Takin’ it to the Streets Hallmark Homeless Christmas (Part 4)
The next day she met a young couple and their mutt at the machine. They were living out of a rusted and duct-taped sedan missing two rear windows. They were exhausted, semi high and broke. Six hours later, Bethany had them lined up in the new city-operated RV Park that offered a six month free stay until affordable permanent housing opened up. They thanked her and she told them Safeway was hiring as was every restaurant within a half mile of the RV park. They said they’d look into the next day. Bethany said she’d be back tomorrow…and what kind of treats did the mutt like?
Two for two!
That evening, she celebrated solo in her home with a tall glass of Chianti in front of a crackling Hallmark movie fire. She put on an old Patsy Cline record, dug out her fiddle, and played along. Yes, Bethany knew how to fiddle! She’d taken private violin lessons as a kid and could play Mozart’s concertos, but preferred to play hootenanny style, which her family loathed.
Crazy, I’m crazy for feeling so lonely
I’m crazy, crazy for feeling so blue
I knew you’d love me as long as you wanted
And then someday you’d leave me for somebody new
Bethany couldn’t get Ethan out of her mind.
Back in his van, Ethan practiced an Elvis Christmas song on guitar:
I’ll have a blue Christmas without you
I’ll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me
Ethan couldn’t get Bethany out of his mind.
The next morning Bethany hit the machine line again but it was out of service and deserted. She walked to Ethan’s encampment hoping she’d see him and sure enough, there he was picking up trash around some of the RVs. He had a fire going in the grill and a couple of people gathered around it, talking quietly.
Ethan saw her approaching and waved. Bethany waved back. They started heading toward one another.
They met and said hello. They shook hands again and the electricity ratcheted up, if that was possible.
Bethany didn’t waste any time. “You wanna get a coffee?” she said. “My treat.”
“Are you asking me out?” said Ethan, smiling.
“Yes, I guess I am.”
“Is that allowed in your work?”
“I don’t know and I don’t care.”
“If I agree, are you going to ask me why I live here?”
“About how much Christmas sucks.”
“I actually love Christmas.”
That threw Bethany. Homeless people liked Christmas? Homeless people celebrate Christmas? She had a lot to learn on this job.
Ethan said, “I can’t this morning because I have to drive one of the guys to a meeting with his probation officer. How about tomorrow?”
“That sounds great,” said Bethany. She named a time and place and he agreed.
They met at a dog-themed coffee shop all bedecked for the holidays. A Rosemary Clooney classic drifted through the air and customers sipped their $11 holiday lattes and hot chocolates.
They took a table near a window. Outside, Bethany noticed a women sleeping on the sidewalk in front of a real estate office. She made a mental note to visit her later today.
Bethany got right to he point and Ethan told her everything. She was silent as he recounted the story. She could see crime and punishment etched into his face. He was vulnerable and needed to be held.
Ethan asked about her life and she blasted out the narrative with a candor and vitriol that surprised her, especially when it came to the drip fiance and how much her parents disapproved of her career choice. She was wounded and needed to be held.
She asked him if had a girlfriend.
Ethan chuckled. No, he said it was probably impossible to carry on a relationship in a van.
Bethany countered that a lot of homeless people do it. She saw it all the time.
“You’re right,” he said.
“I could,” she said.
“Oh come on. You probably live in a huge house.”
“I do and I don’t need the space. It’s a complete waste of housing.”
She sipped her coffee and then added, “I’d live anywhere with someone I loved.”
“Sounds like a country song,” said Ethan.
Bethany laughed. “Well, let’s write it up. I play the fiddle.”
“No. And I’m pretty good at it.”
“You should come down and jam with me.”
Bethany cracked a huge smile. “You mean jam down in a homeless encampment?”
“Sure, why not?” said Ethan.
“Are you asking me out?” said Bethany.
They both laughed.
“Yes,” said Ethan.
“I’ll do it.”
They chatted for 15 minutes about music and then it was time to part. Bethany produced a shopping bag of solar-powered twinkle lights and placed it on the table.
“Decorate the camp with these,” she said. “It might bring some cheer and make Christmas suck a little less.”
“Okay,” he said, “thanks. It might be fun to get some of the residents to help me string them up.”
They were about to ready to stand up and leave, but something held them in their chairs.
Bethany drilled Ethan with her eyes and said, “I want to pitch something bold. It just came to me and I want to follow my intuition and heart.”
“Go ahead and pitch,” said Ethan. “More people should follow their hearts.”
“I’m going to break up with my fiance and I want you to come with me to Christmas dinner at my parents.”
“Are you kidding. Some kind of social science project?”
She laughed. “No. Nothing fishy. Just taking a new friend to dinner.”
“I might have said yes, but I’m pretty grungy.”
“You can clean up at the office. They have a shower set up.”
“Again, I might have agreed but I’m playing guitar and tending fire at the encampment on Christmas Day. Some guy is barbecuing a Butterball turkey in a small garbage can in a fire pit.”
“That I have to see. Can I come?”
Ethan hesitated a second. What was going on here? With her?
Then he saw a bit of elvish magic dance in Bethany’s hazel eyes (this is a Hallmark Christmas movie after all!).
“Okay,” he said. “Sure. And bring along a green bean casserole as a side dish. And your fiddle.”
“Green bean casserole?” she said. “Are you kidding? Who eats that anymore?”
“I do. My grandmother used to make it. It was my favorite dish.”
“I’ll try to find something.”
“Great. And crumble some Ritz crackers on top.”
“Ha! That I can do.”