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Claire waits. It’s a cold Wednesday afternoon in December. Claire sits just outside of her school, which had let out around an hour ago, waiting for her mother to pick her up. The cold pierces her skin relentlessly, her coat providing little protection against the merciless winter, but she does not mind, and in fact hardly notices.
The sensible thing would be for her to wait inside. After all, such weather could do nothing good for a girl her age. But right now, Claire does not feel sensible at all, she just feels like waiting. Waiting for her mother, but more importantly, waiting for something better.
She had been waiting for awhile now, almost a month. It used to be that she would come right outside to be picked up by one of her parents, but as of lately, she has had to wait. She missed those days, and longed for their return, but would never vocalize this to her parents. They had enough to worry about, and she didn’t need to be a burden. So without complaint, each and every day, Claire waited.
Every day she watched as her friends left, well before she got to, and every day she wished that she could go with them. Usually a concerned mother or two would offer her a ride, but she always politely declined, knowing that her parents didn’t want to let on quite how bad things had gotten for them. Of course most people already knew. It was a hard thing to hide after all. But still, to them, it was better if their struggles were kept private. Claire knew this, and respected it.
Such a wise girl she was, and only ten years old. Ten years old and she knew exactly how the world worked, how unfair things could be. She tried not to let on to her class mates, such knowledge could isolate a girl her age, but they could see it clearly all the same.
She was different, there was no denying it. It was not a palpable difference, it could not be seen or heard. She did not demonstrate it in her words, or actions, but still it was clear as day to her classmates. They sensed it on her, and while most kids were kind about it, she was still treated differently.
Knowledge and experience were burdens, burdens that Claire didn’t want to carry, not now at least. She was only ten years old, an age of innocence, but she had lost some of that innocence, and now longed for it to come back to her. She knew, though, that it never would.
Across the street was a playground. Due to the cold, it wasn’t heavily populated at the moment, but a few mothers had braved the elements to allow their kids to play for awhile. She too wished that she could be at the park with them. It wasn’t about playing for her; it was about having a mother that could take her to play.
They were happy now, and this was clear by their cries of excitement. The loud noises their play made was taunting to Claire’s eager ears. She knew though that their happiness would not last forever, it never does. There is pain, sadness, tears. Such is true in every human life. But for them, Claire hoped that they would not learn this for years to come. She had learned this lesson far too young, and now it weighed heavily on her.
She knew that things would get better, if she made them get better. Nothing comes easily, nothing worth getting anyway. Everyone falls, what matters is how fast they get up. Her parents, at the moment, were taking too long to get up, but that didn’t mean that she had to. Things would be bad for awhile, perhaps for as long as she lived with her parents, but then, she could make them better. Not overnight, but in the long run, she could make things better.
It was her life, and only she got to decide how it ended up. Things were bad now, but they hadn’t always been that way, and they certainly wouldn’t stay that way, she would make sure of it.
Really, she knew that it was wrong for her to feel overly sorry for herself. Now, she was having a hard time, but many people were, and she certainly was not in the minority. And for most of her life things had been good.
She was an only child, daughter of Kevin and Mary Brooks, a happily married couple with two jobs that more than provided for their family. That was not to say that they were ever extremely wealthy, far from it. But still they got by alright.
Her father worked at a garage as a mechanic. The garage was owned by Joe Scudder, a friend of her fathers, and a local entrepreneur who owned several local businesses, including Joe’s, a restaurant that they used to frequent. While his income did not provide them with an overly lavish life style, they still lived comfortably.
Her mother, Mary, worked as a part time assistant at an insurance brokerage firm in the city. She enjoyed her work well enough, but was happy to work only part time, allowing her to drop off and pick up Claire every day.
With Mr. and Mrs. Brook’s combined incomes, the family lived well. In June earlier that year though, things took a bad turn for the Brooks family.
As of lately the business at Mr. Brooks garage had slowed down substantially. A sign of the times he supposed or perhaps just bad luck. Business would pick back up, he was sure of it. After all, people could only go for so long with a faulty automobile, and then they would have to come to him.
Business though did not pick up, and after putting it off for as long as possible, the garage was finally forced to close down, cutting the family’s total income by more than two thirds.
Kevin was worried, but tried to remain optimistic. He would remain strong, and find another job; everything would be fine. That was what he tried to tell himself any way, but truthfully he did not believe it. The job market was brutal right now. No one was hiring, especially not somebody with Kevin’s limited experience and education.
The headlines in the news paper proved to be true. The job market was impossibly difficult, and for the life of him, Kevin could not find a single place willing to hire him. He tried hard to keep in good spirits though, but his wife saw through it. “You will find a job Kevin, you’re a good man, you deserve one,” Mary assured him. He nodded in agreement, but knew that it would take far more than just being a good man to get a job.
So for the most part he stayed at home, having few freedoms left. One of these precious escapes that he still had was his car. He loved cars, driving them, working on them, or just simply admiring them. His was nothing special, a red P.T Cruiser that was about seven years old. Still, it was his. He had bought it with his own money, worked on it with his own hands. It got him where he wanted to go, and that was what mattered.
There were two things that had always adequately calmed him in the past. One was working on cars, though constantly fiddling with a car that was already in good shape could do more harm than good, so he tried to keep that to a minimum. The other thing was driving. Not driving anywhere in particular, just driving. With gas prices as high as they were now though, he had to limit how much of that he did too.
That left him nothing. He had no escapes left. Sure, he had his family, and he loved them just as much as any other man loved his family, but he needed something just for himself. With the fragile financial state his family was in right now though, he could not afford to have an escape.
So for the most part, he just sat around, a prisoner in his own home. Then one day, on his way to pick Claire up from school, the car broke down. He knew in the pit of his stomach when it happened, that it would cost a fortune to repair. He was right.
It cost so much in fact, that they could not afford to repair it at the time. Now, he was even more a prisoner in his own home than he was before. This though was maddening. It was a car, a car that was keeping him stuck there. Cars were his life, he had made a career of fixing cars, and now he could not even afford to buy the parts to fix his own car. He did not know much about irony, only that he did not much care for it at all.
Mary, in an attempt to bring in a little bit more money for her family, tried to get more hours at work. She succeeded, which Claire supposed was a blessing, but now Mary was no longer able to pick her up.
Claire knew now, at only ten years old, that she would not live like this when she was an adult, she would not allow it. She knew that she would be a doctor, not for the reasons most kids her age wanted to be one, not simply because it seemed like “fun”, no Claire wanted to be a doctor because of the security of the job.
No one fired doctors, none that she had heard of anyway. Besides that, she would live quite well, as doctors, after all, did draw in a very nice salary. That wasn’t what it was about though, not for her. To have a job where she would go in and help people, take their pain away for them, that was the kind of job she wanted.
She would have it too, and nothing would stop her. She would work hard, and get good grades, whatever it took. If her parents couldn’t find away to get her through college and medical school, that was fine, she would do it herself. Yes that was what her future held, but until then, Claire Waits.