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Cute, innocent girl wanted. Sugar baby with all the benefits.
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“Can I have ten dollars?” Nicole asks hopefully, her big blue eyes pleading. On the one hand, Nicole is my little sister and incredibly sweet. On the other hand, she’s fourteen already, but acts about two sometimes.
“What for?” I ask sternly, hands on my hips. “Why do you need ten bucks?”
Her lip trembles, jutting a bit.
“I want to get some white-out,” she says slowly. “You know, to fix my homework.”
I blink. White-out? Really? Who still uses that stuff? I thought it was toxic, killing brain cells right and left.
But Nicole nods again.
“It’s for my book report, Carrie,” she pleads. “You know I wanted to borrow your laptop but you were using it all the time. So I had to write it by hand, and now I need white-out to fix my mistakes.”
Inside I feel myself caving. Because it’s true. We only have one computer in the household, and that’s mine. And I have been using it a lot for my creative writing class, so Nicole didn’t get a chance to hop on.
Slowly, I reach into my pocket, pulling out a few crumpled bills.
“Here,” I say gently. “Take this.”
Nicole smiles brightly now, gripping the bills.
“Thanks Car!” she chirps. “You’re the best,” are her happy words before skipping off. And I sigh again. Because Nicole’s my little sister, but sometimes she’s more like my child. I know I should tell her the truth but it seems too brutal for someone this young.
Because actually, I don’t have any money to spare, not even a few bucks. Just yesterday I saw my mom hiding the yellow sheet of paper they nailed to our door. There were big red letters on the front in all caps. I couldn’t quite see what it said, but it was most likely an eviction notice.
And it’s not like Mom has any way to pay our rent. Rhonda and Jim have been gone for a few days now, which is nothing new. Probably off on another bender, getting lit and doing nothing about our housing situation. So yeah, things are bad, much worse than a few bucks for school supplies.
But I don’t want my little sister to worry. Nicole has dyslexia as well as mild anxiety, and growing up in this household hasn’t been easy. I don’t want her to get worse, she’s frail already. So I take another deep breath before seating myself at the kitchen table. Bills, bills, bills, piling up everywhere. Stacks and stacks, falling off onto the floor, pushed behind the refrigerator even.
But right now isn’t the time. I need to work on my paper right now.
Because I’m a first-year student at our local community college. And I’m lucky to be there. I want to be someone and to make something of myself. I don’t want to be like my parents, constantly flitting from one job to another, living hand to mouth, never knowing when the next paycheck is coming. I want to hold my head up high, and not be afraid to walk into a nice restaurant. I want to be safe and secure, without stressing that I was gonna lose the roof over my head.
Right. The roof. The would-be eviction notice.
But I couldn’t think about it.
So instead, I stare at the screen blankly, my computer humming. This creative writing class was driving me nuts. They were discussing something about a clef a romans and macrocosm / microcosm. What did those terms mean again?
Because the truth is, I’ve been struggling to get a sentence down on paper all evening. Usually, writing is my thing. Words are what makes me happy. But recently, with all the trouble from my family, it’s been tough to concentrate.
But I have to. A degree is important. Investing in myself is important, especially for education.
Despairingly, I stare straight ahead. Nothing comes, my mind like a blank slate. And devilishly, my fingers began to move on their own.
But not to type, oh no.
Instead, I begin to surf the web.
The world wide web has been my downfall for a long time. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve lost to endlessly reading random sites. Not even educational sites like the news or following the stock market. But really random things like BuzzFeed and Bored Panda, mind candy that sucks you in, only to spit you out three hours later, dazed and confused. I should find some blocking software to prevent my bad habits. That would help my procrastination, for sure.
But my fingers are devilish once more. Because there’s a pop up in the corner that catches my eye, the fluorescent pink lettering impossible to miss.
MAKE CA$H! it screams. EA$Y MONEY!
I snort. Yeah, right. Just another get-rich-quick scheme where they pump you full of hope, only to rob you dry. But would it hurt to look? Would it be so terrible? And before I know it, my fingers click on the ad.