For Her

Thursday, January 25

Dear Mom,

College applications are due next week. Mr. Haven said my personal growth essay would be excellent for them. I told him I didn’t think college was a good idea. He asked me what you would think. I didn’t know how to answer him. You always assumed I would go to college. I did, too, until last year, until your confession twisted my world.

I can still see you clearly, the tears brimming in your eyes and your hands shaking when you sat me down to share the terrible news. Dad wrapped his arms around you and invited me to join the family hug, but I couldn’t do it. My body was molten lead, sunk deep into the couch.

Cancer. That word is the worst word in the human language. And yours was aggressive. You said you would fight. You told me you didn’t want to leave us. But I saw you slipping further and further away each week. Thinning hair, bony hugs, and the sounds of retching destroyed you—and me.

I needed someone to comfort me. You were always my rock when life got hard. But this time, I had to be your rock. So, David helped me through it. He held me while I cried on his shoulder, and he stroked my back while I yelled about how unfair it all was. And then he did more. We did more. And life got exponentially harder.

I didn’t tell you. I didn’t tell anyone. Not even David, at first. How could I admit, even to myself, that I had been so careless and stupid? I knew our time was limited, and I didn’t want to see the disappointment in your eyes.

So, I kept quiet. I wore baggy sweatshirts. It wasn’t too hard to keep the secret. Everyone was preoccupied with you, including me. When you left us, I cried for a week solid. I missed so much school that the principal called to check on me. After the funeral, Dad slumped on the couch and stared at the blank television. He barely saw me as I moved about the house. But it wasn’t too long before Dad began to notice my weight. With narrowed eyes, he asked me to tell him the truth. And I did.

Four months later, Jade Olivia Martin was born.

I wish you could have met her, Mom. She looks like you, with her curly dark hair and brown eyes. She is three months old and is the only good thing in my life, the only person who has kept me together since you left. But going to high school and raising a child is not the way I imagined my senior year. My homework is only ever half-done and often splattered with spit-up or formula. My grades dropped from mostly As to Cs, and my friends, who always said they were here to support me, never come over anymore.

And now, I’m thinking of college? I’m crazy, right? I tried to tell Mr. Haven he was also out of his mind for even suggesting it, but he wouldn’t listen.

“You are smart, Skye,” he said. “You can go to school and take care of your daughter. Do it for her.”

Mom, I really wish you here right now. I don’t know what to do. I need help.


Saturday, January 27

Dear Mom,

Here’s another reason I should not even think of applying for college. Dad would not approve—not that he approves of anything I do, anymore. Not since Jade. He wanted me to give her up for adoption, but I wouldn’t. We had already lost you. I couldn’t stand the thought of losing her, too.

One night, close to my due date, he stormed into my room, reeking of cheap beer. I scooted back on my bed and put my pillow over my stomach. I’d never been afraid of him before, but his eyes were wild.

“If you don’t give that baby up for adoption, I will not help you raise it. You will be on your own,” he growled.

He actually said that. And he kept his word. He hasn’t kicked me out, but he rarely speaks to me, and he never looks at Jade. When she fusses, he wrinkles up his nose and tells me to do something with that girl. At night when she cries, I walk back and forth soothing her. I drive her to daycare in the morning. I feed her bottles and little jars of baby food. I change her diapers. And I’m okay with it. She’s my daughter, but it still hurts when he glares at me if she makes the slightest noise.

David also dumped me when he found out. His family was so freaked out that they moved. Out of state! I haven’t heard from him since the day I gave birth. He basically said he was sorry, but that he couldn’t be a part of our lives.

I can’t apply to college when I don’t have Dad’s support or any help from David. I am surviving high school, but I don’t know how I could possibly make college work. So, that’s it. I’m not going to apply. Sorry.


Sunday, January 28

Dear Mom,

Besides, we need money. With Dad sitting around doing nothing, we are going through the savings fast. I got a job at Speedy Mart, but it’s only one day a week, and a lot of my earnings are going for daycare. Once I graduate from high school, I should get a full-time job and start paying for all of Jade’s things. That’s what Dad would want.


Tuesday, January 30

Dear Mom,

I found some of your old sticky notes, today. I was cleaning out my closet when I noticed my leopard-spotted purse that you bought me for my fourteenth birthday. That was the year that I had so many friend issues. Lily and Marcy decided that they’d rather be a pair instead of a threesome, and I was on the outs.

I peeked in the purse and saw a stack of sticky notes. I bit my bottom lip and blinked my eyes. Those notes had made a bad year a little better. Every day when I woke up, there was a sticky note waiting on my alarm clock for me. You always knew the right thing to write. I depended on your words to get me through the day.

I pulled out the notes, one by one, and spread them all around me on the floor. I felt your love radiating off those little yellow squares. Three notes seemed to jump out at me, the ink a little darker, the paper a little brighter.

Follow your dreams!

Obstacles are stepping stones to success.

Strength comes through struggle.

Thank you, Mom, for helping me make my decision.


Thursday, February 1

Dear Mom,

I visited you today. I leaned against your gravestone, with Jade propped up on my knees. I talked about you to her. With eyes wide open, she watched me. I told her about the time you jumped in the freezing pond to get Buster, our dog, who ran off the dock after some geese. I told her about when you took me shopping and to the movies so I wouldn’t feel bad that my friends had uninvited me to their sleepover. I told her about our movie marathons on cold, snowy February days. I told her so many things, and I will keep telling her about you. I will make sure she knows that you would have loved her. And I will try to be as good a mom as you.

When I got home, I pulled my laptop out and opened up the college application. It was almost complete. I just had to sign my name, pay the fee, and submit it. I stared at the application, my heart pounding and my hands shaking. Fear poured off me like a stinky perfume. Taped to my laptop was another sticky note from you.

Courage is being afraid but doing it anyway.

I still wasn’t sure if I could make this work, or if I’d even get in, but I had to try. For Jade. For myself. For you. With a deep breath, I signed my name and entered my debit card number to pay the fee. A small submit button in the bottom right corner looked unobtrusive and plain. How funny that something so monumental could look so small.

I stared at that button and counted to ten. Then, I looked over at Jade sleeping in her crib. For you, my sweet little peanut. Here’s to a better life.

Quickly, I pressed the button.

Congratulations! You have submitted your application.

I don’t know what my future holds, but I am excited to find out. And I promise I’ll tell you all about it, every step of the way.