Collecting the Pieces

By: L.A. Fiore
For some, love is like a fairytale that sweeps you off your feet and instantly turns your sorrows into joy. It’s a lifetime of clear skies and smooth roads, where your dreams come true and your heart sighs. For others, love is a reckless ride—a sliding into home plate and taking that hit from the careening ball. It hurts, it cuts, and yet you go back for more because it makes you feel alive…it brings you back to life. Regardless of what love you find, the simple act of loving has the power to fix the broken, to lift the fallen and to light the dark. A gift of the heart, lost on some and taken for granted by others, but for those of us lucky enough to appreciate the beauty of it, it’s the glue that takes all the pieces of ourselves and makes us whole.





Then

Sometimes we find a love that we’ve wished for, a love that is beautiful and pure that heals our hurts and fills the emptiness.

— Sidney Ellis





1997

Invisible


I was left on the steps of a hospital as a baby. My birth mother, and possibly father, couldn't get away from me fast enough because they hadn't left a note explaining why they were abandoning me, nor a blanket, not even a teddy bear. In fact, they were in so much of a hurry to see the last of me that they hadn't even bothered with giving me a name. I was baby girl number three until one of the nurses named me—a person who'd cared for me for two days before never seeing me again. Sidney Ellis. At least I liked my name.

I lived in a group home in Trenton, New Jersey for the first ten years of my life. It always happened that I was either the youngest of the group or the oldest. Unlike little orphan Annie, I didn't get a family out of the strangers. To me, they were all just strangers. The people who worked in the home tried to remember birthdays, but there were just enough kids that more often than not a birthday would come and go without so much as a ‘happy birthday’. And holidays? The powers that be claimed there was too much diversity among the children, which was really just their excuse to get out of celebrating any of them.

When I turned ten, I was fostered to a family and for the first time I allowed myself to imagine a family of my own. While I lay in bed, I secretly wished for a mom who would run her hand down my hair in affection. I saw that at school once from a mother dropping off her daughter and it was the loveliest thing I'd ever seen. So simple, but it was like that mom couldn’t get enough of the wonder of her daughter. I wanted that. I wanted a dad who would play catch and teach me to ride a bike. And a brother or sister who just liked my company. I made all those wishes and held them in the very deepest part of me.

I was ten, but I felt a lot older. Growing up the way I did, I guess I matured faster than kids my own age. I wasn’t worried about clothes and what clique of kids to hang with. I didn’t agonize over if I’d get invited to the popular kid’s birthday party or if my soccer team would win the championship trophy. For me, it was more where would I end up? Who would ever want me? Who would ever love me? And at ten, those questions were finally going to be answered.

The day I met my new family, Mrs. Crane, the woman who ran the group home where I lived, had found me a new outfit—a pretty yellow dress with little pink flowers all over it. I was a bit old for the dress, but she'd gone to the trouble to find it. My feet hurt in the white sandals; they weren’t my size, but I made do.

A man and woman waited with Mrs. Crane when I entered her office and I felt terrible because, on first impression, they didn't look like the family of my imagination. The lady had been pretty once, her hair was long and blond and her eyes were blue, but she looked tired and unhappy, as if the world had beaten her down. The man was tall and had a stomach like Santa Claus. His hair was black but he was losing it in spots. His face held no expression, as if what was happening in that room held very little interest for him.

“Sidney, this is Mr. and Mrs. Miller.”

The meeting veered further from my imagination because they didn't immediately walk to me, smiling and reaching out a hand or offering a hug. They stayed rooted to their spots across the room and looked at me about as passionately as someone might study a tomato. Disappointment burned in my gut, but I remembered my manners. “Hi.”

“Are you ready?” The lady asked.

I think I knew then that my wishes had fallen on deaf ears, but what was done was done. “Yes.”

“Very well. Let’s be on our way.”

The man walked from the room without even saying a word with the lady following after him. Mrs. Crane, the person who had been the closest to a mother, really the only family I'd ever known, simply said, “Be happy, Sidney.” And then I was forgotten, her heels clicking on the tile floor as she retreated down the hall. I stood in her office, dressed in clothes more appropriate for someone much younger than me, and felt totally and completely invisible.

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