A Horoscope, Makeup, and a Missing Tooth

I awoke to the sound of Killer barking, as if saying, “Pay attention to me! I’m starving over here!” My eyes refused to open and for a few minutes, I lay there having a debate with myself over whether or not to get up and start the day. I sat up and immediately, felt the weight from last night’s loneliness dragging me down, down, down. It’s funny how sleep has always been a way of escape, even before the alcohol……a safe haven, ever since I was a little girl, just wanting to stop the endless loop of haunting thoughts: Why are you so stupid, and fat, and ugly, and useless? Of course they don’t love you; who ever would? Still, the terrible nightmares persisted. I willed myself onto my feet and trudged down the stairs, shivering. I found my Chihuahua, Killer, waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs, wagging his little tail as if I was something other than a disappointment. I gave him a few scoops of dry dog food and sat down at the kitchen table, picking up the newspaper and flipping through it half-heartedly. I was about to retreat back to the warmth of my bed and the inviting, numbing clutches of sleep when I spotted the horoscopes. Why not? I scanned the page until I found it: Taurus, April 20-May 20. It read, “Past mistakes may be keeping you from making the best of your life. In order to move forward, you must learn from the past, live in the present, and plan for the future. You may find it impossible to cross over a certain bridge you have burned, but remember, you can always build a new one. It’s never too late. This is the time in your life when family and friends matter most.” As the words set in, my mind focused on the growing pile of bills, the empty bottles littering the counter, and finally, my daughter. She wouldn’t give me forgiveness even if I did deserve it. But what did I have to lose? I have to admit, I’m a different person now than I was then. What was it, 20 years ago? Is it really possible that time can fly so quickly? I can still picture her: 7 years old in her pajamas on Christmas morning, missing her two front teeth, finding me passed out on the floor, asking me why Santa never came. What have I done? I could never make up for all those years. I swore to myself I’d be better than my own parents and have abandoned my daughter for what, a life of numbness, waste, and self-pity. No, it’s not too late, I won’t let it be. Over the next couple of hours, I searched the internet only to find out what I already knew: Richard, her father, my ex, had died only a few short years after I left them. Heart attack. Was that my fault, too? Then by some strike of luck, I found her. Elizabeth Rose Thompson. 26 years old. 54 Round Hill Rd. San Diego, California, 92101. Only a 20 minute car-ride away.

I pulled up to the house and parked around the corner, afraid to be seen yet. The moment seemed less real than one of my usual nightmares. I looked in the rearview mirror and was disgusted by the worn out, old-looking woman staring back at me with years of shame carved into her features. I loathed every wrinkle- a reminder of all those years wasted. I could not let one more day pass like this. I walked up the driveway with as much confidence as I could muster and hesitated briefly before knocking three times on the door. I waited nervously as the seconds inched by like years, and was convinced that nobody was home and had turned around to walk back to my car when to my surprise, the door swung open. I turned to find at first, an empty doorway. I looked down to find a little girl with long brown hair, not much younger than Elizabeth had been on that morning whose details were forever burned into my memory. As soon as she saw me, her face lit up with surprise and recognition. “Grandma!” she exclaimed, “I’ve kept your picture under my pillow every night! I’ve always known you’d come!” As this beautiful little girl flashed a brilliant smile at me, the first thing I noticed was the two empty spaces where her two baby teeth were missing. She threw her arms around me and I felt a kind of warmth wash over me, much deeper than the false warmth of sleep or a drink. For a few minutes, we held each other, neither ready to let go, and for the first time in my life, I truly felt loved.





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