Beyond thin office wall
two voices stop me
as I unfold the futon. I almost see them:
in jeans and backwards baseball cap,
honey-hued Rita, her shy, gap-toothed smile;
and Lynn, slender, chiseled face, at 17 a mother,
herself unmothered foster kid.
A week ago – on New Year’s Eve –
Rita turned 21.
No talk of resolutions, but a cake,
a pink and white confection Lynn had bought,
one side damaged on its ride
to shelter in the stroller.
I smoothed the icing best I could
and found three candles.
“Two plus one make 21,” we giggled.
By chance tonight I eavesdrop.
Remembering why they’re here,
I crave to know what new beginnings bring.
In the next room Rita’s gentle voice recalls,
“He says, ‘Think about the good times, not the bad.’”
I hold my breath.
Over Lynn’s wistful sigh, Rita’s tone has steel in it.
“I say, ‘I got to think about the bad.’”
I turn out the light, wait sleep, and pray.
Susan Weaver assisted shelter residents for twelve years on staff at an agency for victims of domestic abuse. She writes free verse, tanka, and tanka prose, and is tanka prose editor for Ribbons, journal of the Tanka Society of America. She lives in Allentown, Pennsylvania.