Advertisements

Blog Archives

The Doll, Part 2

Continued from Chapter One.

First part of the second chapter.  I’m submitting the book idea at the end of the month, so if you have editorial commentary, now’s your chance.:)  
Summary: Colleen, adopted through foster care with her brother, dreams of finding her birth family and learning they are royalty. She hates chores and feels displaced by her adoptive parents’ pregnancy. She wishes her life were different, the life of a princess. A gift from her grandfather might make her wish reality.

Two

Grandpa is late.

 

He’s never late.

 

Did he forget?

 

How could he forget my birthday?

 

My grandpa is amazing. We connect. He understands me. He’s always understood me.

 

In one of my earliest memories, I hold the dash of his beat-up diesel truck as we bounce across the cow pastures to check on new calves. The afternoon wind pushes through the cab, warm and buffeting. I’m small enough that I can just see over the hood as I stand in the cab. Gold streaks the sky, edging the clouds, as we look for new babies.

7265839252_11d9a73a06_z (1)

Photo Credit: Dan Hatton

Soon, in the blue dusk, we find the big girl with her fuzzy little clone tripping along behind. He coaxes her to follow us back to the paddock. I clamber up to watch out the back window as we drive slowly across the field. The calf follows his mother, head bobbing. The vinyl seat pattern creates basket-weave on my bare shins, the rolled seams pressing into my bones. Hours later, in my sleeping bag on the couch, I think I can still feel them.

 

Now that I’m grown, I realize all those cute little calves ended up as filet mignon on some rich guy’s plate in a fancy restaurant with napkins you can’t blow your nose on. Back then, though, I just knew I was helping Grandpa, and I loved it. His little sidekick.

 

Mom catches me peeking out the window. “Grandpa’s on his way. He called from a rest stop a few hours out. He had a flat and had to change it.” She sighs. “One of these days, we’ll talk him into getting a cell phone.”

 

I roll my eyes. This is a conversation Grandpa and I have often. He thinks cell phones are unnecessary. Last week, I said phones attached to a wall are constricting, clunky and old-fashioned. “Constricting” is one of my favorite words. Sounds like a snake, coiled up and squeezing me to death. Sort of like the curly phone cord. I told him we could talk almost face-to-face if he would agree to a phone with a screen.

 

“What? And then you’ll see how my hair sticks up. I need a haircut. You wouldn’t believe it. And what if I forget to wipe my mouth after dinner? You’ll see the food on my face. No. Besides, I’m almost eighty. This old-fashioned clanky phone is just fine for me.”

 

I consider correcting him, but he’s probably forgotten to replace his hearing aid battery again. It’s pointless. Mom says he doesn’t forget; he just decides it’s easier to ignore what he doesn’t want to hear if we think the hearing aids aren’t working.

 

Hovering over the snack table, I inhale the scent of vanilla cupcakes with buttercream icing. My favorite. Cupcakes used to be for little kids, but all my friends like this show about a cupcake shop in the city. The owners come up with unbelievable flavors and even group the cupcakes together to recreate famous paintings. Last week they did Starry Night and something by Monet.

4517881719_da9f729705_m

Photo Credit: A. Cook

My cupcakes aren’t that fabulous, but my mom did manage to talk the bakery into grouping them to look like a big daisy. It wasn’t that hard. Just put the yellow in the middle and white on the outside. A baby could do it. I talked her into buying some orange sprinkles, then shook them over the yellow cupcakes to make the flower look little more artistic. Kevin wanted a cake shaped like a torpedo, but it would have cost a fortune. Mom talked him into getting an ice cream cake with a picture of the Blue Angels flight squad instead.  

 

Our weird doorbell has been ringing all morning. Kevin’s friends are all showing up early because he sent out a picture of the new prize Fender. If that thing duh-BONG-bongs one more time in the next ten minutes, I swear I’ll go tear it out of the wall. I don’t know why we have to have such a stupid sounding bell. All my friends’ houses have the regular ding-dong style, except Emma’s. Hers plays Bach or Beethoven or something because her dad’s a composer for the movies. It’s actually pretty cool. Not like duh-BONG-bong.

 

A loud crash sounds from upstairs. Mom heaves herself up to the third step, then stops, hanging on the stair railing and panting. “KEVIN!” she squalls, “GET DOWN HERE!” His face, topped by wild spikes of brown and purple hair, appears at the head of the stairs. She blinks at him.

 

“First, explain the crash. Second, what in the world did you do to your hair?”

 

He grins. “Sorry, mom. Robert fell out of the chair.”

 

She raises an eyebrow. “Fell?”

 

“Well,” he shrugs, “he was trying to see how many times he could spin in thirty seconds. We were timing him. I guess the centrifugal force knocked him out of the seat.”

 

“Ah, well, tell him to find some centripetal force or he’s going to find a place to science himself out of a chair outside.” Her foot hovered over the second step, then she turned back to him. “Wait. You didn’t answer my other question. What have you done to your hair? Please tell me it isn’t permanent.”

 

He grinned, that wide, half-cocked smile he uses on adults. He thinks it’s disarming. Most of the time, it works. “Oh, that. Uh, no, it’s not permanent. It’s going to turn clear pretty soon.”

 

I can almost see mom’s mental wheels spinning. “Turn clear…is that one of the glue sticks you’re using for the science project presentation?”

 

She bought him a bunch of different glue sticks that start out purple and turn clear as they dry. He wants to document the color change, drying time and explain the science behind stuff that dries a different color. Sounds stupid to me, but it’s his project.

 

His grin widens. “Yep. Pretty cool, right? We took it out of the tube and squished it around until we could use it for hair gel. So we can start a rock band in style. Isn’t it amazing? Can I get some real purple hair dye?”

 

Mom rolls her eyes and slithers back down the railing until she stands on the hardwood floor of

the hall. She sucks in a breath, then hisses. I don’t know how she’s going to survive until her due date. I don’t even know what they were thinking. They already have us.

 

She looks back up at my brother, still hovering at the top of the steps. “If you pull your Spanish grade up to a B, I’ll consider it.”

 

Kevin could ace Spanish if he turned in his homework. He actually does it, then leaves it at home. I don’t know what his problem is. I’ve never told mom, though. It’s not my business. And he doesn’t tell her that sometimes I wear eye shadow at school, so. Fair’s fair.

 

Five minutes later, the doorbell sounds again. Six boys tumble down the staircase, trying to be the first to open it. When Robert pulls the door back and gapes at the front porch, I realize they must have been looking out the upstairs window. I see a sleek white sedan backing out of our driveway. It’s the car Emma’s mom drives. I guess she’s not staying.

 

Sure enough, my beautiful friend waits on the porch. Empty-handed. I wonder why she didn’t bring me a present. I push Robert out of the way and pull the door wide.

 

“Finally! I have no one to talk to. You wouldn’t believe the morning I had. Mom made me get up and clean the bathroom. On my birthday,” I emphasize, grabbing her hand and dragging her past the group of ogling trolls.

 

“Did your mom make cookies? Or put out any pre-birthday cupcakes?” Emma asks, always ready for sugar. Flashing her perfect, pearly teeth, she waves at Robert as we head to my room. I think people expect rich, beautiful Emma to be a snob, but she’s nice to everyone, even nerdy boys.

 

If only I had her life…

 

Among all the other ways her life is better than mine, Emma already had her teeth fixed. She said her dad paid “out of pocket” so she could get braces early, and they weren’t the silver metal-mouth things the rest of us have. Or will have. Mom said our insurance won’t pay for the braces yet because I still have baby molars that refuse to fall out. Emma’s parents didn’t wait for insurance. She had extractions and a bunch of stuff done as soon as the orthodontist said it was okay. Then they gave her the braces you could barely see.

 

My teeth stick out like a donkey’s. Mom says it’s not that bad, but she doesn’t spend hours in the mirror looking at them. And one of my teeth is turned sideways. It’s horrible.

 

The orthodontist told me it’s no big deal, but he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I know everyone can see it. I don’t smile for pictures anymore unless Mom forces me with threats of dismemberment.

 

“Is your grandfather here yet?” Emma loves my Grandpa. We all do. He tells amazing stories and always brings interesting gifts. The last time he visited, he gave me a book of princess tales. This might not sound that great to you, but I love to read AND the book was almost a hundred years old. It belonged to my great grandmother, the one who gave me my name. She died a year after Kevin and I arrived.

 

Inside the front cover, she’d written her name in perfect cursive. My grandmother’s name appears below it. He never gave it to my mother, even after my grandmother died. I’m not exactly sure why, but it makes sense to me. He probably recognized she has no imagination. I wrote my name under their names, and now the cover says, “Colleen Elizabeth” three times, in three different girls’ handwriting, because it was also my grandmother’s name. Three times, like a magic spell.

1692489503_2a6b315b12_z

Photo Credit: Anne-Lise Heinrichs

 

“Colleen.” Emma is wrinkling her nose. “What is that smell?”

 

Floating under the surface of my memories, I hadn’t even noticed. Now, a definite odor permeated my room. I narrowed my eyes at the tendrils of smoke reaching under my door. “Hold your breath.” I pull on the handle to find one of my brother’s homemade stink bombs smoldering by my door.

 

“Mommmmmm!” I can’t believe he did this. Again.

 

“MOMMMMMMM!” no answer.

 

Dad pokes his head out of their doorway, blinking. He must have worked late last night. “What are you screaming about, Colleen—” he stops, staring at the stink bomb. “Oh.”

 

Pulling his old green terrycloth robe on over his t-shirt and plaid pajama pants, he staggers to Kevin’s door. The room is empty.

 

“I’ll be back,” he says, “with air freshener. Close your door and stuff a towel under the crack. I might also kill your brother. If your mom asks about his body, you know nothing.” He winks and saunters down the hall.

 

Emma stares at me, wide-eyed. “Plaid. Is your dad okay?”

 

She’s spent the night enough to know that his pajama pants tend to correspond with his mood. Flannels sporting happy faces, penguins or a square sponge in short pants mean he’s had a really good day. He even has a pair with CELEBRATE! plastered all over them. He saves those for birthdays and work promotions.

 

“I think he’s just tired. He’s been working a lot lately,” I say, a little annoyed that she noticed before I did. Come to think of it, he’s been wearing plaid a lot lately.
I think I’ll start doing it, too. Then maybe they’ll realize how unhappy I am. I could just get a bunch of black pajamas and wait for mom to ask how I’m feeling. If she even sees them. She’s so obsessed with this new baby growing in her belly, she barely notices me.

 

 

Advertisements

The Doll

Here’s the full first chapter.  I’m submitting the book idea at the end of the month, so if you have editorial commentary, now’s your chance. 🙂  

Summary: Colleen, adopted through foster care with her brother, dreams of finding her birth family and learning they are royalty. She hates chores and feels displaced by her adoptive parents’ pregnancy. She wishes her life were different, the life of a princess. A gift from her grandfather might make her wish reality. 

 

361229642_99473e24cb_m

Photo Credit: Justin Lincoln

I am so tired of that woman. She will not leave me alone.

 

I just want to have peace and quiet, but no. It’s bad enough that Mom puts her nose in my school business, calling my teachers, showing up for lunch without warning, bribing my friends with cookies so they’ll like her. But that’s not enough meddling in my life. Nope. She also makes me do work. Like I’m her slave or something. If I forget, she follows me around and nags.

 

“Chores are your duty as a citizen of this great land we call our household,” she tells me.

 

Chores. Ha. More like doing her job for her. Parents are supposed to take care of the house. Moms do the inside, dads take care of the lawn and the cars and all that. Or they hire someone. None of my friends have “chores.” So much for my childhood.

 

“You’re lucky, Colleen,” mom says. “Not every kid learns life skills. When you graduate, you’ll be able to survive on your own. I know you don’t appreciate it all, but chores are good for your character. Be thankful. Your life, even when you think it’s horrible, is someone else’s fairytale.”

 

“Fairytale, ha. Emily and Madison don’t have to learn life skills,” I complain.

 

She laughs. Laughs. Like it’s no big deal.

 

“Well, when they pull their first all-pink load of laundry out of the dryer in college, they’ll wish they did. In the meantime, you still need to clean the downstairs bathroom. People are coming over in three days, and you’ve left it a mess. And then sort your laundry so we can start a load for you. I’m asking you to clean up after yourself. It’s not like you’re Cinderella.”

 

Pink clothes? What does that even mean? And no, I’m not Cinderella. If only. I’d ride off with that prince and live in style.

 

My thirteenth birthday party is Saturday. I will be a TEENager. Almost eighteen. In just five more summers, I can be outta here. A few weeks ago, I said this out loud. Stupid me. She laughed then, too.  

 

“Wait,” she said, doubled over and gasping for air, “you’re killing me. Do you remember how long it’s been since you were eight years old?”

 

I sniffed. “That’s forever ago.”

 

“Exactly,” she said. By this time she was cackling, that annoying snorty laugh she does when she thinks something is really, really funny. “You are not almost eighteen. Trust me, five years is a long time. By the time you hit eighteen, thirteen will feel like ‘forever ago,’ too.”

I’m counting the days, believe me. One thousand, eight hundred twenty-nine, to be exact. In case you’re checking my math, don’t forget leap year.

 

I head downstairs to my bathroom. It’s actually the guest bathroom, but last year I sort of claimed it. Mom said it was fine as long as I clean it. And I do. Most of the time.

 

My twin brother Kevin and I used to share a bathroom. He’s completely gross. Leaving him in his filth was one of the best hygiene decisions I’ve ever made, right up there with deciding to wear deodorant. So he has to clean the upstairs bathroom himself. Now, if we could just get him to shower. With soap. Mom said he’ll start when he finally discovers girls. Like that will happen. He’s got his head so far inside his science books, he’s lucky he remembers to eat.

 

I wipe the toothpaste dots off the mirror. Mom always checks. She says “no one wants to see that.” I rub the chrome until it sparkles, then flick the rag across the counter. If the chrome is shiny, no one notices the rest. After I pour blue stuff in the toilet bowl, I figure the bathroom is good enough. It’s not like party guests are going to use the tub.

My birthday is horrible.

 

I knew this would be an awful day before I opened my eyes. Drops of rain splatter against my window as thunder crashes above. Kevin, always up “at the cracka,” according to my dad, is already adding his ridiculous noise to the cacophony. Apparently my parents gave him his big present early. Of all things, an electric guitar. My parents were thrilled when he started showing interest in music.


“Finally, we’ll hear something from Kevin other than science facts,” my dad winked at me yesterday from his perch on the edge of his favorite chair. Leaning over the Fender’s slick black and pearl body, he finished tuning the instrument and ran through a few chords. “Beautiful music will be a blessed change.”

 

Maybe, but this is not beautiful. Or music. It’s awful.

 

Wrapping a hypoallergenic, fiber-fill pillow around my head, I blunder out into the hall. The pillow stuffing shifts under my hands, soft and puffy. Still groggy, I try to keep it over my ears, skimming my shoulder along the wall for support. Mom appears, carrying a large gift bag.

 

“Happy Birthday, honey!” She crows. Yes, crows, like a rooster. It is way too early for this. I’m pretty sure it’s not even eight o’clock.

 

I narrowly avoid her kiss; it lands on my pillow.

“Can you do something about Kevin? I’m still trying to sleep!” I grit my teeth.

 

She laughs. Why does she always laugh at me? Like I’m trying to be funny. This is serious.

 

“Really, mom. It’s Saturday. It’s my birthday. I should be allowed to sleep in a little.” I pull the pillow tighter, trying to block the noise.

 

“It’s your birthday, Colleen. Plural. His too, you know. He can play if he wants.”

 

“It’s not playing. It’s noise,” I frown.

 

“Well, you remember what your teacher said after the Christmas program. ‘We’re supposed to make a joyful noise. Nobody said anything about talent.’ As long as he’s happy, and he’s making noise…” she trails off, looking at the hall clock.  “ And, hey, it’s already nine. You should be up anyway. I need your help.” She hefts the bag.

 

“Help? On my birthday?” I grimace. Can’t even catch a break on my birthday.

 

“Yes. If you’d cleaned the bathroom properly the other day, you could sleep longer. As it is, you gave it a lick and a promise instead of a good cleaning. So, now you have to clean a toilet on your special day. Seems unfair, I’m sure, but you did this to yourself.” She grins.

 

“I gave it a what?” I imagine licking the tub faucet.

 

“Never mind. Go.” She staggers down the hall under the weight of the bag and her enormous belly.
Yep, that’s right. She’s pregnant. Preggers. Bun in the oven. Having a baby. Knocked up. Mom, laughing again, asked me where I’d heard that last one. It’s so ridiculous, at their age.  I mean, seriously. She’s like, thirty-eight. And do you know what they had to do in order for her to get that way? So disgusting. I can’t even think about it.

 

 

The day she took me to find a dress for the eighth grade dance, she was all excited because she and dad went to the doctor that morning and they found out the baby is a girl. She couldn’t even concentrate on my dress. She said, “that’s great!” and, “beautiful!” every time I tried on something new, but I could tell she wasn’t even looking. Not really.

 

A little blue dress was already hanging in my changing room, the kind they’d never let me wear, so I tried it on for fun. It made me look older. I liked the way it stayed up without straps and barely skimmed my knee. I knew she wasn’t paying attention when I pranced out in front of the mirrors and she said, “wow, cute!”

 

I almost got away with it, but her eyes focused at the last minute and she said, “when you’re twenty-one, you can come back to get that one.”


Finally, she said, “come, on, just pick one already.”

 

She used to spend more time picking out my dress than I did.

 

Before the baby.

 

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the baby department, looking at frilly baby clothes. Everything was impossibly fluffy and lacy and pink. She gave away all my baby stuff years ago, so we have to buy it all again. And, since baby things are expensive, Kevin and I will have to pick between two weeks of summer camp, instead of getting to attend both. This baby is already irritating. I’m just waiting for her to tell me I have to let it share my room.

 

I toss the pillow back on my bed and pull on my favorite jeans, the ones with colorful cheetah print on the side. By the time I pull a brush through my hair, Kevin has stopped his racket. Thank God. Hopefully this new interest will go the way of his pet hissing cockroach, last year’s birthday present.

 

Mom said it escaped. I’m pretty sure she flushed it.

 

Pulling my hair into a ponytail, I head downstairs to scrub the toilet. Like a slave. On my birthday.

After she made me do everything three times, the bathroom finally met mom’s military inspection. Seriously, no one notices dust in the corners. Ridiculous waste of time. I got all sweaty scrubbing out the tub and had to take a shower, so all that work was for nothing. At least she didn’t make me clean it again.

 

Thirteen. I just can’t stop saying it. Thirteen. ThirTEEN. Finally a teenager.

 

The night before I turned five, I remember thinking I’d be able to reach the kitchen faucet in the morning. When I woke up, I ran to the sink, shocked to find the handle still several inches out of reach.

 

This time, I am a teenager. No question. Height is irrelevant; I am older. More mature. Almost eighteen. Almost out of here.

 

And then.

 

I can find my birth parents.

 

Kevin and I had other parents, but no one knows much about them except our mother was really young. “She loved you so much, she wanted you to have a family with parents who could take care of you.” That’s what they say to our faces. But once, years ago, I heard mom whispering to Aunt Melissa that the social worker said our grandmother forced our first mom to give us up. I think of my birth mother’s mom as a green-faced wicked witch, not a grandma.

 

I bet our mom was from a really rich family and the wicked grandmother just didn’t want to deal with the stigma of teenage pregnancy. We learned about stigma in my psychology elective class. It’s when people get treated differently because of something shameful they did.

 

So they dumped us into foster care for six months, and then Dad and Mom picked us up. A year later, we officially “belonged” to them. Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate what they did for us. But some days, I wish I knew about the family we were born into. And borne out of.
When I turn eighteen, I can see the files. And maybe, by that time, the wicked witch will be gone, and our birth mom will be happy to see us, and we’ll get to live like the modern-day royal family we were born to be.

 

5321525376_f57395d7a6_z (1)

Photo Credit: Theresa Huse

 

%d bloggers like this: