A Second Chance -- Chapter 2
By Dawn Natelle
TUESDAY, April 26, 2016
This is the original chapter 2, which I have now appended to chapter 1. People found the first chapter alone too dark, so I added the lighter chapter 2 to balance things off and point to the future direction of the story. This chapter is kept alive so the comments and kudos will still be tracked. I also had to remove it from the books so that the links would work. This is exactly the same content as in the second half of Chapter 1 and 2: Dawn
Ron quickly realized he was not in bed any longer, but was standing on a rickety ladder, looking at a rope on the floor. Rachael had just tossed the rope for the third time, he realized. Instead of pulling the rope up for a fourth, successful toss, he climbed down the ladder and gathered the rope up. He untied the loop, and then coiled the rope and hung it on its hook. He, no she, moved the ladder over to the corner where she had found it, realizing that this body was not only much smaller, but also much weaker. It was young though, and without the aches and pains of a 64-year-old man.
She went to the door to the house, turned off the garage light, and went into the house. She nearly stumbled on a backpack, and picked it up and carried it off to Rachael’s, her, bedroom. She recognized the location from the vignette she had watched earlier. In the bedroom, adorned by only a few pictures torn from magazines as posters … boy bands and young movie stars mostly, she realized that this new body was covered in sweat. She stripped to her underwear and looked around. There was no mirror in the room. She went to the bathroom, and found one there. She wasn’t really pretty, but what 13-year-old girl thinks she is, she thought. Her face had some acne, and she still had a lot of baby fat. The hair was a problem. She had chopped it off in a depression episode a couple weeks earlier, she realized, accessing her memories. She went further back in time, and realized that last year she had bought a cheap dye kit and did a horrible job in dying what had been a light blonde hair color, like her mothers. Twice since then she had touched up the roots, which seemed to need it again. But there was no more of the dye solution left, and she didn’t have money to buy more. These are my memories, she realized. This is me. There is no more Ron. No more he or his. “I am Rachael,” she said aloud, hearing her new voice for the first time. It was a strong soprano, she thought.
She had been wearing a long-sleeved top, and soon noticed why. Her arms, from the elbows down, showed a tracing of both old and fairly recent scars. Cutting. He had heard that this was something troubled children were doing these days, but Ron really didn’t understand it. Memories flooded back of the many times she had cut herself, revelling in the pain as she watched blood flow from the non-lethal cuts she had made. She even realized that she had considered this as a suicide method … a lot. She finally had come up with the hanging method when she realized that bleeding to death would be messy, slow, and potentially difficult to accomplish.
Unfastening her bra was not easy, but Rachael managed to figure it out, and pulled it off to show small, budding breasts. The bra showed a size of 34A. Her waist was more than a bit chubby, and she had really oversized hips. She pulled off her briefs and got a good long look at her new sex organs. Ron had never really been able to look intently at these parts. He had been married for 22 years to his first love, but when Kate had died he never dated again. And Kate was very shy about that area. Rachael saw that she was blonde there. Of course. Acting out as a Goth didn’t require changes down there. She turned on the shower and got in.
Fifteen minutes later she got out. She felt clean and quite refreshed, having just experienced the best orgasm of her life. Being a girl might have some perks, she thought with a smile as she dried her body. It was also the first time in years that she had gone an hour without the constant pain and aches of age. She stood naked in her bedroom for a few minutes, then dressed again. The jeans and t-shirt she had on before were too sweaty to put back on.
Slipping on a new pair of briefs was easy, although it felt odd to feel her small breasts jiggling about as she bent over. The bra was a challenge … it seems she only had three, so she would have to wash the one she had just taken off. Once she finally got the new one clasped, she checked out her closet. To say she was disappointed was an understatement. There were only a dozen or so outfits in there. I thought girls had more clothes, she mused to herself. Not poor girls, she realized. Most of these outfits were from thrift shops. That was part of the reason she was teased at school. She didn’t wear cool new clothes from the hot boutiques like better off girls did.
She found a floral print midi skirt that went a few inches below her knees, and then found a pink top in the dresser, with long sleeves again. She took a pair of Mary-Jane shoes with a one inch heel, since she felt the running shoes she had on in the garage felt like they were a bit tainted by everything, and she wanted a completely different outfit.
She then went down and explored the rest of the house. Bobby’s room was actually a bit bigger than hers (although still tiny) but hers had the bigger closet. Her mom’s room was biggest, but her closet had few clothes in it: just a few waitress uniforms and one or two other outfits. Rachael peeked into her mom’s second-hand bureau and found the underwear drawer. There was only one spare bra in it and the tag, nearly faded out, said it was a 34-DD. Maybe there was hope for her in the bust department, she giggled.
She wandered through the rest of the house, until she came to the kitchen. It was a mess. Both breakfast and last night’s dinner dishes were still in the sink. She remembered her mother and her fighting last night: it had been Rachael’s turn to do the dishes but the fight had ended with her mom saying that the dishes would stay in the sink until she did them as Rachael stormed off to her room.
Looking around, it was soon clear that there was no dishwasher, so Rachael filled the sink with hot water and washed the dishes by hand, then dried them and put them into the cupboards. She cleaned all the counters, and looked through the fridge to see what might be happening for dinner. There was a package of chicken breasts with three small pieces of meat, as well as a few veggies. She had seen a bag of potatoes under the sink when she had looked for dish soap.
It was a bit after 2 p.m., and still too early to worry about dinner. Instead Rachael worked her way through the house, dusting and tidying as she went. She even found time to do two loads of laundry, one of Bobby’s things, which she found largely strewn around his room, and her own room, which had a laundry basket, which was not often used. Her Mom’s things were in her hamper. As well as the two laundry loads, she also did a sinkful of delicates: her and Mom’s bras and panties. She had memories of doing that regularly in the past. When all were done, she hung them to dry on the clothesline behind the house. There was no electric dryer in the house.
She had just come back in from hanging the last of the laundry, nearly filling the line, when she heard the front door open. “Who is it?” she asked in some alarm.
“It’s me, Rachael,” Bobby said.
“Why are you here now?”
“Mrs. Hubble didn’t answer her door. I stayed there for a long time, but no one came to the door. So I came here. Don’t get mad, it’s not my fault.”
It was 10 to four, and Bobby usually spent from 3:30 to 7 with a neighbour three doors down the street who did babysitting at a bargain rate for the Cartwrights. “Don’t worry, kiddo,” she said, reaching out to tousle his hair.
He flinched as her hand moved towards him. “Don’t hit me,” he said fearfully.
“I’m not going to hit you … anymore,” she said, adding the last word when she realized that she did hit the smaller boy pretty often when her Mom was not around. “What are you going to do till Mom gets home?”
“Bug you,” he said with a mischievous grin. “You said you wouldn’t hit me, right?”
“Well, maybe if you tempt me,” she said then added a smile to show him that she was joking. “Why don’t you watch some TV till Mom gets home? I’m going to make dinner for tonight.”
“You? Cooking? We’re all going to die,” he said, falling to the floor as if he had food poisoning. “But I’m hungry now. Mrs. Hubble always had a couple cookies for me.”
Rachael looked at her brother. He was even chubbier than she was, bordering on obese. This family needs to get into shape. Except for Mom. Memories appeared of her Mom as a thin shapely woman in her early 30s, still maintaining her look of youth in spite of having two kids. Mom had been 16 when she first got pregnant with Rachael.
“I have an idea. I don’t think you need cookies, and I don’t even know if we have any. But we do have some other things, and I’ll make a snack for you.”
Rachael went to the fridge and took out a carrot. It looked like there were still enough for dinner tonight, so she sliced one up into carrot sticks. She put a dozen and a half on a plate and took them in to her brother.
“What’s that?” he said with a look of distain on his face.
“These are soldiers,” she said. “This big guy is the boss … the captain, I guess. He will wonder where his soldiers disappear to, until in the end the giant Bobby monster gets him too.”
“Cool,” Bobby said, interested in playing with the snack as he ate it. “Thanks.”
Rachael went back into the kitchen and started preparing for dinner. She knew she had enough time, about three hours. She started off by texting her Mom.
Mom. I skipped school this afternoon. You may have already heard from the school. I will explain later. Bobby came home at 4. Dunno what happened to Mrs. H. No need to do dinner. I will have something ready when you get home.
She sent the text, knowing her mother wouldn’t answer immediately, since she was busy most of the time she was working. It was nearly a half hour later when the text came back.
School called. You are in trouble. Are you sure dinner is okay? There is some chicken in the fridge. Do you know how to cook it? I can get food from here if you don’t. Don’t kill your brother.
Rachael texted back immediately.
Don’t waste money on food. There is stuff here. Bobby is watching TV. I promise not to hurt him. Much :)
With that she decided on a recipe of breaded chicken, with mashed potatoes and carrots for vegetables. When she had the chicken in the oven, and the vegetables cooking, she decided to make a salad for starters, and began slicing the ingredients. In her former life the widowed Ron had been forced to cook his own meals most of the time, and he had been pretty good in a kitchen.
Bobby came into the kitchen. “Watcha doing?”
“Making a salad for dinner.”
“Ugggh. Sallid is yucky. The soldiers were tasty though.”
“Was that enough to hold you until dinner?”
“Yep. The general filled me up.” He watched her chopping celery and radishes for the salad.
“Can I help?”
“Sure. Are your hands clean?”
She inspected them, and found them filthy. How much of that dirt had wound up on the little army he had eaten, she wondered. She didn’t want that dirt on the dinner food that she and her Mom would eat, so she sent him to wash his hands … twice, and then still had to use the dishrag to get more of the dirt off the backs.
Bobby tore the lettuce for the salad and then dumped all the other ingredients into the big salad bowl as Rachael cut them. When he was done that, Rachael let him mash the potatoes once they were cooked: it was a job sufficiently destructive to amuse a 9-year-old boy. He was even willing to set the small table in the dining/living room.
Within a few minutes of everything being ready, Maria walked through the front door.
“Hey, Mom,” Bobby shouted excitedly. “We made dinner. I helped.”
“It smells wonderful,” she said. She turned to Rachael. “You know this doesn’t make up for skipping school, don’t you?”
“Can we leave that until after 8:30?” Rachael asked. That was Bobby’s bedtime. “I think you will be okay with everything. Let’s eat first.”
“Sure. It smells wonderful. Where did you learn to cook?”
“Well, there are a lot of shows on TV, and I sometimes paid attention in Home Ec.”
“Well, it smells divine. I can’t wait to taste it,” Maria said.
“We have salad,” Bobby said as Rachael scooped it into bowls. “I made it.”
“Yes he did, a lot of it. I just cut things up for him. Do you like it?” Rachael asked the boy.
“I do. It is yummy. Just like the soldiers.”
“Soldiers?” Maria asked.
“I cut up a carrot into sticks, and told him they were soldiers. He needed a snack when he got in.”
“Oh yes, Mrs. Hubble always gave him something. I don’t think we have cookies. A carrot was a good idea. Healthy, too.”
“Yeah, two thirds of this household is overweight, so I think healthy eating is something we should aim for. That’s why I made the salad.”
“I wonder what happened to Mrs. Hubble?” Maria said.
“I don’t know, maybe you should call?”
“Maybe she’s dead?” Bobby said.
“Bobby!” both Rachael and Maria said.
“I will look into it. I know Mrs. Hubble’s daughter, Jill … maybe she can explain.”
The three of them chatted through the meal, which both Bobby and Maria claimed was excellent. When they were done, Rachael asked Bobby to clear the table, and he started to object. She merely said “Please,” and the boy decided to comply.
Maria phoned Mrs. Hubble’s daughter while Rachael went out back to take in the wash, which had dried in the spring sunshine. She came back in to see her mother staring at her.
“Laundry? And I see you did a lot of housework, too. The place looks great.”
“Yeah, I’ll tell you why later. I need to help out more around here. You work so hard for us.” Rachael put down the laundry on the couch, and the two of them started to fold things.
“Well, it’s going to get worse,” Maria said. “I just spoke to Jill, and her Mom had a stroke. She isn’t going to be available to look after Bobby for a couple months, at the best. Anyone else is going to want twice the money. I don’t know where we can find an extra $50 a week for babysitting.”
“Well, I could do it, Mom. Bobby and I got along well today. I could tend him on the days you work.”
“Yeah, we had fun today. Rachael wasn’t mean even once,” Bobby chirped up. Neither of the women even realized that he was paying attention to them, and not the TV.
“I don’t know if you are mature enough, Rachael,” Maria said. “This isn’t something you can just do when you feel like it.”
“I know that mother,” she replied. “But you need me for tomorrow, and probably the rest of the week. You won’t be able to find someone else sooner even if you tried. I want to do it a bit differently though. My school gets out 15 minutes before Bobby’s, and I’d like to walk there, and then both of us will walk home. We would pass that new DaSilva’s market, and get some healthy veggies and stuff for dinner, and the walk will be good for us. We both need more exercise.”
“Well, I would have to call the schools to get permission for you to not take the buses. I have to call your school anyway; to it will just be one additional call. Both ways, or just home?”
“Just home for now. Maybe later when we can get our act together in the mornings we can walk to school as well. I don’t want to be all sweaty when we get to school.”
“Can I get some money for food at the market? Maybe $10?”
“I think $20 will be closer to what you need for meals for three. And I think you should treat this as a job. I’ll give you the money that I was giving Mrs. Hubble. It isn’t much, but it will let you get some new clothes from time to time.”
“Thrift store is good enough for me,” she said. “The girls at school tease me about it, but I don’t care.”
Maria got a pained look on her face. “Is that what has caused all your problems this year? I wish we had more money, but there isn’t much I can do.”
“Mom, you do more than enough for all of us, and I, and Bobby, are going to help more in the future. You don’t need to pay me anything.”
“Yes I do. A girl needs new things now and then, and you have been deprived of a lot of what your classmates have. I want you to have the $50 I gave Mrs. Hubble, and grocery money on top of that for anything you buy.”
“Well, let’s make a deal. You give me $20, and keep $30 for yourself. You need some nice things for yourself. Bobby and I have the hottest Mom in town, and we want you to show yourself off more.”
Maria blushed, and then hugged her daughter. “Okay, final offer is $20 for me and $30 for you. And maybe when we have some money saved we can have a mother-daughter shopping spree.”
“I would like that.”
The next hour passed quickly. Maria said it was her turn to do the dishes, and there were a lot with all the cooking pots and pans. But Rachael insisted on helping, and dried as her mother washed, letting them chat as they worked. Before long the pair of them had the kitchen spotless again.
“Bobby,” Maria said. “Bedtime.”
“Aw Mom, just a little longer,” he pleaded.
“No. Now. You need to have a bath and then straight to bed.”
“Tell you what, Bobby,” Rachael said. “You do your bath quick now, and when you are ready for bed come and get me and I’ll read you a story.”
The boy’s eyes widened. “Really?”
“Yup, but only if you are in the bath in 2 minutes.” That caused the boy to tear upstairs to his room, and a minute later they heard the water running in the tub.
“So who are you and what have you done with my daughter?” Maria joked.
Rachael smiled. Her new Mom didn’t know how close her joke came to being true. “I need to explain why I left school at lunch, today.”
“I hope you had a good reason.”
“I don’t know how good it was, but it was important. I came home early to commit suicide.”
“What!” Maria nearly screeched.
“Yes. I had planned it all out. There is a ladder and a rope in the garage. I had everything set up. I was on the ladder and just had to loop the rope through the rafter and then I could have done it.”
“You were going to hang yourself?”
“I just wanted everything to end. It’s hard being a teenager these days.”
“Oh honey. I knew there was something wrong, but I just didn’t know what. I would have gotten help for you if I did.”
“That is part of it. I didn’t want to be a burden anymore. All the other girls have new, fancy clothes, and they tease me for being a Raggedy Ann. I know you would have gotten me counselling, but that costs a fortune, and we don’t have the money. I … I thought I knew the solution.”
“Sweetheart, that is never the solution.”
“I know that now. I started to see things clearly on the ladder. I stopped looking at what was wrong with the world, and started looking at what was wrong with me.”
Mom stopped talking and enfolded Rachael in a motherly hug. The former man was astounded at how right and perfect it felt, and soon both of them were crying. “Don’t ever do that again,” Maria sobbed.
“I won’t. I have set myself a new plan. But since I am being totally honest with you …” Rachael rolled up the sleeves on her shirt.
“My Baby,” Maria gasped as she saw the scars. “How … how long have you been doing this?”
“A couple years. Not so much till last summer, but a lot since school this fall. Last Friday was the last time. Not the last time so far, but the last time ever. I will never do this again either.”
“Good. But I wish I knew. I, I guess I knew you were having troubles as school, but not that it was this bad. We could have moved you to another school.”
“That would have cost so much,” Rachael said. “And really the problem wasn’t the school as much as me. I just wouldn’t allow myself to fit in. The other girls have new clothes, and newer cell phones, iPads and computers, and I am out of all that. They seemed to all be beautiful and I thought I was ugly. That’s why I hacked my hair off a couple weeks ago. But that just made me uglier and more of a misfit to them.”
“Baby, you are beautiful,” Maria said.
“I know that now. And looking at you I think I will even be more beautiful if I got some of your genes and not just something from my deadbeat Dad. I need to lose weight, and so does Bobby. You are fit because of your job, but kids today aren’t allowed to be fit, so we get fat. That’s why Bobby and I have to start walking home from school on the days when it is not raining hard.”
“Don’t overdo the dieting,” Maria said. “That can be dangerous too.”
“I’m not going to get anorexic on you,” Rachael giggled. “I’m going to be cook, and with a growing boy in the family we won’t be able to stint on food.”
“You don’t need to cook every night. I can bring stuff home from the restaurant. It is half price for me, and free if someone rejects a meal.”
“Well Mom, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but there is a reason that place is referred to as a greasy spoon. Maybe once a week you could bring home a pizza. Just as a treat for Bobby. He doesn’t know how hard high school will be for him in a couple years if he is still chubby. I have a plan for him though: making exercise a game, and eating healthy fun.”
“Honey, you don’t need to do all this. But I have to admit I was astonished when I saw him eating salad tonight … and liking it.”
“Well, he wanted to help, and I kinda let him think what he was doing was the important parts. So he almost had to like the salad he made himself.”
“And ‘soldiers’ for a snack. That is great, creative thinking. Anyway, I’m glad you decided to share all this with me. For the last couple years you have seemed more and more closed off to me. Can we keep it going?”
“I hope so. There is one thing I would like you to do.”
“This Sunday, can we go to church, as a family? I know you aren’t very religious, but I think I am. Now.”
“Rachael, if Jesus saved you from stepping off that ladder, then I love Jesus more than I can say. I’d love to go to church with you this Sunday, and every Sunday. Bobby might not be happy about it, but he will come too.”
“Speaking of which,” Rachael said, nodding towards the top of the stairs. Bobby was standing there, still a bit damp from his bath, wearing nothing but his little pair of briefs.
“You said there was a story?” He asked, as his mother giggled at the sight of her son.
“Sure thing, Tiger. I’ll be right up there. But if you aren’t under the covers when I get there, there won’t be a story.”
Rachael gave her mother a tight and satisfying hug, and then started up the stairs. She tried to access a memory on where the books were, and found out that there weren’t any kid’s books in the house. Neither Rachael nor her brother had been read to, and books were an expense that Maria couldn’t afford when food, rent and clothing were so difficult to afford.
Rachael found Bobby under the covers, as requested, and lay down on the bed on top of the covers. She tried to think of a story that she could do from memory. As she did, she felt her brother’s little arms encircle her, “I love you, Rachael,” he said in a squeaky voice. Rachael choked up for a minute. How could the old Rachael have missed the love for her that had been in this house, just waiting to be tapped.
“I love you too, squirt,” she finally was able to say after fighting tears for a moment. Bobby didn’t seem to notice her emotional state. “I wish we had some books here. They have pictures and stuff. But I will try to do my best.”
Rachael told him Red Riding Hood and the Three Bears. Then she started The Ugly Duckling, thinking it was especially apt to her situation, but found half way through that she didn’t remember how it ended. It turned out not to matter, because when she started to fumble on the plot, she turned and looked to find her little brother fast asleep, with a beatific smile on his face.
“I’m going to bed now too,” Rachael told her mother. “I will get Bobby ready for school in the morning. You need a chance to sleep in. Just remember to call our schools before you go to work so that we can walk home after classes. And maybe you can get me out of trouble for skipping out today.”
With that Rachael went upstairs and into her room. Knowing she was going to be busy in the morning, she decided to lay out her clothes for school tomorrow. Her meagre clothing collection didn’t leave much choice, and a lot of it tended towards the Goth look she had affected lately. She selected a black denim miniskirt. Tops were almost all black and long-sleeved. There was one yellow one with short sleeves, and she considered wearing it. It was important that she own up to her scars and not hide them, but in the end she decided everything didn’t have to happen on day one at school. Instead she decided to wear the pink top, since she had only worn it for a few hours today.
Normally she wore heavy boots with her gear, but she decided to put her somewhat soiled generic running shoes with her other things. She got a clean bra and panties from her intimate’s drawer, glad that she had done laundry this afternoon.
She lay down in bed, and then sensed something was wrong. After a moment it came to her. She got up, and kneeled down by the side of the bed and prayed silently.
The first day is over, although I guess it really only is a part day. I hope I am doing all that you want me to. I really like this family. They have it rough. There isn’t much money here, but there seems to be a lot of love, and that really is what is important, isn’t it? I’m going to make sure that Rachael kicks in her share. Bobbie is so cute, please keep him safe. Mom is great. So pretty and young, and working so hard to keep her kids. Maybe you can find her a good guy. Tomorrow is school, and I’m not really looking forward to that, based on Rachael’s memories. She really did seem to be cut adrift with no friends. It will be hard to make new ones this far into the school year, but I will try. I hope that I am doing what you all wanted me to.
At that point, Rachael felt a definite sign, as a wave of warmth and love spread over her. She knew instantly that the angel John, or someone, had heard her prayer, and was responding silently.
“Amen,” she said. As she got up she turned and saw her mother standing at the door watching her. “G’night love,” Maria said.
“Nite, Mom,” Rachael replied, crawling back into bed.
Maria turned and went to bed herself, stopping for a moment after she changed into her nightgown, and then also kneeled and prayed. She had to give thanks for the day she had been given, with her daughter now talking to her like an adult instead of a spoiled child, and especially for her not having killed herself. Maria sobbed a bit, thinking of what might have been, and then gave a heartfelt thanks to a Lord she hadn’t spoken to in 20 years.
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