Absinthe Of The Heart (Sins Of The Heart #1)(2)

By: Monica James

Delores could see the tears in her mother’s eyes, but she still didn’t understand why her mother cried herself to sleep at night. She learned, however, that whenever she mentioned her father, her mother went to bed early, taking a bottle of pills with her.

She didn’t want her mother to be sad, so she adjusted her backpack and smiled. “I can walk myself inside. I’ll be okay. I’m a big girl now.”

When tears welled in her mother’s eyes, Delores feared she’d said the wrong thing. But Elsa nodded, wiping both hands down her exhausted face. She felt so much older than twenty-four. One could be excused for thinking Elsa was dropping off her younger sister at school. Life certainly hadn’t turned out the way Elsa thought it would. And that was the reason she was here. She wanted a better life for her daughter. And if lying was the sacrifice she had to make, then so be it.

“I’ll be here at three o’clock.”

Delores nodded, ignoring the butterflies in her belly because like her mother said, it’s only them now and she had to be strong for her mom. Elsa placed a gentle kiss on her cheek, lingering and savoring the sweetness her daughter emanated. She knew she was destined for great things.

Observing the daunting gates, Delores took a big breath. “Don’t cry, Mommy.” Her tiny fingers reached out to brush the fallen tears from her cheeks. “Daddy is watching over me. So is Grandma Alene.”

Elsa sniffled, standing before she broke down. “Have a-a good day, baby.”

“You too.” Delores turned, an excitement suddenly bubbling within. She’d never had many friends. Living in East L.A., in a neighborhood which was commonly known as the “hood” because it literally was a hood, her mom rarely let her play outside unsupervised.

Her home was a small, two-bedroom house which had seen better days. After a while, Delores got used to the sirens and gunshots. They became background noise which helped her fall asleep.

But she pushed those thoughts far from her mind because the noises she heard right now were sounds she didn’t hear too often—kids’ jubilant laughter, the gentle hum of expensive cars’ motors idling by the curb, and people talking in hushed tones, not a hint of vulgarity slipping into their conversations. She could get used to those sounds.

Climbing the three steps, she chewed on her lip, wondering which way to go. A pretty lady holding a brown clipboard to her chest made eye contact with Delores. Her gentle smile and bright pink earrings instantly made her feel at ease.

“Hello there. Is this your first day?”

Delores knew her mother was watching, poised and ready to run to her daughter’s aid if there was a hint of trouble. She didn’t want to be the cause of any more tears, so she pulled back her small shoulders and nodded.

“Y-yes.” She cleared her throat. “My name is Delores Brooks, and I live in Bel Air.” It rolled off her tongue so freely, she almost believed the lie herself.

“Hello, Delores. My name is Miss Jackson. I’m your teacher.” She bent at the waist, clutching the clipboard to her chest. “I’ll show you where to put your bag.” Delores smiled. She was extremely proud of herself.

Miss Jackson gestured for Delores to follow, signaling with her hand. She didn’t look back, only forward as she marched behind, taking in the sights and sounds. St. Martin’s Elementary was everything and more. The high buildings were painted a pristine white, far whiter than anything Delores had ever seen before. There were no cracks in the exterior. No uneven surfaces for one to trip over and break an arm. The yard was clean. The football field was a lush green. The playground was outfitted with equipment which looked brand new. Delores’s feet itched as she was desperate to take off in a dead sprint and see how high that swing could take her.

But she followed, absorbing and cataloguing everything, knowing there was plenty of time to play later.

Miss Jackson turned over her shoulder, ensuring Delores was keeping up. She liked her already. “Our room is just up on the left.” She nodded, gripping the straps of her backpack, her tiny fingers trembling in anticipation.

When they turned the corner, Delores stopped in her tracks, unable to process what she was seeing fast enough. Children her age ran and laughed with their peers, playing tag or maneuvering a silver spring down a set of stairs. Delores watched in awe, as she’d never seen anything like it before.

“That’s a Slinky,” Miss Jackson gently explained.

Although she was being kind, Delores remembered her mother’s warning to act as if she belongs. She shouldn’t draw attention to the fact she’s in a secondhand uniform, or that she’s only here because two people she loved dearly died and left their money to better her life.