Melanie blinks her eyes open. The sun is shining brilliantly through her window. The light dances as it scares away the last few remaining shadows that had claimed the corners. Realization that it was the start of another day sent panic through her as she topples out of bed. Being late always gave her anxiety. Luckily, the clock flashes a little past nine, promising her plenty of time. Melanie flops back into her bed, with Daisy eyeing her curiously. Melanie grabs Daisy’s soft face and kissed the tip of her nose. She has always loved Golden Retrievers and Daisy is no exception.
“Today will be a great day,” Melanie announces, in hopes of believing herself. “I’m going to see Mom again.”
Loneliness grips at her heart for a matter of seconds before she stands up, walking over to her closet.
“Now to find something pretty, but not too pretty,” Melanie tells Daisy, ignoring the fact she is talking to her dog. She grabs something blue--her mom used to gush about how she looked nice in blue, with her olive skin and dark hair with vibrant blue eyes. Holding the shirt up to her, she criticizes it before her mom can. A knot forms in her throat as she eyes the low collar line.
“This just won’t do,” Melanie mutters darkly, throwing the shirt on the ground and replacing it with something plain. Memories from the last time they got lunch together floods her mind. You little slut! Her mother’s voice screams in her head. Did I really raise you this poorly? I can’t believe it! Tears sting her eyes--and not for the last time today.
“What am I doing, Sweet?” she whispers in a broken voice to Daisy. Nevertheless, she misses her parents. Her mom have always had a habit to hold grudges, and what happened when she was eighteen was not an exception. A couple years has past, it still held true.
“But not this time, Daisy,” Melanie promises, scratching behind her beloved friend’s ear and proceeds to her small kitchen. She fills the three dog bowls--Nall and Benjamin are her babies too, but Daisy is special.
Her answering machine blinks in annoying rapid flashes, as if it is trying to tell her she has a message. Curiously, she presses play. Hey, Melanie! A loud, male voice rings out. It’s been awhile. What have you been up to? A slight pause. I’m really hoping you’d call me back. Melanie scrunches up her face.
“Not on your life,” she retorts, pressing delete before the message could end. The good mood she previously forced on herself slips away. He had put her through suffering she doesn’t want to experience again.
“You just didn’t understand, huh? And you still don’t,” Melanie nags to the answering machine with a sturdy fist on her hip. With a quick glance at the clock, she realizes that it is time to leave for lunch.
“I’ll see you guys later,” Melanie says to her three snoozing dogs. Her heartbeat quickens in excitement as she snatches her purse. I get to see Mom. The idea seemed crazy, to where she almost wanted to cancel lunch with her. You’re not who she says you are, Melanie reminds herself as she brushes her long hair back. Stepping out into the cold, she looks back into her small apartment that is the only place that feels like home.
Starbucks is a few minutes walk, but the cold wind made it treacherous. The dead trees and grass seemed to reflect how she felt, but the promise of a hot cappuccino somehow lightened her spirits. After what seemed like hours of shielding her face from the cold, the building was within reach. The warmth is welcoming, and she decides to pick a booth as far away from the windows and door as possible. Melanie watches the door curiously, reminding herself that she needs to breath. Panic mode sets in when she finally came to her senses of what she is actually doing--talking to the women she vowed she hated, the women she never wanted to talk to again. They even told each other so. She tries to remind herself that it has been a few years since those words were spoken and things can change, but it didn’t help her nerves. Subconsciously, she picks at her nails, trying to watch everywhere at once. All too soon, her mother walks in.
“Hi, Melanie,” her mom says as she approaches her. Melanie smiles shyly back.
“How have you been? I’ve missed you, Mom.”
Her mother’s smile falters, but regains it. “I’ve been well.”
“I’m doing a lot better. I even have this really nice little apartment. Well, nice for me,” Melanie tries. The desire to make her mother proud is overwhelming. “Although I’m still working at that diner.”
“You’re too young to be doing well,” her mother tells her. That was what her mother always would retort to. She needing to be older, more mature, better. She’s heard the same thing for years. Her mother stands up and orders a coffee. She leaves Melanie in deep thought. When her mother returns, a comeback still hasn’t come to mind.
“I’ve got a start, though. Dai--”
“Don’t start with that nonsense, Melanie. I don’t understand why you even care for those stupid dogs,” her mom tells her with a strong look. Embarrassment brings color to Melanie’s cheeks and she nods.
“I have to leave, though,” her mom begins. “I expected better from you. You have gotten nowhere. You really need to grow up and get over what happened with that stupid boy.”
Her mom gives her one last look, and leaves. Melanie stares at the empty spot that once was her mother’s and tried to process what just happend. Maybe she’s right, Melanie considers, and gets up to leave.
“You should have seen that one coming,” Melanie tells herself, sitting down on her bed. Walking up to Melanie, Daisy looks at her curiously and tries to plop down in her lap. Melanie tries to smile as she hides her face in her long fur. As Daisy trots off her lap, memories of how she came upon the dog rose. Melanie got Daisy when she needed a friend right after her parents kicked her out. Working at local diner helped her support herself in a small, rundown apartment. When Daisy didn’t fill the void she felt, Nall and Benjamin followed.
Daisy rummaging through her closet catches Melanie’s attention, but only for a second. Reaching over, Melanie turns on her heated blanket, sets it on high, and climbs in. Spare blankets and pillows surrounds her head and she lets herself sink farther down. Daisy pokes her head up and jumps on her bed, taking a baby sock with her. She proceeds to gnaw on on the sock, trying to stretch it.
“Daisy!” Melanie screeches, as she sits up quickly and yanks the tiny sock from the dog. Images flew through her mind: a toddler with dirty blond hair attempting to run; the same girl looking up at her, singing happily; Melanie holding her, kissing the tip of her nose as the girl squeals. The sock is light pink with little flowers and no bigger than her palm. It was a gift from her mom, when they were both thrilled at the surprise. Melanie had stuffed the baby items in her closet, before . . . .
Melanie shakes her head, trying to get rid of all the racing thoughts in her mind, trying to clear it. In her anger she throws the sock, wishing she will never have to see it again.
Work was undesirable the following day, and hardly anyone came in. She straightens her Hardy’s Diner uniform, which consists of a little yellow dress and apron, and goes into the kitchen. Looking into her apron to recount the tips of today’s shift, she only finds two fives and seven ones. Anxiety has a tendency to poke its ugly head up in times like these and Melanie suddenly feel like she has to puke. She remembers the stack of bills accumulating on her counter, the very stack she tries to pretend isn’t there. It just so happens seventeen bucks, or even seven-hundred, won’t be enough for long. Anger rose towards Jason, who had stolen very much-needed money from her years ago, and also forced her to spend another few hundred on something which still haunts her to this day.
“Melanie!” A voice screams over at her. Jumping, Melanie shyly walks over to the voice. “You need to get back out there! You have a table,” her manager, a stout little man with a hideous mustache, informs her. She forces a smile, mutters her apologies, and runs out. Table Five now holds six unfamiliar kids. Their chatter somehow fills the diner, and doesn’t stop until she approaches them. Her shift continues like this, and Melanie isn’t too sure if it would ever end.
Another message is left on her answering machine when Melanie got home. Although she can assume who it is, she presses play anyway.
“Hey Melanie, it’s me aga--” the same, male voice rings out. Making a face of disgust, she presses delete before he can finish his sentence. “No way, Jason,” She mutters, strolling over to the kitchen to make some tea. A strong urge pressures her to pick up her phone and call back. Yelling at him would surely feel good, and him feeling regret for how he ended things may feel even better.
“You weren’t the one who had to go to Planned Parenthood and pay several hundred dollars. . .” Giving a hard, satisfying kick to the wall she was just talking to took some of her anger out, but replaced it with an aching foot. Remembering the sweet tea, she puts her desired amount of sugar in and sits down to help her throbbing foot. Maybe I should call back next time.
But she knows he cannot handle situations very well, and he would just ruin them again. Do you want to go through all of that again? Melanie stands again. Pacing always helps when she’s in deep contemplation, so she goes back into the kitchen. She happens to pace by her calendar hanging on her fridge. December 7th, the calendar reads, Therapy. 10:00. She groans. It is something her dad has made her go to every once in awhile for a little over a year now. He was the only one she could really talk to and understand, but of course he still feels obligated to be on her mother’s side. She tries to count back in her mind when the last time she talked to him was, but losses count. With all of these messages from Jason, however, she begins to feel like a session tomorrow won’t be such a bad idea.
Melanie has always hated the feel of the lumpy, brown chair that is placed in her therapist’s room. The wall is an ugly beige color as well and gives the room an uncomfortable feeling. Dr. Rogers is a sweet lady, or at least as far as she can tell.
“So how have you been the past month, Melanie?” Dr. Rogers looks at her carefully, as if she could read her mind simply by her facial expressions. Melanie tries to smile and shrug, but the way she looks at her always can bring out the truth.
“It’s been rather tough. . .” Melanie begins, trying to add in a little laugh.
“Well,” Dr. Rogers says, with a half smile, “let’s hear about it.” Melanie starts to shift uncomfortably in her chair and stares at a plant that’s almost dead.
“I have, uh, been getting these messages from, well you know, Jason,” she tries to get out, but choking up in this room is room is very common for her.
“What did the messages say?” Rogers inquires, scooting up in her chair. Melanie can’t keep her eyes on her, but tries to smile anyway.
“I don’t know, I deleted them.”
“Great job! See, you have made some kind of improvement, even if you don’t see it.”
Melanie definitely doesn’t see it, but she doesn’t say anything. She slouches over, looking at a strand of her hair.
“Other than that?” Dr. Rogers prods, knowing the look Melanie is giving. Melanie shrugs.
“Well, Daisy found something . . . a sock, that is,” Melanie whispers. Rogers gives her a look of sympathy, and lets her continue. “And it just reminded me, you know, of who’s it was going to be,” she finishes in a small voice. Rogers grabs Melanie’s hand and lightly strokes it.
“You have nothing to be ashamed of,” she tells her gently. “Many women get one.”
“It just hurts so badly,” Melanie murmurs, resting her forehead in her hand.
“But would you have been able to deal with not going through with it?” Rogers asks. Melanie tries to see it through that perspective, but it doesn’t help much.
“No, I suppose not. But I wanted try anyway.”
“You’re stronger than you think you are, Melanie,” Rogers promises and releases her hand. “Have you talked to your parents recently?”
“I saw my mom a couple days ago, actually. It didn’t go very well,” Melanie admits. “Nothing has changed and I cannot do anything right in her mind.”
Rogers sits silent for a few seconds, looking off. “Christmas is nearing soon. Maybe you can use that to rekindle your relationship.”
Melanie shrugs, trying to make it apparent she is considering it. “It doesn’t sound possible to me, but I can see if that will work.” Dr. Rogers takes it for an answer and nods.
“It may or may not, but it’s the attempt that matters most. However, I will have to see you next time.Although I really do want to see you again really soon.”
“I agree completely,” Melanie says, meaning it. “Maybe next week.”
Rogers smiles, stands, and opens the door for her. “Until then. I’m looking forward to seeing how you are doing.” Melanie nods in response and walks out.
She usually walks out of the room with a revived feeling, but not after this session. It didn’t give her any motivation or an idea what to do, which is unusual. Her therapist is like a close friend, almost like a parent figure, and knows what will and will not do. The drive home goes by swiftly, although when she gets home she can hardly remember it. Melanie could hear her three dogs barking by the time she is close her apartment door. Opening the door narrowly, she manages to squeeze through without letting anyone out.
“Back, puppies,” Melanie commands, and shuts the door. When she looks back up, a figure is standing in front of her. He smiles.
“What are you doing here?” She shrieks, and can’t help but wish for better guard dogs. Jason’s smile widens as he tries to pull her in a hug.
“I know how you are, Melanie,” he claims. “I knew you wouldn’t call me back, so I put it upon myself to surprise you here.”
Melanie backs up against the door, keeping a firm hand out in front of her. “You are a lot stupider than I thought then,” she retorts back.
Jason’s face softens. “Are you still mad at me about before?”
“Of course I am,” Melanie says, wishing she could back up farther. Jason gives her a nasty look.
“It was all your fault, you know.”
Melanie stands silently for a few seconds, trying to remind herself it isn’t. “She would be here today and my mom wouldn’t hate me if it weren’t for you. You really screwed me over, you know that? And all of that money you still owe me?” Melanie’s voice turns almost in a growl as she takes a step forward. Opening the door, she gestures to Jason.
“You have thirty seconds to get out of my apartment or I’m calling the cops. Don’t ever call me again.”
Jason blinks in surprise. Throwing her the nastiest look her can muster, he walks out and slams the door behind him.
Several days pass from when Jason made his surprise appearance. Work has taken up a lot of her time, and a day off is very welcome. Wrapped up in a jacket, coat, and gloves, Melanie’s three dogs join her on a walk. Nall especially loves walks and keeping him under control is alway difficult. Trotting behind Nall, Benjamin and Daisy wags their tails enthusiastically. The brutal wind has turned into a cool breeze and Melanie can’t waste a nice winter day like this to clear her mind. Nall tries to run ahead, and Benjamin tries to run after him. Melanie pulls back on their leashes. Benjamin begins running from Nall and pees on a dead bush. She instantly regrets liking bigger dogs, considering Nall is a great dane-lab mix and Ben a German shepherd. Daisy looks up at Melanie from her side and licks her hand. Melanie smiles, and reaches down to pet Daisy. Despite the ash colored sky and cool wind, her mind is not clear. Maybe I should try to call Mom and Dad today again, Melanie thinks. After all, Christmas is ten days away. The promise she made to her therapist was beginning to seem more and more impossible. The nice feeling the good weather brought is slipping away.
“Let’s go home, puppies,” Melanie tells them, and tugs on the leashes to indicate a stop. The cool breeze turns into a harsh wind as Melanie trugs back to her small apartment.
Melanie unhooks her dogs once the door is shut. They all run in opposite directions the second they are free. Walking over to her phone, she dials her mother’s number. Her father picks up after the third ring.
“Hello?” his voice is muffled.
“Hey, Dad. It’s me,” Melanie says. A grin makes its way onto her face.
“Oh, Melanie! I’ve really missed you!” her father’s voice brightens at once. “It’s been awhile!”
Melanie laughs in relief. Her eyes begin to water up. “I’ve really missed you too, and Mom as well! I wish we could all get along.”
“I can try my best to get that women to cool down, but you know how impossible that it.”
Melanie laughs again, gripping the phone tightly. “Oh I know,” she agrees.
“Christmas is coming up soon and I want you to join us,” her dad tells Melanie. Another wave of relief washes over her. “I would love to!”
Another muffled voice goes through the receiver. Melanie can barely make it out, but her name is involved. The voice get louder.
“Melanie?” Her mother is now on the phone. “What do you want?”
Melanie’s heart sinks. “I was hoping to see you guys for Christmas,” she answers, hoping her dad will be some kind of help.
A sigh comes from the other end of the line. “Alright.”
“I’ll see you guys then, all right?” Melanie smiles, knowing her mother’s defeat, however small, means something. After short good-byes, she hung up the phone. Melanie crawls into bed with Daisy, feeling like all is well with the world.
Christmas came sooner than Melanie could have imagined. She gets into her little Pontiac Sunfire and pulls out. Her parent’s house is roughly a half an hour drive, so the fresh snow that came in the night before doesn’t worry her. The roads are mostly clear and have seen maybe five other people. Melanie loves driving when no one else is on the road, and takes the moment in. Turning up the radio and using the back of her seat to hold up her hair, Melanie finally doesn’t feel out of place. It had only snowed a few inches, but what it managed to cover looked astonishing. Tiny flurries flies down and hits against her windshield, reminding Melanie of stars. Maybe this is what I needed, she considers. She will finally make up with her parents, and it seems better than when she got Daisy. Melanie begins to pay more attention to the music than her thoughts, when all of a sudden she hits a patch of ice. Realizing what happened, Melanie tires to correct it in a hurried panic. Her car, of course, decides to do the opposite. The car begins to weave back and forth, and finally goes off the side of the road. The country road she was driving on only had a speed limit of forty-five, but Melanie has alway been bad at watching her speed. A Pin Oak brings her to a stop, but after damaging the front of her car. Glass flies everywhere, and one manages to hit in in the face, sending blood trickling down her face. Panic sets in, and everything goes black.
Melanie rolls restlessly in her bed. A burst of pain runs through her shoulder when she puts her weight on it. Why does that hurt? Melanie startles herself awake. The hospital room reminds her of what happened to her and her car. Covering her eyes with the hand that isn’t stabbed with tubes, she tries to take a calming breath. She cannot remember much, but it starts coming back. The ice patch, smashing into the air bag, all the blood dripping down her face, the cold surrounding her, flashing lights. . . . She shivers, as if she were still in the car. The door opens and an unfamiliar nurse walks in.
“Hi, Melanie,” she says with a happy smile. “I’m going to be your nurse. As you may have noticed, your shoulder is broken and you have a concussion. Your shoulder should be fine, and your head shouldn’t take much longer than that.”
Melanie nods, trying to comprehend what the nurse just said.
“In the meantime, your mother is here to see you.”
Melanie’s mom pokes her head through the door.The nurse politely excuses herself, and shuts the door. Mom stands next to the door silently for a few seconds, and finally strolls over to Melanie’s bed. Her eyes finally met Melanie’s eyes after such a long time.
“You deserve to know why I was so upset at your after your abortion,” her mom whispers. “I actually had another daughter.”
Melanie frowned. “You mean--”
Tears began to flow steadily her mom’s eyes. “Kimberly was only a few months old when I found her dead in her crib. SIDS, the doctors told me. It really broke me, Melanie. At least, until you came. It took years, but it happened. I was only twenty-one when I had Kimberly, and your father and I were so excited to settle down and make a family. It wasn’t fair to me that I had to lose my child painfully and you easily give yours up. It tooks years for me to accept it.”
Melanie is speechless. Grabbing her hand, Melanie looks into her mom’s eyes again with tears flowing in her own now. “I had to do it, Mom. He made me. I knew he would hurt the kid .like he hurt me, even if it was the last thing I wanted to do. I tried to replace the pain with Daisy, but it isn’t the same.”
Realization floods her mother’s eyes. “I’m so sorry, Melanie. And last night when you hit the tree, I thought I was going to lose you too. I don’t know what I’d do if that happened. I apologize for the way I had treated you. I should’ve supported you.”
“I’ve really missed you,” Melanie chokes out.
“I’m just glad it was you who lived, Melanie,” her mother says gingerly, stroking her cheek. “You’re old enough for all of this. You’ll be just fine.”
Melanie can’t speak. Wrapping an arm around her mom’s shoulder, they cried for what they have lost, but most importantly, what they have regained.