Katie smiled. She was happy. This was happiness.
She curled up next to her mother in the dark, the electricity had not been paid that month, but her mother was warm, and Katie slept soundly.
A street artist sat drawing a woman in front of him, posing with her dog. It was something Katie had only seen on TV before, not something to see everyday, and it made Katie smile. The woman beside her pulled her along, oblivious to the unordinary sight. Katie did not want to move yet her feet reluctantly agreed to walk next to the woman. She took nearly two steps to the woman's one large one, but she had the energy that came with her youth to keep up.
"Get," the woman told her.
Katie knew where to go; she had been through this procedure too many times before. She had learned to navigate that building as she had her own home. Of course, that was when she had a home. Living with Sue, she was not home. Home is where the heart is, and this little girl had long since lost her heart. Wherever it was, she could feel it pounding near, but she could never determine its exact location.
She had once thought it was with her mother, somewhere just beyond her reach, but in recent months she had been starting to doubt that. When she would see her mother, she would feel so disconnected from her, that she thought certainly it was elsewhere.
It was not the first time she had seen her mother cry. The fact she was crying was nothing new. The word 'mother' was what had set her off. Katie did not understand why. Was it not more adult to call her 'mother' as opposed to 'mama'? Katie wanted to be treated like an adult, but why would that make her mother cry?
Adults were listened to. She just wanted to be heard. She hurt. Her scalp held a bald patch sizable to a baseball, and no one would believe she had not done that to herself. Thinking back on it, her mother pleaded for someone to believe Katie. Her mother was an adult, so why was she not being listened to?
Only once was Katie taken seriously. She was taken seriously by a woman who knew what a liar was. Strings were pulled, and Katie was placed with a new 'family'. She would never be part of the family, but that is what they referred to it as.
For a time she was happy, but without constant conflict, Katie's body became stiff with frustration. She was so used to struggling with Sue, that without her, Katie needed another outsource for her aggression. She yelled at her roommate, told her she was stupid. She refused to eat for days at a time. She refused to do her homework. She hid from her classmates during recess, climbing the rock wall onto the school's roof above, where she leered down at the children skittering about like insects.
She pretended they were insects; she could squash them all without thought. She would break sticks and organize them into stick figures on the roof. Once, she contemplated staying on the roof all day. No one knew she was up there. The teachers would not care to look for her. She had not bothered to learn her classmate's names. She did not know any of them, and they did not know her. She liked it that way. She had been bad, and she knew she would be moved on in a short time.
Katie left a pair of scissors on the couch one night. Cassy cut her leg. She needed six stitches. Katie was removed from the home within the week.
She moved on to live with her grandparents, as a last resort, surprisingly. She had thought they would have been the best option to begin with. She was wrong.
She felt relieved. She stopped doing bad things. She learned her classmates' names. She listened to her teacher. She called her mother 'mama' again. She thought she might become happy again, but as months passed, she realized her grandpa was just like her father. He would do the very same things to her. She was ten now, not quite the helpless five she had been when her father was around, or seven with Ricky Joe. She should know better than to let it happen. This was different, she bled this time. She felt more pain than she had ever felt with Sue hurting her. It was a different sort of pain, and it was a different sort of act from her father, but it was still the same kind of thing.
She did not want her mother to worry. She was so close to being home, she could almost feel her heart in her chest again. It turned out her mother was her heart, her home, and she had returned it to Katie. It was her fault; punishment for being bad earlier in life, and this burden she needed to carry alone. Her mother had been through treatment, she was clean and sober, and it was a difficult road for her. Katie did not want her mother to know of Katie's punishment. It would only add more stress to her situation.
Her heart returned to her. Katie had a new stepfather, a real dad, and her mother seemed to be made anew. Her mother was better now though, more loving, warmer, and happier. She loved her renewed home. They would support her as no one ever had. She promised she would never give them reason to fret. She never dated. She never stayed out late. She always did her homework. She never again did bad things.
She graduated middle school. She graduated high school. It is now July of 2012, and Katie is a college student, studying to become whatever she wants to become.
Katie smiles. She is happy. This is happiness.
"Katie" Still has never dated. "Katie" is damaged, but she continues living. She is happy because she knows she is loved, even without a man. Every man she has known besides her new dad has betrayed her. She does not care. She has learned to love herself, and that is good is a true story about "Katie."