“It was awesome talking to Travis, wasn’t it, Mom?”
Keisha Jackson laid the phone on the table and swiped at her eyes with the back of her hand. Then she noticed the paper that the phone rested on. She quickly stuffed it into her over-sized purse and plastered a smile on her face before turning to her daughter.
“Yeah, sweetie, it’s always nice to catch up with him and Mr. Bill.”
She only had another half an hour or so until Breeann’s bedtime. Then she could once more try to come up with some solution to the mountain of problems than got bigger by the day, sometimes the moment.
“Did you get all your schoolwork done?”
Though Bree no longer attended classes, the school continued to send assignments for her to complete. Of course, she had no idea how that would work when…
But she could not think about that for another twenty-nine minutes.
“Yeah, it was easy,” her Angel smiled.
She had to hold onto that, the hope and tranquility in those smiles. She had to remember that she had been through this all before. She had been homeless and pregnant when her father kicked her out. Yet, she had managed to have her baby and build a half-decent life for them.
She knew that she was not alone. That millions of others faced the same issues of unemployment and eviction. And so far, at least, they had avoided the absolute worst.
“Okay, do you need any help getting ready for bed?”
At thirteen and after a lifetime of physical and occupational therapy, Bree was able to do the essential things for herself. Keisha still sometimes helped with bathing and especially washing, combing, and styling her daughter’s hair. But things like washing up, brushing her teeth, and usually changing into her nightgown, Bree had begun to master herself.
Not that she considered any of it a burden. Despite the challenges of being a single parent to a special needs child, Keisha felt incredibly blessed to have this little person in her life. Not even this situation could change that.
“No, Mom, I can manage on my own tonight.”
“Okay, then, but call me if you need me. I’m just gonna wash up the dinner dishes, and I’ll be in to say good night.”
Key-Key felt like her face was going to break. She had worn that same fake smile for so long. Real ones were hard to come by in her life. And most centered on her Angel.
As Bree turned her wheelchair, Keisha noticed that her child’s toes caught on the corner of the couch. Breeann was getting too big for this one. And while her Medicaid covered most of the cost, it was still the time, hassle, and energy of another battle that she faced. Right now, it seemed battles were raging on all sides.
Bree stopped in the narrow hallway, “Mom, it’ll be right.”
Keisha’s voice shook, and that smile hurt her face, but still, she nodded. “Yeah, baby, it will.”
She waited until she heard the door to the bathroom close before she collapsed into the chair. She reached for her handbag and pulled out that piece of paper. Another notice of past due rent. Three-thousand dollars. Almost four-months behind.
Even though she had been making partial payments for six-months, she knew that her landlords were getting anxious. She could not blame them. They were a retired couple, who depended upon the rental income from the two-dozen apartments in the building, to pay their bills.
Keisha knew that they could not evict her. Even if their need for the money overcame their soft spot for her daughter, Georgia’s moratorium on evictions did not expire until the new year. But she was not being fair to them. Honestly, she was so far behind at this point that she would be making installments on the arrears when Breeann graduated high school.
And with this latest…
There was just no way. Without a job, living only on Bree’s SSI? It was not even enough to pay for electricity, gas, phone, and food. Let alone even a token towards their rent.
She could not blame her boss, either. Dr. Maywood had been more than generous. In the beginning, she had approved Keisha’s request for extended family leave. And once that had expired, she had allowed her to do what work she could from home, but that had meant fewer hours and less money coming in. The reality was that the woman needed someone in the office, at the front desk, and to take calls. And yes, do an initial screening of patients.
But even with masks and gowns, that was not without risk. And with Bree’s cerebral palsy…
Besides, the school had already said they could not provide an adequate environment for her daughter in these circumstances…
These were not bad people or greedy corporations. They were all just like her. Good people just trying to get by in a terrible situation. Heck, she knew that Dr. Maywood had kept her on longer than the woman could afford. One of those duties the woman had created for her distance work was taking over the bookkeeping when she let the accountant go to cut expenses. The woman simply could not afford to continue to pay her.
Sure, with a new administration, perhaps there would be a new stimulus package. Maybe she could even qualify for unemployment, though that was unlikely, given her situation. Even then, it was unlikely to be enough or to come in time to save them from the double whammy of unemployment and homelessness.
Shelters were not much of an option this time, either. Even if she could find one of the precious few places for women and families, such places’ communal living conditions were practically as risky as going back to work.
The reality that she had been battling for months was living on the streets. In her car. With her daughter that needed special care. Keisha’s chest tightened at the thought of the alternative. Turning her daughter over to social services. But even that was problematic. Would they be able to find a foster home capable of handling Bree’s unique needs? Or would her daughter end up in a group home? Facing the same health risks.
Looking at that sheet of paper, her fingers trembling with the enormity of the situation. Key-Key allowed a couple of tears to escape. “Oh, Bryan, what are we going to do?” Talking to her best friend and the father of her daughter, who had been dead for fourteen years, was as close as she came to prayer.