Authors: Heidi Acosta
My mother was apprehended a few days after that night while I was still in the hospital. She was found a few miles north at a truck stop and was arrested on several charges, including child abuse, child abandonment and possession. Yes. Her daughter was left dying in a puddle from her boyfriend and she still managed to score drugs. As much as I want to hate her for it, I can’t.
Her addiction is a disease. You can hate the sickness in someone, but you cannot hate the person for having it. I don’t know what scares me more; seeing my mother in jail, knowing she is so fragile and weak and in a place like that because I know it will eat her alive and spit her out. Or knowing when I look into her eyes that I will not see the love for me that I desperately want to see there. Even though the memories of my mother are not filled with warm, fuzzy moments, I would rather remember her the way she was, cold and mean. It is better than pathetic and broken.
“You say the word and I can arrange for you to see her.” I look up at her, blinking. How long was I lost in my own world? I shake my head no. It is easier to live in denial than the truth. “Okay, but if you change your mind, you let me know and I will put in the call.”
I leave the office building, shaking from the cold and the new realization that came to light in my visit. Mrs. Knight sits out front with the car running. I want to turn and run as fast as I can, but I see Everett in the back seat and I know I cannot be a coward. I am not my mother. I open the car door and slide in. The air is up and a today’s top hits play on the radio.
“Hi.” She gives me a slight smile. It is so pitiful. I know she pities me and I hold animosity towards her for that. Hate me, think of me as a damaged bitch, a complete fuck up, but don’t think of me as someone to feel sorry for. “I am glad that we get to spend some quality time together. I was hoping it would be just us girls, but Allen got called into work and Dylan is with Katie.” She tries to fill the awkwardness with mindless chatter.
An aggravation starts at her comment, like being with my brother is a burden. I would much rather be with him than shopping so that Mrs. Knight can feel like she is making a difference. My stomach rolls and I look out the window, watching the trees go by. My mind goes back to what Mrs. White said that I can only get answers from my mother. Should I see her? Do I want to see her?
“I was thinking we will go into Columbus to the mall and then maybe out for some lunch afterwards? What do you think? Do you like Chinese? If you don’t I know of a little Italian restaurant that we—”
I can no longer hold it in so I blurt out, “I want to see my mother.” It is not until I say it out loud that I know how badly I want to see her. The car is silent and Mrs. Knight stares straight ahead at the road. “I want to see my mother,” I say again, reassuring myself.
Mrs. Knight swallows hard before choking out a simple, quiet answer. “Okay.” We stay silent for the remainder of the trip. I feel lighter with the knowledge that I am going to see her.
It is not until we are seated at the Peeking Duck that Mrs. Knight mentions it. “I want to say that I am sorry for my reaction earlier. I was shocked. I understand why you want to see your mother,
I am just afraid that you might not get what you are searching for from her.” She takes a sip from her jasmine tea.
“I appreciate that, but I have been dealing with my mother for a long time. I know not to get my hopes up. This is just something I need to do for myself.”
She takes another sip from her jasmine tea. “We are here for you. Just know that. I am here for you if you need to talk about anything. I will listen with no judgment.”
When we get back to the house, I make the call to Mrs. White. She sounded like she was expecting my call and said it would take a few days to set up.
I am ready for this.
I blow off work today, trying to clear my head. I need a few moments to myself to get my head on straight. I cannot get Barbie out of my mind. It is like I am a freaking prowler. I watch her like a creeper anytime she is near. I stay up at night, lying in my bed, knowing she is lying right above me. I can’t help wondering who or what is she dreaming about. I obsess over her. I obsess over the thought that she might be avoiding me. She is barely at the house and, when she is here, she is either locked up in her room or hiding out in Everett’s room. I leave her alone for now. I don’t try to pursue her anymore, mostly because I don’t know what to say to her and I don’t want her to become anymore skittish than she is already.
I never understood those love sick couples in school. I used to think they were ridiculous to think that they could truly be in love, yet I am now just as sick as them.
I pull the camera out of its brown, leather bag and clean the lens before I try to focus in on a patch of small, white flowers. The natural light is clean and clear, illuminating the world for me to capture in time. Being behind the lens of a camera is calming and helps to bring the world into perspective for me.
I snap a few pictures and walk towards the playground. It is early morning, but it is already hot and muggy out. There are a few little kids out playing with their mothers who want to get their energy out before they are stuck inside for the day. I try not to seem like a predator as I focus in on the playground as a whole. I take pictures of the mothers who push their little ones in swings. Then one of a little girl that swings across the monkey bars. A little boy lies on the ground, waiting for her to pass over. Little shit. I take a picture of him. I want to go back to when I was a little kid. Innocent, like when my mom could make all that was wrong with the world, right, with only a hug and a cherry ice pop.
One of the little girls has made it across the monkey bars and the little boy who was trying to look up her dress is now being dragged away by his mother. The little girl reminds me of Barbie. So I take another picture of her. She has on a blue ruffled dress and sliver sandals. It is her eyes
that remind me of Barbie. They are large and filled with a wonder; they have an oldness to them like they’ve seen the world. I capture this moment in time. There is a sadness to the girl’s eyes now. I zoom in, capturing only the eyes. I watch them through my lens. I watch them change with a sadness to a light that is lit deep inside. What could have made them change so drastically? I take the camera away from my face to see what caused the change in the girl’s eyes. I look around the park, still not seeing what caused the change until I spot that there is little boy throwing a ball against a tree. Ah, that’s it.
The girl runs to the boy and I can see the face change from sullen to amusement. The girl must say something to the boy that amuses him, too. Not to get sappy, but this might be the cutest thing I have ever seen. I start taking pictures of them. The girl rocks back and forth on her feet, playing with a strand of hair by her ear. The little boy is staring at the ball in his hand. She says something and the boy’s head picks up. His cheeks turn a bright red. He steps closer to the girl. Come on, little man you can do it, I send him encouragement. I think he is about to kiss her, but instead he pushes her to the ground and then runs away. Ah, crap. I know the sadness is going to be back in her eyes, but to my surprise, there is no sadness there, instead it’s something else. Love. She gets up and brushes off the dirt before she runs after the boy, who I notice, is not running that fast. I smile to myself. The little boy doesn’t realize it, but like me, he has already been caught.
Sweat beads down my back. The sun is relentless and it is pounding down on me in the long line of
Twisted Treat. Twisted Treat
is a giant, ice cream cone shaped building that offers no shelter from the heat. I feel the bridge of my nose burn as I watch a girl at the front of the line debate on whether to get the cherry dipped chocolate cone or a banana split. Just flipping decide already!
Katie and her group of friends sit at a picnic table that is chained to a large oak tree—like someone is just going to come by and pick it up or like having a souvenir from this small ass town is what anyone wants.
“Look at them sitting in the shade, fanning themselves like fuckin’ princesses while we roast to get them a vanilla cone with rainbow sprinkles. And all for what?” Brett comes up behind me.
Brett is an all right dude. He adds some sort of testosterone to the constant estrogen party I am at. Katie’s friends always flank her wherever she goes. She basically has to tell her little hoard when to breathe.
I shrug my shoulders in response to Brett. He claps me on the shoulder, shaking me. “All in hopes that we might get lucky, man, that’s why.” He smiles as we shuffle forward in the line.
A little chubby kid is wrapped around his mother’s leg, wailing in front of me. His cheeks are bright red with big, fat tears that are streaming down them. He kind of reminds me of a little Third. When Third was little, all he had to do was pucker out his bottom lip and his momma would be a puddle of mush. That bottom lip of his sure got us a few trips to the
I practically have a sun stroke by the time I get Katie her cone. I hand it to her and lick the drips off my hand while she frowns at my action. “Thanks, baby.” She takes it politely.
I should be in horny boy heaven right now. Katie is sitting on the table, her legs swinging back and forth with the straps from her sun dress hanging off her cream colored shoulders. Her red hair is pulled up into a neat ponytail, revealing her milky white neck. I stare at her, trying to erase the girl I want her to be.
“This is fat free, Dylan, baby, isn’t it?” How the hell am I supposed to know?
“Of course, anything for my girl,” I say and Katie smiles at me before she licks the melting cone.
One of her friends lets out a sigh. “You are so lucky, Katie. To have a boy fan over you the way Dylan does.” She gives Brett a scornful look.
“Thanks, man. I done told you, go acting all pansy-like to them and they are going to expect it all the time.” Bret shoves me playfully in my shoulder.
“Well, Brett, now that’s why you ain’t got no girlfriend,” her friend says, bobbing her head back and forth.
“Shit. I don’t want no girlfriend. They ain’t nothin’ but trouble.” The Friend makes a noise from the back of her throat at Brett and he smiles at me, knowing he is getting her riled up.
“Besides, my boyfriend is not a pansy. Doing sweet things like he does has its rewards.” Katie stands up, dropping her cone in the dirt. Dammit, I am not about to stand in line again to get her another one. Katie walks over to me, her hips swaying with each step she takes before she stops and stands between my legs. She pushes back my hair and kisses me while her arms wrap around my neck as she pulls me so close that our teeth clatter together. She pushes so hard, trying to prove to Brett I am no pansy, but the truth is, I am because I can’t say what I really want to say. That I don’t want her. I don’t want to be with her or touch her. That she is not the girl who haunts my dreams.
I let Katie kiss me. She is always the one to initiate the kissing. However, if she notices, she makes no mention of it. I am watching the cone melt in the dirt as Katie’s tongue snakes into my mouth and down my throat, when I see her.
At first, I think it is one of my delusions. Her long hair is down her back, catching the summer sun. She is laughing and looking right at me while her long, tan legs stick out of a shamefully short skirt. I continue my scan of her, stopping at her purple wedge covered feet. She arches her back and I suck in a breath. Katie deepens the kiss, thinking my reaction is to what she is doing. Barbie’s hand reaches out towards me and then she places it on the chest of a guy I did not see before.
What the hell? Who is he and where the hell did he come from? He puts his hand on the small of her back and I dart up. Why the hell is he touching my girl? Katie pushes her body closer to mine. I step out of the kiss, pushing her back.
“Dylan?” she says breathless, her eyes are glassed over and her lips are swollen. I don’t give her any explanation. I start to jog off in the direction I saw Barbie go. “Dylan!” Katie calls after me, but I keep going. I have to find her.
I don’t even bother looking both ways when I cross Main Street and a car honks at me, almost taking me out. My mother would be horrified. I keep jogging, ignoring the shouts coming from the car. I see a glimpse of blond hair walking into one of the storefronts. Who is this guy she is with? I have never seen him before. I follow them into
, a retro music store. I step behind some sheet music and peek out between the sheets. The guy she is with is a head taller than me, he has a black, leather motorcycle jacket swung over his shoulder and dark jeans on, despite the heat, and he has several chains hanging from his pocket. He has that cool, relaxed, laid back look to him. A look I could never play off. He also has hair with that messy, rocker look to it that makes him look like he doesn’t care. Not like mine that is messy because I really don’t care.
He picks up a record and shows it to Barbie. She nods, tilting her head back, laughing. He must have said something funny. What could he say that could possibly be that funny? He looks like a tool to me with an IQ score of below average. What a douchebag. She takes the record out of his hand, flipping it over to read the back. He places his hands on both sides of her and leans over her shoulder, pretending to read it, too. She shifts her body so she is closer to him. I know that move, she has used it on me before. What the hell? Like she could get any closer. Why don’t they just take off their clothes and do it right here in
He brushes her hair back off her shoulder, exposing her neck. Oh, hell no! I step out from my hiding spot. I am going to kick his ass. She tilts her head towards him. Come on, sweetheart, push him away. Be that fiery girl I know. I clench my fists by my side, standing in the open, daring to be seen. She doesn’t look at me.
Instead, they walk out with his hands on her. I follow them out, letting the bells on the door jingle loudly and still she does not look back. They cross the street to a red, badass car with grey primer spots on the door. He opens the passenger door for her. One leg is in when I call to her.
“Barbie!” Her head snaps in my direction.
I feel the burns on my skin, standing exposed to her. Her name is a plea; I am begging her to come back to me, to run away with me. We can make this work. Please. God, please. I am willing to do anything to have her back. Away from this guy.
She looks up at the guy who now has his arms propped on the ceiling of the car. He is looking at her, seeing what she is going to do. Amusement plays on his features. I could be anyone to her; a cousin, a friend. I am her boyfriend, asshole… or, I was. She says something to the guy and takes her foot out of the car. I hold my breath. A loud noise travels between my ears like a freight train as my brain tries to comprehend what is happening. She crosses the street and I can breathe again. The noise dies to a pleasant hum. I smile, triumphant, at the douche who is still watching her. Yeah, that is right, buddy. She is mine. All mine. Mine.
She meets me on the sidewalk, but nothing in her face says she is mine. I need to fix things now. “What?” her voice is low and even.
Uh oh, not a good sign. She is pissed off.
“Who is he?” I point over her shoulder at douche bag who is leaning casually against the car. He smiles at me and anger surges through me like I have never felt before.
“I don’t see how that’s any of your business, but he is a friend.” She crosses her arms protectively over her chest as if to guard herself from me.
“A friend?” I let the question linger between us. “Do you often let your friends touch you like that?” I take my anger out on her, the wrong person. Really, I should be pissed at myself for allowing things to get this bad. I should have been fighting for her from the first day she walked into my life.
“Well, seeing as I let you touch me like that… “She smiles wickedly at me.
“That’s not what I mean,” I say, feeling like she punched me in the gut.
“Really, Dylan? Because to me, it sounds exactly like what you are saying.” She narrows her eyes at me. Even when she is angry, she is beautiful.
“I mean, you deserve to be with someone better than that D-bag.” I look back at the guy who is watching us with great amusement.
“You don’t even know him and what right do you have to tell me who is good enough for me?” Her eyes flash angrily at me. She has every right to be mad at me. I am mad at myself for how I treated her.
“I don’t.” I kick at the gravel under my feet.
“You are right; you have no right whatsoever, “she repeats.
“I was wrong; I know that. I was wrong about everything, but I want to fix it. I want to make it all right again.” Tears well up in her eyes at my words.
“I don’t think you can,” she whispers.
“At least let me try,” I beg. “Don’t get in the car with him. Please.” I hold out my hand for her to take. She looks at my hand. I can see the wall start to come down. “Just take my hand, Barbie.” She hesitates. She is so close. I almost have her.
“Dylan!” Katie stands on the other side of the street.