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T E N Y E A R S A G O
NEW YORK CITY
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[ K A R A ]
“Mom! I’m home!” I exclaimed as I pushed the door open and raced towards the kitchen. Grandma followed right behind me, and she was carrying my backpack and my third grade report card.
Today was a big day. It was the last day of school before summer vacation starts, so I was absolutely energetic. Not to mention, my eighth birthday was tomorrow, and mom had promised a very special present, a trip to Disneyworld.
My mom just recently got a job as an air stewardess for American Airlines. As a perk for working for the airlines, mom was given travel credits and she said we could use it to go to Disney. I thought that was the best thing ever created since sliced bread. For years, I was a huge Disney nerd, and going to Disney was my lifelong dream.
“Hey, kiddo,” said a man dressed in a pilot’s uniform, standing in the middle of our kitchen.
“You’re not my mommy,” I eyed him suspiciously.
The strange man laughed away, but I wasn’t amused. Thankfully, mom appeared not too long after that. She had changed out of her stewardess uniform and she was wearing a fancy dress. Too fancy to wear inside the house.
“Kara, sweetie, this is Carl, this is mom’s friend,” she said to me.
“Okay,” I shrugged. I didn’t care about Carl, mom had so many guy friends, it was hard to keep track. I wanted to direct my mom’s attention to something far more important, so I tugged on her dress and said, “Mom, guess what? It’s Friday today,”
“I know it’s Friday. That’s why I’m all dressed up. Carl and I are going to watch a show on Broadway and maybe get some dinner after that,” she replied as she straightened her long velvet dress.
“Oh,” I paused for a beat before asking, “But, we’re still going to Disney tomorrow for my birthday, right? We’ve packed and everything,”
“Of course we are,” she said reassuringly. “Now, mommy has to go, but grandma’s gonna stay with you tonight,”
Mom gave me a quick kiss on the cheek before returning back to Carl. Carl responded by putting a hand on the small of my mom’s back, and I noticed the wedding band around his finger. The two of them then started walking towards the front door, and I found myself following her out.
“But mom, will you be back before Disney?” I asked again, just before Carl and her were about to walk out the door.
“Of course, I promise,” she smiled and waved goodbye. “I’ll be back first thing tomorrow morning,”
“See ya later, Kiddo,” Carl said to me.
“My name is not Kiddo,” I corrected him.
“Oh, she’s so cute,” he chuckled and disappeared out the door.
“Bye, sweetheart,” mom said again before the door closed in front of my face.
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Not wanting to be pessimistic, I took mom for her word and packed my little pink suitcase later that night. Grandma helped me pack and she made sure that I got my sunscreen and everything. I was so excited about Disney, I went to sleep watching The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in the DVR. I went to sleep believing that tomorrow was going to be the best day ever. Unfortunately, the next morning, I woke up to my grandma loudly screaming into the telephone.
“Lacey! You are not doing this to your daughter! I don’t care if you’re in the Hamptons or in South Africa. This is your daughter’s eight birthday. You promised her you’d be here. I raised you better than this!”
Talk about a rude awakening.
“She’s your child and I’m her grandmother! I’m not supposed to be here raising her. You get your ass back home right now!”
My fingers went to rub my tired eyes as I got off the bed and made my way out of my room. Grandma was pacing back and forth in the kitchen with her cellphone stuck to her ear. Once grandma spotted me, she gasped in shock and she had a sorry look on her face. I knew grandma didn’t mean to wake me up by yelling so loudly into the phone, but she forgot that we live in a small apartment in New York City. She could be whispering in the kitchen and I would still be able to hear her in my room.
“Fine, whatever, but you owe her big time,” grandma sighed into the phone. “And you owe me big time too!”
I could make out my mom’s voice from grandma’s cellphone. She said about ‘thank you’ and ‘see you later’.
“Grandma? Is everything okay?” I asked her as soon as she put the phone down. “Is mom coming soon? Are you going back to New Jersey?”
My grandma lived in New Jersey, and she was only supposed to watch over me last night. This morning, mom was going to come home and we would go to LaGuardia airport for our trip.
Grandma shook her head and put her hand on my cheek. “No sweetie, grandma’s going to be here for another day,”
“But, mom and I are leaving for Disney?”
“Kara, I’m so sorry dear,” she sighed. “Turns out, you can’t go to Disney today,”
“What? Why?” I whined.
“Your mom’s… out of town… for work,”
“But, but… she promised…”
“I know, dear. I’m sorry. But, I’ll tell you what? I’ll take you to the movies and then we can go to the park. We can also go to that diner you like and get you some cake?”
That sounded lovely and all, but I already packed for Disney. I was wearing my favorite Minnie Mouse underwear and everything.
“But… what about Disneyworld?” I protested.
“You can go to Disneyworld with your mom next year? Okay?”
Not okay. So not okay. But even then at eight years old, I knew there was nothing I could do. As a single mother, my mom was never home a lot, and my grandma was powerless. I was told that everyone was doing their best, so I knew not to be an entitled brat. All I could do right now was to accept defeat and maybe change into a different underwear.
“You promise?” I asked grandma longingly.
“I promise,” she said.
I heard that word being thrown around a lot, and the older I got, the more meaningless it got as well. It was at this birthday that I realized you couldn’t ever depend on other people, because people will always break your heart.
“Grandma,” I said after she sat me down on the kitchen counter. She had her back turned to me as she was making some breakfast.
“Where’s my dad?”
Grandma turned around instinctively. She then let out a sigh and said, “He’s a sad excuse of a man, Kara. You don’t need someone like him in your life. You have your mom and you have me,”
Unlike most of my friends in my school, my mom and dad were never together. They had split up even before I was born. I heard that he was a successful man and that he spent a lot of time in Europe. I was told that we had met when he was in New York, but I didn’t remember much because I was only three years old. I knew that was a petty question to ask my grandma, but I was eight, and I was desperate for some type of birthday miracle of any kind.
“Mom’s not even here,” I sulked.
Grandma pulled me into a hug and stroked my hair gently. With her gaze fixed on the wall behind me, she said, “Your mom is… in love right now. And the thing about love… Love can make people do some very stupid things, like being away from their sweet baby,”
I didn’t quite understand what she meant by that, but I had a feeling that my mom was like my friend Macy at school. Macy used to be my best friend until she started liking Connor and now all she wanted to do was eat lunch with Connor. Carl was my mom’s Connor of the week. She was leaving me so she could have lunch with him.
“Just promise me, Kara, when you grow up someday, you’ll have better taste in men,” grandma said suddenly.
“I promise,” I nodded my head.
It was at this moment when I realized that I wanted to be better than Macy or my mom. I didn’t want to be that girl that waits around for someone to love her back.
I promise, I’m never going to fall in love.
That way, I’ll never have to feel disappointed again when someone promised they’d take me to Disneyworld and they didn't.
I promise, I’ll be better.
- - - - - To Be Continued - - - - -