Tiffany rose from her mattress in her room. Candice was still asleep in her room, and Tiffany knew that she should not go in there.
“I don’t care if you are dying…call 911 or something. Just do not wake me up from my sleep.” Candice has told her over and over again.
A big plus was that Tiffany did not have to see Candice any time soon. Most of the time, she got yelled at for one reason or another, even if it wasn’t her fault.
“Why are you so hungry all the time?” Candice would yell at her.
“Because I am not high all the time.” Tiffany would think,
She has had to grow up too fast.
Tiffany poured a bowl of cereal in her bowl. “Her” bowl because there was only one of them left. Candice threw all the rest at her when she was high one morning.
A bender. Two days of no sleep for Candice. It is happening more and more lately. She throws things. She yells and screams at her, and she slams doors all over the trailer.
Forget about taking a shower. Candice had given up on that all together.
Tiffany had to steal the food stamps card to buy her food and hygiene articles now. She did not even know what she was buying until her first-grade teacher taught them about healthy food.
When Candice would feed her. She would come in with fast food and tell her “french fries are your vegetables stop complaining!”,
She would pack her lunch: the cheapest lunch meat she could find and mayonnaise on two white bread pieces. No pudding or snack cheese like the other kids in first grade had. She had to think about saving money.
Tiffany would get teased a lot in school.
“You have dirty clothes! Look at them! They are old and disgusting!” the other kids would yell and tease her.
“Your mom is a junkie.” one of the yelled while spitting on the ground, “My mother says she is a whore.”
Tiffany had no one to play with on the playground to walk around watching the other kids play. She wished it was her climbing on the jungle gym, but every time she tried to go and be there, the other kids would tell her to leave and throw rocks at her.
Sometimes they would hurt, so she got tired of that. She stayed away from there.
Her teacher sometimes would let her stay in the classroom and help her clean and spend time with her during recess, but that all changed when Candice found out. She went to the school and complained that this teacher was “putting ideas in her head that she was special”.
So the teaches in fear did not have any more conflicts with Candice, so they all noticed and left Tiffany alone. Tiffany even got moved into a new classroom.
So now she was even more alone, and that taught her to walk. Walk and imagine what it would be like to have friends. Someone to play with after school. Sleepovers like she heard the other girls talking about, and birthday parties she would never get invited to attend.
When she turned seven, her grandmother promised she could have cake and some kids over to celebrate her birthday. Tiffany was so proud. Grandma even bought her some store-bought invitations.
Tiffany handed them out to all the kids in the class.
Then on the big day of the party, she stood in front of her door, waiting for everyone to come. No one showed up. She cried herself to sleep that night.
It was the final straw. Tiffany just gave up. There was no point in having friends or a mother anymore. She was on her own.
So she tried. She paid attention in class and even asked the teacher for extra work.
“I can’t give you anything, Tiffany, your mother would be upset,” she told her.
Candice ruined everything for her.
Tiffany dreamed that her mother would take too many drugs and die. “Maybe I adopted, and my real mother would find me and take her away from all of this.”
Candice was like a super machine. Nothing could kill her.
“I’m going out for a couple of days,” Candice said as she walked out the door. “Don’t make a fucking mess. Clean the trailer you lazy bitch.”
Candice was going to go and get high with her new boyfriend, Carl. Who also was like her mother. He was one of the local dealers in the city. He knew how to keep Candice under control.
Carl was scary. One night Candice passed out on the sofa. Carl gave her just enough drugs so she would fall asleep. Then he walked into Tiffany’s room.
“Shhhh…he said while he went down to her floor on to the mattress and put his finger over his lips. He slowly lifted her t-shirt and began to touch her with his cold hands. “You will like this. I promise.”
Tiffany laid still like a board and did not move as he pulled her panties over to the side.
“You like this, don’t you said as he climbed on top of her and slowly pulled down his pants and with “his thing” as he touched her.
“Your pussy is much nicer than your mother’s” he whispered in her ear.
His breath felt cold and smelled like beer and cigarettes. Tiffany made a silent promise to herself that she would never drink or smoke cigarettes ever.
“Just lie here and take it.” Tiffany kept on saying to herself. “Just take it.”
She knew she would never have anyone to tell about this. Carl knew it too. Candice would fly off the handle and hit Tiffany and accuse her of taking her boyfriend away.
After he got up from her, he threw twenty dollars at her.
“Here are twenty dollars,” he said as he put it next to the mattress. “Go wash your clothes for a change.”
The next day Tiffany took her clothes to the laundromat and washed her clothes in a machine. That was the first time she had ever gotten to use the devices before.
It took her thirty minutes, walking down the road to get there.
All of her clothes she owned fit into one small plastic bag.
The machines were hard to use because she did not learn these big words at school. She could barely read. Then a man came up behind her.
She froze and thought of Carl when he started to talk to her.
“Little girl…what are you doing here by yourself? Where are your parents?”
“I…I…do not understand what this machine says” Tiffany replied.
“You have to buy soap to put in the machines. Here is some, “Carl said while putting the soap in the machine. “Then you put the money in here.”
She showed him the twenty dollars. He helped her get change and turn on the machine.
“We will wait here until the clothes are ready to dry,” he said
She stood frozen and sat two chairs away from him, watching the clothes roll around in the dryer.
“Maybe the kids will want to play with me after this.” she thought while the clothed rolled around in the dryer. “I am going to come here as much as I can, then that way they will want to be my friend.”
The next school day, Tiffany rushed out of bed and could not wait to get to school to show off her clean clothes.
The other kids threw dirt at her.
She ended up walking around the playground, watching and wanting it to be her playing with the other kids.
“Just take it, as you did with Carl,” she whispered to herself as she walked around.
“Just take it.”