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My mother was a whore.
Her name was Leah Isabelle Anderson—“Leah Belle” for short, and she was one of New Jersey’s most sought after escorts.
With deep green eyes that could take any man’s breath away, and skin so porcelain and smooth that it looked too perfect to touch, she was breathtakingly beautiful. Often compared to a supermodel, her raven black hair fell past her shoulders, and her naturally long eyelashes were always coifed to perfection.
Growing up, I had no idea what she did with the men who picked her up in their shiny and expensive cars—the men who wore thousand dollar suits and patted me on the head while saying, “Your mom is really something special.”
In a way, these strangers became the closest thing I had to a family since I never knew my father: Her regulars, Christian and William, sent me gifts every Christmas. Arnie bought me my first bike, Steve taught me how to change a tire, and her most ruthless suitor—Vincent, took me shopping for designer clothes once a month.
Leah Belle—she never ever let me call her “mom,” wasn’t exactly a mother to me; she was more like an older friend. An older ‘I’ll-be-there-when-it’s-convenient’ friend.
She missed every elementary school play, every middle school writing competition, and never gave a damn about my grades. At first, the involuntary loneliness bothered me, but after I created an army of invisible friends and easily accessible fantasies, I came to terms with her neglect and happily accepted any attention she was willing to give me.
When I became a teenager, she started to hang around me more often—promising that she would do better, promising that she would make sure that “from here on out, [we’d] be best friends.” Since she’d run away from her parents after having me at sixteen, she made a point to never lecture or discipline me. She did however, teach me three very important lessons:
1.) “Always put tons of effort into the way you look. You need to be beautiful on the outside, no matter how fucked up you are on the inside. If you ever feel sad or depressed, suck that shit up and add more mascara.”
2.) “Don’t make friends. Make sponsors. If you can’t get anything out of someone or use them for a specific purpose, kick that person out of your life ASAP.”
3.) “Beauty wins over brains every time. Your body will always be your most important asset. Remember that.”
For my fourteenth birthday, she poured me my first shot and offered me a short line of coke, saying, “Welcome to life, Em!”
I shook my head at the coke—I’d read about the effects, but I happily took the red shot glass from her hand.
“To the best fuckin’ daughter in the world!” She lifted her glass in the air, waiting for me to do the same, and then she ordered me to toss it back.
The initial burning sensation was painful—disgusting, but in the years to come, that bitterness tasted better and better, and I looked forward to the two of us drinking together. It was the only time that she gave me her undivided attention.
In those moments, I would tell her about another writing competition I’d won or how I’d received more early college scholarships. When it was her turn, she would tell me about “turning tricks” like other parents told their kids about a day at the office.
“I can’t tell you how weak Ben’s dick was today,” she’d say. “I mean, I feel like I should be charging him double for the weak ass fucks he puts me through.”
“You don’t enjoy it with him? Ever?” I’d ask.
“No. Never with him. But he’s a sponsor, I’m getting his money, and that’s all that matters. I just lie there, scratch his back, and say ‘Harder… Harder’ to make him think I’m into it until—”
“Until he cums?”
“Yep.” She’d pass me a cigarette before sighing. “With him and a few others, I usually have to take a few shots beforehand to numb my mind. With the really good ones, all I have to do is relax. Sex can be fucking incredible when it’s done right…”
One particular Friday, after she let one of her regulars take me shopping for a Chanel bag, I unlocked the door to our home and saw droplets of blood all over the floor.
“Leah?” I set my shopping bag down. “Did you get another nose bleed?”
I headed into the kitchen, looking for her usual remedies—hot tea and Q tips, but she wasn’t there.
“You here?” I walked around our living room and checked all the rooms upstairs. Confused, I pulled out my cell phone and called her.
No answer again.
I shrugged and opened a bottle of vodka, tossing back a few shots. I figured she’d left with one of her sponsors for a quickie and would be back by the time our favorite show started.
I decided to take a shower before it came on and headed into the downstairs bathroom.
The second I hit the lights, my heart fell out of my chest.
I wanted to believe that what I was seeing was simply a sick joke by my imagination—a twisted fantasy I’d snap out of in seconds.
Pale and blue, Leah’s body lay lifeless in our tub. Her left arm was dangling over the edge, and the small velvet bag where she kept her cocaine was dangling from her fingertips.
Scattered across the floor were hundreds of prescription pills and empty orange bottles that bore the names of strangers. On the vanity, there was an empty syringe and a folded note that read “For my Em…”
Trembling, I rushed to her side and pressed my finger against her neck, hoping for a pulse.
I tilted her head back and tried to breathe life into her—pressing her chest with my hands every few seconds, but it was no use.
She was gone.
I sank down to the floor in tears—cursing her, hating her, for doing this to me. To us.
I had no friends to call, no family either, so in my numb and dazed state I somehow managed to call 9-1-1. While the operator attempted to calm me down by asking me to take deep breaths, I walked over to the vanity and unfolded Leah’s last note:
I know you’re confused right now, but I want you to know that I love you. I love you so fucking much… You were the only thing that made my life worth living, and I wish I was strong enough to keep that in mind…
I’m tired of living a lie and I haven’t been happy in a very long time… I just can’t take it anymore…
I’ve fucked up a lot of things in my life, but the biggest regret I have is the way I raised you…I’m so sorry… This is going to be hard for you to believe—especially since I’m gone, but I need you to forget all that shit I taught you. Right now.
Fuck using your looks to get what you want. Go to college and do some good shit with your life, like write or something. You’re a good writer, you’re very smart, and you need to use your brain to get ahead. Can you promise to do that for me, Em?
Then again…It’s probably too late and I’m willing to bet that you’ll end up just like me: A beautiful nothing…
It won’t be your fault though. It’ll be--
I stopped reading and flushed that note down the toilet. Her last words were clearly written out of sadness and they were only compounding my pain.
As far as I was concerned, Leah had raised me the best she could and she was far from a “beautiful nothing” in my eyes. In fact, I cherished every single thing she’d taught me.
Even though I was beyond hurt that she’d selfishly left me all alone, I was determined to remember her at her best and for everything she was to me:
My best friend.
My role model.
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Mariah Cole is a Starbucks addict (hazelnut shots, please!), New Adult author, and an incessant daydreamer. Known for pushing the envelope, she's an avid reader of indie books and is always looking to chat with readers and authors alike
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