Willa Caldwell jumps in and out of her volatile and sometimes violent marriage seemingly unaware of the affects her actions have on daughter Jade. Lonely and insecure, Jade often falls prey to those eager to take advantage of her desperate need for love and acceptance. She’s betrayed by the people she trusts and falls hard for the boy who treats her the worst. Throughout their lives both Jade and Willa learn that the people who they viewed as enemies may, in fact, have been the ones who loved them most.
As a young adult Jade decides to leave her hometown of Gary, IN as well as the pain of her past to start anew with her big brother, Landon, in sunny California. Sadly, things don’t go as hoped and Jade’s left wondering if she’ll ever experience real love of if it will always be . . . Imagined Love.
“Oh my god, Mrs. Caldwell! What happened to you?” Principal James gasped, as she stared at Willa’s face.
Willa felt completely exposed and vulnerable.
“Look like that smart mouth of yours got you in trouble again,” Dorothea smirked. “So I guess this is your excuse for leaving Jade out there waiting to get snatched by some fool!” she said, pointing at Willa’s face.
“Yeah, Mama, that’s right. Instead of being here to get my baby I chose to be passed out on the kitchen floor with my brains bashed in!”
“Well,” she shrugged, “if you would shut your stupid mouth and do like you supposed to then you wouldn’t have to worry about it, now would you? But you big, bad Willa. Always gotta get the last word. So I figure you must like having your brains bashed in.”
“Wow,” Willa’s lips quivered, as she tried hard not to cry. “It’s always my fault, isn’t it? Miles being a damn fool who beats me because I won’t let him control me has nothing to do with it, right, Mama? Because according to you, I’m just supposed to sit there and let him talk to me like a dog and accuse me of all kinds of junk, and then have his way with me. Right?” she asked, moving closer to Dorothea. “Well you know what, Mama? I’m not you! I’m not gonna be at the mercy of men who beat and cheat on me because I can’t take care of myself. That’s why I work and make my own money. And I’m sick of you making me feel like it’s something wrong with that. Like it’s something wrong with me for wanting more out of life! I don’t wanna be like you, Mama. And I don’t understand why you would try to make me. I thought parents were supposed to want better for their children. But I guess that’s only when they love them, huh?”
“I guess so,” Dorothea smirked. “But not everybody can be loved. Some people you just tolerate because you have to. Know what I mean?”
Noticeably upset, the lady who’d been sitting in the office with her two kids got up to leave. Ms. James and Mrs. Boggs, however, kept watching the two women as if they were on an episode of All My Children! At one point, the secretary waved a teacher away from the door so he wouldn’t disturb what was happening inside.
“Well, look, I didn’t come up here for this. They called saying somebody needed to get Jade. So if you want me to take her while you get yourself together, I will. Or you can run to the bathroom right quick and put your face back on. You know, spruce up a little bit. Straighten up your diamond necklace and rings. Dust off your new outfit. Then you and Jade can ride off in that new Monte Carlo Miles bought you and go home to y’all big beautiful house in Glen Park.”
“And you think that makes it all okay, don’t you? What’s a few black eyes and busted lips when you can have nice things, right? As long as your beloved son-in-law pays your bills and showers you with wonderful gifts then who gives a damn what I go through. Who cares if I get bloodied and bruised . . .?”
“Oh shut up, Willa! It’s your own fault ’cause you ain’t learned how to keep your smart ass mouth closed! Miles work like a dog so you and Jade don’t want for nothing and all he ask is for you to stay home and take care of your family like you supposed to. If you didn’t want this kind of life then you shouldn’t have been laying up having babies in high school. But you did. So it’s too late to be out there chasing dreams and rainbows. Your sole purpose in life is to take care of your husband and children. That’s what you chose. So you better learn to keep your mouth shut and be grateful you got a man that really love you. He wasn’t like a lot of ‘em who would’ve ran out on you. He stood by your side and broke his back to take care of you and the baby. And then, after all that, you think he just gone sit back and let you talk to him any old kinda way?” Dorothea asked, incredulously. “You wouldn’t have nothing if it wasn’t for Miles. You oughtta be bending over backwards to make sure that man got everything he need. Everything he need! It’s the least you can do. So keep your ass at home and take care of your own man instead of running around that office catering to some other one for a few little pennies!” Dorothea sneered. “You better get your priorities straight, little girl, or you gone lose the best thing you got.”
Willa stood there shaking her head in disbelief. “I feel sorry for you, Mama. I really do. But I refuse to let your 1950’s mentality and the fact that you have no self worth continue to influence my life. I’ve wasted a lot of years trying to please you when you’ve made it quite clear that I’ll never be able to. I don’t know what I’ve done to make you hate me so much but I’m sick of trying to figure it out,” Willa said, throwing her hands up in mock surrender. “Miles has done a lot for me but he didn’t buy me like you seem to think. And he doesn’t have a right to put his hands on me just because he doesn’t like what I say. You tolerated that mess because you thought you didn’t have a choice. Well, I do. And that’s why I served that abusive bastard with divorce papers and took my ‘few little pennies’ to get a place of our own for me and Jade. I’ll do everything in my power to show her she can stand on her own two feet and that she never has to settle for being with someone who mistreats her because she can’t take care of herself. I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure she never becomes you!”
“Well,” Dorothea shrugged, with tears threatening to fall from her eyes.
“I guess you don’t need me to take Jade then.” She clutched her purse and left the office without another word.
Willa used the rest of the paper towels to wipe away her tears and smeared makeup.
“Mrs. Caldwell, I’m so sorry. I didn’t. . .”
“Where is Jade?” Willa demanded. She wasn’t interested in hearing anything Principal James or anyone else had to say.
“She’s in the gym watching the jamboree rehearsal. I’ll get her,” Mrs. Boggs volunteered. She felt like it was the least she could do for how horribly she had treated Willa.
“Mrs. Caldwell,” Principal James said, gently touching her arm. “I know I’m the last person you want to talk to and I don’t blame you for hating me. Just know that if there is ever anything I can do to help you and Jade, I will.”
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