Deidre Scout and her mother are very poor. They live in a van and struggle to live on a daily basis. Her mother, a waitress, befriends a successful business woman. The outcome thrusts Deidre into a new world with a very stubborn young man named Artemis Kilgore.
The sun was my alarm clock. It shined right in my face and I groaned, turning on my side and wishing for five more minutes. I couldn't, though. Mom and I had to get to the soup kitchen before it got too busy and then closed.
I sat up, being careful to not hit my head on the roof of the van, and grabbed the brush I shared with my mom. With difficulty, I untangled the mess of red hair, thankful I was able to shower last night. My mom was sleeping in the very back, snoring.
"Mom, time to get up," I yawned, rubbing my green eyes.
"Five more minutes," she mumbled and I laughed.
I tossed the brush at her. "Nope," I said, opening the sliding side door. "I'm hungry and the line will get long soon."
I laughed and stepped into the cool morning air. It felt nice after being cooped up in the van all night, but it was fall in Oklahoma and it was going to get really cold, really fast. Unfortunately, Mom and I didn't have decent coats or sweaters. I sighed.
"We need to go by the Salvation Army soon," I said as we walked down to the kitchen. "It's getting too cold for these flimsy things."
My mother, who I was a mirror of, nodded with a pout. "You're right."
As I predicted, the line was long. I huddled close to my mom as wind blew through. The others shivered and my mom wrapped her arms around me. We did a weird little crab walk as the line moved forward. I yawned. This was the worst part of being poor, in my opinion: waiting. We were always waiting for something.
We had one cell phone that Mom managed to pay the bill for from what little money she had left from my dad's child support. I was 23 now and, as soon as I had turned 18, he dropped us like a rock. My mom had marketable skills, it was just a tough market to be in. I was a barista and she was a waitress. Together, we used the money for emergencies and gas for the van. A lot of places were okay with us staying in their parking lot for a couple of nights, but no longer than that so we moved around a lot. The cell phone was on the off chance one of my mom's resumes made it through the ever long waiting list.
It was warm inside the soup kitchen and I sighed in relief. The nice woman behind the counter gave us each a slice of cold toast, a carton of milk, and a bowl of fruit.
"Sorry it's not much today," she said but I smiled at her.
"We'll take what you can give. Thank you so much for doing this for us."
The woman beamed, obviously not used to getting many positive responses. My dad - before the divorce - always told me: beggars can't be choosers. He would say that when I didn't get what I wanted but I never imagined that, one day, I'd be one of those beggars.
We sat at our usual table. It was near the middle and a few people sat with us to chat. Many of them complained. It's all they did. The food was poor today, the weather was bitter, they couldn't find a job.... The list goes on and on. My mom and I didn't participate. We were lucky to have what we did.
"We have to move to another lot today," my mom said as we got in the van fifteen minutes later, somehow hungrier than when we were before we ate.
"I'll see if the coffee shop will let us sleep in the back of the lot," I offered.
She dropped me off and I hurried in out of the cold. The familiar smell of The Wholly Grind greeted my nose and I smiled. My manager, Larry, was yawning behind the counter, prepping for the day. He was the only one who knew my situation and I had begged him to keep it that way. I wasn't ashamed; I just hated the looks of pity.
"How are you such a morning person, Dee?" he asked as I pulled my hair into a ponytail and tied on an apron.
"You have to be when you're me," I smiled.
"How were the lines?" he whispered as one of my coworkers came through with a tray of pastries.
"Just fine," I answered.
"Did you get enough?" he asked. I only nodded and he sighed. "Come with me, Deidre."
I groaned. I hated this part. He led me into the back and closed the door. He then opened the warming rack where we kept the pastries that had just come out of the oven. After looking for a few minutes, he pulled out a bit tray of slightly burnt croissants and muffins.
"These were ruined yesterday," he explained, putting them all in a bag. "I want you to take them and give some to your mom."
"Larry," I began but he held up his hand.
"It's either that or the trash and I'd much rather they go to my favorite employee."
I smiled and put the bag in the fridge. "You're not supposed to have favorites, but thank you."
I gave him a quick hug as the bell above the door rang. We went back out and started the day.
When closing time came, it was time to swallow my pride and ask Larry for the favor.
"Hey, Larry, I need another favor," I mumbled, shuffling my feet.
"Anything," he said, putting the rag down.
I watched Carla, an employee who didn't like me, walk by. She glared at me but I ignored her and waited until she was out of earshot.
"Mom and I need a place to sleep," I whispered. "Can we park the van in the back by the dumpsters?"
He looked shocked. "Of course you can!" he said and I let out a sigh of relief. "Don't park near the dumpsters, though. Park by the back door; there's less wind there."
I hugged him and he patted my back before taking my apron. I walked to my mom's restaurant, the bag of goodies tucked under my jacket. Our van was in the back and I put the bag in there before heading in through the front door.
"Good evening, Deidre!" the hostess said and I smiled. "Your mom is almost done."
"Thanks," I said and sat in one of the chairs by the door.
I was pulling on a thread on my sleeve when the door opened, bringing in a blast of cold air. I shivered.
"Wear a proper jacket," a snide voice said and I glared at the speaker.
He was tall, maybe 6'6". He had short black hair and cold grey eyes. He smirked at me until his mother hit him upside the head.
"Stop that," she snapped then turned to me. "Please forgive my son."
I shrugged. I was used to that. My shoulders fell, though, when they were seated in my mom's section. I huffed and got more comfortable, knowing I'd be there for a while. My mom had to lay it on thick sometimes to get extra tips. Judging by the way the two were dressed, though, they definitely could spare a couple more than the average tipper.
I dozed off in the chair. My mom flicked my air, startling me awake. She was smirking at me.
"Let's go," she laughed when I shoved her.
I stretched and followed her to the van, letting her know Larry gave me the okay to park behind the coffee shop.
"That was very nice of him," she said. When we got in, she sniffed a couple times. "What am I smelling? It must be from the restaurant...."
I wanted to tell her right away but I was too excited. When we finally parked, I hurried to the back and took the bag out.
"Close your eyes," I said and she obeyed. I opened the bag and set out the six croissants and four muffins. "Open them!"
She gasped. "Where did you get these?"
"Larry burned them a little yesterday," I said. "I know they're not perfect, but-"
She hugged me. "They are perfect, my angel. Let's have a decent breakfast tomorrow."
I grinned and hugged her, snuggling close.