I'm so excited about this month's release of The Joyful Life Magazine's Winter 2019 Issue: Treasure. Not only is it the fifth installment of this gorgeous, uplifting, life-giving imprint, it also marks a special occasion for me. This issue contains my first published short story, Out of the Cold.
This story follows Julie Smythe, a barista who's dream comes true when she's accepted into a prestigious art program. The tuition is astronomical, but she's determined to make her dream a reality.
That is, until she meets Gabe, a young man sleeping on the street with his tiny white dog. Their conversation makes her question everything she is holding onto so firmly.
Scroll down for an excerpt.
I couldn’t believe I’d finally done it. Giddy with anticipation, I bounced out the doors of the bank. The blast of cold air that greeted me gave way to the molten flow of excitement bubbling out of me.
At last, I would make the giant leap from struggling, wannabe artist renting her parents’ basement suite, to struggling art student living among other struggling art students. It was going to be sweet.
I had—in my purse, at that very moment—a certified check made payable to the Northwest Institute of Art and Design, a check that would surely change my life. My student loans would come through at the beginning of my first term, but I’d managed to scrape together enough to make the deposit on the astronomical tuition.
My job as a barista at Lalina’s Bakery Cafe on the outskirts of North Vancouver didn’t pay much, but I’d been saving forever. I mooched food from my parents and survived without a car—a feat even my stingy 19-year-old brother hadn’t managed. By God’s grace, I’d prove my remarkable potential the first year and earn some scholarships to help cover the rest of the program. That didn’t matter today, though. For now, I was in. I could already smell the overwhelming kerosene-like odor of turpentine permeating the painting studio. It would soon be the scent of my success.
I pulled my wool peacoat closely around me as I pressed into the gusts of wind tearing down the street. I glanced at my watch, quickening my pace. I’d have to hustle to make it to the post office before the mail was picked up. The clock was ticking to get my acceptance letter and tuition deposit in to the school. If they weren’t in an Xpress post envelope to Portland in the next hour, I would miss the deadline. What if it didn’t arrive on time and the school rescinded its admission offer? Oh, why had I waited until the last minute to do this?
As I rounded the corner of High Street, I tripped over something and catapulted forward, my heart lurching into my throat. A tiny ball of curly white fur flew out from under my feet. As I righted myself, the fluff ball—a mini poodle, perhaps—yapped at me like I’d been the one blocking the sidewalk.
I glanced around for its owner. I didn’t have time to deal with a stray. I needed to beat the mail carrier to the post office. Battling annoyance, I sighed and rolled my eyes, knowing I couldn’t leave him alone in the frosty cold.
“Enough, Rabbit!” A raspy male voice called from a recessed doorway about ten feet up the street. “Get over here!”
The dog obediently trotted to the young man, who was sitting on a flattened cardboard box. A shopping cart sat beside him, offering measly protection from the wind. It contained a bulging hiking backpack, a sleeping bag, and a plastic bag full of empties. At his feet lay a basket with a few coins and a ratty sign that read, “Homeless. Hungry. Anything will help.”
Rabbit curled up on his lap and I met the young man’s eyes momentarily, wondering whether he would yell at me for kicking his dog. “Sorry,” he said. “He likes to patrol the street.”
I smiled and told myself to just keep walking, but a wave of guilt washed over me and my feet stayed firmly rooted. I thought of the Ziploc bag rattling around in my purse with the tips I’d earned on my last shift. Surely this pitiable pair needed the change even more than I did. I fished it out and bent to place it in the basket. Rabbit extended his head toward me and licked my wrist as though he knew I’d just bought him his next meal.
“Thanks,” the man said. “Hey, don’t I know you from somewhere?”
Read the rest of the story in the Treasure Issue. Click here to grab your copy now in the Joyful Life store.