Don't Happen Twice

by Shwemo

Chapter 1
Everyday Love

"Lizzie, it's Tara. You should be getting in any moment and I thought I'd call and let you know that Damon and I took Caitlin out for hot chocolate after we picked her up from ballet. We're on our way back now, but I didn't want you to worry. Love you and I'll talk to you soon."

Beep.

Collapsing on the shabby brown couch in the small living room of her fifth floor Brooklyn apartment, Elizabeth Andrews slipped off her shoes and laid her head back, rubbing her temples and yawning. It was after eight o'clock and the December night had turned into a cold one. Shivering, she stood up and turned on the small electric heater on the floor. Grabbing the quilt lying on the armchair situated across from the couch, Elizabeth sat back down and wrapped herself in it, hoping the heater would hurry and warm the room up some before Tara arrived with Caitlin.

Realizing that she wouldn't warm up just sitting on the couch, Elizabeth stood up and walked quickly across the small apartment to her bedroom and, changing out of her waitress uniform, and into a pair of sweat pants and her NYU sweatshirt, put on some thick socks to keep her feet warm. Going to the kitchen, she checked the cabinets, but grimaced when she found them nearly completely empty. She needed to buy groceries…soon. Luckily payday at the resturaunt was tomorrow and she'd have enough to at least last them for another week. Though she hadn't eaten anything since her sandwich at lunch, her appetite suddenly vanished and she closed the open cabinet door dejectedly and walked to the small kitchen table where she'd thrown the mail upon coming in before even looking at it. Sifting through the stack that contained more bills than Elizabeth could handle at the moment and, her mood further depressed by their arrival, she threw them back on the table, deciding just to deal with them later.

Sitting back down on the couch, she sighed and stretched her exhausted limbs. Suddenly, she heard the door open and in walked the three people Elizabeth most needed to see at that moment and she stood up to greet them. The first was a tall, African-American man who gave Elizabeth a wide smile and leaned down to hug her.

"Hey Lizzie."

"Hey Damon." She replied, smiling wider as the other two people entered the apartment. Caitlin, Elizabeth's daughter, ran across the apartment, wrapping her arms around her mother's legs tightly and looking up at Elizabeth with bright green eyes and a smile that displayed her missing front two teeth that temporarily pushed all of Elizabeth's worries to the far reaches of her mind.

"Mommy!" She shouted, letting go of Elizabeth's legs and pulling off her coat. Elizabeth took the coat and grinned back at her daughter.

"Hey Caiti!" She returned with as much enthusiasm, picking her daughter up and swinging her around once before putting her back on the floor. Working all day during the week and all night on the weekends, Elizabeth had little time to spend with her daughter and she cherished the times she could. Entering the apartment behind Caitlin was a rail thin African-American woman about Elizabeth's age who immediately wrapped her arms tightly around Elizabeth's neck. Tara Calhoun had been Elizabeth's best friend since she was in the first grade back in Charleston and had moved to New York with Elizabeth after the two graduated high school. She was an art student at NYU and her husband of less than a year, Damon, worked with Elizabeth who was a bartender at a bar in town on the weekends. The two were her only friends in the world and, save for Caitlin and her brother, the only people she cared anything about.

"Good to see you, Lizzie." Tara greeted, smiling. Looking at Elizabeth's face, she saw a hint of the worry that had come back across her face and her expression changed from one of joy to one of concern. "Liz, what's wrong?" She asked, furrowing her eyebrows.

"Nothing, Tara. I'll talk to you later about it." Tara gave a final concerned look and nodded and Elizabeth was sure that, the next time they had a chance, Tara would pry out every bit of information she could as to what was bothering Elizabeth.

"Anyway, did Caitlin behave ok?" She asked and Tara smiled.

"Of course she did, the girl's practically an angel." She responded, patting Elizabeth's shoulder. "Just like her mama, that one is." She added with a grin.

"Now, Tara, I wouldn't go that far. I'm no angel and you know that." Was Elizabeth's reply, but Tara simply laughed.

"Well, Damon and I have to be off. I have an early class tomorrow and Damon needs to get some sleep or he's going to fall over on the sidewalk one day. The man hardly gets any rest and he's as stubborn as an old mule and won't listen to a word I say." Tara informed Elizabeth and Damon, who'd been sitting in the floor with Caitlin having a chocolate ice cream versus vanilla ice cream debate, gave an indignant "hmph!" and ignored Tara.

"Well, y'all get on home and hurry. It's colder than a well digger's butt out there and Lord knows the streets aren't safe when it's as dark as it is.

"Yes, ma'am Mama Lizzie." Damon answered sarcastically, standing up with a look of resignation that told Lizzie and Tara that Caitlin had probably out argued him in their little ice cream debate. For a five-year-old, Caitlin was quite the persistent little one.

Damon and Tara said their goodbyes to Elizabeth and Caitlin and Tara made Elizabeth promise to call and talk to her as soon as possible. When the two left, Elizabeth and Caitlin sat down on the couch; Elizabeth leaning against the arm and Caitlin scooted up next to her mother.

"Did you have fun at ballet?" Elizabeth asked her daughter. The two did not enjoy many luxuries because of Elizabeth's small paychecks but ballet class was the one enjoyment Elizabeth made sure she provided Caitlin with. As a little girl, Elizabeth had loved nothing more in the world than dance classes and wanted to make sure that her daughter at least had that same opportunity.

"Yes ma'am." Caitlin answered enthusiastically. "Miss Rose said I had the best arabesque in the class." She informed her mother.

"Wow, Caiti, that's great." Elizabeth answered. "Did you behave for Damon and Tara?" Caitlin nodded.

"Yes ma'am." Caitlin answered; giving a loud yawn that let Elizabeth know it was past time for the little girl to be in bed. Taking Caitlin by the hand, she led the girl into the one bedroom that the two shared, helping the girl change into her pajamas and getting her tucked in to the small bed that sat alongside Elizabeth's. Kneeling by Caitlin's bed, she smiled and bowed her head as Caitlin did the same. It was the two's nightly routine. Just before they went to sleep every night, Caitlin would say her prayers while Elizabeth listened.

"Dear God," Caitlin began, "thank you for today and for Miss Rose and ballet class and for Damon and Tara and for mommy. Please keep them all safe and help mommy not be so tired and worried all the time. I love you amen." The little girl said as Elizabeth echoed her amen. Kissing the little girl on the cheek, Elizabeth smiled as she lay down and pulled the covers up around her, asleep almost as her head hit the pillow.

Though it was only nine o'clock, Elizabeth was exhausted and decided she'd go ahead and lie down and try to go to sleep herself. As she lay in bed, she though about Caitlin's prayer and wondered. Was her perpetual exhaustion and worry that evident that even a five-year-old could recognize it? Was she creating a burden on Caitlin by being so concentrated on getting by financially? As she lay, staring up at the ceiling, she whispered her own silent prayer.

"Father, please watch over Caiti. She's a good girl so please don't let her worry about me. Father, give me the strength to trust you when times get tough, everything seems to be getting harder and harder lately. Lord, don't let me put making a living over Caiti and Tara and Damon. Thank you for all of them and keep your hand on them. Amen."

As she spoke the last word, her eyes closed and she drifted off into a deep sleep.