It seems time stopped there for months. At that door. On the yellow victorian porch.
It is a home for girls in trouble. The with child kind of trouble. So many preggo young women everywhere. I was on the younger side of the girls at 15. There were actually two girls younger than me. One fourteen and one twelve.
The twelve year old was from Louisiana. She told me she got her belly from her step daddy. Her mother blamed her for 'seducing her husband' and sent her here. She was told she could not come back home until she got rid of the baby and promised to stop making moves on her step daddy.
She's just a kid. I thought my mother was bad. I guess it is true, you can always have it worse.
Meanwhile her step daddy visits her every month here bring her gifts and chocolates and flowers. The women who runs this place never leaves them alone. She never told them who the daddy to the baby is. She only told me. But those women don't trust that guy.
I never leave her alone with him with her either. She just turned 12 the day before I got here. She is such a small girl yet. She has a shy smile, when she does smile. She hangs her head to the floor a lot. Sandra and Carol,the two women who run this house, always tell her to look up. She must always meet life straight in the eyes.
They are very protective of her. They always try to get them to tell who got her this way. Her mother told her never to tell. Her mother told her she would be taken away for ever. Put in jail for seducing a married woman's husband. That her reputation would be ruined forever and she never would be able to get a good husband.
I treat her like a little sister. She responds well to me. I tell her they were all wrong. Sandra tells me that she never smiled before I got there. Sandra made us room mates. Sandra says I am good for Mary Jane. I call her Janey. I am the only one at first, then it caught on by her 8th month. I figured she needed a new name. A new identity . So she can start a new life. I have so many names, I know the power of them. They have changed over time. Each time it changes I have different power. Here I am introduced as Danni, but I teach them my name is really Dandelion. They call me that. After a while they shortened it to Lion, since I don't want Danni anymore.
Most of the girl's stories are the same as mine. We thought we were in love, we thought the boy loved us, we were sent away as to save the family shame. Janey is the only girl with such a sad story. The girls will talk about how betrayed we felt by the boy and our own families.
When mothers come to visit the shame they feel over their daughters oozes from their pores. They always talk about the future for their daughters after this "time is over". Like a prison term that will never be talked about again. They are in such a single minded focus they never notice their daughter's bellies nor the realization that the babies inside are genetically tied to them, never thinking this is their grandchildren.
I am never visited. I prefer it this way. To live though visits like this is hell for everyone involved and make the girls feel crap for days. One order up: one large heap of shame.
Sandra and Carol feel sorry for me, knowing I am not visited and will not be visited. They try to spend extra time with me. They take me places, like when they are going shopping, they will take me just to get me out of the house.
"Ha ha ha, I love how you put us in the story as if we are part of it and you are not telling it to us."
"Carol, It is just her style of story telling." Sandra said back to Carol.
"We knew about Mary Jane, sweetie." Sandra said to me.
"I thought you might." I replied
"That's why we made you her roommate. You understood her. She trusted you. She needed to talk to someone and she wasn't talking to us. Nor did she talk to the counselor that comes by once a week for you girls." Sandra said to me.
"So why didn't you do anything about it? Why didn't you save her? Why did you let him come up here? Why didn't you stop her from going back?"
"She wouldn't ask for our help." Carol said with sadness in her eyes. "Unless girls like that ask us for help we can not do anything. If they ask, trust me, we help them. But not in a way the parents know it was us. If parents thought we would help the girls the way we do, they would never send them here."
"Let the girl finish" Sandra said.
Well I would have the long talks in the middle of the night with Janey. She would tell me about her step pa, what he done. How she doesn't hate him, how she blames herself somehow.
"Honey, you know", as I move my ever grown belly to the sideas I turn in my bed "You are just a child. He is a grown assed man. What you really need to do is get a gun and stop him before he comes into your little sisters ' beds."
"He would never! He said I was special! He said I was prettier than mama and all the other girls."
She had the look in her eyes of a girl in love. The blinded in the head lights look. "Honey how old were you when he first came to your bed?"
"It was right after my 9th birthday. He said I was becoming a woman now. He said I needed to know what it meant to be a woman. He was kind and gentle. He said he had to be careful. He said he loved me most of all."
Headlights are on high.
"How old is your sisters now?"
"Oh, let's see, Jenny, she is 7 and Carrie just turned nine...." She trailed off there on the last word. I think she realized he has not come around since she has turned 9, the sick bastard. She turned away from me, I could see she had a tear streaming down her cheek. "I don't want to talk about this anymore, Lion. I am tired. My time is soon. He will come to see our baby, I know he will."
Oh she was right about her time. The very next day her waters broke. She was in such pain. Sandra and Carol had me go with her. Now I was truly frightened. She screamed so much like she was being ripped in two.
A nurse saw how horrified I looked, placed her hand on my shoulder "Honey, this pain you forget. Nature makes it that way, otherwise no woman would have more than one baby. Remember that when it is your time. This pain is just temporary and it brings forth great joy in a new life."
Finally after 24 hours of this screaming they took her into the operation room. The doctors said she was too young to deliver naturally.
Now she will be scared outside as well as in forever.
Later the baby was brought out and put in the nursery. I went to look. He was so perfect. So squishy. So red and crying at times. No-one picked him up.
It scared me so , everything scared me so. The idea of a baby and the reality of a baby are a million different things. The reality of giving birth. The pain. I thought the pain of being rejected was bad, broke my heart, the death of Moses, but this. Oh my good God, why did you hate Eve so much to give her pain and leave Adam with the pleasure?
I ran to Janey's room.
"Janey, ask them for your son! No-one is picking him up and he is crying" All the adults in the room looked at me in a way they did not want to say to me what was to be said.
I say to a nurse "GET THE BABY!". She turned away from me.
"Sandra! Have them get Janey her baby." I am now very emotional.
"Lion!" Janey spoke." It is not my baby. It's real mother will come soon. they have been called. Don't talk about it again."
My mouth dropped. Before I could close it to give her more than a piece of my mind I was ushered out of the room by Sandra.
"This is what the girls are here for, Lion! Didn't you get that point when you never saw them with their babies afterwards? When their mothers come? Your turn will come in a few months. Say your goodbyes to Mary Jane. Her mother will come for her in two weeks, she is not coming back to us. It is what she wants." Sandra said.
"But how can she not even want to see her child!? How can she want to go back to them?"
"You say anything but goodbye and we will pull you out of the room quicker than you can say your next word. THIS was her choice. We can not make other people's choices for them. You will make your own choice when the time comes and in the end it will be your choice and no-one in my house would have MADE you make one. AM I understood? "
"Yes, mam" I said as I headed back in to the room.
I went over and gentilly hugged Janey. "Janey, write me, call me, you know where I am. This doesn't have to be a forever goodbye. "
"I know," She said "Carol told me she would forward the letters to you anywhere you areas long as you give them the address. I will be fine." She smiled and I left the room.
I passed the nursery. A couple were picking up her son. They were smiling. the man looked nervous. They looked well off enough. They looked nice enough. I hope he will be happy and safe. I hope he will be safer than his mother.
"Time passed and here I am telling you two the story. I wonder about Janey almost every night"
"Oh, I think she'll be o.k. I heard there was an accident down there in Louisiana."
"What kind of accident?"
"A gun accident. It seems Janey got a gun, what did her daddy do? That is buried with him. She sent a obit for one Allen Roberts. I believe that have her Daddy's name." Carol handed me an obituary from a letter.
"Why didn't you give this to me to me?"
"I just did , child. It came today. Mail time is after supper, you know that."
Allen Roberts died in a hunting accident while taking his oldest daughters on a hunting trip in the bayou. He leaved behind a loving wife and 4 daughters.
Dame I didn't think she would do it. I wonder if she regrets giving away her son now. Or if she is happy never to be reminded of what he did. I wonder if she can ever forget. I wonder if her mother treats her better now. Some endings give you more questions than answers. I smile as I hand it back.
"Don't get joy in murder,dear, it doesn't become you."Sandra scolded.
"Sometimes you two just seem so familiar to me. like I have know you all my life." I said.
"You have a good memory, Lion, Danni, Butterfly, Emma, what ever your name is this week." Sandra laughed.
"You got Emma of those off my birth certificate."
"No, it was what the man who was holding you when we first met you called you."
Now I stopped smiling. No-one called me that since, I almost forgot about oldest father. Not since the beginning of the story had I thought about him, and I started telling them the story about a month after I got here. Now my time is almost here. I smile a nostalgic smile.
What makes a man?
Is he a good provider, a good father, a good lover, makes you smile when you can't find the light for the dark forest? Does he have a kind voice, a scary voice? Is he big and bad? Is that a man? Will be beat someone up for you, will he hold your hand when you are scared? How much of what we think is a man come from our fathers? And most of what I think a man is came from oldest father. I didn't expect too much from Miles but I thought he loved me. Until he denied the truth. Oldest father never denied any of the woman he loved or had sex with. He would always hold your hand and always respected the woman's choice, even if thought it should be another choice. And I do believe he loved me. Miles didn't live up to my definition of a man.
It is funny how one word will make you think of things so unrelated.
I shook off my thoughts.
"When you first meet me?"
"Yes, let's see." Sandra got up from the living room chair to a file cabinet made of wood, she took out a file. She sat back down. Opened the file and took out a picture and handed it to me. "That was at Woodstock."
It was me on top of oldest father's shoulders. I had forgotten what he looked like. He was a feeling. He was eyes, he was a beard, he was big hands. He was not fully put together. This was the first time I had seen what he looked like in over a decade. And me, was that me, there is the butterfly on the little girl's face. The scar that goes from her nose to her lip. That is me. I stare a long time. Time has passed so far so long. And my mother. She was only a little older than I am now in this picture. She was so pretty. I have her hands. Her eyes.
"Your mother is the reason you are here." Sandra said
"Oh great she wanted to get rid of her shame too"
"Well, Your grandparents wouldn't have known of us, if she hadn't suggested it. They told her about you condition and that they wanted her to take you until you had the baby."
"...and there was no way she was going to have me ruin her happy little perfect home and family."
"She's not as bed as you would like her to believe. There is no denying she was not the best mother to you. She was your age when she had you. She didn't know how to take care of you. She didn't even know how to take care of herself. Believe it or not, she was one of the lucky ones back than. Not all girls who went out to California found the safety of other young people and the summer of love. She was young, like you. But she didn't have your experience. She didn't have your strength. She was not you."
" So she wants me to get rid of my baby, too."
"She wanted you to be some place safe. Some place people were not going to judge you. She wanted you to have your own will." Carol chimed in.
"Here, " Sandra pulled a letter out of the file. "read this."
They left the room.
I looked at the envelope for a bit before opening it. Throwing it away at times, as if I was rejecting her. But she would never know it. Does no good to reject people unless it is to their faces otherwise it is called moving on.
I opened it. No I am not going to tell you what it said. A lot of sentimental dribble I was not falling for. The basic gist was: I was your age. You were never a mistake. I wanted you to have the choices you deserve. And depending on your choice it might be time you don't go back to my parents. Live your life.
I folded it away.
My baby kicked.
"It's alright, it was just your grandmother or aunt as she likes to call herself."