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Raining on Chelsea

by Carole Bellacera

The rain that morning was the final straw. It slashed down out of cobalt gray skies, drenching and darkening the city, turning it into a conglomeration of gloom that was perfectly suited to match Chelsea's mood.

It had all started on Tuesday when she threw a load of clothes into the washer before leaving for work. The machine hummed along merrily as Chelsea prepared Kevin's oatmeal, but when the two-year-old cheerfully upended his orange juice all over his new shirt, she'd pulled it off to throw it in before the wash cycle was finished and saw that the agitator had stopped working. After a five-minute wait on hold for the appliance dispatcher while Kevin tried to feed the cat his cold oatmeal and when that didn't work, proceeded to wipe it all over the table and his body, Chelsea finally got an appointment for half-ten. Another half-day of work lost. Not to mention the 107-pound bill the repairman left after arriving late and spending twenty-two minutes on the washer.

She thought things were getting better on Wednesday when work went smoothly with no major administrative catastrophes, a rare occurrence for the insurance agency where she was a secretary. But that very night, Kevin woke up screaming and running a temperature. That resulted in two more hours of lost time at the office while she took him to the pediatrician to reaffirm what she already knew. Another ear infection. Departing with Kevin in one arm, a bottle of Ampicillin in hand and a bill for 23.42 in her purse, Chelsea dropped the baby off with the minder and went into the office just in time to make the going away luncheon for Brenda.

It had been more painful than she'd thought possible. After all, her best friend had always been there during the bad times after the divorce. Now, with Brenda leaving to marry a business man from Australia, Chelsea felt almost as deserted as she had when Jon left, claiming he'd made a mistake in marrying her, that he wasn't cut out to be a husband, much less, a father.

Chelsea had bravely smiled through Brenda's luncheon, offering sincere best wishes for her new life, but inside, her heart was breaking. What would she do without Brenda's support and companionship?

Today would be Chelsea's first day in the office without her. The bus rolled to a stop and she stepped down, right into a puddle of water that completely submerged her almost new simulated alligator pumps. With a long drawn-out sigh, she sloshed down the sidewalk and into her office building.

When the elevator doors opened on her floor, she moved to unzip her handbag to search for the restroom keys she always carried. Her hand touched emptiness. Stunned, she looked down at the place her handbag should have been. And suddenly, her already bad day took a decided plunge.

"Oh, God!" White-faced, she stared blankly at a man waiting for the elevator. Had she really been so stupid as to leave her handbag on the bus? But how? How could a perfectly sane adult woman who had been carrying a handbag for over twelve years, be so irresponsible, so incredibly, unbelievably absentminded and downright dumb, dumb, dumb?

As she raced to her office, the enormity of the situation sunk in. Her driver's license, her house keys, Kevin's first baby picture and the replica of his birth certificate--all in her handbag! And her checkbook and cash, of course. There hadn't been much of that since it was so close to pay-day, but still, in their present situation, every pound counted. What else? God only knew. One thing was for sure. Her chances of getting it back were between slim and none. City buses weren't exactly known for their honest patrons.

With a curt hello, Chelsea whisked past the receptionist. There wasn't time to go into her disastrous morning. She'd decided to call the police. At least, they could tell her what she should do first. Just as she neared her desk, her heel caught on a bulge in the carpeted floor, as it had almost every single morning in the last two years, and she stumbled. A twinge of pain knifed through her left ankle. Only the presence of one of the agents walking toward her stopped her from spilling a string of oaths that would've changed her image forever in the eyes of her co-workers.

She reached her desk and immediately called the police. Chelsea was surprised when a dispatcher promised to send an officer right over to file a report. Somehow, she'd been prepared for a lecture on her carelessness.

After calling the bank to put a stop on her account, she decided to go to the ladies’ room and do something about the damage the rain had inflicted upon her hair. Then she remembered. No keys. No comb. No make-up. Chelsea wanted to scream in frustration.

That was when she saw the envelope tucked half under the phone-file. Slowly, she opened it and looked down at Brenda's sweeping hand-writing.  

Dear Chel,

Sometimes it's hard to say the right words to people you care deeply about. That's why I could never really tell you how much I treasure your friendship. Although we'll be apart in miles, in my heart, you'll be nearby--a true and genuine friend. Whatever changes come about in the future, that's one thing that will remain a constant.

Love,

Brenda

It was too much. Chelsea began to cry. It was a horrible, horrible day!

"Are you Chelsea Porter?"

It was a young policeman coming down the hall. Quickly, Chelsea tried to brush her tears away. Darn! Why did he have to show up now?

"That's me."

The officer tripped on the carpet. His face went scarlet.

"I keep telling my boss we need to get that fixed,” Chelsea said, trying hard to hide a smile. Funny. It was the first time she'd felt like smiling today.

He stood stiffly and pulled out a black notebook from his rain slicker, his face very business-like. "Now, Ma'am. Can you give me the details of the theft?"

"It wasn't a theft. I left it on the bus."

He blinked. "We are talking about a handbag, correct?"

"Yes,” Chelsea said woodenly. "We are talking about a handbag." And she stared at him, daring him to comment.

"Okay." He scribbled on his pad. "I need a list of the contents. How much cash. Credit card numbers, description of the wallet. The handbag itself. It's color, style..."

"Do you think you'll find it, Officer...?” She looked at his name-tag. "Roberts."

"Not a chance,” he said. "It'll end up in a trash can somewhere."

Thanks for breaking it gently, buster. An exasperated sigh escaped her. "So, why do you need all this...?"

"For the report. Also, I need you to list everything in your wallet. Checking account numbers, instant-teller cards, driver's license number."

"Oh, God!" Chelsea's face whitened. "My bus pass! How am I going to get home tonight? I don't have any money for the fare." She sank into her chair. "And when I do get home, how am I going to get into the apartment? No keys."

The officer ran a hand through his curly dark brown hair. "Doesn't your husband have one?" he asked.

Chelsea gave a short bitter laugh. "No husband. That's the only thing I have going for me right now. If he were around, I'd never hear the end of it."

He gave her a strange look and added another scribble to his pad. Then, with a snap, he closed the notebook and tucked it away. "Give me a call at this number when you're done with the list. I'll come by and pick it up." He looked at her, and this time, the impersonal expression in his eyes was replaced by a bit of warmth. "What time do you get off? I can probably take you home. Then we'll figure out what to do about getting into your apartment. Are you sure you've never given one of your neighbors a key for emergencies?"

Chelsea's eyes lit up. "Mrs. Sasano! I think I gave her one when she took care of my son one week. You know, just in case I'd forgotten to bring something over he needed. She lives right next door."

"There you go. I can take you over there."

"I'd really appreciate that. But we have to stop by the minder and pick up my son." She paused and then added, "He's the ultimate model of a Terrible Two-year-old."

He grinned, his brown eyes sparkling. "Is that so? I'll bet he's not so dreadful."

Chelsea searched his hand for a wedding ring. Naked fingers! Could it be that he was unattached? "Well, it's obvious you know nothing about children."

"As a matter-of-fact, I come from a large family. There were always little nippers under my feet. What time shall I come by?"

"About five would be lovely." Gee, he was nice. And he had dimples!

"Sure." He turned to go. But then added, “And no more tears, okay? Things could be worse."

"Yeah. I guess so." She hadn't thought he'd noticed her tears. "Watch out for the____"

Too late. He stumbled again. When he regained his dignity, he turned back to her, a stern expression on his youthful face. "You really should insist on getting this repaired. Someone could get hurt."

"I will."

She watched him go. Somehow, her mood had lightened. And so had the weather outside. The rain had finally stopped. Officer Roberts had a point. Things could be a lot worse. Instead of being irresponsible, she could've been mugged. And it could've happened the day after pay-day, whereby her cash loss would've been much worse. Chelsea sat down and switched on the computer.

The day crept by at the sluggish pace of an hour in the dental chair. Every time the phone rang or someone called her name, Chelsea thought it was about her handbag. But it never was. Probably the cute policeman was right. They'd never find it. Oh, what a dolt she was for being so careless in the first place!

Lunch hour arrived, but Chelsea had nothing to eat. Her packet of instant soup was, of course, in her missing handbag. Finally, the clock on the wall read 4:58. Chelsea began to clear her desk. Just as the clock clicked to five, footsteps sounded from down the hall. She looked up and her eyes widened. It was Officer Roberts, but not the same one she'd met this morning. He'd changed into faded jeans, a pullover sweater and a denim jacket. With the shedding of his uniform, he seemed to have also discarded the sterile persona of a law enforcement officer.

He grinned at her, revealing his deep dimples. "Ready to go?"

Her heart gave an unusual thud. "Almost." Chelsea pulled open the bottom drawer of her desk. She stared blankly into it, knowing something wasn't right.

Officer Roberts gazed at her a moment. "Are you, by any chance, looking for your handbag?"

Chelsea blushed and looked up at him sheepishly. "What are you, psychic?"

He shook his head. "Come on. Let's go pick up this boy of yours. Oh, do you have that list for me? We'll drop it off at the station on the way."

After they left the police station, they drove directly to Mrs. Lynn's to pick up Kevin. Without hesitation, Officer Roberts grabbed the giant carry-all holding Kevin's necessities and toys while Chelsea, with the clinging toddler on her hip, explained the situation to a properly sympathetic Mrs. Lynn's. Then, it was back in the policeman's car.

Kevin whimpered in the backseat, unhappy that he'd been buckled in away from mama. Chelsea thrust his stuffed kitten into his chubby hands and turned to Officer Roberts. "You haven't even told me your first name."

An eyebrow quirked as he gave her a sidelong glance. "It's one you apparently like. Kevin."

"Really?"

"Yes, really. And now I know you're exaggerating about your son being a terrible two-year-old. Someone with a name like Kevin couldn't possibly be that bad."

At that moment, Kevin the Baby, let out a wail that sent Chelsea's fingernails digging into the vinyl upholstery of her seat. The scream rose to its peak and then dropped down to a moan that rivaled the city's fire department siren and finally faded into a soft whimper. Chelsea looked back and saw the child rubbing his eyes with the back of his fists.

"No nap again today,” she said. "It's his way of declaring his independence."

Kevin the Policeman just grinned as if having a pint-sized Attila-the-Hun in his car was all a part of his day. "Well, you certainly don't have to worry about his lungs."

They pulled up outside her apartment. Chelsea jumped out and pulled the front seat back to get Kevin.

"Let me get him,” Big Kevin said. "You go ahead and see if your neighbor has a key."

Chelsea nodded and hurried up the rain-splattered steps to Mrs. Sasano's apartment. Once there, it took her several minutes to explain her predicament because once the garrulous Italian woman started talking, it was like climbing Mt. Everest on ice skates to get a word in edgewise. But finally, Chelsea got the key and left the apartment.

When she reached the car-park, the first thing she noticed was the rainbow glimmering through one of the dark clouds still hovering in the west. She was just about to point it out to the two Kevins when she heard Little Kevin laugh! Not a little laugh, but a waterfall gurgle of a laugh. And there he was, sitting on the hood of the Rover, a huge policeman's hat perched precariously over one eye and most of a cheek. Big Kevin, standing next to him, suddenly reached out and grabbed the cap and placed it on his own head. The baby laughed again and reached for it. Back it went on his head. And the game began again.

Chelsea reached the car. "Well, you two certainly look like you're getting acquainted."

Kevin grinned. "It's amazing how little effort it takes to make a kid happy."

"Right. Try making him happy in the middle of the night when he has an ear infection." She held the key in front of his eyes. "Got it."

Kevin swung the baby into his arms. "Okay. Lead the way."

She looked at him uncertainly. "Well, I can manage..."

"Don't you think I should check out the place?" he asked. "After all, someone in this city has your keys. And your address."

Chelsea's face paled. "It's this way." How on earth was she going to sleep tonight? Her hands were shaking as she fit the key into the lock. The door opened and she stood back.

Kevin transferred the baby to her arms and went in first. Nervously, Chelsea hesitated at the door, thankful that a brave policeman was here with her, but worried that he would soon be leaving. She would get the locks changed first thing in the morning, but meanwhile, there was the night to get through.

After checking out the living room and kitchen, Kevin disappeared into the bedrooms. A moment later, he was back. "It's okay."

"Thank God!"

"This isn't the one, is it?"

And he thrust a gray leather handbag at her. Chelsea stared at it. Slowly, her face reddened. She took it from him and unzipped it. Of course, everything was there. The wallet, keys, the soup packet. Why wouldn't it be? It had been in her apartment all day! Horrified, Chelsea looked up into Kevin's dancing brown eyes. His dimple flickered. "It is, isn't it?"

Still, she couldn't bring herself to speak.

"It was on the bed. I guess you've had a lot on your mind lately, haven't you?"

Suddenly, Chelsea's brow puckered. "But how did I get on the bus without my pass?" Her hand went to her raincoat pocket. And there it was. A slightly damp bus pass. "I must've put it in here so I wouldn't have to search for it in the rain." Her face cleared. "Yes! And then I remembered about Kevin's medicine. I grabbed it out of the frig and put it into his bag. Then I grabbed him and his bag and left without my purse." Her eyes flashed to his. "Oh, God, I'm sorry!" She was embarrassingly aware of just how inadequate her apology was. "Oh, you must think I'm such a scatterbrain!"

Kevin gazed back at her, and suddenly, there was a very warm look in his eyes. "I'm not sorry. And I don't think you're a scatterbrain, at all. I think you've been working too hard. That's why I want to take you and Kevin out for pizza."

"Pizza!" Baby Kevin repeated with a big smile, and proceeded to pat Mama's face harder than necessary. "Pizza!"

Chelsea grabbed his hand and kissed it. "Sounds good. But only if I pay. To make up for all the trouble I've caused."

"We go half,” Kevin said firmly. "Deal?"

"Deal,” Chelsea agreed, smiling.

Big Kevin held out his arms to Little Kevin, and the baby reached for him. Chelsea relinquished him. "You know..." As Kevin descended the stairs, he held the baby effortlessly, as if he'd been carrying around babies all his life. "He's a good kid! And you called him a Terrible Two."

"You'll see what I mean,” Chelsea promised as she followed him to the car. "While you're picking the mozzarella out of your hair after you get home tonight."

Kevin laughed and buckled the toddler into the back seat. As they drove out of the car-park, Chelsea looked out the window towards the west.

The rainbow was still there. In fact, it was shining brighter than before.

 


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