As she sat in her usual seat, I watched her. The quick lunch with a glass of Chardonnay, the quilt of drinking and returning to her job, the breath mint to cover any telltale signs.  

Adrienne rarely displayed her emotions and lived a private life. She had few friends, and even her closest companions knew little about her past. But I knew everything, her painful struggles, and her losses. Wearily, I watched in fascination as she picked up the pieces of her life, time after time.

As a child, the girl lost her parents at such a young age she could barely remember them. Her parents died in a cross-country skiing accident in Colorado. The avalanche took her parents in an instant, and she soon moved in with her grandmother.

Over the years, she shared a happy life with her Gram. The woman doted on her granddaughter. The time the two spent together was a gift to Adri, and she treasured the grandmother who loved and adored her. Still, another life ended unexpectedly. When Gram passed, she took a piece of Adri’s heart with her. 

And my Adri became another young girl locked into a heartless system of bouncing from home to home. Her fragile life became a series of heartache, one catastrophe after another. Then it settled into a life she found tedious and boring, hence the Chardonnay to get her through the afternoon.

A market research analyst sounded exciting on paper; however, the tedious research on women and their needs and wants left her frustrated. Inwardly, she screamed, “We can do better.” It became her daily prayer. She wanted to chuck it all in a world of face creams, the latest body sculpting techniques, diet crazes, how-tos on makeup, and how successful women juggle families and careers. Still, she did have one favorite research topic: the wines of Napa Valley.

Today, after work, she rushed to the corner bar and grill and ordered her classic chef salad with the ranch on the side. From her research, she knew an oak-aged California Chardonnay would pair nicely with her lean meal and ordered accordingly. Next, she pulled her tablet from her Bottegga Veneta, a gift from a client, and continued her research on Lost Alabaster. The shoe giant wanted to know the latest on a woman’s desire for mid-top sneakers. Colors, styles…oh, she sarcastically thought, maybe throw in comfort and support just for fun!  

Sighing, she polished her drink and ordered another. She halfway picked at the salad. She pushed her favorite toppings to one side – the tomatoes, the homemade croutons, the pieces of boiled egg, the cubed cheddar, and small slices of grilled chicken. Always a picky eater, she learned to eat what was on her plate from her teenage years. Now she had the luxury to pick and choose, but old habits died hard. Three bites of the Romaine, one bite of cheddar, followed by the chicken. Three bites of Romaine, two bites of the croutons, after all, who could resist, followed by a cherry tomato. It would take a third glass to finish her meal.

Sighing, she shoved her plate from her and sipped on her third, or was it a fourth glass of wine? She decided to go with three; the one at lunch did not count. She wondered how her life had become so routine and uneventful.  

After her Gram died, she lived in a series of foster homes. While living in these shelters, coping skills kept her going. Strange eating habits, listening to music on headphones to drown out the sounds of “family.” Keeping emotions in check. Applying herself in school maintained a steady stream of excuses to stay away from her current dwelling. That’s probably how she became involved in market research. In foster homes, wifi and cell phones were a luxury she lacked. Adri didn’t mind; it gave her the necessary pretext to stay away from the life she abhorred. She spent hours at the library researching school projects on various history, English, and Science topics. She liked the distraction that kept her from dealing with the missing pieces of her life.  

At one home, she almost felt she belonged. Adri trusted her foster mom. Zoe tried to make her feel welcome. She never lied to her and even told her the truth. Money was tight, and she needed a roommate, ergo Adri. The two grew close, almost like sisters. One weekend the two binge-watched the entire series of Charmed and ate Ben and Jerry’s straight from the carton. Zoe was a faithful friend who ensured she had wifi for school, clean clothes, and decent meals, well, most of the time, anyway. She allowed Adri to bring home friends and talked to her about boys and birth control. At last, Adri felt she could actually inhale and breathe.

I was at her school the day when her social worker, Ana, arrived. The woman took her to the counselor’s office and methodically and rather coldly told her that Zoe had died on I-80 earlier that morning. The foster mom had been the victim of road rage, and while the shot was not meant for her, she had unknowingly driven into the line of fire. The shooter fled the scene in a silver Volvo or was it a Hyundai? No one glimpsed the driver’s face. Hell, no one even knew if the driver were female or male. Safe to say the shooter was still at large.

That night Adri slept in her first group home, the Kinship House. Two nights later, she woke to a frenzy of wails and screams. One girl in the dorm had slit her wrists and was rushed to the emergency room by ambulance. I watched as that girl recovered, and the girls at Kinship House did not.

A week later, against Adri’s wishes, Ana found her a new placement. A tired couple with grown children took the bewildered girl into their home. Adri’s latest family included two foster siblings, a 14-year-old boy named Isaak and a 12-year-old girl named Nevaeh.  

“I saved the lower bunk for you,” Nevaeh gushed.  

“Whatever,” sighed Adri as she hopped into the sanctity of the upper bunk. She slipped on her earphones and blasted some Wolf Alice:

She needs a lover to escape her father and mother

She hopes for some other way out of the hole

She’s overachieving, chasing her dreams

And coming down slowly, yeah, it’s out of control

I watched as she navigated life at the Clay residence. It was tolerable as long as she was home by curfew and did not complain about the endless stream of boxed mac and cheese. Still, East Oakland was not the safest place. After Isaak was knifed, the Oakland Tribune rushed an article about foster homes and safety. Social workers scrambled to find new homes for the children. Nevaeh went to a house somewhere in Eureka, Isaak to Stockton, and Adri landed with a young couple in Sausalito. 

The Canes were kind, but Adri kept them and everyone else in her life at a distance. Senior year stay on the path – apply for scholarships – no distractions – no commitments – no attachments – no more deadly situations. Did death really seem to follow her?

College at UC Berkley came and went. But, after a brief affair with a married college professor, Adri stayed on course with her mantra of zero involvement.  

After college, her business management degree landed her a place with Samuel, Inc. near North Point in San Franciso. Thus, her life of endless tedious research. “Life,” she laughed, could not become any more dreary.

On her days off, Adri made the most of her time. She decorated her apartment on Pierce. On the weekends, she rode her bike along the Presidio or visited the galleries or the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. San Francisco had really become her home.

But she knew she would eventually have to give it all up if she wanted to remain semi-sane. Her research gig paid the bills for her lifestyle, the apartment, the clothes, and the weekends in Napa, but she knew she would have to find another job soon. Life was too short to work from nine to whatever and chase after the empty ads of false promises and dreams.  

One day after scanning work sites, she read a job ad that caught her eye.

Save our planet! 

Wanted: Research Assistant for an upcoming global sustainable company. Pay

negotiable. Nice perks. Interested? 


She scanned the requirements and knew a pay cut would be in order for any save-the-world type of employment, but she sent in her resume anyway. Two days later, she received a call from the owner. It really was new and upcoming. His office was in a spare bedroom in his North Point apartment. Still, she agreed to meet him, not at his apartment but at a nearby pub. Her meeting was in two days.

Although she was nervous about the new prospect, she was also excited. I noticed she smiled a little more for the first time in a while. She laughed a little more and drank slightly less wine. I hoped the tide had turned. 

The night before her interview, Adri unexpectedly had to work late. As she finished her menial tasks, she couldn’t wait to leave. She wanted to get home, kick off her shoes, and sip on her favorite Zinfendal from the valley, another gift from a client.

​​After calling for a ride, she slipped on her Versace Sneakers and a light Moncler jacket. It had been a long day, heels were out, and it was dark; she laughed. Who would know? Grabbing her tote, she headed out of the office and took the stairs, not waiting for the elevator.

Once on the street, she lingered in front of the building for her ride. Watching from across the street, I smiled. Adri looked happy. Tomorrow was her interview, and I hoped her life would become more enjoyable for the young woman that had known so much heartache. Whistling, I walked to the corner, for I was still on the clock. This old soul enjoyed walking the streets of North Point in the evenings, something Adri and I had in common. 

Suddenly, I had been summoned. “Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!” I cried. I recognized the address. At full speed, I rushed to my next destination, and as I feared, Adri sprawled on the sidewalk. People were screaming; others called 911. A woman sat on the cold walk with Adri’s head in her lap. She uselessly pleaded with my girl to stay with her. But the bullet from the driveby found its mark. Senseless slaughter.

Taking Adri’s hand, the young woman looked up at me and asked, “Do I know you?’  

I smiled, “No, not really. We never formally met, but I have wandered in your life from time to time and marveled at your persistence to make it in your world.”

She gazed up at me, rightfully confused.

“Let me explain,” I continued. “I first met you when your parents passed. The next time we crossed paths was when Gram and Zoe died, a terrible tragedy. Then I was summoned twice again, once when the girl from Kinship House slit her wrists and again when Issak was stabbed. Thankfully, the two survived.”

I nervously laughed before I continued. “My career is rather bleak. I am summoned all hours of the day and night. I find my client and leave. After some time, you caught my attention; you were often present at my appointments. I watched as you mourned for your parents, grandmother, and friend. After those occasions, I watched over you, hoping your life would improve. But then, after the girl from Kinship house and then Issak, I worried. Plus, your job at Samuel was so insanely mortifying.” 

I rambled on, “And I will have you know I literally jumped for joy when you called Ron about the new job. You would have loved it!”

Sighing, I hung my head before I continued. “I was warned about getting attached to the people left behind, but here I am, my dear, mourning you like I would my own child if I were allowed to be a father.”

“Wait!” She screamed. “Am I…am I”  

“Dead?” He finished for her. “Yes, my child, I am afraid so.”

Writing Prompt:

For today’s prompt, write from the perspective of a guardian angel. Whether that’s a supernatural being or just an angel on Earth, let your creativity soar! 

Photo by Yomex Owo on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “Grim

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