My mamma tells me the stories all of the time… about how my father left us after I was born. And it’s only to show me how insane men really were. But, I don’t think men are all that crazed. I'd like to believe that my daddy loves me. Because I bet that he’d never make me grow up the way he did. It just happened by chance.
Mamma tells me that she doesn't even know what he looks like anymore. I think she's lying though because my granny gave me a picture of him and I’ve taped that same picture to my wall. His name is Nicholas Robbers. I've never forgotten it. One day, he's gonna come back and he'll show her that men aren't all that crazy but as far as now, my momma is just as important to my first date as I am.
I choose to wear one of my daddy's skilled ash sweaters because she won't let me wear anything else I like. The guy is Timothy Richardson and he's pretty bulky and inept. He wears cheaters and braces and he has a pimply forehead but, underneath it all, he’s really cute. We sit on the callous swing on the porch of my house and he tries to creep a hand around my shoulder but, I slap him. He's the only one crazy enough in the town to take me out on a date anyways. So, I should be counting my blessings.
My momma sits on the couch inside beside the window so that she can ironically hear everything we say. So, we don’t talk much. All that he ever asks me is how I like my school and I only ask him if he likes the weather. And, I don't want Timothy to feel bad or anything so, when she tells us its almost time to go, I kiss him on his cheek and I tell him that he could probably drive me to school. But, he objects and tells me that I'm weird and I go back into my house.
"Molly!" She calls for me. I toddle into the living room and I find a spot on the couch abreast of her and I watch her construe her book. "How was it baby?" I can feel the gripe starting in the pit of my stomach twisting my insides into a thick ball of organs as she grills me. I pull a hand to my face. And, as my hand reaches my jowl, it catches a warm tear. I run the wet finger across my skirt and I look away from her.
"It was fine momma." I bar out quick enough to be a response. She finds my face and pegs at the tear bolting down my cheek bone creating a burnished stream of saltwater. I look away from her and I wipe the pungent drops from my mien.
"Baby-doll, what's wrong?" She pumps and she beelines over the soft couch cushion to sit beside me.
"Timothy called me weird." I apprise her. She gibes and wipes the dribbling tear from my cheek. I breath in the stuffy nose I have and I run the sweater over my eyes.
"Molly, you're about as sane as everyone else in this town maybe even more." She tells me and she tucks my hair behind my ear and she pecks my gill. "I have something for you Baby-Doll." She softly tells me. She reaches over to the table that she’d set her book onto and a smile finds her face as the paper plays in between her fingers. She cedes over the envelope that she'd torn open. I slide out the teeny pink paper. "It's from your Dad Molly." Parts from my lips. "It isn't worth all of the hype I'm giving it but, its worth a smile on that pretty little face of yours." She mentions to me. "I'd like to see it." My cheeks break through and I smile. The note only says 'I love you' and has his signature at the bottom and it means more to me than she thinks it does… especially after being acknowledged by him.
"He also sent you a package for your birthday but that isn't up for a week so, I'll save it for you to make your special day the best." She smiles the softest beam and she fixes my hair back to see my face. The strands rip over my cheeks from the sticky tears and I wipe the gummy film. "I'll give you one of your gifts a little earlier." She mentions and she lets go of my hair and smiles a wide smile. "Just to put a smile on that face of yours." She collars an oak box near her book and she hands it to me. I leisurely strip it open and, inside, is a small key. A lot of sixteen year olds get car but, this key isn't a car key... I don't even know how to drive. Beside it is a letter. I lift it to read it and it only says 9 o'clock and my confusion finds her and she smiles. "Molly, that's the house key, I thought you were old enough to go into town alone." She hawks out blithely. "I thought maybe you'd like to go out and see some of your friends to milkshakes or something." I don't object and I only emit a beam from my face. Even though I don't have a lot of friends on this side of town, I still don't mind.
I don’t mind walking around alone on a day that the world spins its fastest. I don’t even mind sitting in the middle of its spinning because, I’d usually be visiting Cameron.
"Thank you Momma." I tell her and she pecks my temples again.
"You’re welcome baby-doll. Now, get out of that ratty old sweater and put on something nice, it'll make Thomas think twice about calling you weird." I lift and I rush up to my room.
I wear a uniform at school and, I really only have that and a couple of ankle length skirts. My favorite one is coral colored and I put it on. I pull on a sweater because spring has only just started and I wear my regular school shoes. They're loafers. I hurry out of the house and I tell my momma that I'm only going on a walk and she lends me ten bucks and tells me that I should get something peachy for myself.
I rush away from the front door with the key in my hand and skip down the stairs waving good bye to my momma and she smiles and takes her seat back in that chair of hers. Up the road, just as I leave home a giant clunker nearly stops me and I only ignore it and I get off of my lawn before she changes her mind. I walk and there's a soft breeze and I finally make it into town.
There are a lot of people here because it’s a Saturday but, I don't know any of them. My momma drives me half an hour to school every morning. I go to an all girls school in the city so, she doesn't like for me to be friends with the public school kids. She says they are all up to no good. I take her word for it too. Because, boys like Thomas go to public school.
"Hey child, get over and help me with my bags would you?" A voice calls out. I look up to find a woman. She owns bags that line her arms and her dress is the shortest dress I'd ever seen in my life and I could see her shoulders. My momma never liked for me to wear things like this. Or the color red and there she was, casually breaking all of my mommas rules. "Yes you child!" She yells at me. I push my hair from my face behind my ears and I slowly inch to her. She hands me three bags and she starts to walk followed by me.
"Me?" I ask her and she smiles the prettiest smile I'd ever seen in my life.
"Yes you child." She snickers and I follow by her side. "Well you are just the cutest thing I've ever seen" she coos to me. "You must be new around here."
"I've lived here since I was born." I tell her.
"Well that's a lot longer than I've lived here." She adds slyly. “What’s your name child?"
"My name?" I ask. No one ever cared about what my name is. I hadn’t heard that question since I’d met Thomas and he’d only asked me because he was dared.
"What, were you born yesterday?" She scoffs and she puts her hands out to stop a car that scares me. I hadn't seen it coming. I was too busy watching her be perfectly evil. They whistle at her and I put my head down to hide my face from the men.
"No, I was born on April 16 1944." She laughs and we stop on a corner.
"Actually, I’m only two years older than you... exactly. You might have been blessed with what I got." she laughs. "You have money don't you?" She asks.
"Cash child, cash, do you have mullah?" I nod.
"My momma gave me 10 bucks." She smiles and chuckles again.
"Never caught your name child." I inhale sharp.
"My name is Molly." She starts to walk again and I follow her being engulfed by her expensive perfume and I nearly run into her when she stops at a store.
"My name is Mary." She tells me and I smile.
"Like, the Virgin Mary?" I correct. She scoffs and looks at me sideways and lifts her big glasses from her eyes and she winks.
"Anything but that Baby-Doll." I tell her that my mother calls me that too which gives her reason to keep calling me that. "So, Molly, why don't you go shopping with little ole me?" She asks she grabs my hand taking the key and money into her fist and she looks up at me and lifts the glasses from her nose. "You're gonna have me babysitting you all day aren't you Molly?" She asks and she pulls the pocket on my sweater up and puts the money inside of it. "Don't go around here loosing sweaty money Baby-Doll."
"Thank you Mary." She smiles and drops the glasses.
"You see, me and you and all of the other pretty girls go together like peas in a pod." She starts and I ask her what she means by that. "You mustn't ask so many air headed questions Molly." Is her only answer. "We gotta help each other in our own time of need and you Molly are only gonna keep on suffering in those nun clothes." I laugh and he smiles. "I haven't heard anything fit out of your mouth until just now." She snickers. She pulls a door open and lets me into the store before her. "Molly, you need to get yourself something new, I'm having my birthday party and it’s going to be the best party on the planet." She laughs.
"Oh, I don't know Mary. My momma might not let me." I warn.
"We'll, what kind of mamma won't let her pretty ole daughter go out with a girl like me."
"My momma she really just likes for me to stay home and watch TV with her you know?" She laughs.
"I think I could handle this momma of yours I bet you a buck fifty that I can."
"She also wants me to stay away from gambling Mary. She'd be awfully upset if she knew I was gambling." She rolls her eyes and finds a shiny dress.
"How about this one Molly, oh, you would look so pretty in this one." She coos. I like it. It's sparkly but it’s really short and I'd never be able to get away with such a thing and after thirty minutes, I eventually buy it using the whole ten bucks. She offers to drive me home too. In her red mustang she turns up the radio and the wind pushes through my hair. She'd been nice to me all day. She even bought me shoes to match my dress. We got to my house and she smiled over at me. "Well, I should be meeting that mamma of yours." She smiles.
"You should." I cheese. She smiles and pulls a long, black twill from her back seat and she pulls on a sweater. She steps from the car and wraps the cloth around her slender hips and she smiles as she wipes the lips from face and she winks at me and throws the glasses into the back of the car. She was just how my momma liked to see girls. Covered up and nice. She walks with me to my door and I unlock it with the key and I call for my momma. She comes from the kitchen with a smile on her face that simmers down to a grin.
"Who’s this Molly?" She asks.
"Momma, this is Mary." I tell her and she wipes her hands onto the doily balled up in her fist.
"Like the Virgin Mary." She tells my momma and I smile and she looks around the house. "You've got a beautiful house." She tells my momma and I smile in between the two.
"She's my new friend momma and her birthday is on the same day as mine." I tell here.
"Yes ma’am, I invited Molly to my birthday party, it'll be down by the park." She smiles and I cross my fingers behind my back.
"I'd like to meet your parents first."
"It's alright if we have you for dinner isn't it?" My momma smiles and nods.
She says "of course” and I walk Mary out to her car. She kisses my forehead and says good bye and I wipe the remaining red lipstick from my skin. A ball lands on my yard and I slowly pick it up.
"Yeah, I'm sorry, that's mine." A voice echoes over. I look up and a boy stands on my lawn. My momma doesn't know but there's a boy standing on my lawn. She would kill him and me so I only start back into my house and he yells out 'hey'. I turn to see him and his blue eyes sparkle and he smirks over at me. "I'm your neighbor, you don't mind if I get my ball." I turn to the window and, only to stop him from coming further onto the lawn I go to pick up the ball and I throw it to him. He smiles and I run into the house. My mother smiles at me and my face goes pink.
"Your friend is really nice." She tells me and I join her in the kitchen. She smiles and stirs up a bowl.
"Mamma, there's a boy that lives next door to us." I tell her. I take a seat in the stool across from her and she looks up from the mix and then back down. "I didn't know we were getting new neighbors."
"We'll, while you were out they moved all of their things in." She tells me and she continues to stir the mix. I tap my fingers within our silence and I clear my throat.
"Oh, what are you making?" I ask her. She smiles and looks from the bowl.
"A cake, I thought I'd make a cake since I don't usually make it." Her eyes meet the bag in my hands. "I see you bought something, do you mind showing me what you got?" I slowly dig into the bag and as the time around me slows my breathing slows. I look up at her as the dress exits the bag and he face goes pale. "Where in god’s name did you get that dress from?" She screams.
"I was walking in town and I thought it was pretty... You don't like it do you?" Of course she didn’t like it. She even stopped stirring her mix to glare at the dress. Her hands find themselves planted on her hips and she shakes her head and her hand finds her forehead next where she rubs it awfully frustrated with the situation.
"I want you to take that horrid dress to the dumpster where it belongs." She scolds.
"Mamma, I like it. I spent all of my money on it." I cry.
"Molly you heard me, don't argue with me young lady!" I bite my lip as my body warms.
"Momma- I really like it." I start. A tear drops from my eye. I quickly wipe it away before she can see that I’m crying but, the way that she’s staring at me is so scary that I bet, she even wants me to cry.
"Molly, take that dress out and go to your room." She screams. I turn and I start through the doors and my eyes water. My palms dig into my skin. I drop it in the garbage and I wipe the tears from my steaming face. A flicker catches my eye and I turn to see the boy stares at me along with another boy who doesn’t make my way.
I hurry to wipe the tears from my eyes and I let my hair limp down into my face. I run into the house and I grab my box and my pink note and I run to my room where I can be alone.
I lie on my bed and the pink note is pinned against the wall ahead of me. I lie on my side to stare at it and I wipe my face once more to get the sticky tears from my skin. Why did my daddy go through all of the trouble to get me a gift anyways? Last I’d heard he’s gotten some other skag in the city away from my mother.
He’d been around all of the way until I was four and then, he up and left my momma and me for no god damn reason. And sometimes I blame god… for letting me grow up without a daddy but I know he didn’t mean any harm. To the left of the letter is the picture my granny’d given me. And sometimes I like to pretend he’s sleeping on the couch down in the living room because I know that in reality if my mamma won’t let me wear that dress she sure as hell won’t let my daddy sleep with her in her bed.
Then I close my eyes and I count all the way up to sixteen because, it’s been sixteen years that I haven’t known him and twelve since he hasn’t cared. I never even thought four was even a real age… only something to rack up on. And there aren’t pictures of him and me so I could only go as far as believing he was never actually even around.
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