Honk! Hooooooonnnnnnk! “What kind of moron slams on their brakes because of a few raindrops?” I scream, despite being entirely aware that the moron? He can’t hear me. “Idiot!”
Personally, I’m glad for the rain. The angry thrumming along the windshield and roof of the car quell some of the voices in my head. Of course, they also conceal the teardrops that race down my cheeks from passersby.
I let out an exasperated sigh as my windshield floods red with taillights. “Guess I’m not getting home any time soon.” Not that it matters.
I could sit on that freeway for five hours and still make it home early. After all, it’s not even 9:30 a.m. I flip on the radio only to hear our local reporter droning on about our latest economy woes. “Give me a break.” I flip the radio back off, preferring to sit in rain-spattered silence than listen to the radio mock my current situation in life, thank you very much.
I spare a side-glance at my passenger seat where a simple brown box sits, holding all my hopes and dreams. I’d taken the job at the newspaper two years ago on a whim. Others called me ‘crazy’, ‘reckless’ or claimed I must be having some kind of mid-life crisis. But I’d ignored them; each and every one.
Sure, leaving my six-figure job at the bank was a gamble, a risk. I mean, I turned my back on full benefits and a retirement plan, simply to sit at a rickety old desk that paid less than I’d made in college.
Still, in that moment, it was the only risk I could have made. Andre had just filed for divorce to chase after a girl barely old enough to drink, which was fine; the marriage had been long over anyway. Lex, my best friend since birth, had just lost her battle with cancer. Work was trying to ship me off to Australia, and I couldn’t bring myself to pull Allie out of school. I couldn’t do that to her, just pull her away from her teachers and friends. She had already gone through so much.
When I saw the writing job, I thought: this is it! Finally, it was something I wanted. Something I’d always dreamed about. I wanted to set a good example, teach my little girl to follow her dreams. I wanted to show her that hard work and never giving up hope in difficult circumstances was worth it because happiness and fulfillment were two of the most important things a person could fight for.
But now? Everything I stayed for, everything I fought for… I can feel it slipping away. We’re going to have to move. Again. There’s no way I can stay in this neighborhood, not anymore. Allie is going to have to change schools and leave her friends. I’m going to have trade in my car for something cheaper.
And worst of all? Honk, honk!
Worst of all, I’m going to have to tell Steve… tell him everything.
“Oh, God.” I grumble. I can already hear his annoying ‘I told you so,’ and picture his big dumb face. As I near the next freeway exit, I can’t help but wonder if I should pick up a bottle of “Because I Feel Pathetic Wine”, on the way home.
But, pfffft. Who are we kidding? That bottle would be a box, and even that? Well, it’s a box I can’t afford right now. Whelp, guess I’ll be baking Allie an apology cake instead.
* * *
“Okay Pumpkin, go put your backpack away.”
“Kay.” Allie scampers down the hall as I pull the sad and very lopsided cake out of the fridge.
“Ah!” she squeals, “cake!”
“Whose birthday is it? Is it your birthday, Mommy?”
“No Pumpkin. It’s just a cake, but there is something I wanted to talk to you about.” I barely pause for breath as I tell her all about how journalism is dead, that mommy doesn’t have a job anymore. I tell her how I’m a terrible mother, how I don’t know how I’m going to provide for us, where we’re going to live, and certainly, that I have no idea what I’m going to do next. I explain we have to move again, move into something even smaller than the two-bedroom box we already share and expound upon just how very worthless I am.
I’m careful to choose words my little girl can understand. I’m even more careful to present those words in a way that doesn’t freak her out. Instead, it sounds more like “Mommy is going to be starting a new job soon. I don’t know where, but it’s going to be so cool. We’ll get a new house, and you’ll be able to go to a new school and meet new friends.” But, no matter how chipper I force my voice to sound, I’m sure the fact that I’m a complete failure was easily enough conveyed.
“Why are you sad, Mommy?” She wonders when I finally run out of words.
“Because… because…” Yep. Those words are long gone now. I can’t think of a single one, and it’s the perfect reminder really, a reminder of why I can’t make it as a writer.
“Don’t be sad, Mommy.”
But my face is burrowed in my arm on the table top; I feel a tangle of curls flop over into the dark icing of my slice of uneaten cake. “I’m sorry Pumpkin.”
“But we’re going on an adventure!” she punctuates the air with a chocolate covered fork. “I love adventures. You think our new house will let us have dogs? You think we’ll have a pool, or, ah!” She gasps, her eyes huge saucers of hope. “You think we’ll have a ghost? That’d be so cool, Mommy, if we had a ghost. Then, I could take the ghost to school and show it to all my new friends. What do you think my friends will be like? Can I still see Lupe and Kate? Can they come over? What do you think my new school will be like Mommy? Will it have grass? Do you think it’ll – that it’ll have swings? Ah!” she gasps again. “Do you think they’ll give me a tablet to bring home for homework? You know Lupe’s sister? She goes to a school that gives her a tablet.”
On and on, she rattles. I can’t hardly keep up, but somewhere between new friends and taking a ghost to show and tell, something inside me shifts. Suddenly, I can’t stop smiling. “To a new adventure!” I raise my own chocolate covered fork in the air in cheers. “And to making friends with ghosts!”
Allie only giggles as her fork collides with my own, and I can’t help but marvel over the hope I just found in the face of my love and a little dry cake.