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When I was a little girl, my Daddy used to take me outside on the porch and we’d watch the stars together. He’d be wearing his old dirty jeans and old white tee shirt from work that night. He was a mechanic you see. He would go to people’s houses and fix whatever it was of theirs that was broken. He always came home smelling the same. He smelled like old leather, and grease, and sweat, and to me, that was just about the best smell in the whole wide world. So, he’d sit me in his lap, with me in my little pink nightdress, and he’d kiss my curly little head and say to me,
“Look up Princessa, see how bright the stars are? Did you know, Princessa, that no matter where you are, no matter how far you are for someone, the stars are always there? Maybe you can’t always see them, but they are there. If you are sad, Princessa, look up and see the bright stars and you will feel better.” His chest would rumble with his deep voice.
“Papa?” I would ask quietly.
“What is it my Princessa?”
“How is a star made?”
He would look at me seriously.
“Oh Princessa, a star isn’t made! No, no, it is born. When a living thing here on Earth dies, he or she goes up to Heaven, and in their honor, God brings a star to life, so for every Angel in Heaven, there is a star in the night sky.”
And I would look up at the sky in wonder.
“Now, Princessa, it is time for you to go to bed!” He would carry me up to my bed and tuck me in, whispering.
“May the stars watch over you tonight, Princessa.” He would kiss my forehead and turn out the lights.
The year I turned eight, my folks began to argue. It was so sudden; I didn’t know what to think of it. One night, we were a big happy family, the next, Daddy’s packing up his bag, and leaving.
I would sit at my window at night and stare up at the stars.
“Daddy? Where are you? Please come home, we miss you.” I whispered sadly, wishing with all my might that he could hear me.
I had tried to ask Momma, where he was.
“Momma, where’s Daddy?” Her face would pale and she would just stare at me, till I gave up and ran to school.
Momma tried to keep us a small family, she did, but she also had to take care of my two-year-old brother, who had Muscular Dystrophy, and I guess she just didn’t have time for me. When I was nine, she turned to Alcohol. She left early in the morning and didn’t come back till late at night. I learned to care for Jacob, and I became a mother at nine years old.
One night, she came home earlier. I thought, that maybe she decided to change, and we’d be a family again. I ran to Jake’s room and carried him downstairs.
“Momma! Momma! You’re home!” We cried.
She stumbled toward us. I was too young to realize she was drunk; I was not too young to smell the Alcohol on her breath.
“Momma? Are you feeling ok? Would you like to sit down?” I was determined to be a good girl. If she saw how good I could be, maybe she would turn out ok. She smacked me across the cheek, and then threw up on my feet.
I stared at her in shock, than grabbed Jake, and ran upstairs. I put him in bed, went into his closet and cried. I couldn’t let him see me afraid, or he would be afraid too.
One day, I was searching through the cabinet for a Band-Aid, because Jake had cut his finger. I found a little white box. It had a question on the front.
Are You Pregnant?
It was opened.
I dug through the trashcan, and pulled out a little stick. On the front was a pink plus sign.
She was Pregnant. And she wasn’t married.
My young mind couldn’t comprehend how this was possible. But like most things in my life, I was forced to go with it.
So, I dealt with the morning sicknesses, and the mood swings and all the other stuff that comes with having a baby.
The funny thing is, six months were the best times I had had with Momma in a long time. Surprisingly, when she found out, she quit drinking. For a while. We had fun together, when she was semi-normal, we play dolls, and braid hair. But I shoulda known it wouldn’t last.
Five months later, she started getting small contractions, and the baby started kicking more. And more.
She was never one for pain, and this did not make her happy.
“Get-me-a-drink!” She would wheeze, and I would rush over with a glass of water.
“NO!” She’d scream, and knock it over.
“Have-to-do-everything-myself!” She’d hiss, as she’d grab a beer and chug it down.
My heart sank. She wasn’t quitting; she had just been taking a break.
The drinking caused the baby to come out a month early.
She was sitting lazily on the couch, beer in hand, TV remote in the other, when she screamed. I grabbed Jake’s hand and we ran over.
“Crap! No! Not now! Ugh!” She screamed, than let out a string of curse words.
I looked down, and saw a pool of water at her feet.
“Don’t just stand there, you brat! Call for help!” She slurred at me.
Numbly, I dialed 9-1-1.
“Hello, 9-1-1, what is your emergency?”
“My Momma is having her baby.” I answered.
I gave all the information, and was told to keep her calm. Yeah right.
“Momma, help is on the way, just stay calm!” I told her.
“Calm? Stay calm? I’m giving birth to a freakin’ baby! There is no way I’ll be calm!” she snarled.
Ten minuets later we heard a siren, and like that, she was gone. Jake and I were put in a police car and driven to the hospital.
Well, the doctors delivered a baby girl to her that night, but they also did some test and found out that the Alcohol in her system had caused the girl to be pre mature.
Soon after, they drew me aside.
“Angelica, right?” they asked.
“My Daddy used to call me Angel.” I don’t know why I added it, but I did.
They exchanged looks.
“Where is your Daddy?”
I couldn’t speak, so I shrugged.
“Listen Angel”-I flinched-“ Has your Momma, ever gotten a little crazy, stumbling around, slurring, being mean?”
When they put the symptoms together, finally understood.
“She’s been drunk many times.” I was unable to meet their eyes.
“Here’s what we’re gonna do, you and your little brother are going to sleep over at my friends house. How does that sound? She has a daughter your age.” The lady put on a fake smile.
“Where will be Momma?” I asked.
“Momma has to meet with some people tonight.” The other man added.
“Where will my sister be?” I asked again.
They looked at each other and the man squatted down and looked in my eyes.
“Angelica, your sister is very little, she may not make it. We are going to send her to an orphanage.” He said seriously. I liked him, better than the lady at least. He told the truth. But that didn’t mean I liked the truth.
“No.” I stuck my chin in the air and crossed my arms, daring them to defy me.
“What?” The lady looked shocked.
“Ezperenza comes with Jake and I.” I said.
“My sister, Ezperenza.” I said slowly.
“Hope…” the lady whispered.
She closed her eyes and when she opened them, I saw a tear on her eye but when I looked again, it was gone. She snapped open her phone. She murmured so quietly, I couldn’t hear. When she snapped it shut, she turned and kneeled by me.
“Angelica. Ezperenza, she might not make it. What will you do than?” she asked.
I took a breath. She might not make it. Well she would. She was a Martinez child. We always made it out in the end. We had to. There was no other option. I did. Jake did. So would Ezperenza.
I told them this.
They sighed in defeat and went to a room. When they returned, they set the baby in my arms.
Next thing I knew, Jake, Ezperenza, and I were in a cab to a new home.
It certainly would not be our last.