For You - By Mimi Strong


Dear Mom:

Bell is growing like a sunflower. I bought her some new shoes, a size and a half larger than the last pair, but she insists on wearing the old ones with her toes sticking out of the holes. She told me to return the new ones and put the money into our Disneyland fund, but what she doesn't know is there is no fund.

I made up the Disneyland thing so she wouldn't know the real reason we don't order pizza delivery like other people do.

Before we found our current place, we spent a month couch-surfing, and two nights sleeping in the car when there was nowhere else to go. The second morning was really cold, and Bell drew faces in the fog on the glass.

I looked up your brother, and he helped us find an apartment that's too good to be real. Bell has her own bedroom, and it's called Princess Land.

The funny thing is, your brother didn't believe I was real. He'd never even heard my name before the day I knocked on his door.

I hope you're still alive.


The guy with the messed-up tattoos kept staring at the gold ring on my finger, like he knew it was a lie. Every time I came by to check on him at his corner table, he'd look up at me expectantly. Confess, his beautiful moss-green eyes said. Confess.

“Another beer?” I rested the round tray against my hip like a professional. I'd barely been inside a bar before, and now I was waiting tables like an expert.

“Why are you so familiar?” He set down his pen, closed his sketch book, and shook out his right hand. The sinews of his forearm flexed beneath his strange tattoo. It was a seascape, with an octopus and other creatures. The black lines were clean and straight, but the blue and green made no sense, crossing over the lines randomly.

Was the new tattoo a cover-up of something else, and not yet finished? There was a more logical answer, though, and it was on the edge of my mind.

“Cat got your tongue? Who are you?” he asked.

Without taking my eyes off the blue-smudged octopus, I muttered, “I'm nobody. I'm new here.”

“But you look like someone I know. Why is that?”

I swallowed hard and jerked my eyes to meet his. Dark, wavy hair framed a handsome face with high cheekbones. And those eyes. They were like the bottom of the sea, like my worst nightmares and darkest dreams.

He continued, “Maybe if you smiled for once, I could figure out who you remind me of. Do you ever smile? Are you a happy girl with a sad face, or are you sad through and through?”

“Why are your tattoos so messed up?”

He rolled his one sleeve up over his bicep, revealing a pair of seahorses, scribbled over in orange and pink.

“The male seahorse gives birth to the young,” he said.

“Everybody knows that.”

He chuckled. “Every hot girl I meet is a marine biologist.”

As he pushed his dark hair away from his eyes, the inside of one arm flashed its secret—a name, scrawled in marker: Toby.

“I get it,” I said. “You fell asleep, and some little kid colored in your tattoos with markers.”

“You're half right. I wasn't asleep.”

“Is the kid your son?”

He laughed, loud, then pretended to wipe a tear from his eye. “C'mon, do I look like I have a kid?” He stretched his arms out for us both to admire. “The colors are from my nephew.”

“Toby,” I said. He seemed confused, so I pointed to the signature, accidentally touching him with my fingertip. “He signed his masterpiece.”

The stranger smiled, revealing perfect, straight teeth. Good breeding. Or money. I wondered what his parents thought about the tattoos. They probably had an opinion.

I twisted my lie of a ring and tried not to think about how hot his skin had felt, and how stupid and giggly his eyes made me feel.

“I'm Sawyer Jones,” he said, offering me his hand to shake. He had a scar above his knuckles that stretched up to his thumb. I'd seen scars like that on guys who fought a lot—they got the scar from hitting someone in the mouth and having the guy's teeth slice the skin right open.

His palm waited before me. I didn't want to touch him, but the other servers had been lecturing me about being friendlier. I couldn't understand why running back and forth with the right drinks and change wasn't enough for people.

“Aubrey with a b, like auburn.”

“Like your hair.”

“My hair's