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The Struggle of a Girl
You can do this, Ellie thought to herself on her way to school. Today was her first day of seventh grade. Finally! She wasn’t going to be a measly underclassman in the middle school anymore.
The bus pulled up to the school, and Ellie strode confidently off it. Just before she reached the school’s front doors, she was knocked down by some giant eighth graders.
“Here, lemme help you up,” said an unfamiliar voice.
“Thanks,” said Ellie, brushing herself off. She looked up into the face of the person who helped her and was mesmerized by the two cool pools of crystal blue that were his eyes.
“Hi,” he said, extending his hand, “I’m Jim.”
“Ellie,” she said, shaking his hand. “Are you new here? I’ve never seen you around before.”
“Yeah, today’s my first day. I’m pretty nervous.”
“Don’t sweat it, Riversprings is a really nice school. I can show you around, too. That is, if you’d like.”
“I’d love to,” he said. “Look at that; my first day and I already have a friend!”
Wow! Ellie thought. He wants to be my friend!
“Here’s my schedule, could you show me to my first class?” he said.
“Yeah. It’s right over here. Looks like I have it with you,” said Ellie. “It looks like we have a lot of classes together.”
The day went by, and Jim and Ellie went to each class- and lunch- together. They finally parted ways for their last class of the day. Jim went to woodshop, and Ellie went to band. They even rode the bus together.
“So, how was your first day at Riversprings?” Ellie asked Jim on the bus ride home.
“Really great,” he said, grinning broadly.
“Awesome! My stop is here, so I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Yeah, Jim?” She turned to face him.
“Would you like to hang out this weekend? Maybe at the mall?”
“It’s a date,” she said, smiling.
Ellie got off the bus with her eight siblings and was terrified to meet the doom that awaited her behind their front door. Ellie came from a big, highly dysfunctional family. She had her fraternal twin sister Jessie, her twin sisters Miley and Ally, quadruplets Benji, Bentley, Lilly, and Laury, and her oldest brother Rodney. She has another sister, too. Her name is Hilary. She got pregnant her sophomore year, like their mom did, and was forced to live with their dad, who lives half an hour away.
Before Ellie even stepped foot in the house, she could hear her mother’s screaming, chain smoker voice.
“Steve! I want my daughter to experience her senior year here, at Riversprings!”
“Come on,” said Ellie’s sister Jessie, “let’s go.” And she led her up to their room as the other kids went their separate ways.
“Why does Mom even bother with Dad?” said Ellie, sitting on her bed.
“Who knows? Who cares? So, tell me: What’s the deal with you and that boy I saw you with, today?” inquired Jessie.
“Jim?” Ellie said. “He’s new and I thought I’d show him around the school.” But deep down, Ellie was feeling more than that. She really like Jim and hoped they could be more than just friends.
“Yeah. Sure. What’s the real deal?”
“Okay, fine. I really like him and he wants to hang out his weekend!”
“All on your first day?!” squealed Jessie.
“Knock knock,” said a voice outside their room. It was Rodney. “How was my little sissies’ first day?”
“Good, Rodney,” said the girls.
“Great! Mom told me to tell you to come down and help get dinner ready.”
The moment Rodney left the room, Jessie blurted out in an excited frenzy, “What are you going to wear the weekend?”
“I dunno. A t-shirt?”
“No, no, no! Not on a first date!” said Jessie.
“It’s not really a date,” said Ellie. “We’re just hanging out.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever. After dinner, we’re picking out an outfit.” Jessie said in her bossy, I-know-everything voice
“But it’s only Tuesday,” said Ellie, confused.
“Exactly. That gives us just enough time.”
“You’re so weird,” laughed Ellie.
The girls got downstairs and saw everyone helping with dinner except their mom.
“Set the table!” they heard her snap.
Ellie and Jessie set the table for ten while the other kids cooked and their mom sat in the living room smoking.
“Hurry up! I’m hungry!” she croaked.
The family ate in silence with the exception of their mother letting out a smoker’s cough now and then. Ellie smiled the entire meal, awaiting her weekend with Jim. Her mother noticed her smiling and let out a grumble.
Ever since Ellie’s dad left eight years ago, her mom, Eleanor, always put Ellie’s happiness on the back burner. Ellie felt like she didn’t care about her anymore because her dad said he never wanted her. Ellie’s train of thought was broken by her mother’s coughing.
“I’m done,” said Eleanor, leaving the table to go back to the living room.
Once their mother was out of earshot, Lilly said to Ellie, “Why are you so happy?”
But before Ellie could answer, Jessie blurted out, “Ellie has a date this weekend!”
“Really?” said Ally. “Who with?”
“That new kid, Jim,” Ellie said quietly.
“Oh, the guy that sat with us at lunch. He seems nice,” said Miley.
“Yeah. It’s not really a date, though. We’re just hanging you at the mall.”
“Okay, then. Do you want someone to come with you?” asked Rodney.
“You can just drop me off, I’ll be fine,” said Ellie.
“Okay, lil sis.”
Once the kids were done cleaning up, Jessie and Ellie retreated back to their room to pick out an outfit for Ellie.
“So, what does Jim like?” asked Jessie as she pilfered through Ellie’s closet.
“Well, he likes music,” said Ellie, “and he likes to build things. He plays video games, and that’s about it.”
“What’s his favorite color?” said Jessie as she pulled out three dresses.
“What about this one?” Jessie held up a pink and light blue sleeveless dress.
“I don’t know. It almost seems too childish.”
“I see. How about this?” She pulled out a dark blue dress with a black leather vest.
“That could work.”
“Perfect! Oh, I know you two will be just great for each other!”
The next morning, Ellie was excited to go to school, not just to get away from her mother, but to see Jim again. Jim and Ellie hung out as much as they could at school, and talked for hours on the phone after school. Before they knew it, it was Friday night.
“Are you excited for tomorrow?” Jim asked Ellie.
“Yeah, it’ll be nice to get away from my mom for a day.”
“Why? What’s so wrong with your mom?”
“It’s like she doesn’t want me to be happy,” sighed Ellie.
“What about your dad? He can’t be any worse.”
“Wrong. He left my mom eight years ago, and told me he never wanted me. I bet your parents are really cool.”
“Dad’s pretty awesome, but Mom’s not around anymore.”
“Did she leave like my dad?”
“No, actually. She died when I was ten.”
“Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry. What happened?” gasped Ellie.
“She had breast cancer. She fought a really tough battle.”
Eleanor got on the phone and yelled at Ellie in her raspy, chain smoker voice, “Get to bed!”
After Eleanor hung up, Jim said, “I see what you mean,” and hung up.
The next morning, Ellie woke with a smile on her face. She ate her breakfast, showered, and got dressed.
“You ready to go?” Rodney asked Ellie. She joined him in his car.
“So, where’s Jim’s house?” he asked her.
“About half a mile down the road.”
He drove to Jim’s house and picked him up. When they arrived at the mall, Rodney gave Jim the “protective brother” talk.
“Now,” said Rodney, “if you two need me, I’ll be in the food court with Vicky.”
“Okay!” they said. As they walked away, Jim put his arm around Ellie’s shoulders.
“And Jim,” Rodney called after them, “watch yourself.”
“He’s so protective,” said Ellie, hugging his torso. “I mean, I’m thirteen, I’m not a child anymore.”
“I know right?’”
“So,” Ellie said, sitting on a bench with Jim, “what was your mom like?”
“She was kind, caring, sweet. When she found out she had cancer, she was really worried for me and Luke. You remind me of her.”
“Thank you,” she said simply. “I know this place in the food court where you can make your own pretzel. You wanna do that?”
“Sounds like fun!” Jim said, taking Ellie’s hand in his.
They walked hand-in-hand to the food court to “Make Your Pretzel” and spotted Rodney with his girlfriend Vicky.
“Aren’t they cute together?” gushed Ellie.
“I think we’re cuter,” Jim whispered in Ellie’s ear before kissing her cheek.
Ellie was surprised by Jim’s display of affection, but it was a good surprise.
“I really like you, Ellie.”
“Me, too.” And he kissed her cheek again, but this time, Rodney saw. He practically ran over to them, furious.
“Rodney, you need to calm down. We’re going to ‘Make Your Pretzel’ and we’ll meet you here later.” said Ellie.
“See what I mean?” said Ellie as she and Jim reached “Make Your Pretzel”. “He treats me like a child.”
“He’s really protective over you, isn’t he?”
“Yeah. He’s kind of the man of the house, so he looks out for all of us.”
“What do you think your life would be like if your dad never left?”
“Just as bad. He always treated me poorly before he left, then it was my mom.”
“Do you remember life with your dad?”
“Just the bad stuff. Then again, I’m not ever sure there was any good stuff to remember,”
“Well, think about it this way: Now you have all the time in the world to make good- no, great- memories with me,” he said lovingly.
They took their pretzels they had made, and went to share a sundae.
Rodney approached them as they ate their sundae and said, “It’s time to go. Mom wants our help with dinner.”
Jim and Ellie walked hand-in-hand to Rodney’s car, and sat together in the backseat. Jim had his arm around Ellie, and Ellie had her head nestled in his shoulder. Rodney cleared his throat but they ignored him.
“Ellie,” said Jim, “I know this seems old fashioned, but would you like to go steady?”
“I would love to,” she said.
Rodney slammed on the brakes, and Ellie and Jim almost flew out of their seats.
“Oh, look, Jim. We’re at your house,” said Rodney.
“My house is three blocks away,” Jim said.
“Walk,” said Rodney in a stern voice.
“Bye, sweetie,” said Jim. “Talk to you later.”
“Bye,” Rodney said forcefully.
Once Jim got out of the car, Rodney sped off.
“Why would you do that? You know I like him,” said Ellie.
“Because, I don’t want you getting hurt, Hilary.”
“Did you just call me Hilary?”
“Ellie, I’m sorry,” pleaded Rodney. “I didn’t mean to.”
“Yes, you did. And you think I’m going to end up just like her.”
“No, it’s not like that. You saw the heartbreak Hilary went through when Logan left her. Now, pretty much no one wants to date her because she has a kid.”
“That’s the difference: I don’t have a kid.”
“If you’re not careful, you might. I’m not saying now, but maybe down the road.”
“No offense to Hilary, but I’m a lot smarter than her. This conversation is over.”
“And just in time,” Rodney said to himself as they pulled up to their house.
Ellie practically ran into the house, almost not noticing Hilary and her daughter.
“What’s got you bothered?” asked Hilary.
“Rodney. He’s treating me like a child.”
“I’m guessing this is about a boy. I could say you’re too young to date, but that’d make me a hypocrite because I had a boyfriend at your age.”
“So you agree that I’m responsible enough to have a boyfriend?”
“All I’m gonna say is be careful, Ellie. He’s a teenage boy, they don’t always think with their head.”
“Jim would never do that, he says he respects me.”
“You know what, you’re old enough to make some of your own decisions. Why don’t you go play with Ella and I’ll help out with dinner for you.”
“Thanks, Hilary,” Ellie said, hugging her sister and taking Ella. “It’s nice to know someone agrees with me.”
As Ellie played with toddler Ella, she couldn’t help think of how much she looked like her dad Logan. Logan wasn’t very nice, he constantly fought with Hilary and put her down. It seemed it was just to make him feel better about himself. Logan, also, didn’t like kids, so he treated most of Hilary’s younger siblings poorly. Even through all his horrid behavior, Hilary loved him. She still does even though he’s not around. Ellie wondered if that was because Hilary has Logan’s daughter. Kind of like how their mom always gave their dad second chances. Ellie always wondered how you could give someone so horrible numerous chances.
“Ellie, dinner’s ready,” said Bentley.
Ellie picked up a squirming Ella and went to the kitchen. She put her in her highchair next to Hilary and took her seat at the table.
“Mom?” said Hilary.
“Yes, dear?” she said without looking up.
“Do you think Ellie’s ready for a boyfriend?”
“Yeah, whatever. As long as she doesn’t get pregnant.”
Anger built up inside of her, Ellie stood up, knocking her chair over, and shouted, “Why does everyone think I’m going to get pregnant?!” Tears welled in her eyes as she ran from the kitchen and up the stairs. Jessie followed after her.
“Ellie?” said Jessie as she reached their room.
“What?” she sniffled.
“I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.”
“Don’t you mean make sure I’m not pregnant?”
Jessie sat on Ellie’s bed with her. “I don’t think you’ll end up pregnant.”
“Thanks, Jess, it’s nice to know someone believes in me.”
The next day, Jim came over to Ellie’s house to hang out while Ellie watched Ella for Hilary.
“Your niece is so adorable,” said Jim as he played with Ella. “Almost as adorable as you.”
“Thank you, sweetie, but I’m still going to beat you in Mario Kart tonight.”
Ellie was super excited for her second date with Jim tonight. They were going to play Mario Kart and have dinner at his house.
“You know what? Let’s make this game more interesting.”
“Loser has to kiss the winner.”
“Wanna practice for when you lose?” flirted Ellie, and Jim’s eyes filled with desire.
Just before they could kiss, Hilary walked in the room.
“Okay, Ella, time to go home to Grandpa,” she said, picking her daughter up. Bye, Ellie. Nice to meet you, Jim.”
“Now that we’re alone again…” said Ellie, leaning in for a kiss. But before their lips could meet, Rodney entered the room and sat between them.
“What movie are we watching? Oh, The Little Mermaid. Ella loves that, you know,” said Rodney.
“I think it’s time for us to go,” said Jim, standing up.
“Us?” said Rodney.
“Yeah, us,” said Ellie, pointing at herself and Jim. “We’re having dinner at his house.”
Rodney raised his eyebrows.
“Don’t worry, Rodney. It’s just dinner and Mario Kart. Plus, my dad and brother will be there. Ellie should be home by nine.”
“Okay, I’m trusting you, Ellie. Don’t disappoint me.”
Ellie and Jim walked hand-in-hand to Jim’s house, and barely said a word to each other. They were too busy exchanging loving smiles.
“Well, here we are,” said Jim as they reached his house.
They walked in and a delectable odor hit Ellie like a brick wall.
“What’s for dinner, Dad?” asked Jim.
“Well, I was going to make lasagna, but Luke used up all the cheese. So we’re having pancakes,” said Jim’s dad.
“Dad, this is Ellie; Ellie, this is my dad, Larry.”
“Hi, Ellie. It’s nice to meet you,” said Larry, shaking Ellie’s hand.
“And that’s my brother Luke,” said Jim, pointing to a tough-looking guy. “He’s a senior like Hilary.”
“You have a sister?” inquired Larry.
“Six, actually. And three brothers,” answered Ellie.
“Wow. Big family. Must drive your parents crazy,” said Luke.
“My oldest sister, Hilary, doesn’t live with us anymore. Neither does my dad. He left eight years ago, and Hilary moved in with him three years ago. She had a kid.”
“Okay, Dad, if you’re done asking Ellie for her life story, we’re going to go watch some TV,” said Jim, putting his arm around Ellie’s shoulder and steering her to the living room.
Ellie took in a deep breath and was happy to smell pancakes cooking instead of cigarette smoke. It was a nice change. She sat on the couch with Jim and gave him a big hug.
“What was that for? Not that I’m complaining,” said Jim.
“You’re house is so much nicer than mine, so much less chaotic. Everything doesn’t smell like smoke and no one’s yelling at me. I like it!”
“Your house isn’t that bad.”
“Puh-lease. When my mom’s not smoking an entire pack of cigarettes, she’s yelling at me. It’s nice to be in an environment where I’m liked, appreciated, and happy.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way, sweetie. Just know you’re always welcome here if you need to get away,” Jim said sincerely.
Ellie was so pleased to know she had an escape in Jim. “Thank you” was all she could say.
“It gets boring sometimes with just the three of us. It’d be nice to have you over.”
“It’s good to get away from my mom. That’s half the reason I like going to school,” said Ellie.
“What’s the other reason?
“You.” Ellie had no words to describe how she felt. There were butterflies in her stomach, her mind went numb, no thoughts were in her head except, I love him. Ellie felt like she could take on the world knowing she was in love. Nothing could phase her now!
“Dinner’s ready!” Luke called from the dining room.
As they walked to the dining room, Jim explained to Ellie, “Mom used to pray over the food, so now Dad does it in memory of her.”
They sat next to each other at the table, and Larry said a prayer.
“Dear Heavenly Father, we ask that you bless this food to our bodies and that you and Denise watch over and bless us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
“Amen,” everyone replied.
“So, Larry,” said Ellie, “I heard about your wife. Jim told me. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“Don’t be. It’s a blessing in disguise. Though I may have lost a wife, all three of us gained a Guardian Angel.”
“That’s a beautiful way to look at it,” she said as she poured syrup on her pancakes.
As they ate, Ellie told them more about herself. She told them of how she wanted to be an obstetrician, where she wanted to go to college, and how much she wanted to move to a small town to raise her family.
“Wow, Ellie, it sounds like you have your life figured out. And you’re only thirteen!” complimented Larry.
“Thanks,” she blushed.
After dinner, Larry and Luke offered to clean up so Jim and Ellie could play Mario Kart before Ellie had to go home.
“How are you beating me?” said Ellie.
“Because I’m better than you,” said Jim
“Not anymore,” said Ellie, snatching Jim’s controller, running away with it.
“That is cheating,” said Jim, chasing her. “Really bad cheating.”
After they ran in circles for a little while, Jim caught Ellie and took back his controller.
“Ha! Now I can finish winning,” laughed Jim.
When they finished playing, Jim was astounded. “How did you beat me?!”
“I’ll tell you after you kiss me,” she said. Jim gave Ellie a kiss and Ellie revealed her secret. “I switched the controllers.”
“What?! That’s cheating, I win!”
"Yeah, whatever. It’s a quarter to nine, so why don’t you walk me home?”
As Jim walked Ellie home, Ellie couldn’t help but think of how perfect her life with Jim will be. How they’ll get married, have babies together, and live in their very own house in a small town. But what Ellie didn’t think of was reality, and how her life would pan out. And the struggles she will face.