I know I'm doing the right thing by saying no to a horny fifteen-year-old who suddenly turned gorgeous overnight; it was just a bitch to do. Truth be told, I didn't want to continue our trysts because I was confused about my own feelings towards her. I didn't know if I was falling for her or this idea of her I had been fixating on since I was fifteen.
Getting with her now would only be taking advantage of her, because 1) She's fifteen and 2) I just know she's going to grow up and change.
Adrienne's feelings towards me now is not lasting, she only wants to be with me because I'm there, because it's convenient. She's going to grow up, gain confidence, and find there are more guys out there, then she'll resent me and accuse me of trapping her. There's no doubt about it.
It is not a prediction, it is going to happen. It happened with Amber and it happened with Heather, so I've learned my lesson. The lesson of not to get too serious and fall too much in love with immature girls with low self-esteem who haven't yet grown up and whom suffer from an identity crisis. What I know now is girls under 21 don't know what the hell they want and could easily change completely without warning. One minute they love you more than anything and claim you're the only boy for them and then the next they tell you they need to find themselves and have to fuck other guys to do that.
Sure Adrienne could be different and be the exception, but it's way too soon to tell and the consequences of us getting together are dangerous. Look what happened the last time we had sex.
Plus Adrienne focus right now needs to be on Maddy and being a good mother and not on being my girlfriend. Adrienne obsesses over what I think of her, just imagine how much she would obsess if we were to be a couple, she would drive herself crazy making herself compete with Heather and Amber on being the perfect girl for me.
If only I knew how to stop a teenage girl from acting like a teenage girl.
I'm so disgusted with myself!
My mind right now should be so consumed with recent discovery about my father, but what is so messed up is that my mind is stuck on something else, something so juvenile.
You how that shock thing works where you see something and first reaction is just a calm "okay", then much later the real reaction hits you full impact without warning?
Suddenly I'm woken up middle of the night, for the first time not by my baby, but by a nightmare brought on by the sudden realization that this Amber girl now has a face, a gorgeous face, a face that makes her real, a face to haunt me more than her name.
Those pictures, I can't get them out of my head, they're flashing over and over again in my mind.
This is so stupid, why am I letting this get to me?! Why am I making his past such a big deal?
Was it jealously? Was that what was making those picture have so much effect on me?
And what was even more stupid was despite how hopeless those pictures made me feel, I wanted to discover more. It's like I HAVE to know more about this girl, I NEED to know everything about her? Why? I don't know why, other than that this girl was the girl Johnny loved more than anything.
Maybe I have this notion that the more I find out about her the more I'll know how to get Johnny to love me like he once loved her. Maybe that's what fuels the obsession.
Why did I look at that album?!
Note to self: Digging is bad and only leads to heartache not closure.(yeah like that's going to get me to stop)
It's interesting how easy it was for me to forget about Johnny admitting to once having a tiny crush on me, and how easy it was to focus endlessly on those damn pictures and make them into a big deal ( Plus Johnny not wanting to physically be with me made it worse).
Okay Adrienne, try to act like an adult and focus on your baby and your dead dad.
I didn't know what to think about my dad. I was numb on that issue. He killed himself because of his cancer and thinking he was going to die anyways. At this point I've decided that although I would have really loved having a dad, why would I want to hurt myself and obsess on what my life could have been had he not killed himself? I don't want to go down that road.
I'm such a hypo crypt!
All I want to do right now other than make-out with Johnny, if to go over to Brock's and see what other dirt he has on Amber and Johnny.
I looked at Maddy, who I was currently bathing. If I had terminal cancer with a small chance of beating, some chance of living two years while painfully suffering on chemo, and a huge chance of eventually dying, what would I do?
Would I really want Maddy to remember me, her only mother, as frail, bald, deathly, and always in the hospital? That must of been what he was thinking. He didn't want Heather and I to remember him that way. And ironically when preventing us from knowing that cancer side of him, he forever imprinted the most ghastly side of himself to Heather that took away any good memory she had of him.
I know if that were to happen, I would ultimately try to live at whatever cost, go through the suffering because, thanks to my father, I do know it doesn't make a difference what state Maddy see's me in, vibrant or deathly, as long as I'm there for her and make that effort to be there for her.
I can't justify what he did, and maybe someday I'll learn to forgive him... just not today.
"Are you okay?" I ask her.
She shot me a deadpan look, "It's the beginning of day three. Yesterday I got rejected by you, harassed by your two sisters, and found out my dad killed himself. What do you think?"
Yeah well yesterday I found out my dad is a crook and is stealing from the insurance branch and I have no idea what I'm going to do because either option leaves us screwed.
Instead I tell her, "Just try not to think about it and just think about Maddy and how she's growing older. At least you get to spend the whole day with her and don't have to work at a job you hate."
"And how's that suppose to make me feel?"
"I'm sorry, but I too have a lot on my mind. You're not the only one who's suffering here."
"What happened to you at work yesterday?"
"Why do you want to know?"
"Nothing happened, it was just work, degrading and mundane work. That's all."
"That's not all," her eyes meeting mine and seeing the uncertainty. "Fine, okay, you don't have to tell me. I'll try to stop caring about you."
Not this again, "What is that suppose to mean Adrienne? You don't need to know every single thing about me and everything I do."
"I'd like to know."
"Yeah but you don't have a right to."
"I'm living with you're family and you're the father of my baby, that has to give me some right to know about you and know what's going on with you."
"You seriously want to know? You think you could handle my baggage?"
"Yes I seriously want to know because I kinda am handling you're baggage by living with your family."
I look down, "Here's what's going on, yesterday I found out my father has been stealing money from the insurance branch for many years and my job there is to destroy the many years of evidence. If I turn him in, it would destroy my family and we'll be homeless. If I do nothing and continue working for him I would become just as much a criminal as him and could be sent to jail. And if we run from here, where would we go and how would we survive? I don't know what to do and I'm scared, Adrienne."
She stands there silent, thinking, "I do have a camera."
I look at her puzzled, "What?"
"What you could do, is continue with the job, destroy the evidence, but before you do, take a high-res picture of each document. I have a few thumbnail drives that I got for Maddy's pictures, you could store the evidence pictures on them, that way, you're really not doing anything criminal and still doing the job your were told to do."
She's a genius... Why didn't I think of that? That probably could work.
"How many pictures can your camera hold?"
"With a one gigabyte card 500 and with a five gigabyte card 1500."
I never thought telling her would actually make me feel better and less alone. I seriously felt like I had an actual ally.
"You're amazing, really, that might actually work. You do have your camera with you?" she hands Maddy to me while walking to her box of stuff.
"Of course. Go get ready for work, I'll get the camera ready for you."
Maybe this is the start of something...
"Yeah?" she looks up.
"Just what kind of of cell phone plan does your mom have you on? Is she still paying for your cellphone?"
"She still pays for it, with the agreement that I call her every two days, other than her, you, Heather, and Jillian are free to call and text. Why?"
"I was just wondering, you know, just in case," I shrugged.
"In case of what?"
"In case I want to call you for some reason."
"Oh okay," she smiled to herself.
"Turns out we both discovered the sins of our fathers. Why is it that most children put their fathers on pedestals, especially when their father is absent, non supportive, or plain neglectful? Why is it so hard to see them as anything but the perfect image we have of them?"
"I know what you mean, til this day, I can't for the life of me understand why it is still so import to me to impress him, why I still care so much about what he thinks of me. I knew from the start he wasn't perfect, I was proof of that. But I had respected the way he managed to fix his mistakes and move on so effortlessly like it didn't hurt him. He took full responsibility for me when my mother wouldn't, he could have easily put me up for adoption and spare his family the shame, but he didn't and chose to take me in as the third child of his that I was. No matter what he is, I do honor him for that and always will. The thing with fathers is, Adrienne, unlike mothers, fathers have a choice and it matters so greatly to a child that their father chooses them."
What the hell? That came out nowhere!
I knew they were shady people, but not to this extent.
This is way over my head. Just stay calm and hope that we can get through this. Try not to let him sense my doubt, because if he does for second, he'll never tell me anything again.
He was upstairs while I was in our basement with Maddy. She was looking up at me while I dressed her, those eyes again, looking at me with such expression. I won't give up on you Maddy, no matter how difficult it gets.
What would I do if something happened to Johnny and it was just me to raise her? Maybe he and Dana were right, I truly am incapable taking care of Maddy completely on my own. I couldn't do it on my own, I really couldn't. If I were to lose Johnny, what would surely happen is I would be left with no choice but to go to my own mother for help and that would lead to her taking over, then Maddy would see her as her mother more than me. I was lose all parental rights, and Maddy would get taken away, because the reality is I'm too young. It's no wonder why Johnny often feels like a single parent.
I held her close to me, trying not cry and think about not being with her. I can't do much, but I'll do the best I possibly can for you Maddy. I pray it'll be enough...
"Listen I didn't want to say this before, but now it has to be said. What the hell are you doing? How long do you think this little arrangement between you and Adrienne is going to last?" Dana asked.
She had pulled me aside and into her room to confront me. One of the many annoying traits of Dana is that she believes she knows everything about everyone just by obsevance.
"I said this to you before and I'll say it again, stay out of it, Dana."
"You know just as much as I that it's not going to work out. It's crazy! She's a kid, you practically have two kids to support."
"Dana, stop it, you hardly know anything about how it really is between us. You don't know her, but I do. She's a great mother and don't you dare come to me and tell me otherwise." I left her room.
Sure Dana had once been my only ally here growing up, but that didn't mean she was perfect and wasn't messed-up, she wasn't perfect and she was just as equally messed up as my other siblings. Dana despite being extremely intelligent was ignorant and believed everyone was a mental case but herself.
There was a knock on the basement door. I knew it wasn't Johnny because he was already at work. Fuck.
With Maddy in tow, I grabbed the diaper bag in case I might have to make a run for it and I went up the stairs to the door and opened it to see the one person I had been advoiding, Johnny's Stepmother, Judy. Double fuck.
She had a laundry basket in her hand, wearing yet another soccer mom type outfit, pleated jeans, and a flower print shirt.
"I have to do a few loads of laundry, if you don't mind sweetie," she smiled.
"Sure, no problem, don't mind us. We were just about to leave," I said.
"Oh where to?"
"Brock's house, we do our studying together."
"Brock? Brock Hensen?"
"How you two come to meet?" she asked.
"He's Johnny's friend."
"Believe me I know that, but how is it that he's your friend too?"
"We met yesterday, we really got along well and he offered to help me study."
"You do know he's gay don't you?"
"Yeah so, what does that have to do with anything?"
"Are you sure you want your daughter around that kind of influence?"
"Why wouldn't I?"
"I just assumed that, you being a mother, you would want to shield your daughter."
"Shield her from what? He may be gay but that doesn't make him harmful or crude. I don't know what idea you have, but I can assure you, it's far from the truth."
"She's your daughter."
"We have to get going."
"Before you go, I need to talk to you about the little incident that happened yesterday."
"What incident?" The incident where both your daughters insulted me in front of my child?
"Adrienne, I do not appreciate you threatening my daughter."
"Excuse me?" I'm going to kill Tori...
"Yesterday morning you threatened Tori," she narrowed her eyes at me.
"I didn't threaten her once, not even after she spat out racist remarks at me."
"I don't want to get into this now, all I'm saying is, don't threaten my daughter again, you should know better."
"All I did was walk away from her, what about that is threatening?" I demanded. I did nothing wrong!
She walked around me and as she descended down the stairs she looked up at me in that way I know to well, that look people give me when they felt they were better than me.
Oh you little bitch...
"Wait a minute, she did what?" Brock asked.
"She walked away from me as a big 'fuck you' to me," I proclaimed to him.
"Well that's Judy for you, she pulled the same kind of shit with Johnny all the time."
"Yeah well be thankful you don't have to live with her and have to see her every time you get something to eat. I swear I haven't eaten in like two days because I didn't want to run into her."
"You had to face her sooner or later, at least you got it over with."
"It's not over with, she thinks I'm a danger to her precious snot nosed daughter."
Brock imitated Tori's constant opened mouth expression and I laughed.
"So Judy didn't say anything about little old me, did she?" he said.
"No, why would she?"
He looked at me, knowing it wasn't the truth.
"Ok fine, she questioned my bringing Maddy over here as if you have naked men on your walls and watch gay porn all day. It was so uncomfortable."
"I think she hates me so much because she's a closet lesbian jealous of my lack of shame toward my sexuality. Her and her little PTA pal Peggy are closer than Oprah and Gail."
"Wouldn't surprise me, most housewives these days are repressed about one thing or another and trying so hard to hide their fucked-up selves behind their kids."
"Easy now, don't forget you're pretty much one of them now," he stopped me.
"Johnny and I are not married nor ever will marry," I said, bothered by his comment.
"Married or not married, you two are living together, and you're home taking care of his kid while he's off working. Housewife either way."
"This is temporary, who knows, maybe later on when I'm older we'll switch up and I'll be the one who works and he'll be the one who stays home with her."
"Face it Adrienne, you're in the same trap too and getting out is going to be a lot harder than you ever imagined."
"What trap? This isn't a trap, none of this is!"
"He works here for a year, then what?"
"We're here till he makes enough money for us to get on our feet, then we'll move-"
"And when will that be, where would you two move to, then what?"
"I don't know, hopefully not that long, and maybe we'll move somewhere near a college-"
"Are you serious?" he interrupted, "It's going to cost a fortune alone to get on your feet and support yourselves and a baby, forget about college. He's going to save up a fortune and then he's going to have to find a job somewhere else before you three can move out of here. Realistically, you're going to be here more than a year."
"What about loans?"
"No bank is going to him a loan, not even if there's a co-signer."
"We can't be here for a year, there's no way we could do it."
"Look I'm sorry for getting this way. I'm just worried for you, the both of you have a lot on you're plate."
"You think I don't know that, I reminded every time I look in Maddy's eyes."
"I'll try to help you the best I could. I know what it's like to be sheltered your whole life and then forced to do things on your own. I remember how it was not knowing how to be independent. I could teach you some stuff, stuff you'll need to know, stuff that may help you out a lot as it helped me. I've seen your artwork, Jillian showed me the comic. You're very good, you could do a lot with your talent. Have you thought about freelancing?"
"My work's not good enough."
"Maybe, maybe not," he shrugged.
"Even if it was, I don't have the numerous supplies, the money for the equipment, the time!"
"I'll invest in you, I have the equipment, the knowledge, I could buy the supplies for you, and you can make time. Maddy's not walking yet, so she's not too much of a hassle."
Was he not realizing I was currently holding Maddy and having this conversation while trying to keep her from not crying. Sure she can't walk yet, but she still was a full time job that still needed to be constantly changed, fed, comforted, washed, put to sleep, dressed, rocked, soothed, held, fed, changed, etc, etc over and over again.
Suddenly my phone was vibrating. It took me a minute to recognize the sound and register it to being my phone, no one really calls me but my mom and sometimes Jillian.
"Hold on, I think my phone rang."
I dug through the diaper bag and eventually found it. I opened it to see that I got a text message from Johnny. This is weird, I thought.
And that was how it all started...
Before I hated texting, mostly because the only one who would text me was Jillian and it would annoy the hell out of me getting twenty texts from her a day. I didn't have a blackberry or Iphone so texting her back was a chore, taking me more than ten minutes to text a sentence and hoping she wouldn't answer back.
But when it's a boy who texts you, a boy you more than like, it's a whole different experience...
I understood it now, the whole texting craze, and what it was all about. I understood now why girls like Heather were glued to their cellphones, never had it out of their sight, and slept with it under their pillow.
We weren't "sexting" or anything like that, it was only safe friendly texts, but still it made our days more interesting and brought us closer. We were communicating.
I hate to say it but texting took some of our awkwardness away, so much that our nights were actually fun. Not fun as in hooking up like fun, no, fun as in we were comfortable together, we were talking more, and not arguing. From 5pm to 8am it was almost bliss.
Brock was so much help. I didn't know what I would do without him. On the weekends while Johnny would have his one on one time with Maddy, Brock would teach me vital survival skills that my high school curriculum failed to have. Vital survival skills like how to write a great resume without having any work experience, how to get awesome letters of recommendation, how to manage money the best way possible, how to apply for financial aid, marketing, how to sell junk of ebay and get three times it worth from it, how ship it, how to do art commissions for money and where to go online to get clients willing to pay, and more. With Brock's help, I was able to make a little cash on the side, not a fortune or anything, but a little money to put aside and maybe it'll add up to something in time. With the money I opened up a bank account of my own complete with a debit card.
Maddy was growing, oh how scary it was and yet amazing. Her peach fuzz was growing into soft wispy blond curls and she looked even more like Johnny. Her witching hours were slowly fading away and she was sleeping longer into the night, in fact she was sleeping a lot more. She was smiling a laughing more, especially when we played peekaboo with her. She learned to sit up by herself and roll around. She even tries to imitate us, babbling, while having the most adorable expression on her face. I think she knew how irresistible she was.
I had stopped breastfeeding her. I just had to, and yes, it was my choice. As much as I loved it and love the intimate bonding it gave us, it was time to stop. She had started taking interest in solid foods and clearly let me and Johnny know what she did and didn't like, if she liked it, she would eat it and if she hated it she would turn her head, cry, or both.
The past month and a half had been peaceful, too peaceful. I wanted to revel in it, but yet I was weary. What if this was just calmness before the storm?
And thus it truly was...little by little the tide would change in more ways than one.
It happened in a series of events.
There was a hot and humid heat wave late July. The basement where we lived was unbearable. Nights were terrible. None of us could sleep. Johnny was stripped down to his boxers and Maddy to her diaper, but me, I was fully clothed in pajama pants and a baggy t-shirt.
I was still not comfortable with my body and didn't like the changes it went through post baby. I may have lost nearly all the baby weight, but still my body wasn't the same and I hated it. I was just so disgusted of my body and felt gross. I hated my boobs, most of all my thighs, I hated my stomach, I could go on. Maybe I was crazy, but I wanted to hide my body, especially from him.
But that was not possible in a heat wave, a very sweaty heat wave. I partially gave up and went from pajama pants to shorts, but that wasn't enough...
We'll get to that later...it's also what happened earlier that day.
It begun that morning, it was after Johnny had left for work and I was pushing Maddie in the stroller, heading over to Brock's.
"Hello there!" I heard a woman call.
She startled me and I turned to see her. She was an attractive woman who looked to be in her forties and had long curly blond hair with streaks of gray. I knew right away who this woman was.
One thing Johnny had made clear to me was to stay away from the neighbors, Amber's parents.
Still, I couldn't help but be intrigued by this woman, enough to stop and say hello back.
She walked over to me, smiling and she looked at Maddy.
"She's looks just like him," she commented, "just like him the day I first met him."
I know this woman had been known to be crazy, but she seemed so harmless and sweet. I kept guarded though.
"She does look like Johnny," I replied.
"Would you like to join me for some ice tea?" she suddenly asked.
I should say no and make up an excuse. "I don't know if I can, you see-"
She stopped me, "Please, Johnny's like my own, I've known him since he was baby, Judy would have me watch him during the day when he was baby. Amber was the same age and I would pretend they were I have a lot of his belongings he left here and I'm sure he wants them back."
She was so skinny and frail, there was no way she could be any harm, she was just a helpless woman still in mourning for her daughter.
"I can only stay for ten minutes, " I told her, agreeing to come over.
She smiled, her eyes just lit up like it was the nicest thing anyone one has done for her.
I couldn't say no to her no matter how wrong it was to say yes. This woman has the answers to everything, this woman knows Johnny more than anyone for this was the woman who raised him. My heart was racing as I was thinking of all the knowledge she knew. The more I thought about how much this women knew the more I wanted to come over and hear everything.
"Make that twenty," I added.
This wasn't wrong, was it? There was no harm in visiting the neighbors for ice tea. It wouldn't be invading Johnny's privacy to meet this woman, and he doesn't have to know...