That evening, Connie came to Guy’s house to pick up Colby. “Shhh,?Guy warned as she came to the door, “he just fell asleep.?
“Asleep by seven? You must have really tired him out,?she whispered.
“Yeah, we had a fun day.?
“I’m glad.? They stood in silence for a moment.
“You must be exhausted. Why don’t I carry him home for you??he offered. Connie had no car and lived about two blocks away. She sighed happily.
“Thanks, that would be great.? Guy disappeared for a moment and returned with the sleeping toddler in his arms. Connie softly stroked her son’s hair. The look on her face told him what he already knew, but could never fully grasp. She was a mother. She lived for her son, and her life was not her own. They walked down the street side by side in silence.
“I don’t know how you do it,?Guy said suddenly. “You’re so amazing.?
“Are you trying to pick me up??she joked. He thought for a second.
“Yeah, maybe I am,?he said seriously, as they stopped in front of her apartment. She looked away. He looked as his feet.
“I’ll carry him up for you,?Guy offered.
“No thanks, I can manage.?
“Really, I don’t mind,?he urged.
“No,?she said with an unexpected amount of conviction. Guy was puzzled.
“What did I say? Connie, please...what’s wrong? Are you angry with me? What can I do??
“Just leave me alone,?her voice trembled slightly. She lifted her son from his chest. “Please..I don’t need this right now.?
“Need what? Connie, I’m just trying to be helpful.?
“You don’t understand...it would be so easy to just...to just invite you up....?
“Then why don’t you??Guy asked.
“Because tomorrow morning you’ll be gone, and Colby will still be here.? Guy sighed, at least partially understanding what she was trying to tell him. She looked very tired. He dropped the subject.
“How about you let me look after him tomorrow, too. You can have some time for yourself.?
“I’m working tomorrow. But you can take him if you want to.?
“Connie! Take a day off! You look worn out.? She scoffed. “That’s because I am. And it’s not that easy and you know it.?
“Yeah.?He knew she was barely making ends meet. Her parents had kicked her out shortly after they found out she was pregnant. She had to go on social assistance for a while and once she finally got the job at the diner, she swore she would never go on it again. But it was hard for her to make ends meet on a waitress?salary. Then he remembered the money. “Oh, here,?he pulled some bills out of his pocket and handed them to her, “I hope that helps some.? She stuffed the bills quickly into her pocket, as if she was embarrassed to be taking money from him.
“Thanks,?she mumbled, and quickly unlocked the door to the run-down apartment building. “I work at eight,?she added, and scurried inside and up the stairs. Guy was left standing outside the door, alone in the darkness. He didn’t really feel like getting up that early in the morning. But he would do it for his son. And for Connie.
Connie fumbled with the keys before she managed to unlock the door to her apartment. “Home, sweet home,?she thought sarcastically to herself as she flipped on the light. It wasn’t much of a home, she concluded. In fact, it was only one room. To the right was what she called her kitchen: a counter with a microwave, a sink, some overhead cupboards and a mini fridge. There was a real kitchen with a stove at the end of the hall, but she shared it with the ten other tenants on the floor, along with the bathroom. In the middle of the room was a small table and four chairs, and the back wall had a closet and her son’s crib. She placed him in it gently, being careful not to wake him. The right side of the room had a dresser by the door with a tv and vcr on top, and a mattress on the floor against the right wall - her bed. Most of the rest of the floor space was covered with toys.
Connie quickly slipped out of her shoes and uniform and put them neatly in the closet. She put on a pair of pyjamas from the dresser and sat at the table, happy to finally be off her feet. She opened the cookie jar and dumped out its contents: some money, some pieces of paper, a pen and a calculator. She counted the money and looked at the pieces of paper and punched some keys on the calculator, hoping that tonight the numbers would come out right. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t. Tonight they didn’t. “Where does my money go??she said out loud to herself. She knew where it went. It went into rent and food and diapers and clothes and toys and things she would have never thought of before she lived on her own with a baby. Things like toothpaste and haircuts and birthday presents and baby sitters and cold medicine and sippy cups...the list was endless.
But it wasn’t hopeless. She had already saved almost a thousand dollars. She needed to get a real apartment. She wanted a car and a high school diploma and a nice Christmas for her son. This year he was old enough to expect presents, she realized. Next week she would be getting all the overtime she’d worked today, and that would help. And Guy would help. She remembered the money Guy had given her.
She got up and took the bills from her uniform pocket and sat back down at the table to count them. He wasn’t very consistent with his money, but he tried to give her something every couple weeks or so. As she sorted through the bills she found a piece of paper, folded small. A note? She unfolded it and gasped . It was a note, printed in shaky fifth grade handwriting. Her shaky fifth grade writing. It read:
“Dear Guy, I think that you are really nice and I like you a lot. I want to be your girlfriend. If you want me to be your girlfriend come tell me at recess. I will meet you by the swings and you can tell me then. From Connie. P.S. Don’t tell anybody that I want to be your girlfriend.?
She couldn’t help but smile at the memory and how innocent she had been. She had passed him the note in the middle of English class and he had met her by the swings at recess and he did want her to be his girlfriend. They were both ten years old. Her mother said that was much too young to have a boyfriend. She had a worried look that Connie didn’t understand. Now she did. Now Connie understood that her mother was worried that if she started with boys at too young an age, she’s be doing everything at too young an age. And she did. By the time she was ten she was dating him , by eleven was in love with him, by twelve she was making out with him, by thirteen she was obsessed with him, by fourteen she was having sex with him, by fifteen she was giving birth to his son.
She didn’t want to think about it anymore tonight. It wasn’t that long ago. The memories were still so sharp. She turned off the light, crawled into her bed and tried not to think about bad memories or work tomorrow, or the fact that her bed was just a mattress on the floor. She turned on tv and watched a few sitcoms before finally falling asleep.
It was seven thirty in the morning. Guy walked sleepily to Connie’s apartment building and rang the buzzer. “It’s me,?he said simply into the intercom. He expected her to say she would be coming down in a minute, but instead she buzzed him in. He climbed the stairs to her apartment. He knew where she lived but he had never seen it before. Before he could knock on the door she flung it open. On the other side of the door was a hurricane. Colby was screaming and crying and throwing blocks. Connie was running frantically to find her shoes, fix her hair, and put on lipstick at the same time. The tiny room was in chaos. Guy stood in the doorway, stunned.
“Okay be home at four the extra keys are on the table make sure he takes a nap he was up at five thirty good bye Colby thanks Guy?she said in one breath as she glided past Guy and out the door to work.
“Yeah, bye,?he muttered, but she was already gone. Alone with the screaming toddler, he stepped inside and closed the door behind him. Colby suddenly stopped crying and looked at him