Chapter Five – Understanding Kasey

After Kasey put her mom to bed, she went to the bathroom and splashed water on her face. She leaned on the sink and looked at herself in the mirror as the water dripped down into the sink. She rubbed at the dark circles under her eyes that had become a permanent part of her face. She hated them, and wished she could rub them off completely. A 25-year-old woman shouldn’t look as old as she did. Taking care of her mother had taken its toll over the last few years. She needed help, but who could she turn to? It wasn’t like she had any family to turn to for help. Her father was never a part of her life. She’d lost most of her friends. Maybe if she had gone to college she could have avoided this whole mess with her mom. And as for dating? Nobody wanted to date a woman with an invalid mother, nor did she have time to find a date. At least she had her customers at the Rusty Anchor and the coffee shop. She wasn’t sure she could consider them friends, but at least she saw them on a regular basis. Except for Willow…she couldn’t figure her out. She seemed to want to push her way into her life. Kasey didn’t want to be rude, but she liked her life compartmentalized. She was a different person at the coffee shop than she was at the Anchor. At the Anchor, she could let her guard down. But since Willow had started showing up at the Anchor, Kasey felt guarded.

She heard a rustling sound coming from the living room. It startled her at first, but as she passed her mom’s bedroom door, she realized her bed was empty.

“What now?” she mumbled. “Mom? Why are you out of bed!”

Naomi had pulled the cushions off the couch, and was sticking her hands deep into the crevices.

“Not this again,” Kasey said.

“Come on, Mom. Time to go to bed,” she said, and pulled gently on her mom’s shoulders.

“They have to be here somewhere! Daddy is going to be so mad at me! I lost his keys again!” Naomi said. She was agitated, even frantic. She pulled away from Kasey.

“Mom, please,” Kasey urged and reached for her again.

“No, I have to find them!” Naomi said, and pulled away.

Kasey had reached her end with this nonsense. She reached for her own keys, grabbed them and shook them violently.

“I found them! Now let’s go to bed!” Kasey raised her voice.

Naomi paused, and studied the keys.

“Those aren’t Daddy’s keys. Now help me look, or we’ll both be in trouble!” Naomi yelled.

“Yes, they are! I’m sure of it!” Kasey yelled back.

“No, they aren’t! Daddy’s keys have a bottle opener on them!” Naomi said.

Kasey thought for a moment. She had to get Naomi off the subject, or they could be up for hours.

“No, remember? He took that off the keys! I’m sure of it! Now, let’s go to bed!” Kasey yelled and threw the keys into the dish on the counter. She reached for Naomi, and Naomi struggled against her.

“Mom, please!” Kasey was beyond exhaustion. She was crying, and desperate to distract Naomi.

Naomi saw Kasey’s tears and paused. For a moment, Kasey thought she saw recognition in Naomi’s eyes, but it didn’t last.

“Oh, sweetie, what’s wrong? Did someone hurt you?” Naomi asked.

“Yes,” Kasey said under her breath.

“What can I do to help?” Naomi asked, forgetting about the keys for the moment.

“Let’s just go to bed, okay?” Kasey asked, and wiped her tears. “We’ll talk about it in the morning.”

“Okay. If you’re sure there’s nothing I can do to help,” Naomi said.

Naomi looked around the living room, as if she was forgetting to do something. Kasey gently grabbed her by the shoulders and took her back to her room. She covered her up, and turned off the light, closing the door behind her. Then Kasey made her way to her room, and collapsed onto the bed. She wanted to cry, but was all cried out. She turned off the light and prayed for a better day in the morning.

 

The sun streamed through Kasey’s window, hitting her in the eyes. She squinted and looked at the clock…6:23am. She realized she hadn’t set her alarm, but she still had time to get to the coffee shop on time. Hopefully her mom would cooperate. She took a quick shower, pulled her hair back in a ponytail, and went to wake up her mom.

Naomi lay in her bed, snuggled under the covers, silent, in the same position Kasey left her the night before.

“Mom?” Kasey said quietly.

Naomi didn’t stir. Kasey sighed, knowing that getting Naomi up was going to be another struggle. She opened the curtains and turned on the light beside her bed.

“Mom,” she said again, and gently shook her. She still didn’t stir.

“Wow, you’re really asleep. Come on, Mom, time to get up.”

Kasey rolled her over and noticed how cold Naomi was.

“Mom?”

She felt her cheek…cold.

“Mom!”

Kasey shook her and put her ear to Naomi’s chest. She couldn’t hear anything. Her mom wasn’t breathing.

“Oh, God…Mom!”

She shook her again. Still nothing. Kasey ran to the phone and dialed 9-1-1, then ran back to her mom’s side. She tried to start CPR, but didn’t know if she was doing it in the right order. Was it breathe first?! Or chest compressions?! How many breaths?! She went back to chest compressions. Still nothing. She was panicked, breathing and compressing as best as she could remember. She didn’t know how long she was there before she heard the knock at the door.

“It’s my mom! Please help!” Kasey yelled and led them to her mom’s bedside.

She watched from the doorway as the paramedics tried to bring her mom back to her. She could hear the paramedics talking to one another, but couldn’t focus on what they were saying. She replayed arguing with her mom about the keys over and over in her mind. Did she upset her mom so much that she had a heart attack? Was it her fault? She should have been more patient with her. She felt so selfish and so guilty.

“Ma’am?” the paramedic said.

“Is she alive?” Kasey asked and strained to see over the paramedic’s shoulder.

He shook his head. “I’m sorry.”

“Are you sure? There’s nothing else…”

He touched her shoulder. She watched from the doorway as the paramedics picked up everything from around her mom.

A police officer introduced himself to Kasey. She didn’t hear his name, and didn’t remember when he’d shown up. He told her that she’d have to answer a few questions, and fill out some paperwork. And the coroner was on his way.

The Officer led Kasey to the couch to sit down, and the cushions were still on the floor from the night before when her mother had been searching for the keys…those damn keys.

The next few hours were a blur. She talked to police and made arrangements with the coroner’s office. But none of it seemed real. Kasey felt like she was in a dream. Her mom was really gone.

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Chapter Four – Understanding Kasey

“Mom, come on! I can’t be late!” Kasey yelled. She was losing her patience fast.

Naomi lifted the couch cushion, and looked in the creases of the chair.

“I’ll just be a minute. I think I lost Daddy’s keys. I always have an extra pair lying around here. They must be here somewhere,” Naomi said. She was determined to find the keys that didn’t exist anymore.

“Come on! You can bring him the keys later!” Kasey yelled. He’s dead anyways! She wanted to scream.

“Nope, they aren’t there. Just a minute sweetie,” Naomi said.

Finally, Kasey reached into her purse and pulled out her own keys. She shook them wildly.

“Here they are! Look! I found them! Can we please go?!” Kasey said, at the end of her rope.

“Oh, good. Here let me have them,” Naomi said, and reached for them.

Kasey pulled away, knowing that Naomi would realize they weren’t her Dad’s keys if she got too close. The brain sure worked in weird ways when it was broken, Kasey thought to herself.

“No, no…that’s okay. I’ll hold on to them. Grab your sweater,” she instructed and pointed to Naomi’s sweater on the chair, distracting her long enough to get her out the door.

“Where are we going again?” Naomi asked once they were in the car.

“To work, Mom,” Kasey said, exhausted, and running late.

Naomi seemed satisfied with the answer, and was quiet the rest of the ride.

 

Kasey walked briskly into the bar, her mom following close behind.

“You’re late,” Ben, the other bartender, said.

“I know, I know. I’m sorry,” Kasey said and motioned to her mom. She walked her mom down to the end of the bar and made sure she was comfortable. She threw her purse in the locked cabinet, and poured herself a small glass of beer, and drank it down quickly.

Ben scowled at her, and left. Kasey poured her mom a club soda and set it in front of her.

“You good now?” Kasey asked.

“Thank you, sweetie,” Naomi said.

Kasey watched her mom as she sipped her drink, and slipped into her zone. Guilt overwhelmed her. Bill watched from down the bar.

“You need a refill?” Kasey asked him.

“You need a break?” he asked in return.

Kasey smiled at the thought. If only it was that easy. He slid his glass across the bar and she refilled his beer.

“Do you ever leave this place?” Kasey provoked him.

He smiled. “I have a life, you know.”

Yeah, well…” Kasey said, and went about getting the bar ready for the evening regulars.

 

Willow wandered in around 7:25pm and sat next to Bill.

“You back again?” Bill asked.

“Yep.”

“I thought we would’ve scared you off,” Bill teased.

“Not a chance. Besides, now that you know my secret, I gotta keep my eye on you people,” Willow needled. “Did I miss some excitement?” she asked him, and nodded towards Kasey, who grumbled to herself quietly.

“She’s kind of roughed up, I think. Looks like Naomi had a rough day.”

“I wish we could do something to help,” Willow said.

Bill shrugged his shoulders.

“Does she have any family?” Willow wondered out loud.

“I don’t think so. As far as I know, it’s just her and Naomi. I’ve never heard her mention anyone else.”

“That’s a shame,” Willow commented.

“You’re back again, huh? Tom Collins?” Kasey asked, and tucked a stray chunk of hair behind her ear.

“No, I think I’ll stick with club soda tonight,” she said.

“I thought you might,” Kasey said. She was all business, cleaning the bar, and washing glasses, and straightening bottles. Willow could tell she was avoiding talking, so she didn’t press her for conversation. Instead she talked to Bill. Bill talked about his years as a bus driver and the characters he met. He said it wasn’t so different from being a bartender, except for the drunk part, although he did run into his share of drunks on the bus. Willow discovered he was a great storyteller. His stories got more colorful as the evening wore on. She thought that being a bus driver would make for some great writing material. She made a mental note to take the bus more often.

“No Judy tonight?” Willow asked as she looked around the near empty bar.

“Guess not,” Bill said.

“Didn’t she say she was going to her sister’s for the weekend, or something like that?” Kasey commented.

Willow turned to Bill to answer her.

“What are you looking at me for? I don’t keep track of that wild red head,” Bill said.

“Really? You don’t talk to her outside of the Anchor?” Willow asked.

“What gave you that idea?” Bill asked.

“I don’t know. The way you two hassle each other, I thought you were friends or something,” Willow said.

“We are…just not in the real world,” Bill said.

“She wouldn’t have him anyways,” Kasey chimed in. “He’s not her type.” She laughed and winked at Bill.

“What’s that supposed to mean?!” Bill piped back defensively.

Willow laughed at the exchange. Kasey had a talent for ruffling people’s feathers.

“Her type? What’s her type?” Willow asked.

“She likes them younger…and with a full head of hair,” Kasey added just for fun.

“Hey!” Bill said and ran his hands through the few hairs combed across his head.

“Ignore her. She’s just egging you on,” Willow said. “I’ve seen her do it before.”

“You have not,” Kasey said.

Willow raised her eyebrows and crossed her arms.

“What?” Kasey asked. “Who are you talking about?” She played innocent.

“You know exactly who I mean. Don’t play innocent with me,” Willow said.

“Who? What?” Bill asked, clearly missing their cryptic conversation.

“She means Chase,” Kasey admitted, as she dunked a glass into the sink.

“Who’s Chase?” Bill asked.

“He’s a young man who works at the coffee shop with her. She hassles him all the time,” Willow said and elbowed Bill. Bill nodded knowingly.

“That’s just because he makes it so easy. If you’re dumb enough to leave the door open, I’m going to go through it,” Kasey said.

Bill caught on, and winked at Willow.

“So, this guy…Chase is it?” Bill asked. Willow nodded.

“Is he good looking?” Bill asked, knowing he was in the driver seat.

“Chase? I guess so. I never really thought about it before. He’s not my type,” Kasey said.

“Does he have all his hair?” Bill sniped. Willow laughed almost spitting out her drink.

“More than you,” Kasey teased.

“Hmmm…I see. And he’s a young man? About your age?” Bill continued.

“Yes, and he’s a college man too,” Willow added.

“Hmmm…” Bill said, and rubbed his chin.

Willow leaned closer and whispered to Bill, “They are perfect for each other.”

“What are you two talking about down there?” Kasey asked.

“Nothing, dear. Bill’s just rambling. You know how he gets,” Willow said quickly. She’d planted a seed and that was good enough for now.

“Yeah, you know me. Just rambling. Maybe I’ll have to trade my beer in for coffee and come see this guy,” Bill said.

“Really? You’re going to trade your beer for coffee,” Kasey said.

“Nah, you’re probably right. Guess I’ll have to let Willow keep me informed about this college man,” Bill said.

Willow winked at Bill.

“Sorry to disappoint you, Bill, but there’s nothing to tell,” Kasey said, and changed the subject. “Mom, are you hungry?”

“What? Are you talking to me?” Naomi asked.

“Yes. Would you like something to eat?” Kasey said again, leaving the ‘mom’ part out this time.

“No, I’m fine, thank you,” Naomi said.

“Would one of you mind going next door to Tony’s and get her a slice of pizza? She was so busy looking for those stupid keys I forgot to make her eat something,” Kasey asked.

Neither Bill or Willow were sure what she was talking about, but they figured it had something to do with the mood she was in when she got there.

“I got it,” Bill said. “Just cheese?”

“Yeah, that’s fine. Thanks, Bill,” Kasey said, and slid a five dollar bill across the bar to him.

“She had a rough day, huh?” Willow asked, cautiously.

“Yep. It’s always something,” Kasey said, and walked away.

Willow wanted to reach out to her, but she knew Kasey wouldn’t talk about it. She hoped that they hadn’t teased her too much about Chase.

When Bill got back, he handed the pizza to Kasey and she took it down to Naomi.

“Do you think your mom would talk to me?” Willow asked Kasey.

“She might. It all depends on her mood,” Kasey said.

Willow picked up her drink and moved down the bar to where Naomi was seated. Willow sat at the corner of the bar near Naomi.

“Is the pizza good?” Willow asked her.

Naomi didn’t answer, she just kept eating.

“Ask her about Cliff,” Kasey suggested.

“Cliff?” Willow asked.

“He was my grandfather…her dad. I never met him. Her long-term memory is nearly flawless. She just can’t remember what she had for breakfast this morning. Her short-term memory is shot,” Kasey said.

Willow gave Kasey a wink.

Willow turned to Naomi. “Does Cliff like pizza?” she asked.

Naomi’s face lit up. “Oh, yes. He loves pizza! Especially anchovy. I can’t stand anchovy pizza, but he loves anchovies. Even puts them on his salad sometimes. Do you remember the time that he tried to sneak anchovies onto Mama’s pizza and she nearly gagged?! That was so funny!” Naomi said and laughed.

Willow figured she’d play along. She looked to Kasey for her approval, and Kasey shrugged her shoulders.

“That was funny!” Willow agreed.

“Of course, fish was a staple at our house. I guess that’s what happens when you work on the docks, right?” Naomi said.

Willow nodded and looked to Kasey for clarification.

“He worked on the docks. He was a fisherman. She always used to go down there to hang out with him when she was a young girl,” Kasey said.

“The docks! I love the docks! Oh, my gosh! What time is it? Do you want to go down there with me? We could play hide-and-seek on the boats if you want,” Naomi said. She sounded like a little girl.

“Oh, I think it’s a little late. It’s dark outside,” Willow said.

“That’s the best time! The boats creak and moan and it’s so scary…and fun!” Naomi said.

Kasey heard the conversation and stepped in to rescue Willow.

“We can’t, remember? He’s on an overnight trip. The boats aren’t there,” Kasey said.

Naomi looked disappointed. “Oh, boo! Maybe tomorrow?” she said to Willow.

Willow looked to Kasey and Kasey nodded at her.

“I think tomorrow would be better,” Kasey said.

Willow played along. “Yes, I can go tomorrow too.”

“Oh good! It’s a plan!” Naomi said.

Willow was quiet for a few moments and Naomi went back to eating as if the conversation had never happened. Willow picked up her drink and made her way back to the seat next to Bill.

“Weird, isn’t it?” he said.

“That must be so hard on Kasey,” Willow said, feeling deep sympathy for Kasey. “How does she do it?”

“She’s a tough kid. I don’t think she really had a choice in the matter,” Bill said.

Willow had a new appreciation for the pain that Kasey probably felt on a daily basis. She couldn’t imagine having her own mother not know who she was half the time, or not know that she even had a daughter. No wonder Kasey was the way she was.

Chapter Three – Understanding Kasey

“Where are we going, sweetie?” Naomi asked Kasey for the third time in twenty minutes. She looked out the car window as if she was trying to recognize the landscape.

“To visit your friends,” Kasey answered abruptly.

Kasey had spent the morning fighting with her mom about getting dressed. Naomi wanted to wear her purple floral jumpsuit that Kasey hadn’t seen in the past ten years. They finally settled on the green pants and a yellow blouse. It was sort of floral-like. Then Naomi had fought her while Kasey tried to brush her hair. She’d screamed at Kasey and complained that she was pulling too hard on the brush. Kasey finally gave up and left her hair half-brushed. Thank goodness that the daycare was right around the next corner.

Kasey checked in with Helen at the front desk, and a nurse met her mom and took her back to the activity room. Kasey heard her mom ask the nurse who that woman was that brought her there. Kasey mumbled, “It’s your daughter, remember?” No one heard the hurt in her voice.

She filed the hurt away in the recess of her mind while she drove to the coffee shop.

 

“Morning,” Kasey said to Chase as she walked in the door to the coffee shop. After some loud music on the car ride to work, she’d managed to get her blood pressure back to a reasonable level, and was able to conjure a semi-friendly greeting.

Chase was arranging the pastries in the front counter window.

“Hey…anything good in there today?” Kasey asked.

“Just the same old stuff. Were you hoping for something different?” Chase asked.

“It would be nice to have a little variety every now and then.”

“Agreed.”

Kasey ground some coffee beans. She shouted over the grinder, “Guess who I saw last night?”

“Who?”

“Willow,” she yelled back.

“Where? At the Anchor?” Chase asked, surprised.

“Yeah. Weird, huh?”

“I didn’t know she was a drinker,” Chase commented.

“Me neither. Honestly, I don’t think she is. She said she was there because she had writer’s block,” Kasey said and rolled her eyes.

“What? Don’t you believe her?”

“I guess. It seems sort of a silly reason to run to a bar though,” Kasey said.

“I don’t know. Have you ever tried to write anything? Seems like it would be hard to keep coming up with ideas. Especially if you have the added pressure of being a well-known author,” Chase said.

Kasey poured the grinds into the machine. Did Chase know Willow’s pen name? She wanted to tell him, but she had been sworn to secrecy. And even though she didn’t consider Willow a friend, she did want to keep her word.

“She doesn’t seem like the type that would have a drinking problem, or anything. Probably just needed to let off some steam,” Chase added.

“Maybe,” Kasey eyed Chase suspiciously. “How well do you know her? You two seem awfully chummy some days.”

“What? Why? Not very well. Just from short conversations here and there,” Chase said defensively.

“Okay, okay. I was just asking.”

Kasey was sure he knew more. He answered too quickly. She’d have to keep her eye on him.

“Speak of the devil,” Kasey said, as Willow walked in the front door. She looked more tired than usual. Her gray hair was frazzled, and Kasey could see the dark circles under her eyes from where she stood behind the counter.

Chase grimaced at Kasey. “I got her,” he said.

“Morning, Willow. The usual?” Chase asked.

“Morning, Chase. Better make it extra strong today. Late night last night,” she said, and forced a smile.

“You got it,” Chase said, and walked away. He met Kasey’s glance and mouthed the word ‘wow’ to her.

Kasey whispered back, “I told you.”

Chase brought her coffee to her, and she already had her journal out, but Chase noticed the page was blank. She picked up her pen and began to write:

Missy reached for his hand, but he quickly pulled away. It had been too long since they had been together. She’d forgotten his touch and it felt so foreign to her. He was confused and searched her eyes for an explanation. Only a single tear fell down her cheek.

Willow quickly scribbled through the few sentences. It sounded cheesy to her, contrived, forced. Her head pounded. The aspirin had already begun to wear off. She tried again:

She walked on the shore and felt the sand between her toes. A gull flew overhead and cried out. She watched as it flew towards the sun. She looked back towards the rocks and saw a figure silhouetted by the sunset. Was it him? Had he found her after all these years? No, her eyes must be playing tricks on her. But there he was, waiting for her.

Again, she crossed out her words. What was wrong with her? Had she lost her muse? Was she done? She took a drink of coffee, hoping it would help her think. But it didn’t.

Chase came back with the coffee pot.

“Refill?” he asked.

“You know…could you make this ‘to go’ for me? I’m not feeling so well. I think I’ll get more work done at home,” Willow said.

“You sure? Anything I can help with?” Chase asked.

“No, thanks. I wish you could,” Willow said.

“No problem. I’ll be right back.”

“Wow, she’s worse off than I thought,” Chase said to Kasey.

“I told you. Why do you care, anyways?” Kasey questioned.

“Because we see her every day. She’s practically family,” Chase said.

“Seriously? Family?” Kasey said. Chase was far too friendly for Kasey’s taste.

Chase poured Willow’s coffee in a ‘to go’ cup and gave Kasey a look of disgust.

He gave Willow her coffee.

“Feel free to come back if you feel any better,” Chase offered.

“Thanks, Chase. You’re sweet,” she said.

They watched as Willow made her way slowly out the door, and head up the street. They knew she lived around the corner. Chase felt compelled to follow her to make sure she got home okay, but didn’t want to be intrusive. Kasey watched the concern on his face and wondered what the connection was. Nobody was that nice.

 

Vinny was asleep on the windowsill when Willow opened the door. He jumped down and paced around her feet wanting attention. She gently nudged him out of the way, and he meowed. She closed the door behind her. Her head throbbed and his meow sounded like a roar. She set her coffee down and got an aspirin out of the cabinet, then poured some water in a glass and took several aspirin. It was going to take more than one to get rid of this headache.

She sat down at her desk, Vinny still following her, and turned on her computer. The cursor flashed on the white page, taunting her to write something of value. She spun her chair around and looked at her wall of books for inspiration. So many other authors had fought through their writer’s block, why couldn’t she? The small picture of a shoreline caught her eye. A fan had painted it for her after reading “A Walk Along the Shore.” She’d been so flattered that someone was inspired by her work that she framed it and gave it prominence on her shelf. A fan…she wondered if she had any left. Did they think she’d gone into seclusion, or worse, that she’d met her demise? Would they still be there if she ever wrote something of value again?

Writing was never supposed to be a career choice for Willow, at least not in the eyes of her family. They expected her to follow in the family accounting business, but she hated numbers, absolutely hated them. During college, she secretly joined writing groups, something her father thought was a complete waste of time. She wanted to prove them wrong. She wanted to show them that she could make it as a writer, but they insisted she was being foolish, and that writing was a waste of time, a road to nowhere.

Her parents never knew that she’d made a name for herself. By the time her first novel made the New York Best Seller list, her parents had already passed away. She had no one to celebrate with, except her agent, Silvie Rose. But it wasn’t the same. And she realized too late that proving her parents wrong had been a waste of her time. She’d rather be loved than be right. But time heals all, right? She wasn’t sure that wound would ever heal.

Back to the cursor…Michael called her name but she couldn’t hear him for the crowd. He tried to push through the people, but he was against traffic. He watched as she stepped onto the train, and the doors closed behind her. He was too late this time. He’d missed his opportunity.

Willow read what she’d written out loud. Vinny meowed.

“Yeah. I think it’s awful too,” she said to him, and hit the backspace button until the words were gone.

Chapter Two – Understanding Kasey

The Rusty Anchor was quiet as usual. The regulars filled their usual spots at the bar. Bill, the retired bus driver, filled the stool closest to the front door. He didn’t want to miss any newcomers that happened in, usually by mistake. Judy, with her fire-engine-red hair sat a few seats down from Bill. She was his comic relief. They hassled each other every chance they got. And Naomi sat at the far end of the bar, furthest from the front door. Kasey made sure she stayed put and out of everyone’s way. She was content to watch the TV over the bar and nurse her drink all night. Kasey had snuck her mom to work with her for several months without the manager knowing anything about it. When she finally came clean, and asked him if she could bring her mom to work, he objected until she mentioned that Naomi had already been coming for several months and hadn’t caused any problems. Even Bill and Judy backed her up, and agreed to help keep an eye on her. Reluctantly, the manager agreed, but said that if Naomi upset any customers than all bets were off. Kasey agreed, even though she didn’t really need his approval…she would have continued to bring Naomi with her regardless of what he said.

Bill nodded and smiled at the older woman who walked in behind him and found a seat on the other side of Judy. Judy took notice also and smiled. Kasey came out from the back room carrying a bottle of alcohol in each hand and nearly tripped when she saw Willow sitting near Judy. She caught herself before the bottles slipped out of her hand. Willow was as surprised as Kasey.

“What are you doing here?” Kasey asked. “Did you forget where the coffee shop is?”

“I might ask you the same thing. You work here too?” Willow asked.

“Are you gonna introduce us to your friend, Kasey?” Bill asked and cleared his gravely throat.

Kasey paused and she tried to make sense of seeing Willow. She felt as if her privacy was being invaded, which was ridiculous, since the Rusty Anchor was in no way private. But it was still disconcerting to see Willow in the bar.

“Um…” she stammered. “Yeah, I work here at night. Only a few nights a week, though,” she said defensively. Why did she feel like she’d been caught doing something wrong?

“Oh, I see,” Willow said.

“Hey! I said introduce us to your friend!” Bill said a little louder.

“Keep your pants on!” Kasey piped back. “This is Willow, and she’s not my…well…” she wasn’t sure what to call Willow.

“It’s okay,” Willow said to Kasey. Willow turned to Bill. “I’m more like an acquaintance. What should I call you?” she asked Bill.

“Hey there, Willow. Nice to meet you. You can call me Bill,” he said and nodded his head.

Judy was amused by the exchange. She reached out her hand, “Hi Willow. I’m Judy. Don’t pay attention to the loud-mouth down there. He’s a lot more bark than he is bite.”

Willow laughed.

“Hey, don’t ruin my reputation. I’m as frightening as they come,” Bill teased.

Kasey laughed loud enough for Bill to hear. He grimaced.

“What can I get you to drink, Willow? Coffee?” Kasey asked.

“Oh, I’m afraid I’m going to need something stronger than that tonight. How about a Tom Collins?” Willow asked.

“Coming right up,” Kasey said. No one had ordered a Tom Collins in years.

Naomi called from the end of the bar. “Sweetie, can I have another vodka please?”

“Sure thing,” Kasey called back.

She made the Tom Collins and the vodka at the same time. Willow watched as Kasey poured the drinks and noticed that she gave the woman club soda with a lime instead of vodka. That wasn’t okay. Why did she do that? Willow didn’t want to get involved but she felt bad for the woman if Kasey was cheating her. Willow tasted her drink. It was a Tom Collins, so she didn’t try to trick her. She looked at Bill and Judy, but they weren’t paying attention. She watched the woman as she took a drink, and the woman didn’t flinch. What was going on? Should she say something to Kasey? Maybe she made a mistake.

She decided to stick her nose in the woman’s business.

“Kasey, I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but why did you give that woman club soda instead of a vodka like she ordered?” Willow asked.

“Huh? Oh, because she doesn’t drink,” Kasey said.

“But she’s paying for more than you gave her,” Willow argued.

“She’s not paying for anything and you ARE telling me how to do my job,” Kasey said.

Judy was listening to the exchange, and knew that Willow wasn’t going to win.

“Just tell her, Kasey,” Judy said.

“It’s not her business,” Kasey said.

“Look, maybe I should go. I didn’t mean to…” Willow said and started to stand up.

Now Bill was listening too.

“Kasey, knock it off. Get over yourself and just tell her. Don’t make Willow feel bad,” Bill said. He sounded like a big brother.

Kasey exhaled. “Fine. That’s Naomi. She’s my mother.”

“And…” Bill said.

“And she has Alzheimer’s. She doesn’t know who I am half the time, and she certainly doesn’t know what the heck she’s drinking. And I’m not going to give her alcohol. Got it?” Kasey said. She was irritated that she had to let Willow into her life even a little bit.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know…I didn’t mean to…” Willow said, struggling for the right words.

“It’s okay. It’s just life, right?”

“Right,” Willow said, still fighting through the awkward moment.

“So, what’s your story? Why did you come to the Anchor tonight?” Kasey asked.

“How much time you got?” Willow asked.

“I’m here until closing, and I’m a captive audience. You might as well spill it,” Kasey said.

“Writer’s block,” Willow said.

“So, you are a writer? Chase said you were but I didn’t believe it. It’s true, huh?” Kasey asked.

“Well, I was until I stopped writing.”

“What do you mean by that? How does a writer stop writing?” Kasey asked.

“We don’t write all the time. I mean, we take breaks from time to time. It’s just that this break has taken on a life of its own. It seems to be taking forever.”

“I’m sure it will come back,” Kasey tried to encourage.

“Yeah, well…I’m not so sure about that.”

“What do you write anyways? Anything I would know?” Kasey asked.

“I doubt it. You don’t seem like the romance type,” Willow said.

“Well, you’ve got me there.”

“Let me guess…” Willow said and tapped her cheek with her finger as she was sizing her up. “Fantasy? Science Fiction?”

“Well, I don’t get a whole lot of time to read,” she said, and motioned towards her mom, “But if I did, then SciFi would probably be what I would read.”

“What’s wrong with romance?” Judy said.

“Nothing’s wrong with it. It just isn’t my thing,” Kasey said.

“Well, I like a good romance,” Judy said.

“Yes, but can you even read?” Bill teased.

“Of course I can!” Judy shot back. She looked at Willow, “Are you famous?”

Willow seemed uncomfortable, and shifted in her seat. “I guess.”

“What’s your last name? Maybe I’ve read some of your stuff?” Judy asked.

“Oh, I write under a pen name. I can’t stand the criticism,” Willow said.

“Come on…give it up…who the heck are you?” Bill asked.

“I’d prefer to stay anonymous.”

“We won’t tell…promise,” Judy said.

Willow looked around the bar to make sure no one else was there. She mumbled at first, as if she was revealing government secrets.

“Speak up, will ya? My ears aren’t as good as they used to be,” Bill complained.

“I write under the name Natalie Blue,” she said and stared into her drink. What did it matter at this point? The way things were going, she could have written her last words anyways.

Judy repeated the name several times, and thought hard to think of a title. Nothing came to mind. The name didn’t ring a bell for Kasey either.

Shyly, Willow said out loud, “A Walk Along the Shore? That was my biggest seller. But it was years ago, so I doubt anyone read it.”

“Yes! I did! Oh, my gosh! I loved that book! You wrote it?” Judy exclaimed.

Willow nodded.

Kasey laughed at Judy’s excitement.

“Wow, we got us a celebrity here at the Anchor. Who would’ve thought?” Bill said.

“I’d appreciate it if you kept that to yourselves? I like my privacy,” Willow begged.

“You got it,” Kasey said.

“Me too,” Judy agreed.

“Well…” Bill hesitated.

“Oh, be quiet! You know you won’t tell anyone,” Kasey said.

“How do you know?” Bill harassed.

“Because then you’d have to admit you knew about chik lit books, that’s why!” Judy said.

“You got me there. My lips are sealed,” he said, and mimed locking his lips, and throwing away the key.

Kasey leaned in close to Willow as if she was revealing top secret intel. “I know that book,” she said.

Bill overheard. “Aha! You do read romance!” he teased.

Kasey frowned. “Calm down, I do not,” she said to Bill. She turned to Willow, “No offense.”

“None taken,” Willow said. “But how do you know my book?”

“She read it, that’s how!” Bill accused.

“I did not. I’ve just seen it, that’s all,” Kasey defended.

Bill sat down, defeated, but continued to listen.

“Chase threw it at me today,” Kasey started.

“He what?!” Willow was alarmed.

“No, no…not like that. We were shelving donations at the coffee shop and it was one of the books we got,” she explained.

“Oh, I see. That’s nice,” Willow said. But inside she was a little sad that someone was getting rid of her book. Didn’t they like it? Did they even read it before they gave it away?

“Well, well…now you can read it, Kasey,” Bill commented.

“Yeah…uh…” she stammered.

Willow reached out and patted her hand. “That’s okay. I know it’s not your style. You won’t hurt my feelings.”

Kasey smiled at Willow, but glared at Bill as she walked past him.

“Well, now other people can read it,” Judy said, trying to make Willow feel better.

Willow appreciated the encouragement. She could use the pat on the back. She didn’t like to show it, but her ego was a little bruised.

 

 

Chapter One – Understanding Kasey

“You’re late,” Chase scolded as the bell that hung on the front door jingled.

Kasey held the door open with her foot and she struggled to close her umbrella. She blew her bangs out of her face.

“I know, I know. Are you going to jump all over me too?!” she spoke harshly.

“Jeez, what’s your problem?” Chase growled.

“What do you think?” she said. She set her umbrella in the stand by the front door of Summer’s Coffee Shop, as the door banged closed behind her.

She walked behind the counter and set her purse down with a thud.

Chase had seen her in this mood before, too many times to count.

“Your mom?” he asked, with a little more compassion.

She didn’t answer, which let him know he was right. He reached in the front glass display case and grabbed two pastries, set them each on a plate and then onto his serving tray.

“You’d think if you had to ask ten times where your shoes were that they wouldn’t be on your feet, right?” Kasey said sarcastically.

“Did you find them?” he piped back.

“Very funny,” she said as she went about her business of setting up the coffee machine.

Chase tried to stay out of her way as best he could. She was in a mood, and he didn’t want to be another casualty.

“Well, she’s the adult daycare’s problem now. At least for a few hours,” she said.

“Why don’t you have a cup of coffee before we get too many customers? I think the croissants are fresh,” Chase said, feeling guilty for coming down on her. He knew she had her hands full with her mom.

Without a word, she started the coffee machine and went to the kitchen to get a croissant. She returned just in time to get the first drips out of the coffee machine. She held her cup under the spout as the black elixir filled her cup.

The bell on the front door rang as a customer walked in and made her way to a table.

“Oh, great…she’s here already?” Kasey grumbled.

“I got her. You eat,” Chase said as he walked out to the dining area.

“Morning, Willow. You want the regular?” Chase asked.

“Thank you, Chase. That would be lovely,” Willow said. Willow tied back her grey hair with a red ribbon, pulled out her notebook and began to write.

Chase went back behind the counter where Kasey had poured herself a full cup of coffee, and was in the process of drinking it down. He noticed Kasey kept her eyes on Willow.

“What does she write in that thing anyways?” Kasey whispered to Chase.

“Who knows? You know she’s an author, right?” Chase mentioned.

“Aren’t they all?”

“No, really. She’s published and everything,” he said.

“Yeah. I bet,” Kasey said. She was skeptical. It seemed every artsy-looking customer with a notebook or a laptop thought they were a writer.

“I think she writes novels,” he continued, ignoring her attitude.

“Just what the world needs. Another writer.”

“Look, you better change you attitude before any more customers come in,” Chase suggested. He knew he was poking the bear, but someone had to tell her to get a grip.

He waited for the rage, but was surprised when she only sighed and rested her head in her hands on the counter. She didn’t want Chase to know that she really was concerned about her mom. You can’t live with someone with Alzheimer’s and not worry about them. But it just got so tiring, day in and day out. She didn’t want Chase to know that she was barely making ends meet. Between the coffee shop and the night job at the Rusty Anchor, she hoped they would be better off than they were. But her mom’s disability barely paid for her daycare, forget about daily expenses. Some days she felt horrible about the way she treated her mom and the things she wished on her. If anyone knew her deepest thoughts they’d have her thrown in jail. But no 25-year-old should have to take care of their aging parent. It wasn’t fair, but such was life. At least her life.

 

Kasey took a cup of coffee to the two moms at the table near the window. She smiled at the toddlers that were dropping their toys on the floor and laughing. The moms were not amused.

“Cute, aren’t they?” Willow said to Kasey as she walked by.

“Huh?” Kasey asked. She wasn’t sure that Willow was talking to her. “I guess.”

“Do you have any kids?” Willow asked.

Why did she want to talk? Couldn’t she tell Kasey was working? She tried her best to be polite. “No, no kids.”

Kasey cleared the table beside Willow.

“Do you want kids?” Willow asked.

“Pardon me?” Kasey asked. “I’m sorry, but isn’t that kind of a personal question?”

“Oh, dear. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry. I was just making conversation. I won’t bother you again,” Willow apologized.

“Yeah, well…it’s okay,” Kasey said, and got away from there as quickly as she could.

“What’s wrong with that woman?” Kasey asked Chase.

“What? Who? Willow? She’s harmless,” Chase said.

“Harmless, maybe. But she’s a little pushy.”

“Pushy?” Chase asked, baffled.

“Yes. She was asking me if I had kids. That’s not any of her business!” Kasey complained.

“Oh, I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it. She’s just a little, well, eccentric, that’s all,” Chase defended.

“I know, I know…she’s a writer. What should I expect, right?” Kasey said, and cracked a smile.

Chase smiled back. He took the coffee pot out to refill Willow’s cup.

“Refill?” he asked Willow.

Willow looked up from her journal.

“Oh, thanks, Chase. I think I offended your friend,” she said.

“She’ll be fine. She’s tough. Trust me, she’s done her share of offending too,” Chase said.

“Still, please tell her I’m sorry.”

“Will do,” Chase said.

 

After a busy morning, they got a break in customers. Chase brought a box of books out from the back room and set it on one of the tables. Summer’s Coffee Shop was an old building, originally a shoe shine business in the 1920s. The walls were lined with mementos from an era long gone. It had gone through several owners since then, and had been several different kinds of businesses. It had been a barber shop, a pawn shop, and a book store. When the current owner took over, he’d found an old shoe shine chair in the back room. He restored it, and installed it in the front window. It was a conversation piece for sure, and kids would climb on it and pretend to shine each other’s shoes. The parents always thought it was cute, but Chase and Kasey found it annoying, especially when they’d have to clean up the sticky fingerprints or crumbs.

The built-in book shelves had survived the many changes, and now Summer’s used them to their advantage. The shelves were filled with all sorts of books, from children’s books and classic reads, to modern sci-fi and romance. Chase had a box full of books that someone had donated. He pulled them out one by one and found space on the shelves for them.

“Anything good?” Kasey asked.

“Eh, not much. I didn’t know you read,” he teased.

“Of course I read!” she said and threw her towel at him. “When I get the time,” she mumbled.

“In that case, here’s a nice book for you,” he said and handed her a book.

She took it and looked at the cover. There was a photo of a couple standing on the beach silhouetted by the sunset. “What the…?” she tossed it back at him, and he laughed.

“What’s the matter? Isn’t ‘A Walk Along the Shore’ your kind of book?” he laughed.

She glared at him.

“Then how about this one?” he said and tossed her another.

“Buddy’s First Day at School? Very funny! Closer, but no!” she said and tossed it back.

He laughed so hard he nearly fell off the ladder. He was more amused at his comment than Kasey was.

Kasey laughed when he stumbled. “Serves you right!” she taunted. “Are you sure you can you handle that by yourself? My shift is about over, but I’d hate to leave you crashed on the floor,” Kasey said, and laughed again.

“It’s that time already?” he asked.

“Yep. Time to go pick up Mom and straighten out any problems she caused at daycare,” Kasey said, and exhaled slowly.

“Good luck with that. See you tomorrow!” Chase called, but she was already out the door.

“That girl has got a lot on her shoulders. Hope she’s okay,” he said quietly to himself.

 

Kasey pulled into the parking lot at Cornerstone Adult Daycare. She sat for a moment to enjoy the peace and quiet before she picked up her mom. When she started to get suspicious looks from other people coming and going, she decided it was time to go in.

Helen was working at the front desk.

“Afternoon, Miss Kasey,” Helen said in her syrupy southern accent. Kasey wasn’t sure where she was from, but that accent…some days it was the best sound she’d ever heard, and other days it grated on her last nerve. Today was somewhere in between.

“Hi, Helen. Is my mom ready?” Kasey asked as she signed in on the clipboard.

“Let me check,” Helen said and picked up the phone. She called back to the nurses’ station and mumbled something that Kasey didn’t quite hear.

“They almost have her cleaned up. Why don’t you go on back? She’s in the TV room,” Helen said and smiled a toothy smile.

“Thanks.” Clean her up? What had she gotten into now?

Kasey walked down the long sterile hallway to the activity room. She pushed the buzzer and the nurse buzzed her in to the room. She pushed on the heavy door. Clarence sat playing checkers with Mr. Hall. Kasey wondered how long their games took and if they ever finished one. She never saw them speak to one another. Her mom sat at the table on the patio. The nurse waved Kasey over.

“Look who’s here, Naomi. It’s your daughter,” the nurse said.

“Hi, Mom,” Kasey said, and kissed her mom on the top of the head.

Her mom smiled. “Well, hello sweetie. Aren’t you a lovely girl.”

Kasey turned to the nurse. “Everything okay? Helen said you had to clean her up. She wasn’t any trouble, was she?”

“No, not today. Just spilled a little juice on her sweater. I tried to get it cleaned off as much as she would let me. You may have to use some spot cleaner on it though,” the nurse said apologetically.

Kasey looked at the 3-inch round, purple spot right on the front of the lapel. It didn’t look like she had tried to clean it up at all. But, then again, her mom could be cantankerous at times. Maybe she didn’t want the spot cleaned.

“Thanks. I’ll see what I can do. Ready to go, Mom?” Kasey asked.

The nurse helped her mom stand, and Kasey took her hand. Her mom smiled, and went willingly with Kasey. Kasey often wondered how easy it would be for a stranger to take her mom with them. She would go with just about anyone, at least on her good days.

Kasey eyed Clarence and Mr. Hall on the way out. Nothing had been moved on the chessboard.

Naomi hummed to the radio on the way home. She didn’t know the song, but that didn’t stop her from trying to hum along. At least she was on key.

When they got home, Kasey helped Naomi into the house and reminded her to use the bathroom. She’d made the mistake of not reminding her once, and there was still a spot on the carpet as a reminder. She fluffed up the pillows on Naomi’s chair and turned on the TV to the Shopping Network. She wasn’t sure why, but Naomi could watch that channel for hours, and so long as she was safely occupied, Kasey could make dinner and get ready for the evening shift at the Rusty Anchor.

I think it’s time to serialize…

 

I’m a writer…or at least a self-proclaimed writer. Though I’m not sure when the appropriate time to call oneself an official “Writer” is. Is it when you’ve been published? Is it when you completed one novel, or two, or three? Is it when you’ve been rejected by agents and publishers? Because I hear that’s when you should really give yourself a pat on the back, because rejection should be considered a compliment. It means that agents/publishers are finally “reading” your manuscript…or at least a Query and the first 50 pages or so. Or maybe that’s just what writers tell ourselves to keep pushing forward, chasing the brass ring.

But here’s the thing. It isn’t working for me.

Some call these excuses, but I call them valid reasons for not pursuing a career in writing: I’m a wife and a mom; I work full time, and mother full time (yes, when you’re working full time, you ARE still mothering full time); I have bills to pay, college to save for, a household to run, homework to help with, dinners to make, and don’t get me started on how far behind we are on saving for retirement. At this rate, we may never retire.

The truth is that “Querying” is almost a full time job in itself. It can take hours upon hours of researching agents that might give your Query a read, let alone get to the first 10 pages of the manuscript. It’s not only exhausting, but it’s time-stealing. For every hour I spend sending out Queries, that’s an hour I can’t get back from being with my family.

Again, I’m not making excuses. But I’m a practical gal. I know my limits, and I know what’s required of me to raise my family, and keep a roof over our heads. I know that I could easily waste 20 more years, taking hours and hours away from my family in pursuit of something that may very well NEVER happen…getting published.

I’ve thought about self-publishing, but I’m still on the fence with that one. I know I can publish for “free,” but let’s face it…nothing is ever really free, is it? My time is not free, and neither is my family’s.

I have 3 novels under my belt, and basically under my bed. Only a handful of people have read them. I’ve never been able to find a critique group. Again, the time factor.

So, maybe it’s time to “serialize” my novel on this blog. I know, it’s taboo…they say it means that you don’t believe in yourself enough to pursue a writing career. I disagree. Maybe it just means that I want people to read my stories and relate to them. THERE IS NO SHAME IN SERIALIZING.

I think, as writers, we must decide for ourselves what we want from our writing. So, I asked myself these question:

Do I want to be famous?   Not really.

Do I want to make money from writing?  Of course, but at what cost?

In the long run, what is the reason I write?  To connect with other women (I write women’s fiction) in a way that makes us say, “I’ve been there,” or “I know someone like that,” or “How did she know what I was thinking?”

And I think that’s where I have my answer.

Famous – shmamous. I just want to connect.

I think it’s time to serialize “Understanding Kasey.” Coming soon to a blog near you.

The Foster Parents…a short story

Kevin and I hated having to give up Elijah. He was our third foster child, and we wished he would be our last. But we knew it was temporary when our caseworker contacted us to tell us that Elijah’s mother wanted him back. I know we should consider it a blessing when a mother cleans up her act and regains custody of her own child. But it felt as if we were losing our own flesh and blood. We never expected her to complete the program, but somehow, she’d managed, and Elijah went back home to his birth mother. We prayed she would stay clean.

When the agency called us in the middle of the night with an emergency situation, we were reluctant to take the plunge yet again. But a baby needed us, so we acted on it.

The tiny baby was wrapped in a pink blanket when I took her into my arms. Her big black eyes seemed to stare right through me. She was beautiful, with a full head of black hair at three months old, and rosy cheeks. Kevin filled out the paperwork as I nuzzled her close. All we were told was that she was dropped off in haste by her mother who seemed desperate. The woman had left the baby on the doorstep of the agency and knocked loudly on the door. She’d run off before anyone could talk to her. The baby was accompanied by a paper sack with the name “Alicia” written on it, and filled with clothes, nice clothes, that I would never have the money to buy. But no story to accompany her. She needed some place to go while the authorities tried to find her parents.

I slept on the floor next to the crib the first night we had Alicia so she wouldn’t feel alone. We called her Alicia since that was the name on the paper sack. She slept most of the way through the night, and woke around 4:30am hungry. I picked her up and she nuzzled into my shoulder. She took to the bottle just fine, so it was possible she wasn’t nursed.

In the morning, Kevin opened the front door to leave for work and on our front porch was a paper sack with “Alicia” written on it, just like the one that came with her.

Kevin picked it up and looked around the neighborhood for a sign of how it got there. Mrs. Shafer was just coming out to get the morning paper.

“Morning, Kevin,” she said and nodded his way.

“Morning. Did you happen to see anyone at our front door this morning?” he asked her.

“No. Why?”

“No reason,” he said. “I thought I heard a knock, that’s all.” No sense bringing her into his business.

He carefully opened the bag, assuming there’d be more clothes, but he jumped when he saw what was inside. He quickly brought the bag in to the kitchen where I was feeding Alicia.

Without a word, he held up a wad of cash in his hand.

“Where did THAT come from?!” I asked.

He set the bag on the table.

“It was on the front porch. In here,” he said, baffled.

“How did it get there?”

“I don’t know. Should we call the agency?” he asked.

The thought suddenly occurred to me that Alicia’s mother must know where we lived. A chill went through me.

“Yes. I think we should call them right now!” I told him.

“You don’t think that the mother…” Kevin said, catching up to my fear.

“That’s exactly what I think!”

“But how?” he asked.

I shrugged my shoulders, feeling a little violated.

“Did she follow us?” he asked.

“Oh, God! I hope not! That’s so creepy! How much is in there?”

He dumped it out on the table and counted it.

“There’s got to be over $5000.00 in here!” he said.

“Call the agency! Right now!” I said.

He called and talked to the receptionist, but our case worker wasn’t in the office yet. He left a message for her to call us back as soon as possible.

I went to the front window and peeked through the still-closed curtains. I looked up and down the street and saw no one.

Alicia began to cry and I took her into the nursery to change her diaper.

“Where did you come from, little one?” I asked her as she gurgled and smiled.

Kevin came into the room behind me.

“Look, I need to get to work. Can you handle this?” he asked.

I was still a little unsettled, but I lied and told him that we’d be fine. He kissed me on the cheek and I listened as he locked the front door behind him.

“We’ll be just fine, won’t we,” I said to Alicia and she smiled at me again.

I watched the news while I waited for our case worker to call me back. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I was hoping I’d see some clue on the news about where this baby had come from. Of course, there was nothing. I wanted to call my best friend, Shana, but I was a little worried about getting anyone else involved. I wasn’t sure what we were dealing with, and I couldn’t risk it. What if this was some gangster’s baby, or a criminal’s child who was on the run?

The phone rang and I jumped.

“Hello?”

“Hi, is this Anna?”

It was our caseworker, Jennifer.

“Yes, it is.”

“Hi, it’s Jennifer. My assistant said your husband called. Is everything okay with the baby?” she asked.

“Yes, yes…the baby’s fine,” I said, stalling.

“Oh, good. I thought something was wrong. Is she eating and sleeping okay?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“Then what can I help you with?”

“Well…did you find out anything about the mother yet?” I asked.

“No, but you’ll be the first to know. Why do you ask?”

“Well, I think she might know where we live,” I said. That same chill ran through me as I said it.

“What?! That’s impossible! Why do you think that?”

“Well, Kevin found a bag on the porch this morning with Alicia’s name on it.”

“That’s odd. Maybe it was from one of your friends as a welcome present,” she said.

“I don’t think so. We haven’t told anyone yet. And it was full of money…lots of it.”

“Money? What do you mean, money? How much?” she asked.

“Kevin counted about $5000.00.”

I heard her gasp on the other end of the line.

“That’s crazy! Are you sure it’s real?” she asked.

“I’m pretty sure. But besides the money, we’re very concerned that the mother knows where we live. What if she’s dangerous?”

There was a long pause. I knew that Jennifer was grasping the possibilities too.

“Well, we don’t know if it is in fact from the mother. And she probably isn’t dangerous since she left the money anonymously. But this is definitely a new one. Let me talk to my colleagues and see what they suggest. Is Kevin home today?” she asked.

“No, he had to work.”

“Do you feel comfortable being at home? I mean, I’m sure everything will be fine,” she tried to assure me.

“What should I do with the money?” I asked.

“Just hold onto it for now, okay? Don’t go on any shopping sprees,” she said, trying to lighten the mood.

“I won’t,” I said. I didn’t appreciate the levity.

“I’ll call you back as soon as I can, okay?” she said.

“Thanks. I’d appreciate it.”

I had hoped that talking to her would make me feel better, but it didn’t. She clearly had not dealt with a situation like this before, and I doubted that any of her colleagues had either.

After I put Alicia down for a nap, I turned the TV back on. I flipped around the talk shows, and the news shows, still hoping to find some clue as to who Alicia belonged to.

It was several hours before Jennifer called back, and I picked up the phone on the first ring.

“Hello?”

“Hi Anna.”

“What did you find out?” I realized I probably sounded more concerned than the last time we talked.

“Well, not much. It seems that we’ve never had a situation like this. Especially where the money is concerned,” she said.

“The money is the least of my worries. Do we know if she’s dangerous?” I asked.

“No, we don’t know anything about her still. But as I said before, I think we would have known by now if she was dangerous, especially since it appears that she knows where you live.”

Her words still didn’t assure me.

“If you’d like, we can place Alicia with someone else,” she suggested.

“I’ve already thought about that, and I don’t want to do that. It isn’t her fault. If anything, it’s your fault…the agency’s fault.”

There was silence on the other end. Jennifer knew I was right.

“Look, that’s all I can offer you right now. I wish we could do more, but I just…uh…” she stammered.

“I know, I know. Kevin should be getting home any minute. Let me talk to him and I’ll get back to you tomorrow,” I said.

“Okay. Don’t hesitate to call the police if anything seems out of the ordinary,” she said.

“Thanks. I’ll do that,” I said, disgusted.

Kevin was a late. I was feeding Alicia her evening bottle when he came home.

“Is that you?” I called from the kitchen.

“Yes!” He called back.

He came into the kitchen and had in his hand another paper bag just like the last one. He set it on the table.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I said.

He opened it up and spread the money on the table. Another $5000.00.

“Maybe we should call the police,” I suggested.

“Why? She hasn’t done anything wrong. What can they do?” he said.

“Maybe they can fingerprint the money or something?” I offered.

“Oh, I think they’d just laugh at us. No crime has been committed.”

“But what if it’s stolen? They could at least figure that out,” I said.

He thought for a moment.

“Maybe you’re right. Okay, I’ll call, just to be sure.”

When the police arrived, we explained the situation and handed over the bags of money. They assured us that this didn’t seem like a person that was unhinged, but rather someone that had their child’s best interest at heart. I wished I could believe them.

That night, as I lay on the floor in Alicia’s room, I heard every creak and moan in the house. I looked out the window several times hoping that Alicia’s mother, or whoever it was, would make another appearance. I wasn’t sure what I would do if I saw her, but I just wanted to see who it was.

I barely slept more than an hour that night. Kevin let me sleep in and checked on us in the morning before he left for work. Alicia had slept clear until 7am.

“Will you be okay?” he whispered.

I nodded.

“Call me if you hear anything,” he said.

“Do you think there’s another bag on the porch?” I asked.

“Maybe.”

I listened as he opened the front door, then he came back in with another bag. He smiled.

“Leave it on the kitchen table. I’ll deal with it later,” I said, exhausted from this strange situation.

Jennifer called later to check in with me and I explained that we gave the money to the police. She thought that was probably a good idea. I also told her there was another bag that morning.

The phone rang around 10:15am. It was my friend, Shana.

“Oh, my Gosh! Did you see the news?” she said, sounding like a gossipy teenager.

“Not yet. Why?”

“You know that teen actress, Clara Barton? The one that’s been missing for like almost a year?”

“I guess,” I didn’t recognize the name right away. “Why?”

“You know the one. She’s the daughter of Mimi Sheldon and Harry Barton…the actors. My gosh, it’s like you live under a rock!”

“Very funny. What about her?” I asked.

“She’s being accused of leaving her baby on her friend’s porch! She just abandoned it! Gave birth and walked away! What kind of a dirt bag does that?! I mean she probably has servants and everything? Why would she abandon a baby?! It has to be drugs!”

“You don’t know that,” I tried to defend the poor girl.

“What else could it be? Said she named the baby and everything and then just bailed!”

My head started to spin. “What did she name it?”

“What?! I don’t know. Something like Felicia or something like that.”

“Alicia?” I asked, slowly.

“Maybe. Wait…hold on…they’re talking about it on TMZ…Yeah…they said Alicia. How did you know?”

I was feeling nauseas. “I gotta go. I’ll talk to you later,” I said and quickly hung up before even saying goodbye.

I called Kevin and then called Jennifer at the agency. She said she’d check into it, but that it sounded like a long shot to her. I picked up Alicia and looked in her eyes. Something inside me told me this was that young actress’ child. I had to get Alicia back to her mother. She deserved a second chance at motherhood. She was just a scared and mixed up kid. Maybe with the right support, she could give Alicia a good life. Still, she did abandon her. It was entirely up to the agency what would happen.

 

Six months later, Kevin and I watched Clara Barton on the morning talk show. We listened as Clara talked about her upcoming movie and confirmed her engagement to a famous baseball player. The host joked about the rumors of Clara having a child. Clara laughed and posed majestically, “Does this body look like I’ve had a child? Please!” She laughed wildly with the host.

I looked at Kevin and sighed. “That’s pathetic.”

Kevin agreed and picked Alicia up as she toddled over to the couch where we were sitting.

“That mean old actress doesn’t deserve you anyways,” Kevin said to Alicia, and nuzzled her as she giggled.

 

The End