My Heart Beats For You

By: Tina Marie

Chapter 1- Inaya

I can feel the heat from the sun wake me up. The sun represents hope for me, hope and a safe place. I am afraid of the dark and most nights I stay awake all night waiting for the sun to peek through the blinds before I can finally close my eyes and get some rest. I yawn as I cuddle closer to Kadia on the hard floor. I can feel her little legs stretching out until she is kicking me. She has her tiny arms wrapped around my neck and I can feel the sweat from her body dripping onto me, mingling with my sweat. It was already hot before the sunbeams helped roast us further.

“Mmmm” Kadia whimpered in her sleep as she rolled onto her belly and her head flopped off of the pillow and hit the carpeted floor. Only a kid will sleep after their head bounces onto the rough carpet in a house that is a hundred plus degrees inside, without waking up. Slowly easing away from her so she wouldn’t wake up I sat against the side of the bed .These are the times the guilt threatens to drown me, but what can I do?

The alarm on my phone won’t stop going off and I know it is time to get Kadia ready for school while I am supposed to go on a job interview. I want to call my cousin Sahnai but my battery is at fifty percent and with the electricity off, I cannot afford to let my phone die.

Just thinking of our new daily routine makes the tears drip from my eyes and I hate hearing Kadia cry out when I have to wash her in the dark bathroom in cold water.

The electricity runs the hot water heater and the furnace-and everything else we need to survive in this place. We have beds in our own rooms but I am afraid to let Kadia sleep in a pitch black house in a room all alone. What if she gets scared and tries to find me? She could fall down the stairs or trip over a toy on the floor and get hurt. As for the bed in my room, we sleep on the floor because it’s just too hot right now to sleep on a bed, shit heat rises.

Thank God the school provides breakfast and lunch for Kadia. I work in a daycare so I also get those two meals provided for me. When it comes to dinner, we struggle. Sometimes I go to the corner store and buy us hot pockets and cold subs with my food stamp card, and then I use the Arab store microwave to heat up anything that needs to be warmed before we go home. The funny thing is I have over a thousand dollars in food stamps on my card but I cannot buy groceries because the fridge won’t work without electricity. So month after month they just keep giving me food stamps knowing I have nowhere to store the food, I use some of them to buy food for Kadia at my mother’s house and buy us food from the corner store but if I don’t use them by next month I lose the old ones. They only stay on the card for four months before they are forfeited back to the state.

On the nights I have class I use the credit on my student ID to buy chips and snacks out of the vending machine. I swear those snacks be keeping me awake, especially in my child psych class. Not sure why that is needed to become a science teacher but it is. The best thing about those nights while I am in class is that Kadia gets to eat good at my mom’s house-a real home cooked dinner-and I am grateful for that.

“Kadia, Kadia. Wake up baby,” I told my four-year-old daughter while gently picking her up off the floor. I took the time to run my hand over her pig tails, pushing the barrettes out of her face. My lips made smacking noises as I kissed her chubby little cheeks.

“Morning Mama, I am hungry and it is so hot. When will the fans work again?”

“Soon baby, momma is working on a new job,” I said while giving her a reassuring smile. I wish I could snap my fingers and just have the money to pay the light bill or buy anything Kadia wants and needs. Unfortunately, life is not that easy. I am lucky if I get thirty hours a week at the day care and I only make eight dollars an hour which is barely enough to put gas in the car to get to work and school and pay my portion of the rent. I know someday this will not always be our situation but today it is.

As I look in the mirror using my phone as a flashlight, I still see a pretty face staring back. Except this pretty face is tired. My light brown eyes look droopy and my eyebrows are bushy. My light skin doesn’t have a glow to it anymore, instead it looks pale and chalky-even my cheeks have a sunken in look to them. A few days ago I overheard two of my classmates talking about me after my teaching seminar course. The ugly red head asked the ashy one if she thought I was on drugs. They’d decided at the end of the conversation that must be why I looked unkempt and had lost so much weight. They sealed the deal with a sad shake of their heads and a laugh. Honestly I didn’t know whether to be angry or just sad. But I did not even have the energy to entertain their nonsense. I am not a punk but there is no explanation for my circumstances to the outside world, so I let it go.

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