Their Little Girl

By: L.J. Anderson

The last six months of my life had been difficult to say the least.

Since it was my senior year of high school, I’d been working my ass off trying to pass all my tests just so I could keep my grade point average up in hopes of landing a scholarship.

Unlike most teenage girls, I didn’t date or hang out with girlfriends. I hadn’t even been to a high school party or dance, and prom was the furthest thing from my mind.

Much to my displeasure, I wasn’t one of those brainy kids either, the ones that always seemed to know all the answers. Grades didn’t come easy. I had to work hard for them studying non-stop if I even wanted to be considered for those coveted college scholarships. I wasn’t under any delusions about my chances, either. If I didn’t get one, I’d end up having to spend the next several months working at the local fast food chain or the mall just to save up enough money for a semester’s worth of classes.

Our family wasn’t destitute or anything, but I knew Mark, my stepdad, just hadn’t planned on paying the tuition of a second child after sending my stepbrother David off to university just three years earlier.

The flake that she was, my mother hadn’t planned for my education at all.

To be honest, I would have been highly surprised if she gave a damn whether I graduated high school much less attended college.

For a while, I’d been thinking that it felt like she no longer cared about me or our family, and she ended up proving my theory true when she abandoned us to run off with some rich old man a mere three months into my senior year.

I didn’t think I’d ever understand how a mother could just run away from her family like that, but then maybe I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was when my own mother left. She gave no excuse, no reassurance that she loved me or wanted me to leave with her.

I’d always known my mother was a selfish person, but the depths of her greed seemed to know no bounds. My desperate attempt to elicit an explanation, to find out what we’d done wrong to make her want to leave was met with irritation and anger. She wanted me out of her way, and out of her life as quickly as possible, but I needed more than that.

When I asked what I was supposed to do without her, she walked out the door telling me Mark would look after me – at least until I turned eighteen.

Then what?

Did she really expect me to fend for myself? How did she know he would continue to look after me? She didn’t, really. She assumed Mark would because he’d watched over his adopted stepson, David, after his first wife died, but those circumstances were completely different.

When Mark came home that night and wondered why I was sitting on the porch bawling my eyes out, I had to tell him what happened.

It actually took several minutes before I could even get the words out, but when I did, he was so hurt and angry with Mom I feared he might kick me out just to rid himself of the constant reminder of what he’d lost.

Thankfully, he didn’t seem to resent my presence, but how long would that last? How long until he got tired of me and forced my mother to take me back? And if he did, what if she refused to take me again? Would I be forced to live in foster care till I was legally declared an adult?

The thought of living with strangers terrified me beyond words.

Once the divorce papers were signed, there would be nothing to stop him from sending me away, and when that day came, I would have to find a way to take care of myself.

Too scared to broach the subject, I kept quiet, avoiding him whenever possible, thanking my lucky stars he never brought it up. I assumed since he was already supporting David, he really had no reason to keep me around. Because I was older when they got married, Mark never adopted me, so legally, unlike my mother, he didn’t have any obligation or responsibility for my well-being.

My mind raced for days trying to figure out a way to convince him that I wouldn’t be a burden, that I could be useful around the house, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of him.

Not knowing what else to do, I finally broke down one day and began begging him, telling him I’d do anything if he’d just let me stay...

“Honestly, Erica? Do you really think so little of me?” my stepfather asked as I sobbed hysterically, sounding completely affronted by my desperate pleas for him not to send me to my mother.

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