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Two Broken People

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2| Chin Up

M A X I E


I could feel a wiggling at my side followed by a foot to the ribs.

M a x i e


I could feel a wiggling at my side followed by a foot to the ribs.


“Oof. Watch it, girlfriend.” I grumbled and grabbed Maizie’s foot, which was buried in my side and tossed it to the side.


I rolled over on my side and wrapped my arm around her small frame, the scent of her lavender baby shampoo and apple juice engulfed me in such a sense of comfort that I couldn’t help but to smile and cuddle into.


“What do you want for breakfast?” I ask her with a yawn, trying to rest my eyes for a few more moments.


“Twix.” She said confidently after thinking for a moment.


My head shot up in confusion as I took in her cute little face and disheveled bed head. “You are not having candy for breakfast.” I glared at her wondering who in the hell had given her a candy bar before, because I sure haven’t. This girl had enough energy without the added sugar.


She erupted into a fit of giggles as her small body thrashed around in my arms. I untucked her from my grasp and let her roam free without any more injuries to myself from her flailing limbs.


“No! Silly Wabbit.” As soon as she said it, I caught the reference and rolled my eyes at my own stupidity.


I knew I should have gone grocery shopping before I picked her up from daycare, but last week I decided to bring her along with me and the moment we walked through the cereal aisle, her eyes landed right onto that dumb rabbit on the box and she was sold— absolutely enamoured. I’ve only let her have one bowl of it so far, hoarding the rest for myself— but I guess I could sugar her up right before daycare, then I didn’t have to witness the sugar high that I’m sure she’d have.


“Sure. But only a little.” I gave her a serious face— but as she looked at me, thumb in mouth, I couldn’t help but to crack a smile.


“Gosh, I love you kiddo. You’re just too darn cute.” I grinned and encapsulated her in my arms, peppering kisses all over her little face as she squealed in response.


Once I finally peeled myself from the warmth of the covers, I made Maizie her bowl of cereal and brought it to her in bed along with her sippy cup of water.


A yawn escaped my lips as I walked to our shared closet and stared inside at my selection of clothes. I ended up settling on a pair of high waisted, light wash jeans and paired it with a muted rose colored sweater. I pulled the material over my torso, tucking the bottom into the front of my jeans. I stood in front of my body length mirror and took in my appearance. The nerves were starting to rear their ugly head in the pit of my stomach as I fiddled with my outfit, trying to make it sit right on my frame.


“Pwetty, sissy.” I heard from behind me, breaking me out of my endless slew of anxious thoughts.


I turned around and gave Maizie a warm smile. “Thank you sweetheart. Now come over here and help me pick out your outfit.”


She precariously placed her bowl of milk on the bedside table before running over to me and jumping into my arms as I kneeled down for her. I carried her into the closet as we scanned her wardrobe.


She grabbed a gray overall style sweater dress. I pulled it off of its hanger and paired it with a beige knitted sweater to go underneath.


Maizie wiggled in my arms. “Can I pick my shwoes?” She asked, looking up at me with round blue eyes.


I nodded my head and set her down on the ground. She ran over to our shoe rack and studied them before picking out a pair of beige ankle boots. She sat down and started to shove her feet into them, causing me to chuckle. I walked over to her and took the shoes from her.


“Hold your horses. We have to get you dressed first, silly.” She giggled in reply and ran over to the bed, where I laid out her outfit.


She started pulling on her outfit, only needing minimal help with getting her dress over her head.


Once she was fully dressed, I pulled on a pair of knitted knee high socks and slipped her little, wiggling feet into her boots. She hopped up as soon as she was finished getting dressed and did a twirl in front of the mirror.


“I feew pwetty.” She smiled at her reflection before looking over at me with a wide grin, the sparkle in her eye was impossible to miss.


I scooped her up, cradling her in my arms as I nuzzled my nose against her cheek. “Gorgeous!” I placed a loud kiss on her cheek before plopping her down on the bed, turning on Frozen for her before sitting down at my small vanity in the corner.


I turned my curling iron on, applying some simple makeup to my face as I waited for it to heat up. Once it was hot and ready, I wrapped my hair in loose beach waves, pulling the top half into a loose top knot. I smiled at my reflection before walking over to our shoe rack, pulling out my weathered pair of white Doc Martens and slipped my feet inside.


I checked the time— I still had twenty minutes until we had to leave and the nerves buzzing in the pit of my stomach wouldn’t allow me to eat so I crawled back in bed with Maizie.

I scheduled our Uber and patted my lap for her.


She crawled into my lap and rested her head against my collar bone, sticking her thumb into her mouth. She was quiet for a moment as she twirled a piece of my hair between her fingers and then she startled me with what she said next, “I miss daddy.” She said it so casually, as if he was just away on a business trip. At her age, of course she’s not going to understand what happened— she just knows that her daddy hasn’t been around for a while.


My heart constricts at the thought as I looked down at her, moving a strand of hair out of her eyes before kissing her forehead.


“Me too chicky” I sighed and rested my cheek against her soft hair.


When mom died, at first dad was strong— he was able to take care of us and then about a year and a half ago, something went wrong. He wasn’t the same strong man anymore. The man I knew as my father completely unraveled. His depression and grief ate him alive. I tried everything. He saw doctors weekly, he was on medication— but it never seemed to be enough.


Custody of Maizie may be a pretty fresh thing— systematically, but in reality I’ve been her primary guardian her entire life.


When my father’s illness progressed I took on not only Maizie but also my father’s care. I made sure he went to every appointment— driving him a few times, unlicensed and all. No matter my efforts though, he just seemed to get worse.


I watched my father deteriorate day in and day out for longer than I mentally could handle and then one night— he decided to end it all.


He left us behind- left me with all his neglected responsibilities. He forced me to grow up overnight. Do I resent him for it? Sometimes, but at the end of the day, I know the pain he was in— I can’t imagine the amount of stress on top of it. Do I think he was selfish, though? Hell yeah.


——


Dropping Maizie off this morning was extra painful, as soon as I saw the wobble of her bottom lip I had to practically run out of there before I bursted into tears.


Something about today made leaving her harder than it normally was every other day— maybe it was just my own anxiety wanting to keep her close. She may only be three but she was the biggest comfort I had these days. She’s who I get up and bust my ass for— how dad didn’t use her as a muse to keep kicking, I’ll never understand.


I climbed into the back of the Uber as I hastily wiped the tears from my face and told the driver my next destination— school.


We arrived way too quick. The entire drive, my anxiety that started this morning as a little bundle of nerves had now transformed into a damn near mental breakdown.


I tried catching my breath as I found the driver’s eyes in the rearview mirror. I slipped him his tip and then flew out of the car.


I took my time walking up to the front of the school, watching as herds of students trampled forward in front of me.


I was practically vibrating when I reached the front entrance. My palms were slick with sweat.


I wiped them on the front of my jeans before grabbing the door handle and pulling it towards me. I’m greeted with a rush of cool air as I stepped into the foyer.


I looked around, taking in the massive size and tried to spot the front office. I finally found it situated at the end of the hall and took a deep breath, hiking the strap of my backpack further up my arm, and tried willing my feet to move.


I finally regained control of my limbs and stalked my way to the office before pulling the heavy door towards me, stepping in.


I’m greeted by a smiling receptionist. She couldn’t be older than thirty-five, she had a kind smile and coily brown hair.


“Can I help you, miss?” She looked up at me with a sparkle in her eye.


I tried to return her smile but it fell flat. “I, um.” I sighed before trying again.


“My name is Maxie Andrews, I’m a transfer student.” I handed her over the paperwork I’m clutching in my sweaty hands and hoped that it wasn’t soggy.


She looked it over before her eyes returned to mine. “Well it’s nice to meet you Maxie. I’m Miss. Miller. Let me get you a schedule printed out. You might be late for homeroom, but I’ll write you a pass.” She told me before clicking away on her keyboard.


In a matter of minutes she sent me on my way with my schedule, locker number and combo, along with directions to my first period class and a late pass.


I tried to walk as slow as possible in order to quell my still raging nerves but my first class wasn’t very far from the office.


My hand hesitated on the door knob and I sucked in a long, deep breath before pulling the door open. A few peoples’ eyes flicked up to meet mine but other than that, everyone else seemed pretty unfazed.


The teacher, Mr. Ferrell— as my schedule told me— looked over at me with a questioning glance.


I tried to slow my breathing as I walked up to him.


“Hi, I’m Maxie Andrews. I’m new.” I handed him my late pass and he took it, flipping his glasses over his eyes from the top of his head as he studied it.


He gave me a nod as he threw the pass in the trash beside him. “Take a seat anywhere Miss. Andrews.” He finally gave me a smile in which I tried to return but failed miserably.


I found a seat in the back of the classroom and sat down. It took everything in me to focus enough on the lecture that was going on in the front of the class.


Halfway through class we were all silently working and I couldn’t help the strong pull I felt towards my cellphone to make sure that Maizie’s daycare hadn’t called me. I pulled it out from the side pocket of my backpack and held it in my lap, tapping on the screen to wake it.


There’s no texts or missed calls but I stared down at my phone’s wallpaper— it was a picture of Maizie and I a few weeks ago. We were both laughing and I had my arms around her— the camera was set on a timer and leaned up against my coffee mug on our kitchen counter. It was one of my favorite pictures of us together and I couldn’t help but to feel comforted by the picture, alone.


I took a deep, calming breath before I locked my phone and returned it to my backpack. God I loved that little girl, just looking at a picture of her instantly returned me to a state of tranquility.


——


The rest of the day went by fast and as I walked into my last class I could feel the excitement coursing through my veins at the fact that in an hour I’d be home with my favorite girl.


I take a seat in the back of the classroom— which I’ve done in every single class so far, and pull out my notebook. At this point in the day my backpack was filled with textbooks and I couldn’t wait to deposit them all into my locker.


Class had been going for fifteen minutes— the teacher Mrs. Winkler was droning on about the importance of having a creative outlet to unleash your innermost emotions. I couldn’t help but to think that her speech is slightly comical but my attention was stolen away when the door swung open.


The teacher didn’t even look up. “Thank you for joining us Mr. Watson. Take a seat.” She said impatiently.


A grin tilted the corner of the guy’s lips up and goosebumps rose over every inch of my body. His piercing green eyes met mine and for a moment I forgot how to breathe as his lips twitched into a bigger smile.


My teeth drug the corner of my bottom lip into my mouth and I’m pretty sure I’ve turned into a pile of Jell-O but then he started walking towards me.


I looked around the room, noticing that the only free chair was the one next to mine. He took a seat and my skin started tingling with how close he was. I could smell the musky scent mixed with the distinct odor of a freshly smoked cigarette, causing me to crave one instantly, anything to be wrapped up in a scent that intoxicating.


He wrapped his arms around the desk and shifted slightly to the side, towards me. My breath caught in my throat as I avoided eye contact, pretending I’m all too interested in what the teacher was saying.


“Hey newbie.” He muttered over to me, the corner of his lips tilted up in a smirk.


My body betrayed me and my head turned toward him, locking eyes with his intoxicating green ones. “Hey.” I breathed out softly.


His grin widened. He straightened up in his seat before slouching down. He pulled a notebook onto his lap and when I dared glance over, I saw him drawing a beautiful forest landscape— to say he had talent was a vast understatement.


The last forty minutes of class went by painfully slow, and when the bell rings I shot up so fast, stuffing my notebook and textbook into my bag and raced out the door. I faintly heard “Newbie.” being yelled behind me, but I didn’t stop long enough to see.


I made it to my locker in a matter of seconds and expertly spun the combination into the lock and threw every single textbook that I’ve gotten today in there before slinging my near empty book bag over my shoulder and headed towards the door as I scheduled my Uber to come pick me up.


——


“Sissy!” Maizie yelled out as soon as she spotted me. She climbed up from her seat on the floor and raced towards me, falling into my arms as I knelt to her level. I wrapped my arms tightly around her small body and held her close.


“I missed you so much today!” I groaned into her hair before pulling back.


“How was your day today, princess?” I smiled at her as I smoothed her hair out of her face.


“Weally good. I missed you too, sissy.” I could see the wobble of her bottom lip start and it ripped my heart to shreds.


“Well I’m here now, sweetie.” I smiled at her and tried to blink away the tears that welled up in the corner of my eyes.


I scooped her small body up before grabbing her car seat and walked towards the Uber.


“How’d you like to go out for ice cream after dinner?”


Maizie looked up at me with round eyes filled with excitement. She nodded her head vigorously. “Yes, pwease.” She smiled wide and bounced in her car seat. The look of happiness on her face filled me with so much joy that I couldn’t wipe the smile from my lips.


The driver pulled up in front of our small apartment and I gathered Maizie and all of our belongings, lugging them inside.


For dinner tonight I made homemade chicken fingers- one of Maizie’s favorite meals— tendies, as she called them.


Once we both finished eating we got settled into our pajamas.


“Alright, ready?” I smiled as I knelt in front of her, zipping up her thin jacket.


She nodded her head in excitement as she clapped her small hands. Her unruly hair from daycare had now been showered, brushed and braided into two pigtails that hung on each side of her head. I smiled at my handy work and wiggled my hand to her, for her to hold as we made our way out the door, and walked the few, short blocks to the local ice cream parlor.


After we picked out our flavors we both sat outside on a wooden bench off to the side, watching the evening traffic buzz by. Maizie is seated in my lap, trying to catch every single drop of chocolate soft serve that’s melted from her cone. Her face is covered in sticky, brown ice cream and I couldn’t help but to giggle as I grabbed a baby wipe from my purse, wiping it gently across her face.


“You’re so messy!” I teased, stealing a lick from her ice cream cone. She protested with a whine which caused me to roll my eyes. It was definitely bedtime for her soon.


We finished our before bed treats and in a matter of thirty minutes we’re wrapped up in bed together with the television now playing Trolls- thank god for the change up from Frozen. As much as I hated their little fuzzy heads and overly cheery, remixed songs- I preferred it over listening to Let It Go for the umpteenth time.


Maizie didn’t last long and before long she passed out, cuddled into me and I’m left humming along to those damn Trolls cover songs.


“I love you mommy.” Maizie whispered in a sleepy daze and tears instantly pricked the corners of my eyes.


This wasn’t the first time she called me mommy. Hell, it happened quite a few times before.


Over the last three years of practically raising her I’ve transformed into her pseudo mommy; but every time she said it, my heart constricted tighter and tighter. It made me feel so many different emotions— the main one being happiness, over the fact that I have this amazing, smart little girl as my little sidekick for the rest of my life; the second being longing, to see my mother again, have her hold me and tell me that everything is going to be okay, even if it’s just once— one little whisper, anything.


I ran my fingers through Maizie’s hair as my thoughts momentarily drifted back to the boy from class, until sleep finally casted its spell over me and my eyelids fluttered shut.


“Oof. Watch it, girlfriend.” I grumbled and grabbed Maizie’s foot, which was buried in my side and tossed it to the side.


I rolled over on my side and wrapped my arm around her small frame, the scent of her lavender baby shampoo and apple juice engulfed me in such a sense of comfort that I couldn’t help but to smile and cuddle into.


“What do you want for breakfast?” I ask her with a yawn, trying to rest my eyes for a few more moments.


“Twix.” She said confidently after thinking for a moment.


My head shot up in confusion as I took in her cute little face and disheveled bed head. “You are not having candy for breakfast.” I glared at her wondering who in the hell had given her a candy bar before, because I sure haven’t. This girl had enough energy without the added sugar.


She erupted into a fit of giggles as her small body thrashed around in my arms. I untucked her from my grasp and let her roam free without any more injuries to myself from her flailing limbs.


“No! Silly Wabbit.” As soon as she said it, I caught the reference and rolled my eyes at my own stupidity.


I knew I should have gone grocery shopping before I picked her up from daycare, but last week I decided to bring her along with me and the moment we walked through the cereal aisle, her eyes landed right onto that dumb rabbit on the box and she was sold— absolutely enamoured. I’ve only let her have one bowl of it so far, hoarding the rest for myself— but I guess I could sugar her up right before daycare, then I didn’t have to witness the sugar high that I’m sure she’d have.


“Sure. But only a little.” I gave her a serious face— but as she looked at me, thumb in mouth, I couldn’t help but to crack a smile.


“Gosh, I love you kiddo. You’re just too darn cute.” I grinned and encapsulated her in my arms, peppering kisses all over her little face as she squealed in response.


Once I finally peeled myself from the warmth of the covers, I made Maizie her bowl of cereal and brought it to her in bed along with her sippy cup of water.


A yawn escaped my lips as I walked to our shared closet and stared inside at my selection of clothes. I ended up settling on a pair of high waisted, light wash jeans and paired it with a muted rose colored sweater. I pulled the material over my torso, tucking the bottom into the front of my jeans. I stood in front of my body length mirror and took in my appearance. The nerves were starting to rear their ugly head in the pit of my stomach as I fiddled with my outfit, trying to make it sit right on my frame.


“Pwetty, sissy.” I heard from behind me, breaking me out of my endless slew of anxious thoughts.


I turned around and gave Maizie a warm smile. “Thank you sweetheart. Now come over here and help me pick out your outfit.”


She precariously placed her bowl of milk on the bedside table before running over to me and jumping into my arms as I kneeled down for her. I carried her into the closet as we scanned her wardrobe.


She grabbed a gray overall style sweater dress. I pulled it off of its hanger and paired it with a beige knitted sweater to go underneath.


Maizie wiggled in my arms. “Can I pick my shwoes?” She asked, looking up at me with round blue eyes.


I nodded my head and set her down on the ground. She ran over to our shoe rack and studied them before picking out a pair of beige ankle boots. She sat down and started to shove her feet into them, causing me to chuckle. I walked over to her and took the shoes from her.


“Hold your horses. We have to get you dressed first, silly.” She giggled in reply and ran over to the bed, where I laid out her outfit.


She started pulling on her outfit, only needing minimal help with getting her dress over her head.


Once she was fully dressed, I pulled on a pair of knitted knee high socks and slipped her little, wiggling feet into her boots. She hopped up as soon as she was finished getting dressed and did a twirl in front of the mirror.


“I feew pwetty.” She smiled at her reflection before looking over at me with a wide grin, the sparkle in her eye was impossible to miss.


I scooped her up, cradling her in my arms as I nuzzled my nose against her cheek. “Gorgeous!” I placed a loud kiss on her cheek before plopping her down on the bed, turning on Frozen for her before sitting down at my small vanity in the corner.


I turned my curling iron on, applying some simple makeup to my face as I waited for it to heat up. Once it was hot and ready, I wrapped my hair in loose beach waves, pulling the top half into a loose top knot. I smiled at my reflection before walking over to our shoe rack, pulling out my weathered pair of white Doc Martens and slipped my feet inside.


I checked the time— I still had twenty minutes until we had to leave and the nerves buzzing in the pit of my stomach wouldn’t allow me to eat so I crawled back in bed with Maizie.

I scheduled our Uber and patted my lap for her.


She crawled into my lap and rested her head against my collar bone, sticking her thumb into her mouth. She was quiet for a moment as she twirled a piece of my hair between her fingers and then she startled me with what she said next, “I miss daddy.” She said it so casually, as if he was just away on a business trip. At her age, of course she’s not going to understand what happened— she just knows that her daddy hasn’t been around for a while.


My heart constricts at the thought as I looked down at her, moving a strand of hair out of her eyes before kissing her forehead.


“Me too chicky” I sighed and rested my cheek against her soft hair.


When mom died, at first dad was strong— he was able to take care of us and then about a year and a half ago, something went wrong. He wasn’t the same strong man anymore. The man I knew as my father completely unraveled. His depression and grief ate him alive. I tried everything. He saw doctors weekly, he was on medication— but it never seemed to be enough.


Custody of Maizie may be a pretty fresh thing— systematically, but in reality I’ve been her primary guardian her entire life.


When my father’s illness progressed I took on not only Maizie but also my father’s care. I made sure he went to every appointment— driving him a few times, unlicensed and all. No matter my efforts though, he just seemed to get worse.


I watched my father deteriorate day in and day out for longer than I mentally could handle and then one night— he decided to end it all.


He left us behind- left me with all his neglected responsibilities. He forced me to grow up overnight. Do I resent him for it? Sometimes, but at the end of the day, I know the pain he was in— I can’t imagine the amount of stress on top of it. Do I think he was selfish, though? Hell yeah.


——


Dropping Maizie off this morning was extra painful, as soon as I saw the wobble of her bottom lip I had to practically run out of there before I bursted into tears.


Something about today made leaving her harder than it normally was every other day— maybe it was just my own anxiety wanting to keep her close. She may only be three but she was the biggest comfort I had these days. She’s who I get up and bust my ass for— how dad didn’t use her as a muse to keep kicking, I’ll never understand.


I climbed into the back of the Uber as I hastily wiped the tears from my face and told the driver my next destination— school.


We arrived way too quick. The entire drive, my anxiety that started this morning as a little bundle of nerves had now transformed into a damn near mental breakdown.


I tried catching my breath as I found the driver’s eyes in the rearview mirror. I slipped him his tip and then flew out of the car.


I took my time walking up to the front of the school, watching as herds of students trampled forward in front of me.


I was practically vibrating when I reached the front entrance. My palms were slick with sweat.


I wiped them on the front of my jeans before grabbing the door handle and pulling it towards me. I’m greeted with a rush of cool air as I stepped into the foyer.


I looked around, taking in the massive size and tried to spot the front office. I finally found it situated at the end of the hall and took a deep breath, hiking the strap of my backpack further up my arm, and tried willing my feet to move.


I finally regained control of my limbs and stalked my way to the office before pulling the heavy door towards me, stepping in.


I’m greeted by a smiling receptionist. She couldn’t be older than thirty-five, she had a kind smile and coily brown hair.


“Can I help you, miss?” She looked up at me with a sparkle in her eye.


I tried to return her smile but it fell flat. “I, um.” I sighed before trying again.


“My name is Maxie Andrews, I’m a transfer student.” I handed her over the paperwork I’m clutching in my sweaty hands and hoped that it wasn’t soggy.


She looked it over before her eyes returned to mine. “Well it’s nice to meet you Maxie. I’m Miss. Miller. Let me get you a schedule printed out. You might be late for homeroom, but I’ll write you a pass.” She told me before clicking away on her keyboard.


In a matter of minutes she sent me on my way with my schedule, locker number and combo, along with directions to my first period class and a late pass.


I tried to walk as slow as possible in order to quell my still raging nerves but my first class wasn’t very far from the office.


My hand hesitated on the door knob and I sucked in a long, deep breath before pulling the door open. A few peoples’ eyes flicked up to meet mine but other than that, everyone else seemed pretty unfazed.


The teacher, Mr. Ferrell— as my schedule told me— looked over at me with a questioning glance.


I tried to slow my breathing as I walked up to him.


“Hi, I’m Maxie Andrews. I’m new.” I handed him my late pass and he took it, flipping his glasses over his eyes from the top of his head as he studied it.


He gave me a nod as he threw the pass in the trash beside him. “Take a seat anywhere Miss. Andrews.” He finally gave me a smile in which I tried to return but failed miserably.


I found a seat in the back of the classroom and sat down. It took everything in me to focus enough on the lecture that was going on in the front of the class.


Halfway through class we were all silently working and I couldn’t help the strong pull I felt towards my cellphone to make sure that Maizie’s daycare hadn’t called me. I pulled it out from the side pocket of my backpack and held it in my lap, tapping on the screen to wake it.


There’s no texts or missed calls but I stared down at my phone’s wallpaper— it was a picture of Maizie and I a few weeks ago. We were both laughing and I had my arms around her— the camera was set on a timer and leaned up against my coffee mug on our kitchen counter. It was one of my favorite pictures of us together and I couldn’t help but to feel comforted by the picture, alone.


I took a deep, calming breath before I locked my phone and returned it to my backpack. God I loved that little girl, just looking at a picture of her instantly returned me to a state of tranquility.


——


The rest of the day went by fast and as I walked into my last class I could feel the excitement coursing through my veins at the fact that in an hour I’d be home with my favorite girl.


I take a seat in the back of the classroom— which I’ve done in every single class so far, and pull out my notebook. At this point in the day my backpack was filled with textbooks and I couldn’t wait to deposit them all into my locker.


Class had been going for fifteen minutes— the teacher Mrs. Winkler was droning on about the importance of having a creative outlet to unleash your innermost emotions. I couldn’t help but to think that her speech is slightly comical but my attention was stolen away when the door swung open.


The teacher didn’t even look up. “Thank you for joining us Mr. Watson. Take a seat.” She said impatiently.


A grin tilted the corner of the guy’s lips up and goosebumps rose over every inch of my body. His piercing green eyes met mine and for a moment I forgot how to breathe as his lips twitched into a bigger smile.


My teeth drug the corner of my bottom lip into my mouth and I’m pretty sure I’ve turned into a pile of Jell-O but then he started walking towards me.


I looked around the room, noticing that the only free chair was the one next to mine. He took a seat and my skin started tingling with how close he was. I could smell the musky scent mixed with the distinct odor of a freshly smoked cigarette, causing me to crave one instantly, anything to be wrapped up in a scent that intoxicating.


He wrapped his arms around the desk and shifted slightly to the side, towards me. My breath caught in my throat as I avoided eye contact, pretending I’m all too interested in what the teacher was saying.


“Hey newbie.” He muttered over to me, the corner of his lips tilted up in a smirk.


My body betrayed me and my head turned toward him, locking eyes with his intoxicating green ones. “Hey.” I breathed out softly.


His grin widened. He straightened up in his seat before slouching down. He pulled a notebook onto his lap and when I dared glance over, I saw him drawing a beautiful forest landscape— to say he had talent was a vast understatement.


The last forty minutes of class went by painfully slow, and when the bell rings I shot up so fast, stuffing my notebook and textbook into my bag and raced out the door. I faintly heard “Newbie.” being yelled behind me, but I didn’t stop long enough to see.


I made it to my locker in a matter of seconds and expertly spun the combination into the lock and threw every single textbook that I’ve gotten today in there before slinging my near empty book bag over my shoulder and headed towards the door as I scheduled my Uber to come pick me up.


——


“Sissy!” Maizie yelled out as soon as she spotted me. She climbed up from her seat on the floor and raced towards me, falling into my arms as I knelt to her level. I wrapped my arms tightly around her small body and held her close.


“I missed you so much today!” I groaned into her hair before pulling back.


“How was your day today, princess?” I smiled at her as I smoothed her hair out of her face.


“Weally good. I missed you too, sissy.” I could see the wobble of her bottom lip start and it ripped my heart to shreds.


“Well I’m here now, sweetie.” I smiled at her and tried to blink away the tears that welled up in the corner of my eyes.


I scooped her small body up before grabbing her car seat and walked towards the Uber.


“How’d you like to go out for ice cream after dinner?”


Maizie looked up at me with round eyes filled with excitement. She nodded her head vigorously. “Yes, pwease.” She smiled wide and bounced in her car seat. The look of happiness on her face filled me with so much joy that I couldn’t wipe the smile from my lips.


The driver pulled up in front of our small apartment and I gathered Maizie and all of our belongings, lugging them inside.


For dinner tonight I made homemade chicken fingers- one of Maizie’s favorite meals— tendies, as she called them.


Once we both finished eating we got settled into our pajamas.


“Alright, ready?” I smiled as I knelt in front of her, zipping up her thin jacket.


She nodded her head in excitement as she clapped her small hands. Her unruly hair from daycare had now been showered, brushed and braided into two pigtails that hung on each side of her head. I smiled at my handy work and wiggled my hand to her, for her to hold as we made our way out the door, and walked the few, short blocks to the local ice cream parlor.


After we picked out our flavors we both sat outside on a wooden bench off to the side, watching the evening traffic buzz by. Maizie is seated in my lap, trying to catch every single drop of chocolate soft serve that’s melted from her cone. Her face is covered in sticky, brown ice cream and I couldn’t help but to giggle as I grabbed a baby wipe from my purse, wiping it gently across her face.


“You’re so messy!” I teased, stealing a lick from her ice cream cone. She protested with a whine which caused me to roll my eyes. It was definitely bedtime for her soon.


We finished our before bed treats and in a matter of thirty minutes we’re wrapped up in bed together with the television now playing Trolls- thank god for the change up from Frozen. As much as I hated their little fuzzy heads and overly cheery, remixed songs- I preferred it over listening to Let It Go for the umpteenth time.


Maizie didn’t last long and before long she passed out, cuddled into me and I’m left humming along to those damn Trolls cover songs.


“I love you mommy.” Maizie whispered in a sleepy daze and tears instantly pricked the corners of my eyes.


This wasn’t the first time she called me mommy. Hell, it happened quite a few times before.


Over the last three years of practically raising her I’ve transformed into her pseudo mommy; but every time she said it, my heart constricted tighter and tighter. It made me feel so many different emotions— the main one being happiness, over the fact that I have this amazing, smart little girl as my little sidekick for the rest of my life; the second being longing, to see my mother again, have her hold me and tell me that everything is going to be okay, even if it’s just once— one little whisper, anything.


I ran my fingers through Maizie’s hair as my thoughts momentarily drifted back to the boy from class, until sleep finally casted its spell over me and my eyelids fluttered shut.


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