Sissy would stop and look at the doll every time she passed the toy store’s front window display. It was on her way to work, so she passed it twice every day. It was a constant reminder of what she so far had been unable to provide for her daughter. The pretty clothes, the latest high tech toys, not even a television were part of her little girl’s world. However, looking back at where she had come from and what she had overcome, Sissy considered herself to be lucky.
Sissy had run from a very ugly world.
She and her mother had bounced around from place to place, sometimes sharing a spare room in an apartment full of dope heads, other times living on the streets. Her mother had been a runaway herself, and gotten caught in the cyclone of drugs and abuse. Most of the money they came by was funneled back into her mother’s escalating drug dependence. Sissy was forced to beg on the streets for spare change. She was happy when a good Samaritan gave her food instead of money, because that alone would make it inside her stomach. Everything else was taken by her mother or one of her mother’s boyfriends.
When Sissy was seventeen years old, she and her mother were staying with her mother’s boyfriend Steve in a filthy apartment with six of his friends. Sissy hated it there. She begged her mother to leave, but her mother would get a panicked look in her drawn face at the thought of leaving Steve. By this time she was so dependent on her drugs that she had to find ways of getting her fix several times a day, and Steve was in just as deep. She hardly ever ate anything, and was nothing but skin and bones.
One night, while her mother was out, Sissy was alone in the tiny room the three of them shared together. Sissy did not have a bed. At night she normally wrapped herself in the only dingy blanket that wasn’t hanging over the windows to block out the lights from the street, tucked a wadded up pair of jeans under her head, and lay with her back against the wall in the far corner, trying to block out the yells and laughter that permeated from the rest of the apartment. That night, however, she was alone for once. She sat on the sagging mattress in the center of the room that her mother and Steve shared, leaning against the wall while she enjoyed a few minutes to herself and looked at an old magazine she had found in the dumpster. The glossy pages were filled with beautiful people, laughing and having fun, lounging in exotic places or flirting in brightly lit bars. Sissy wondered if people actually lived like this. She couldn’t imagine a place where everyone was beautiful and happy.
Suddenly the door swung open and Steve stood there, leaning heavily against the door frame. He saw Sissy reclining on the bed and his eyes grew dark with a look that should have warned her of what was to come next. Thirty minutes later, her mother walked in to find Steve sprawled on top of Sissy on the bed, her clothes torn, her face covered in bruises.
“Get out of here!” she screamed in a maniacal voice. When Sissy realized that she was talking to her and not Steve, a part of her broke inside. It was a deep, penetrating hurt, like someone had stabbed her with a dagger made of ice, so cold and brittle that it threatened to shatter her from the inside out.
Sissy never saw her mother again. After discovering that she was pregnant, she spent most of her time in women’s shelters. There, she was given the opportunity to take classes and eventually got her G.E.D., allowing her to get her first real job and giving her hope that she may be able to take care of this human being growing within her womb.
When her perfect little girl was placed in her arms for the very first time, tucked inside the scratchy hospital blanket, Sissy knew she had to find a way to make a good life for her and her daughter. For the first time since that night in the dingy apartment it felt like some of the ice was beginning to melt inside, all because of this precious little being swaddled up next to her heart.
She named her little girl Hope.