. What were they going to do? The landlord had already given them a free week but now, without the raise...no, without a job, he would evict them for sure.
She could survive on the streets but her little brother Willem wouldn't last one night out in the cold. She pulled three slices of bread out of the loaf she snatched on the way home, slathered them with a little butter and topped them off with a thin slice of cheese for her and a thick slice for Willem. She then neatly sliced up an apple and put it on the plate with his sandwich. She quickly downed her slice of bread and cheese before carrying the rest into the bedroom.
"How was your day, sweetums?" she asked him.
"Fair to middlin' good," he said taking the tray and favoring her with his angelic smile.
"I'm glad to hear it. No visitors, were there?"
"Oh yeah, Mrs. Luckletter stopped in for a minute to see if I needed anything. She told me they were selling all their property and were moving to the country." He took a big bite of his sandwich, slowly chewing as if it were his last meal. "Could we move to the country, Joce? I think I'd like that."
Jocelyn's heart clenched in her chest, feeling as though someone had thrust a knife in it. "I don't think so, Will. We have to stay here in the city where there's work."
He looked up from his rapidly disappearing apple. "Oh yeah, you got your raise today, didn't ya." He reached over to hug her, nearly toppling what was left of his meager dinner. She righted the tray and squeezed him, fighting the tears. No, she wouldn't tell him tonight, that would be too mean. Tomorrow or the next day maybe. She could keep them in bread, cheese and apples from the carts and use the little money she had for milk. Two more days to find a job.
Two days later and no work found, Jocelyn knew she was going to have to do something desperate but what that might be, she had no idea. Once again she stood with her back to the door hoping Willem hadn't heard her enter. Taking silent breaths to calm herself, she stood tall and readied herself to tell him.
She stopped short, realizing there was a conversation going on in Willem's bedroom. One voice was definitely her brothers but the other she didn't recognize. Alarmed, she grabbed the closest weapon, a broom and burst into the bedroom.
Startled the two looked up and she found herself staring into the bluest eyes of the most handsome man she'd ever seen. She took in the fancy dress clothes and simultaneously straightened her clothes and put the broom in the corner.
"I'm sorry, sir. Do we know you?" Her voice trembled a little but it was obvious he was a gentleman of means and had the power to toss her into gaol on a whim.
"Joce, you won't believe it. Mr. and Mrs. Luckletter sold everything to Sir Randley and he came to see us and he brought me jam. Real elderberry jam! Can you believe it? I couldn't-"
Jocelyn stopped her brother's monologue with her hand and turned to Sir Randley with a curtsy. "How do you do, Sir Randley. I am Jocelyn Southern and I see you have already met my mannerless brother, Willem. Could I offer you something to eat or drink?" She quickly inventoried their meager food supply and hoped he declined.
He did. "No thank you, Miss Southern. I'm sorry to intrude while you were out but the Luckletters had such high praise for you both, I felt I needed to stop in and introduce myself. I am the new owner of all their rental properties."
Jocelyn steeled herself for what she knew was coming, an eviction. She owed five weeks back rent to the Luckletters and that debt was now owed to Sir Randley. "Sir-"
It was Sir Randley who now held up his hand, "Please, sit down. We have things to discuss." She perched on the stool beside Willem's bed, watching Sir Randley pace, arms crossed behind his back.
"Miss Southern, it has come to my attention that with the transfer of the rental units, I have also assumed a debt that you owed Mr. and Mrs. Luckletter."
"Yes sir, and-"
The hand once again stilled her. "I have a proposal for you and your brother. I hope you will consider it fully before making your decision."
"I am a widower. I lost my wife in childbirth. My son is now five and beyond the age of needing a nanny but still in need of a governess. I would like to offer you that position and young Willem the position of companion to my son."
"Please, hear me out. My son is in residence at our country estate. I have a doctor on the premises at all times as well as a full staff for the house and grounds. I feel you would both fit in well and I believe that the combination of fresh air and a doctor's care would put Willem back on his feet in no time. Please don't answer now. I shall return on the morrow to get your answer. I'll see myself out."
Jocelyn sat there stunned. Did he know she was jobless? Could there really be a silver lining to the cloud over their life lately? Her mum had always told her things happened for a reason. Maybe there was a reason she hadn't gotten that raise.