Missy Twist

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Sometimes our guardian angels show up in unlikely places

Submitted: July 08, 2016

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Submitted: July 08, 2016

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Missy Twist

 
 
She entered the store during the peak period of traffic, right after the high school across the road ended its classes for the day. It was filled with kids, teenagers, hungry and thirsty, flocking inside to buy an after school snack. Head down, she pushed her way through the crowd, edging along almost up against the shelves stocked full of junk food, chips, crackers, bags of candy, nuts.
 
But this wasn't what she needed, when she rounded the corner after making her way through the first aisle of kids, she found herself facing a platform full of microwaveable sandwiches, the display completed with the microwave sitting in its center. Now these would do just fine, something more substantial than a bag of chips. There were a few teens in line, holding a micro sub or burger and waiting to give it a nuke, but she didn't plan on sticking around for a turn.
 
Hurriedly, but with her eyes darting everywhere, she picked up and pocketed several of the half frozen plastic wrapped sandwiches, pushing them down into the bottom of her trench coat pockets, piling them in on both sides. She saw one of the boys watching her with a bemused look on his face, and it startled her enough to make her drop one of them onto the floor, which brought on the attention of some other kids.
 
She bent down to pick it up, and was turning to put it back when she felt the firm grip of someone definitely bigger and stronger than her on the back of her arm.
 
It gave her quite a start to look up and see the blue uniform of a cop on the man who grabbed her arm, and behind him there were two more, plus there she was, that woman again. Why don't they just leave us alone, she wondered. 
 
Seeing the woman with them, she knew what it was all about though, and she wasn't being arrested for stealing some sandwiches. The cops walked her out of the store, the woman trailing behind, and the groups of kids would fall silent as they walked by, then burst back into excited chatter after they passed by.
 
They brought her to a waiting squad car and pushed her inside, into the back seat, alone.  As she was sitting there, locked inside the cruiser, the kid who had been watching her pocket the sandwiches sauntered over to the car and leaned down to peer inside at her. He was making little circling motions and hand to ear movements, and it dawned on her that he wanted her to give him a phone number! Now that was something, she mused. And she would have done it, but you can't do what you don't have. Still, it gave her a warm feeling inside to know that through it all, and even now, living the life that she and Keri were in, she must still look good enough to be noticed. It didn't matter, or mean anything, but it was something, and she felt a little bit special for just a moment again.
 
Maybe it was all wrong though, and maybe she should just stop, give in and give up, bring her little sister down to a police station and let the woman come take her away, put her in some children's home and keep her there until she turned eighteen. The little girl was only four now, and that would be a hell of a long time to be imprisoned, especially for doing nothing wrong.
 
No, she had to keep trying, had to keep surviving, had to keep making it, so that they would always be together, forever and ever. It was a promise she made over and over to little Keri, when nightfall came, no matter where they were laying their heads at that night, the little girl would always beg her to never ever leave her, and she always promised she never would. She would do her best to keep them together until the day she died. It was a vow she made with her most serious of intentions. Do or die.
 
And it hurt, her life, her sister's life, the way it was, how it happened. So unfair. One minute you're just another kid enjoying your high school years, living in a nice house with your family, your mom and your dad, your baby sister, and then in one instant the whole world is turned upside down and falls apart. That's what happened the night the fire came. The night they died. Mom, dad, gone forever, burned alive in the blazing house, and her, even then being the hero, had come stumbling out through a back door choking and coughing, in her pj's, carrying little Keri in her arms, running across the lawn and handing the bawling little child to a fireman before collapsing unconscious onto the ground.
All of the relatives had come then, and for a while things were just one big blur, and she'd found herself living with a local uncle and aunt. They had just barely begun to settle in, just a little bit, when she overheard them talking to the woman, the same one who stood out near the store entrance talking on her cell phone.
 
She heard her uncle saying they could keep them, but they didn't want to keep them, didn't want the responsibility, didn't need the headache, so the woman was supposed to find little Keri a home, and take her to a children's home of sorts, or the juvenile hall, as if she'd done something wrong. That was the night it had begun, the stand she decided to make, the promise and the pact. She'd grabbed what few clothes she could put into a duffel bag, a few for her sister, and the bit of money she had stashed, and lifted her sleeping little sibling onto her shoulder, walking away into the darkness, into the city night.
 
That first night she'd just walked, and walked, and walked some more. By early morning she had made her way from the suburbs down into the seedy part of the downtown area, but back then, she had no idea what or where anything or any place meant. She'd found a motel of sorts, followed the flashing neon arrow inside, and paid just twenty dollars to the clerk behind his bulletproof glassed office. He'd given her a rather worn out old skeleton key, pointed her down the hallway, and she'd carried little Keri along with her into their first home of their own, a single room dive down in the area of the city known as beggar's alley. Home, sweet home.
 
The first days and nights were the hardest, she'd known nothing about living out on her own, and had no idea how to do so, let alone with her baby sister in tow. Adding to the whole situation was the matter of where she was and the environment they found themselves in, and it hadn't looked very promising.
 
She realized now, though, that she had actually been quite lucky to have found herself right where they were, in that dirty little room, down that long, dimly lit hall. Because she'd needed someone to help her, guide her, and she'd found that person because of being there, right across the hall. She'd found Missy Twist, and if she hadn't, they would have been back at their uncle's doorstep in three days, ready to be split up and tossed away into the child care system of the state. She'd needed a friend, and the woman had been there. It was the first good thing to happen to them since the night their parents had died.
 
The problem with these little rooms, besides the things like being cold in the winter and hot in the summer, aside from the peeling paint and the paper thin, dirty worn carpeting, the squeaky bed springs and the thin, rock hard mattress, was the fact that there was nowhere to go to the bathroom. There wasn't one. At first, she had held herself, for an hour, then two, but when Keri woke up and needed to go, she knew she had to do something, find a public place to use or a can, or something. That's when they heard the door knock.
 
Knowing no one, and not expecting anyone to come calling, she had been more than a little bit afraid, but she'd had Keri lie hidden under the blanket on the bed, and holding a screwdriver behind her back, she had nervously, reluctantly, edged the door open a crack. Being only five three, it was fairly unusual for her to look downward when meeting someone, but that's what she had to do in order to look into the face of their caller, Missy Twist. The extra short, extra stocky old woman came barreling into the room, almost as if she was marching, and maybe she was, to the beat of a different drum, her own.
 
She was loud and boisterous, but her face held a big warm smile, and adding to that smile, the twisted gray and white long locks of hair she had sprouting out every which way made her look like a cheerful happy human butterball, and her demeanor of outspoken kindness soon made them both feel at ease. When she found that Keri was happily bouncing on the old lady's chubby midsection, cooing and babbling away happily, she too began to feel a happiness inside. Maybe this old woman was the answer to her prayers last night, she hoped. And she was, as it turned out to be, she was. There became moments in time when she could almost swear the old woman had a halo glowing around her wild locks of hair, and a pair of gossamer white wings seemed to flit just out of sight behind her when they walked together. She was surely her guardian angel.
 
Not only did Missy show them down the long hall to the bathrooms, she introduced the two of them to her neighbors on either side of her, both old and senile gentlemen in their eighties, but both polite and happy to assist if they ever could.
Missy Twist took the two of them under her wing, so to speak, and they became the children she never had the opportunity to bear, but always longed for. And the girls, in this time of need, gladly embraced the old woman's kindness and aid. Even in the slum, amid the scum, friendship and kindness can be found, and it may be harder to come by than it is in other parts of the city, but find it here, and it means a whole lot more, because sometimes, it's all that there is.
 
She felt so comfortable and free with Missy that she divulged their whole story, and was a bit shocked to see the old lady weeping and swiping away tears. So then and there, Missy too had made her own vow, that she would always be here for the two of them, and together the three of them would live a good life.
 
The old lady had taken her into the downtown streets, block after block, alleyway after alleyway, and she had steadily taught her the street life. Missy hadn't  been renting the motel room more than a year, she had been living on these same streets for most of her entire life, and she was somewhat of a living legend, definitely an expert in homeless survival.
 
She quickly brought the girl to where the most lucrative places to panhandle were, showed her the many neighborhood food shelves and free meal centers, the free medical clinics, the libraries to hang out in and the best stores to browse in and waste away the day. She taught the young girl the maze of the complicated downtown sky way system, so she could maneuver from one city block street corner, then disappear through the buildings to reappear minutes later ten blocks away on another.
 
She also showed the girl where to find the best throw away food and which restaurants were worth waiting outside in the cold for, and which ones were not. And she also taught her how to shoplift, an art form in itself, and one which she came to be quite good at.
 
The always lingering feeling of anxiety though, which follows every street person like their own shadow, is something which each has to find their own way to deal with. No manner of teaching could show her how to lose that fear, and it never did disappear, but then, it was never supposed to, because being on the edge was what kept a person from dying out here. And that edgy feeling always became heightened, like a sixth sense, whenever danger lurked, usually in the form of some young street toughs or older winos and pan handlers. After all, she was a young, very good looking young woman, and her having a child with her made no difference in the slightest to anyone who survived on the mean streets of the city. 
 
Givers and takers, only the strong survive, that was the new world which she had fled to in order to keep them together, but was it still worth it? Yes, it was.
 
It had been the beginning of the bad times when Missy Twist started to get sick. Not just sick, but every day, unable to get out and go along sick. So she would stay back in her motel room, babysitting little Keri, sitting with the little girl on her lap, watching the black and white television's all day cartoon channel. She took good care of the little one, made sure she had something to eat, got to the toilet when needed, and took her nap.
 
But it all fell on her shoulders then, the everyday challenge, often struggle, to find some way to make a few dollars to put toward the next week's room rental. Then, on to the next necessity of everyday life, finding and bringing home food for the three of them. She had feigned being sick to get a spot in the clinic line, and after wasting half of the day waiting, she was finally seen by a nurse in training, who gave her some cold medicine and a bottle of antibiotics. It wasn't much, but it was something to bring home to Missy, and she hoped it would help. But it didn't.
 
And right now, sitting in the back of this squad car, waiting to be taken wherever they were going to take her, she truly felt stupid for even coming here, here to this store across from her old school, for no reason at all other than to feel a few fond memories of her former normal life....  And also because she had remembered how easy it would be to stack up a whole lot of food from the old convenience store.
 
The squad's front doors opened and shut, and a patrol officer sat in the driver's seat, the woman in the other. She tried to make small talk with the girl, but the girl remained silent, giving no hint or clue of where she had been living for the past year, or where her little sister was now.
 
The woman first tried the friendly tactic, laying it on thick, how much she worried and cared about the both of them, and how great the homes were that she had waiting for the two of them, all of the advantages and great things that she would be getting. All she needed to do was take them to her sister and then they would all head off to start their brand new wonderful lives. The girl didn't budge, she remained silent.
 
So, it looked like they would have to play hardball, strange to see how someone who was only a year into the street life had already become so tough. They drove to the main juvenile center, and brought her inside, locked her into a cell. She did start to freak, not knowing when or if she would be getting out of here, and knowing that her sister and the old lady would be wondering and worrying, thinking the worst.
 
They came and took her to an open room, with a table and chairs, a couple of windows were open, and the sight of a few kids playing basketball inside a fenced in court did nothing to cheer her up, but something else did. The open windows.
It didn't take her long to figure out the whole plan, where to jump, where to run from, where to exit, and from there she would be back into the streets again, at home, going home.
 
The second the woman left the room, as soon as the door clicked shut, she was up and out the window, down the sidewalks and over the fences. In minutes she was travelling through alleys she knew, and before long was right back in her neighborhood. The best thing of all, the sandwiches she had stolen were somehow still all mashed down inside her coat pockets, ready to be warmed by Missy's big flat iron. 
 
As soon as she entered the hallway, she knew something was wrong. In the  hallway near where they lived, both of the old men were outside of their rooms, standing in front of Missy Twist's open door. She rushed down the hall and turned into the room, almost falling when Keri jumped into her arms, sobbing pitifully.
 
Missy Twist lay dead, a slight smile on her face and for the first time since she'd seen her, the old lady looked relaxed. Laying on her lap was a rumpled piece of paper, and drawn on it in crayon was a crude picture of the city. The inner circle said Bad side, and the outer ring of the city said Good side, the side of life. At the bottom of the page Missy had scrawled Please take her there. You both deserve better. For me.
 
She remembered walking up to her uncle's house late that night, and banging on the door over and over, waiting until she saw lights coming on inside. She had held Keri tightly to her, and whispered how much she loved the little girl, then sat her down on the top step, jumped down off the porch, and ran off into the night. Long ago, so long ago. She'd returned to the motel, to the same seedy old room, and she'd kept living the life Missy Twist had shown her how to live, the life of a survivor, a survivor of the streets.
 
Over the years, the neighbors came and went, died or moved in and out, but she remained in her room, the same room she had found that first night the two of them had been on their own, Keri and her. Must have been almost sixty years ago, she sighed. Tired, she was just tired. She only had one wish, but she had never fulfilled it, never would. She had always wanted to find her sister, just to see if she had become the success she knew she would be. But it was way too late in life now, Keri would be in her sixties herself, and it would be highly unlikely she would even remember her big sister Bree.
 
She pulled the Mercedes up to the curb and stepped out. It seemed as if the entire neighborhood, if you could call it one, was frozen, all looking at the well dressed rich woman in the Mercedes Benz who had just pulled up and parked in front of the shittiest live in motel down here in the bum's area of town, downtown.
 
When she pulled open the entrance door, and passed by the sleazy looking guy behind the bulletproof desk, it all started to come back to her even stronger. After taking one step down that dimly lit hallway, she knew she was right here, right where she was supposed to be. She was coming finally coming home.
 
For a long time, she just stood in the doorway, staring down at the woman who lay slumped on top of the thin mattress which rested on its rusty old bed frame. She knew it was her, it was Bree, but the long twists of hair flowing every which way had confused her for a moment, bringing back the memory of another kind spirit, the fleeting glimpse of Missy Twist flashed through her mind before bringing her back to the present, and the sight of her sister lying prone on the tiny cot, barely breathing. She bent down and took an old wrinkled hand into her own, and as she did the woman stirred, and Bree opened her eyes, looking straight up into the face of her sister, sixty years older but still to her, she was her little girl.
 
So after all, her last wish had come true, and the sight of her Keri, the tailor made clothing, the jewelry, the lingering smell of her fancy perfume, it all left a satisfying feeling of happiness way down deep in her soul.
 
Even when Keri's face began to fade away, and her bejeweled fingers let go of Bree's old wrinkled hand, it didn't matter one bit to her. Even better, she felt another hand from another place slowly gripping and lifting her back up, and that hand belonged to someone with hair swirling everywhere in long curling clumps, a short and stout little woman, a woman who was once named Missy Twist. And this time, the halo she had so often imagined shone brightly as it encircled the beaming woman's face, and the silky white gossamer wings were real, moving ever so softly through the air as she lifted Bree up out of this world and into the next.


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