Author: Juju DeRoussie
"... So she forgot once again. She'll notice in a few days that she forgot, she'll say she's sorry; maybe she'll even make a cake. Not the kind I love. No, she will probably make a cheesecake. She loves cheesecake. I like it but it makes me sick. I don't know why. Anyway... You're cute, do you know that? Yes you know that. I keep telling you. But you really are. You've got the prettiest eyes ever. Here have some more of my sandwich."
Some loud purrs were heard in an abandoned warehouse, where a red haired teenage girl was feeding her sandwich to an obviously pregnant tricolor cat.
Around both figures, some old and mainly broken pieces of furniture were scattered. It looked like a squat. Here some old mattresses, there a dresser with only three feet and a pile of bricks as a fourth foot. There also was a lamp, a coffee table made out of cardboard boxes and an old looking wooden board. On the mattresses were some kid blankets and sheets, all clean. A doll was sitting there. Near the mattresses was a litter box.
Everything was clean though.
"I hope you'll have your babies soon. I can't wait to see them. Tomorrow I'll buy more cat food. Ok Belle, it's time to go home. See ya."
The girl got up, grabbed her doll and put it in her schoolbag then walked away. A look of regret passed in her eyes.
"Don't forget to get the cake on your way back! And check they wrote her name correctly this time!" A middle-aged woman said as she was rushing a man out the door.
The man turned and gave her a quick peck on the lips, a knowing and loving smile on his features.
She closed the door and sigh. Since they had signed to be foster families, their couple had gone from fine to great. They were more in love than they had ever been.
The woman's height was considered small. Not quite 5 feet tall. Her hair was dyed blond, the gray roots more than visible in their one or so inches length. She was a perfect cliché of a middle-aged housewife who would make cookies for her neighbor's kids and watch soap operas while ironing.
As she went back to prepare the evening's special meal, her hazel eyes shone with happiness. Nothing made her happier than having her two girls. And she was more than decided to keep spoiling them. In a motherly way of course, not in a grandma's way. She had to be reasonable.
Her girls arrived in their family about two and a half years ago, and after an awkward start, they soon all got used to each other and were able to form a real family. It was not easy everyday, each girl's past making some highly emotional periods, but overall it was alright.
She sang softly to herself while cutting her vegetables.
"Mom? I'm home!" Willow announced her arrival very loudly in the hopes that her mother would stop any sexual activity she may be doing at the moment. It worked almost all the times. This time was better because her mother did not have to stop anything.
"Hello honey! How was your day?"
Willow blinked. It had become a rare occasion to come home to a non-high, sober mother. Even more rare to come home to a house with only her mother present. Either she was having her "friends" over, either she was at their place. But to have her mother seemingly sober and curious about how school went? What the hell was going on?
"It went fine... I guess. How was yours?" She sounded quite suspicious.
"I saw our landlord today; he gives us another 6 months free. Isn't that great?" Sheila smiled, quite proud of herself.
Willow screamed internally, she really was not interested in knowing that her mother was prostituting herself with the landlord. Another thing everybody knew that made her shameful. People would look at her and pity her. Or shake their head. However, nobody would dare to say a thing; half of the men and a third of the women had slept with her mother. It disgusted her. She lived in a brothel.
"If you say so. Are you staying here tonight?" Willow's temper had become pretty short around her mother. She just could not take her mother's immaturity anymore. It was not only annoying: it was also depressing. Utterly so.
"It's Harry's birthday! Have you forgotten? There's a party at his place." Sheila laughed. She was not as sober as Willow thought. Or maybe she had made Space Cakes again. It did not smell like pot though.
Her mother's words cut through her like a knife. Harry's birthday. She remembered a bastard birthday but not her daughter's birthday. Not for the first time, she was extremely thankful for Rupert Giles and jenny Calendar. They did not forget. They even offered her some gifts and made her a "birthday picnic" in the library. Far from any books of course.
"Of course, how silly of me to forget his birthday!" She replied. The sarcasm was lost on Sheila. "Well I'll be in my bedroom, just tell me when you leave, and don't forget your keys this time. I'm not waking up at 3 in the morning 'cause you forgot them."
As she made her way to her bedroom, Willow grumbled to herself "and your daughter's thirteenth birthday? No of course you don't remember, there's no party with pot involved."
Her bedroom door slammed shut and Sheila sighed.
"Come on T! I want to get back home already! What do you think Marta will have prepared for tonight? I hope it's roasted chicken! I love the way she makes it." the young dark haired girl said in one breath. She seemed to be overexcited and was walking fast.
"Hold on Faith! I can't keep up!" answered an out of breath Tara. "I'm sure Marta has made chicken. She knows it's your favorite dish. She probably made enough for the whole street!" laughed Tara.
"Man do I love this woman!" smiled Faith.
Tara could only nod. The middle-aged woman who was her foster... mother. She could never replace her Mamma. Nobody ever could. But the woman sure was a very nice one. Marta had welcomed them with open arms and a great deal of patience.
It had not been easy at first for either of them. Faith had the hardest time to trust people. She came from a dark place. As for Tara, she was still trying to get used to the idea of not living with her mother when she then learnt of her death. Then she had a very hard time dealing with her loss.
Nevertheless, both Marta and John had been patient and caring.
And this day was the perfect example. It was Faith's birthday and for two and a half years, a birthday meant a happy day. Not a party the day itself, but one was scheduled for the following Saturday. The day itself, the birthday girl (or man in case of John's birthday) was on the receiving end of loving attentions. Especially from Marta.
Faith having known only bad or eventless birthdays, Marta had wanted to make each Faith would spend with them very special ones.
Tara smiled to herself while trying to keep up with Faith; they really got one good family.
"I don't know Rupert. I just don't think it's right to let her with her mother. I know she begged us to not call the social services, but... Honestly this woman is incapable of raising a child."
"Honey calm down... I know that. But we promised Willow. We can't let her down, her mother does it enough." Rupert Giles smiled reassuringly at his partner, taking her in his arms.
They had been discussing Willow's case yet another time. For years they had known the bright child, and for years now they had seen her unhappy. Two years ago, the redhead had come to talk to them ad they had told her to do if she wanted. They had listened to her openly while she told them all about how her mother had decided to quit her job without any other plans on how to get a living. They had listened silently while she confessed her mother's activities, and how she often found naked men in her home. They had tried to keep calm for the child's sake, but inside both were fuming. They knew her home life were not a decent one. They had heard rumors of movies... For a long time they had believed it was just kids trying to find things to say about another kid they did not really like. However, when Willow told them... Giles had wanted to hug her then, but she was obviously uncomfortable. Whether it was because she was not used to being hugged or because he was a man, none of them knew. However, that day Willow had asked them to promise to never called the social services. She had begged them to tell to nobody. They had to break that promise though when Willow got in trouble for skipping schools. She missed just a week worth of class though, after talking to them she went back to her academic self.
Since that day, Jenny and Giles had decided to take as much care of the child as she would let them. She let them invite her over sometimes. They even offered her their guest room whenever she wanted. Over the last two years, they helped her going over class that were way above her grade. They helped her find little jobs she could do. Even though it was very hard when she was not even 12 yet. Once she was 12 they helped her getting an unofficial job at a nearby elementary school. She helped some kids to do their homework. §It was not much but it helped her. She had explained to them that she needed to save money for herself, for college. They both thought she was a very brave kid.
Moreover, three days ago they had witnessed yet again the girl's mother's incompetence. The woman had forgotten about her daughter's birthday. Rupert had tried to call her home to remind Sheila Rosenberg that it was her daughter's thirteenth birthday, but all he got was a very drunk woman asking, "Willow who?" He was sure he had called the right number. He was less sure it had been Sheila though. Actually, he just hoped it was Sheila. It had been only 3 o'clock in the afternoon after all.
"I know we promised but sometimes I regret that promise. No kids deserve this but this one even less. We should see with her if there's a way we can make her leave this home..." said Jenny, her voice soft and pensive, her head still against her love's chest.
He only nodded and tightened his embrace.
Willow needed to get out of this place. She knew it. She just could not imagine how she could live by herself yet. And she refused to go to live with Giles and Miss Calendar. They were extra nice, it was not the problem. She just did not want to depend on anyone. She wanted to show her mother she was independent and it was not thanks to her.
A thought occurred to her and she leapt from her desk chair on which she was sitting. She rummaged through her drawer and found at last a small box. It was a square wooden box, about 4x4 inches. She opened it and revealed it contained bills. Counting it, Willow noticed that her mother had served herself. Those were all her savings and her damned mother had taken some to buy her shit. She did not cared which shit it was about. About a hundred dollars were missing.
She got up and exited her bedroom, calling her mother.
"Mom! Where are you?" she called angrily.
"What is it Sweetie?" Sheila asked innocently.
"You know damn well what's my problem. Where's my money? It's mine, I worked for it!"
"What do you mean?" she kept on playing the innocent card.
"One hundred bucks decided to go take a walk! Where is my money Mom?" the red haired girl was getting exasperated with her mother. How could someone be so uncaring?
"Enough with that young lady! You will talk to me with respect! What is under my roof is mine too. I needed it to buy a nice present to Harry. He invited me to his birthday's party!"
Willow could not believe her ears. "What?!"
Tears started to fall down her cheeks. Tears of anger, tears of sorrow. This woman was her mother, she forgot her birthday and used her money to buy someone else a present.
"What do you cry for now?" asked Sheila, getting impatient with her daughter.
"You... You fucking took my money to buy a gift to this bastard?"
Sheila slapped her full force. "Enough!"
Willow was stunned. But after only a few second her blood boiled and she let out a rant that had been building in her for years now. "You forgot my birthday! You forgot your own daughter's birthday, and it wasn't the first time. You forgot it and now you took my money to buy a present to someone else's birthday. And why? I'll tell you why. Because he's throwing a party during which there will be pot, alcohol and knowing you guys probably an orgy..." Another slap.
"Shut up! No wonder I forgot your birthday!"
"No you shut up. I'm fed up with you... Mommy!" This last word was said with sarcasm. "You've not been a mother to me since I was able to feed myself. And worth than to not be a mother, you've also ignored the fact that I still was a child. You've not tried to hide your disgusting activities. You've not tried to hide your drug use. You've quitted your job without thinking, without caring you had a child. You've been a selfish bitch. There, the B word I hear about my mother since I've entered middle school is out. No shut up, I'm talking. I've kept all of this for myself so now I will tell you. Either you decide to change, and for good, either I'll give you what you've wished for: I'll get out of your life". Tears were falling down Willow's cheeks, her face was flushed and her chest heaving. She dreaded her mother's answer. Already regretting. Yet it was needed. She did not notice her breath catching in her throat and stopping while she waited for her mother's reaction who just stared at her in shock.
"Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you Faith, Happy birthday to you..." came the chorus.
The dark haired girl smiled in delight at the wonderful birthday cake laid in front of her with the proud "12" candle burning.
"Make a wish! Make a wish!" said Tara very enthusiastically. She clapped in her hands at the same time.
Faith closed her eyes and wished. I wish tonight never ended. She blew out her number shaped candle and opened her eyes.
Marta served generous slices of cake and all ate with glee and delight.
Once dinner was over, they all sat in the living room and watched a movie. Then the girls went to the bathroom to get ready for bed. They had separate bedrooms but always tried to stay with each other until the last minute. Laughing and telling each other silly stories.
Marta came upstairs to tuck them in, and kiss them good night. Tara first, then Faith.
Tara hugged her Teddy Willow very tightly against herself. "We had a great day Willow, I love when it is someone's birthday at home. Things are so good now, aren't they Teddy? Oh I hope they are good for you too my dearest friend." she whispered.
In the next bedroom, Faith was lying very still, her smile fading, and dread making its way into her chest. How much she hated nighttime.
The doorbell surprised them both. It was quite late. Jenny walked to the door but Rupert stopped her. Whoever it was, he did not want to take his chance, and someone ringing a doorbell that late could be trouble. He opened the door and his heart broke.
"Hmm... hello Giles. I need your help. Please?" Her cheeks were strained by flow of tears, her eyes puffy and red. Her hair was disheveled and upon closer inspection, her face sported an angry mark under the flush caused by the waterfalls. He rushed her in, and helped her to take her coat off. Her tee shirt's collar was torn and on her neck were the marks of a hand. Someone had tried to strangle her.
"Oh Willow!" he took her in his arms, and she sobbed. Jenny came to them and saw the state the poor child was in. Her heart broke too, and then her blood boiled.
Giles led her to the couch and proposed her a cup of tea or something else. Willow nodded for the tea and sheepishly asked for some cookies or something to eat. Jenny sat close to her, and took her hand between hers.
"What happened Sweetie? Who did this to you?"
Willow's eyes were downcast and she did not dare to look up. When she answered, her voice was barely audible, swallowed by the tears and some sort of shame. "The woman who gave me birth."
Her door creaked open, and light from the corridor entered her bedroom. It was time. She closed her eyes tightly shut, hoping that if she faked sleep, she would be saved.
"I know a birthday girl who deserves an extra present today." whispered the man.