Apologies for the delay in releasing chapter 7 of Jophi’s Journey. Not only have I been busy working on my fantasy novel, but I’ve also started a part time job recently so a lot of my writing time has dwindled. But the next leg of the journey is finally here!
If you want to read the previous chapters, you can find them on my website here: Jophi’s Journey
“Two days?” Jophi ripped the notice off the door and went inside. She plopped onto her bed, studying the letter. She’d never find work in two days, not at the rate she was going. Daddy had always told her to help those in need. But so far helping others had only driven her further away from her goals.
Vaern sat in front of her and laid his muzzle on her knee. “What wrong, Jophi?”
Tears filled her eyes. She sniffed. “I only have two more days to find a job, Vaern. After that I won’t have a home.”
He whimpered. “No home? Vaern sorry. Vaern used to no home. He stay with you.”
Jophi smiled, stroking his ears. “Thanks, pal.”
Ven sat down beside her. “I’m sorry–”
“Aren’t you supposed to help people?” Jophi looked at Ven. “You show up with some magic potion that can cure illness. Where were you when my father was ill and dying? Where was your magic potion then?”
Ven took her hand in his. “It doesn’t work quite like that. I was sent after he died.”
She pulled her hand away. “So then we saved Kalina, and we saved Kende, and we saved the nun and Vaern. When is it my turn to be saved? I have nothing! I don’t even have my locket, the one thing I had left of my parents, because I gave it away for some ungrateful brat!”
Ven wrinkled his brow. “You helped those people because you care about them. There’s no fault in that.”
“Yeah? Look where it got me. I’m almost homeless. How long will I be living on the streets before someone gives me a job? How long before someone helps ME?”
“You’ll find something,” Ven said. “I know you will. You just have to be patient. God will–”
“God?” Jophi stood, turning her back to him. “My father told me that God would provide. But he doesn’t seem to be doing a very good job.”
The bed squeaked behind her and Ven’s footsteps came closer. He laid a hand on her shoulder. “Jophi, you can’t lose faith.”
She turned and leaned into him, her cheek against his chest. The warmth of another human felt good. Calming. Her anger faded. “I’m not sure what I believe right now.” Tears filled her eyes and she wrapped her arms around Ven. “I wish Daddy was here.”
Ven embraced her. “He’s here, Jophi.” He leaned back and cupped her chin with his hand, drawing it up to face him. “His love still lives in your heart. As long as you hold on to that, he’ll never be truly gone.”
Jophi released her arms and stepped back, wiping the tears from her face. This moment seemed strangely familiar. She forced a smile. “Thanks.”
He nodded. “Of course.”
She yawned. Her eyelids grew heavy. “Okay, I really need to get some rest if I’m going to continue job hunting tomorrow.” She looked around the mostly empty apartment. “I’m sorry there isn’t an extra bed for you.”
Ven patted Vaern on the head. “Don’t worry, I’ll join Vaern on the floor. I don’t need sleep as much as you do, so he and I can take turns keeping watch while you rest.”
“Again, thank you.” Sliding into her bed she yawned. She laid her head on the pillow, closed her eyes, and let the living world fade away as she drifted off to sleep.
“Jophi. Jophi. Jophi!”
Something shook her. She stirred, not wanting to be awake yet.
“Jophi, wake up.”
Daddy? Is that you? She forced her eyes open. Ven stood over her. Not Daddy. Daddy was gone. Would she ever get used to his absence? His love may still live within her, but it wasn’t the same. Some part of her still needed him physically here.
She sat up and rubbed her eyes. The events of the previous day came flooding back in as she gradually became more awake. “What’s wrong, Ven?”
He pointed towards the door. “Your landlord is here.”
Jophi threw the covers back and walked to the front door. Her landlord stood outside. A small, wiry man with short black hair. He paced in front of the door, pulling his glasses off now and then to wipe them on his shirt.
“What do you want, Percy?” she said. “I got your note. I still have two days.”
He turned and replaced the glasses on his face. “Ah yes, about that. That’s why I’ve come. I’m afraid I’m going to have to amend that. I can give you to the end of today. If you haven’t returned by then the apartment goes to someone else. I’m sorry, Jophi, but business is business. I have someone interested with cash in hand. I have bills to pay, just like you do.”
“I understand. Thank you for letting me know.” She slammed the door in his face, then looked around the apartment. There wasn’t much left that she needed to take as she’d already sold everything before Daddy died. This was her life now. Nothing to call her own and struggling to survive. It was time to get used to it.
She turned to her companions. “Let’s go.”
The morning passed by without much success. She put in a few applications and was told to check back later to speak to the hiring managers. Other places simply said they didn’t need help, but they might in a few months. She didn’t have a few months. She only had today.
Ven and Vaern did their best to keep her spirits up, but it was difficult to not be discouraged. At this rate she would be homeless by the end of the day. What would she do then?
“Hey,” Ven said when they came upon a familiar street. “Isn’t that where Kalina and her family live? Why don’t we stop there for a rest?”
Jophi nodded. “Sounds good. I’d like to see how she and Kende are doing.”
They turned down the alley street where Kalina sat playing with a doll. Vaern pulled ahead of them, his tongue hanging out and his tail wagging. When Kalina saw the dog she pulled back, afraid. “Kende! Daddy!”
Jophi ran up to the girl. “Oh no, Kalina, it’s okay. He’s with me. He’s safe.”
Vaern sniffed Kalina then licked her face. She giggled and patted his head, then gave Jophi a hug. “I’m so glad to see you, Jophi. Kende came home last night! He said you helped him.”
Jophi smiled. “Indeed we did. I’m so glad he made it home. I know you were worried about him.”
“Kalina?” Kende and the girl’s father came running outside, but when they saw Jophi and her companions, they smiled.
“Jophi!” The children’s father embraced her. “I know we just met yesterday, but I feel like you’re part of the family somehow. You’ve done so much for us. If there’s anything we can do for you in return, please don’t hesitate to ask. We don’t have much, but our home is always open to you and your friends.”
“Thank you so much…” Jophi released the embrace and stepped back. “I just realized you never told me your name.”
“Oh!” He laughed and placed a hand on his chest. “I’m Fred and my wife, who’s sleeping right now, is Karen.”
“Well, Fred,” Jophi said. “Thank you for your offer. You don’t know how much it means to me.”
Ven knelt down in front of Kalina and Vaern. He held out the pouch of marbles to her. “Thank you for giving these to us. The marbles really helped us yesterday when we met Vaern here, but we’d like to give them back to you now.”
Kalina opened the pouch and pulled out a single marble. “You can have this one. It’s special.” As she passed the marble to Ven, it seemed to emanate a faint light of its own. Hadn’t it done that once before? Jophi blinked and the light vanished. She looked up at the clouds above and shook her head. It was probably just the sun peeking out for a moment.
Jophi looked at the embroidery on the marble pouch as Kalina closed it up again and remembered last night’s strange events at the toy store. “Kende mentioned that the toy store you used to work for was the one that made those marbles.” She sat on the ground in front of the door to their apartment. “We actually went there last night.”
Fred sat beside her. “Why did you go there?”
“Since my father died, I’ve been getting hints about that place. I saw the store in a dream, then I met Kalina and Kende. Last night we just happened to end up there. A help wanted sign was in the door, so since I’ve been looking for work I figured I was being led there for a reason. But…it wasn’t what I expected.”
Kalina left her marbles and came over to sit with her father. Fred caressed the back of her hand with his thumb. “I’m actually surprised he’s still in business.”
“What happened there?” Jophi asked. Ven stood nearby with Kende. Vaern lied down beside her.
Fred sighed. “Ben Curio, the owner, was once a great guy. I loved working for him ‘cause he was fair as well as brilliant. But one day he started to grow very agitated. Nervous. Soon he began firing employees for stupid reasons. I was actually the last one he let go. By then he simply wasn’t selling enough toys to afford me, he said. But I still felt like there was some other reason.”
Jophi stroked Vaern’s fur. “He told us a pretty wild tale about that. He said something about a demon then kicked us out before we could learn more.”
“A demon? That’s ridiculous.” Fred wrinkled his brow and narrowed his eyes. “Then again…there were a few times I remember seeing him talking to himself. It was almost like he was arguing with the toys. I guess if there was a demon that could explain his actions.” He shrugged. “Or he was just crazy. Are you heading back there?”
Jophi shook her head. “No. I feel bad for him, I do. But my time is running short and I need to find a job or some money today to pay my landlord. In fact, we really need to get going. We only stopped by to check on Kalina and Kende.”
She stood and then offered her hand to Fred and helped him up.
“I’m glad you did, it was good to see you. I actually need to leave as well.” He pointed to the hot dog cart resting further down the alley. “I’m taking over Kende’s hot dog business, at least for now.”
“That’s great!” Jophi smiled. “I hope you have good luck with it.”
“Thank you, Jophi. And thanks again for helping my children. I don’t know where we’d be now if you hadn’t.”
She waved her hand and smiled.
Fred turned away. He gave Kalina a hug and Kende a pat on the back then gripped the handles of the vendor cart and left to head to the market. It was nice to see someone she had helped having good fortune again. Perhaps putting her needs aside to help others hadn’t been such a bad thing after all. But now it was time to help herself.
To be continued…