Unexpected Reality

By: Kaylee Ryan

This bar looks as good a place as any to take a break. I’ve been driving for hours with no destination. I have nowhere to go, nowhere to be, and no one who will be looking for me. That is my reality.

I’ve always tried hard to be positive with the life I’ve been given. I always had three hot meals and a safe place to lay my head at night. I’m one of the lucky ones who landed within the system that didn’t have to sleep with one eye open. Jeff and Maggie were great foster parents and even better adoptive parents. They made sure I had everything I needed, and in turn, I did what was expected of me. I did my chores, my homework, and never broke the rules.

Rebel, I know.

My chest literally aches at the thought of Jeff and Maggie. Did I tell them thank you enough, show them how grateful I was for bringing me into their home? My eyes start to burn with tears.

I’ve lost the only family I’ve ever known.

I was blissfully happy, one week from graduating college, moving back home to help Jeff and Maggie at their law firm. I chose paralegal because of them.

It’s been a month since I got the phone call. Thirty days since my world came crashing down.

“Home invasion.”

“Two fatalities.”

“You need to come home.”

Those are the details of the call that I remember. The night I lost the family that chose me. Jeff and Maggie’s family were not as open to me as they were. They felt it was silly that they were able to conceive their own children, but decided to adopt me instead. I was the only one. They said they didn’t want to have to share their love. Needless to say, now that they’re gone, it’s just me. I’m alone in the world once again, no family and no close friends. I have acquaintances, but I spent all my free time in the library. I didn’t go to parties or football games. I studied. I wanted to do it for them to show them how much I appreciated all they had given me. Everything I’ve ever done in my life has been for them.

Now they’re gone.

Where do I go from here?

The neon sign flashes in the window advertising different kinds of beer. I don’t care what kind it is; I just need something to help take the pain away. Across the street is a motel. Good. I plan to drink until I forget.

Quickly, I cross the street and reserve a room. It’s actually perfect that I won’t have to drive. I pull out my debit card and pass it to the young receptionist. I have money, lots of it. Jeff and Maggie left me everything, just something else their families didn’t approve of. I was about to give it back, tell them they could shove it. That money won’t bring back the only parents I’ve ever known. It won’t bring back my family. It wasn’t until the attorney handed me a letter from them, my parents,’ that I changed my mind. The letter said that I brought joy to their lives, that I was their greatest accomplishment. I have that letter memorized.

“Take it, Melissa. We want to know that you will always be taken care of. Live your life and follow your dreams. Live for you, sweet girl. No one else.”

They were always telling me that. “Pick a career you love, Melissa. Not for us but for you.”

I lived for them, and because of them, my life wasn’t the hell that it could have been. How do I learn to live without them? Learn to live for me?

“Sign here.” The receptionist hands me a pen.

I scrawl my name on the receipt, take my key, and head back outside. I don’t want to feel this pain anymore. I just want the pain to go away. The flashing neon sign calls to me. Maybe I can drink it away.

Opening the door, the smell of smoke and alcohol invade my senses. The place—Danny’s, as according to the sign, is packed for a Thursday night. I make my way to the bar and spot an empty stool at the end. Perfect, it’s just me. I’m good with being tucked away, as long as the bartender keeps the drinks coming.

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