Tara lived with her mom in New York City. Well you could barely call it living with her mom, since her mom worked 14 hours a day most days. When she was home, she was dead tired and sleeping either on the couch or in her bedroom. Tara was a 16 year old high school sophomore. Since she was 11 years old, she was pretty much on her own when it came to cooking and cleaning. Her mom left early in the morning and come home after dinner time, so Tara would prepare breakfast for herself, prepare her school lunches, and cook dinner when she got home.
Tara felt a little sorry for her mom since she had to work so much to keep the food on the table, cooking and cleaning the house was the least she could do. Jane wouldn't have to work so much if Tara's dad wasn't a complete asshole. Tara never got to meet her dad, he took off when she was just a few months old, making Jane take Tara to a babysitter as she went back to work earlier than she planned.
The good thing was Tara's babysitter was just across the hall of their apartment building. See the building Tara and Jane lived in was a very old building with cracked walls in the hallways and some graffiti on the less visited floors. The building was always dirty, since the building owner didn't think it was worth the money to hire a staff to clean the stairwells. The outside of the building wasn't much better either; you could find bums lying around all the time in the parking lot sleeping against the walls. That wasn't the worst part; Tara had seen drug deals happening countless times when she came home from school. After a while though, she got used to it.
To say the least, it wasn't a very nice neighborhood. Tara and Jane's apartment was a small one bedroom apartment with a kitchen/living room and a bathroom. The apartment was set up so that as soon as you walk in, there is a big open space which is the living room. To the right in the middle of the living room, there was an opening which was the kitchen. It consisted of a few cupboards, a refrigerator, a stove and a sink. Not the best looking kitchen. Down past the living room was a very short hallway which lead to the bathroom and single bedroom. The computer desk was in front of a window which over looked the street below. Tara spent a lot of her time there.
Even with working 14 hours a day, Jane was barely able to pay the bills. Working as a waitress in a crappy old diner didn't exactly pay much. Tara's dad was a complete failure at life, a bum just like the ones outside. All he missed was sleeping outside with them. He was always between jobs and whatever little money he was able to earn, he spent it on liquor and cigarettes. Tara never understood why her mom stayed with him for all those years. Well now they had been apart 16 years and Tara was sure Jane didn't miss his lazy ass. Tara didn't either.
The night he left, Jane broke down in tears, begging him to stay. She wasn't begging out of love, no she knew that if he left, she would have to find a full time babysitter for newborn Tara while she went to work. That would just be another bill to pay. When Tara was born, he actually had a job and for once Jane felt like they were secure. Tara's dad worked as an auto mechanic which payed a lot more than Jane's job and they would be able to get by on his salary, leaving Jane free to stay home and raise Tara. But out of nowhere one night, he told Jane he was leaving. Tara was asleep and he didn't even bother to give her a goodbye kiss. He just looked at her in her crib, brushed her hair for a second and stormed out. Jane never knew why he left; she thought he just got scared of being a dad and living this shitty life in the world's shittiest apartment.
Jane didn't sleep that night. She cried for a long time, almost wishing death would come and swoop her up. Maybe Tara would get taken to a nice family somewhere in a suburban neighborhood and have a happy life. She knew though, that there was no chance of that happening. She knew she couldn't leave her daughter alone in this world.
After Jane composed herself, wiping away her tears, she got out the yellow pages and started flipping through them, looking for a babysitter. With no income now, she had a few days before she would have to go back to work. Jane must've called a hundred different babysitters that morning, but none wanted the responsibility of taking care of a one month old newborn baby. The few that agreed asked for more money than the rent.
Jane was ready to give up. She started to once again contemplate the idea of dropping off Tara to child services. There was no one she could call. No family lived near New York, she had no friends that would do it, and Jane was losing hope. It was the middle of December, and with such a small apartment, Jane couldn't open the living room window to smoke without the cold reaching Tara in the bedroom. Jane didn't know it at the time, but that one cigarette was about to save her life.
It was 9 am and Jane stepped out into the hallway to smoke. She was sitting, leaning against her door when the apartment door right across from her opened. Jane had never seen who lived there nor did she care. Out stepped an older looking lady, must've been in her early 50's. She was suited up clearly for the outside weather, wearing a big winter jacket a silly looking hat, a scarf and a pair of gloves. This was the first time the lady had seen Jane and she smiled at her. Jane had been crying all night and her face was puffed up, her eyes red. The old lady could tell she had been crying. Jane smiled back at her and expected her to head towards the stairs but while Jane took a puff of her cigarette, the old lady walked towards her instead.
"Are you okay dear? You look just awful." Jane didn't feel like telling this random old lady about her life problems but she had no one to talk to about it, and this neighbor would do. Jane started telling her about her husband who took off last night leaving her and her newborn Tara alone. The old lady was so sympathetic Jane almost thought she was faking it. She wasn't one bit though. After talking for 15 minutes, the old lady, who Jane found out to be Marge, offered to babysit Tara. Jane wasn't sure at first but was easily convinced when Marge told her about how many babies she had taken care of in her 53 years. She had a 10 year old granddaughter that she used to look after when she was younger.
Marge started going on about how Jane would be doing her a favor, keeping her day busy. Her morning walk was basically all she did all day. Apparently she wasn't in the best health and with a paid off mortgage for the apartment (Jane had no idea why anyone would buy an apartment in this building) she didn't need to work to pay for the other bills. Her daughter that lived upstate sent her some money every month and with the money Marge got from the government, she could easily pay the bills and have money left over. Jane begged Marge to take money for the job but Marge didn't want to hear any of it. Even though Jane felt awful putting so much responsibility on this woman without any pay, it was her only option.
From that day on, Marge took care of Tara for the next 11 years. Tara enjoyed spending her days with Marge, she became like her second mom, or grandma. When Tara started school, Marge would walk her to school each morning and pick her up each afternoon. Jane worked from 8 to 14 hours every day and was forever grateful to Marge for what she did. Marge didn't take a penny all those years. Jane had to do something for her though so she made sure to stop by the grocery store after work whenever Marge needed it and would also pick up her pills whenever she needed a refill of her prescriptions.
Shortly after Tara turned 11, Marge passed away. No one knew until Jane knocked on her door with Tara by her side and got no response. Jane ended up calling 911 after no one picked up the phone. The paramedics told Jane that Marge had a stroke in the middle of the night and died almost instantly. Tara bawled her eyes out for the next week. Marge had taught her everything she knew, she loved her just as much if not more than her mom and now she was gone. Jane was gonna start looking for a new babysitter but Tara refused. She said she was old enough to take care of herself. Marge had taught her how to cook various things including how to prepare a complete dinner. Tara could manage being alone for the time after she got home from school to when Jane got home. Jane agreed that Tara was old enough.
Marge's daughter came to the apartment after Marge died. Jane and Tara had met her before, when she stopped to pick up Marge for Christmas or Thanksgiving, but they never really talked to her. She stopped by a few times, at first to collect her mom's stuff, and later to put the apartment up for sale. The apartment stayed for sale for a very long time. Every so often Tara would hear people coming to see it but they would leave almost instantly when they saw the conditions of it. After about a year, Marge's daughter gave up and decided to try renting the place out. That went a little better but no one really stayed longer than a couple months. Most of the time, the apartment remained empty.
When Tara started high school, she became the victim of heavy bullying. All the other kids picked on her and teased her about the old clothes she would wear and how her mom was probably a prostitute not a waitress. Tara was a strong girl, Marge taught her to be, but no girl can take that much pain without getting hurt. Tara was a pretty girl but that didn't matter to the bullies. They called her ugly and gross and even some of the bigger asshole guys would tell her how she was never gonna have a boyfriend because she was flat chested and had the body of a 9 year old boy.
.... There is more of this story ...