In anticipation of catastrophe, Jenna never allowed herself to become too attached to any one person in her life. Why would she? She learned very early on that, despite all best efforts, the catastrophe would always come. In fact, it seemed that the harder she tried to prevent them, the worse they’d be.
It wasn’t like she set out to be a loner. For all intents and purposes, she was a people person. She enjoyed talking with people, going out with friends, having people to lean on when things were going awry. And, oh, did they ever go awry. She couldn’t, in good conscience, allow people to get stuck in the web of bullshit that was her life. It wasn’t fair, to her or the people in her life, and the guilt of it would eat her up from the inside out everytime it happened. It was just easier to remain on her own.
Her first memory of catastrophe by proxy was around 12 years ago, in preschool. She was a hopelessly bouncy child with an inexplicably large voice and sparkling green eyes. Her tightly curled hair was cut into an “easy to handle”, chin-length bob that looked much like a Bob Ross Happy Little ‘Fro one humid days. Not that she cared at the time. At 4, all she knew was that this new haircut promised less yanking and detangling, less time scrubbing when she’d cover her hair in some random, sticky substance she’d somehow encounter while playing. Her mom said she had a “talent for finding the stickiest substance in the room and covering herself in it”, which she thought to be the absolute best compliment anyone could give her.
It had been her first day at Meadowlark Preschool. As she sat in the back of her mom’s old minivan, she was an intense mix of absolutely terrified and beyond excited. She squeezed Dugga-Bunny tight.
“Mama, do you think the kids will be nice to Dugga-Bunny,” she asked nervously. It had always been easier for her to worry for others than herself, even when that other was the musty, old stuffed rabbit she’d carried everywhere with her since she could remember.
“Absolutely, sweetie,” her mom answered somewhat distractedly. Amanda was a little nervous herself. She’d never planned to put her daughter into preschool. The plan had been for Daniel to work, while she would work from home with Jenna until she was in full-time first grade. Then Daniel had to panic. Family life was just “too hard”, he’d said.
“I’m just not ready to be that guy,” he insisted as he was packing his belongings into the back of his new Range Rover.
“What guy is that, exactly, Daniel?! A fucking FATHER? You can’t be that guy?” She’d screamed loud enough that she could see her neighbor, Mrs. Curtis, trying to stealthily peek over the row of junipers separating their yards. Amanda didn’t care, she’d wanted everyone to know what a piece of shit he was.
After Daniel left, the company she’d worked for went belly up. They’d given no warning, no severence, no last paycheck. Her plan was definitely not to be entering a crappy, entry-level job in an industry she’d been working in for decades as a lead developer. Now, she had to take what she could get. What little was left of their savings after Daniel took the majority of it, was dwindling to near nothing, and it’s not like she’d heard a peep from him in the past 6 months. She’d have to make due.
“Mama?” Jenna’s pensive voice broke into her thoughts. “You’re going to come back, right?”