Sammie didn’t come home that night, or any of the nights that followed. She never came back, leaving me with a child to raise on my own and forcing me to drop out of school. Each night, Reese wailed, almost as if she knew Sammie had abandoned her. Late one sleepless night, as I tried my best to soothe the upset child, I cried along with her.
Around two in the morning, I heard a knocking at my door, and my heart skipped a beat. I hoped it was Sammie, finally coming back to her senses. Since she’d left, I’d found a list of organizations that could help her through her struggles. I’d made many calls and gathered a lot of information for both victims of rape and new mothers.
I wanted to give it all to her, I wanted to help her heal, I wanted to do whatever I could to bring my little sister back to me.
Yet when I opened the door, it wasn’t Sammie standing there. It was a woman I’d seen a few times in the building before.
“You’re having trouble keeping that baby quiet,” the woman said.
I was flustered, knowing that Reese had been quite vocal the past few days and that the walls of our apartment building weren’t the greatest.
“I know, I’m sorry. I promise I’ll do whatever I can to—” I started, but she cut me off.
“Oh, sweetheart, I’m not here to complain,” she said, shaking her head with a genuine smile against her lips. “I’m here to help. I noticed that your roommate moved out a few weeks ago, and I figured you were struggling. My name is Abigail. Can I come in?”
I nodded slowly, beyond my breaking point. “I am sorry about the crying, though. This hasn’t been the most normal situation.”
“You have a newborn. There’s nothing normal about newborns. I think you’re doing great, truly, but I just wanted to reach out and offer my help if you needed it.”
“Thank you, I appreciate it,” I said, still trying to soothe the panicked child.
“May I?” she asked, nodding toward Reese.
I was hesitant at first, but something about that woman seemed so gentle and caring. I handed Reese over, and within minutes, the woman had calmed her down.
A sigh of relief rippled through my system as the crying came to a halt. In response, I began to cry. The flood of emotions escaped my body as I covered my face, humiliated by my inability to keep myself together in front of a stranger.
“I’m sorry,” I said as I took the now-sleeping Reese from her arms and laid her in the crib. “I’m normally not like this.”
“You are today, and that’s normal too. There’s no wrong way to feel,” she told me. “So, go ahead. Feel it all.”
That allowance, that gift of being told that every feeling was valid, sent a wave throughout my system, and I began to truly fall apart. I covered my face with my hands and began to break. For so long, I’d been trying to hold my sister together, trying to keep Reese in one piece, that I hadn’t had any time to fall apart myself.
Abigail came over to me and wrapped me in her arms, soothing me as I cried like a fool against her shoulder. “That’s right, sweetie, feel it all,” she repeated, and I did.
I felt it all. I felt the fear, I felt the anxiety, I felt the sadness. I felt anger, too, and resentment toward my sister. I felt hurt. Abandoned. Lost.
I felt it all, and Abigail was there to help me through it.
“You probably have no clue what’s happening right now. You probably feel like you’re falling apart, but in truth, this is you falling together, sweetheart. Sometimes, part of the healing journey involves falling apart. That doesn’t make you weak; it makes you strong. So, fall apart tonight, and you’ll be stronger for tomorrow. You’re doing great.”
To hear someone say I was doing great as I sobbed against her shoulder felt untrue; it felt like the biggest lie in the world, but I did as she said. I felt it all.
Oliver: Do you need me to come over?
Emery: No. I’m okay.
Oliver: Do you need me to come over?
Emery: No. I’m probably just going to fall asleep.
Oliver: Do you need me to come over?
Emery: Oliver. I’m fine. Really.
Knock, knock, knock.
I looked up from my cell phone as I sat in bed. Then I headed to the front door and opened it to find Oliver standing there, leaning against the doorframe.
“Hi,” he whispered.
“Hi,” I replied.
He took my hands into his and stepped in closer to me. His forehead rested against mine, and he closed his eyes as mine faded shut too. “Do you need me to come over,” he softly spoke, his hot breaths brushing against my lips.
I nodded slowly, releasing a weighted breath that I hadn’t even known I’d been holding in. “Yes.”
He stayed with me as I cried against his white T-shirt. Over and over again, he told me Reese was my daughter and I was her mom, reasoning away the demonic thoughts that were flooding my system. When my body became too exhausted, when no more tears could be cried, he held me close throughout the remainder of the night.
The next morning, it wasn’t the sun that pulled me from my slumber. It was a little girl, screaming at the top of her lungs. “Mr. Mith! What are you doing in Mama’s bed?” she shouted, jumping on the bed.
“Reese, volume, lower,” I muttered, only able to get out a few words due to my exhaustion. Then I yawned and focused a bit on Reese. Who was on my bed. Right beside Oliver.
In my bed.
In my bed.
“Reese!” I said, sitting up straight. Oliver was rubbing his eyes and trying to piece together what was going on. “What are you doing up so early?”
“It’s not early; it’s late,” she said before turning to Oliver and then back to me. “Why is Mr. Mith in your bed?” She smiled from cheek to cheek. “Are you two in love?” She went back to jumping on the bed, shaking both Oliver and me from our slumber.
Her question shook me, and I felt my cheeks heating up from the comment.
“Reese, no, we are—”
“Yes, I love her,” Oliver cut in, giving Reese his smile that made me feel everything all at once. I turned his way, my eyes widened from shock. He gave me his dopey, tired grin and took my hands into his and squeezed ever so lightly. “I love every part of you, Em.”
My heart flipped, kicked, and leaped inside my chest. I wasn’t ready for that, but truthfully, was anyone ever ready to find out that the person they loved, loved them back? It felt like the biggest dream coming true.
“I love you, too,” I said, feeling as if my cheeks were going to burst from happiness. I wanted to lean in and kiss him, but I knew that might’ve been too much to do in front of Reese. Especially since she’d just found us in bed with one another.
“What about me, Mr. Mith? Do you love me, too?” Reese asked.
Oliver smirked big and pulled Reese into a hug. “Yeah, kid, I love you too.”
Reese began to giggle as Oliver tickled her, making her wiggle all over the place. “Okay, okay, stop!” she screamed out, twisting and turning. This was one of those moments in life when I forgot all my troubles. Moments when the world seemed to stand still and every good thought aligned as one. As the three of us rolled around in bed, this was one of those moments. A moment that would forever live in my heart.
It was funny how those moments could make me forget about all the other troubles I was facing in my life. For a second, I’d forgotten all about the drama that my parents and Sammie had laid at my doorstep.
It felt as if Reese, Oliver, and I were creating our own family, with our own rules. We were creating one of my favorite songs on my mixtape. Just the three of us, and our happiness.
After a few seconds of lying across both Oliver and me, catching her breath, Reese said, “Hey, Mr. Mith?”
“Does that make you my dad now?”
That seemed a little too much for that morning’s conversation. Oliver’s mouth was agape, and it was clear he didn’t know what to say, so I wrapped Reese into a tight hug and snuggled her. “How about we talk about this at a later time, and for now we go make some waffles?” I offered.
Reese’s face lit up. “With chocolate chips?”
“Yes, with chocolate chips. Let me get up to get started and—”
Reese shook her head and hopped out of bed. “No, Mama. I want Mr. Mith to make me the waffles this time.”
I raised an eyebrow. “I thought you loved my waffles.”
“I do, but I want to love Mr. Mith’s too,” she said matter-of-factly. She held her hand out toward Oliver and pulled him out of bed. “Come on, let’s get started.”
Without another word, the two were walking off toward the kitchen to get started cooking. I could hear their voices as I lay in bed. “I’m going to be honest, kid—I don’t know the last time I cooked waffles.”
“It’s okay. Even if they are nasty, I’ll still eat them because I love you now,” Reese said.
Oliver chuckled. “Well, that’s very nice of you.”
“I know, I’m a good person. And Mr. Mith?”
“Stop calling me ‘kid.’”