Even though Rita knows that life has its ups and downs, she still wishes she could change her circumstances. So far, Fate has left her to live with her grandparents full-time with occasional visits from her mother, Coral, that are never quite enough to quell Rita’s sadness. Rita just wants some semblance of a normal existence, but when her grandmother passes suddenly, she has no idea just how drastically her life is about to change.
Now stuck in the care of her once beautiful mother, who has declined into a walking disaster, Rita attempts to sort through her grief and dysfunctional situation, with the help of prayer. In the meantime, Coral moves them from place to place, as she searches for a man she hopes can save them all. When her mother becomes pregnant, Rita mistakenly thinks her prayers have been answered once her baby brother, Toby, arrives in the world. A series of bad choices then causes her family to become homeless and lead a nomadic existence that eventually lands them in Nevada, where Rita is happy that her life seems like it might finally begin to settle down—until the unexpected happens.
A Circumstantial Chance is the poignant story of a young girl who must rise above seemingly insurmountable obstacles and find comfort and hope in God’s love and grace
Immediately after looking out our window and noticing the moldering pool, I caught my first glimpse of a cockroach, as it skittered across the sill, next to where I had just stood. The very sight of such vermin, that was supposed to indicate filth and decay, in addition to our unsavory view of the unkempt pool, made me feel scummy and unclean, even before we actually spent the night there. Now that I was aware that the shelter had an infestation of bugs, this definitely did not make me feel any better about having to stay in such a rundown place, on top of the fact that the staff who worked there, were very uncaring. Everyone I had encountered so far seemed very rude, and even made snide remarks aloud, clearly unconcerned if they were overheard. I did not necessarily like this, but could do nothing to stop it, since I was just a kid.
All that I knew right then, was that I was just grateful to be off the street, no matter the circumstance. However, our stay at the shelter was thankfully brief, although not entirely at our own choosing. The next morning after our arrival, after spending a restless night in the bug-infested room, my mom’s growing resentment of the workers continued inconsiderateness, coupled with the questionable surroundings, finally boiled over.
The moment we got up, after such a tumultuous night, we were already aware of the fact that the breakfast meal service was almost over, and did not need reminded of this. My mom had always had a difficult time being on time for anything or keeping to a schedule her entire life. This was not intentional, as my mom always did her best to try to follow the rules, but could not change this behavior overnight.
We had slept in our clothes, so it did not take long for us to get ready to go and hustle down to the dining area. When we got there, the cafeteria staff had almost finished serving the breakfast meal, and was busy starting the clean up. Seeing this, Mom hastily sat my brother and me down, at a table fairly close to the serving area. As soon as my mom got us kids settled, she then raced over and stood in what remained of the meal line, and waited to be served.
By the time, my mom reached the counter and it was her turn to have what was left of breakfast dished up, she immediately got into it with one of the kitchen staff over the food. In the blink of an eye, the next thing I knew, my mom came rushing back over to our table, and snatched up us kids from where we sat.
My mom clearly was in a panic, as she ushered us back to our room in a frenzied state, without anyone having eaten any breakfast. I was still hungry and my mom’s agitation confused me, but she did not allow me to stop her and ask any questions. Thankfully, it did not take us long to reach our room, and as soon as we got there, Mom looked fiercely over at me and barked instructions to start packing up our stuff. Still unsure of what was happening, I hesitantly began to do as asked.
After what seemed like mere seconds to me, I had just barely managed to put a few items into the trash bag I had found, when my mom suddenly grabbed the plastic sack from my grasp, and started stuffing our things into it at random herself. Obviously, I must have been taking too long gathering our things and my mom felt she could do it much faster.
My mom’s actions had rattled me so badly, that I abruptly sat down on the closest bed, and froze in place, as I numbly watched what she was doing. At that moment, my mom was too busy to notice me, as she haphazardly jammed both dirty and clean clothing all together, along with some other assorted items, into the black plastic sacks she now held in her hands.
An instant later, my brother let out a loud shriek before beginning to howl, and I briefly snapped out of my dumbfounded state. After hearing Toby’s loud cries, I focused my attention on where I had laid him on the bed next to me, but still could not quite rouse myself into action. However, the sound of crying drew my mom’s attention back to me, and jarred her out of her state of single-minded purpose.
At the sight of my inactivity, Mom abruptly pursed her lips together irritably, and then looked at me appraisingly for a minute or two, before taking deep breath. A few seconds later, my mom then briefly informed me, in a much calmer tone than she had used earlier, “Rita, we have to leave right now. I don’t have much time to explain, but these people here are planning to take you kids away from me.” The moment I heard my mom speak these words, their meaning hit me like a physical blow, and I suddenly sprang into action.
I already knew what “taken away” meant, and that I would end up in a foster home. I had already had the opportunity to contemplate what a foster home would be like, since my mom had regularly threatened to put me there over the years, any time I misbehaved. Fortunately, I had figured out that my mom would never do this to me, and that most of the time this had been a hollow threat. However, now it had nothing to do with my mom, and I would have no control over this.
As the impact of my mom’s words sunk in, a sensation of unreality washed over me and jolted me out of my dazed and frozen state. I did not want to be in a foster home. Foster homes were horrible places where kids got hurt. My mom had told me this on numerous occasions, also mentioning that most foster parents used the foster kids as slaves or raped them. As far as I was concerned, I had no interest in being anyone’s slave or raped.
Now that I had been jarred from my stupor, I hastily got moving and took one of the garbage sacks from my mom’s grasp. In a flash, I then resumed gathering up and packing, the rest of our meager belongings as fast as I could. While I was busy doing this, my mom turned her attention to my brother, and made sure he was properly clothed, while she changed his diaper.
In mere seconds, my mom had my brother all dressed, before she went and prepared him a fresh bottle of formula to drink. As soon as my mom had the bottle ready, she then swiftly picked up my brother and shoved him into my arms to carry, before snatching up her purse and car keys off the nearest bed. In the next instant, my mom slung her purse securely over her shoulder, before grabbing the three garbage sacks I had packed, up and off the floor, as she headed toward the room’s only door. A second later, my mom then unexpectedly grasped my hand, and hastily dragged me behind her through the now open door, and into the brightly lit hallway outside of the room. For a moment, we stood in the hall while mom quickly scanned its length, in order to locate the nearest stairs.
Thankfully, it did not take long for Mom to find what she was looking for, and as soon as she saw the nearest exit, she proceeded to usher me in this direction. In a matter of moments, we quickly reached the door to the stairs, although my mom could not get it to open and had to kick it several times, before it would unlock.
Luckily, the staircase we had found was an emergency exit, which led into an alley behind the shelter. The moment we left the building, I was immediately glad to have made it outside, and breathed a sigh of relief. After a moment of catching our breath, and letting our eyes become accustomed to the early morning light, we hastily made our way down the alley, in the direction of our car.
Suddenly, I realized how fortunate it was that Mom had not parked our car closer to the shelter. When we had arrived last night, Mom had been unable to find a spot large enough for our hulking old rusted out Ford Grand Torino station wagon in the shelter’s lot.
Clare LaFrey has earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She currently lives with her husband of twenty-two years on their Montana ranch, with numerous cats, dogs, and horses.