down there

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Spending the rest of my morning at the school library, I used their computer to apply jobs online, print my resume and make a list of businesses that were hiring in person.

Armed with my resume, I went to every business establishment in and out of downtown. Whether they were in my list or not, I submitted my resume to them anyway.

It had been four hours of nonstop walking, filling out forms and questionnaires. I was exhausted and starving, discouraged from repeatedly hearing "I'm sorry, we're not hiring" and "We'll give you a call".

The pancakes I ate for breakfast were long digested hours ago. I should eat something, but I didn't want to waste what money I had left on food. I could wait till I get back to Caleb's apartment to eat.

I let out a sigh, almost tripping when the sole of my shoe started to fall apart.

Overwhelmed, I stared at the gaping space between my shoe. My throat felt thick and I felt an intense urge to scream at the joke that was my life.

It would be laughable if an old worn out shoe was the last straw that finally broke me.

When Mom was alive, she and I barely scraped by with our two incomes, but when her condition got worse and she had to quit her job, I had to take out a credit line on top of my school loans to keep a roof over our heads.

Eventually she had to stay in the hospital, and I decided to rent a bed space in a house with five other people to save money. Safe seemed a foreign concept in that house. I started carrying a pocketknife and kept my valuables in my school locker instead.

When Mom passed away, I saved as much as I could and moved out, renting an apartment close to the university where I was taking a two-year course in Culinary Arts.

The studio apartment might be as small as a postage stamp, the furniture old and second-hand, and the surrounding neighborhood rough.

But it was mine.

Everything in it I had worked hard to pay for. I had privacy. I didn't need to share the bathroom with anyone, didn't need to clean up someone else's mess, didn't need to worry every night that someone would steal my things or... something worse.

But all that was gone now.

Due to bankruptcy, the dance studio where I worked since high school had closed down without warning, leaving me broke since most of my income came from there. I also had a part-time job as a server at a small restaurant, but there was no way my hours there could pay for my bills. When my landlord kicked me out for failing to pay two months of rent, something broke inside me.

Then I met Caleb, and here I was.

When things became too rough to handle, Mom always had something to say to cheer us both. While she was wasting away in that hospital bed, I remembered the feel of her weak hands squeezing mine as she said, "Everything that happens in your life is to prepare you, Veronica. Metal has to go through fire to melt and turn into a sword. Be strong because this is just a test. You are being melted, being molded into a stronger person. This burning from the fire shall pass and you will find rest. Don't give up, honey."

Closing my eyes and taking deep breaths, I gave myself a moment to gather my composure. Life had taught me that it didn't wait for anyone. I had to move on. When I opened my eyes, I was ready to tackle the day.

It was late when I arrived at Caleb's apartment. I was exhausted but I had a huge grin on my face. It was a very productive day.

Opening the fridge, I wondered how fast I could make Caleb's dinner before he arrived and if I could slip in my bedroom before he saw me.

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