Xander's Chance (Chapter Two, page 1 of 10)

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Jessi staggered under the grocery bags filling her arms. The elevator in her building was half-broken again. It worked, but it stopped a foot short of her floor, which made her load even more precarious. She stepped up and out of the elevator. Her back foot caught on the lip of the doorway, and she stumbled. One bag toppled then another. With a sigh, she knelt and released all the bags. Her eyes went to the door of her apartment, two down on the right. She grabbed what she could carry and went to her small home.

"Hey, guys, I could use a hand with the groceries!" she called as she entered. She stacked the bags on the couch.


"Please put this stuff away!"

Irritated with the two teenage cousins for whom she was an appointed guardian, she left the apartment to recover the rest of the bags. It was close to seven on a Sunday morning, which meant they were probably still asleep. When she entered again, the elder of the two cousins was putting stuff in the fridge.

"Brandon, you have to take stuff out of the bags," she said and kicked the door closed behind her.

"Whatever." His hair was mussed, and his state of dress - T-shirt and pajama pants - indicated he'd just woken up.

"Every week, it's like it's the first time you've ever seen a grocery bag," she said. Despite her agitation, she ruffled the eighteen-year-old's hair fondly. "Get out. I'll do it."

"But I'm hungry."

"You can wait ten minutes."

The moody teen sighed but obediently left the kitchen and sat on the couch. All three of them inherited the gray eyes of their grandmother, though Brandon and his sister Ashley had dark brown tresses whereas Jessi's hair was dirty blonde.

"Wake your sister up," Jessi called.

"I just sat down."

"Omigod, Brandon. How can someone so lazy be so skinny?"

He mumbled something as he went to the hallway leading to the bedrooms. Jessi put everything away then glanced at the clock. She had an hour until she had to be at her weekend job. Raising two teenagers in a place as expensive as southern California was not easy. She made do with two jobs, but there was no way to save money for their colleges.

And no personal life for her. She found herself yearning for friends again. At the bistro where she was a weekend waitress, she saw the same friends meeting up for coffee every Saturday.

Her movement stilled. The last time she'd hung out with anyone was at a PTA meeting. Did mandatory interaction with other parents count as friends?

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