I could barely breathe. The overwhelming fume of Rave #4 hairspray filled my virgin lungs. That familiar smell flooded my heart with loneliness and jealousy; jealousy focused on whomever got to spend the whole night with my mother. It certainly wasn’t me this time. My mother was going on another date with this married man for the third time this week; and I was going to be home alone flipping through the pages of Seventeen and sneaking into AOL chat rooms. My father, if you could call him that, was absent all of my life. I could never remember him, but my mother did a nice job of illustrating his faults and downfalls into nice little stories that I could later in life share to a therapist and hundreds of dollars later be told that he was the root of all of my problems. I was fully functioning without a father my entire childhood, so I didn’t see the need for my mother to find a replacement anytime soon. I liked knowing that we were all each other had. So obviously I wasn’t thrilled when my mother grabbed the Jack Daniels and ginger ale earlier in the evening because I knew makeup, hairspray, blouses with ruffles and abandonment were to follow. My mother had a personality that could fill a room with light and laughter. She was always telling her high society friends jokes, but she was awfully serious when it came to me.“Do these earrings make my face look fat?” my mother asked in her velvety charming voice, sucking in her cheeks. Yes. They make you look like a fat faced, husband stealing.. My thoughts trailed off and I suddenly felt sympathetic. I couldn’t even get through a bad thought towards my mother without hating myself afterward.“No ma’am.” I responded, trying to give her a “pissed off” vibe that would hopefully trigger her mom instinct and convince her not to leave. She didn’t notice. She grabbed her sequin pocketbook and started for the front door for her date with the doctor. We were not rich in the least bit, nor were we ever close; but that didn’t stop my mother from acting the part. And tonight, she sure as hell looked like she was nouveau riche.“I’ll be home later, no internet and no phone. Love you.” Her voice trailed off and was masked by the slamming of the screen door.For the most part I liked being left alone, I had grown accustomed to it. This night however, I needed my mom. School got increasingly harder every day. It wasn’t the academics that I was struggling with, it was the people.. Girls in particular. I was 14 and going through the most awkward stage of my life and everyone, I mean EVERYONE noticed. I hadn’t grown into my nose, my brace covered teeth were huge, and my hair couldn’t hold a style to save its life. My mother always said these girls picked on me because they were jealous, a natural mom-like reaction. I was actually pretty intelligent so I knew that wasn’t why they were making my middle school years miserable. I wasn’t particularly attractive, but to my mom, I was the most beautiful being on this planet. If only the 8th grade boys thought that too..I sprinted into my room and pulled up my mattress. I kept a spare keyboard from my old desktop computer under there because my mom would take the keyboard when she left the house. This was one of the millions of methods of suffocating control she practiced. I plugged the keyboard into the computer and signed onto the internet. My heart sank. Steven wasn’t online. Steven was a trouble-making teen adolescent who was a bit older than the rest of our grade, being that he had been held back twice. I don’t know what attracted me to Steven. He grew up to be a nothing, in and out of jail for failure to pay child support. But I didn’t seem to care about the direction in which his life was going. I only cared that he made me feel special and pretty. And of course that my mother loathed him, that was definitely a bonus. As much love as I had for my mother, I always found ways to undermine or piss her off, and Steven was no exception. I signed off after a few hours of internet window shopping at Gap.com. It was already 10:30 and I was nowhere near tired, so I turned on MTV and watched Laguna Beach for another hour or so. Still no mom. I closed my eyes and slowly fell asleep.I felt an abrupt shaking of my shoulder and a bounce on my bed.“Rebecca. Rebecca. Are you awake?”“Um..yeah. Yes ma’am” I quickly corrected myself. Mother would get furious every time I forgot the “ma’am”.“Come get in my bed and rub my back.” She offered. How utterly kind of her. I knew what she really wanted, she wanted to tell me all about her night out with the doctor. God. She could be so self centered sometimes. It was a Wednesday night, and I had school at 8 am the next day.. Not that I was too excited about it anyway. I climbed into her tall queen sized bed and slid under the covers. She undressed and put on her red silk pajamas and struggled climbing into her own bed. My mother had been ill ever since I could remember, in every aspect. She had sarcoidosis, an inflammation in her spleen and liver, among tens of other ailments. She was also mentally ill.. Not in an obvious way, but in a more subtle manner. I was not fully aware of its extent until later in life, because she never commented on anything other than her physical ailments. After a few minutes of struggling to climb into bed, she succeeded and laid flat on her back and took in a few exhausted breaths. “He’s divorcing her, finally Rebecca. Isn’t that great? We can finally be open about our relationship.” She said.“Yeah mama, that’s wonderful.” I lied. I had no desire to see her date, yet alone openly date that man. Nothing against him, he was a perfect gentleman to my mother, minus the fact that he was screwing half of Columbia while engaged in a marriage with 4 children. She patted my arm, suggesting that I rub her back. A back rub was my key to anything I ever wanted, my mother was gullible in that regard. She rambled on for a few more hours about Kenneth, our rent, my grades, and my grandmother among other things. I treasured these moments with her even if they were in the wee hours of the morning. “Thank you baby, my back was killing me all night. Sleep in here with me?” She asked as she flipped off a rerun of The Golden Girls.I didn’t even respond as I drifted off into my dreams, into a world where everything was normal. Where everything wonderful was out of reach for my mother and me.The alarm for school came too early for my liking. I stumbled out of my mother’s bed and found my way to the bathroom. I stared into the mirror for awhile, trying to think of ways to become more appealing, more beautiful, like my mother. She was so graceful and poised in her demeanor so it was difficult for me to comprehend that I was even related to her in any way. I drug on into the kitchen and fixed some scrambled eggs and toast. Mother would be asleep until the last minute to drive me to school in her pajamas and hair curlers. After eating and throwing on some khakis and an Old Navy printed tee, I woke her up. “It’s time already?” She grumbled from under the covers. She slid out of bed and grabbed the keys. Another day of hell that my school district calls middle school.I made it through most of the day without managing to catch anyone’s eye or anyone attempting to make fun of me. I couldn’t wait until last period drama, that was always my passion. In drama I could perform a monologue and be whoever I wanted to be. I didn’t have to be Rebecca Hollingsworth, a scraggily, middle-class 14 year old with only two friends. I could be a movie star on the way to her opening movie premiere. Or a famous pop star who’s tired of the paparazzi. The possibilities were endless for me for the first time in my life, and I had finally found something I was passionate about. I was determined I had star quality. Star quality that was above little old Columbia, South Carolina. My day dreaming was cut short by a conversation I overheard with Lisa Clemmons and her minions. Lisa and I were once friends when she and I both shared a common interest in Gameboys and Lisa Frank; but now we weren’t. Unless friends spread vicious rumors about you losing your virginity to Steven Bailey, which was exactly what I was hearing. Not only was she telling her faithful band of loyal followers that I was no longer a virgin, she was telling them I was pregnant! I ran into the bathroom and tried to gather my thoughts but it was impossible. What had I done to this girl to make her hate me so damn much? I panicked for a few minutes but I finally gathered my composure and walked back into the hallway. Maybe no one was paying attention to her? I mean, she did have a tendency to exaggerate. Maybe no one even believed her. I was feeling a little better until I walked into the drama room and then I realized that all eyes were on me, which was very unusual. Mr. Cook was oblivious that a potentially reputation-ruining rumor was being whispered and shared between the entire class. I sat down, binder clenched to my chest.“Slut.” I heard from an unidentifiable voice in the back of the room.A few others joined in with names similar to that one. I had never been called a name like that in my life, let alone 10 in a row. I sprinted out of class to the nurse. I had a gift for playing sick. In elementary school I would miss my mother so much, that I would go to the nurse and act sick just so my mama would come and pick me up from school and I could spend even more time with her. This time, I decided to go with a stomach ache and fake vomiting. The nurse called my mother, and she came to get me just as quick as I could walk to the front office. She looked me up and down, and she didn’t say a word. She silently ushered me to our car that was parked across the street at the old church. Once we were inside she didn’t start the car. Shit. She could tell I was faking it. What was I going to tell her? I didn’t know if I should tell her about Lisa and her rumor. Or about drama class. How embarrassing would it be to have an accused whore as a daughter? “I’m not taking you to the doctor, Rebecca. I know damn good and well that you’re not sick. What the hell possessed you to have the nurse call me in?” She was already mad and I hadn’t even spoken one word. I couldn’t hold it in any longer, I burst into tears. Her anger suddenly turned into fear. For once she was clueless.“Mama,” I sobbed, “please don’t make me go back there. I can’t go back to this school.” “What are you talking about? What the hell happened!” She was nearly screaming, I could tell that she was terrified of the unknown. We sat in the parking lot across from the school for an hour as I told her everything that had happened. As I was spilling to her, I realized that maybe I had been a little dramatic. After I was finished sobbing and letting everything out, my mother didn’t say a word. She started up our old car, and headed for home. She wasn’t one with parenting skills, and she didn’t exactly know how to talk to me about anything other than herself (which was perfectly fine with me most of the time). We pulled into the rugged driveway of our humble little duplex, and I hurried inside to my escape that I called my room.I hadn’t spoken to my mom since that afternoon when she walked into my room at 8 that evening. She plopped onto my plush flowered comforter, she looked serious as hell.“Clean your goddamn room,” she mumbled as she threw a soda bottle from my bed across the room into a pile of junk. “Well.. I’ve called the school and withdrawn you.” I was shocked. She did that for me? I thought she just figured I was being overly dramatic. Hell, even I thought I was being overly dramatic. “Mama.. You didn’t have to do that. I’m sorry I was so upset, I could have handled it.” I said, ashamed of causing such a scene earlier. I was just called names. Let the immature punks believe what they wanted to believe, at least I knew the truth. “No,” she said, her tone steady and unaltered. “I didn’t withdraw you from school just because of that Rebecca.” I was confused. “Your grades could be much better, and I don’t want you seeing that boy anymore.” Steven. I had forgotten about Steven. Surely he could set some people straight who were spreading those rumors. “He was brought into the office today with Lisa. He told Principal Higgins that he told Lisa y’all had sex.” My heart stopped. I was still speechless. “He wouldn’t do that mama.” My voice was shaky.She just nodded her head. She didn’t really show any signs of sympathy for me as I started to cry.“We’re enrolling you at St. Thomas tomorrow.” She added, as she left the room.St. Thomas was a private school across town where the children of the higher society attended classes. I couldn’t possibly fit in there, I’d be better off being a proclaimed slut at my public school! And for that matter, we didn’t have nearly enough money to even cover a text book at St. Thomas. My mind raced for hours and hours until it finally rested with the rest of my head on my pillow, and called it a night. Maybe St. Thomas was my ticket out of this life? Maybe I could graduate from there, graduate from a prestigious college, and give my mother the life she longed for without her trying to degrade herself to marry that rich doctor. Maybe I could become a doctor and discover the treatment and cure that could fill her with life again. Maybe it could be just us for the rest of our lives. Maybe, just maybe, everything wonderful wasn't out of reach for us after all.