Updated: Jul 18, 2022
Expectations and Unknowns
CJ smiled as the movie ended and the credits started to roll. She felt a lot better now. With a small yawn, she got off the couch, stopped the movie, took out the disc, and returned it to its case. Then she washed the dishes in the kitchen and went to her room.
CJ's room was one of her safe havens. She had a desk in the far right corner that faced her only window. On the same side of the desk was her bed, and on the other side of the room was her bookshelf and dresser. The door of her closet was to the left of the desk.
The time was 8:05. With her homework already done, and tomorrow being Saturday, CJ wondered if Mrs. Williams would be satisfied with Shayla's grades and let her come over to hang out. If so, they might be able to walk to the park or something. The park was another safe haven to CJ because lots of families and groups came there. Instead of having to endure extended periods of silence, there was normal, chaotic activity. Kids from different neighborhoods gathered to play and swim when the pool was open. There were dog park sections for pet owners, gazebos, covered sections for large group activities or parties, a bathroom section on either end, a three mile trail for walking, jogging, and biking, and an indoor playground area that included a rock wall. CJ liked that the most even though she hadn't been able to climb that high yet.
Sometimes, it hurt CJ to hear other kids call out for their moms and dads, knowing she couldn't do the same and have Mom answer her. Since she worked late nights, Mom usually slept the days away. There were times when they'd be home together, but they hardly spoke unless Mom was offering to have pizza delivered or telling CJ to lock the door behind her. With Dad out of the picture, Mom seemed to think that CJ didn't need involvement on her part. And even though she wanted some recognition, CJ wasn't about to act out and do wrong just to get Mom to look at her. She was the one missing out on CJ's good grades and Honor Roll certificates. And Family Fun Nights. And Open House. And Field Day. And every track meet she'd had when Mom had signed her up at the beginning of the year.
So achievements went unnoticed by CJ's mom. Meanwhile, Shayla's mom wanted her achievements to be monumental. It was all sad either way.
Shayla had met Sara Brown last year when a business trip for Mom led to a two-week vacation in Miami, Florida. Both girls had stayed in the same hotel and met in the pool during Shayla's third night there. Sara's family had been traveling with their church for a drill team competition being hosted there. Once Sara explained the premise of drill team, Shayla grew interested, and then excited. Their church didn't have one, and Shayla wondered if Mom would like the idea since it was a good way to spend time outside of bible study and regular services.
As the trip continued, Shayla and Sara became good friends. Dad even accompanied her to one of the younger girl's practices. Seeing the older kids and teens line up in formation and perform was amazing. Even Mom seemed to like what she heard when Shayla told her about it later that night. Two days before the trip ended for Shayla, Sara and her church group all went with them to the beach. There, they exchanged email addresses and promised each other they'd stay in touch.
Since then, both girls had been true to their word. As they exchanged emails in the following months, Shayla opened up a little about her home life. The only thing she'd kept to herself was CJ. She didn't think she should tell Sara about her yet. It felt like a small betrayal. So she kept both girls in the dark about each other.
Sighing with relief, Shayla got on her computer and opened her email.
Subject: Report Card Day Results
I think I've waited long enough, especially with the one hour time difference. Let's see those grades.
Clicking the link to open the chatroom between them, Shayla smiled and started typing.
Lonestar: Very well, your Highness.
Language Arts: 90
Social Studies: 87
Sara replied almost instantly.
Sunshine: Awesome! You've gotten a lot better.
Lonestar: Not according to Mom. She still called it garbage. I just finished doing the lines she assigned.
Sunshine: Bummer. She really needs to lay off you. What you've reached shows immense progress.
Lonestar: Is immense another word for a lot? Because if so, you're repeating yourself.
Sunshine: So what if I am? I'm willing to do that for you.
Sunshine: Enough of that though. How do you feel about your report card?
Shayla sighed again, hesitating before she typed her reply.
Lonestar: I like these results. I don't think they're garbage, and I hate that my Mom does.
For several minutes, Sara didn't reply. But when she did, it made Shayla smile.
Sunshine: Make what you just told me your new assigned lines. This time, with no limits. Write them one hundred, two hundred, or even five hundred times if you want. And write your grades between different parts too.
Lonestar: As you wish, your Majesty. :)
That night, CJ was woken by a loud thud from the living room. Moving quietly, she got out of bed and started down the hall. All the houses in their neighborhood were single stories, so sound traveled easier. In the hall, CJ could hear someone rummaging through something and grumbling. The voice sounded male.
The last time Mom had brought one of the drivers inside, CJ had listened to both of them go into Mom's room across from hers. But now, there was no sound from Mom. Only the potential driver. Not knowing what to expect, CJ reached the end of the hall and turned on the living room light switch.
Mom was either passed out or unconscious on the floor by the table. A heavyset white man wearing brown boots, black jeans, and a gray t-shirt was staring at CJ with Mom's black, leather purse in one hand.
"Jesus Christ." The man said in a gruff voice.
He kept his eyes on CJ for about ten more seconds, then dropped Mom's purse and hurried out the door. With a small sigh or relief, CJ hurried behind the man and locked the door. Only then did Mom let out a low moan and try to sit up. When CJ turned towards her, she immediately smelled alcohol.
"Where?...Where'ssh?...What happened?" Mom asked drunkenly.
"I caught that man going through your purse, and he ran off." CJ replied as she helped her up. "Are you okay?"
Mom let out another moan as she started down the hall.
"I'll be okay in the morning," she muttered. "Go back to bed."
CJ had seen Mom drink a few times at home, but she'd never seen her drunk like this. Her hair was coming undone from the bun she'd put it in, her makeup was starting to run, and when she spoke, her voice sounded dry and cracked. CJ walked Mom all the way to her bathroom, then watched her splash water on her face and clean off the makeup.
"Go back to bed." Mom repeated.
This time, CJ obeyed.
Melanie Jenkins was not a happy woman as she opened the door to Crystal's room and stood in the doorway, listening. The house seemed too quiet. She could hear the faint sounds of cars still driving around, dogs barking on other streets, and the occasional sound of the ice maker in the kitchen. Thankfully, the silence helped Crystal sleep. Melanie wouldn't be able to until after she talked to Alexis.
Guided by the light shining through Crystal's window, the older woman moved quietly towards her daughter's desk and looked down at her report card. A's and B's. All good. No surprise that she had a 100 in PE since she was such a fast runner. Melanie hadn't been able to make a single track meet, but she'd seen the videos on the school's website and had everything from the season saved on one of her hard drives. Saved, but not truly seen.
Melanie wanted to wake Crystal up. Tell her that what happened tonight was random and wouldn't be repeated. Tell her she didn't need to be afraid. But there was too much that she couldn't tell. Entirely too much. Returning to her own room, she laid down in bed with her phone in one hand, cursing the name of the man she'd used to love: David Williams.