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Sweet Little Thing

By:Abbi Glines

Sweet Little Thing
Abbi Glines

       IF ONLY MY BACKPACK WERE larger it would be easier to hide the presents I  got today. It was sweet of the boys to think of me. I especially loved  the pink teddy bear with the "Be Mine" red heart in its hand. Its fur  was so soft and pretty. I'd never been given anything like that before.  The chocolate candies and heart-shaped necklace were also nice, but the  bear was my favorite.

Tucking them all close to me to hide them while I rode the bus home was  the hard part. I had to because I was afraid someone would take them.  I'd already prepared myself to hand over the necklace and chocolates  first if Harriet Boyd came after my things. She was six inches taller  than me and tough like a boy. I was pretty sure the bus driver, Ms. V,  was scared of Harriet too.

Getting home with the pink teddy bear Davey Eaton gave me was my goal. The other presents I could part with.

Davey was cute. He was also rich and popular. I imagined the bear cost a  lot. It didn't look like the ones I'd seen at the pharmacy or grocery  store all month. It was special-the kind of special I'd never gotten and  would likely never get again. So, I was keeping the bear close.

Out of the three boys who gave me Valentine's Day gifts, I didn't like  one any more than the other. All the boys were nice to me and seemed to  like me. I knew that before they gave me gifts.

Momma told me not to worry about boyfriends in the third grade. But  after getting the presents, I thought I might need to pick one. Maybe it  would stop them from fighting over who got to sit by me at lunch.

I took a quick glance around me. I never made eye contact with Harriet  if it was at all possible. Her voice was so loud, I knew she was only a  few rows behind me. She was taunting someone about their hair.

My bus stop was next. I needed to make it to my stop, and then I'd be  free. Safe from her bullying and possibly stealing my gifts.

Harriet hadn't bothered me too much this year. There was a girl who sat  three rows back on the bus that had red hair and her teeth poked out a  little too far in the front. Harriet was mean to her. I wished I was  bigger. Or older. That way I could take up for the girl three rows back.  But I was smaller than Harriet, and younger. Nothing I said would sway  her. And today I had a teddy bear that needed to get home safely.

The bus slowed to a stop in front of my trailer park.

I made it.

I glanced back at the girl Harriet was harassing. I wanted to say  something to help the other girl. But the bear in my hands kept me from  doing anything. Not that anything I could have done would have helped  anyway.

I quickly exited the bus, hurrying down the gravel road that was lined  with oak trees and random empty beer cans. The grass was overgrown, and  there were ant beds piled high on both sides of the road. I didn't study  any of it long because I was in a hurry.

The blue single-wide trailer that I called home was faded from the sun.  I'd imagine it was pretty at one time, but that had to have been years  ago. Now it was old, and most of the siding was broken or missing. Momma  said the trailer was all she could afford in rent. It had window units  that cooled us in the summer, and we had a cranky heater that warmed us  in the winter. The roof worked just fine. I figured we had it good.

When I stepped onto the overgrown grass in front of our trailer, the front door swung open.

"Beulah!" My sister's high-pitched voice carried across the yard when she shouted my name.

Heidi didn't go to school yet, even though we were only three minutes  apart in age. Momma said she would be ready for school in a few years.  I'd worried a lot that Heidi would never start, but Momma said there  were special classes for her. I hadn't seen these special classes and  hoped Momma was right.

"I have you a surprise," I told Heidi as I met her halfway when she ran  out to hug me like she did every day. Heidi was my favorite person-even  over our momma. She was happy no matter what. She loved you even when  you were having a bad day and acted ugly. She was the perfect person and  I wished everyone was like Heidi. I wondered why Momma said she was  slow and she didn't fit in with everyone else.

She clapped her hands and squealed in delight. "What?" she asked.

I liked making her happy. I knew the moment I was given this bear today  that Heidi would love it. I slipped my hand into the book bag and pulled  out the bear.

Just like I had imagined, her eyes lit up as she grabbed it, hugging it  tightly. Because of the look on her face I would tell Davey tomorrow  that I would be his girlfriend-he'd made my sister smile.

"For me?" she asked her eyes wide.

I nodded. "Yes. For you. Happy Valentine's Day," I told her. Although I  knew she didn't understand, like she didn't understand or care how I got  the teddy bear.                       
       
           



       

She hugged it, tucking the teddy bear under her chin.

"I love you, Beulah," she said against the ears of the bear that was pressed to her mouth.

"I love you, Heidi," I told her.

Her smile was so big that I smiled too. It was a smile that only Heidi  could give you. The one where no matter what was wrong with the world,  you knew it was okay. I didn't have a memory that Heidi wasn't in. She  was my twin. My sister. My other half. But she was different. She  couldn't live life the way I did. She had to do it differently. All  because she was a special angel God had sent to earth. I knew that was  true. And I knew I'd always do anything to take care of her.





10 years later . . .

TODAY SHOULD BE SPECIAL, BUT it was like any other day. Just another day  that I existed, like all the others for the past six months. Keeping my  head down and doing all that was asked of me was the one way I could  make sure everything important to me was safe. Protected.

I woke up each day with a mission and hope that eventually my life would get better. That my current situation wasn't forever.

"Beulah, for God's sake, could you hurry with my coffee and get started  on Jasper's room before he gets home? I haven't seen him in over eight  months. His room needs to be perfect. Not that he'll stay long," Portia  Van Allan called from the dining room.

Portia didn't eat food. At least, she didn't eat often. She drank coffee  and she drank wine. Because of this, I wasn't expected to cook for her.  The list of duties she had me do daily were enough to keep me busy from  the time the sun came up to well after it went down.

"Yes ma'am," I replied as I finished making the French press coffee she  preferred. It took time to brew the coffee unlike a regular coffee  maker. The glass contraption also only made a cup with each press. It  was one of the many things I hadn't ever heard of until I was forced to  take the position as a maid in her home. When my mother gave me Portia's  name and address on a piece of paper only a day before she passed away,  I never asked who Portia was. I was so scared and in denial because of  my mother's illness that it wasn't important at the time.

The day after my mother was buried, the landlord came to tell us we owed  two months' rent on the trailer we lived in, and although he was very  sorry for our loss, we had to pay or move out. I'd taken Heidi with me  to Portia Van Allen's address that day, not knowing what to expect. Her  home, where I now lived and worked, was not even close to what I had  ever expected.

"I know he won't stay at the house long, but while he's here you'll make  him breakfast. I'll ask him to leave you a list of what he eats. I  can't remember because I never cooked for him. We had someone do that.  His father liked French toast, I do remember that." Portia's words  trailed off.

She looked up as I handed her cup of coffee to her, inspecting the coffee with great scrutiny.

"This seems darker than usual." She frowned although there were no frown  lines on her face. I was sure Botox was the reason why. I wasn't sure  how old she was, but she had a son in college.

"I made it the same way I make it every morning." Arguing with Portia  was never a wise idea but sometimes I couldn't help myself. Like at this  moment.

She started to open her mouth when noise from the front door stopped  her. Loud voices and laughter rang out down the hall followed by the  sound of clattering footsteps.

Confused, I glanced back at Portia.

She was sitting with her back straight, listening. "He's already here! Shit!"

I assumed "he" was her son since no one ever walked into this house  without a key. They couldn't even get past the privacy gate without a  code.

She jumped up and looked frantic. "He has company. I need to get  dressed." She hurried for the back stairs that lead to the master  bedroom. "Feed them. Take care of them," were her last words before she  disappeared around the corner. Her black French-press coffee was  forgotten on the table.

I wasn't ready to face an unknown Van Allen. The one I knew wasn't  exactly a pleasant person. I had hoped I wouldn't have to see her son  that much while he was home. Only when I served his breakfast maybe. But  this . . . this was not what I had planned on.

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