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Life With Ma
Four years ago, they took my sister away. I was ten and she was five. They said they would come back for me if Ma didn’t start changing her ways. They said they wanted us to grow up right, to be honest, and have a nice house with clean rooms and loving parents. Now, I wish they would have taken me with Annie. That’s her name, you know – Annie.
Ma’s at the table, screaming at me. “Jess, where’s my food? Hurry up! By the time you get it to me, I’ll be all withered up and dead. Don’t just stand there; get moving!”
I sigh, setting the plate with her grilled cheese on the table. As she inspects her sandwich, I take in our cracked paint, warped, splintering chairs and wobbly table. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a spider dangling from the ceiling, and I whack it with a newspaper. I bet Annie’s house doesn’t have spiders.
“This bread is burnt! Make me a new sandwich and get it right this time!” Ma continues her rant. I head to the frying pan and quickly make it. I slide the lunch onto her plate and obediently set it down on the table, keeping my eyes studiously focused on the floor. I take her burnt sandwich and put it on my plate. Raising the sandwich toward my watering mouth (I hadn’t had breakfast), Ma shouts out once again.
“Don’t eat that, you’re fat enough. That’s why you’re so slow. You have better stuff to do than eat all day. There are baskets of clothes to be washed.” I chew my lip as my eyes fill up with tears. I set the bread down and creep off down the hall.
I start the first load of laundry, then head into the bathroom to write my 500 word essay for school. I feel secure in the bathroom. With the lock on the door, I can just sit on the floor and do whatever I need to while staying out of Ma’s way. I begin to think of my topic when the phone rings. I open the door and rush down the hall, for Ma has terrible phone etiquette. I get there in time, and pick up the phone.
“Hey, it’s Trina.” Hearing my best friend’s voice on the line makes me smile.
“Oh, nothin’ much, I just felt like talkin’ to someone, you know?”
“Yeah…” My voice trails off into the distance.
“Hey, wanna see a movie? You sound like you need one.”
“I want to, Trina, I really do. It’s just that I don’t know if –” She cuts me off.
“Trouble with your ma again?”
“Yeah. I just wish I didn’t have to deal with this. I wish I was…”
“Jess. Listen to me. I’m here. I’ll always be here. So you need anything just call me. I know you got problems with your mom. I know you miss Annie. Just don’t go trying to kill yourself. It’s hard, I know. Just promise me you won’t do anything stupid. Okay?”
“I was gonna say I wish I was with Annie. But yeah, I promise.”
Ma interrupts from the kitchen. “Don’t spend all day yappin, Jess, you got better stuff to do.”
“I gotta go,” I tell Trina.
“I’m pullin for you, girl.” We hang up. I peek in the kitchen and see Ma with her pills and empty beer cans. She’s probably getting high again. I go back to the bathroom, all the while not making eye contact with Ma. I sit and I sigh and I think. I think of Trina. I think of Annie. I think of Ma. I think of what to write about. Our topic is what changes there should be in the world. I remember Ma in the kitchen. An idea comes to me, and I begin.
Three hours later, after copying it in my best handwriting, I set my essay on the table.
“What’s that?” Ma asks.
“Homework,” I reply.
“Lemme see.” She snatches away before I can stop her, and begins reading. “This is garbage. No one’s gonna listen to you. There’ll always be drugs and alcohol. People need drugs and alcohol. This is a piece of junk.”
I ignore her because she always criticizes my work. Then she does something she’s never done before. Ma rips my paper in half. I try to be calm, but this was the last straw. I scream. “You don’t know how hard I worked on that! You’re always yelling at me for everything! Nothing I do can be right. You always want more, more, and you can’t do anything for yourself.”
“You ungrateful little brat! Don’t talk like that to me. Do you have any idea what I do for you?” Ma snaps.
“That’s the problem. You don’t do anything for me. I make your meals, clean your house, and do your laundry. All you do is sit around eating, drinking, getting high, and criticizing me. Never once have you thanked me.” Hot tears are rolling down my face.
“That’s it! Jessica, I have provided you a house with running water and electricity for the past fourteen years of your life. But not anymore. You are leaving this house. I don’t want someone who cares only about herself living in it.” I cringe.
“Then why don’t you leave?”
I left that house. Trina’s family took me in. After a month, social services came by one day and brought me to live with Annie. When we saw each other, we cried and hugged for what seemed like an eternity. Our new ma and dad have steady jobs, and nice smiles, and they give compliments to us. The only criticism they give is constructive. Ma is in rehab. The social services people said they’d let me and Annie see her once we’re both eighteen, or when she is sober and clean, whichever comes first. I still get to see Trina, even though we go to different schools now. I will never forget life with Ma, and I swear I will never go back to it.