Dolores T. Jones

I get to the car before my mom. She's scurrying behind, lugging three, over-flowing grocery bags in one hand and the only pocketbook she has in the other. Her balance is off, her purse heavier than the bags. She looks young and old at the same time. I want to help her, but my load is heavy enough. 

I lean on the car, exhausted from the twenty foot trek to catch Mr. Lewis' station wagon before he takes someone else. "Chile, get off that dirty car" whispers Ma, tossing everything into the trunk. As she comes around to my side, I catch my breathe and we slide in the back seat. Sinking into the stained vinyl, I don't notice the shedding seat cushions or the smell of dirty ashtrays with two-weeks worth of cigarette butts. I rest my head and close my eyes. Ma nudges me, "No falling asleep now Dot, homes only ten minutes away." Picking my head up, I notice a kid next to Mr. Lewis, his grandbaby, Charles. That boy is getting big, last I saw he was still in the pink stroller his Momma used to use for her firstborn, Carla. Carla wasn't two before Miss Yvonne become pregnant with Charles. Guess a pink hand-me-down stroller better than no stroller at all. Charles' hair is coal-colored and peezy, like it ain't been brushed in a month of Sundays.  

"Mr. Lewis, I thanks you for always being around to carry us home. How your daughter Anne doin?" My mothers kin- questions always walk through the door before anything else. "Oh she still out there, you know teenagers these days, they either on that stuff or knocked-up till the sun come up." Mr. Lewis surveys me through his rear-view...spewing those words like they goin change the world tomorrow.

The wagon inches onto 12th street and our dingy, tan building looks clean with the daylight gone and the moon giving it a shadow effect. I get my mind right for the eight flights of stairs we about to tackle. Nine months ago, I could skip up and down those stairs. These days, I get tired just thinking about it. I'ont get to go outside too much lately. Ain't been to school because my due date is around the corner. Besides school policy say I have to stay home and wait it out. Guess having a baby at my desk wouldn't be a good thing.  

Just a few more weeks till the baby is here. Maybe then I get to go back and get my diploma. That'll make Ma proud, I know it. I'll be the first in the family to finish high school. Part of me wonders if I'm really goin have a chance in this world. Fear creeps in at night when I rest my eyes. I gets to worrying so much the baby start kicking. Sometimes she kick so hard I feel like she sending me a message to stop fretting, like she more important than my education. The obsessive side of me can't change these thoughts, the denial part of me scared she might be right...

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