When I was 7 years old, a newly married couple with the last name Waldorf found me. It was the happiest two years of my life. On birthdays, we'd have ice cream cake with multi-colored frosting and on Christmas, we'd have a huge feast and many presents. Mr. Waldorf's colleges posted us as the picture perfect family. So it was an official agreement between us. They took me in, because they couldn't have children and I needed a home. I think it was the only time in my life that I felt loved and wanted.
Two years past and on a September night, one month before my 10th birthday, I was kicked out of the house. Apparently, the Waldorf's found out something that I still don't know to this day. I remember packing my little bag and Mrs. Waldorf crying and telling me it was for the best. I was angry, as you could imagine. Who would kick out a child who was only 9 years old? What kind of person would honestly do that? I was thrown outside and told never to return. I would say it was the most devastating thing that's ever happened to me, but I haven't pieced together my full memory yet, so I couldn't say.
This was what I was thinking about as I walked down the busy sidewalk. My clothes had long since dried and I had no idea where I was going. I was thankful that I got to take a knapsack full of food and warm clothing from Emmy's house. I even got to swipe a tent and sleeping bag, which I carried on my back. I was set for at least a little while. It was grey, not from snowy weather like other states, but just as grey. I wished that a storm wouldn't shake me up, though I had some sort of shelter.
Emmy was kind enough to give me some money before she took off. 'My Payment' she called it. I didn't know exactly what I had done, but I did need some money to get around. I imagined that it was Sunday; because stores were closing early and church bells woke me to my feet earlier. It was 9:30 at night and almost everything was closing. The local Publix was open, so I decided to go in and get a warm coffee. When I had the coffee in my hand and was about to pay the cashier, she gave me a warm smile and laughed. "You going on a camping trip, little girl?" she asked. "Hardly." I replied. So I walked out of the store with my coffee shaking my head in amazement. Camping? Why would I go camping? I mean, I do have a duffle bag, but for all she knows, I could be carrying a body or something. Not like I did, but I could have.
There was only one place I could go now, back to the park. I had no idea where else to go, but I didn't want to get caught in a storm again. Plus, the janitor would have already locked the fences by now. So, I decided to call Anita. Now, I bet you thought I didn't have anybody to call, but I did. Anita Roland was her name and I could bet you a million dollars that she would be home right then drinking a famous brew. She always had the best tea. Out of everyone I have ever met, her tea was the best. I found a pay phone down the street and called her. She was there, greeting me with the utmost care and concern.
"Ms. Roland?" I asked.
"Oh hello! Good to hear you're okay! It's been so long. Where had my darling daughter been?" she giggled.
"Oh nowhere. I need a place to stay for a while, so could I come to your house, Ms. Roland?"
"Of course you can, Sweetheart! But, only as long as you call me Mama." she insisted.
"Alright, I'll be over soon. Goodbye." I told her.
Ms. Roland had a daughter once. Her name was Anka. They were really close, back when she was alive. Ms. Roland never got over the fact that her clumsy little girl finally put herself in her grave. Now, since she's old woman, she always says that I'm Anka. I look like Anka, from what I have seen from the pictures. I don't sound like her, though. Whenever I come over to Ms. Roland's house, she always gives me cough medicine, because she says I sound like I have a cold. I never do, but I feel like I should humor the old woman, who would give me a place to stay.
When I got to Ms. Roland's home, she had left the door unlocked, so I just walked in. Ms. Roland was sitting in her purple plaid rocking chair watching some old sitcom. She turned to me and smiled. I gave her a warm smile back as I inched over to her old 70's couch. I sat down and started watching what she was watching. We never usually talked that much, because I don't sound like her dear old Anka.
Ms. Roland always let me sleep in Anka's old room, because she felt like Anka was still there when I slept there. Sometimes I wonder to myself what Anka would have thought about me, a dirty drifter, sleeping in her satin sheets. Then it came to mind that Anka was kind and she would have probably said it was alright. I could tell she was kind, because of her humanitarian awards from when she was younger and from the picture of her girl scout troop helping the homeless. That alone made me believe she was a good person. While I tried to fall asleep, I looked at the picture of the girl who looked like me who was stolen away years ago.
I woke up on the floor. I must have had a bad dream, because the covers were wildly thrown on the floor and the pillow was somewhere on the other side of the room. I sighed to myself. I thought that the bad dreams would go away, but they really didn't. I wish the past I never knew would stop haunting me. After fixing the room, I walked out of Anka's room to see Ms. Roland sleeping in her rocking chair while holding a picture of her and Anka together.
I really wished I could do something for her. Seeing her like this made me sad, because every time she saw me, she saw Anka. At first, I thought I was doing her a favor by giving her a glimpse of her departed daughter, but now it seemed cruel. I dredged up old memories of her baby girl without even knowing it. I may have even brought back the memory of the moment she got the call that told her she wouldn't see Anka anymore. I tried to talk to her about it once, but the only thing she told me was that "It's a sad day when the parent buries their child. It shouldn't be that way."
So then I thought to myself. What should I do for Ms. Roland? I had no idea, so I went back into Anka's room and fell on the comfy bed. There's nothing I really could do. But then I came up with an idea. I decided that I would look in Anka's room to find something that Ms. Roland might like to have. I didn't know much about this girl and I didn't know any of her secrets. I didn't even know if it was okay to rummage around in a dead person's room. Wouldn't that be disrespectful or something? I didn't even know, but I sure wanted to give it a try.
I first looked under her bed. Most people stash things under their bed, so I looked under hers. There was a rainbow colored shoe box and an old hair tie. Maybe the shoe box had something in it other than shoes, so I took it out. I set it on her bed and continued to the closet. There were just some old white platform boots and a short puke green dress that looked like it belonged to a disco chick. So, maybe to sweeten the deal, I set those items on the bed. Maybe if I could fit them, I could surprise Ms. Roland.
I decided that those things were enough, so I looked into the shoe box. In it was a small notebook, a few pictures, a keychain with a small key on it, and a letter. First, I took a look at the notebook. It was a diary. Skimming through the first few pages, I pretty much got an idea about what happened. The journal entries talked about her friends and drugs. At first, I thought she was a user, but it seemed like she was a dealer. This got me thinking how such a nice person would be a dealer. Then, I saw that on the last entry, Anka said that she would go to New York with her boyfriend Max. I guess she didn't go.
When I looked at the pictures, it was of her an Max and a few other girls she labeled. They looked like they were at a party. This had no importance to me, so I went on to the small keychain. Maybe it fit a car? I didn't know. So then, I read the letter. It surprised me. It seemed like a runaway or suicide letter. So then I read it out loud.
" Dear, Mama.
I am so sorry. I don't mean to hurt you by saying this, but I won't be here anymore. I'm going to a place where I can be happy. I know I've caused you a lot of trouble, and I know you hated my friends and even Max. I can't tell you how sorry I am. It's way much more than I can even say in a day. But, Ma, you know how I am. I can't stay in one place forever. I have to move on. I can't be your little girl forever. So, let me go. I'll always be there when you need me.
So that was it. I knew what I could do now. I took off all of my clothes and put on those old clothes that Anka had. Then I did my hair so it would look like her wavy style with her favorite headband. I could tell it was her favorite, because she wore it in almost every picture. Zipping up the heavy boots, I picked up the letter and walked into the cold living room.
Ms. Roland was still asleep, so I lightly shook her awake. She fluttered her eyes open and saw me. No, she didn't see me, she saw Anka. A big grin placed on her face and she almost made me fall over when she leaped into my arms. I returned the hug and gave her the letter. She read it hopefully and I saw tears start to steam down her wrinkly face. Her eyes shined with glee and love.
"You have to go now." she stated more than questioned. I nodded.
"Okay, Anka. Mama understands. Be a good girl." she sobbed.
I turned around and waved to her as I walked out of the room and into Anka's room.
After that emotional relief, I put on my real clothes and packed my duffle bag up again. Then, I silently snuck out of the window and started to walk briskly on the crusty sidewalk. "I've got nowhere else to go now," I thought. "Better find somewhere new."
I was a bit angry that now I had to retreat back to the park again. That place was cold, cruel, and even slimy. But, at least I got to make a poor old grieving woman happy again. That was just enough for me. As I walked back to Caldwell Park, it sort of sounded like the wind was thanking me. Like Anka was thanking me.