In the Mouth of Union Terminal

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Chapter Four Mona held open the creaky wooden door as Emma stepped into the building. The walls were either painted a light green, which the lights picked up and reflected throughout the hall, or the florescent light cast the minty color over off-white walls. Either way, the space made Emma think of straightjackets and padded cells. The cold linoleum floor, however, resembled icepacks, soothing her road-beaten bare feet. The smooth surface felt like a pillow compared to the gravel and pebble-strewn street. A few framed posters, like the signs she saw on the houses, hung on the walls, depicting staged scenes of people shaking hands in an office, moving into apartments, and cleaning up mountain trails. The phrase, “This is the Place, for the Newly Displaced,” was written on the bottom of each scene. “The office is just up here,” Mona said, pointing to an open doorway on the right. “Shelly, the intake specialist, is really nice.” Her voice rose as if speaking to a roomful of people. In the office, the woman behind the desk looked up. She had darkened crescents beneath her eyes and when she blinked, her lids stayed closed an extra second, as if savoring the brief reprieve from wakefulness. Her shoulders sagged as she turned from her antiquated, laptop, and pulled a pink form from a bin next to her. Tightly covered by her yellow tee shirt, Shelly’s breasts rested on the desk as though they, too, were exhausted. With her pen, she pointed to the chair across from her and began writing on the piece of paper. The entire motion appeared as a well-oiled maneuver. “This is Grace,” Mona offered cheerfully as she took the seat next to Emma. Shelly’s eyes looked up from the paper, glanced at Emma, then back down to the paper where she conti... ... middle of paper ... take her apartment? I’m sure she’d like to shower before getting breakfast.” Shelly pushed herself from her desk and stood up. “Then you can show her around.” Mona jumped up. “I can introduce to you to some other--” “Actually, Mona, we don’t want to overwhelm her with everything just yet.” Shelly gave the girl a stern smile. “Let’s take it slow.” Emma didn’t like the way Shelly dictated things. The woman seemed harmless enough, but something about the looks she gave Mona unnerved her. Mona nodded. “Come on, let’s get some new clothes, then I’ll take you to your new place. You’re going to love it, I promise.” Emma stood up, holding the packet of papers to her chest. The suggestion of a shower and food, urged her to take Mona’s offered hand. When the pair reached the door, Emma glanced behind her. Shelly was changing the tally board to “0 days since last intake.”

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