#ShortStoryAugust Master Post

Here you will find the links to all shorts shared on MyPenWritesNice.com during #ShortStoryAugust.

If you’ve read them all, thank you!

If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?

Please be sure to leave comments (on the shorts) and let me know here which you enjoye the most.

Thank you to whomever took this stressful and challenging writing journey with me, it is greatly appreciated!

 

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Wedding Bell Blues by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

Take A Little Trip (Alternate Intro) by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

Silly Wasn’t I by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

Home Again by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

New On Campus (Untitled Novel Intro) by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

Ain’t No Sunshine by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

Project-Lenny (Intro) by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

Dallas Down by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

At ‘First’ Sight (Pt. 1) by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

At ‘First’ Sight (Pt. 2) by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

At ‘First’ Sight (Pt. 3) by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

Mama Don’t Preach (Intro) by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

Maybe I Deserve by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

On The Hustle by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

Family Reunion by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

As If We Never Met by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

New On Campus (II) by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

That Kind Of ‘Friend’ by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

That Kind Of ‘Friend’ by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

If someone had asked me what the final straw was; I’m not certain that I’d be able to pinpoint it. Four years worth of a friendship, more than half of that time spent with frustration building over instances and occurrences that seemed insignificant to others. Or, maybe I’d finally reached that age where there wasn’t much more I’d allow to fly over my head without giving my input.

Maybe I’d finally reached my limit, got tired of speaking to a brick wall when I only meant well, when I only wanted to help and stop that person from making an ass of themselves.

One thing I know for sure; a motherfucker will use you until you have nothing left for yourself. And when you finally make a stand for yourself, you suddenly become the bully.

 

I remember the day we met; both of us in the same situation. Just getting by, doing what had to be done. It was a fast and easy friendship because when no one else cared to help, we had one another to lean on, to call on in our times of need.

I could admit, the red flags were there early on but when you’re a kindhearted person, you try your best to give others the benefit of the doubt. We were the total opposites, but somehow our differences seemed to compliment the other.

I suppose the issues first arose when I began to show that I was and would never be afraid to speak my mind. The first fight came when she made a hasty decision, despite me giving a hundred and one reasons why there would be major problems and where those problems would come in to play.

I guess I learned that day that some people ask for advice just to hear themselves talk. They surely don’t listen.

 

“So, Val, things have been kind of crazy for my family lately.”

Looking up from my plate, I only gave a look that urged her to press on. I wasn’t in the mood for gossip, especially about people I didn’t know well, but one of my biggest problems was that I always wanted to be that shoulder others could lean on.

“Of course, my little cousin goes against her parents wishes and ends up in a relationship with an older man. She swore up and down that he was in love with her and that he was going to do all of these amazing things and change her life; but, he left her. She’s pregnant.”

“Oh, that’s messed up. I hope that she has some help.”

She smiled eagerly, bouncing up and down in her seat. “Well, that’s what I want to really talk to you about. I need your opinion on something.”

I could only eye her for a long while, already having some feeling about what was going to be said. I threw out my favorite disclaimer. “Don’t ask me anything if you aren’t going to take what I say into consideration, and at least make a decision that will truly work out for you.”

“I know, I know. So listen,” I allowed her to press on, listening though I kept my head and eyes down. I’d never had control over my facial expressions, and if she was paying attention, I didn’t want her to see when I thought she might be saying something foolish or stupid. “she has decided that she doesn’t want the baby anymore.”

Why not?”

“Because the daddy don’t want her or the baby. She was talking about giving the baby up, but she’s never had her shit together and I just know she’s going to do something dirty out of spite.”

“She might consider adoption.”

“She’d assume he’d suffer if something happened to the baby. I know her, trust.” I shrugged, asking her to get to her point. “I was thinking about taking the baby in.” There was a long silence between the two of us. “You know, I suffered my own loss and being a mother is the one thing that will complete me, and…”

I held my hand up, mentally checking my tone before I spoke. “That sounds nice and all, and I’m sure you mean well, but-“

“But what? It’s the perfect idea! She gets her life back, I get the child I’ve always wanted.”

You just said she doesn’t have her life together, but honestly neither do you. We work at the same dead-end job, we’re both living paycheck to paycheck.” She rolled her eyes, and it took all I had not to get up and leave her sitting alone. “Look, I told you not to ask if you weren’t going to listen.”

“Yeah.”

Babies cost, and things in your life change swiftly, and in ways you don’t even think about beforehand. You’re ready to jump the gun and make a rash decision, but I can guarantee you haven’t thought through all the things you’ll need and will have to do just to prepare. Probably won’t even have much time to prepare, just ready to jump in head first. You’ve got no room, you’ve got people in and out your apartment, that don’t help. Other ‘friends’, that take from you more than they give to you. And a man that barely takes care of his own child, so what makes you think he’ll accept one that’s not really for him or you?”

“Val, you don’t understand.”

I held my hand up, excusing myself from the conversation so that I wouldn’t say anything to hurt her feelings. That moment alone should have been an indicator of where the friendship was going, and why I should have backed away right then and there.

 

She did what she wanted, and of course came calling and crying to me when all that I had said then, and after, came pelting her in the face. But I was there, and tried my best to help in any way that I could. Time, money, and more. Little nuances and things I picked up in her behavior soon after began to catch me off guard.

I couldn’t get so much as a small cup of sugar on a good day, but I had to be ready and available at the drop of a dime to baby-sit, or have a bit of spare change, food and clothes, you name it. Often at the last minute, often as a last resort, almost always without so much as a call or consideration of what I may have to do with my time and resources for my own home and family.

It may have seemed rude to say in the moment, but I made it known once that I didn’t sign up for the responsibility of someone else’s child. She had. I volunteered my time out of love for said child, but it was not my responsibility. She huffed, grew upset and ignored as if what I said meant nothing to her.

And I made it known again and again, making numerous attempts to show her what she could lose if she kept trying me.

 

Oh, I was every type of bitter and jealous. Couldn’t get so much as a hello in return when I spoke in passing. Not a ride to work, a helping hand when I was down. Some of that snooty and pettiness was directed towards my own kids, and she couldn’t care less that she had hurt their feelings in the process.

The shit hurt like hell, but Val always had a big heart and it often hurt me more to do people the way they did me. So she remained a friend, and the bullshit continued. I’d preach and fuss, cuss and continue to get my thoughts and feelings about certain situations out however I could in hopes that she would finally HEAR me; only to be told I was overreacting, or doing the most, or that I simply didn’t matter.

Shit sure made me feel like I didn’t matter.

 

Then, I began to ease from her company slowly, sometimes declining to assist her once I’d begun chilling with others who valued my time, others who cared for me. Not what I had or what I could do for them, but for me as a person and my well-being. People who were the type of friends I was trying to be.

I was called selfish then, threatened to lose my spot as a ‘godmother’, and temporarily replaced with people who only used her for what she had in the moment. I was only good enough to be hit up for a cigar or a drink; never to see how I was feeling, or if I wanted to sit and hash things out so that we could pick right back up on being the good friends that we had been before. Hell, I wasn’t even worth an apology in her eyes, not even when it was proven time and time again that all the advice I had given was right.

I’d call her out on her actions and flaky ways again and again, only to get a half-assed well, I’ll do better before she got back on the foolery again. And again.

I grew tired. I was fed up and done with it all.

 

Eventually, things came to a head. One night my spirit led me to send a message explaining exactly how I felt in great detail, leaving no room for confusion or misinterpretation. It included the statement that I was breaking away from both her and that precious baby, so that would no longer be and feel used up by an ungrateful person. I got a one word reply, and no less than three minutes passed before there was incessant and unnecessary pounding on my door.

Her eyes were bloodshot red, her fingers pointed and jabbing directly into my chest as she yelled, calling me an insensitive and selfish bitch. The highroad could have been taken, but once I felt a slap across my face, all bets were off. And none of my children dared to hold me back.

I laid my now ex-best friend out, and the proceeded to air out each and every little thing she’d done to myself and others she’d managed to use up and toss out when she couldn’t get her way. It wasn’t enough to see the few crocodile tears streaming down her bruised face. I proceeded to hurt her soul, tear down that nasty holier-than-thou attitude she loved to carry around.

I probably should have been the bigger person; but motherfuckers don’t learn until you serve them the shit filled dishes they loved to serve you when they thought you had no other options.

#ShortStoryAugust Check-In/Update

Can I say that this writing challenge has been just that; a CHALLENGE.

While I knew that it would get a little tough along the way, due to my work schedule, I truly had not anticipated this intense struggle and urge to give up on writing EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Let me tell you, that desire is surely winning over my desire to remain consistent with my work and art for once in my life.

I’ve run out of works that I either forgot about or never shared (thankful for those because some days I simply had no time to write), and the ideas for new things aren’t coming at all.

Truthfully, I was counting on a few friends and even a few strangers to join in with me (thank you to the one person who participated), but doing this alone has caused my enthusiasm and eagerness to see this through dramatically.

All that to say, if you are reading along and don’t see a story posted past today or tomorrow (it will be a real miracle if I get one up), then don’t be too upset or surprised.

I really am trying my best to get through to day 31, but I’m also very ready to throw in the towel on this challenge.

Thanks to all who have been reading, and if you’ve missed any of the stories so far, you can find them in the Short Story section of MyPenWritesNice.com (a masterpost of all shorts will be shared soon).

Xoxo, Cortney.

New On Campus (II) by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

Connecting with his only friend, Thomas Marlowe felt a sense of relief that he wasn’t the only Valor College student to make the ‘experimental’ switch to Glendale. While he was more than eager to join a college full of beautiful women, he wasn’t too thrilled at the thought of navigating new surroundings without at least one familiar face. Selectively social, he didn’t really want to go through the struggle of reading people and deciphering who had good intentions or bad ones.

Robert Gilliam pulled at the straps of his suspenders, peering around them nervously as girls passed and giggled in his direction. His glasses began to slide down the bridge of his nose, bothering the twenty-one-year old a little. “I sure hope their English department is truly worth all the fuss.”

“If not, at least you got a scholarship out of the deal. Nothing beats a free education, Bobby,” Following the shapely frame of a young woman passing, Thomas chuckled. “Well, maybe a pretty face does.”

“It’s insane they won’t honor your athletic scholarship.”

Thomas shrugged it off, his green eyes taking in the glory of beautiful back and brown frames and faces moving around him. “How could they? They don’t have any sports teams or programs. And the only one they’re interested in starting and supporting is for football. I play basketball, but I don’t want to play for a team that’s going to be considered second priority by a school I’m supposed to give all of my pride to. No, I think I’m going to work towards my degree, and have a little fun with a beautiful girl … or two.”

 

Robert looked at his friend, wishing he could exude the confidence that seemed to come natural to the strapping man before him. In comparison to Thomas, he was as big as a twig. His voice, soft and timid while Thomas’ often roared like loud thunderclaps when he spoke or laughed. “I’m glad you listened to me and decided to finally take your academic career seriously, Tommy. A career as a professional athlete is great, but we all need something to fall back on.”

“And I appreciate your concern, Dear Friend, but we don’t all have ambitions to be professors, anthropologists, scientists or anything extraordinary like that.” He sighed. “Besides, with my flare for dramatics and my slight obsession with the Shakespearean Theater, that program seemed natural. Who knows; they’re treating our people a little better, and we’re loved on stage. Maybe that’s a direction I could take.”

Robert nodded in agreement, briefly recalling how he and Thomas had met in the first place. It was in a theater class, their freshman year. They starred in Othello together, and when Thomas won the title role over him, Robert found it hard to be upset about losing out. His friend was outstanding, more than Thomas often gave himself credit for.

“How do the folks feel about you transferring and moving away?” Robert groaned.”I know my mother had a fit. I think I’ll be lucky if I return for the holidays and the locks aren’t changed.”

Thomas chuckled. His parents were simply enthused that he wished to go to college in the first place, that he sought to find a life of his own and do for himself rather than leeching off of them for the rest of his life. He very well could have. “My mother’s biggest fear is that I come home to report the conception of a child. Other than that, the Marlowes of Georgetown are ecstatic that I’ll graduate from an institute of prestige, regardless of where it is.”

 

Growing a bit tired, Thomas looked down at his watch and let out a deep sigh. He hadn’t realized that it was growing so late in the afternoon. They’d been on the Glendale campus since ten a.m., and it seemed they had yet to receive their housing information or class schedules.

“Do you think they underestimated the full turnout, Tommy?”

“Greatly. Long as I have a place to lay my head, I can deal with everything else later.” Hearing his name being called across the large space of Athens Hall, Thomas turned around and spotted another old friend. An individual he hadn’t seen since he’d graduated high school. “Well, I’ll be damned. Ricky Dennis! Good to see you, Brother!” The men shook hands, examining the change in one another as Robert looked on. “Now how and the world did anyone convince you to leave USC?”

Tugging at the bottom of his suit jacket, smoothing its appearance, Ricardo Dennis gave a simple shrug before speaking. “Well, I’ll tell you, I wasn’t crazy about it at first. Then I realized that I wasn’t really happy, and I wasn’t doing too well either. A move to an institution that might offer less of a challenge, I figured why not. There’s also the fact that my lady talked it up once she realized they were going co-ed.”

“Oh, got a little lady in attendance, huh?”

Ricardo nodded. “Yeah, but she doesn’t know that I’m here yet. I figured it’d be a nice surprise. Anyway, I’ve got to find my way around and get settled, but I’ll catch you around. Good to see you, Tommy.”

“You too man, and good luck with surprising your lady.”

“Oh, she’s going to fall out when she sees me.”

Ricardo went on his way, giving a headnod in Robert’s direction before disappearing within the crowd of students heading out of the main entrance.

“Seems like a great guy. At least my competition is limited with the ladies.”

Thomas laughed, throwing his arm around his good friend. “Don’t worry, Bobby, we’ll find you a good woman before graduation.”

 

Once they finally received their room assignments, got their schedules in order, and completed their one on one meetings with the dean, Thomas and Robert went their separate ways.

Just his luck, Thomas received one of the few single rooms made available to the new students on campus. It was within the designated co-ed dorm, an old building cleared out and remodeled to accommodate the growth on campus.

His was a decent sized room, though he hoped he wouldn’t have to see the inside of it too often when he wasn’t studying or sleeping. Since the rest of his things would be arriving the following morning, he unpacked the one traveling bag he’d brought with him and made himself acquainted with the bed he’d been given.

He chuckled. “I make one wrong turn in the middle of the night and I might fall off this thing.” It felt comfortable though. Lying back, he placed his hands behind his head and took a deep breath. “I really hope I made the right choice.”

Hearing a knock at his door, Thomas stood and moved quickly to answer. “Yes, can I help you?”

Before him stood a woman. Instantly, he called to mind all of the beautiful models he’d spent his childhood around. Tiny figure, manicured hands, skin that seemed to be kissed by the sun, and legs that went on for days. She shared his fair complexion, her eyes pulling him into a fixated trance. And when she finally spoke, it was with an eloquence that forced him to pay attention. She was of the theater, he could tell. “Good evening, I do apologize for bothering you. But I thought I’d make a brief introduction to everyone I’ll be sharing this floor with.”

She extended her dainty hand, and he accepted, encasing hers with his as they shook briefly. “How do you do, Miss?”

“Quite well. I won’t waste your time, as I don’t have much to waste myself. I’m Patricia McClellan and I stay right beside you. Out of respect for space, I only have one minor request and I do hope that it won’t be too much of a problem for you to follow, Mr…”

“Marlowe. Thomas Marlowe.”

She gave a light smirk. “Charming.” And with that, she pressed on. “I only ask that you keep any and all noise to a minimum. I have very little patience for extreme racket, and I’d very much like to avoid being that person that has to constantly involve the residential advisors. Will this be a problem?”

“No, not at all.”

“Great.” Before he could say anything else, she sauntered off. 

“Ha, well, that was nice.” Closing his door, a few thoughts began to skip through his mind. The main being how he’d propose a date the next time he and Miss McClellan came face to face.

 

 

 

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Part I :

New On Campus (Untitled Novel Intro) by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

As If We Never Met by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

The world beneath my window was a motion filled blur, my emotions ran high and my sense had long been absent before I even got to this moment. My tears, fresh and warm, fell in heavy streams, hitting the floor just in front of my bare feet.

Only the wall behind me was offering the stability I needed, holding me up as my legs gave out with each and every word the man I loved uttered in a calm manner. I’d known it all along, that he had nothing to lose. I should have known that he wouldn’t have even attempted to risk it all if I asked.

I wrapped my arms around myself, longing for his touch. Wishing my heart didn’t feel so empty with him near me, wishing my body and soul hadn’t been used as a pastime just because he couldn’t make up his mind.

 

The world beneath my window seemed bleak, a bunch of bodies moving in the spirit of happiness I once possessed. That very spirit of happiness he ripped away when he announced he could not, and would not, leave his wife.

Not for me. Not for the woman who loved him for all that he was and all that he would be, not what he had. Nothing mattered any longer, and I should have fallen out of love immediately; but I was still enamored, still lost in all he’d shown me when I had been a priority.

“You have to understand my position.”

“I’m trying. But, just as I can’t forget or pretend that we haven’t loved one another in ways most could only pray to be loved, I can’t understand. Why’d you bother me, shift my world, change my life when you knew you never meant to stay through those changes? How do I go back, how do I find who I was before you? She was happy before, and now…”

“I don’t know what to tell you. Just, in passing, act as if we never met.”

The world beneath my window disappeared completely, I shut it out… begging him to leave and take all that would remind me of him.

Family Reunion by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

Cynthia’s patience grew thin as time ticked away. Checking her watch, she exhaled sharply before looking around the busy platform of the bus station where she waited. She’d taken off work early, a cut in her hours that she couldn’t afford, and ask she expected the majority of her time was being wasted.

“Why did I expect anything else? And why am I taking this on when I can hardly keep my own shit together?”

Another ten minutes passed. Looking towards the very last bus that pulled in, watching as passengers filed of in a hurried fashion, she came face to face with the very last person she wanted to be bothered with.

Her elder brother, Carvin.

 

There had been a thirty plus year strain between the two, mainly at the insistence of Carvin treating her like the red-haired stepchild of their large family. Half-siblings, he upheld the title by treating her grossly different than he treated the remainder of their siblings.

Try as she might to gain his affections as a child, it was of no use. While she gladly did for her family, even when she had nothing of her own, she could have never gone to Carvin for anything. Not a place to stay, not a dime, not a single handout.

Still, when he found himself in some sort of trouble, no matter how great or small, Cynthia was always the first person he called. His late night phone-in was no different.

Behind the older, gruff and hard faced man, a young boy trailed along. Instantly, a smile spread across Cynthia’s face, her reason for saying ‘yes’ coming into focus. His curly afro bounced with each nervous step the child took, an insecure smile dancing across his gentle face. He was tall and lanky like Tyler had been just a few short years before, but she felt he couldn’t have been that much older than Kyle. 

Thankfully, he’d taken after his mother, baby faced with nothing more than the typical blemishes most growing teenagers were prone to. Soft and feminine facial features, with semi-large eyes that led to what she was certain would be a bright and beautiful soul.

They stood before her, a dramatic difference in their demeanor and actions. Carvin simply grunted, while his son waved and spoke. His voice was small and soothing, almost a whisper. “Austin, this is your aunt Cynthia. This is who you’ll be staying with while going to that new school. All the fussing them folk did to move you so that you can ‘flourish’ with other smart kids, it better be worth it.”

“Nice to meet you, Ma’am.”

“No need to be so formal, Sweetheart. Come on and give auntie a big old hug.” He obliged happily, his worries of her being as cold and rough as his father tossed aside. Her hug was like his mother’s; firm, full of warmth and love. He felt so much better about being so far from home. “Look at you, all tall and handsome. Haven’t seen you since you were a newborn. How old are you now, Austin?”

“I just turned fourteen.”

“Goodness, I’ll have another teenager on my hands. I’m very glad to have you here with me and the boys, and I hope that you’ll love it with us.”

“I’m sure that I will.” He turned to his father. “If this station is like the one back home, can I go and look for a food cart or something. I’m hungry.”

Cynthia smiled, quick to inform him of where to go. “There’s a snack stand inside. Grab something, but not too heavy, I’ve got a nice dinner planned.”

“Okay, thank you.”

She waited patiently for the young boy to walk away, turning to her brother when she was certain Austin was out of ear shot.

 

Her smile faded, a soured grimace replacing it as a bit of contempt for the man before her surfaced. He’d given Austin a more acceptable explanation for the shift occurring in his life, but Cynthia knew better. She knew there was something else happening, a harsher reason. “Before you run off and disappear; I got a few questions.”

Carvin sighed, shaking his head. “If you didn’t want to do it, all you had to do was say no. I didn’t come here to be hounded or questioned.”

“Where are you going?”

“It’s none of his concern, or yours, where I’ll be. All I need him to do is focus on this school these people wanted him in.” Carvin wouldn’t admit, he was glad the school board’s insistence on moving Austin had worked out perfectly for his own selfish plans.

“Where’s Lorie?”

Though he felt he owed no explanations to Cynthia, he knew he had no full right to drop his child off and vanish without giving some reason. “She’s somewhere in California neglecting the life she had with me. She don’t care about that boy no more than I do, just worried about that damn movie career. She knows he’ll be with you. She’ll be sending you money to help out.”

“She doesn’t care about him? Did she say that herself, or is that something cruel you’ve told your son in one of your many moments of anger?”

“That boy couldn’t believe a bad thing about his mother, even if Jesus told it to him. He’s just as naive as she is, trusting and loving. If it were his choice, he’d wait for her forever because he’s so sure she’ll return for him. I don’t have that kind of time. You want the truth, here it is; I need to move on with my life, and I can’t do that with the boy weighing me down. I need to focus on me now, worry about myself for a change.”

Cynthia could only chuckle, in annoyance. “Must be something in this water around Louisiana. All of you sorry ass men coming up for breaths of air with your responsibility and common sense tossed out the window.”

“Don’t judge me, Cynthia! Okay, we can’t all have our shit together like you do. I never wanted a child, but I made that one and I tried my best for years, many of them on my own just like you’re doing now with your own boys. I tried.”

Austin returned, biting away at a simple sandwich that had been packaged for quick purchase. Cynthia recollected her emotions, tired of having to fuss at grown men for their choices and actions. It would be harder, but if no one wanted to love growing boys that needed lots of it, she would.

“Things are a little more expensive up here. For four dollars, this sandwich should have been made by the hands of an angel.”

Cynthia smirked, turning her attention to the boy. “Bus station food is a lot like airport food, there for convenience and not very good. Don’t worry, I’d like to think I’m a pretty decent cook. Are you ready to go?”

Austin nodded, looking towards his father. He wanted to hug the man, but refrained from doing so. Afraid of being chastised for his ‘soft’ ways. “I’ll see you around Dad. And thanks for letting me do this. If I keep my grades up here, I can get off to college like you and Mama wanted.”

Carvin nodded, saying a low goodbye. After grabbing the two suitcases he’d brought along, Cynthia rushed Austin along so that they could beat the mid-afternoon traffic.

On The Hustle by Cortney Joseph #ShortStoryAugust

Sitting at the back of an ice cream shop, Jonathan carefully looked over every inch of the want ads he’d pulled from three separate newspapers. Once again he’d found himself out of a job due to change in management and lack of skills they deemed acceptable for positions he’d held and handled greatly, and he needed to find something quick.

Thinking of this new predicament, Jonathan was unsure how he’d made it through the last five years because luck was surely not on his side. If it were only himself that he had to worry about, it would be no major issue. He could always run back and forth between the few family members that cared enough to help, he could easily play up to the fact that he had aunts and great-aunts that would gladly let him mooch without ever looking for anything in return. But Jonathan had a daughter, and that was a responsibility he knew he had to take on to the best of his ability.

To protect, love, keep her clothed and fed was a promise he’d made, and Jonathan had every intention to keep that promise. He’d do anything, go to the ends of the world for his child, and if he had to go back to taking multiple odd jobs, he’d do just that.

 

He was just getting into his search when a little voice interrupted his thoughts. “Dad, what’s this song that’s playing now? Do you have it on cassette or CD?”

Jonathan quickly circled one ad with his red pen and looked at his daughter, smiling at the way she danced in her seat. Her long and curly hair was bouncing as she nodded her head to the beat of the song playing. She’d been doing small shoulder bops and head nods with her bottom lip poked out all of her life, and it was still the funniest and cutest thing he’d ever seen. Even at the age of eight. “I don’t know Avery, but when we see Cousin Lance, you can tell him the lyrics and he’ll probably know.”

Avery nodded, quickly finishing the last of her strawberry ice cream. “Yeah, he knows every song ever made.” She sat back, singing lowly as she began to think over her own personal affairs. “She’s playing hard to get… but she likes me, she liiiiikes me. Dad, do you think that if I start baking my own cookies again, they’ll sell just as well as they did the first few times?”

Jonathan shrugged, looking over his newspapers once more for any job that offered a paying rate that would assure he and Avery would be fine. “I don’t see why not. But Avery, I’ve told you before that I don’t like the idea of you working like that and hustling for money. It’s my job to take care of you, not the other way around.” He sighed. “I hate that you picked up that hustling mentality from me.”

“By any means necessary.”

He shook his head. “I hate for people to think that I have you out here working when I don’t.”

Avery looked at her father, catching a glimpse of disappointment in his face. Not towards her, but towards himself. He beat himself up a lot, and though he felt she was too young to understand, she understood perfectly. And she hated it. “Who cares what anyone thinks? You’re a great dad and even in bad times, they still can’t find a fault in how you raise me, that’s why they talk mess. Besides Dad, I like having my own little thing. It’s just as innocent as what the Girl Scouts do, but better. My teacher, Ms. Davidson, told me that she thought it was great that I had that entrepreneurial side of me already at such a young age. She said that when I’m older, I’ll be doing great things because I’ve already learned how to make money, and how to make certain things work for me. She said that she could see me running my own successful business, the boss.”

“She’s not lying about that and I appreciate her for encouraging you Avery, but still, you’re a kid. You should be worrying about homework and baby dolls.”

Avery rolled her eyes, pulling a pen from her backpack that was resting beside her. “I hate baby dolls. And what’s wrong with me helping a little Dad? If you don’t want the money, I’ll keep it for myself and save it for real bad times, but this is still something that I want to do. I like it.”

 

Jonathan sighed, looking at his eight year old. She was a spitting image of her mother, and just as smart and self-assured. He knew anytime Avery had her mind and heart set on something, it wouldn’t be so easy to stop her from doing it. “Avery, the Girl Scouts are going to get real tired of you cutting in on their corners and store fronts.”

Avery shrugged quickly, turning to a fresh sheet of paper in her notebook. She began making a list of different ingredients she’d need to get whenever she took a trip to the grocery store with her grandmother. “They’ll be alright. It’s not my fault people prefer great, homemade cookies. People can only eat so many packaged and tossed around trefoils, samoas, and thin mints.”

“I don’t know what I am going to do with you. Behind that cute, unassuming, chubby face and those pretty brown eyes…. there’s a junior manipulator lurking.”

Avery smiled. “Oh Dad, I got it from you. Your skin tone and your hustling nature, that’s all I got from you. Oh, and this scratchy voice, or as you say, raspy.” Jonathan laughed, denying the hustling accusation. “Continue loving me and treating me like the princess that you’ve raised.”

He nodded, giving her a quick hug before he went back to looking over his newspapers one last time.

This wasn’t the first time they’d had the ‘No Hustling, Avery’ conversation. But, because he could never hide when something was wrong from her, it surely wouldn’t be the last. It always amazed Jonathan that she never looked at him as a failure, always had encouraging words for her father just to keep him going from day to day. He wanted to say that she was just being brave, but worrying or stressing over problems had never been in her nature. Something he was sure she’d gotten from her mother, as well as her assertiveness and ambition.

 

“I tell you what Avery.” She looked at him, smiling. “We’ll discuss this again and try to come to a compromise when I comb your hair tonight. For the rest of the afternoon though, once we get home, I want you to worry about getting your homework done and nothing else.”

“Alright. But may I call grandma to plan a trip to the grocery store? You know how she likes to plan that in advance if she’s not already going.”

“Yes, you can do that. Let’s get out of here; I’ve gotta stop at the bank and see how long we’ll be good for and then we can go home.”

“Why are you checking the account again?”

He sighed, gathering their things before leading Avery out of the ice cream shop after she threw their trash away. “Had to get the car fixed so we can ride around without breaking down again. We’ve got a good bit saved, but I still want to check before I plan out our budget for the month. Daddy don’t want to write any bad checks or overdraw when I try to get cash.” 

“That would be a very bad thing. Well, at least it’s only one major thing we have to worry about this time.” Avery shook her head. “Car problems, why are they so constant and expensive when you don’t have the hookup? Enough to make me want to take public transportation for the rest of my life.”

“It’s a car I’ve had for a long time. I’m literally going to ride that thing until the wheels fall off.”

“Yeah? Well let the wheels fall off when I’m not riding around with you, Dad. But really, car problems and nothing else, we should still count our blessings. We have each other, our health, and, finally, a stable home.”

For the first time in weeks, a semi-positive thought came to Jonathan’s mind after Avery’s comment. The last time he’d lost a job, they didn’t have a home once his money ran out. Though she didn’t mind them being there, he knew he wore out his welcome, for years to come, at his mother’s home. “Lucky for you and I, I kicked my pride out of the way and accepted that house from my grandparents. Now that was a true blessing.” He was thankful that when they retired and moved out of state, he was the first person they called to take ownership of the very first home they’d ever purchased. They’d always told Jonathan how much they trusted him, they believed he’d take care of the home better than their own kids would. And they were right. It was surely the only way he would be able to stay in San Francisco without having to worry about paying rent or a mortgage. All they’d asked was that he keep it in great shape, and he’d been doing just that.

Avery took her backpack and her father’s hand as they began walking towards the free parking garage where he’d left their car. “Gotcha. But Dad, my offer to help is always on the table.”

“I appreciate that, I really do. But you earn your money, you keep it and let me handle everything else.”

Avery sighed, shrugging her shoulders before finally saying okay. She knew that it was no use offering, her father’s pride spoke louder than anything and if he felt he could handle it, she’d just have to trust and let him. He’d always managed to pull them back to the top.

 

 

Once they made it home about an hour later, Avery dropped her backpack by the front door and headed straight for the kitchen.

“That bag is not to be left there all night.”

“I’ll get it when I finish, Dad.”

Jonathan shook his head,walking into the living room after closing and locking the front door. Plopping down on his tan couch, he let out a deep sigh and ran his hand down his face. His whole day of actively job searching, going to different places and asking for applications to fill out, before picking Avery up from school had been a bust. The only good bit of news he had was that they’d be good for at least six months, if he kept to his already strict budget, before he had to start worrying again. It still wasn’t enough for him to sit back and do nothing, or wait for something to fall into his lap. He knew that life had a funny way of messing up even the most thought out plans.

 

Walking into the living room with a small glass of water in her hand, Avery looked at her father and the worried look etched across his face. “You know Dad, I’ve been thinking.”

“When aren’t you thinking and plotting?”

She smirked, leaning against the arm of the couch as she took small sips. “When I’m sleeping. But as I was saying, Dad, I’ve been thinking. Maybe we should move.”

“And go where, Avery?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. Somewhere that doesn’t have a high cost of living. Let’s just be honest, California has always been an expensive state.”

“How do you even know that?”

“Really Dad, you’re asking me what I know and how I know it? Sometimes I prefer the news over cartoons, don’t judge me.” Jonathan just shook his head, pinching the bridge of his nose. “The point is; new place, new opportunities, new life.”

“We’ll get there some day, Avery, we’ll see the world but not any time soon. Can’t uproot on a whim and hope it works; when it comes to you, keeping you safe and having somewhere for you to live, that’s got to be thoroughly planned and thought out.” She nodded, sighing lowly. “It is a wonderful idea though. Now get started on your homework and make sure it’s all done early. You know it’ll take me an eternity to comb your hair after we have dinner, we both hate it, and we have to do better at getting you to bed on time. We’re gonna be on it tonight with the schedule.”

“Homework, dinner, shower, hair. If there’s at least twenty minutes to spare, may I watch a little TV before bed?”

“If your homework is correct when I check it, sure. Now get going.”

“Yes Sir.”

Avery quickly grabbed her backpack from by the door and headed to her room.

 

Once he heard her bedroom door close, Jonathan picked up the receiver of his house phone. Sitting next to it on a side table, he picked up a notepad that had a short list of numbers, all from the different places that he’d already applied to weeks before.

One by one, he dialed each number to inquire about the status of his applications since he’d heard nothing back. And one by one, they all stated that they’d already filled their positions.

Slamming the phone down after the tenth number, he groaned. “Damn shame when even a knock-off version of McDonalds tells you ‘no’.”

He was just about to pick up the receiver again when he heard a knock on his door. A second knock followed, and after that came knocks in a rapid succession, as if the person were making a beat. Answering quickly, already knowing who it was, Jonathan let stepped aside and let his cousin Lance walk in.

“Yo doe, what’s good cousin?” Looking at Jonathan’s face, Lance could see that he’d asked the wrong question. He also figured that he should tone down the cheerfulness in his voice. “Damn, who pissed in your cereal this morning?”

“It’s just been a rough day, Lance.”

“Still no luck?”

Jonathan shook his head, heading back into the living room after he closed and locked his door.

 

Lance followed, sitting in the recliner that had once belonged to their grandfather. “Look Man, it’s gonna get better, and it’s gonna get better soon. You’ve always been a quick thinker, hard worker, and you never let anything keep you down for long. Now where’s the mini-business woman? I know Avery’s gotta be around here working on her next business plan.”

“No, she’s doing homework.” Jonathan cleared his throat, looking directly at his cousin. “And you need to stop encouraging her with that ‘Business Woman’ stuff. You put her on to the idea of selling her cookies after your mom taught her how to bake and she’s been on grind mode ever since. It’s been three years since she started and she hasn’t stopped pitching sales ideas yet.”

Lance chuckled. “At least you know she won’t grow up to depend on nobody to do anything for her. She’s learned how to go out and get her own. She learned how to get back up after being knocked down, she learned that from you, and she’s gonna carry that with her into adulthood. Cookie stands, snack stands and lemonade stands, whether they do well or fail, it’s the same thing and it’s a great way to teach a little responsibility, hard work, and the good feeling you get when you earn something for yourself. Can’t knock Avery’s hustle, ‘cause she’s definitely a smart one and she handles it well.”

“I know, but I don’t want her to feel like she has to work or take care of herself. That’s my job, Lance.”

Lance leaned forward, clasping his hands together as he spoke. “And you do an amazing job. Think about it; you’ve got yourself a third grader that makes straight A’s, she pushes herself to excel. She’s not spoiled or bratty, very respectful to all adults, even when they try to make her feel bad. Always got a kind or positive word, always looking to help others. And instead of questioning your choices, which she shouldn’t anyway, she happily goes along and supports whatever you decide. She trusts you to take care of her because she knows her dad has her best interest at heart. Y’all got a tight bond; father and daughter, but friends as well. And I think because y’all have that tight bond, she knows she can offer you that help or do her own little thing without feeling that you’ll take advantage or try force her into actually working to help provide. Jonathan Wade, Sir, you raised a brilliant child.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right, Lance.”

“I am right. Let Avery do her thing, and you stop stressing so much. I know it seems like nothing good will come your way, but just pray and wait for it. Everything takes time.”

 

Jonathan nodded, thanking Lance as he finally kicked his shoes off. “And in the meantime, in between time, you already know that if you need something, I got you. When I made that resolution for New Years ‘94, to help my immediate family out more, I meant that. You and Avery, whatever you need, just ask.”

“Appreciate that, Lance. How soon can I take you up on that offer?”

“Whenever. What’s up?”

Jonathan yawned, covering his mouth for a second. “Nothing big. I just need someone to watch Avery while I drive a couple hours outside of San Francisco, see if I can find something. Doing anything had always been an option, but looks like I’ve gotta add going any distance to that. Gotta get it together for my daughter.”

Lance smiled, knowing his cousin would stress no matter what was said. He admired Jonathan though, readily admitting that he wouldn’t have been able to grow up as quickly as Jonathan did.

 

When Avery was born, Jonathan and her mother, Cara, were only seventeen years old, just beginning their senior year of high school. Jonathan immediately stepped up and handled his responsibility, assuring Cara and their families that they would be fine. He took two jobs, while working towards graduating from high school, so that he could provide for them. Once Cara was kicked out of her parents home, he took another step to give their ‘relationship’ a real try, moving them into a small apartment so that their family could be together once they both graduated at eighteen.

College had never been on his agenda so, with the exception of his mother watching Avery while they worked, Jonathan happily gave up his personal time to be home with his daughter while Cara continued her education, working towards a career in nursing.

The situation and lifestyle worked out perfectly for them for just over a year, allowing them to live as comfortably as two young adults with a toddler could. When he and Cara broke up, she moved out and they opted to co-parent. Getting a good schedule going seemed to elude them for a few months, but they managed, even coming to terms with the ending of their relationship and learning to act civil towards one another for the sake of their daughter. They’d become good friends, and had an easygoing co-parenting system until, a few months after Avery turned three, Cara lost her life in a car accident. It was something Jonathan had a hard time coping with, even feeling guilty because of a small argument they’d had that very night, but he kept himself together for Avery, making sure he kept the promise he’d made to Cara when she first announced she was pregnant; to always take care of their daughter.

After that, it seemed as if nothing but bad luck came his way, mainly when it came to keeping a job. 

 

Lance, and a few others in their family admired Jonathan greatly, often commending him for never being the type to just sit back or mope and complain about life being unfair. If he felt that way, he kept it to himself and moved forward, worked harder with every new opportunity that came his way.

Clearing his throat, Lance nodded. “Yeah Man, I’ll watch Lil’ Bit for you. I promised to help her build a new stand for her business anyway, we can spend the day doing that.”

“Stop enabling my child.”

“Do you not understand how great her baking skills are?” Jonathan looked at Lance. “Man, don’t tell my mama I said this, but Avery’s peanut butter cookies are better than hers.”

“Aww man, don’t go hyping my daughter’s skills up.”

“They deserve to be hyped. I’m telling you, mark my words; if she doesn’t become some type of teacher or go into politics, she’s gonna have her own bakery. Making a killing somewhere in the Bay Area or along the coast.”

Jonathan laughed, picking up the receiver of his phone so that he could check on the status of the other applications he’d put in.