Authors: Penelope Ward
By Penelope Ward
First Kindle Edition, October 2013
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced nor used in any
manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for use of brief
quotations in a book review.
Cover by RBA Designs. Stock photo © Shutterstock.com
TABLE OF CONTENTS
She loved to pull on my lip ring. It was her favorite thing to do.
“Ow…that’s a little too hard, baby,” I said. “You’re nothin’ but trouble, you know that?”
She apparently didn’t like that comment because then she scratched me in the face.
“Damn it, girl! Those nails are like claws.”
She pulled my lip again and started laughing this time.
I loved her laugh.
I smiled and shook my head. “That’s it. I’m done with you.”
She laughed even harder, and it was infectious because now I was laughing too.
“You’re so cute. You know I could never be done with you, right?”
I hugged her hard and then lifted her up as the smell of shit wafted through the air.
“Aw, hell, girl. What did your mother feed you this morning?”
My niece started giggling again, as if she understood me. That belly laugh was music to my ears. Holly
was only six months, but I swore she understood everything I said. I reached over for a diaper and some
wipes and began to unwrap the load.
“Oooh, so whatever you had, it was green. Nice.”
Just then, the phone rang, and I could see from the caller i.d. that it was Alex, one of my engineering
study partners. Why the hell was he calling?
I held up my hands. “Stay there, Holly. Don’t move,” I said, grabbing the cordless phone. “Yo.”
“Jake, dude, where the hell are you?”
“I’m home watching my sister’s kid. What’s up?”
“Did you forget Professor Sarma moved the exam to this morning?”
I scratched my head. “No, he didn’t. He moved it to Tuesday.”
The realization that he was right set in. “Oh, crap!”
My sister, Allison, had switched the babysitting day on me this week, and it screwed me all up.
“Fuck!” I yelled into the phone.
“You can still make it here in time if you hurry,” Alex said.
Before I had a chance to respond, I looked over at Holly on the couch and saw that she had managed to
touch her ass and get poop all over her fingers.
“Code brown, Alex. I gotta go.” I hung up the phone and rushed over to the baby who was still smiling
at me, happier than a pig in shit.
“Okay, sweet pea. That was Uncle Jake’s fault. We are gonna get you clean and then hightail it outta
here. I can still make the last half hour of the exam if we hurry.”
Holly squealed in delight amidst the chaos.
I took her over to the sink, holding her with one hand as I used the other to spray her hands and bottom
vigorously with the nozzle, adding some dishwashing liquid. That mess was too far gone for baby wipes.
Once cleaned and smelling like Palmolive, I bundled her up and propped her on my chest in the carrier
my sister left me, grabbed the diaper bag and ran out the door.
Holly bounced up and down, as I ran down the street to the train station.
We boarded the train, and the looks and reactions I got from the yuppie passengers were typical. I could
imagine what they were thinking:
Who is this tattooed, pierced bastard wearing all black carrying a little
innocent peanut in a baby carrier?
I envisioned Amber Alerts being called into the Boston police. They looked at me as if I was going to
friggin’ jump them with this baby on my chest. Those judgmental people always made me laugh, though.
The train suddenly stopped. The conductor announced that there was a small mechanical issue being
worked on and that we would be moving in a few minutes.
Ten minutes and one bottle of formula later, the train started moving again.
I had totally screwed today up. If I were lucky, I would catch the professor at the end of the exam and
play the sympathy card with Holly in tow.
When we got to Ruggles station, it was pouring out. I grabbed a plastic Walmart bag out of the black
tote and put it on top of Holly’s head like a hat, careful not to cover her face.
Running through puddles, we finally made it to the building. When I entered the classroom, it was a
ghost town. Professor Sarma was gone. I had missed the entire exam and couldn’t even plead my case.
We made our way back outside, and it was now raining cats and dogs.
Holly was giggling again and started to hiccup.
I adjusted the plastic bag away from her face. “What are you laughing at? Huh?”
I looked up and saw that Holly was staring straight ahead at a girl who was spinning around and
dancing in the rain. Everyone else around us was running for cover, but this girl was staring up at the sky,
letting the water pour down on her and relishing every moment of it. She certainly didn’t seem to care who
was looking at her.
After a few minutes of watching this in amazement, we walked slowly toward her. The closer we got,
the more excited Holly became, flailing her arms and legs in the carrier.
She was probably a Northeastern student and looked about seventeen or eighteen, around my age. She
was wearing a long flowing skirt that spun around with her and had red curly hair cascading down her
back. She was pretty damn cute.
Her eyes were closed now as she lifted her head and opened her mouth to drink some of the falling
rain. She didn’t notice me as I stood there taking in the sight of her. She twirled around again reaching her
arms out to slap the raindrops.
“Hey,” I finally said.
The girl stopped short, looking startled, opened her eyes and smiled. “Oh…Hey.”
“Do you always dance in the rain like that?”
She glanced down at Holly. “Do you always pick up babies at Walmart?”
I laughed and shook my head. “I’m Jake,” I said holding out my hand.
She didn’t extend hers, but smiled. “Jake, is that your baby?”
“Nah, it’s my niece. She has a twin sister who’s with their grandmother, but this one prefers me, so I
take her a couple of mornings a week. We hang so my sister can get stuff done.”
Holly was reaching her fat little hand out, and the girl took it. She smelled like patchouli and whispered
something to Holly then stared back at me, but said nothing.
I wasn’t entirely sure
I was still standing there, but there was something very intriguing about her.
A guitar case was lying on the ground a few feet away, and it made me wonder if she played or studied
music. I was just enjoying living in the moment with her under the falling rain.
Finally, she looked down at my arms and said, “I like your tattoos. They’re hot.”
“Thanks. You’re pretty hot yourself,” I said.
“You don’t strike me as the babysitting type, Jake.”
“Yeah, well, things aren’t always what they seem on the surface.”
I had no idea back then how prophetic that statement would become…when it came to
There was a rumble of thunder in the distance, and she finally cracked a smile. Then, came the three
words that would change my life. “Hi, I’m Ivy.”
SIX YEARS LATER
“Welcome to Brooklyn,” my driver, Reza, said as he helped me out of the yellow cab. He took my bags
out of the trunk, and I handed him a tip.
“Thanks. It was nice chatting,” I said before watching him drive away, leaving me alone to face my new
I wasn’t quite ready for it to begin, so I stood on the sidewalk staring up at the aging building that was
now home as cars on the busy street sped by.
The apartment I’d be living in with three roommates sat atop a Greek restaurant called Eleni’s, and the
smell of lemon, garlic and grilling chicken saturated the air outside.
This neighborhood was nothing like the small rural town where I was from, upstate in the Hudson
Valley. Seriously, this could be an episode of MTV’s
Country bumpkin afraid of trains and
crowds moves to New York. Let’s chronicle her trials and tribulations and watch in amusement as the big
city swallows her up whole and spits her out.
The vibe was different here, and I could immediately tell there would be loads of culture. The area
seemed cosmopolitan and small townish at the same time and reminded me of movies like
. I got
chills because even though it scared the daylights out of me, it had always been my dream to live near
Manhattan. Brooklyn was as close as I was gonna get.
It was the middle of the afternoon, so I was pretty sure my roommates, whom I hadn’t even met yet,
would be working. I wanted to take the time to get acclimated to the apartment alone, maybe take a bath.
I’d be living with my childhood friend Ryan and two other people: a guy and a girl whose names I
didn’t even know. When I was accepted into Long Island University’s nursing program at the Brooklyn
campus, I immediately contacted Ryan to see if he could help me find an apartment. It just so happened that
one of his roommates had recently moved out, so the timing was perfect.
The steps creaked as I made my way upstairs. The faint sound of a woman swearing when I passed by
the second floor made me wonder about the neighbors.
Our apartment was on the third floor, and I struggled with the key before slowly opening the door,
which lead right into the main living area.
It was nicer than I had expected. There was a small kitchen off to the left, and everything was open
concept. I looked around and noticed how homey the living room was, with a brown suede sectional and a
multi-colored, knitted throw on top that looked like someone’s grandmother had made it. There was a brick
wall that added character and built-in bookshelves on the other side of the room next to a large window
with a reading nook that let in generous sunlight. The apartment smelled like coffee, and there was some
leftover in a pot on the kitchen counter. It felt like I was invading someone else’s house. I had to remind
myself that this was my home now.
Past the living room, there were two bedrooms on each side of the hallway and a bathroom straight
ahead at the end. Ryan told me he would leave my room door open and there was a sticky note on the first
door on the left that said “Nina’s Room.” A smiley face was drawn next to my name, which immediately