I nod my head as if he can see me. "Yes, I understand. I've had you telling me for weeks as well as every other person within the system that we've come in contact with." There's a slight bite to my tone and I instantly regret it. Max has been nothing but kind to me, and he's helped me more than anyone else has in the past month.
I can hear papers shuffling from his end and I bite my lip anxiously. "I know, I know. I just want to make sure you're aware how big off a responsibility this is. You're eighteen years old- you're young, in high school still, and have your whole life ahead of you; a three year old is a big responsibility." He has his best fatherly voice on as he relays the same speech that I've been hearing on repeat since my father decided to leave us to fend for ourselves.
"I know that, Max. I appreciate your concern, but she is my responsibility. She's my sister and I'm not going to let her be taken away and put in the system. I won't let her end up in some foster home." My stomach sours at the thought.
"Not all foster homes are bad, and she may be adopted into a loving family." His words go on deaf ears- another speech I've been given too many times lately.
"Again, I appreciate your concern Max, but I've got this. I'm not losing her." I can hear the edge to my tone as tears threaten to spill over my cheeks.
Max sighs on the line. "Okay, Maxie. Just make sure that you adhere to all of the stipulations to your custody agreement and you shouldn't have any problems. Make sure you go to school- you must graduate with either a high school diploma or equivalent. You have to keep a steady job to supplement whatever isn't covered by the state, and obviously keep her safe." He lists off before ending the call.
By the time we're off the phone I'm shaking. It's only five-thirty in the morning and I'm an anxious mess.
I balance my cup of coffee on my knee as I sit on our tiny porch, looking out at the rising sun. The baby monitor next to me starts to come alive as Maizie starts waking up. A small smile spreads across my lips as I take a long sip of coffee before climbing up from my seat on the steps and make my way inside.
Our new apartment is small. It's a one bedroom with just enough space for the two of us. I check the monitor once more, squinting at the little screen as I try to make out if Maizie has fully woken yet- but it looks like she's arched herself up on her knees and fallen back asleep. A giggle escapes my lips as I roll my eyes at her sleeping position. Even when she was an itty bitty baby she'd sleep in the oddest positions.
I set a skillet on the stovetop and set the flame to low heat as I pull out a bowl, and all the ingredients to make chocolate chip pancakes.
I'm flipping the last pancake onto the plate when I hear groaning coming from the baby monitor. I switch off the stove, depositing the pan in the sink before I walk down the hallway to our shared bedroom. I climb over the baby gate and pad over to our bed, crawling in beside her. She's sitting up, thumb in mouth and her favorite blankie in her free hand. As soon as I'm in the bed, she crawls next to me and nuzzles her face in my neck, grabbing a strand of my hair and twisting it in her small little fingers.
I litter her face with soft little kisses as my heart melts. "Good morning, princess." I smile at her. "I made your favorite- chocolate chip pancakes."
Her twirling fingers stop for a moment and her thumb pops out of her mouth as she looks at me with a wide grin.
"Weally?" She says sleepily.
I nod my head. "Only for you, cutie."
She squeezes her fingers in front of her- a motion which I know all too well, meaning that she wants to be picked up. I hoist her up into my arms and carry her small body into the kitchen. I put her on her booster seat that's situated on the kitchen chair and place a plate of cut up pancakes in front of her.
"Sywup, pweese." She yawns out, and with a roll of my eyes I satisfy her demand by drizzling syrup across her pancakes.
She shovels in a huge forkful and closes her eyes, a wide smile spreading across her sweet little face as she indulges in the pancakes' sugary goodness.
"How are they?" I ask after chewing a bite of my own.
She nods her head excitedly. "So good!" She lets out a satisfied squeal and my heart melts at her cuteness.
After breakfast I carry Maizie back to the bedroom where I pick out an outfit for her- a cute pair of skinny jeans, a black long sleeve and matching sandals. I quickly dress her and pull her sandy blonde hair into two pigtails on the top of her head clipping in matching black bows.
I pat her tiny booty. "You're all set, chicky." I smile at her and set her back up in bed with her sippy cup and cartoons while I take a speedy shower and get dressed for my shift at the small diner in town.
Within twenty minutes we're both out the door. I made sure to call my Uber ahead of time, so as we're walking out the door, the driver is pulling up- perfect timing. I strap the car seat into the back of the car and buckle Maizie in, making sure to double check her straps before climbing in next to her.
I give the driver the address to the daycare and within minutes we're idling out front. I bring both Maizie and the car seat inside, balancing both of them on each of my hips.
"Good morning Miss. Andrews, and how are you today Miss. Maizie?" The young attendant at the front of the daycare asks as I hand Maizie over to her. Maizie gushes in the girls arms, explaining how she got to have chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. I give the girl a small smile and stash the car seat in one of the front rooms before giving Maizie a big kiss.
"Love you girlfriend, I'll see you in a few hours." I say to her and have to look away from her wobbling bottom lip- something that happens every morning, no matter how excited she is to come.
I sigh as I walk out the door, trying to contain my own tears from spilling as I climb back into the Uber and give the driver the next address.
Nothing in the world could have prepared me for the shit show that I walked into at work. There was a huge line of patrons waiting to be seated as well as a full dining area.
I sigh and tie an apron around my waist and grab my order pad as I'm instructed which section would be mine today.
I make my way over to my first table of the day and it was a group of older women all wearing scowls. Great.
"Ugh, finally." One of the ladies says and it takes all of my self control to not scowl back at her- instead I kept my professional, ass kisser smile present the entire time I served them.
By the end of my shift my feet were killing me. I stayed an hour and a half over my scheduled time, but feeling the wad of cash in my pocket alone made it worth it.
I walk out into the cold evening breeze and suck in a deep breath. The crisp air around me causes goosebumps to raise over my arms and I silently curse myself for not remembering a sweatshirt.
"You need a ride?" Carlos, my boss asks me. I inwardly cringe at his question. If he were anyone else, maybe I'd agree- just to get out of the cold; but Carlos is a well known skeeze who just hires young girls so that he can pray on them.
"No thank you. I have an Uber on it's way." I give him a tight lipped smile.
"Such a shame that you spend money on that garbage service." He mutters.
I shrug my shoulders in response, unsure of what else to say.
"Won't be for much longer. I should have a car soon." I finally reply.
Carlos just nods and without a word he slips back into the diner. I whisper my thanks to the heavens and watch as the headlights from the Uber pull into the parking lot, stopping in front of me.
By the time we get to the daycare Maizie is sleeping. I've told the girls who work there plenty of times before to not let her take a nap so late, but I guess there's nothing that can stop a sleepy girl.
I buckle the car seat into the back of the car before returning inside to grab her from one of the workers. She stirs for a moment once placed in her arms, but as soon as I place a hand on her head she lays back on my shoulder.
I successfully get her strapped into her car seat in a matter of minutes and we're on our way. Getting her inside however, not so successful. I ended up dropping the car seat, startling her awake.
"Sorry sweetie, but good thing you're awake. If you sleep any longer you won't be able to sleep tonight." I whisper softly to her as we make our way inside the small apartment.
I plop her down on the sofa and switch on some cartoons as I make my way to the kitchen. I pull open the cabinets and peer inside- trying to come up with something to make for dinner.
I settle on mac and cheese and hot dogs. Something easy- after a shift like that I just don't have the energy for much.
I set Maizie's plate on her small table in front of the TV and place her in her chair with a sippy cup.
"I'm going to take a shower sweetie." I say, placing a small kiss on the top of her little head- in between her now lopsided pig tails.
Once in the bathroom, I leave the door open so I can hear any peep that comes out of her and start shedding my greasy work clothes.
Once I step under the stream of water, it does wonders on smoothing over my aching muscles. I stand under the cascade for a few more moments before lathering my hair with shampoo, then working on getting the greasy stench of diner food free from my skin.
After I'm showered, I check on Maizie. She's sitting back on the couch, thumb in her mouth and pigtails now completely ripped out as she twirls her hair between her fingers. I smile at the sight and lean against the wall as I watch her.
"Sissy" Her little voice tumbles towards me.
"Yes sweetie?" I move closer and sit down next to her on the couch.
She crawls over to me, looking up at me with her thumb hanging out the side of her mouth. "I love you." She smiles, thumb and all as she leans in and wraps her free arm around me, cuddling into my shoulder.
My heart swells to the nth degree as I wrap my arms tight around her small little frame- holding her as close to me as humanly possible.
"I love you too shnookums." I grin, pulling back after a moment.
"But you're not getting out of bath time." I tease her, tickling her sides as she squeals out in protest and wiggles against my grasp.
"Bwut." She tries but I just pick her up, flailing limbs and all.
An hour and a soaked bathroom floor later, we're cuddled up in bed with Frozen playing on the TV. Maizie has her head laying on my shoulder, strand of hair between her fingers and thumb in her mouth- of course, as her eyes grow heavy. I run my fingers through her slightly damp hair, humming along to Let It Go.
I look down at her, as sleep gets the best of her and smile. She looks so sweet and innocent. She has no perception of the bad that has already happened to her in the short time she's been on this earth.
My mind wanders to the past and tears well up in my eyes as images of my mother flash in my memory. God, she was so beautiful and I see so much of her in Maizie every single day.
I lean down and place a tender kiss on her little forehead as tears well up in the corners of my eyes. As much as I miss my family, I wouldn't change a damn thing. Yes, life is hard now- life has taught me a lot of lessons at a young age, lessons that most eighteen year olds shouldn't have to go through- but in the end it's only made me stronger. I get the chance to give Maizie a good life, keep her out of the harsh reality that is the foster care system.
Yeah, Max is right- she may get adopted, but the system is already filled with so many sweet little boys and girls who deserve homes, why would I take away from one of them when I can give Maizie a great life on my own?
Everyone's doubts start to seep in and chip away at my self confidence but I beat them down before they make any headway.
As one anxiety settles another one rears it's ugly head- one in the form of starting a new school, tomorrow. Everything is new. I had lived in my old town my entire life, and now I've been forced to uproot myself and Maizie so that I can afford to give us the life we deserve. I didn't have much time this week to even really think about how nervous I'd be about starting over my senior year of high school, but now as I lay in bed, mind completely free of responsibility- the anxiety starts ramping up.
I didn't have many friends at my old school, they all vanished three years ago after mom died- once my entire life changed. No one proved to me that they were worth it, so I had no problem leaving them behind.
As much anxiety as the change was giving me, it also filled me with a new sense of hope that I didn't have before. This would be a new place, a new chance to start over- reinvent myself, if I really want to. No one knows who I am, my situation. No one will be passing pitying glances my way, maybe glances of curiosity for the new girl- but I'm sure that will blow over fairly quickly.
Maizie stirs slightly in my arms, tugging the piece of hair that's wrapped in her tiny fingers- pulling me out of my thoughts. I unravel my hair from her hand and replace it with her blankie. She cuddles the soft material to her face before burying herself even closer next to me. Her closeness melts away any lingering anxiety as sleepiness takes over.
Thank you so much for reading! I hope you guys enjoyed the first chapter because I enjoyed writing it! This new story has a special place in my heart and I hope you guys follow along! <3 Make sure you vote and comment if you enjoy, and feel free to leave any feedback or criticism!