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The Gold Heart
“I hate you!” Kelly screamed, spinning angrily from her mother’s grip. Tears blurred in her eyes as she raced to the front door. Opening it, she jumped purposely on the front mat that her mother had always said never to step on. It would get dirty, the mud would stain it. Ha! Her mother was so stupid, Kelly thought, slamming the heavy wooden door behind her. She tried to slam the storm door, too, but it didn’t have the same effect, and just bounced against the latch. The mat was outside; it would get dirty whether or not she walked on it.
Kelly ran down to the end off her driveway and turned left onto the street. She heard her mother open the door and call after her, but she just lowered her head and ran faster. It wasn’t for nothing that she was the fastest sprinter on her school’s track team. Everyone thought she was the best. Her mother always took so much pride in it. “That’s my daughter,” she would say as Kelly beat the others in a landslide.
Yeah, she was proud of me then, Kelly thought. But when I get a bad grade, I’m suddenly back to the unpleasant surprise I was fifteen years ago.
She slowed to a jog when she hit the dirt trail. The thunder that had been booming all afternoon finally met up with a storm. Rain started to trickle down, then got heavier and heavier. When she climbed the steps to the gazebo, the rain was coming down in torrents. Kelly tried to wring out her blond hair, but she was thoroughly soaked.
The gazebo was octagonal shaped and Kelly wedged herself into a corner to stay warm. She pulled up the hood on her pink hoodie, then remembered that it was a gift from her dad.
“I don’t want anything from you!” she screamed, ripping it off her back like it was on fire and throwing it into the mud. “Or you!” she added, yanking off a charm bracelet that her mom had given her. “You didn’t want me then, you don’t want me now!”
Now shivering in a white tank-top, she huddled in her corner, determined not to cry. I’m not going to cry just because I was a mistake, she thought. Not because my dad left and only sees me every other year on my birthday. Not because my mom never meant to have me. Not because all my mom cared about then was parties and drinking and her latest boyfriend.
A tear ran down her face and dropped onto her palm. Kelly rose her hand up to stare at it, then closed her fingers the warm drop as the dam broke. She laid her head down on her knees and cried, sobbing about her birth and her mom as her life flashed before her.
Just born- a baby, premature with drugs in her little body, hooked up to IVs and tubes as her mother sat in the other room, uncaring.
One year old- her mom forgot her birthday, and Kelly was too little to care. No longer.
Four years old- her dad finally shows up, cursing and angry as her mom calls the police.
Eight years old- her friends are all forbidden to play with her.
Ten- Kelly realizes just what it means to be forgotten when her mother forgets to pick her up from ballet and left her there over night. Kelly never went back to dance again.
And so on. While the sun slowly set, Kelly relived every moment in her life that hurt her, that made her regret everything. Her mom, her dad, her abusive boyfriend she had put up with for too long, everyone who had ever called her stupid for failing a test, everything.
After a last sob, Kelly’s hurting tears dried up. What a birthday, she thought. Well, it’s not my birthday, but it will be in a week. Sixteen.
“I bet Dad won’t even show up,” she said out loud. “I wish Mom didn’t, but I guess I don’t have much of a choice.”
She wiped her face to rid herself of any last tearstains and looked up. It had gotten a lot darker since she had run out here, and the shadows cast were spooky and dark. Kelly stood up and stretched, and realized the rain had stopped. The ground was muddy and wet, and the trees glistened with rain.
Kelly walked forward down the steps of the gazebo. A sparkle of gold shown from the dirt, and she knelt down to scoop it up. Her charm bracelet!
Kelly started to throw it away, but one of the charms caught her eye. It was a small gold heart, and a memory forced itself in front of her eyes.
“Mommy, spin me again!” Little Kelly held out her arms to her mother, and her mother collapsed on the ground.
“No, not again!” she laughed, and Kelly pounced on her like a cat. They rolled on the floor for a minute, then lay, panting.
Finally, Kelly’s mother spoke. “Sweetie, I have something to give to you.”
Kelly perked up. “Like a present?” she asked hopefully.
Her mother laughed. “Yes, exactly like a present.” She pulled Kelly to her feet and walked her over to a bookshelf. A small bag rested on the top, and her mother reached in and pulled out small white box.
She knelt down next to Kelly. “Sweetie, I know I’m not always the best mom to you.” Kelly frowned and looked down. “And I know you know from your dad I didn’t want to have you.” Kelly nodded, and her mother put her finger under her chin to lift it up. Staring into her eyes, she said, “But when I saw you the first day, it didn’t matter. You were the most beautiful baby girl in the whole world, and I knew I wasn’t going anywhere.”
“Daddy doesn’t like me though,” Kelly said, tears leaking out of her eyes.
Her mother knelt down and gathered her in a hug. “He doesn’t know you,” she said. “He doesn’t realize you are the best person in the world.”
Kelly smiled. Her mother opened the box. Kelly gasped when she saw the beautiful gold charm bracelet. There was a tiny ballet slipper on it, along with a smiling little girl and a tiny jewel. “For me, Mommy?” she asked, nearing hopping with joy.
“Yes,” her mother said. She fastened the chain around Kelly’s wrist, but let her fingers linger on the ballet shoe. “This is for how you danced into my life.” She touched the jewel. “This is your birthstone, the diamond. April is my favorite month now.” She smiled and tapped on the little girl. “And this is how happy I was when you finally came. You were the best thing that ever happened to me.” Kelly started to pull her hand away, but her mother stopped her. “There is one more,” she said with a wink. She touched the charm bracelet, and when she drew her hand away, there hung a tiny gold heart. “This is to remind you that I’ve always wanted to keep you, and I’ve always loved you.”
Kelly smiled, and she and her mother hugged.
“I love you, Mommy.”
Kelly shook her head, and the memory vanished. She smiled a little bit, remembering how easy it had been that day. It could still be that easy, she thought. If I tried more, maybe it could. Mom tries, but it’s really hard for her, working two jobs and all.
Kelly looked around her. This was the place she grew up. The rain had left the air really musty, and Kelly inhaled deep. The scent cleared her mind, and everything looked softer somehow. The colors were a deeper brown, a brighter green. The world seemed fresh, like it had started over. Maybe Kelly was ready to do the same.
She clipped on the charm bracelet, watching the charms dangle. The ballet slipper. The tiny child. The diamond.
The tiny heart.
“We don’t need Dad,” Kelly said. “I have Mom, and she has me. That’s all I need.”
She faced the trail head, pushing her hair behind her shoulder. Then she stepped off the bottom step of the gazebo and headed down the trail. She was going home.
Behind her lay a pink hoodie, lying wet and muddy. Forgotten. A man stepped out from behind one of the trees. He wore a large frown. His eyebrows were furrowed up, and he looked very angry.
Stepping forward, he watched Kelly step her way down the trail. He glanced down at his feet and picked up the pink sweatshirt. He looked out from under his thick brows and clenched the sweatshirt in his fist. “She my daughter, too,” he said quietly, but fiercely. “They need to learn that. And I’m going to teach them that.”
Then he stepped slowly backwards until he was invisible among the trees.