TITLE: Jamie Chapter One
By Piper Harding
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My name is Jamie Fern Opal Bailey and this is my story. Everyone has a story, right? Some
are interesting, others are not. Some have much pain, others little. Some are long and some are short. Some are tragic and some have happy endings. I'm glad mine is what it is.
Today, as you read this, I am 26 years old but I will start my story when I turned 21. You might wonder why do I start my story 21 years into my life and not at the beginning of my life?
Well, let me put it this way, when I turned 21 the beginning of my old life was just about to end and the start of my new life was just about to begin. Does that make sense? If it doesn't make sense now, I guarantee by the end of the story it will.
The day it all started to end I woke up to my dad screaming and a female voice screaming back. It wasn't my mom, I knew that much. My mom died when I was 17. She overdosed on drugs
but my dad said that she ran away. I saw the ambulance leave the night my dad said she would
never come home again. I was coming home from a football game when it pulled away from our
house. Whatever happened happened in our house and ended in our house because the ambulance was
not in any hurry to get to the hospital. No lights flashing, no sirens blaring, just a slow moving
ambulance backing out of our driveway. I knew right away. I've always known that my parents would
die before I did. I just didn't know if it was going to be my mom or my dad or maybe even my brother
because he ended up going down the same road they had gone down....the road to destruction.
But it was my mother who died first. After my dad told me that my mom ran away from home and
would never return, I told him that I had actually seen the ambulance. He said that he didn't know what
I was talking about and to never mention an ambulance to anyone who asked about my mom. I cried
silently for months after my mom “left us.” I never did it in front of my dad or my brother. Grant it,
my mom wasn't much of a mom but she was still my mom. I guess I cried for the loss of her and for
the fact that I never would have a mother who was normal. I realize that while she was alive having her
be “normal” was a shot in the dark but now that she was dead, there was no hope. I wanted a mom
who took me to tea, who sat on my bed and sang me to sleep, who had breakfast waiting on the table
for me when I woke up, who told me I was beautiful and smart and how proud she was of me.
After three months of crying I stopped, just like that. I decided I was wasting my tears.
Nobody was listening and nothing would bring my mom back, even if I truly wanted her to come back.
I'm sorry if the start of my story seems so sad. The first 21 years of my life were pretty sad. But bare
with me, it gets better, much better.
I covered my head with my pillow to try and drown out the yelling but I needed three pillows
plus my ipod (which I didn't own)blaring in my ears to drown out the loud noise of angry voices. I
pulled the pillow away from my face and looked at the clock. It was only 8:30. Now I was mad. My
only day off and I have to wake up to this.
Reluctantly I got up, opened my bedroom door, that badly needed paint, and walked out into the
hallway. I peered around the corner and looked into the living room where the screaming was taking
place. I examined the situation before I was brave enough to say something. After a few seconds of
watching a skinny redhead yelling at my red faced father, I decided I didn't have anything to lose,
besides my life.
I walked out towards them hoping they would notice my presence and stop but neither one paid
any attention to me. Before I could say a word, the redhead picked up a big heavy book off of the side
table. I didn't know what book it was. I was also curious as to how a book got into our house in the
first place(I had never seen my brother or father read anything besides the label on a beer bottle) but
before I could contemplate the mystery book any longer the redhead hurled the book straight at my
dad's head. Luckily he had quick reflexes and moved out of the way just in time. Unfortunately for
me, I was still caught up in the fact that such a big book existed in our home that I didn't move quick
enough and it hit me square between the eyes. Through my pain I squinted down at the book on the
floor and read the title, “War and Peace” By Leo Tolstoy. Now wasn't that ironic? I was hit in the face during a war between my father and this unknown woman and I'll I wanted was them to be quiet so I could have some peace! I also wondered for a split second if the book was any good because unlike the rest of my family, I loved to read.
Okay, enough with the book, my head was pounding and I felt like I was going to pass out.
I could see two blurry figures looking at me. “Hello, is anyone going to ask me if I'm alright?”
I heard my dad's voice say, “Jamie! What are you doing out here?”
I can't believe this, he sounded like he was mad at me for being in the way of the flying book. Actually, I should believe it, everything is basically my fault after all.
I blindly walked over to the sofa (at least I think that blur in the corner is the sofa) and sat down. “Don't worry about me, I'm okay, just blind and in pain. Don't let me interrupt your fight. It sounded like a good one.” I could see my dad leave the room and the redhead picking up something off the floor. Oh great, I hope it's not another book. No, probably not. One book in our house is strange, two books would mean the end of the world. I laid down on the sofa, closed my eyes and tried to will away the pain in my head. A few seconds later I felt something cold and wet hit me in the face.
“Here's a cold washcloth.” My dad said with as much compassion as he could muster. “That
I was touched by his concern, no really I was. It might not sound like much to you but to me it was very touching. I heard voices whispering. I knew it was my dad and the redhead but why were they now whispering? A few minutes ago they didn't care if the entire neighborhood heard their conversation.
I then heard the door shut and my father clear his throat. “Oh, you're still here dad?”
“Of course I'm still here. What kind of dad would leave his hurt daughter home alone on her birthday?”
That's right! It was my birthday. My 21st birthday. How wonderful to be hit in the head on my birthday. And I thought nothing memorable would happen to me today.
“So you're 21 now Jamie.” I heard my dad's recliner squeak as he sat down. “Can I take you out for a beer?”
Okay, because my dad actually remembered it was my birthday in the first place I did believe there for a minute that I had woken up in another dimension. A dimension where dad's give their little girls a kiss on the cheek and say I love you on their birthday. A dimension where dad's sing happy birthday to their birthday girl. A dimension where dad's take their little girls out for a banana split on their special day. But nope, I'm still living in the present, I have a dad who wants to take his now legal drinking age daughter out for a beer. He means well, I know he does. It's what he knows. It's all he knows. I'm not making excuses for him, it's just the facts. My dad's life revolves around beer and parties. Unfortunately my dad drinks to the point of passing out on a daily basis. You probably wonder how he can hold down his job (he's a mechanic, works for himself, “Paul's Auto Shop). He's actually a functioning alcoholic but like I said, it's all he's ever known. Both his mom and dad were the same way. So this will come to no surprise to you that drinking is all I know too. Maybe I'm not as bad off as my dad and brother and like my mom was but I still do it. To be honest, I don't want to and I really don't see it as that thrilling but again, it's what I know. That being said, I still don't want my dad taking me out for a beer on my birthday.
“Thanks dad but I have plans with Nick.” Nick was my on again off again boyfriend. Last
night he told me he wanted to be on again.
“You back with Nick? Come on Jamie, you can do better then him.”
What's the old saying? A girl finds a man just like her dad? Maybe that's not the exact saying but you get my point. I got a guy just like my dad. Nick is a clone of my dad and I think that's why he doesn't like him. He doesn't want me to be with a guy who would treat me as bad as he treated my mom. But see the difference is, I don't let Nick treat me like my dad treated my mom. I know that Nick is nothing special. I know that Nick will probably lead me to a life just like my parents. Nick's parents live like
my parents so it's probably inevitable. I know Nick has no aspirations either. But Nick is comfortable and again, I don't know any different. It's funny, I want to know different. I really do. But I just don't know how to do different. I am smart enough to know that I need to get out of this town and away from the people who keep me down but that first step is a doozie.
I've actually had a few opportunities to break free. See, unlike everyone else in my family, I do have aspirations but I've lived in a world for so long where people just survive, that I just chalk up my aspirations as pipe dreams. It's never going to happen but the dream does get me out of the reality of my life sometimes.
The opportunities that I just spoke of have come from my cousin. He is the black sheep of the family. He's broken free of the Bailey life. He had aspirations and he made them a reality. He broke the chain of pain and left his deadbeat life. A life that's passed down from Bailey to Bailey. He found a way out. Nobody but him in the family, that I know of, has ever done that. His name is Evan Bailey.
He's 25 and a good guy. The only thing weird about him is that he's religious. He believes in God and Jesus and something called the Holy Spirit. Weird. But I still admire him. He lives a good life and is doing exactly what he wanted to be doing, he's an agent for a professional singing band. Grant it, it's a Christian band but hey, he seems to like it.
Evan has tried numerous times to tell me that I can follow my dreams too. He's probably the only one who has ever tried to get me to get out of this town and away from my father. He is the only one who tells me that I have talent and can go somewhere with it. Oh sure, everyone at Roger's Place (the local bar and grill) tells me that I can sing real good. But that's coming from drunk people who also tell BillyBob, the town drunk, the same thing.(he's not a functioning alcoholic like my dad so he gets the town drunk title)
Needless to say, I don't really put much stock in their compliments. But I do get up every Friday night at Roger's and sing my heart out. That's when I feel the most free. That's when I can put my life and my troubles out of my mind. When I sing, I feel like I'm somebody. So when Evan told me that I had a great voice and could do something with it, I believed him. I just don't know where
to start or like I said before, do different.
Even though I've never experienced it firsthand, I know that there are people out there in the world who have “normal” relationships. I don't want to marry a guy that has to go get a drink every night after work. Nick would do that. I don't want a guy who gets so drunk that he passes out or throws up without even realizing it. I've had to clean my mom and dad up enough in my life, I don't want to do that anymore. I'm the one who always got called down to Roger's or wherever they were drinking that night, to come pick them up because one of them was either passed
out or making a scene when Roger cut them off. I don't want to have to do that for the rest of my life.
But I know Nick would be the exact same way. I want a husband who can't wait to come home from work just to see me. I'll have his dinner waiting on the table for him and we'll sit and talk for
hours about nothing imp articular. We'll just be content to be in each others company. I don't want a husband who screams and yells at me or especially does physical harm to me. I'm pretty sure a man like this does exist out there, my cousin Evan is one of them but unfortunately he is my cousin. He can't be the only one with morals and aspirations. Love just exudes from that guy.....it pours out.
Okay, so say I do happen to meet this dream guy of mine, I'm so afraid that my “perfect” husband is not ever going to want me. I'm a girl who has lived in major dysfunction her entire life. Who in their right mind will want to get involved in that? So Nick looks like the best bet for me. I'll just have to live with the drinking. I've done it this long, I can do it for 60 more years.
“So are you going to answer my question Jamie love?” It's strange to hear my dad use a term of endearment towards me. My dad using pet names is like eating pickles and ice cream together. There's nothing wrong with pickles and there's nothing wrong with ice cream but mix the two and you've got a stomachache.
“You mean about Nick? Yeah, we're still seeing each other, sort of.” I lift my head and stare at my dad. My eyes are starting to come into focus again but the pain is excruciating. I realize at this point that a pain reliever would be nice so I start to stand up.
“Hey now, what are you doing. Sit down young lady.” I feel my dad pushing me back down on the couch.
“I was just going to go find something for this pain.” I say putting the washcloth back on my head.
“I'll get it for you. After all, it is your birthday and all.”
“Um...” I don't know what to say to this act of kindness. Great. Now I am not not only blind but mute too. I have a feeling if I was hit in the head any other day then my birthday, I would be in the kitchen searching for my own pain reliever. I guess sometimes I am lucky.
“Here it is, open up.” I hear my dad say.
Open up? He really is treating me like a princess today. “Um dad, I can take a pill by myself. Plus, I need some water to wash it down.”
“Who said I didn't have water too. Now open up.”
I really don't want my dad spoon feeding me a pain reliever and pouring water down my throat but what choice do I really have? If I told him no it would be equivalent of someone saying that they love you and you saying, 'no you don't'. I open my mouth and he pops the pill in, almost choking me to death. If that didn't kill me, he tries again by pouring, what seems like, a vat of water down my throat. I cough and gag and he pats me on the back. Again with the royal treatment.
“You feeling better?” He asks as I hear his squeaky chair again warning me that he's still in my presence.
I cough a little bit more before asking, “Do you mean from the knock on the head or the choking and drowning episode?”
“Very funny. You know what I mean. That book must have hit you hard.”
“That no name redhead sure has an arm.” I lie back down and wait for the pain reliever to do
it's job. That is, if it was a pain reliever. I can't see a thing so who knows what it was actually. I guess I'll find out soon.
“She does have an arm but her aim is terrible. Her name is Helen and she's very nice.”
“Did you say nice?” I quickly sit back up again but realize that wasn't a good idea and lay back down. “Nice is how you describe her dad? The woman wanted to do bodily harm to you.” I guess to my dad that's what love is all about.
“We were just having a little disagreement. Oh! I almost forgot.” I hear my dad's chair squeak again and within seconds I feel something heavy land on my stomach.
Ooff. “What are you doing?”
“It's your birthday present. The book...um, War and something or other.”
I pick it up and squint my eyes at the book that just moments ago caused me to squint in the first place. My dad got me a birthday present? He got me a book for a birthday present? What is this world coming too? “Wow. Thanks dad. That was really nice of you.”
“Yeah, sorry you had to get hit in the head with your own birthday present.” He chuckles and then I hear the squeak.
I didn't care about that anymore. My dad actually got me a birthday present. “No worries daddy. It'll heal.” I sat up feeling much better. Was it the pain medication or the love in the
room. “What made you think of getting me this book?”
“Ah, I won it in a poker game last night. I almost threw it away but just as I was about to chuck it a thought came to my head, 'hey, my Jamie has a birthday tomorrow and she likes to read, I'll pass it on to her.”
Grant it, it wasn't the sweet picture I had imagined, my dad scanning the shelves of a book store painstakingly trying to find the perfect book for his little girl on her birthday. But he did think of me, even if it was just in passing. I could take it or leave it. I didn't have to think hard, I'll take it. I know he loves me in his own way.
The phone rings and I hear the squeak again. “Hello? Um hmm. Sure is. Hold on. Jamie it's for you.”
“Nick?” I ask reaching for the outstretched phone my dad holds just far enough away to make me actually stand up. I guess my princess days are over.
I'm not too surprised my cousin has called. He said he would when he got home from being on his last tour. “Hey Evan, how's it going old man.”
“Old man? Let's see here, someone's birthday is today which makes her only four years
younger then me. Seems like you're catching up to this old man.”
“Catching up is not possible so you'll always be old man to me.”
He laughs out loud, which in turns causes me to laugh out loud. It hurts to laugh right at this moment but it also feels good. If anything, Evan could always make me laugh and bring out the best in me.
“How's the birthday girl doing?”
“Do you want to hear the long version or the short version?”
“How about the short version now and the long version tonight when I take you to dinner.”
“You're in town? You didn't say you were coming to Gilroy.”
“I'm just here for tonight. I had a few days off and I wanted to see my cousin on her birthday.”
Well of course I already had plans with Nick but I could change them for Evan. Nick would
take me somewhere cheap and probably even make me pay. Evan would take me somewhere high class and make me feel important. After all, I could always see Nick later that night at Roger's.
“Sounds great. What time do you want me to meet you and where?”
“Meet me? Are you kidding cuz'? I am picking you up and taking you to a real nice place so get dressed up. I'll be at your house by 6:00.”
“I'll be ready with bells on.” I really wanted to say that I'd be ready with two black eyes but then the long version would have to be spilled.
I hang up the phone and hear my dad clear his throat. “So you'll cancel plans with Nick for
Evan but not for your dad. And after all I've done for you, that's how you treat me.”
I'm not put off by this, not at all. This is usually how our conversations go. Dad feels sorry for himself and tries to make me feel guilty but I've played this game long enough to throw all my chips in. I used to be co-dependent, wanting to please him at any cost but for the last two years I have kicked the habit. I'm very proud of that fact. It's not easy to do, if you know what I mean. If you don't, be glad you don't and here's some advice, don't ever get yourself into a co-dependent relationship. It's bad for both people.
I stand up and notice that I can see again. Leaning down to where he's still sitting in his chair I kiss the top of his bald head. “Daddy, thanks for the book. I will treasure it forever.” And I mean that. It's the only present I can remember getting from my dad. Oh except the one time he told me I could have the family car. Grant it, the family car hadn't run for years and no amount of money on this earth could get it to run ever again. But the day I turned sixteen, he went down to the DMV and got his name taken off of the title and put mine on. The only difference is now if we ever want it off of our property, I have to pay for it to be removed. Now you understand how much this book means to me?
“Let me know if it's any good.” He clicks on the television and leans back in his chair.
“I will dad.” If I ever have the time to read such a long book.
“Hey, get me a beer.” He says to me not even looking back. Well, my birthday is officially over in his mind.
After I hand him his beer (and open it for him, “I've been doing that since I was five) I walk to the bathroom to check out the damage done to my face. I wince when I look in the
mirror. There is already a bruise forming right between my eyes where the big lump is. I was thinking about going back to bed but now I want to get ready for the day and get out of this house. What I'll do, I don't know. This always happens to me though, after spending a certain amount of time here I start to get antsy. I need to get out and breathe and think. It seems like hours until my cousin comes to pick me up. But I can look forward to that time with him. The world is different when I am with him. Don't ask me why, because I don't have a clue but it's peaceful. We also have such a fun time together. Genuine fun too. Not like the people down at Roger's. As crazy as it sounds, I wish I was working today. I haven't told you how much I work already. I work at Great Lakes Grocery as a checker. I'm the girl who is willing to work for all the people who want days off. I work there 24/7 it seems. But that's the way I like it. I get a hefty paycheck and I don't have to be here. Today I actually took off,
because of my birthday. Well, now I was going to have to figure out what to do. As I hop in the
shower it came to me. I'll go down to the lake and sit in peace, feed the ducks, lay in the sun and read my new book. I just hope it makes the time go by quickly until my cousin picks me up tonight.
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