Jessie wakes up to the sound of a crying baby. He slowly moves as he unwraps himself from under the tattered blanket under which he had been sleeping. His whole body hurts from the bruising and fresh wounds he had gotten from his alcoholic father, before he had left them again to ride with his gang. Jessie walks slowly over towards the baby crib where his baby sister sleeps. It has been his responsibility to take care of her, since their mother disappeared. He really misses her, but no one knew what happened to her. She had gone to work and never returned home. He reaches to turn on the lights, but nothing happens. He tries the switch again, but the light doesn’t come on. He knows his father is going to blame him for the lights not working. His father seems to blame him for everything. He is wearing his mother’s sweat pants and pulls tighter, the ends of the cord that holds them up on his slim waist
Jessie walks into the room where his baby sister is and picks her up out of the crib.
“Sssshhhhh. Everything is going to be alright Maggie.” He holds her close to his battered body as he checks her diaper and noticed that she is wet.
“No wonder you’re crying, I would be crying too if my diaper was wet.” He takes Maggie over towards the makeshift changing table and lays her down on it. Jessie picks up the diaper bag his mother had gotten from her co-workers and looks inside for everything he needs to change her diaper.
Jessie sees that Maggie has only two diapers left inside, along with enough formula for one more feeding. He wonders from where he is going to get the money to buy more formula and diapers for her. All the money he took from his father when he was passed out on the sofa was spent. He had used it to buy more diapers, wipes, baby powder and formula for her. Jessie had bought a container of oatmeal for himself to eat.
He takes off the soiled diaper wipes, her bottom and puts baby powder on it after he had put the clean diaper under her, like his mother had taught him before she had disappeared. He puts on her last clean jumper, picks her up off the changing table and walks into the living room where he had been sleeping and sits down on the broken sofa holding her. Tears stream down his cheeks as he wishes his mother were here to help him. He really misses her and looks down at the clothes he was wearing. They were his mother’s clothes. They were all he could find, because all his were either dirty or were falling apart.
His dad hated the fact that he looked like his mother and took after her. His dad never did like him, because he wasn’t what he had hoped for. He wanted a boy that was interested in sports and would be more like him, rather than the sissy Jessie was. He had been mistaken several times for being a girl. His dad didn’t like that. His mother loved him and always tried to protect him when his father got upset about him.
He looks down into his baby sister’s green eyes and could see the innocence in them. He loves his baby sister very much and would do anything to protect her. He sits there and wonders how he is going to get the things he needs for her. Also, he starts thinking about maybe running away from here, but where would he go? Where could he and Maggie go and be safe from their father? He gets up with her in his arms and heads into his parent’s bedroom and starts going through what was left of his mother’s things. He lays her down in her crib. She had fallen back to sleep, which for him was good. It would allow him to search through the room and see what he could find to help Maggie and him.
Even though his wounds and bruises hurt, he looks around the room for anything to help him and Maggie. Continues his search of his mother’s bedroom, he finds a gym bag in which he could put some clothes for Maggie and himself. He grabs some of his mother’s clothes that would fit him and put them in the bag. He resembles his mother when she was his age, so it wouldn’t be too hard to pass as her daughter. He was about to give up; when he finds a metal, box hidden in the back corner of the closet in which he was looking. He pulls it out and opens it up. Inside he finds his birth certificate along with Maggie’s and his mother’s marriage license. He also finds a few pictures and some other things. One of them was a letter from a Miss. Mary Elisabeth Harthworth, 2345 Cherry Lane, Fort Davis, Texas.
He opens the letter and reading it:
I’m happy to hear that everything is going well for you and Charlie. I really didn’t think he was the right choice for you, but you are my little sister, so I’ll trust your judgment about him. I hope your marriage is as rewarding as our parents was. I hope that the two of you stay together for as long as our parents did and that you have the big family you have always wanted. I would be honored to be Jessie’s godmother. From the pictures you sent me, he has your looks and looks like you did when you were born. If you need anything little sister feel free to call me or write me. Here’s my cell phone number if you need to call 432-460-4500.
Jessie looks at a picture of his mother, sitting on the dresser as tears stream from his eyes. He didn’t know his mother had a sister and that she was his godmother. He takes the letter, folds it up and finishes packing the gym bag with some of his mother’s undergarments and such. He figures, he might as well look like his mother’s daughter, it would make it harder for his father to find him. He finishes dressing and looks at himself, he looks like a young girl who has had a hard time. Jessie goes and gets his little sister and wraps her up, it was going to be cold tonight. He makes sure she is comfortable and that he has a few bottles for her in the diaper bag. They head out of the house and make the long walk to the nearest store.
The cold wind blows as he walks down the street with his sister tightly pressed against him for shelter against the wind. He trudges through the snow shivering from it as it falls into his boots. He had on four layers of socks and two pairs of his mother’s nylons. The snow was knee deep for him and made walking through it difficult, he shivers as he takes each step. A few cars pass him by, not stopping to offer their help. As he was about to cross a busy street, a cab stops before him.
The passenger side window lowers down “get in young lady.”
“But I have no money to pay you sir.” Jessie would love to ride in the cab, but he had no money. He heard that the cab driver called him “young lady”.
“It doesn’t matter miss. It’s too cold for a mother and her child to be out in this. Please get in and I’ll take you where you would like to go, free of charge.” Dave really meant what he said. This weather was no place for a mother and her child. He notices how young this girl looks as she held her baby close to her. She looks to be no more than a teenager.
“Thank you, sir.” Jessie opens the door and climbs into the back of the cab. The warm environment felt nice against his cold body. He shuts the door and felt his sister stir some, but she goes back to sleep.
“Where are you heading miss?” Dave looks at the young girl in the back seat of his cab, cuddling her daughter.
“I was heading to the diner, to use their phone to call my Aunt.” Jessie brushes some of his long brown hair out of his eyes. He had his mother’s facial looks and her hair well, his hair was curly and wavy like hers.
“That’s good, because I was on my way there as well to get a cup of coffee and something to eat. Do you have enough money to make the phone call sweetie?” Dave was concerned about the little girl in his back seat.
“I think so sir. I need to call my aunt in Fort Davis, Texas.” Jessie adjusts the way his sister was sleeping his arms.
“Well if you need any more change, let me know sweetie.” He puts the cab into gear and drives down the slush-covered road carefully towards the diner.
Jessie sits back and watches as they head down the street. It would have taken him at least an hour to walk this route with how deep the snow was, the walk would have been even more difficult with trying to protect his sister from the wind as well. He knew she was wrapped up warmly, he had wrapped her up in the warmest blanket he could find. Jessie closes his eyes and hopes his Aunt could help them. He was tired of being abused by his father and living like he had been living. He wonders what happened to his mother.
“Sir? Have you ever seen a woman with my type of hair, wearing gold-color wire glasses and carrying a light brown leather handbag?” Jessie looks towards Dave.
“I might have. Did she work at the convenience store over on Shell Street?” Dave thought about the lady. If it is the one the little girl is talking about, he guesses no one told her that she had been killed during a robbery.
“Yes sir. She was a cashier over there.” Jessie was getting excited now. He found someone that knew his mother.
Dave looks at the little girl and could see that she was excited “I am sorry sweetie, but she was killed three weeks ago during a robbery. Was she related to you?”
“Yes sir, she was my mother.” Tears start to stream down his face as the news of his mother being killed sinks in. Why didn’t his father say anything to him or tell him?
He pulls his little sister closer to him and just cries.
Dave watches as the little girl cries. He wishes he could comfort her, but he needed to drive.
They drive in silence as Jessie cries and holds onto his little sister. His father never told him about his mother’s death. When he feels the car taking a left turn, he looks up and wipes his eyes to clear away the tears. Jessie watches as Dave parks the taxi and turns off the engine.
Dave turns around in his seat and looks back at Jessie and the baby.
“Miss, after you make your phone call, why don’t you and your daughter join me at my table. I know you said that you have no money and from looking at you, you don’t seem to have eaten very well.” Dave gives Jessie a friendly smile, hoping the little girl and her baby would join him.
“Thank you, sir.” Jessie returns the smile.
Dave gets out of the cab first and opens the driver side for Jessie, she slides across the seat and exists the taxi, protecting his sister from the wind blowing. Dave shuts the car door and follows the little girl inside. They walk till they find a booth to sit at. One of the waitresses on duty comes over to them.
“Nasty weather we’re having today sir. What would you and your daughter like today?” She glances at Jessie holding his little sister.
Dave just gives the waitress a smile “I’ll have a cup of coffee and she’ll have “Dave looks over towards Jessie to see what she would like.
Jessie looks up at the waitress “Do you have whipped cream Ma’am?”
“Sure, do sweetie.” She gives Jessie a wink.
“I would like some hot chocolate with whipped cream please.” Jessie balances his little sister in his arms as he looks up at the waitress.
The waitress writes down the order and just before she leaves.
“Ma’am, do you have a pay phone here?” Jessie looks at her hoping she does.
“Sure, do sweetie, back near the bathrooms.” She turns around and walks away to place their order.
Jessie looks towards Dave “sir? Would you mind my stuff till I get back please?”
“Go make your phone call.”
“Thank you.” Jessie slides out and heads towards the rest room.
He spots the pay phone just before he gets to the restrooms. He walks over towards it and supports his baby sister with one arm and empty’s the money he had scraped together from the little purse he had found in his mother’s stuff. After depositing the coins into the phone, he dials the number he had found for his Aunt.
Jessie stands there with his sister and listens as the phone tries connecting.
A woman sounding like his mother answers the phone after the third ring “Hello?”
“Hello? Aunt Mary. This is your nephew and godson, Jessie Ridgewood. I need your help Aunt Mary.” Jessie holds the phone with his head against his shoulder.
“What’s wrong Jessie?” Mary couldn’t believe her nephew was calling her. The last time she had heard from her little sister was three months ago when she called to let her know that her and Charlie were having marital problems. She had inquired about Jessie and her niece Maggie, but her sister only said that they were all right for now.
“Dad left me and Maggie, Aunt Mary; we don’t have any money, power or food. Also, I just found out today that mom died three weeks ago Aunt Mary. Dad never told me she died.” Jessie was trying to hold back his tears.
“Where are you now Jessie?” Mary grabs a pad she keeps on her desk and a pen which write down his location.
“Maggie and I are at the diner down from where we live Aunt Mary.”
“How did you make it down there Jessie? Isn’t there a snow storm going on right now?” Mary was concerned about her niece and nephew.
“Yes ma’am. A nice taxi driver gave us a lift. He saw me walking and asked me if I needed a lift. He brought me and Maggie here to the diner so I could call you.” Jessie shifts his placement of his sister on his arm.
“Well that was nice of him. All right Jessie, I’m going to plan for you to stay at a hotel for a couple of nights. Do you think that cab driver might be nice enough to take you there?” Mary taps the location of her nephew into her computer and locates a nice hotel at which they can stay.
“Yes ma’am, I think he will do it.” Jessie was sure Dave would drive them there.
“Okay! Ask him to take you to The Knights Inn down the street from where you are. I’ll make sure that some money is waiting for him there. Have you and Maggie eaten anything lately?”
“I fed Maggie a bottle before I left the house and have two bottles left with formula in them. I haven’t eaten anything for two days. Dave is buying me a hot chocolate with whipped cream right now Aunt Mary.” Jessie was extremely hungry. He had been drinking water and doing what he could without thinking about food.
“Okay, go and get your waitress and ask her to come to the phone please.” Mary digs her credit card out of her purse.
Jessie lets the phone hang down, while he goes and gets his waitress. He finds her and asks her to come over to the phone. The waitress walks over to the phone and picks it up.
“Hello?” She listens to Mary.
Jessie stands there and watches as she listens to his Aunt.
“It will be no problem. Just give me your credit card number and I’ll make arrangements for your niece.” The waitress pulls her pad out and writes down a number. Afterwards she hands the phone back to Jessie.
“Here you go sweetie. Your Aunt wants to talk to you.” She hands Jessie the phone.
“Jessie?” Mary says through the phone.
“Yes, Aunt Mary?” Jessie holds the phone to his ear.
“I made arrangements with Dolores for you to get whatever you want to eat sweetie. She’s also going to give you some money to take with you to buy whatever you need for Maggie and yourself on the way to the hotel. She going to speak with your cab driver and explain things to him. You call me when you get to the hotel, so I know your safe okay?”
“Okay Aunt Mary and thank you.” Jessie was happy his aunt was looking for him.
“You’re welcome sweetie. I’m going to try and drive down there to pick up you and your sister. You go ahead and watch out for her and I’ll see you in two days.”
“Okay Aunt Mary and thank you again.” Jessie couldn’t wait to see his Aunt.
After Jessie, finishes talking to his aunt, he heads back to the table where Dave was waiting for him. Also, his hot chocolate with whipped cream.
Dave just smiles at the young girl. He drinks his coffee and watches as she girl drinks her hot chocolate.
“Dolores has asked me to drive you to the nearest store to buy some supplies and then down the street to the Inn. Is everything alright little lady?” Dave could sense something wasn’t right.
Jessie looks at Dave “No sir. My father abandoned me and my little sister two days ago. He never told me my mother had died. I haven’t eaten for two days straight and I have been doing everything I can to care for my little sister.” Tears leak from his eyes.
Dave couldn’t believe someone would do such a thing to two young girls.
“Did your dad molest you in any way?” Dave had two grown children of his own and loved them very much.
“No sir. He just beat and whipped me. He also abused me verbally as well.” Jessie holds his sister to his chest. He wanted so much to be a normal teenager.
“Well, whatever you need to do sweet heart, I’ll do. I told Dolores to bring you a large cheeseburger with everything on it and a large order of fries. How is your little sister doing?” Dave looks towards the sleeping baby.
“She is doing okay for now. I’ve used what formula we had left to make her three bottles. She drunk one before coming here and I have two bottles left. I just need to get what I need for her after we leave here.” Jessie takes a sip of his hot chocolate and his tummy feels better as it felt the warm liquid hit it.
“Don’t worry. I’ll stop at the store down the street, so you can go get what you need for your sister.” Dave takes a sip of his coffee.
After a few minutes, Dolores arrives with a large plate for Jessie, loaded up with fries and a huge cheeseburger with everything on it. She also hands him an envelope with some cash in it.
Jessie looks at Dolores “thank you.”
“You’re welcome sweetie. You just take care of that baby of yours.” She ruffles Jessie’s unwashed hair.
She walks off to tend to some more customers.
Jessie wasted no time in eating his meal. He ate slowly and enjoyed the food, it felt good going down into his stomach. It quieted the growling his stomach had been making. He offers Dave some of his fries, but he turns them down. When Jessie is finished eating the cheeseburger, Dolores brings him a slice of apple pie with vanilla ice cream on it.
Jessie looks up at her “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. It’s on the house kiddo.” Dolores gives him a wink and then walks off.
Jessie enjoys the warm apple pie and vanilla ice cream. When he is done, they sit and talk for a while. Jessie learns a lot about Dave from their conversion.
After a while Dave helps Jessie carry his little sister outside, Jessie carries his sister, while Dave carries the diaper bag. His tummy felt a lot better now that he had food in it. He figures that he might have to pick up a few items to eat till his Aunt came to pick him up. Dave drives carefully to the grocery store nearby and helps Jessie inside the store. Dave follows Jessie as he goes down certain aisles looking for things.
“You seem to know what you are doing little lady. Do you normally shop here?” Dave was impressed on how Jessie seemed to know his way around the store.
“Yes sir. I normally took money from my father while he was asleep from drinking too much to buy food and supplies for my sister. I always put her needs before my own.” Jessie grabs a few more cans of formula and a package of pampers for his sister along with baby oil and baby powder. He had enough money to buy what he needed for her and then he bought a few instant soups and a box of instant grits packages for himself, along with peanut butter, jelly and bread. He also purchases some soap, shampoo and conditioner for himself. He had twenty dollars left after getting his change back from the cashier.
Dave helps Jessie carry the groceries out to the cab, before getting in, Jessie looks towards Dave.
“Thank you for helping me. I don’t know if I would have ever made it to the diner to call my Aunt.” Jessie sniffles from the cold.
“How could I leave a little girl and her baby out in this mess? Now get in, before you catch a cold.” Dave holds the door open and closes it after she gets in.
Jessie gets in and watches as Dave closes the cab door, then goes the driver’s side and gets in.
Dave starts up the cab, backs out of the parking spot and then heads down the street towards the Inn where Jessie’s Aunt arranged for them to stay. Dave pulls in under the over the overhang for Jessie to get out and get the key to his room.
“I’ll be right here waiting for you Jessie.” Dave gives him a fatherly smile.
Jessie slides out and heads inside the office and up to the counter, where a middle age woman was working on some paperwork. She looks up at him.
“Can I help you miss.?” A smile appears on her face.
“Yes Ma’am. My aunt said she made a reservation down here for me.” Jessie looked at the woman and hope he was at the right place.
“What is your name sweetie?” The lady picks up a pencil with which to write.
“It’s Jessie Ridgewood, ma’am.” He moves his arm some, to better support his sleeping sister.
“Ah! Yes. I remember talking with her. She reserved a single economy room for three days and three nights with a crib. She also asked us to give you some money to pay for your taxi fare. I just need you to fill this card out for us, honey.” She slides a card forward along with a pen.
Jessie adjusts the way he is holding his sister and starts filling out the registration card. He puts his aunt’s address and phone number down, since he figures he’ll never be going back to his home again. When he is done, he slides the card back to the lady.
“The lady takes it and looks it over. Your aunt asked us to allow you to make long distance phone calls to her, so your phone has been turned on Miss. Ridgewood. You’re in room 202 on the second floor. One of our maids will come by and check on you throughout the day, to make sure you are all right. Here’s your key.” She hands Jessie a key with the room number on it.
Jessie takes it.
“This is for your cab driver.” She hands her a sealed hotel envelope with Dave’s name on it.
Jessie accepts the envelope “Thank you Ma’am.”
“You’re welcome sweetie. If you need anything, just call down here to the front desk and we’ll make sure you get it.” She gives her a motherly smile.
“I will.” Jessie heads out of the office and back over towards Dave’s cab and gets in.
Once he is in, Jessie looks towards Dave “This is for you Dave.” He hands him the envelope that had his name on it.
Dave takes it.
“So, what’s your room number?”
“It’s room 202, sir.” Jessie couldn’t wait to get to his room and take a nice hot bath. He knew his sister would sleep most of the day.
“202 it is then.” Dave drives the cab around to where the rooms were and parks in a parking space, once they spot the room number. He gets out and opens the door for Jessie.
“You go ahead and take your sister to the room Jessie. I’ll bring everything else to you.”
“Thank you.” She holds his sister to his chest to keep the snow from falling on her face and heads up to the second floor, where he and Dave had spotted the room.
Jessie uses the key he was given, opens the door and heads into the room. The room was already lit for him and the heating was on. There was a baby crib set-up for his sister. He walks over and places his sister in the crib. He turns around to go and help Dave with his things.
Dave comes walking in with Jessie’s purchases and set them on the bed.
Jessie looks at Dave “Thank you.”
“It was nothing sweetie. Here take my card just in case you need to go anywhere.” Dave digs into his pockets to retrieve one of his business cards.
“But I won’t be able to pay you.” Jessie accepts the card.
“Don’t worry about that sweetie. It’s free of charge. You just take care of your sister and be careful.” He walks over and places a fatherly kiss on Jessie’s forehead, before walking out and closing the door behind him.
Jessie walks over and looks out the window and watches as Dave backs out of the parking space then pulls out of the parking lot. Jessie steps away from the window and starts putting away the things he bought, then calls his Aunt and talks with her for a while. When he gets off the phone, he unbundles his sister and makes her comfortable.
He grabs the shampoo, conditioner and soap and heads into the bathroom, fills the tub with hot water and undresses as it fills. His petite, slim body shows the scars and bruises that covered every inch of that his father gave him. He looked so thin and feminine, which was another reason his father hated him. He was born with a very tiny penis and hadn’t developed any of the secondary characteristics of a boy. He was twelve years old and looked more like a girl, than a boy. He lowers himself down into the tub and washes his hair and body. He empties the tub and refills it with hot water, leans back against the tub rim and enjoys the heat, as it keeps his body warm. He falls asleep and is woken about thirty minutes later by his sister crying.
He gets out of the tub, dries himself off and slips on one of his mother’s nightgowns, which he had taken. It was big on him and came down to his feet, but at least he had something on with which to cover himself. He heads over towards his sister and checks her, her diaper was wet again. He was so happy that his Aunt had given him some money to buy supplies for his sister. He changes her wet diaper and warms up a bottle for her, since it was near her feeding time. He was careful not to warm the bottle too much in the microwave in his room. He sits down on the bed, rests his back against the headboard and feeds her. He turns the television on and watches a movie that was playing on a channel he found. He watches his sister as she drinks down her bottle and then he burps her afterwards with a washcloth over his shoulder. Once she had burped, he holds her till she falls asleep and lays her down in the crib. He gets back onto the bed and lays down himself. In no time, he is fast asleep.
He tosses and turns throughout the night. He sits up in a cold sweat as he hugs himself. He had a nightmare of his father finding them and beating him till he died. He gets out of bed and grabs his mother’s jacket he had worn and the ice bucket and places his room key in its pocket. He checks on his sister and then heads out to get some ice, so he could pour himself some soda with ice in it. He finds the ice machine and fills up the ice bucket. On his way, back to his room he stops and looks out into the night.
The snow was still falling, but it was slower. He used to love going out with his mother, having snowball fights and making snow angels with her. He knew his father used to abuse her as well, but when his father was gone, they had fun. His mother made him feel special and loved. They would spend all day long outside and later in the evening, roast marshmallows in the grill and drink hot chocolate with whipped cream on top of it. Tears start to slide down from his eyes as he wishes she were here right now with him. He was only twelve years old and didn’t know what to do. He hopes the choices he is making right now for him and his little sister are the right. He also hopes his father doesn’t find them.
He wipes the tears away and heads back to his hotel room. His sister was still asleep, so he moved quietly around the room in the dark, so as not to wake her. He slips off his coat off and hangs it up. He grabs the Pepsi he had bought and pours himself a cup of soda. He closes the bottle up, heads over to the bed and sits back down on it. He flips through the channels and finds a movie that was playing and falls back asleep after drinking his soda.
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