“Happy Birthday!” My best friend Caroline barreled through my bedroom door, jumping on my bed, and jostling me awake.
“Good Morning, Sunshine” I muttered to her as I was being shook awake by the most annoyingly loud and loving person I have ever met, by best friend and sister for life, Caroline. “What time is it?”
“Its 6 am and it’s going to be a beautiful day! The sun is shining and I’ve made plans for us today. It’s time to get up because we have to be on the road in 2 hours!” she squealed to me, making me wince from the loud noises coming from her.
“Really? What do you have planned that requires me to be in awake at 6 and on the road by 8? Come on, Caroline, I’m really tired and I didn’t get home until almost midnight. Randall made me stay late and close up by myself so he could ‘go spend some quality time with his new girlfriend” Using my fingers to make quotation signs as I rolled my eyes.
“If I tell you it won’t be a surprise. Please Maddie! I’ve been planning this for a few weeks now and I know you’ll love it but we can’t be late.”
“Ugh! Okay, I’m up but there had better be coffee. You know I can’t function without it.” I look over at Caroline, trying to be stern, only to burst into a fit of laughter. She joins me in the giggles before she reached over and gave me a hug.
“You and your caffeine addiction. Don’t stress your pretty little head, coffee is in the kitchen and we’ll grab breakfast on the way” Caroline smiled as she crawled off the bed and headed toward the door.
“What should I wear on this little adventure of ours?” I asked with my eyebrow raised in question.
“Something comfortable but make sure it’s cute!” she said over her shoulder as she walked away.
I headed down the small hallway of our two-bedroom apartment and joined Caroline in the kitchen.
I sat down at the kitchen table while she poured a cup of coffee and handed it to me. Grateful, I took a swallow and sighed with relief.
“I don’t want to meet anyone, please. Can you make that my birthday present? I really don’t want to get cornered by some dickhead today. I got hit on enough last night to last me until my next birthday”
“No men. I promise. Today is about you, me, fun, and relaxation. It’s about celebrating the amazing day you came into the world.”
“If only everyone felt like you do.” I almost breathed out in an unspoken whisper.
Caroline finished pouring our coffee and she sat down at the table with me.
“I’m sorry Maddie! I didn’t think before I spoke.”
Holding up my hand to stop her, I see her eyes glistening with unshed tears. “No Caroline, it’s me. You know how I get sometimes. I guess I’m just having a pity party with today being my birthday. Don’t pay me any attention. I’ll be okay.” She had such a tender heart and I didn’t want my mood to affect her.
“No, I hurt your feelings and brought him up, even indirectly, and I am so, so sorry for that.”
“No apologies from you and no more pity from me. It’s his loss and I’m fine with it. Really, I am.” I shrugged my shoulders, trying to appear unaffected. “It’s been almost 14 years since the one and only time I ever saw him, so it is getting harder and harder to miss what I never had.”
She surveyed me with knowing eyes, looking for, I don’t know exactly, to let her know I really am okay and not thinking about my past. If it hadn’t had been for Caroline and her family, there was no telling where I would have ended up.
“Didn’t you say we had to be on the road by…” trying to divert her attention away from my shitty father and back to her birthday surprise that required me to be awake by six.
“Crap! We need to get moving if we’re going to make it on time to” she abruptly cut herself off and stared at me with her eyes wide “I almost slipped up and ruined your surprise” Giggling, she refilled my coffee and bounced down the hallway toward the bathroom.
“I’m going to grab a quick shower while you inhale your caffeine, but hurry, we don’t want to be late”
“I wish you would give me an idea where we are going” I groused, trying to gain anything on our destination. “You know I hate surprises.”
“Too bad, you’re going to have to deal with it because I have an entire day of stuff planned, so get a move on!” She shouted, pushing the bathroom door closed and starting the shower.
Caroline began singing at the top of her lungs, sounding like a cat getting drowned and nothing resembling the song she’s butchering.
Sighing, I wrap my hands around the warm mug of coffee and inhale the aroma, praying it will wake my brain up and get it focused on things I could actually have control over, instead of the jumble of memories currently rolling around my head.
“I don’t know why you brought her here, but you need to take her and leave” the angry man yells at my momma. “I told you I didn’t want anything to do with you or her. This is your mess, so clean it up”
“Please, we have nowhere else to go and she’s your responsibility as much as she is mine.” Momma begs the mean man.
I peer around her legs and look up at the giant, wishing I was bigger so I could help momma. She’s been so tired lately. Maybe this man will help us for but he scares me with the look I see when I glance up at him. He looks like a monster and I immediately know he won’t keep us safe.
“You can’t be here. I told you this years ago, Sara. I don’t care where you go, but you can’t stay here! Now LEAVE!” the giant bellows at my momma, making me jump and hide behind her legs even more.
“Listen, please. Then we’ll go. I just need one minute of your time, Jason.” Momma says, her voice cracking and a cough coming out, shaking her frail body.
“Fine, you have one minute before I call security to have you two removed. I really don’t have time for this.” He says, pulling the thick door closed behind him. I guess he didn’t want whoever was inside to hear us or he wanted to make sure we wouldn’t get into his house.
“I’m sick and I don’t know how much longer I have. I need to know that Maddie will be taken care of when I’m gone and you are the only family she has left, Jason. I’m begging you, please don’t leave her to suffer in this world alone.” Momma says crying to the angry man, Jason.
“I told you 8 years ago to get rid of her before this became an issue Sara. You could have gotten rid of her and this wouldn’t be here now. You made your decision. I didn’t want her then and I don’t want her now. It’s time that you leave. I’m sorry for what you are going through, but it’s really not my problem.”
“You are going to allow your daughter to go into the system, when you have a large family that could help her and I have no one?! You would actually let that happen to your flesh and blood child?”
This man is my daddy?
Why doesn’t he want me?
Doesn’t he love me?
Am I that bad?
I try really hard to be good for momma but sometimes I make messes and forget to do some of my chores, but I try so hard to not cause momma to have to be angry with me. I know how hard she works to take care of me. So why doesn’t my daddy want to help her? Or me?
I’m ripped out of my thoughts when Jason begins to push momma and I off the porch of his huge house. I had asked momma when we arrived if it was a castle. She just laughed her beautiful laugh and said ”No sweetie, it’s not a castle, it’s just a really big house. The man who lives here does very well in his business, so he can afford this big house and all the nice things to fill it with.”
“Leave Sara, and don’t come back. I don’t want anything to do with you or her. Besides, how do I even know she is mine?”
“You know damn good and well that Maddie is yours. You were there during the entire pregnancy, you witnessed her birth, and you signed the birth certificate. It was only after you spoke with your father that you changed your mind about your daughter. Maddie was three days old the last time you saw her. Three days old! I have taken care of this precious little girl, all alone, for the last seven years, Jason. I haven’t asked you for a damn thing! Not Once! And you turn us away after what I just told you? Fuck You, Jason!”
Momma grabs my hand and we walk back to our old car, sitting on the curb, looking completely out of place on this nice street.
“Where will we go now momma?” I ask her, trying to be brave like she taught me.
“I don’t know sweetheart, but I promise I will make sure you are taken care of when…”
“When what, momma?”
She looks over the backseat, smiling a sad smile at me. “Don’t worry Maddie, I promise I will make everything ok”
We pull away from the curb and start to drive out of town. I only allow myself one look back at the house where my daddy lives.
The house he doesn’t want me in. I see him looking at the car as it drives away from his house but he never made a move to stop us. I watched as he closed the door for the final time and disappeared from my life.
The only family I will have after my momma is gone doesn’t want me. He doesn’t care that I’m scared of loosing momma and being alone.
She thinks I don’t know, but I heard her talking on the phone to her best friend, my Aunt Lisa, about how she didn’t have much longer and she wanted me to meet my daddy before she was gone.
I don’t want my momma to die, but there isn’t anything I can do but pray to the God momma taught me about.
I prayed that God took me and saved momma.
I prayed that I could switch places with momma.
I prayed for my momma to live.
I lost my momma less than six months after we drove away from Jason’s house and I never once went back to see him. Not in the last thirteen years and I don’t ever plan to. He left me out in the world all alone and not one time did he ever come looking for me. Aunt Lisa and Uncle Joe were amazing. Momma’s wishes were that I was to go and live with them and they have been the best guardians I could have ever asked for. Their daughter Caroline and I had grown up together so it was a smooth transition into their home. Well, as smooth as can be expected from an 8-year-old who lost the only parent they ever knew. We had our problems, but we were a family, and that’s all I ever wanted.
I heard the shower turn off and snapped out of my bitter memories. Feeling sorry for myself never got me anywhere. Soon, Caroline and I will be off on another adventure and I for one can’t wait to see what the day has in store. It’s not every day that a girl turns 21.