Jessie, Louise’s semi-estranged daughter, is one of those people who transforms their past. Her early life was marked by her mother’s addiction, and the bad choices it drove. Jessie bounced through various homes, or shelters, really, as none felt like home to her. Her avoidance of the worst terrors of foster care, she knew even at the time, was mostly luck, a game of chance in which a string of dice throws worked in her favor.
And this awareness of the power of luck at work in her life became the engine of Jessie’s determination to create a future completely different than the stereotype would predict. She never smoked a cigarette, smiled when she turned down offers of a toke, a tablet, a swig. Difficult as this abstinence was, it paled in comparison to the challenge of avoiding bad relationships.
At age eighteen, Jessie bade her mother farewell at the door of yet another treatment facility and determined not to see her again. Her heart broke, but she could not imagine constructing a different life while her mother absorbed so much of her time and attention. The young girl knew she needed to invest all her energy into her own young adulthood.
She had no idea how it would work out; the various therapists and counselors she’d visited as part of foster care or her mom’s treatment episodes never revealed the key to a happy, healthy life, no matter how insistently Jessie pleaded with them.
Scraping together a few scholarships with the help of a friendly school counselor, Jessie found a spot at a community college where she could begin working on a degree – in what, she had no idea, yet. In her very first class, she sat next to a young man, lanky and quiet, with a kind face. He left quickly as class ended.
Something about him made her curious, and more. As he walked out of the room, she watched the square set of his shoulders, and the way he shuffled his feet to avoid running into others in the crush at the door.
“Stephen,” she murmured to herself, remembering the name he’d answered to when the teacher called roll at the start of the class.