RONNIE AND AMANDA
She sat wearily with Amanda in the doorway. It seemed to be the best thing to do at the time.
"Mommie's tired, love," she said to Amanda.
"Okay, Mommie," the pretty little girl said.
"We'll go someplace lovely, as soon as I rest," Ronnie said next, and she realized that tears were gathering in the corners of her eyes.
"Mommie," the little girl asked next. "Are you sad? Are you crying?"
"Yes, sweet love," Ronnie said. "I'm sad that this is happening to us."
"Justin and the others got mean," Amanda said, saying the simple truth, as only an innocent child might.
"Yes," Ronnie said, with the tears now streaming down her face.
Amanda put her arms around Ronnie's neck and hugged her.
"I love you, Mommie," she said.
"I love you too, sweetheart," Ronnie said.
"It's gonna be fine," Amanda said with a kind of wisdom that was beyond her age of 6. "We're going to go someplace lovely next."
"Yes, lovely," Ronnie said. "I just have to sit here and rest a bit."
"Yes, Mommie," the little girl said, content to watch the later evening traffic go by, as her Mom got some rest.
Ronnie had been tramping around most of the day with Amanda and carrying her for a good deal of it, since the little girl got tired so quickly and often.
She said a bitter: "Not eating properly will do that to a little girl!" but hid that kind of message from lovely Amanda.
Ronnie sat and went over it in her mind again, trying to see exactly what had brought on the changes that resulted in her and Amanda being no longer welcome with 'the group'.
It's what they'd called themselves. Each of the four of them, the three guys and Ronnie, from homes that they certainly didn't want to or couldn't go back to. They struck out on their own, after high school. Ronnie was the only one that had actually graduated.
Justin had made it sound like such an adventure for them, and Ronnie had gone along with it. It was, in those early days, the sense of adventure of it. They each worked periodically to keep things going. They never, however, worked for a long time at any particular job.
Ronnie was seen as the 'woman of the house' the 'group's' woman.
Early on, Justin had insisted on sharing Ronnie with the other two. She never liked that but wasn't totally against it. It just seemed to be part of the adventure that they were having.
Two things happened, fairly quickly, at the end of that first year. One was that Ronnie became pregnant.
At first the guys thought it was cool and they were all kind of proud to be fathers. There was never any real thought about whose child it actually was.
The birth of Amanda was a joy for Ronnie and she began to understand a love that was lasting and just up-lifting.
But there was also the other thing. It was Ed who initially began the drugs. They each began to do them, except Ronnie, who with Amanda to think about now, refused.
At first the guys in the group took it okay.
It was grass that they began with and worked their way to meth. It got to the point where they were working to satisfy the drugs needs, and Ronnie was out doing what she could in order for their to be some kind of normal life with food and shelter for them, still for them all.
She pleaded with Justin to get away from this. She told him that the three of them should go their own way but he wasn't hearing about that at all.
"No," he'd said, "It's still the group, and if you want to go, then go. There are other bitches around."
Ronnie was stung by that much more than she let on. As time went by, she put more and more of her efforts into Amanda and less and less of her efforts into 'the group'.
It was only after a number of years that things changed again. Meth was now the ruler of the shack, where they were crashing at that time. But Ed brought in a new 'bitch', as they insisted on calling their women. That was Elaine. And then, more and more, Elaine took over Ronnie's position as the 'bitch' that they all had sex with.
Elaine was jealous, it seemed, of Ronnie, who was referred to as the house 'Mother'.
At that point, Ronnie always thought that it was at Elaine's instigation, the guys began to use Ronnie for sex but only rough sex. She put up with it for a while, because it didn't happen all the time but there were those times, when they all three got together, having had something —- drink or meth, she never knew —- and they'd play their rough games with Ronnie.
That only changed, when one time Ed wanted to play 'Gag Mother', as the game was called but this time he was determined to do it in front of Amanda. He said: 'So that Amanda can see what a skank her Mom was. He was so obviously channeling Elaine at that point. To Ronnie, at least, that was apparent.
It was Ronnie's final and ending indignity. She flatly refused, and so the group moved on, shortly after that, deciding to make their way to the coast but they kicked Ronnie and Amanda out. It was done in a way that was fairly sneaky and they left, taking all of Ronnie small parcel of personal things. She and Amanda were left with nothing.
Then it had been the day, the whole tiring day, on the street for Ronnie and Amanda and that brought them to where they were at that moment.
One of the last thoughts that Ronnie had, as her head slumped against a door was: "Congratulations, Veronica Wells, here you are, 22 and can't even keep your promise that something lovely is happening next for Amanda.' Then she slept.
It had been a kind of a celebration that evening. Ray made sure that he didn't drink too much but then he never did. He was, they all thought, 'the sensible' one of the group.
They were celebrating their success in the markets, making each of them a little richer than they already were.
Ray certainly enjoyed the camaraderie of it with them. They ate and had some wine but some of the guys decided to go bar hopping that night.
"Not for me," Ray had said, "I have some things to do that need me to get up early tomorrow. I'm going to finish this beer and head out home."
At 30 years, Ray Milton was doing well. He'd followed his interest, after college, and went into trading and commodities. He seemed to have a flair for them and he prospered.
He devoted his time and energy to getting to where he wanted to be with his life, professionally and financially, and that plan was working well.
He wasn't anti-woman or romance, but he was a planner and a woman didn't figure into his plans until he was financially set and able to offer such a woman the kind of life that he envisioned for them.
It was working for him too. He'd made a major step this year by buying a house. It was, he thought, his first step into the future.
He was content and actually whistling, as he walked to the car park garage, where he'd put his car.
Ray was a happy and contented man at this age.
His only real regret was that his wonderful parents hadn't lived to see his success.
He'd been a late life child and both his elderly parents had died, actually within a year of each other, his Mom going first and then his Dad slipping into a kind of ennui that never let up until he too died.
It was the sad year of Ray's life, and had taken him a good year or more to get over it and get on with his life. It was after that year that he bought the house as a kind of a path into the future.
Both his parents had an allergy to cat dander and so they never had pets but Ray had added, to his own 'family', both Flame and Rita, two siamese kittens, who were great fun and now, already a year later, in charge of the house.
These were the kind of thoughts that were swirling in Ray's head, as he went to the garage for his car.
His reverie was broken by a tiny voice saying : "Hi!"
A MEETING AND AND A RESCUE:
Ray was startled and stopped. He looked down and saw a lovely little girl, nestled against a rather tired but pretty looking woman. The woman was asleep and the little girl was leaning against her. The little girl was holding a faded, stuffed rabbit in her arms.
"This is Leo," the girl said first.
"Pleased to meet you, Leo," Ray said and the little girl smiled, taking encouragement from how nice this man was being.
"My Mommie's tired," the little girl said.
"I can see that she is," Ray answered, "It's so nice of you to let your Mommie sleep."
"Yes," the little girl said, "I'm Amanda and that's Mommie, and Leo."
"Hi, Amanda," Ray said, "I'm Ray."
"Mommie said that she needed to rest and then we were going to go to someplace lovely," Amanda continued.
"Oh, good," Ray said.
But Amanda was not through: "The others left town to go someplace else and wouldn't let Mommie and me go with them. They were no longer nice to us at all. They took all our things; now we don't have anything, Mommie and Leo and me."
"Oh, too bad," Ray said, making no attempt to move away.
"We don't live with them any more," Amanda said.
"Where do you live?" Ray asked.
"We don't live anywhere," Amanda said "But Mommie said that we're going someplace lovely next."
It didn't take very much thinking for Ray to realize what the reality of that statement was.
"Did you have dinner?" Amanda asked politely.
"Well, no," Ray said, "I was going to do that next."
"I had a candy bar," Amanda said. "Mommie said that it would have to do for me. She didn't have anything at all though."
It was then that Ronnie woke, and realized that Amanda was talking to someone.
.... There is more of this story ...