Little Girl, Little Girl
He was not at all surprised when he woke up in a room that was not his.
The bed underneath him was not comfortable; he was laying on a bare mattress, a spring poking irritably against his lower back. He turned his pulsing head, and beside him was a woman, splayed on the stained mattress beside him. She was completely naked, and his eyes traced her visible ribs, skinny legs and prominent hipbones. Her hair was ragged, and she had disgusting sores littering her face, as if she picked at it with untrimmed fingernails.
Again, he wasn't surprised that this woman was not familiar.
Although he didn't remember anything at all last night, he knew what happened. He had gotten acutely drunk, picked up a woman at the bar, fucked her and fell asleep. It was almost simple, it happened a lot, like a routine- but that didn't make him feel any better. The taste in his mouth was disgustingly bitter, his head pounded and his muscles were painfully stiff. He dolefully knew that these unpleasant moments were familiar to him.
He forced his tired body to get up, and this caused his unsteady stomach to lurch forward. He was lucky enough not to vomit. Shaking his head, he slowly eased his way up onto his weak legs and inhaled sharply, and after getting dressed clumsily, took erratic steps out of the putrid room. He hoped the rest of the house was at least slightly more decent than the previous room, but he realized that it made him a doltish person if he thought there was a chance this could happen.
The rest of the house was also rotting. Fist-sized holes littered the walls, with unsightly, peeling paint. Parts of the carpet were either punctured or damp. Water leaked from different cracks in the roof, splashing faintly into several bowls underneath. He thought sullenly, How is she even allowed to own this house?
He looked around the corner, into the living room, his nose crinkling at the awful scent. He observed several empty bottles of alcohol on the carpeted floor, with a few smashed near the wall, laying on the floor in jagged pieces. Cocaine sat openly on the scratched coffee table, spilling out of the bag. He would've left in disgust, if it wasn't for the little girl.
She was perched on the couch, looking out the window blankly. She wore a stained, ripped shirt, which was too big on her skinny frame, and had a soggy diaper. Her curly hair framed her round face. The child's expression was neutral and she looked over at him. He was expecting a scared scream- the child was old enough to know that a stranger was in her home- but instead, her small hand waved frantically and she smiled.
"Hi," she said. "You mommy friend?"
"No, I, um," he started. He felt bad, and was not sure why. "Yes. Yes, I'm your mommy's friend."
"Mommy got lot friends."
He nearly puked and not because the alcohol from the previous night was wanting to resurface. Her mommy had a lot of friends, men and possibly women who came in drunk to have sex and left just like he was doing now. Perhaps some of mommy's friends talked to the little girl, too. He felt miserable and turned to leave, but the little girl gave a little scream, tumbled to the floor and clumsily ran towards him. She grabbed onto his pants and tugged.
"No leave," she said, looking up at him with big, blue eyes. "Mommy cry after."
He was not sure whether her mother cried because of the shame or because she just wanted actual, real affection. He didn't want to think about it, but he knew that the kid's mother would never get actual, I'll hold you until I die love. Not if she was getting drunk and throwing herself to whoever would pretend to give love. He started to feel bad for the woman he was sexually intimate with the previous night; the woman he didn't care for but still slept next to her, only to leave the following morning. But then, he looked at the house, at the child, at the bruises on the girl.
And he felt angry.
He lifted the girl and without hesitating, her small arms wrapped around his neck. He tried to ignore the putrid stench and the soaking diaper. Her wide eyes bore into his and he gulped.
"I'm going to bring you with me," he said and when the words left his lips, he expected the girl to cry out in fear and squirm away from his grasp, but instead, she continued to stare with those large, knowing eyes.
"I no leave," she started. "Mommy die after."
"What?" he said, confusedly.
"I gone, she die."
He seemed to understand, because he put the little girl down and watched as she waddled and giggled, climbing back onto the couch. She struggled slightly, but when she reached the top of the couch, she turned and looked at him. She beckoned with skinny arms for him to come, but he was unable to move. He was unable to think. He was unable to make a decision.
Leave the neglected child or take her with me, and bring her to the police or something, which will cause the mother to kill herself?
He looked back, sadly. Craning his neck, he could see the woman in the room, positioned uncomfortably on the mattress. He gulped and found himself approaching her, entering the disgusting room, and staring at the woman. She was so skinny and with all of her makeup rubbed off and smudged on the pillow underneath her head, he saw her tired, dead features. A frown that was probably always stuck to her face, if she didn't have drugs or didn't have alcohol in her system. And he wished, oddly, to see her dead eyes, which he couldn't remember seeing yesterday because the two of them were obnoxiously drunk.
The girl followed him into the room and she stared unfazed at her naked mother, as if she had seen her mother splayed vulnerable like this. She has, actually, and he was quite certain of this. However, her eyes widened and she squeaked.
He tried to reassure the girl. "No, she's just-" but a bolt of alarm slashed through him. The woman was not breathing, something he had failed to notice before. The little girl ran towards her mother, screaming, but natural instinct caused him to grab her and lunge out of the room quickly. He found his way into the kitchen, grabbed the phone and ignored the writhing child in his other arm.
He called the ambulance, and a police cruiser arrived with it.
He refused to let go of the child, and everyone seemed to understand, seeing something in his eyes. He was driven to the police station and still held onto the girl protectively.
After officially stating that the woman had died- due to liver and kidney failure- the police dutifully asked him questions, and he answered. But his mind kept swaying towards the child that had eventually stopped crying and thrashing and who fell into a peaceful sleep in his arms.
He finally let go of the little girl, who was going to get into a temporary home until she was adopted. And he wondered, maybe I can adopt her, but realized that would be stupid. He barely had a job, he was dumb, didn't know anything about parenting and somewhere in his mind, knew that he was just as bad as the child's mother when it came to alcohol and craving real love.