Twelve years old
Some might say that road trips are fun. Those people never spent fourteen hours in a rusted-up Buick with their twenty-seven-year-old mother. Oh, and I forgot to mention with no air conditioning. My mother, AKA Tia, hasn’t stopped singing since we started the drive early this morning. She’s belting out the lyrics to Kesha’s “Die Young.”
That’s Tia for you. The definition of “young.” Really, what do you expect from a teen mom? I’m the product of a one-night stand at a high school party. I’m a “mistake.” Mom hasn’t outright said that word, but she’s always made me feel that way. She’s always acted more like a jealous sister than a mom. The only mom figure that I ever had was Nana. And that’s been from a distance.
Today, that all changes because we just arrived in my hometown, Ashland, Louisiana. Well, it’s more Tia’s hometown than mine, seeing that my mom left town shortly after I was born. So, I guess you can call it my birthplace. We haven’t been back here since I was five. I can only think of a handful of times that I saw Nana. We’ve spoken on the phone, but it’s not the same. Other than Tia, Nana is the only other family I have.
The truth is, I can’t remember when we ever stayed in one place. We spent the past two years in North Carolina. Before that, Tia had us all over the south. She’s never been able to keep a steady job. I spent my whole life running. So I’m happy to settle in one place. I can’t say the same thing about mom, though. Nana and her don’t get along, and I can see why. My mom’s not an easy person to love. I’m more mature than her at only twelve years old.
In the past, we usually left because mom couldn’t come up with the rent. This time, Tia’s running from a jaded housewife. See, Tia met this man, Bobby, at the bar she was working. Well, I’m sure you can guess what happened after that. They spent the past year in a blissful romance. Eyeroll. He was always over at our apartment. Never felt comfortable being alone with the guy. He was too, shall we say, handsy. That’s why I stayed at Mrs. Myers’ place on nights Tia worked. So, thankfully, he never got to spend the night alone with me.
Mrs. Myers was a little old lady who loved birds. Had all kinds of jungle birds, which isn’t suitable for being in a tiny apartment. Bobby would constantly pound on the wall to shut the birds up, but that only made them louder. Mrs. Myers is the only thing I will miss about North Carolina.
Anyway, it turns out blissful Bobby has a wife. And she doesn’t like to share. Tia “claims” that she didn’t know he was married. Not until his wife showed up at our apartment and wasn’t alone. She came prepared. Bobby opened the door in his briefs to find a Samual Colt Revolver pointed at his head. What housewife carries a Revolver around? The wife threatened my mother that if she ever came around her man again, she’d pay, and I would become an orphan. My head was peeking out the bedroom door when all this went down. Then she grabbed her husband by the ear and dragged him out. We packed up the Buick with whatever we could the following day and left.
That brings us to now. We pull up in a suburban-type neighborhood to a small, faded white house. It’s dark out, with just the street lights making it harder to see.
Tia shuts the car off and glances at the house. “I haven’t been back to this shithole since you were five. Hasn’t changed at all.” She sneers.
Grabbing our garbage-stuffed bags, I follow mom up the front steps. Before we can make it to the door, Nana is there to greet us. “There’s my sweet girl,” Nana says, pulling me into her warm embrace. She brushes a soft kiss on the top of my head. That’s the most affection that I’ve seen in a long time. Tia’s not the kind to show love. She says it makes one weak.
Tia waltzes into the house without being invited in. The house itself is relatively small. You walk into a small but cozy living room. On the right is a quaint-sized kitchen. On the left, a little hallway leads to a tiny bathroom.
Nana grabs my arm. “Come on, dear; I’ll show you to your room. You must be exhausted from being in that stuffy old car all day.” Tia rolls her eyes. I swear I act more mature than her.
After walking up the stairs, Nana stops at the first room. “This is my room; I need to be closer to the stairs.” She leads us to the only other room at the end of the little hallway. “You and your mother will stay in here.”
“I see this room hasn’t changed since I left,” Mom says. You can tell the room is fit for a teenage girl—soft, light pink walls. There’s a full-size bed with a matching comforter. Nana flips on the light switch. Walking around the decent-sized room, I see old photos of Tia. Pictures of her in a cheerleading uniform. One photo catches my eye. She and a few other cheerleaders are posing with a group of football players. One, in particular, has his arm wrapped around her shoulders. He has the same chocolate brown eyes as me. Ones I know I didn’t get from mom. Hers are light green.
Could this guy be my dad?
Before I can ask questions, Tia rips the picture down. “Mom, why do you still have all these photos up?” She asks, waving the image in Nana’s face.
“Just thought you would appreciate that I left everything the way it was. I don’t come in here; this is your room, always has been, and always will be. Now it’s yours and Chelsea’s. Welcome home, girls. I’ll see you in the morning at breakfast. Get some sleep!” With that, she closes the door behind her.
Before I can sleep, I need to know who the guy is in that picture. So, taking it out of the trash where Tia just threw it, I uncrumble it. “Mom, who is the guy in this photo with his arm around you?”
She snatches the photo away. “Chelsea, don’t ask questions you won’t understand.”
“How do you know I won’t understand if you don’t tell me?”
Tia grabs an old band tee and pulls it over her head. “Stop asking questions and go to sleep.” With that, I pull on an old T-shirt, slip on a pair of shorts, and then close my eyes. Tomorrow starts a new life in a new town.
I wake up to the wonderful smell of bacon. One, I’m not used to smelling. Typically, all Tia has in the house is stale cereal. Sitting up in bed, I see mom isn’t there. Looking over at the alarm, I see it’s only seven in the morning. You usually don’t see Tia out of bed until noon. She always worked nights.
Walking into the kitchen, I see Nana flipping pancakes. “Good morning, dear. I figured I would make you a nice welcome-home breakfast to start the day.”
“Thanks, Nana.” She fills a plate with pancakes and bacon, then sets it on the table. I pour myself a glass of orange juice. Tia walks in and steals a piece of bacon off my plate. I glare at her. She’s already dressed. By the way, Nana is looking at her; she disapproves. Tia has on a crop tee, jean shorts with pockets sticking out the bottoms, and country booties. There just like cowgirl boots but shorter.
Looking at her, you wouldn’t think Tia was my mother. She’s got tan southern skin and long, wavy blonde hair. I must inherit my hair color from my father, whoever he is—the same color as the football player in the picture. Everywhere we go, guys gawk at her. It annoys the hell out of me.
“I swear if your shorts were any shorter, I would think you weren’t wearing any underwear,” Nana says, nodding.
Tia smirks. “Who says I’m wearing any panties, mother.” To escape their bickering, I grab a few more bacon pieces and walk out on the front porch to eat in peace.
Looking around this little neighborhood, I notice the houses are not much bigger than Nana’s.
My head is turned to the right when a football comes flying over, thankfully landing on the bench seat next to me. “Hey, you gonna throw that back or stare at it?” An older boy shouts from the house next door. He looks to be not much older than me. Picking up the football, I start to walk it next door. A young girl comes running up to me when I’m halfway there.
She’s slightly shorter than me, has a short blonde bob, and green eyes. It looks like she’s a tomboy by the long Green Bay Packers shirt she’s sporting and green gym shorts. “Sorry about my brother. He can be a total dick.” The girl says, smiling. “I’m Madison, but everyone calls me Maddie.”
Handing the football back, I smile. “It’s nice to meet you, Maddie. I’m Chelsea.” She looks me over with interest.
“Do you know Miss Kane?” Speaking about my grandmother.
“She’s my Nana. My mom and I just arrived here last night. We’re going to be staying with her for a while.”
Maddie eyes me curiously. “Nana Kane has talked about you before.” My eyes bulge. Although I probably shouldn’t be surprised.
The rude boy from earlier makes his way over to us. He snatches the football from his sister’s grip. “Hey, jackass.”
“No swearing young lady.” A tall, muscular man covered in ink says. He’s got tanned skin, blonde hair to his shoulders, and green piercing eyes, reminding me of the main character in that biker show. It’s then I notice a Harley sitting out front. I was right; he is a biker. Is he in a gang, too?
“Sorry, daddy,” Maddie says with puppy dog eyes. He gives her a soft smile. That must be how most daddies look at their little girls.
I wouldn’t know.
Walking towards us, he stops next to Maddie. “You must be Charlotte’s granddaughter.” No one calls Nana by her first name. “I went to school with your mom, Tia.” He states gruffly. So he knows my mother? Could he be my daddy? Oh lord, I hope not. Especially because the way I was looking at him was anything but daughterly. No, he’s not my daddy. I look nothing like him. That still doesn’t mean Tia didn’t screw him. Don’t go there, Chelsea. I’m twelve. I shouldn’t even know about sex. Unfortunately, I’ve had to watch my mom bring in different men over the years. And in our tiny apartment, the walls were thin.
Before I can respond, I hear mom’s sultry voice. “Well, look at who we have here. Tommy Robinson. My mama didn’t say Ashland’s bad boy biker lived next door.” Tia steps next to me, wrapping her arms around my shoulders. Something she only ever does to keep appearances up.
“Yeah, been living here over ten years now with Lena and our two kids. This is my girl Maddie, and over there is my boy Connor.” He says happily, pointing to his son in the distance, still tossing the football around.
“Lena Rivers! You married her?” Tia says, looking surprised.
“She’s now Lena Robinson, but I did marry her.”
“I shouldn’t be surprised she was pregnant around the time I was with this one,” Mom says, her arms wrapped tighter around me.
So they do know each other. From how Mr. Robinson looks at my mom, I can tell they never were friends. While he’s busy glaring at my mom, I see a beautiful woman strutting toward us. She’s tan, thin, and has long blonde wavy hair. I’m not surprised this guy’s wife looks like that. He’s gorgeous. Did I call an older guy gorgeous? Weird.
“Tia Kane.” The beautiful woman snarls. Judging by the scowl on her face, I can tell she’s not a fan of my mom’s. Join the club.
“Lena,” Mom snarls, glaring back. So It’s safe to say that these two were not friends growing up.
Madison introduces me to her mother. “Mama, this is Chelsea; she’s Nana Kane’s granddaughter.”
Maddie’s mom eyes me carefully. Before facing my mother. “So you here to stay, Tia?” I don’t miss the threat in her tone as she says that.
Tia sighs. “Unfortunately, yes. But hopefully not for long.” Before things get any more heated, Nana steps out of the house.
“Morning, Tommy and Lena.” She says, smiling and waving. They give her a wave back. Then Maddie breaks the awkward tension.
“Mama, can I show Chelsea the treehouse daddy built in the backyard?”
“Sure, dear, if it’s alright with her mama.” She says, glancing at mom for approval.
Tia swings her long hair over her shoulder. “I don’t see why not. I’m out of here anyway. I got to find myself a job. Don’t want to be stuck here longer than we have to. Chelsea, stay out of trouble.” Without as much as a goodbye, she’s strutting and hopping in the old Buick.
Nana shakes her head. “You go have fun, dear. I’m home all day if you need me. I have to knit some blankets for the church.”
“We’ll look after her, Nana Kane,” Tommy says. For some reason, those words have my heart fluttering, and I don’t know why.