Home > The Bargain

The Bargain
Author: R.G. Angel

 


Cover: Soxational cover Art

Formatting: Pink Elephant Designs

 

 

I jolted awake due to the wailing of the infant in the Pack 'N Play beside me. Rolling over in my single bed, I looked at the clock. It was already 5:00 am. I had to be up in an hour anyway.

I yawned, stretching my sore back, trying my best to fight my urge to fall back asleep. I turned and stood up, looking at Timmy for a couple of seconds before picking him up. “Someone’s hungry.” I smiled at him.

His cries never bothered me. I cherished them - every single one of them because I knew I could lose them at any moment. Timmy’s sick heart could give in and take him away from me, so every minute with him was precious.

I rocked him gently as I went to prepare his bottle. My smile vanished when I realized how little formula was left. I would only have enough for today... But that had to be a problem for later. Right now only Timmy’s feeding mattered.

I prepared his bottle, mixed his heart medication in, and, as usual, got lost in his beautiful, emerald eyes as he drank. Eyes so similar to his father's. A father he had never met and never would as Eddie had died seven weeks before Timmy’s birth.

“It’s going to be fine, my boy,” I whispered, trying to convince him as much as myself.

Once I'd finished his feeding, I changed his diaper and prepared his diaper bag.

I only had enough formula for his next three feedings. I checked my wallet. I had five dollars. And my online banking was not looking good either - only twelve dollars remained. That wasn't even enough to buy the small can of his special sensitive formula.

Trying not to despair, I looked around my tiny studio apartment which despite being smaller than a shoebox was painfully bare. I’d sold everything I could recently which wasn’t much. Now, I realized that I'd actually reached the bottom of the barrel.

The little boy was asleep again. With his chin being slightly dimpled and his hair a soft dark brown, he was a painful reminder of Opal - and consequently myself.

Yawning, I made myself a cup of tea. I then looked around the cupboard for food, but they were as empty as I'd expected them to be.

Sighing, I made a second cup, hoping that it would lessen the pain of hunger.

Looking at myself in the bathroom mirror, I tightened my long, dark hair into a ponytail. The light was not flattering for sure, but even it couldn't account for the haggard image staring back at me. The deep, dark circles. The bloodshot eyes. The pale skin and gaunt frame. Looking at myself, I blinked back tears. How had this all happened? When had I become that girl terrified for the next bill to come in the mail or the next shut-off notice to appear on her front door?

Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath, I didn’t have the luxury to break down. I had a job to go to and a sickly, six months old baby to take care of.

I changed into my itchy, polyester uniform - a green, ill-fitted shirt, black skirt, and green apron. Then I slid on my overused, black sneakers.

I walked back into the room and sat on the bed, looking at Timmy playing silently in his bed, chewing on his Sophie La Giraffe, a generous present from Dee - one of so many.

I smiled when his eyes connected with me. Once again, I felt that overwhelming wave of love that made every sacrifice worthwhile.

“Everything is going to be fine, baby boy, you’ll see.” I checked his day bag once more, which basically consisted of his bottle, the leftover formula, a few diapers, and the most critical item - his heart medication.

Picking Timmy up from his Pack 'N Play, I kissed his head. Closing my eyes, I inhaled deeply. I knew it would not last, but it was the best smell in the world.

“Okay my boy, be good to Aunty Dee, won’t you? I’ll be back as soon as can.”

Timmy cooed and grabbed at my cheek. I interpreted that to mean, ‘Cool, Ma. We’re good’

I took the stairs to the next floor up and knocked softly on Dee’s door just in case her husband was still asleep. He'd just finished a nightshift at the hospital, working as a nursing assistant, so I felt quite guilty standing there. But Dee had assured me he slept like a log.

Dee opened the door with a wide smile as if life had always been kind to her.

“How is it that you always look like a supermodel and I look like a hobo reject?”

She laughed. Her red lips were striking against her Espresso brown skin. “It comes with the job, honey. Ain’t nobody wants their beautician to look like a mess.”

She said that, but Dee had always looked like a Nubian Queen - even when she'd been working as a prostitute.

Dee had quit the streets seven years ago, just a couple of years after Opal had started.

Dee had met Raoul and married him before obtaining her beautician license.

She has been a mother hen to all the street girls since then and very much a mother figure to me since I’d moved with Opal at the tender age of eleven.

“You look tired, my girl,” she said with concern as she took Timmy from me. “I really don’t like this look on you.”

“Way to tell me I look like shit. Thanks, Dee.” I tried to diffuse her concern with a joke; it was better than bursting into tears. My state of worry and tiredness was bringing me closer and closer to the edge of a mental breakdown.

She narrowed her eyes, her lips pursed. “We need to talk, sweet girl.”

I’d known this was coming. It was a discussion we’d had a few times already. How Opal wouldn’t have wanted this life for me.

Well, I’m sure Opal hadn’t planned on getting knocked-up by Eddie, her heroin-addicted boyfriend, who even if he’d had a kind heart, had been a train wreck. I was also sure she had not planned on dying from sepsis a week after giving birth, leaving me as the sole guardian of a baby boy born both with a heart defect and a drug addiction, and yet, here we were.

I sighed. “Yes, but not now I need to get to work.”

She nodded. Looking at Timmy, she ran her long red nails across his tummy, making him giggle.

“I love this little one, you know,” she added, still looking at him.

“Yes, I know. Thanks again. I know helping can’t be easy; I really appreciate it.”

She smiled up at me, but her whiskey-colored, kohl surrounded eyes suddenly turned sad. “We’re family. I’d lost one of mine when we lost Opal. You’re family, sweet girl. I saw you grow up. There’s no shame in asking for help.”

I looked down, rubbing my arms self-consciously. “I know that. Anyway, I really have to go. I can't miss the bus. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

“Take your time. My clients never mind this little one's interruptions. They are mothers too, so they understand.”

I had to run to the bus stop. I caught it just as the driver was closing the doors. It took almost four stops for me to catch my breath; I really was taking being unfit to a whole new level.

“Ah, here you are, sunshine.” Rodrigo, the old Puerto Rican chef, smiled and pointed to a plate full of eggs, bacon, and waffles. “I made a mistake on an order. Why don't you eat it?”

I blinked back tears. We both knew it hadn’t been a mistake. This would probably be the only real meal I’d have all day. I couldn’t be more grateful for this man. He looked stern and unapproachable, but he had the biggest heart a man could probably have.

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