Love and Sorrow - Jade C. Jamison

Chapter One

My name is Randi Miller and I am a grade A fuck up.

Maybe that’s not the best introduction—but that’s sure as hell how I was feeling at the ripe old age of thirty-two, walking through the doors of the middle school I’d attended years ago. The idea of going to the principal’s office still created a painful knot in my stomach, making me feel like I needed to throw up.

Today was no different, even though I was going to the principal’s office on account of my daughter. We needed to talk about Sarah’s behavior, the secretary had said over the phone, accusing me with her voice of being a shitty parent.

No worries. I’ve already got that in the bag. No judgment necessary.

I’d been at work when I got the call and my stomach had been twisted ever since I’d hung up.

Behavior…yes, I’d noticed a change in Sarah over the past year, but I was hoping it was something she’d grow out of. After all, I could remember the discomfort of emerging breasts, the awkwardness of getting dark hair in places previously bare. And how could I forget the nervous anticipation of starting to bleed—and the messy reality when it actually happened? When I noticed Sarah becoming more withdrawn, more introverted, I let her know she had my love and support—all while keeping that delicate balance of not letting her younger brother Devon feel left out. I stressed a little about it, but I thought for sure Sarah would grow out of it.

Now, though? I wasn’t so certain. Sarah had just started middle school five weeks ago and, in that short amount of time, I’d been called by the school more than once a week for her behavior. While I’d talked to Sarah about the school issues and kept hoping things would get better, I realized today on my drive to the school that the problems wouldn’t just fix themselves. And I was completely out of my league here. My kids hadn’t come equipped with an owner’s manual. Was I not disciplining Sarah properly? Did I need to force more attention on her whether she wanted it or not?

I turned the key to shut off the ignition to the old green minivan after parking in the lot on the side of the middle school. Taking a deep breath, I steeled myself for dealing with whatever was coming. This past year had just been getting shittier and shittier. Sarah had been growing more reluctant about going to school, but it was a struggle to try to get her to talk about it. In fact, over the past school year, Sarah had had more sick days than for the entire remainder of her school career. I’d known some of those days had been Sarah faking feeling bad, like how her stomach always “hurt.” Her grades were still good, so I didn’t worry about the times she didn’t attend. I was just concerned about her in general—but I kept assuring myself it was a phase.

By now, though, I was pretty sure it had moved past that point.

As I got out of the van, I grabbed my black purse before walking across the parking lot toward the front of the school. My long brown hair blew behind me in the light fall breeze. I couldn’t get my jaw to unclench, and that feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach wouldn’t go away. At least with Sarah’s other infractions this school year, I’d talked with the principal on the phone. Today, though, the secretary had insisted I come to the school so I could talk to the principal in person.

No, she didn’t give a shit that I was at work.

So I made a few frantic phone calls to my boss and co-workers, leaving my job as soon as backup arrived.

Walking up the concrete sidewalk to the door, I tried to relax. On any other day, I might have smiled, remembering my days attending this same school, with the pandemonium of pimples and the glees of giggling with my girlfriends here. The old brown bricks and patchy lawn under maple trees bordered by juniper bushes where I and my friends would sit after school in the spring, telling stories about our futures: what movie star or music god we’d marry, what we wanted to study in high school and beyond, what high-profile career we’d have.

Ha. What would my girlfriends think of me now?

I pulled on one of the old metal and glass doors, still recalling