It had been official two years now, since the twins first birthday, and she lost the court case with Ella’s Dad. Cesar had funded her fight to keep full custody, while the social worker Kenzie fought against her. She didn’t stand a chance against Kenzie, who claimed to have the best interest of Ella in mind.
Cesar broke up with her right after, figuring out she’d used him for his money, and slept with others on the side. She didn’t feel passion for them, or even anyone, she just did what had always been expected of her, what her Dad always said she’d grow up to be.
“But I want to be a ballet dancer,” She had sang up to her Dad once, he’d kicked her back, and told her the only dancing she’d do was on a pole. She’d just started kindergarten then, but the wound was still fresh, his voice still stabbing.
Cesar always had a hard time saying bye to the kids, more than she did watching them leave. She’d never been happy to have any kids, but she was glad that Cesar was the Dad of the twins, and not someone like Matt.
When he started cleaning up the mess, she fell back into the kitchen, not strong enough to hear what he had to say, and tired of the rhythm they were in. He followed though, he always did. He’s never backed down from problems, he was strong in the center, where it mattered, and in ways she never could be.
He fought for her to quit drinking, and for the twins when she was pregnant. She’d never had anyone fight for her, and she didn’t know how to rise to the encouragement, to be better than who she was already.
When he left, saying bye to the kids, her heart sank. Manuel cried, and Marisol followed after. She told herself they must be tired, that had to be why they cried, because they never did that when they left her.
They were peaceful when they slept, she liked to hear their soft breathing and subtle snores. She could almost forget reality when she seeped in those moments.
Cesar’s Mom was a meddler, and had arranged for the twins to model some clothing in a Christmas catalog. It was only June, Annie didn’t realize these things were done so early in the year, and she was bitter that Maria was sneaking more time with the twins. It all felt like it was part of a big scheme to steal the kids from her, Matt had only wanted partial custody, but if Kenzie had willed it, he might have gotten full, that is what Annie believed. She’d stand no chance against Cesar and his church-going family with all their wealth, she was nothing to them.
Manny hated the modeling gig, cried and fussed while Marisol sat happily in Maria’s arms. They always betrayed her, giving their best performance for Cesar and his parents, and leaving her with the worst.
The photographer was able to still his crying, if not get a few smiles from him, and her heart sank lower.
They were able to get some great shots of the twins though, and there were vague offerings of future modeling gigs for the local catalogs.
The kids were given a monetary compensation as well as the pajamas they wore for the photos. She didn’t want to appear too eager, not if they might get called back for more, but they were desperate for money.
Ella wasn’t a happy girl, always sullen, and moping around doing odd things like digging through the garbage. When Annie found her in the outside canister eating an old apple, she felt grateful for the money in her pocket from the modeling.
Maybe the world was right, her Dad too, she wasn’t able to provide for the kids, maybe they’d all be better with their Dad’s, though she could barely believe it about Matt.
She wanted better for the kids. When she’d had Ella, she had to use the hospital’s baby name book to find a name, and she had chosen Ella because it meant ‘bright light’ at least in that particular book. She had wanted a brightness for both of them, a fresh start.
It all seemed so long ago, a different life than where she was at this moment. She felt relieved that Ella would be at her Dad’s for the next day. Ella liked going to her Dad’s apartment, only for her big brothers. She never knew they existed until a few years ago, and she adored Jett.
He listened to her, and didn’t pick on her like Flint, though she liked him too.
Matt wasn’t always around for these visits, he seemed to be seeing someone, but there had never been any introduction. The twins weren’t always at his house for every visit, and sometimes she found herself wholly alone.
Most of the time she sat in the apartment while he went out with his lady friend, but the really horrible times were the days he kicked her outside.
The city street could be boisterous and loud, but even when it’s filled with people, Ella can’t shake the feeling of loneliness that clings to her like a second skin.
Ella never told her Mom about the girl, it would just upset her, and fuel her anger over the lost court case. Empty threats of taking Matt back one day were always a sentence away, Ella was tired of hearing them, and she liked her new brothers.
Ella knew it took money for court, she wished that her Dad would be forced to pay more child support. There wasn’t food at home, only free formula for the twins, but they should be eating now and not drinking their dinner. When school was ending, the other kids were excited, but Ella knew it meant no more lunches, no more food.
At least at her Dad’s there were always TV dinners for her, she could pick from the dozen he had in the freezer, never caring which one she picked.
This meant something special to her, even if her brothers weren’t good at cooking them, and to happened start a kitchen fire. She wasn’t really that scared though, Flint put it out, and her eyes grew with adoration. It seemed that there wasn’t anything her brothers couldn’t handle, and she wished that she had a twin, not for the first time in her life.
Annie missed Ella when she was gone, in the way one misses the train when they’ve moved away, but complained of all before. Outstandingly though she just felt relief, a great sigh as if she’d held her breath all the time that Ella was home, and she was finally free to just breath. Ella with her large eyes, portraying innocence, hunger, and always peddling guilt without saying a singular word. Annie could barely see her without feeling it in her chest, a wall of expectation she’d never be able to climb.
She didn’t beat her, scream at her, or throw liquor bottles at her, but somehow that didn’t make anything better; it just made it a different layer of hell.
When Ella was gone, Annie could just be free, to drink, to lay, to not worry about hungry bellies. Even when the twins were home, they were in bed early, and there was a sense of accomplishment getting them to bed, even if it was hours too early, and they’d climb out in the night if they woke up.
Matt had been out late, and didn’t get back to drop Ella off at home until nearly midnight. Her Mom was usually working third shift, so it was a mild curiosity that had her attention when she headed inside.
The twins were on the landing outside of their bedroom, both asleep and soiled. She’d be upset that her Mom skipped work if she hadn’t just gotten money from the twins, because they needed food, and to keep their electricity on.
But there was money, her Mom should have gone to buy groceries while she was at her Dad’s place, and so she’s sort of happy that she’d get to see her Mom, and tell her how Flint put out the kitchen fire. She wasn’t sure if she had the courage, but she thought being a firefighter might be pretty great one day.
It wasn’t like that though, Ella expected her Mom to not really care about the kitchen fire, other than as fuel to complain about Matt. But her Mom wasn’t waiting for her at all, the money from the modeling completely and utterly spent on liquor, her Mom unconscious on the floor.
She tried to wake her, and when she felt heavy and unresponsive, she knew what to do, Kenzie had trained her for this, as if Kenzie always knew. She had ran to the bottom floor to call the paramedics.
They stayed on the line with her until the unit arrived, and Ella felt calm listening to the dispatcher’s voice, she felt a sense of pride. She did it, exactly the way that Kenzie had taught her, she did her part.
The paramedics arrived, they didn’t rush her Mom immediately out of the house and to the hospital though. They fidgeted, and murmured about alcohol poisoning, clicking their tongues and saying it was all too bad.
When Kenzie arrived, the feeling of pride had been replaced with a plaguing of fear that she didn’t understand the source behind.
They had been waiting for Kenzie to arrive so they could leave, but they didn’t turn the sirens on as they left with her Mom, they didn’t have her face open to the air to breath. She was covered, and they moved slowly, as if they’d resigned all hope.
Instead of visiting the hospital, Kenzie had called Cesar to arrange for the twins to be with him, and then later on for Ella, when her own Dad didn’t answer the phone.
Cesar left for the hospital, leaving all of the kids with his parents, leaving Ella awake in a strange bedroom with unfamiliar smells, and the unanswered question, would she her Mother again?
Notes: And she won’t, cause Annie died. Good grief.
Annie went out drinking, hooked up with Max (blond bartender that gets around), and got knocked up. Instead of miscarrying the baby like she should have (for her lack of taking care of herself), she instead died. I didn’t intervene because I had wanted her to miscarry, eek, horrible I know. But good grief, she cannot take care of herself let alone anymore kids! She had just filled the fridge up too, so it was nonsense that she didn’t go eat.
Kenzie tried to save her, but lost. I don’t usually use the grim, but was so on the fence for saving, that I decided to give it a whirl. (Kenzie you suck!) :p
So this household just got a lot different, I had just been talking with my daughter before all this, wondering if Annie might settle down, maybe with her military friend Oscar, or maybe even Max, in many years down the road, because she wasn’t ready yet, and they both were romance guys. And instead, I’ll never get to know. I feel cheated, and yet somehow it feels destined to be. It was difficult to plan a future for her, always sabotaging herself, that it seems rather poetic in a horrible use of the word.
I suppose the kids might be better off… it was really hard to not pull the kids out of her house, but I never knew what to do with Ella. Part 2 will go up next weekend, sorting out custody and all of that business.
Doing the household profiles I read through Annie’s life again, I felt sad reading the birth of the twins, and all that could have been. It’s here if anyone else wants to read back to it (and you should!) ;), it’s one piece that I am proud of the writing in, and being in Annie’s mind. Man I will miss her.
Oh and I had no clue you could jump into the outdoor garbage can, nor that you could dig through the house garbage can, I learned BOTH of these things from Ella, who does them autonomously. Things really were desperate in that house.
Thanks for reading!