"Where to now?" Jackie asked after they left the New Deal restaurant, got into Goody's Subaru Forester, and headed west on Halsey.
"My house," Goody answered," glancing at Jackie, then turning north on 47th Avenue. "We need to brainstorm. I've got the perfect place for that—a quiet, secluded house on Alameda Ridge. You'd have your own suite if you want to stay a while."
"What do you mean, stay a while?"
"Exactly that. A place to live until you figure out what you want to do with your life. It'd be a hell of a lot better than going back to living on the street. No place to shower and ripping off old ladies for something to eat every day. And you'd be doing this old lady a big favor—a chance to do something for someone in need of a helping hand."
Jackie didn't respond at once to Goody's offer, not sure what this strange woman's true motive might be. Was she a predator who'd do some terrible deed, or was she a for-real good person, someone she could trust? But considering her options at that moment, Jackie finally said, "Alright. But just for a few days."
That evening, with Jackie cleaned up and wearing a skirt and blouse from Goody's abundantly stocked clothes closet, and dinner done, they turned their attention to the topic that'd been trickling through their minds but left unspoken until this moment. "Any thoughts about what you'd like to do?" Goody asked.
Jackie was quiet for a moment, staring at the city lights spread across the north end of the Willamette valley visible from Goody's patio perched on the edge of the ridge. "You're serious about this crazy offer, aren't you. To do a business together."
"Yes, I am."
"Well, there is one thing we could think about. Before I lost my job a couple of months ago, when the restaurant I was working in went bust, I helped the woman who did the baking. I made cookies and breakfast pastries mostly. Got pretty good at it, too. Even came up with a recipe for healthy cookies. They sold lots of them—four different kinds. Maybe we could make a business with those cookies."
Goody nodded, asked a couple of questions about the cookies, then, apparently satisfied with Jackie's answers, said, "Okay. Let's do it"
It took four months for Goody and Jackie to get The Good Life Cookie Company up and running: leased kitchen space, a line with four varieties (almond, carob, marionberry, ginger), an impressive website, promotional materials, and three of retail outlets. Goody's business connections from managing the advertising agency she'd founded twenty years earlier and run until she sold it to a national chain, her sound business sense, and most of all her deep financial pockets, were key to the speedy establishment of the cookie company. While Goody focused on business aspects of the enterprise, Jackie focused on developing the recipes and figuring out production scale-up. Their efforts paid off—eight months later they had a line of six kind of cookies at four of the Portland supermarket chains and a handful of smaller food retailers, had recruited high school students to man booths at weekend farmers' markets, and were ramping up online sales. The future of the business looked good, and so did Jackie's future. For the first time in her life, she had hope, hope of creating a reality for herself other than the despair of poverty.
In their fourth year of robust growth and increasing revenue and profit, Goody decided it was finally time to turn the business over to Jackie, lock, stock, and barrel. By this time, the company had added a line of healthy crackers and chips, gone national, including large-scale production facilities on both coasts, and were carried by major food chains across the entire country. Because of Goody's wealth, Jackie and Goody had been able to maintain complete ownership of the company during this time of rapid growth, allowing both of them to reap major financial reward, increasing Goody's already sizable fortune and generating enormous wealth for Jackie.
A major consideration in Goody's decision to turn over the company to Jackie was how Jackie had evolved from a down-and-out street thief to a wonderful friend, an upstanding individual, and a polished businesswoman, transformation made possible by Goody's good-hearted determination to use her wealth, and her charitable nature, for the betterment of a woman desperately in need of a kind deed.
Jackie expressed her heart-felt feeling the day Goody told her about her decision to leave the company. "How can I ever thank you for what you did for me? You're the only one who saw me as a person worth taking a chance on, a chance to make something of myself. I promise I'll never give you reason to regret what you've done."
Because of her patient mentoring and exemplary example, Goody's gamble on the young woman who four years earlier tried to steel her bag of vegetables and fruit had paid off. But the astute reader might still ask what was it that Goody saw in Jackie that day at the Hollywood farmers' market when they met under such fraught circumstances? Was it uncomplicated intuition? Was it an irrepressible desire to change this ragamuffin's life? Was it pity? Who can say? Certainly not me, the author of this story. The only things that counts, in my view, is that Goody had the desire and the means to do something. And thank their lucky stars, she made a quick, on-the-spot decision, and it turned out for the best. Certainly, best for Jackie, but also best for Goody in that she achieved her goal of passing the advantages of her good fortune on to another generation, even if the representative of that generation was a total stranger. In her mind, that was enough. And in her view, the belief that her investment, both emotional and monetary, was successful, and was sufficient to turn over her portion of their enterprise to the woman she thought of as her former apprentice, but now equal, Jacqueline Grant.
With the company having a national presence, and a well-publicized reputation for entrepreneurial spunk, ownership transfer from a partnership to Jackie's sole ownership status was covered in the business sections of every major news outlet. For a few news cycles. Goody's and Jackie's names were strewn across the national news landscape as examples of how sometimes things can turn out satisfactorily.
Bur alas, as if to confirm the old adage about never knowing what surprises life might bring, one of the many news articles about The Good Life Cookie Company ownership change was picked up by a local TV news program in a Los Angeles suburb and happened to catch the attention of Jackie's estranged aunt Martha. Martha was her mother's low-life, ex-con sister who'd never even met Jackie. But even though her mind was foggy from dope and booze, she recognized the name. "Bobby! Get in here! You gotta see this. Jenny's kid's on TV. She's some kind of rich businesswoman in Portland."
Bobby, Martha's boyfriend, pimp, and cocaine supplier since she got out of prison six years earlier, stumbled into the room holding a half-full beer bottle in one hand and a smoldering joint in the other. "What?"
"Look at this. That's Jenny's kid," Martha said, pointing at the screen. "Jacqueline Grant. That's her alright. I never seen her, but I know it's her. See that red hair. Just like Jenny's. Just like mine."
" Who's Jenny?" Bobby grunted.
"My sister. She's dead. Died giving birth to that there kid."
"So what? She don't mean nothing to us," Bobby said as he turned to leave.
"Hell she don't. She's our meal ticket, Bobby. We're going to Portland."
"Are you crazy?" We ain't even got money for food. How we gonna get to Portland?"
"Don't worry, Bobby. Like everything else we do, we'll find a way."