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NOWHERE, CAROLINA
by Tamara Leigh

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Inspirational

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Despite the occasional whisper, glower, and slight, I need no one to remind me of my high school days. I was the stereotypical cheerleader — self-centered, superior, and more concerned with hair and makeup than the state of the world. Let alone Nowhere, North Carolina. Well, not really Nowhere, though that is what I called the town of Pickwick, certain my future lay in some exotic locale like Hollywood. Funny thing is, that’s where my introverted cousin, Piper, went when she up and left Pickwick after high school. But that’s another story.

Yes, I was the real deal — a pompom-pumping, short-skirt-wearing, belly-button-bearing guy magnet. Not a bad thing. After all, Queen Esther, who in my teenage opinion was the only interesting character in the Bible, made the most of her beauty. And look where it got her. Fortunately for the Israelites, not where it got me.

Once I started acting on the attraction that made guys shove their way to the head of my line, I was all in. Competition for my attention was headying, and though I never planned to “go all the way,” things progressed until …

Well, they progressed. And not just the one time. Which is why, when I ascended the stage over twelve years ago to accept my high school diploma, I did so with a basketball-sized bump that was further proof I was one girl whose vocabulary lacked a two-letter word that my boyfriends said was overrated — “no.”

As for the bump, her name is Devyn, though it wasn’t until I delivered my baby that I thought of her as much more than an inconvenience and a threat to my figure. But she soon became everything to me, and I thank God I didn’t give her up as planned. Even when she’s like this.

I glance at her where she practically melts —

Hmm. Might my daily word fit here? Returning my gaze to the road, I mouth the four syllables: [amal’gamate verb to join together; to make as one]. This is the closest I’ve come to finding a fit for it today, and research shows that the sooner a person uses a new word, the more likely it will become part of her vocabulary.

Rewind. Devyn practically amalgamates with the passenger door. Uh … no. Makes her attempt to put space between her and her nemesis (that would be me) sound a bit Terminator II-ish. Okay, so she practically melts into the door.

Lips pressed, finger tapping the window, she glares at the passing scenery.

I sigh, wishing she were all bouncy and beaming like when I picked her up from school yesterday. But today, the forecast calls for mope-y and morose. Now I know how my mother felt when I displayed teenage angst. Well, how she should have felt. Adele Pickwick was more focused on keeping up appearances that were fast slipping away than on how her children were handling the pangs of adolescence.

The good news is that, despite the surge of hormones, Devyn isn’t destined to be the barely “C” average, promiscuous teen I was. For one thing, I won’t allow it; for another, she’s not bent that way. Practically all twelve and a half years of her are focused on academics. With me as her mother, I don’t know how that happened, but I’m grateful God is answering my prayers the way I want him to, even though he hasn’t always been so accommodating.

Please God, don’t let me be pregnant.

REQUEST DENIED.

Please God, don’t let my mother find out.

REQUEST DENIED.

Please God, don’t let anyone try to talk me out of going to the clinic.

JUST WHO DO YOU THINK YOU’RE PRAYING TO?!

Please God, help me figure out who fathered this baby.

REQUEST DENIED.

And forgive me for there being any question about it … times three …

Actually, He was very accommodating with forgiveness, approving my request in the person of Skippy Baggett who should have hated the teenage girl who made her awkward daughter’s high school years uncomfortable, but who chose to love her instead. The mother I didn’t quite have ...

This goes to prove that God does know what He’s doing. I just wish I knew what I was doing. For more than a year now, Devyn has badgered me about the importance of a father in a girl’s life, citing articles and psychology journals, but I refuse to marry just to give her a father. That’s not to say I discount the importance of one. It’s to say I believe it’s better to have no father than a bad one.

Slowly, Devyn’s chin comes around, and I feel her gaze.

Here it comes again. Three … two … on e…

“Did you know that teenage girls deprived of a father are twice as likely to engage in sexual activity early?”

Know it by heart. Just as I know the research she’s citing didn’t use the word deprive.

“And research shows that these poor souls are seven times more likely to become pregnant compared to girls who have a father in their lives.”

I’m one of those statistics, as she knows, my daddy having skedaddled when I was fifteen. Of course, it was that or prison. Still, even when he was present, he wasn’t always there.

Going for levity, I say, “Why, I think I have heard that.”

Her eyes grow big behind her glasses, and then —

Dear Lord! She rolled her eyes. Has she become a disrespectful, button-pushing, mother-hating teenager like the one I became?

I grip the steering wheel hard. Only when my vision wavers, causing the lines on the road to shift dangerously, do I remember to breathe. “Did you just roll — ?” My voice breaks, giving me time to reconsider the idiotic question. I look at my daughter who is definitely amalgamating with the door. “You rolled your eyes at me, Devyn. I won’t stand for that.”

Her expression wavers into remorse. “Sorry, Mom. It’s just that …” Though her voice is small, I sense a heavy presence behind it as I brake at a light behind a soccer mom’s happily graffiti-ed van.

I lay a hand on my daughter’s knee. “What’s wrong, Dev?”

She exhales a breath larger than her small frame should be able to hold. “Do you even know who my father is?”