Choosing Me

There are four ways to make April cry. I guess that's one for each year she's been alive.

1) Tell her that she is getting a time out because she's made a mess.

April is known to be the messiest of children. You put liquid beside her and it's guaranteed to be on the floor within seconds. She has no sense of space, no concept of the fact that if she swings her arm hard enough the cup will fall, the milk will spill, and mommy will have to spend quite a bit of time cleaning instead of completing her latest take home assessment. April also has a tendency to leave everything on the floor. Her clothes, her toys, her hairpins, her crayons, her papers, her books--for her, all of it should belong on the floor.

Yet, I can't let her go wild. I'm a huge fan of parenting books. Four is the ideal age to start building positive habits, so I resort to ten-minute time outs after three warnings. I don't think they're too harsh; especially since I tell her she can play with one doll during the time out, but April refuses to do anything but cry.

2) Admit there is no Santa.

Yes, I know what you're thinking…four years old is too soon for the big reveal. Let me preface this by saying that it wasn't my fault! My fanatically religious mother got a hold of her this past Christmas.

"Ma, can you help me write Santa a letter?"

"Why would you want to write Santa a letter? Jesus is the reason for the season!"

"At day care they said Santa gives good children all the presents that they want, but that we have to write him a letter to the North Pole."

"Jesus supplies for all of our needs dear. And you don't even need to write him a letter! You just need to get on your knees and pray. We don't need Santa."

"But Ma, I want Santa!"

"Santa doesn't exist dear."

"What's eclipse mean?"

"I said exist darling. Santa does not exist, which means he is a lie. He isn't real. He doesn't really give children presents."

"Santa's a lie?" April eyes close and her mouth opens wider than it's ever been. It sounds like her core has been ripped open as she starts sobbing. "Santa's not a lie! Santa's not a lie! He's real! I know it. He's REAAAAL!" She ends up crushed against the ground and I'm called out of class because of my mother's foolish mistake. I find April still bawling on the floor when I arrive twenty minutes later. My mother is hovering over her, praying at the top of her lungs for the demon taking hold of April to leave her body.

3) When she falls

My scariest moment with April was the day she turned three. I had a big birthday party where all of the people from my apartment building attended. Humble presents were lain all over the green couch and the birthday table next to a cake I had made the night before. April was wearing this beautiful white dress that Julia, Rosie's seamstress mother, had sown for her. On her feet were the cutest pair of shoes, with patent leather white, and rose colored flowers along the side.

Despite being beautiful new shoes, they were certainly not the best idea for the occasion. All of the neighbors wanted pictures of April for the big occasion. So, someone came up with the bright idea of having her stand up on a chair behind the presents and cake.

After the photo shoot had happened, my beautiful April could not wait to get out of the chair. Instead of giving me a moment to help her out, she chose to step down herself. The grips on the shoes were not sufficient and she slid back, only to fall off of the front of the chair, landing and scraping her hands until blood stained the carpet. I ran to pick her up as silent tears fell down her cheeks. She didn't want to cry out loud because everyone was looking at her, proving her strength even at such a young age. But she could only hold on for so long before I had to ask all of the party guests to leave because her crying didn't seem as though it would stop soon.

From that moment on, I vowed never to allow anything to cause my daughter that much pain again.

And the final way to make April cry…the one that hurts me the most…

4) Explain to her that other kids got mommies and daddies, but when God chose who would take care of her, he just chose me.

***

In elementary school, I was Laura, "the horror."

I was too tall for my own good, my mouse brown hair was sloppy, greasy, and in a constant bun atop my head. Secretly, I didn't like showers then, and even at the age of eight, I was clever enough to fool my parents by turning the water on for a few minutes and thrusting my hand into the stream to make them believe that I was actually getting clean. Unfortunately, though my trick saved me from what was at this time the horrifying task of showering, it left freckle-faced me at an immense disadvantage.

I suppose I was "the horror" because I smelled a little odd, and because my face was constantly full of snot. My mother always put me in my cousin's hand me downs, and I was too slim, so the clothes simply drooped on me. For most of the week, I flopped around in baggy black and gray plaid sweaters with holes in the sleeves that I had created by threading my thumbs through the sweaters' limp wool. My jeans always had small stains along the front of the pant legs because I never understood the need for napkins. Plus, all my jeans were worn and torn anyways. It was not all bad, however. I did have one pair of nice jeans which I would wear every Friday. Fridays were the days when my class would join the other third graders for kickball and I wanted to make a good impression. But no one ever noticed how much cleaner I looked Fridays, even though they were the only days I would shower and wear clean jeans. Despite all of my efforts, the entire playground ceremoniously chanted "Laura, the horror!" every time I went up to kick.

And then, a miracle happened the year I turned twelve. My grandfather died. Well, this was not really a miracle; he was grumpy, old, haggard, and it was expected. But, he also had a little known secret. He was filthy rich.

My grandfather lived an extremely modest life, secretly saving up for years. Until the life insurance was cashed in and his savings evenly split among his eight offspring, we didn't realize how immense the nest egg that he had saved up was worth.

Though not a millionaire, my father's inheritance let us move on up in society. That's not to say that I didn't still wear hand me downs. But because my cousins' parents also benefited from my grandfather's money, even my hand me downs were of better quality. By this time, I was also starting to feel like a woman of sorts. I had gotten my period and my armpits started smelling on a daily basis. So I think I used this as the catalyst to start getting my shower game on track. I was constantly clean with my teeth sparkling and hair brushed. My mother sent me to modeling school for a summer so that I could learn to walk with grace and confidence and practice how to do my makeup and hair. I became a young lady. This didn't change who I was of course. I was no model. I did not have the perfect face or hair all of a sudden, but I was blossoming into a decent looking woman.

But no one forgot. I lived in a small town and I should have known it would be nearly impossible to escape the persona that was "Laura, the horror." So, I went through junior high and high schools unnoticed by guys, shoving my face into textbooks so that I could lie to myself and say that they were just intimidated by my intelligence.

Yet deep inside, like every girl, I wanted to be loved and cherished. I wanted to walk down the hallway, hand in hand with a guy, and feel like I belonged to someone and that they belonged to me. Most of all, I wanted my dream guy to just turn one day and look at me, surprised by the wondrous thought that pops into his head, "She's exactly what I want. I choose her."

Funny, how that never happened.

The first time I was approached by my dream guy, he had actually already chosen someone else. I was working at the campus bookstore then. I was a senior, obsessed with romance novels, living in the shadow of my gorgeous best friend. But you'll hear more about that later. For now, let's meet Michael.

The bookstore was never busy. Most people didn't even realize that fiction and other non-textbook material were available, so there wasn't much to do except watch stressed-out students groan and guffaw at textbook prices as they checked books off of their shopping list. I spent most of my days re-ordering textbooks, or seated behind the counter reading the latest Harlequin romance.

But today was different. I knew the moment I felt a form stand in front of the service desk.

"Can I help you?" I may have just whispered the words to myself. I might have actually been surprised someone needed my help if I wasn't transfixed on the pages of the novel.

My eyes were glued to the page in front of me. I didn't wish to distract myself by doing my job; the climactic feel of what would happen next would be lost. Princess Moriah and Prince Edward would soon share in their first kiss. Though this was the third time that I was reading this book, my heart pitter-pattered with anxiousness as Prince Edward caressed Moriah's cheek.

"You're Laura right?" It was a deep male voice that strangely made my knees melt. I discarded the thought and assured myself that the line I had just read in the book had caused the effect. Edward kissed the space behind Moriah's ear, his heart speeding as she shivered in response.

"Wow, you can read my name tag. Is that all?" I asked uninterested in helping the customer in front of me, much less looking up. He had sounded like the frat boy type, i.e. not worth my attentions. I felt his unwavering stare upon my forehead and couldn't help but slightly blush despite the fact I was using all of my will power to focus on the page in front of me.

"Has anyone ever told you that you remind them of a sunrise?" His question scared me first, then just left me confused.

I waited a few moments, but still did not look up. "Nope, that's a first. So is that all for you?" He still did not budge; I rolled my eyes.

"I'm in love with your best friend Ashley." This made me stop. Ashley wasn't dating anyone. I looked up too quickly. My heart stopped and all I could think of at that moment was the honey color of his eyes.

"In love, you say?" My voice squeaked as I struggled to draw air into my lungs.

When I was finally able to move my gaze from his amber eyes I took in the rest of him. Olive skin met high cheekbones and his lips were ripe, a red color that broke into a heart wrenching white smile. His hair was black and fell in delicious curls to the nape of his neck, slightly brushing the collar of his navy blue dress shirt. His hair would have appeared feminine if not for his macho appeal. He did look like the frat boy type, but had this air of intelligence about him that set him apart. He was the man of my dreams. Yet, what had he said? He was in love with Ashley?

His smile grew larger. "I've loved her from the very first day I saw her."

My brow furrowed as I bookmarked my page in the book that had originally consumed my thoughts. "When did you meet her then? And please—don't tell me it was a week ago."

The guy's smile turned from bright to slightly annoyed. "I met her last week at a party my frat threw. It's a surprise we had never met before. I know Hilburn has 40,000 students but I saw her and I knew we were meant to meet."

I rolled my eyes; I was highly disappointed in this man that I had initially imagined spending the rest of my life with when considering him off of looks alone. "Okay lover boy, it's great you're into my friend and all, but since it's not me whose struck your fancy, I'd like to be left alone to finish the book I was reading." I turned my gaze to the pages of my tale once again. Edward's hand fell to Moriah's bosom and her breathing grew heavier as he caressed her through her bodice.

Then he scoffed, a noise which I did not appreciate ruining the mood. "Hm, so you're ignoring me in order to read A Tale of Two Kingdoms? I just told you I've found the love of my life and you're going to blow me off for a book with an obviously air-brushed male torso and heaving female bosom on the cover?" His eyes narrowed on my face to the point that I felt my cheeks turn a deep red. He shook his head then as though ridding himself of the thought that had just popped into his head.

"Look Mr.--," I started.

"My name's Michael," he offered.

"Look Mr. Michael," I began once again. "I'm kind of busy here and I don't know if you can tell or not, but I am not Ashley. Unless you need help finding a book because you're unable to handle alphabetical order, please run along."

"Laura, you don't understand. I need your help!" His exclamation drew me out of the pages of the book once again.

"You want me to help you get with my best friend? Are you socially incompetent? You look like you've had your roll in the hay plenty of times. I'm sure you'll be able to charm Ashley with your manly wiles. And I don't know if that whole sunrise thing was a compliment or not but it's not getting you remotely closer to having me help you with Ashley."

Michael laughed out loud after my retort, tossing his head back and his beautiful curls as he did so. Then he looked at me and winked. "I'm not asking for much sunshine. Just some tips on how to get a girl who's that high in demand. Who knows? I probably have a friend I can hook you up with in return for any help you can offer."

I turned red and this time it had nothing to do with nice feeling. "A. I do not need your help in order to get a guy. I am personally in high demand, thank you. B. Get away from me before I call library security on your ass. I hope Ashley never gives you the time of day."

Despite noting that I was angry, Michael only resorted to laughing once again. "Kay sweet cakes, I came on too strong. I got it. It's a bad trait that I have, you know, trying to appear overconfident when I really just wish I could say: Hey, my name is Michael. I'm really into your friend and I'm wondering if you could tell me what her favorite flower is."

I narrowed my eyes at him in anger, but something in what he had said had tugged my heartstrings. "She likes gardenias."

Michael grinned and leaned over and kissed my cheek. "Thanks sunshine," he whispered into my ear and walked away. I could still feel where he had kissed me on the cheek an hour later.