A to Z Challenge: Nelma

Character sketches that are fictional, but based on real people, like you and me. We are now past the halfway point in the alphabet!

We were sitting in the living room of her small apartment, Nelma, her two girls and me. The girls were watching TV while their hair was getting braided. I was told it could take several hours to put in the many small, tight braids, with beads strategically placed in a pattern. The braids would stay in for a long time and would not just keep their hair neat but would make it look like they’d been able to afford exorbitant salon fees. Nelma was good at saving money.

I’d been wondering how she was doing since she had left the girls’ father. Nel was my employee, and really good at her work. I needed her to be okay. We had just finished a busy week in the public schools, teaching nutrition and exercise to grade schoolers – you can imagine how those subjects appealed to them. But Nel knew how to fool them into having fun. She had a large repertoire of line dances and once she put the music on, they exercised in spite of themselves. She knew how to have fun with kids.

Nel always came to work wearing something worthy of a second glance. Of course it helped that she was thin. Almost anything looked good on her. And she was one of the few people I knew in our hot, steamy climate who actually ironed her clothes. The ironing board, set up and ready, was a permanent fixture in the living room.

I was there that morning because I had some kid sized bikes that I thought her girls might like to ride. They were such cute little ladies, shy but curious, and with the kind of behavior that let you know their mom paid attention to them.

I was also wondering if she had found anyone to look into some car trouble she was having. Not being able to get to work had been a problem all week and I had given her a ride several times. She knew how to do a lot of things that surprised me, but fixing cars was not one of them. I was about ready to help her find a safer, more reliable vehicle.

We were the only two people working in our small government program, so we often talked for a bit in the morning while we prepared our sample meals. The conversation had turned to personal situations enough times that I knew she was struggling with a relationship. The girls’ father was a classic abuser and had not taken kindly to her leaving and getting her own place. He was harassing her, and she was afraid of what his next move might be. Sometimes he was just annoying, but there were hints of what he might do, given the opportunity.

That’s why I was glad I was there with them that morning when he knocked on the door.

3 thoughts on “A to Z Challenge: Nelma

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