Collapsing in front the biggest department store in the city on one of the busiest days of the holiday season was not how Giselle imagined her day. Cold and hungry, she trudged through her daily existence wondering if she'd ever find happiness again.
Teenagers. Ethan loved working with them and turning their raw musical talent into something beautiful and rewarding, but that didn't fill the black void in his soul.
Like fate, the songwriters' muse nudged Giselle and Ethan together. But can Giselle overcome her fears and can Ethan get past the darkness that surrounds him, so they can find love?
Rock bottom is hard. And I'd smashed up against it. Bruised not only my pride, but also my body. Guess that's what happens when you haven't eaten in a few days and pass out on the sidewalk in front of the largest department store witnessed by hundreds of Christmas shoppers. And all of them with cell phones recording another titillating moment in the biggest city in the country. Yeah, it just wasn't my day.
Tears stung my eyes as I shifted to my hands and knees while watching feet scurry past. I didn't look up. Didn't want to see their faces. The judgmental disdain and embarrassment was etched into their frosty red cheeks. Their sanctimonious scorn of myself and the condition to which I'd sunk. Their chagrin from not being willing to help and of desperately trying to pretend I was invisible.
Icy droplets fell from the sky, settling on my neck. It wasn't quite snow, but was no longer rain. And it was a raw cold right through to my core. I pushed up to standing, brushing away the frigid sleet from my arms and legs. I pressed my scraped palm against my hip to stop the bleeding, then checked my bag. It and its contents seemed all right. Yes, my existence has been reduced to having pretty much everything I own in a bag or two.
My life wasn't always like this. How I got here doesn't matter. Another sad sob story. A cruel twist of fate. A dream shattered. I could go on using a dozen more clichés, but I'm pretty sure you get the idea.
So again, I say, hitting rock bottom is hard. And, I might add, it sucks.
Three well-dressed ladies scooted past me, bundled in warm coats, scarves and high-heeled boots. Each holding a large takeout cup from the high-end coffee shop just up the block. Hazelnut. The smell tickled my nose. Probably a cappuccino. My stomach rumbled. My head swayed. I inhaled a deep breath and steadied myself.
A police officer strode toward me. His brow creased. Was he worried about my collapsing on the sidewalk? Or was he concerned for the Christmas shoppers, having their joyous holiday spending frenzy interrupted by the pitiful sight of me?
Turns out it was my second guess. He held my elbow and directed me to move along as he steered me toward a side street. I protested saying—or rather, lying—that I'd slipped and fallen. But after a quick scan of my unkempt appearance, I knew that he knew I wasn't being totally honest.
He pointed down the side street, Prospect Avenue, and told me about a soup kitchen that was a couple of blocks up behind a large stone church. He smiled, rubbed his stomach, then told me the aroma had been very tempting when he passed by earlier in his shift.
I offered up a grateful smile and hobbled on partially frozen feet in the direction of my first meal in two days. I walked along dreaming about hot chicken noodle soup. Warm broth slipping over my tongue and down into the cavern that was my stomach. Floppy noodles trying to slip off my spoon, but with a quick slurp I'd catch them all.
Little round green peas nestled in a spoon next to a piece of actual, honest to goodness chicken. The thought of the aroma made me lick my dry, chapped lips in anticipation. Or maybe it would be beef vegetable. A dark, rich broth filled with colorful vegetables. My stomach was torn between protesting its emptiness and celebrating the future meal.
Have I mentioned that fate's a bitch? As I neared the church, the fantasy aroma of soup morphed into the stench of charred wood and acrid smoke. I passed the church and stumbled to a stop. The soup kitchen had burned to the ground. Twenty or so people stood around, either hugging each other or staring numbly at the destruction.
Always trying to look for a silver lining, I edged closer to the ruins, hoping to absorb a bit of radiated heat. A fireman gently cut me off and directed me back to the sidewalk. I wandered to a couple of different locations, but each time a fireman was there, just as efficient at protecting the general public. Sometimes I despise efficiency.
I heaved a reluctant sigh. Lunch was gone. And no hope of one tomorrow. I turned to my right, then reversed to my left. Blinking, I rubbed my forehead. Every street looked exactly the same—big, red brick homes with Christmas decorations. I had no idea where I was and when I tried to find the street I had just walked down, it was like it had disappeared into another dimension.
Does hunger cause hallucinations? I'll have to do a search on that once I have money…and a smart phone…and a chocolate éclair in my hand with one waiting on a gold-rimmed plate. I stumbled, but caught myself. I really must try to stay here—in this reality. Where had that street gone? Prosperous Street. Or was it Proposal Road? I'd only lived in the city for a few months and still had a lot to learn about the roads, boroughs and subway lines.