Prejudice Meets Pride (Meet Your Match)

By: Rachael Anderson

For two precious angel babies,

Kajsa and Adelynn.

For their wonderful moms, Sarah and Lucy,

who have taught me what it means to be

strong, charitable, and fun.

For Kevin,

who never fails to make me smile.

And for Letha,

who I couldn’t have written this story without.

If Emma had a dollar for every time her life took an unexpected, not-so-great turn, she’d have enough money for a beachfront mansion in Maui. But life didn’t work like that, and in the world of beachfront mansions, she’d more likely be a scullery maid in someone else’s. Actually, she’d be the maid’s maid, since most people in the service industry probably had more money in their bank account than she did at the moment.

But, as her mother always said, “If life gives you lemons, heap on the sugar and make sweet lemonade.” If only those heaps of sugar weren’t so hard to come by, especially now, when Emma’s life had taken the most difficult turn yet.

She yanked hard on her gearshift, and the thirty-year-old Datsun lurched from third gear to second, jerking her to a slower speed. As she drove slowly down the quiet, suburban road, she peered through the early evening light, searching for house number 311.

When she spotted the numbers on a mailbox, Emma pulled next to the curb and killed her engine, then waited for the puttering to stop. She would have parked in the driveway if Sunshine didn’t leak oil. But at least it still ran, at least it had gotten her and the girls from Ohio to Colorado, and at least the mustard yellow paint sort of masked the rust.

Through the dimming light, Emma looked at the house. Her house. Situated in a nice little neighborhood on the outskirts of Colorado Springs, it stood out like a weed in a flowerbed compared to the other well-kept homes on the street. Dandelions thrived in what appeared to be dead grass, paint peeled on both the garage and the front door, and cobwebs covered the corners of the windows. It looked pitifully tired and rundown, as though ready to be put out of its misery by the real estate version of euthanasia.

But Emma didn’t believe in euthanasia. She believed in fixing things up and wearing them out. Making them do or doing without. She believed in second chances, which was exactly what she’d give this home—just as soon as she found a job and replenished her bank account.

Easy peasy, she tried to tell herself as she glanced over her shoulder at the two sleeping girls in the back seat. Her beautiful nieces were now her responsibility—at least for the next year. How she planned to do it remained a mystery, but Emma would find a way. She always did.

She reached her arm over the seat and nudged one of the girls. “Kajsa, time to wake up. We’re here.” Two large blue eyes peeked up from under the brim of a brown cowgirl hat that had gone askew, only to disappear behind thick, light-brown lashes. Emma gave her another nudge. “Kajsa, don’t you want to see our new house and your new room?”

The little girl’s small mouth opened into a yawn, revealing a large gap where her two baby teeth had once been. At nearly six-and-a-half years old, the permanent teeth had begun to take over. “We’re finally here?” Her eyes lost their sleepiness, and a large smile replaced the yawn.

After a long two-day drive from her brother’s former residence in Ohio, Emma could understand the feeling. They were finally to the place they could start calling home. At least for now.

“C’mon, get your stuff,” said Emma. “I’ll carry Adi inside.” Although Adelynn was only fourteen months younger than Kajsa, she was more prone to temper tantrums, especially when tired, so Emma didn’t dare wake her. Not yet anyway.

Emma stepped from the car and stretched her arms behind her back, loosening the muscles in her aching shoulders and back. The late afternoon August heat closed around her like a too-hot electric blanket. She hoped the house had air conditioning, or at least a swamp cooler. The back door squeaked as she pulled it open to help Kajsa gather her stuff. Then she carefully lifted Adelynn, who seemed to have gained ten pounds since yesterday.

Kicking the car door closed behind them, Emma made her way to the front porch, realizing too late that she probably should have unlocked the door before getting Adelynn. Awkwardly, she fished through her purse with one hand, her fingers finally closing around her keys. She shoved the key in the lock and gave it a hard turn, praying that it would work and that a couch would be waiting on the other side of the door to relieve her of her load. The lock stuck for a moment, then turned.