Mommy

by Tamayo Ginbara

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"We're pregnant."

Amy lifted her head from the pillow, her crystal-blue eyes quivering as if she may cry at a moment's notice or not at all. It all depended on what emotion she felt first from those sweet words. She searched her heart for something like happiness, maybe even sadness, but came up empty. It wasn't until she laid eyes upon Ryan's goofy grin that she knew that she should smile.

"Are you sure it's not a false test?" She asked cautiously as Ryan handed the test over to her. Indeed the little indicator strip was a pale blue now, but it was all so hard to believe. Ryan, her wonderful husband of two years, pushed back her platinum-blonde bangs and kissed her forehead as she stared at the test dumbfounded.

"It's been two weeks since your period, Ames. That's what you told me, right?" Ryan smirked, getting on the bed with her, gazing at the test and thinking about their future together as a family.

Amy stared at the test too, but she couldn't think of a family right now. Something else had a higher priority in her mind. It was six years ago, when she was a junior in college going for her elementary education degree. She got drunk at one of her friend's birthday parties and went home with her brother. They made love and a week later Amy found out she was pregnant. At 20 with such promising hopes but nothing else, she knew she couldn't take care of this baby and give it everything it needed. Therefore, she put it up for adoption. It was a girl. That was all she knew when the adoptive parents she had handpicked took custody.

After that, she met Ryan, graduated, and married him. Ryan got a desk job at a software company and she got a job as a substitute teacher to help them make ends meet. A year later, she landed her first real job teaching kindergarten at Rollins Elementary.

Classes started two weeks ago. She still remembers how nervous she was. Behind the closed-mouth smile she showed all the AM kindergarteners that walked through the door to Room K2, she was fidgeting inside like the impatient children she would soon be teaching. She watched quietly as the children separated from their parents. Some latched on and refused to let go, others were mature beyond their age and let them go without any complaints. It was torture waiting for class to start. She prayed the clock would strike eight soon.

That's when she walked in. Everything about her caught her attention; her luminous green eyes, her bouncy honey-blond curls, her slightly tall figure and her eager smile. Amy watched the girl put away her Dora the Explorer backpack with a feeling of serenity that spread from the ends of her hair down to the tips of her toes. She didn't know what it was, but Amy could tell there was something very special about this little girl.

Amy started off school life for the children simply enough. Gathering them all around the story time mat, she asked them all to go around in a circle and introduce themselves, saying what their name was, their favorite food and their favorite thing to do. This would give Amy a better idea about what kind of children her students were.

As they went around the circle, Amy realized that while she wanted to give her students the same amount of attention, she was growing increasingly desperate to know more about the little girl had caught her eye. The words of the other students became blurry to her and she unconsciously nodded and appeared interested all the while, anticipating the moment that special little girl would introduce herself.

"My name's Jamie Rhinehart." She said in a voice so lyrical Amy could have sworn she was an angel sent from Heaven itself. "My favorite food is rocky road ice cream and my favorite thing to do is sidewalk chalk." Amy wanted to know more.

When the introductions had ended, Amy asked the children to return to their seats where they would go over the classroom rules like raising your hand, no hitting and no bad words, and never be afraid to ask Mrs. W, as she referred to herself, for help. She then led the children in a mini-tour of the classroom answering any and all questions they had following the rules they had just set.

"Now then," Amy chirped. "I'd like you all to take a piece of paper and draw me a picture of yourselves. Then I'll hang them up outside on the bulletin board so everyone can see them. Does that sound like fun?"

The sound of seats being pushed back against the tile floor and sneakers squeaking filled the room as the children ran to their cubby holes to dig for crayons, markers and colored pencils. Running back to their tables they poured the contents of the boxes out over the table, flooding the surface in a wash of every color imaginable.

As they scribbled their likenesses onto their papers, Amy walked around them quietly, peering over them to see how their progress was coming along. They were all unique and interesting in their own way, but they weren't nearly as captivating as Jamie's. Amy watched in sweet silence as Jamie tenderly cradled a red crayon in her little hand, filling in the color of her skirt in the picture, a big grin smeared all over her face as she colored.

It seemed as if class had just started, but three and a half hours had passed all too quickly. Reluctantly, Amy urged the students to finish up and get ready to leave. Outside, parents were gathering ready to take their pride and joy home for the day. Inside, Amy was watching as Jamie rushed to her cubby hole, gathering her bag, meticulously check to make sure she had everything.

The bell rang and Amy walked to open the door. Amy took one last look at Jamie's radiant face before she turned the knob. Swinging the door open, she urged the parents to come in.

"MOMMY!" Jamie cried out, running as fast as her little legs could take her until she reached a tall brunette woman who scooped her up into her arms, kissing her on the cheek with her ruby red lips. Amy was in awe that a woman with such a great figure had managed to give childbirth, but she didn't show it. Instead she waved goodbye to Jamie, unintentionally catching the attention of her mother. With her brown eyes, dark as coffee and twice as scalding, she stared her down and walked up to her.

Piercing and cold, she thought she had seen these eyes before… no, she was sure she had seen those eyes before. "Hi. Beth Rhinehart." She introduced herself, hoisting and shifting Jamie's weight in her arms. "You must be Mrs. Walder?"

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Rhinehart." Amy replied, trying to mask the anxiety coursing through her. "Jamie's a wonderful little girl."

"Was she alright?" she asked as any concerned parent would. "She said she was scared no one would like her."

"Oh no! She gets along very well with everyone!" Amy spoke up, a little more passionately than she had meant.

"I'm very glad to hear that." Beth smiled, releasing Amy from the grip of her piercing stare. "Well then, we'll see you tomorrow. Say goodbye, Jamie."

"Bye bye, Mrs. W!" Jamie called out, waving her arm wildly to and fro as Beth carried her through the door. It would feel like an eternity until tomorrow morning.

All alone in the classroom until the PM kindergarteners arrived, Amy went through the drawings, admiring the children's work. She stooped when she reached Jamie's. What was it about her? When she saw her, she felt so at peace. She wanted to keep watching over her, protecting her. What was this she was feeling? It was almost as if… and that's when it dawned on her.

Putting up the rest of the pictures, she took Jamie's to the copy room. When she returned, she put the copy in her bag and the original on the bulletin board. She still had that picture in her bag, the same bag that was slung so casually over the chair in the kitchen right now.

"Ames, are you okay?" Ryan asked, snapping Amy out of her state of reminiscence.

"It's just a little much to take in." Amy lied, nuzzling up next to him. There would be no chance to change the subject. Jamie would be on her mind the rest of the night and once again tomorrow morning. Slowly but surely she was becoming a significant part of her life, and for the first time she thought maybe that wasn't a bad thing.

Lying down next to Ryan, she let him hold her close to him. She needed the comfort right now. "I know this must be hard for you. This may be our first, but it's your second." He whispered soothingly in her ear, kissing her lightly on the back on her neck. "You're going to be a great mom, Ames. I know it."

A great mom, huh? That's what she thought as she lay there in his arms, his strong capable hands holding her belly where their child was growing at this very moment. She didn't know and the question kept her awake late into the night even after Ryan had fallen asleep.

"If there was a way I could know I could be a great mom." She thought. As if her prayers had been answered, a solution came straight to mind. There was a way to know if she was a great mom. Jamie. It wouldn't be a permanent thing. She'd be in first grade next year and they'd probably never see each other again. But for now, they could be close and if Jamie really was her daughter, all her fears and anxieties could be put to rest for good.

In the days following that September night, Amy began to openly embrace Jamie's smile which brightened the room every school day. Every "good morning", every "goodbye" and everything in between made Amy feel like she was walking in air. Though she tried to stick to her duties as a teacher and pay attention to all of her students, it was clear to everyone that Jamie was the teacher's pet.

26 letters, 20 numbers, seven paintings on the bulletin board, one Halloween party, and countless story times later, Amy had finally found a comfortable place in Jamie's life. It was getting close to Thanksgiving now and the class was working on paper turkeys for the monthly bulletin board display. Their tables were littered with scraps of red, orange, yellow and brown construction paper, safety scissors and glue. When she wasn't helping the other children who complained about either running out of construction paper or gluing something on wrong, Amy was watching Jamie work happily on her turkey.

When Jamie had finished, she was positively ecstatic. A smile brighter than the ceiling lights illuminated the rest of her face. "Mrs. W! Mrs. W! Look! Look!" She cheered, getting up out of her plastic chair, scampering in Amy's direction with her paper turkey in hand. She was so excited that she couldn't see the chair pushed out in front of her. In an instant, her foot hooked onto one of its metallic legs, sending her tumbling down to the cold hard floor below. Silence was all that could be heard until Jamie's ear-splitting screeching broke through.

"MOMMY! MOOO-OMMYYYY!" Jamie shrieked, tears spilling down her cheeks onto the floor in a small salty puddle.

"Jamie!" Amy gasped, getting up and rushing to her side. "Tell me where it hurts, sweetie!"

"I WANT MY MOMMY!" Jamie cried, holding her knee while rocking back and forth, unable to bear the pain she felt.

"It's okay. I'm right here." Amy told her absentmindedly, completely lost in trying to help the poor girl over her choice of words.

"I need my mommy!" she howled, immersed so much in her own pain that she couldn't think about anything or anyone else around her. "It's not gonna feel better until Mommy kisses it!"

At the time, Amy couldn't bear to sit here, watching her scream in pain. It was still an hour until Beth would get here and she needed to help Jamie now. What kind of educator would she be if she left her in pain? What kind of mother would she be for that matter? If Jamie really was her child, it was her duty as a mother to make her child feel better.

"Come on, let me see. It can't be that bad." Amy cooed, gently prying Jamie's hands from the injury. Jamie became docile as Amy rolled up her jean leg. Her innocent skin felt so nice and warm against her fingertips. Maternal instinct swept through her like a powerful gust of wind. Cradling the child's leg, she examined the injury and smiled up at her. "It's just a little ouchie. I'll make it feel all better."

Before she could give Jamie time to respond, Amy titled her head down and softly kissed her kneecap, tenderly and affectionately, pouring out the love and affection she had for her daughter all at once.

Gently lifting her motherly cure from Jamie's knee, she smiled sweetly towards the little girl. "Now doesn't that feel better?"

With a small little smile, Jamie sniffed and nodded. Amy extended her hand to Jamie, who took it and slowly, carefully rose back to her feet. The bruise on her kneecap would be fine, Jamie would be happy, and most importantly Amy had proven herself. Things would be just fine.

That night, even Ryan noticed Amy's cheerful mood. The extra bounce in her step and the perpetual smile from the moment he walked in the door to the moment they turned out the light. "So what should I attribute to your wonderful day?"

"My daughter." She sighed dreamily.

"Your daughter?!" Ryan gasped, pulling up out of bed and away from her. "When did this happen?!"

Amy's face flared up as she instinctively turned away from the aghast look Ryan was giving her. She hadn't done anything wrong, so why did she feel so guilty when he looked at her like that? More importantly, why was she crying? "It's not what you think."

"Then please explain it to me!" Ryan raised his voice to her, pacing around the bedroom.

"Her name's Jamie." Amy started up. "She's a very sweet little girl with a great sense of humor. She loves to draw, especially with the watercolor paints. Oh, last week, she drew the most amazing picture of a witch during class."

"During class?" Ryan eyed her as if she was a wanted criminal, shocked and horrified.

"Yes." she replied meekly. "She's one of my students."

"One of your what?!" Ryan said, putting his hand to his face, clutching it as if he had the most massive headache. Amy wouldn't be surprised if he actually did. Why were things turning out this way? "Ames, you have to tell this to the principal."

"But what if she's really my daughter?!" Amy shouted back. "This could be good for me! I can be a mom to her!"

"She already has a mom, Amy!" Ryan shot her through the heart, her breathing grew deeper and spaced-out as she collapsed against the pillows, her eyes twitching in the pale light of the nightstand lamp. The tears streamed down, staining the pillow beneath her. She had no will to move or strength to face Ryan.

"I'm her mom…" she squeaked out, clutching at the sheets, tearing herself to face the pillow and bury herself in the darkness. "I'M HER MOM!" She screamed over and over into the pillow. She didn't hear anything as she shut herself off from the rest of the world for the night. She didn't hear the door slam. She didn't hear the car driving off outside. She stayed like that until morning. It was okay then. In a few hours, she'd see Jamie, her precious daughter.

As she strode down the hallway towards her classroom, she shoved any of the depressing thoughts from last night out of her head. What did Ryan know anyway? He'd never met Jamie. There was such a clear likeness that it would be impossible to deny. Jamie was most definitely her daughter and she was her mother. She could take care of her and love her the way she always wanted to. Everything would be fine.

"Mrs. Walder?" a sweaty thick voice echoed behind her, clearly out of breath. She'd heard the voice enough to know who it was. Her boss, the principal, Larry Quillman. "Mrs. Walder, I'd like you to come with me."

"I have a class to set up for, Mr. Quillman. Can't it be during my lunch break?" Amy asked, trying to get past him to get ready for Jamie's arrival.

"It's not something that can wait. It's about your student Jamie. Her mother's here and she's being quite persistent. She wants to talk to you now." Mr. Quillman said, catching his breath and looking her dead in the eye. Through the thick-rimmed glasses, Amy could tell this was going to be nothing short of horrible.

Leading her to his office, Amy trailed behind slowly, her head dropped to the ground like a child about to be punished. She kept picturing what would happen inside the office and nothing she saw in her head would benefit her. Inside, Beth sat in a smart black pantsuit, glaring at Amy as if she was mud caked on her six-inch heels. "I'll make this quick." Beth started coolly, her glare unwavering as Amy sat down. "I want Jamie out of your class."

"Is there any specific reason for this, Mrs. Rhinehart." Mr. Quillman asked, a little concerned from how apparently upset she was.

"Ever since Jamie started kindergarten, Mrs. Walder has been paying a lot of special attention to Jamie." Beth started off calmer than Amy had expected. Despite the calm façade, her eyes were digging into her like razor sharp talons as she spoke. "Recently, Jamie's been telling me that Mrs. Walder has been looking over at her as she's working a lot and making sure she's got everything she needs. To top things off, she told me last night she kissed a bruise she received in class yesterday to make it feel better and then went on to say that she thought Mrs. W was like a second mommy to her! Her actions are disturbing me, Mr. Quillman and I think it would be in the best interest of everyone if Jamie be transferred to another class."

"You can't do that!" Amy blurted out, standing up with an equal amount of fury pouring from her eyes.

"She's my daughter!" Beth matched her tone, standing up to eye her down as well. Mr. Quillman could see the passion in both women and decided to break things up before the situation escalated too far out of hand.

"Judging by your reaction, Mrs. Walder, I think there is some validity to what Mrs. Rhinehart is saying. It may be best if Jamie is transferred to another class." Mr. Quillman sighed, adjusting his glasses, pressing a button on the speakerphone next to him. "Mrs. Rally, would you please find me paperwork regarding transferring a student to another class."

An affirmative yes was heard through the tinny amplifier. All feelings of inhibition and restraint were lost as the reality of the situation dawned upon Amy. " I won't let you take her away from me! She's my daughter!" Charging from the room, leaving the two in shock, she stormed the hallway towards the classroom. None of them understood how much she loved Jamie and they never would. Only Jamie could appreciate it. Amy wanted Jamie to have the best and the best was for her to be her mother. That's how it always should have been.

"Mrs. W?" Her dearest was here! Running to her, she stopped and squatted down next to her. She wanted to hug and kiss her so badly. To know what it felt like to hold her child in her arms. "Mrs. W? Why are you crying?"

Grabbing Jamie's arm, she pulled her into an empty room and locked the door. "Jamie?" she cooed, squatting down next to her. "Do you think I'd be a good mommy?"

"You're gonna be a mommy?!" The smile on Jamie's face lit up, but this time Amy didn't like it. She remembered what she had been trying to find out all along. Putting her hand to her womb, she felt the tears rain down. All this time, she had been lying not just to everyone around her, but herself. Feelings of greed and self-pity swarmed all over her as she fell to her knees.

"Yeah, I'm going to be a mommy." She sighed, not believing a word she said. Mothers weren't this overbearing and obsessive, were they? She screwed up so badly with Jamie not once, but twice now. Everything was ruined. No doubt the second one would be anything but the same.

"That's great! You're like a mommy already!" Jamie smiled, her innocence so laughable in Amy's eyes though Jamie had no idea of this. To her, her tears weren't of sadness but of joy.

"What do you mean?" Amy asked, trying to wipe away the tears from her eyes.

"When you kissed my ouchie yesterday, it was just like a mommy does it. It felt better right away. Only mommies can do that!" Jamie giggled happily, filling Amy's heart with words she knew deep down she had needed to hear. "That's what all mommies do! They're always there for their baby to take care of them no matter what!"

Jamie was right. That is what a mother is to her child and she was never that to Jamie. It was just convenient that she could see Jamie so frequently. If she had been serious about being her mother, she would have been her mother from the start. She never would have let Jamie be adopted. "You're right, Jamie." Amy said with a smile very faint but genuine. "I'm… I'm not your mommy."

"Of course not, silly!" Jamie giggled. Amy was so overwhelmed she knew she would cry again, but not out of sadness or selfishness, but because she knew deep down now that she could be a good mother and she knew just where to start.

"Jamie, can I give you a hug?" Amy asked, stretching her arms out wide, wanting to embrace her one last time, just to thank her for everything. Jamie looked hesitant at first, but started approaching Amy, gently smiling, wrapping her tiny little arms around her neck. It would be the first and the last time Amy would hold her daughter like this.

She felt her lukewarm cheeks against her own, her warm breath whispering down the nape of her neck. Her little arms cradled around her neck just right. So this is what it feels like to be a mother… Amy thought to herself, a single tear trickling down between her cheek and Jamie's. The short time she had held her felt like an eternity, but now it was time to let go. The touch of Jamie's little body against hers had vanished as quickly as she had received it.

"It's time for class now." Amy said with a smile. "Let's get going."

Amy unlocked the door and led Jamie out. There in the hallway, Beth and Mr. Quillman were waiting for her. Beth was relieved to see her daughter was safe and sound, while Amy was led away by Mr. Quillman where the consequences regarding her actions would be discussed.

As Jamie was not harmed, Mr. Quillman assured her that she would be fine with some mandatory psychiatric counseling. It also went without saying that after what had happened this morning that Jamie would be removed from Amy's class immediately and would not be allowed to come in contact with her again. Mr. Quillman expected another outrage, but Amy complied, patting her tummy thoughtfully. Amy was removed of her teaching duties for the rest of the week and went home to find Ryan waiting for her.

"You're home early." Ryan muttered from the couch, still obviously upset. "What happened?"

"I'll tell you later." she mumbled, knowing she'd have to tell Ryan about what happened sooner or later. For now, there was something more important on her mind. Snuggling up on the couch with him, she kissed his cheek and put his hand to her womb. "Let's talk about baby names."