A teenager finds herself becoming a mother to a child that isn't hers.
Prompt: Write a poem or story with the following title: The Reluctant Mother
Winning Entry for 05/13/06
You sleep so peacefully it almost sickens me. Here I am swamped with homework and it’s all your fault I haven’t been able to concentrate or finish on time. Before you came along, I was the most popular girl in school. I had friends who gave a damn about me. I went to parties every weekend and was in the running to be Prom Queen.
Now look at me.
I haven’t washed my hair in days, and it looks stringy and lifeless. I haven’t had the time to go shopping for new clothes and wearing these pair of jeans, and sweatshirt that smells of you, makes me want to gag. My day starts with your piercing shrill cry - louder than any alarm clock - and ends in the same way before you succumb to sleep.
Sleep. What a precious word. When was the last time I had a good night’s rest anyway?
Look at me. Only seventeen and yet saddled with you. Why? What did I do to deserve this?
Oh yeah, I remember. Your stupid mother got herself involved in yet another brawl and lost her life in a sleazy nightclub. I do believe the cops found cocaine and heroin spread around her like snow. What a joke. And to think she was my older sister by only two years. Mom and Dad left us when I was fifteen. Not like they had a choice. They too lost their lives, but in a more legit way – a plane crash off the coast of Maine. It was supposed to be their twentieth wedding anniversary.
Maria, that’s your mother, was suddenly head of the household and boy! Did she screw up in that role, just like in everything else. She was hardly at home, gone for days at a time with that fool of a boyfriend. She’d only show up once in a blue moon, stoned out of her mind and always asking me for cash. It wasn’t as if I made that much. I only worked at the video store after school and was paid just enough for groceries and bills.
I warned her. Don’t think I didn’t. I warned her about her involvement with him. It would only bring her more trouble. But she had stomped away, yelling at the top of her lungs that I didn’t understand her. What was there to understand, huh? She was digging herself into an early grave and all I could do was stand by and watch. It made me very sad and yet angry.
She disappeared for almost a year after that huge argument. I never heard a word from her, and I made no attempt to seek her out either. I believed that when she was good and ready, she’d return and beg for my forgiveness like she always does. So imagine my surprise when I came home from school one day, tired and ready to crash for the night, only to see you in a basket by the front door to our home.
I must have gawked at you for a long time in disbelief, wondering if you were a cruel joke being played on me. You with your cherub, innocent features and fisted hands, clad in baby blue clothes. You had fuzzy blond hair and eyes as dark as Maria’s. There was a note attached to you, which I read with increasing fury.
I hope you don’t mind me dropping off Junior here, okay?
There’s just some things I’ve gotta work out with Jonathan and things aren’t too cool
Between us at the moment. So, please, please look after the baby for me, k? I left some baby food and his clothes in the bag beside the hamper and some cash too. I’m gonna clean up and become a big sister again. You’ll see.
From your big sis,
I remember crumpling the paper and running out to the street to search for her. I wanted to scream that it wasn’t fair. There was no way I could look after a baby. I wasn’t ready for this! I still had school to worry about. But your shrill, aching cry drew me back to you in a flash and still not sure of what to do, I could only try to make you happy as best I could.
Everyday I waited for your mother’s return, unable to concentrate in school because I was worried old Mrs. Robinson next door wasn’t doing a good job taking care of you. I would find myself ignoring my friends, planning your next meals and wondering if your clothes fit just right, instead of focusing on algebra, boyfriends, and prom dates.
I have yet to tell anyone in school about you, and my friends wonder why I don’t invite them to the house anymore. But how can I tell them that I’m a mother to a child that isn’t even mine? How can I look at any of them and confess this shameful family secret my sister has burdened me with?
I should have left you a long time ago. I should have taken you to a foster home, left you there and moved on with my life, pretending nothing had happened. And yet, as I look at you, sleeping so peacefully in that crib, I feel a reluctant surge of pride filling my heart.
Whether I like it or not, you’re stuck with me, and I can only promise to protect you until you find your own path. Wherever it may lead.