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Best Thing I Never Had
The usual quiet ticking of the wall clock sounded louder than usual as Mandy sat alone in her apartment, waiting for her daughter to return home. Afternoon pre-k ended at 2:45 and it was quickly approaching three o’clock. Mandy began tapping her fingers against her thigh, her patience wearing thin.
Fifteen minutes later, at 3:17, the front door opened. The small brown curls of Mandy’s four year old daughter, Rosie, came into sight.
“Mommy!” Rosie wailed, running towards Mandy at high speed. She crashed into her mother’s legs and held on tight. Right behind Rosie was a dark haired man, dark circles visible under his green eyes.
Mandy glared at him while hugging her daughter back, giving her a kiss on the top of her head.
“Cutie pie, how about you go get a snack while I talk to Daddy?” Mandy asked with a warm smile. Rosie beamed and ran off towards the kitchen, her footsteps matching those of an elephant.
The man, whose name was Jack, heaved a heavy sigh and dropped the toddler’s My Little Pony back pack on a nearby couch. He sensed that Mandy was going to blow up at him any second.
“I can’t believe you forgot her,” Mandy said, her voice starting off quiet.
Jack frowned, “I didn’t forget her. I just lost track of time.”
Mandy opened her mouth to respond when Rosie’s voice chimed in, “Mommy, can I have a juice box?”
Mandy ignored her. “You did forget her. Losing track of time and forgetting are the same thing.” She was always on Jack’s case for being late. “What were you doing? Fooling around with your girlfriend?”
Jack laughed. He knew that his ex-wife would suspect that he was off with another woman. Because that’s exactly the kind of thing he would do. Not.
“They are totally different things,” he said, his hands balling up in fists, “I didn’t forget her, I was fifteen minutes late to pick her up.”
“Mom, I want juice!” Rosie asked once again, her cheeks a light pink. Right before she was about to freak out, her head always looked like it was going to explode. Jack believed that Rosie got that trait from her mother.
Mandy took a deep breath.
“I don’t know why I put you in charge of things,” she yelled, “I stay late in the office one time and you manage to screw up. You obviously can’t handle it.”
Jack took one step closer to Mandy, “I can handle it. You’re just overreacting!”
“MOM! GIVE ME JUICE!” Rosie screamed, hoping to catch her mother’s attention.
Mandy looked at her daughter as if she had just gotten there, “Honey, what do you want? You need to use your words and ask nicely.”
Jack rolled his eyes and said his good-byes, slamming the door on his way out. Mandy went to comfort her daughter, who had tears dribbling down her jaw.
“Mommy,” Rosie whispered, curling up on her mother’s lap, “when will you and Daddy stop fighting?”
Mandy thought back to the times when her and Jack were young, happy people. Who knew that one wrong decision could change an entire relationship?
She shook her head and held Rosie close. “I don’t know, sweet heart, I just don’t know.”
Mandy Springfield was the last person anyone would think of getting pregnant in high school. She was the girl that you brought home to your mother and hoped not to scare off. She was the captain of the soccer team, a tutor for children with disabilities, and an active member of her church. Mandy was looking forward to spending the next four years of her life in her small dorm room, maybe even with a roommate, studying the ropes of becoming a lawyer. She was going to do all of this with her boyfriend, Jack Dennings, since the two both got accepted to the same college. They were practically an ad for the perfect couple who was going steady, which surprised everyone when Mandy dropped out of high school her senior because she was pregnant.
They had a shotgun wedding at the chapel they attended almost every Sunday, right after they received their diplomas, the pews full of the familiar faces of their friends and family. The marriage ended nearly two years later; shortly after Mandy had their daughter, who they named Rosie, she fell in a downward spiral. She was so depressed that her life didn’t end up the way she had planned it when she wanted it to, because she had gotten pregnant. Her relationship with Jack wasn’t the way it had been in high school and they each signed their divorce papers when Rosie was barely three years old. Mandy was unsure if that was the right decision for herself and her daughter. But this was a choice she had to make for, not only herself, the both of them.