It’s twenty degrees outside, with a horrible wind chill of I don’t know what. I, being the nice person I am, decided to help my sweet, elderly neighbor with shoveling her driveway. Eliza is in her late seventies, with the most beautiful personality. I love her dearly, and always do what I can to help her. I look up at the clear, blue skies holding the shovel in my hands. My black hair is tangled, and matted from it being squished up in my coat.
I live in mid-western, Ohio, in the suburbs. Huber Heights, where literally nothing ever happens. There’s no mountains, oceans, or any ancient ruins, or any kind of beautiful scenery. Ohio is literally made up of farmland, and some small, and vast cities or towns. Sometimes it’s seventy degrees in the winter, and fifty degrees in the spring. I’ve lived here all my life, and have never been anywhere out of the state. I’m twenty-four years old and have barely just begun to even have the time to think about going anywhere.
A sweet, raspy voice pulls me out of my thoughts. “Jamie Stone! Come inside, and get warm! Your cheeks look as red as a rose!” Eliza, my neighbor scolds me as I try to finish up shoveling the last of her driveway.
“Eliza it’s fine… really. I am almost done anyway, and I have to head to work soon.”
“Well, you need to rest some time, child. I guess I will see you tomorrow?” she says with a raise of her eyebrow and a hand on her hip.
“Of course Eliza, see you tomorrow,” I say. She closes her front door with a shake of her head and turns on her porch light so I could see.
Eliza has known my family for a long time. She watched Josh and I take our first steps. She was there when James, my father, walked out on us when I was just five years old. Eliza slowly watched my mother crumble only into a shell of the mother that she once was. She blamed me for James leaving, said that I was too much of an inconvenience on her marriage. She slowly brought herself to do drugs and had a different man on her side constantly. She got pregnant with my brother when I turned eight years old, and sadly she never seemed to know who his father was. The men she brought around were never around long enough to even find out if she could be pregnant. I was so young when Josh was born, but I learned what responsibility was real quick. My mom had gotten worse after Josh, even more neglectful. I remember how Josh would cry and cry at night while my mom was passed out on the couch drunk, that’s where Eliza came in.
Life would have been completely different if it weren’t for this night. I can only imagine the horror she saved us from.
I was eight years old, it was two A.M, my brother had been non stop crying. I walked next door to Eliza’s house because my mother would not wake up, and me being only eight years old I had no clue how to take care of a baby. I ran next door not knowing where else to go and rang her doorbell. I saw the lights turn on, and a dark figure walking towards the entry. I remember how cold my bare feet felt on the concrete porch, how nervous I was that she would be angry I had disturbed her.
She opened the door with her still brunette hair, with just some gray streaks at the time, tied into a bun. She had a white soft looking robe that looked so warm. The look on her face was filled with confusion.
“Sweety, where is your mother? Does she know you're here?” She peeked her head out as if to see if there was anyone else outside. Then she knelt down at my level and had the look of utmost concern, and suddenly perked her head up, hearing my poor baby brother’s wails.
“Mommy won’t wake up,” I said to her.
She then immediately took my hand and walked me back, entering into my crumbling home, and at once noticed my mother passed out on the couch. Her hand was hanging down still holding her wild Irish Rose and barely had clothing on. I could see the look of disgust on Eliza’s face. My baby brother’s wails were filling the room with discomfort. The house was dirty; clothes, old take out, dishes, it was everywhere. She proceeded to walk down the hall to where Josh was crying his little heart out. He was laying horizontally on my mother’s bed. His clothes were soaked, he smelled of sour milk, and urine, and was in desperate need of a bath. Eliza picked up Josh and held him close to her chest, staring into his blue eyes, cooing him trying her best to calm his crying.
“Do you know where your mommy keeps his clothes at sweety?” she asked me.
I looked down at a pile of clothes next to the bed, and I pointed there. Mom never put any clothes away. With one hand she searched through it as fast as she could, and I believe she found a clean onesie and some socks.
She didn’t bother to look for diapers or ask. I think Eliza had enough of the lingering smell throughout my house.
“Hunny, how would you like to stay with me tonight? We can have a sleepover. We will go to the store and grab some things for your brother, and we can get you some new jammies,” she said that with the biggest smile she could muster, she was looking at how small my pajamas were on me, and how dirty I was.
Of course, at the time I didn’t know any better, I just knew that this lady was kind to me, and it sounded like so much fun to go and stay at her house.
Eliza kept her promise and took us to the closest Walmart. She bought my brother a tonne of clothes, toys, soap, diapers, lotion, rash cream; she bought me clothes, and some toys too. We didn’t get back to her house until almost four A.M.
I watched her give Josh a bath, rub cream on the raw-looking spots on his bottom, and after that, she fed him and soothed him to sleep. She found an old playpen to lay him down in. I had never seen him so peaceful since he had been home. Despite the exhaustion that was all over her face, she bathed me as well, did my hair, even gave me a little trim. She talked with me, played with me, and read to me until I fell asleep as well. I’ll never know how this woman was up and moving around the next day taking care of Josh. I know she had a conversation with my mother when she woke up to find both of her children missing. I remember hearing shouts outside but I don’t know what was said or what happened between them. I just know after a couple of nights of staying over at Eliza’s, mother had cleaned the house, bathed, and got a waitressing job at a diner downtown.
After that Eliza was always there to wake my mother out of her funks, she checked on us every day, always made sure that we had what we needed.
I will never be able to repay Eliza.
The older I got, the more my mother worked, and the more responsibility I took for my brother. My mother was never home but I knew she wasn’t always at work. She would be gone for days at a time. I believed my mom had her reasons. It didn’t matter to me anymore because I knew how to be on my own. Josh was always taken care of and it didn’t matter how much my mother had failed us, we were the only ones that could make sure we didn’t fail ourselves.
“Jamie,” a high pitched voice pulled me out of my thoughts. I looked up to see none other than my mom. She stood there, a spitting image of me, but in my eyes a much more beautiful version. Black, long, flowing hair, and pale skin. Tall and thin, every time I saw her she had her hair pinned up, and big hoop earrings dangling from her ears, which gave her long, heart-shaped face some touch. Considering this is the first time I have seen her in a month, I guess I needed to take a mental picture so I wouldn’t forget what she looked like.
“I have said your name like five times, how did you not hear me?” my mom asks.
I’m in mid-motion, finishing up the last of the driveway. “Oh, hey, this time you only stay away for a week less. I would say that’s a record.”
She crossed her arms and rolled her eyes in response to my sarcasm. “Whatever, here.” She threw a white envelope at me.
My cheeks and fingers are starting to feel numb from the cold. I caught it but it slipped out of my hands, aggravated, and with a look of hatred on my face I pick it up and follow my mother inside. I just threw the envelope on the coffee table that sits right in front of the TV. My brother is sitting comfortably on the couch. His black, long, boy band hair is a mess like he hasn’t bothered to comb it at all. It’s like why bother having long hair if you are not going to take care of it? He had no shirt on, only black gym shorts, and it’s six in the evening.
Josh is not small, so when I say he is my little brother, I only speak of age. For only being sixteen, he is taller and muscular in every place you can imagine. It wasn’t bodybuilder muscular, more lean rather than broad. I honestly don’t know why, because I see him do a whole lot of nothing.
When he looks up to see mom, you wouldn’t be able to tell he acknowledged her presence, he acted as if she wasn’t there, he refuses to even notice her existence at all anymore.
“That’s how you treat your mother after not seeing me for a month?” mom asks.
He looks down at the envelope, knowing good and well what it was. “Bill money. Thanks Charlotte.” He said my mother’s name with his eyes still glued to the TV, and a voice filled with venom and sarcasm.
A long, awkward silence fills the room before she finally decides to retort back. “Anyway, that should be enough for a while,” she said, not looking me in the eye.
I just gave her a look that could kill, and moved my attention to Josh. “Josh, what exactly have you done today?” I ask with a matter of fact tone.
He still didn’t remove his attention from the TV. “This.” This is a normal thing for Josh to be that way with my mother, but with me, he at least looked at me when he talked.
“Do you have homework?”
A beep of a horn sounds outside, interrupting our banter. Josh finally removed his gaze from the TV. He picked up the remote, clicked it off, and hurried to his room.
“Josh,” I yell with aggravation. I follow him back to his room only for him to delicately push me back and slam the door in my face. “JOSH.” I raise my voice to radiate my seriousness to him, but I don’t think it matters. And then abruptly I hear footsteps behind me.
“Jamie, just give him some space.” I turn my head and glared at my mother. Since when does she make the rules around this house?
I did my best to pretend like she wasn’t there, I faced the door, and started to bang hard.
“JOSH,” I yell again. He then opened it right as my fist was supposed to come crashing down on the door, it hit his face instead! I gasped in shock, he held his hands over his nose, I’m guessing to stop blood from pouring out.
“WHAT THE HELL JAMIE? YOU ARE SO LUCKY YOU ARE MY SISTER.” He had a look of pure anger, I back away scared he might change his mind about his morals of me being his sister.
"I’m so sorry, I really didn’t mean to hurt you.” His nose was bleeding quite profusely. “Here let me help you.” I reach up to try to hold his face still so I could see it, he smacked my hands away.
“DON'T!” He shoved me, not so delicately this time to where my back slammed into the wall. I notice he had changed into jeans, and a black long-sleeved shirt, that hugged his muscular body, as he stormed away from me down the hall.
“What is going on with you? Why are you acting like this? And where the hell do you think you are going?” I shadowed him back out to the living room with my mother following closely behind.
As he was about to walk out the door, he looked back at me, he had a look of apology in his eyes but all the words he could manage to get out were a soft mumble, “I’ll be back.” He walks out letting the screen door swing open behind him.
A cold breeze filled the house, I watched as he got into some random black SUV I had never seen before. It looked way too expensive for another teenager to own that. I worry about him so much, I know I only have so much control over him as his sister, and he is starting to realize that.
I got pulled out of my thoughts once again by my mother’s annoying voice. “Maybe if you didn’t coddle him like you were his mother, he wouldn’t treat you like that. I understand where his frustration is coming from.”
That voice, that annoying, high pitched, tiny voice. I didn’t look at her. I stood there with my eyes shut because if I did I might strangle her. I was so mad I felt like crying, I was never good with confrontation. I’m too emotional, and usually, I bottle every little thing up until I finally explode. It never came out witty, or intelligent when I was like this because I can’t think straight. My hands were both at my sides balled into fists. I quickly release them and take a deep breath.
“Why are you still here? I think you have parented enough for one day, don’t you?” I say condescendingly.
She stood there with a smug look on her face. “If I am such a bad parent I should probably take all that money back.”
I turned around facing the coffee table. I don’t know what came over me, all I know is I needed to show her how pathetic she was to me. I picked up the envelope and walked over to her to where I was standing directly in front of her. I held it in the palm of my hand, a little awkwardly, but I didn’t even think, I just shoved it directly in her face, hard. The envelope falls at her feet as I release the pressure from her face. The anger on her face is evident as she holds her hand to her sore mouth.
“I’m late for work, I have to go. Please don’t be here when I get back,” I tell her.
She didn’t say anything, just stood there in utter shock. I’m in shock that I did that. I walked out, and hopped into my red 1990 jeep wrangler, and drove away with the nagging thought in my head that I won’t be seeing my mom again.
Chapter SevenMarcellusI walk up to the ba