I think about kidnapping Diem sometimes. I’m not sure why I don’t follow through with it. It’s not like there’s a worse life for me than the one I’m currently living. At least when I was in prison, I had a reason I was unable to see my daughter.
But right now, the only reason is the people raising her. And it hurts to hate the people raising her. I don’t want to hate them. When I was in prison, it was harder to blame them, because I was so grateful she had people who were taking care of her.
But from right here in this lonely apartment, it’s hard not to think of how great it would be to take Diem and go on the run. Even if it was just for a few days before I got caught. I could give her everything while I had her. Ice cream, presents, maybe a trip to Disney World. We’d have a lavish weeklong celebration before I turned myself in, and she’d remember it forever.
She’d remember me.
And then, by the time I got out of prison for kidnapping her, she’d be an adult. And she’d probably forgive me, because who wouldn’t appreciate a mother who would risk going back to prison just to experience one good week with their daughter?
The only thing preventing me from taking her is the possibility that Patrick and Grace might change their minds someday. What if they have a change of heart and I get to meet Diem without having to break the law to do it?
And there’s also the fact that she doesn’t know me at all. She doesn’t even love me. I’d be ripping her from the only parents she knows, and
while that might sound appealing to me, it would more than likely be horrifying for Diem.
I don’t want to make selfish decisions. I want to be a good example for Diem, because someday she’ll find out who I am and that I wanted to be in her life. It might be thirteen years from now before she’s able to decide for herself whether or not she wants anything to do with me, and for that reason alone, I’m going to live the next thirteen years in a way that will hopefully make her proud.
I snuggle up to Ivy and try to fall asleep, but I can’t. There are so many thoughts swimming around in my head, and none of my thoughts ever settle. I’ve had insomnia since the night Scotty died.
I spend my nights awake, thinking about Diem and Scotty. And now, thoughts of Ledger are added to the mix.
Part of me is still so mad at him for intercepting me at their house this past weekend. But part of me feels a sense of hope when I’m around him. He doesn’t seem to hate me. Yes, he regrets kissing me, but I don’t care about that. I don’t even know why I asked him that question. I just wonder if he regrets it because he was Scotty’s best friend, or because of what I did to Scotty. Probably both.
I want Ledger to see the side of me that Scotty saw so that I might have someone on my side.
It’s really fucking lonely when the only friends you have are a teenager and a kitten.
I should have made more of an effort with Scotty’s mom when he was alive. I wonder if that would have made a difference.
The night I met Scotty’s parents was probably the strangest night of my life.
I’d seen families like theirs on television, but never in person before. I honestly didn’t know they existed. Parents who got along and seemed to like each other.
They met us in the driveway. It had been three weeks since Scotty had been home, and they looked like they hadn’t seen him in years. They hugged him. Not like a hello hug, but an I missed you hug. A you’re the best son in the world hug.
They hugged me, too, but it was a different hug. Quick, hello, nice to meet you hug.
When we went inside the house, Grace said she needed to finish up dinner, and I know I should have told her I’d help, but I didn’t know my way around a kitchen, and I was afraid she’d smell the inexperience on me. So instead, I stuck to Scotty’s side like glue. I was nervous and I felt out of place, and he was the closest to a home that I could get.
They even prayed. Scotty said the prayer. It was so earth shattering for me to be sitting at a dinner table, listening to a guy thank God for his meal and his family and me. It was too surreal to keep my eyes closed. I wanted to take it all in, to see what other people looked like as they prayed. I wanted to stare at this family because it was hard to wrap my head around the idea that if I married Scotty, this would be mine. I would have these parents, and this meal would be something I helped cook, and I’d learn how to thank God for my food and for Scotty. I wanted it. I craved it.
Something I was wholly unfamiliar with.
I saw Grace peek up right at the end of the prayer, and she caught me looking around. I immediately closed my eyes, but at that point Scotty said, “Amen,” and everyone picked up their forks, and Grace already had an opinion of me, and I was too scared and too young to know how to change it.
It seemed hard for them to look at me during dinner. I shouldn’t have worn the shirt I had on. It was low cut. Scotty’s favorite. I spent the whole meal hunched over my plate, embarrassed about myself and all the things I wasn’t.
After dinner, Scotty and I sat out on his back porch. His parents went to bed, and as soon as their bedroom light turned off, I breathed a sigh of relief. I felt like I was being graded.
“Hold this,” Scotty said, handing me his cigarette. “I have to pee.” He smoked occasionally. I didn’t mind it, but I didn’t smoke. It was dark out, and he walked around to the side of the house. I was standing on his back porch leaning against the railing when his mother appeared at the back door.
I straightened up and tried to hide the cigarette behind my back, but she’d already seen it. She walked away and then returned with a red Solo cup a moment later.
“Use this for your ashes,” she said, handing it to me out the back door. “We don’t have an ashtray. None of us smoke.”
I was mortified, but all I could say was “Thank you,” and then I took the cup from her. She closed the back door just as Scotty came back for his cigarette.
“Your mother hates me,” I said, handing him the cigarette and the cup. “No, she doesn’t.” He kissed me on the forehead. “The two of you will
be best friends someday.” He took a final drag of his cigarette, and then I followed him back inside the house.
He carried me up the stairs on his back, but when I saw all the pictures of him that lined the stairwell, I made him stop at each one so I could look at them. They were so happy. The way his mother looked at him in the photos is the same way she looked at him as an adult.
“What kid is that cute?” I asked him. “They should have had three more of you.”
“They tried,” he said. “Apparently I was a miracle baby. Otherwise, they probably would have had seven or eight.”
That made me sad for Grace.
We got to his room, and Scotty dropped me onto his bed. He said, “You never talk about your family.”
“I don’t have one.”
“What about your parents?”
“My father is . . . somewhere. He got tired of paying child support, so he bolted. My mother and I don’t get along. I haven’t spoken to her in a couple of years.”
“We just aren’t compatible.”
“What do you mean?” Scotty sprawled out next to me on the bed. He seemed genuinely curious about my life, and I wanted to tell him the truth, but I also didn’t want to scare him away. He grew up in such a normal household; I wasn’t sure how he would feel knowing I didn’t.
“I was alone a lot,” I said. “She always made sure I had food, but she neglected me to the point I was put in foster care twice. Both times they sent me back to live with her, though. It’s like she was shitty, but not shitty enough. I think after growing up and seeing other families, I started to realize she wasn’t a good mother. Or even a good person. It became really hard to coexist. It was like she felt I was her competition and not on her team. It was exhausting. After I moved out, we stayed in touch for a while,
but then she just stopped calling. And I stopped calling her. We haven’t spoken in two years.” I looked at Scotty, and he had the saddest look on his face. He didn’t say anything. He just brushed my hair back and stayed quiet. “What was it like having a good family?” I asked him.
“I’m not sure I knew how good it was until just now,” he replied. “Yes, you did. You love your parents. And this house. I can tell.”
He smiled gently. “I don’t know if I can explain it. But being here . . . it’s like I can be my truest, most authentic self. I can cry. I can be in a bad mood, or sad, or happy. Any of those moods are accepted here. I don’t feel that anywhere else.”
The way he described it made me sad I never had it. “I don’t know what that’s like,” I said.
Scotty bent down and kissed my hand. “I’ll give it to you,” he said. “We’ll get a house together someday. And I’ll let you pick everything out. You can paint it however you want. You can lock the door and only let the people in that you want in there. It’ll be the most comfortable place you’ve ever lived.”
I smiled. “That sounds like heaven.”
He kissed me then. Made love to me. And as quiet as I tried to be, the house was even quieter.
The next morning when we were leaving, Scotty’s mother couldn’t look me in the eye. Her embarrassment seeped into me, and I knew for certain in that moment she didn’t like me.
As we were pulling out of his driveway, I pressed my forehead against the passenger window of Scotty’s car. “That was mortifying. I think your mother heard us last night. Did you see how tense she was?”
“It’s jarring for her,” Scotty said. “She’s my mother. She can’t imagine me screwing any girl; it has nothing to do with you in particular.”
I fell back against the seat and sighed. “I liked your dad.”
Scotty laughed. “You’ll love my mother too. Next time we visit them, I’ll make sure and fuck you before we get here so she can pretend I don’t do things like that.”
“And maybe stop smoking.”
Scotty grabbed my hand. “I can do that. Next time, she’ll love you so much, she’ll be pushing for a wedding and grandbabies.”
“Yeah,” I said wistfully. “Maybe.” But I doubted it.
Girls like me just didn’t seem to fit in with any family.