“Just go away!” Jess screamed, “Just leave me alone like you did before!”
Tears streaming down her face, Jessica Reynolds ran to her bedroom, slamming the door.
Barely reaching her bed, Jess broke down. Sobs shook her small frame, and she reached up to wipe the tears from her eyes, smearing a heavy coat of mascara and twice through her nose, and tried to steady her breathing.
Once she had some control over herself, she was quiet enough to hear the door open and slam, followed by shouts, each as unbearable as finger nails on a chalkboard.
“Why are you here? Why did you come back?” one voice screamed. For someone so small, my mother had an enormous voice. Even wavering with emotion as it did now, I knew it would have my father cringing.
There was a pause, further evidence for my theory, and my father’s voice, steady and calm.
“Now, Kay, let’s not over react-“
“Over react? You left me alone with a 2 month old child and you think I won’t over
react! Wow, John, really?”
“Listen, I’m only here to collect what’s mine. I’m having some problems getting my tattoo parlor off the ground, and I need a little money…”
“Leave.” Her voice was low, almost a growl. Jess
shivered, remembering the last time she had heard that voice.
She had been 10, walking home from school. It was pre-rush hour in downtown NYC, and the front door of her apartment was in sight. Jess, quickening to a jog, wasn’t phased by the homeless men and women smoking their cigarettes and sleeping in their boxes. By 4th grade, Jess had already
beaten up half the boys in her grade and been suspended three times. So she was surprised when a middle aged lady, dressed in a ragged cloak and ripped clothes, reached out and snagged Jess by
her backpack. Looking down at Jess with her beady, black eyes, she spoke in a raspy, tobacco worn voice.
“Hey, girl, don’t you have any money to spare for a poor, old lady like me?”
Jess, only 10, just stared at her. Then, the lady tried to yank Jess’s backpack off her back, resulting in a high-pitched yelp from Jess.
Luckily, just as the lady clamped her dirty hand over Jess’s mouth, her mother ran out of the apartment building, having seen the struggle from her window. Jess did not see her mother, but heard her cold, firm voice.
“Let her go. Now. Or I’ll call the cops.”
The grimy hand released her, and Jess ran into her mother’s arms.
“And nevertouch her again.”
Now, this same voice was warning off a man who was a stranger to Jess. Even if she has his
same eyes and high cheek bones, she would never relate to him.
“Kay, let’s be reasonable, and-”
There was a small crash, most likely Jess’s 5thgrade writing award tumbling to the ground, and some grunts and cusses, and a loud slam. She heard her mother fumbling with the lock like she’d heard so many times when there was an unauthorized being in their building.
There was a pause, and then a small rap-tap on Jess’s door. A few more seconds of knocking, and then Jess heard her doorknob turn, followed by the slow creak of an opening door.
“Jess?” This voice was so different from the strong tone she’d heard through the door. A
weak, almost fragile sound it was. When Jess looked up through her tear-filled eyes to find her mom, small and pale, smiling a weak smile, she jumped up off her bed and threw herself into her mother’s arms. This was so unlike Jess’s usual distant persona, her mother was momentarily shocked, before wrapping her arms around the petite girl before her.
“Mom,” came the muffled voice from her shoulder, “Why is he here? Is he coming back?”
“No, baby, no,”
Later that night, after Jess had done her homework and the laundry and cleaned her room, she began to freak out. Why, she thought, am I so damn restless?
She bounced, spun around in circles, and tried unsuccessfully to do a handstand before she
settled on blasting Paramore and dyeing her hair. With Brick
by Boring Brick pouring from the speakers, Jess went to her closet and
pulled out the basket on the top shelf labeled Hair Dye.
Rummaging through it, she decided against doing another full out color-change and grabbed a container of neon green highlighting materials. The bright green would be a great contrast to
her jet black hair.
Jess decided she wanted just the front piece of her hair to be dyed and began measuring and mixing the chemicals. She was a pro at this because she dyed her hair almost every week. Some people might say she was a “messed up” child, but she preferred to be called “rebellious”.
Once the chemicals were mixed, she grabbed the chosen piece of hair and began painting.
Her body occupied, she let her mind drift. What if, Jess thought, I painted these boring white walls
black? Or, hmmm, splatter paint?
Letting her newly green hair dry and cleaning up the materials, she sat down at her laptop, opened it
to Google, her fingers poised over the keys. The black of her nail polish shone in the light of the screen. Before she knew it, she was typing. The words appeared before her eyes, and before she knew why, she hit the Enter key.
International Pen-Pal System the words read. Jess clicked on the first few, but they all looked like crap. Finally, she found a reasonably legitimate looking site. Pens-connect.com it read pen-pals the way it should be!
“Huh,” Jess said, “’We’ll give you a pen-pal, their address, and you write the old-fashioned way- through the mail!!!’”
She filled out all the questions, and clicked “I have read and agreed” even though she hadn’t.
“Thank You! Please expect a letter in the mail with information about YOUR Pen-Pal.”
Jess, suddenly very tired, turned off her laptop. She yanked off her clothes and hunted down a pair of shorty shorts and an oversized tee-shirt. Pulling them on, and yelling a “’Night!” to her mother, she snuggled down into her bed and drifted off to sleep.