Marlyne’s appointment with the unemployment agency was about thirty minutes away, and she was cutting through The Mall’s parking lot to get there. The parking lot was practically empty, which was understandable because most mall stores were still closed. The Mall, yes, is the name of the largest mall in Mulch, and when Covid-19 hit this city, it remained open.

“Oh Lord, what am I going to do?” Marlyne prayed, “Please help me.”

She frowned at the unwanted tears lurking in her eyes, lifted her head, and blinked them away. When she looked down again, a role of money was a few steps away. Marlyne quickened her steps, and after picking up the money, she looked around her. No one was looking at her, and she slipped the money into her black and white coat pocket.

She made her way to the washroom in the mall and, standing with her shoulder bracing the door, took the money out of the red rubberband and counted it. It was three hundred and fifty dollars.

“Thank you, Lord, thank you,” Marlyne prayed, and she did not fight the tears this time.

After washing and drying her face at the sink a few minutes later, she left the washroom, singing.

She made it to the employment agency on time and left with a job placement as a dishwasher at Ricky’s, a popular restaurant about twenty minutes bus ride away from her home.

“O Lord,” she prayed as she walked, “thank you. Now I can pay for Mom to be at least one more month in that retirement place. Also, if this job works out, she should return home by next month.”

Marlyne, dressed in black jeans and a hooded coat, retraced her steps through the parking lot. Most, if not all, of the stores in The Mall were now open, which was reflected by the increase in vehicles in the parking lot.

After waiting for a Hummer to drive past, Marlyne jogged to the other side of the lot. She lifted her eyes and saw someone resting their arms and head on a red hatchback, and by how the person’s body was shaking, Marlyne assumed the person was crying.

She walked past the person but seconds later returned to ask, “Are you okay?”

It took the person several seconds to respond, and as she dried her face, Marlyne could see that she was in her mid-twenties, just like her. She wore a black Nike hat, blue jeans and a grey coat. Her brown eyes were red and puffy from crying.

“I’m fine, thanks.”

“Are you sure?” Marlyne asked.

“I lost my rent money,” she blurted after studying Marlyne’s face for a few seconds.

“Your… your money?”

“Yes,” she said, turning and looking around the parking lot.

She lifted her arms in a helpless gesture.

“Two of my friend and I are renting a house,” she said, sniffling her cold, “it’s a beautiful house, reasonable rent and located in the heart of everything.”

Marlyne nodded as she fought the urge to run.

“Our landlord is nice, but we’re out if we don’t have all his money by rent day. No joke.”

Her voice broke.

“I work full-time, but my boss only pays by cheque, so I came to the bank here to deposit my cheque and take out my part of the rent, which is three-fifty. I have a habit of putting my cash in rubberbands, and I’ve never lost them.”

Marlyne’s heart skipped a beat before it sunk.

“Somehow, I lost it between leaving the bank and getting to my car. I’ve retraced all my steps but can’t find it. I don’t know what to do,” she said, tears running down her face.

Marlyne had transferred the money into her pants pocket, but now she pulled it out and held it out, “is this what you lost?”

The woman’s eyes grew big, and her mouth fell open, and she snatched the money out of her hand and hugged her.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she exclaimed.

Several minutes later, after exchanging phone numbers and the promise to have lunch on Saturday, she made her way home to her apartment.

“O Lord,” she cried after closing the door, “what now? Why didn’t I walk the long way around? Finders keepers, right?”

She dropped down into the dark grey upholstered rocking chair.

“What am I saying?”

She cried.

Her cell phone rang on the chair arm, and through her tears, she could see that it was the retirement home. She wanted to let it go to voice mail, but something could be wrong with her mom, so she answered it.

Several minutes later, she was still sitting in the rocking chair, but this time, she was laughing.

The secretary at the retirement home called to tell her that the government had just approved some money for the retirement home, so her mom was covered for the next three months if she needed it.

“O Lord, thank you,” she said, still laughing.

The End

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