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Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother. -Oprah Winfrey
“I wanna my mama,” Claire screamed on the playground as she held her bloodied knee.
“Claire, it’ll be okay. Just let me look at it,” Mandy said, trying to calm down Claire’s tantrum. She’d been running across the playground in the back of the daycare when she fell down.
“Wants mama Bee Ms. Mand,” Claire pleaded.
Normally the staff would try to calm the child down themselves. Even little Lukey knew he wouldn’t get Mary Beth if he cried for her. To him all of the owners might as well be his mother. But Mandy was shocked. Initially she thought Claire was asking for her real mom, not Gabbie.
Gabbie was rocking a baby in the infant room while the devastated Claire sat sobbing in the lobby. Mandy came in and shook her head at Gabbie.
“Claire wants her mother,” Mandy said with her hands on her hips.
“Oh, well…” Gabbie always got a pain her chest when any of the Thomases talked about their parents. It was still so fresh.
“Bee, her mother Bee.”
“She called me her mother?” Gabbie said, a little set back.
Claire had said some things over the past few weeks that she was a good mama, but to say she was her mama…Gabbie stood up and put the now sleeping Jane in one of the cribs.
In the lobby, Claire sat on the bench by a set of cubbies with her injured leg elevated.
“Mama, I’s toreded my preddies,” Claire said as her bottom lip trembled.
“I see that,” Gabbie said, sitting on her knees in front of Claire and opening the first aid kit Mandy had left on the bench.
“My preddies no more,” Claire cried as Gabbie put on latex free gloves and started to clean Claire’s injured knee.
The fact she’d hurt herself was not the reason Claire was crying. She had torn her tights or “pretties” as she liked to call them. Claire cherished every one of her pretties. Gabbie had learned Claire was very much a girl, something Gabbie never was. Gabbie never cared about dresses or sparkly shoes when she was growing up, but to Claire they were a necessity.
As Gabbie pulled down Claire’s soft pink tights with the lacy backs, Claire looked as if she was being skinned alive. Whatever pain she felt from her scraped knee could have been as great as an amputation, she’d never acknowledge it compared to losing a set a tights to a hole in the knee.
“Mama inks my bess,” Claire sobbed as if she was just shot through the heart with an arrow.
“You still have your white and your blue and your orange pretties and don’t forget your ones with the little flowers on them.”
“I’s never gets better preddies…” she declared with all the melodrama befitting Scarlett O’Hara declaring her love for Tara.
“These pretties were almost too small for you, you’ve been growing so much. How about this?” Gabbie suggested, trying to hold back from laughing in the poor child’s face. To Claire this was life or death. “Your daddy and I will pick you up a new pair on the way home and maybe some big girl underwear since you’ve been doing so good on the potty. These pretties were made for little girls that wear diapers.”
Claire’s eyes perked up. She started to smile, but only briefly, holding the now-torn tights to her heart as she stood up and stuck her chest out.
“Dees was bestest preddies ever,” one little crystal tear fell from her dark mahogany left eye, catching on her soft lash then flowing down her chubby cheek.
Gabbie gave Claire a hug to hide the fact she was about to piss her pants from laughing. She released Claire, who returned to the toddler room still clutching her torn tights and Gabbie fell back on the floor and covered her face with her hand so she could laugh without hurting any feelings.
“Is it safe now,” Mandy said holding her gut as she gasped for air. “I lost it when…when she said…” Mandy couldn’t hold in her laughter. “I’s never gets better pretties. Did you see her lip quivering?”
“She’s in pain right now,” Gabbie said, trying to be serious. Instead, she ended up rolling on her stomach. “My daughter is such a drama queen.”
“Your what?” Mandy said, catching her breath. “Gabbie, she’s not your daughter.”
“I just called her my daughter,” Gabbie sat up and put her head in her hands. What was she thinking?
“Yeah, you and Case have been together a month and you’re already claiming children that aren’t even his as yours.”
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