A Piece of Main Character's Backstory


Grandma’s tired eyes didn’t see me on the other side of the silly glass in the apartment door peephole. I hopped down from the chair that helped me see outside, and let her in. She hugged me and looked around. I asked if she wanted to meet my flower. 

"What time does your mother get home from work?" 

Maybe Grandma didn’t hear my question. I scooped up Orangina from the table and lifted her to Grandma’s nose. She moved her face away and said, "Marigolds don't have a pleasant odor. They keep insects away from tomato plants."

"I like its smell. I guess because I'm not a bug." I laughed. Grandma made a snap sound with her tongue. She did that when she worried about Mommy.

"Sometimes Mommy comes home at 6:30." When she came in later than that, me and Orangina snuggled up to each other with all the lights on until she came in and hollered about the electric bill. 

I put Orangina by the window. She was happier there. My finger tingled to touch her clean dirt. Would I hurt her roots if I did that? I loved the dirt smelled after I watered her.

"How did you get home from school?" Grandma looked down at me. She touched my head the same way the minister did.

"I walked. It's not far. The crossing guards are real nice." I always made sure to walk close to an adult with a kid to make it easier for the guard to cross us. I pretended the adult and kid were my family.

Grandma ordered from Lee's Pizza & Sub Shop two blocks to the left from our corner and the next block to the right. Mommy kept the paper that has the list of food you can order from Lee’s on the refrigerator. Grandma helped me with my spelling words while we waited for the delivery person. 

Mommy must have thrown away the sad bouquet. I told Grandma about it. She slid Orangina in front of my papers, and explained Orangina was magic. "Don't worry when the flower withers. Just like the dandelion, she's getting ready to give you a present. At the top of the stem is a pouch." Grandma pointed under Orangina’s petals. "When the flower dries up, it leaves seeds."

Mommy came in. Grandma kissed my head and got up from the table. "I thought you were putting her in the after school program."

"It's too expensive,” Mommy said. 

Is dirt expensive? I needed more for those seeds. 

Mommy was still talking. “I thought I could afford it, but it's costing me more than I thought to live here."

How many seeds were growing under Orangina’s petals? Could a new marigold grow from each seed? Orangina had a teeny bud next to her opened flower. More seeds could be in that one too. 

"Deenie, she's not safe walking home alone in this neighborhood to an empty apartment." Grandma forgot about Orangina being in the apartment. 

"Okay, I'm a bad parent." I picked up my flower to take it to Mommy. If Orangina got closer to her, she’d feel better. But she wasn’t done talking to Grandma. "What're you going to do? Turn me in to the state?"

State. That was a curse word, so I tried not to say it and hurt God’s feelings. Grandma didn’t like it and neither did Mom. A counselor from the state came to Mommy’s apartment. Even Mommy had to listen to the state when she didn’t want to. It hates families and tries to break them up and make them pay for things they don’t have money for, like after school programs and work training. 

"No, no. I know you're trying your best. I'll go see how much the after school program is. Maybe I can pay for it."

Mommy breathed heavy. Did she catch a whiff of Orangina?

"Deenie, Aubrie said the school's not far, so it won't take you long to get her after work. It can be your quality time together."

"We have plenty of time together. Right, Aubrie?" Mommy spun around to me. That quick I forgot what she asked. I couldn’t answer her. She turned back around to Grandma. "We had a great time shopping yesterday at the mall." 

Next time Mommy takes me shopping, I’ll look for a pot to plant the seeds in. 

Grandma kissed me again, and said to Mommy, "I'll call you, Deenie. Please answer. I love you." 

Mommy whipped around to me after closing the apartment door behind Grandma. "Did you call her?"

My belly felt funny. I sniffed Orangina. Grandma had dropped her cell phone into my schoolbag after I let her inside the apartment. Mommy had taken the other one and lost it. I thought of telling Mommy about the new one. It didn't seem like a game anymore. 

She pulled the refrigerator door open behind my chair. I swiveled around on my knees. Mommy took out the American hoagie and the Styrofoam container of pickles. She always ate them separate, not on the hoagie.

"Is this for me?"

I nodded my blooming head, and used my leaves to hold onto the chair. Did Mommy understand flower talk?



  1. This is a great scene as it shows the tension between 2 different generations of mothers and daughters. It moves along crisply, and the reader becomes interested in what will happen. Bravo, Dawn. All the best with this WIP.


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