Daisy sat across from her high mother in the kitchen and listened to her make every excuse in the world why she couldn’t take care of her anymore. She was broke- but Daisy knew that was because she spent it on weed and drugs. She didn’t have energy and always had a headache- that was side effects. Daisy needed a better life- she always said, “don’t be like me”. Daisy zoned out, her head dazed, and didn’t hear most of what her mom even said; but she had heard enough, nonetheless. She was a burden to her mom, even though, with her job, she produced close to half of their income. She had been wanting to get out of there anyways and took this as her chance.
The next morning, after Daisy packed up her scant belongings, an uber car came around and pulled up next to the curb. Looking back one last time, she saw her mom smoking a blunt through the open side of a dusty window. She probably had ‘I Love Lucy’ on, but a curtain drawn on the other side of the window blocked her view. She sighed, ‘This is it’. Taking a shaking breath, she slid into the uber and the driver started his route to the Daytona Airport, leaving the ragged Florida home behind.
The palm trees and tall pink and white buildings zoomed by, Daisy was lost in her head, staring out the window. This was all she had ever known. What would life be like in Boston? What would living alone or being outside of a drug addict’s world be like? She would soon find out.
Meanwhile, in New York:
May is cuddled up on her bed under her blankets, holding a warm cup of coffee. She had just showered and was now binge watching ‘Parks and Rec’, propped against three down pillows with a salmon colored throw pillow on her lap that said, ‘Keep Going’. She breathed a deep breath, exhaling the day. Holding the covers up to her chin, she sipped on her Pumpkin Spice Latte from Second Street Café.
‘Parks and Rec’ was her favorite show- she could probably quote every episode perfectly, but tonight she wasn’t really paying any attention to the characters on the screen; the characters in her head shouted over them. Just a few hours ago, as her professor let out her business class and she entered the halls of NYU to navigate to her next class, May noticed her boyfriend standing just outside the class doors, waiting for her.
“Hey, we need to talk.” He had said. And her stomach fell, she knew what was coming next, “I’m getting busy with my classes and senior year coming up. I can’t see you anymore”. ‘This is about another girl, isn’t it’, she thought to herself. She had seen him with Belinda the other day on the football field after practice. Before she could respond he kissed her stiffly on the cheek and turned and walked away. She stifled her tears and hid her face to collect herself. The moving sea of people blurred.
‘Ding!’ she practically jumped; a drop of her latte sloshed onto her white duvet as a text from her best friend came through her phone.
“How are you doing, girl? I heard about what happened.”
She sat for a second, then picked up her phone and replied with several messages as she tried to sort through her own feelings, “Hey, I’m okay.” “I don’t know, right now.” “I don’t understand” “I’m just mad and frustrated, I guess.” “I don’t know why though; he’s always been this way.” … “I don’t know if I’m okay.”
The bubble appeared and then disappeared as Christy typed out her response, “I mean, he was a dick anyways.” “He never really cared about you. You know he wasn’t good for you.”
“Yeah, I know. I just didn’t know what else to do or where else to go, you know?” “I mean, he paid for half of my tuition. I couldn’t just not be with him. I owed it to him, you know?”
“You didn’t owe him anything. He did that to keep you around and use you. You know that. I know it’s scary, and this situation is more than wrong, but you have to know it’s okay to just do what’s best for you.” “You didn’t ask him to pay for your tuition. He offered, so it was essentially a gift. You never have to owe me when I give you a gift, right?” “He was using you, May. It’s good that he can’t hurt you anymore. He’s a shitty guy.”
May knew Christy was right, she sighed, and closed her phone. She didn’t know what to reply.
On the lock screen, Christy’s message flashed: “I love you. And I’m here for you no matter what.” “Call me if you want to talk or if you need anything. I’m 3 minutes away. <3”
May was tired and set her phone down, soon drifting off to sleep.
Daisy walked up to the check-in counter at the Sonder-Pierce Boston hotel and stated her reservation, looking past the woman standing in front of her and out the window beyond her.
“Okay, miss Dayton, you are in apartment 212, is there anything else I can do for you?”
“Thank you. I think I’m set.”
“Okay, wonderful! If you have any concerns, you can call us at anytime through the room phone. Have a nice stay!”
Daisy nodded, offered a smile, and began toward the elevator to go up to the second floor. She sat on the bed and tossed her backpack aside. A 3-hour flight and $300 out of her savings left her exhausted- more or less than the complete 360 her life just took. Only 4 hours ago, she was on the curb outside of her mother’s house, and now she’s 1,234 miles* away, not knowing if she’ll ever go back. Laying on the bed, staring at the ceiling, she closed her eyes and breathed deep, “Daisy, you’ve got this. You have to. This is it. This is your life.”
She woke up cuddling her backpack. She looked around, still tired and remembered the entire day before. To take her mind off things, she decided to go out and explore the city and grab some breakfast; she hadn’t eaten much besides complimentary pretzels in close to 16 hours. There was a Starbucks just a one-minute walk from the condo. Since it was fall, they were carrying the Pumpkin Spice Latte again, which was her absolute favorite. After her coffee run, she dipped in to Target, just a block away, to see if they had any jackets, as she only had a skimpy sweater and it was getting cold in New England (that’s what the locals called the area), and also bought a water canteen to fill up. After stocking up on necessities, she headed out to Fenway Park, just a few minutes down the road to enjoy the sun and the air.
Pulling out an old tattered leather journal from her backpack, she opened it to a blank page and wrote, “September 6, 2019- I finally moved out. I’m in Boston, currently sitting in Fenway Park. I stayed in the Sonder Pierce condos last night, and they were wonderful. I’m not sure where I’m staying tonight, but I might go back there. We’ll see. On a bright note, Starbucks is selling their Pumpkin Spice Lattes again and I’m THRIVING on it. Fall warmth just makes everything feel a little better, you know?…” Her thoughts were interrupted by an old man who came to sit down on the opposite side of the bench from her and pulled out some sunflower seeds to throw to the birds. He sat and patiently cracked each one and tossed it out to them. Daisy watched him for a second in wonder, then asked him, “Why do you crack the seeds for them?”
He replied, “Because, my wife used to love throwing seed to the birds. She would sit outside and feed them the very same way for 60 years until she passed away three years ago. And now I do it; it makes me feel like she’s with me.” His lower lip quivered and a tear rolled down his cheek, “I know they can crack them themselves, but it was the love that she put into doing it for them that made it so meaningful and wonderful. She went the extra mile every time. She always said, ‘birds deserve a spa day, too, sometimes.’ I always watched her in wonder… She was a beautiful woman. I never found love after her.” He sat silently for a moment; Daisy’s heart melted. She had never even heard someone speak so much love for another person.
“What was her name?”
“Margaret”, he smiled and tossed another seed, “Margaret Millie Jackson. Strong, talented, graceful. And the sweetest librarian you ever could know.”
“How did you fall in love?”
The old man looked at her almost in awe and smiled, “Would you like the whole story?”
“I would love to hear it. Please tell me.”
(*according to Google Maps, 2019)
May’s classes were short on Fridays. She only had two and they were her favorite ones, Business and Marketing. But her mind was foggy and unfunctional today. She sat with her chin on her palm with a messy bun and big circular glasses atop her nose. Her professor, Miss Delaney, noticed her exhaustion and came up to her after class when she didn’t get up with everyone else; instead just sitting there with her face in her hands. Miss Delaney was her favorite professor and often talked with her as a mentor. She sat at a desk next to May and put her hand on her shoulder, “You aren’t feeling well. What’s wrong?”
May was quiet for a moment and then said, “It’s probably for the best.”
“What’s probably for the best? Is this about… the guy you were dating?” she caught herself before saying his name; no one wants to hear their ex’s name right after a breakup.
“He broke up with me for another girl.” She stated almost emotionless, “But he was never good to me. We never had a healthy relationship anyways and he took advantage of me a lot.”
“It’s hard losing someone you thought you needed or that felt familiar. But just know, any guy who doesn’t treat you right doesn’t deserve you. It’s hard to see in the moment and you can’t blame yourself; it was never your fault. For your own sake, you have to give yourself grace for not leaving sooner and realize that there is better for you out there. I know these next few weeks will be hard, but you are strong, I see that in you… Is there anything specific you want to get off your chest?”
May couldn’t think of just one thing, her mind was hectic, her heart was not just broken, it was shattered; she really only felt partially alive. All she could get out was, “…I’m sorry.” And broke down and bawled harder than she ever had in her life.
Daisy sat there listening to the old man replay his romantic love story. He told it so well that she felt the butterflies and experienced that first kiss and felt like she was in the audience when they declared their vows sixty-two years ago. It was like a movie.
“…Love is work, but it’s beautiful work. The most incredible and satisfying decision you could ever make every day of your life,” He finished with a reminiscent nod and a smile, “the most worthwhile job you’ll ever be honored to have.”
He threw the last handful of seeds and, folding it neatly, tucked the packet in his coat pocket. With a satisfied nod and a warm smile, he said, “Thank you for listening to my story. I don’t think I’ve told it since Margaret’s passing. It was wonderful to remember it and relive the gorgeous life we had together.”
Daisy said, “I loved hearing it as much as you loved telling it” and offered him an understanding smile. He tipped his cap getting up and said,
“It was good to meet you, Daisy. You have a nice day.”
“You as well, Mr. Jorge. Have a nice day.”
As he strolled down the sidewalk toward the street, she finished her journal entry, “…I met a wonderful old man, Mr. Caleb Jorge, today. You should have heard the beautiful love story he told about he and his wife, Margaret. It was true love. One day, I want a love like that… I hope to see Mr. Jorge again someday and I wish him many blessings in his life.
As Always, Daisy”
In May’s Marketing class, Miss Delaney pulled her into a hug and told her, “Oh Sweetie, there’s nothing you have to apologize for. None of this was your fault. Not even him being a dick. That was all by his own rotten intention. A narcissist will always make you feel like it was all your fault. But it’s a lie, no matter how much they want you to believe it.”
May looked up at her, rubbing her eyes, “You don’t think I’m weak or undeserving?”
“The only thing you don’t deserve is to be treated like that by anybody.” Miss Delaney assured her, “And I think you are the strongest person I know, so you’re definitely not weak,” She said with a smile, “This will be hard. And it’s okay if it takes you a while to understand what’s happened. Be easy on yourself while you do. And even if it doesn’t seem so right now, you’ll be okay. I know it.”
It was a chilly walk back to her apartment; her fuzzy coat hugged her chin. How was it so cold already? It was burning up just a few days ago under the spell of that August heat!
The weather wasn’t the only thing confusing May; she didn’t know why she was sorry- as if any of it was her fault, or that she was somehow inconveniencing anyone else. She knew she hadn’t done anything wrong and wondered when she began to believe she was the one that had somehow messed it all up. He was always the one texting other girls; standing her up on dates; putting in no effort, except to make a show of it; and abusing her. She frowned to herself. She never meant any of her relationships to end up that way.
Just as her nose was starting to sting from the nipping cold, she opened the front door to her apartment, which was all hers. Her parents were rich. Her dad owned a massive share in Google and was CEO of a company called Shipr (which is basically like Amazon). Money was never a problem in the Kinzie household. Her and her brother Austin always got along well, and her mom was practically her best friend. But, their dad was often busy and many of their relatives lived far away.
None of that could be the reason though, could it? May was so confused. Nothing in her life had led her to an abusive relationship. Maybe, though it was because they had just moved to a new town and her dad had extra busy days at work that year- she was under a lot of stress right before she met ‘he who shall not be named’. Her best friend always called him Voldemort; she NEVER liked him, and for good reason.
May had met Dylan the middle of her Sophomore year of high school. The same year they had moved. She also no longer went to the same school as her best friend. And she was of age to develop an interest in the guys around her. Dylan was quarterback on the football team, funny, and had a handsome face. But things quickly went south after she met him.
May shook the thoughts from her head. She called Christy, “You know what, I’d love to hang out. Maybe pop open that Rosé?”
Thank God her best friend attended the same college as her.