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The floor hadn’t been washed in months. Dirty clothes were laying all over, the laundry having been left alone for a few weeks already. The windows were dark and dusty, shut closed, making the air stiff and grimy. Her head bent over, sitting in the middle of the dirty room, she peacefully was combing back the hair of an old Barbie doll. She looked up, her brown chocolaty eye full of unasked question.
“Nanny,” she whispered, her voice innocent and unsure, “Nanny, where’s Mama?”
“Mama ain’t here,” the heavy set woman, sitting on the threadbare couch as she folded linen carefully, answered.
“Where’s Mama?” the little girl asked again.
“She’s in a better place,” was the emotionless answer. The girl bent her head back over and continued to play with her doll. She was so naïve, so… clueless as to what had happened.
She looked up, “Where’s Papa?”
“I don’t know,” Nanny responded quickly, trying to hide the truth as long as possible. Again the little girl resumed her game of imaginary people. Dolls with no real life, no responsibilities. No pain… no love… no hate… no happiness… no anger… no life. The Nanny shook her head as she watched this little girl… playing, so oblivious. She was so lucky. So lucky to not have to understand. She was so lucky because she didn’t cry herself to sleep… she didn’t know why she should be crying herself to sleep. Nanny crossed to the other side of the room and shielded the little girl in her warm embrace.
The silence was broken as the door was pushed open. Heavy footsteps. Loud breathing. A smell of drugs and alcohol. The smell of burnt weed swam into the room. He walked into the living room.
“Out!” he yelled, “What are you doing with her?!”
The Nanny looked at the little girl, she shook her head as she gentle stroked her hair. “I’m taking her with me!”
“Get out, you b****,” he spit out. “She’s my girl. I’m her dad.”
The little girl looked from one adult to the other. Everyone was acting so… so different. It scared her… she was confused. “Papa,” she whispered. Her intoxicated father gave her a dirty look and grabbed the doll from her hands and broke the head off, dropping the pieces on the dirty floor. It made a sharp sound, echoing in the stiff silence. His eyes flashed around the room before finally resting his gaze on the obstinate nanny.
“What’s going on here?!” he demanded as the little girl began to cry.
“Papa,” she whimpered over and over. Nanny swept her off the floor and held her tightly to her chest.
“I’m taking her,” she smoothly insisted. “That’s what she would have wanted, if she was still alive to see this.” She paused and looked into the big man’s eyes. He didn’t know what he was doing. He didn’t even know himself anymore. “You know I’m right.”
He yelled after her, leaving a long stream of curses hanging out the window as he watched her turn the street corner holding his little girl. He was captured by the drugs and alcohol. He didn’t rule himself anymore. No, they did. He wanted something, but he couldn’t detect what. He felt himself reach for another cigar. No, he tried telling himself. But he couldn’t resist anymore. He smoked and watched as his little baby disappeared from sight. Salty tears rolled down his cheeks. His life was worthless, he felt worthless, and worst of all he knew he was worthless.
The large tears blurred his sight. He couldn’t see how the little girl held tightly on Nanny’s hand.
“Where are we going?” she asked sweetly.
“Away,” Nanny answered without a second thought.
“Where’s Mama?” she asked again. Nanny didn’t answer. She wouldn’t understand. Her Mama had died a few months ago but she still didn’t understand. She didn’t understand that she would never see her Mama again. The Nanny stayed silent, thinking about how badly everything turned out. The little girl looked up at her. She looked up, so trustfully and asked again, “Where’s Mama?”