Promises, Promises
Author:Janice Baker



I sucked down the last of my Shirley Temple making that slurping noise that Harry hates. I looked up and watched Mom walk out the front door with a man. I get so sad when she does that. She keeps promising she’ll stop, but she never does.

“How about another one, Ace?” I looked back at Harry, smiled really big and nodded.

“Yes please!" I loved it when Harry called me “Ace.” He said he used to call his daughter that too when she was my age. I watched him make me another Shirley Temple with lots of that red stuff. He winked at me as he put in three cherries. He slid the glass towards me and I grabbed it, taking a sip quickly. He had a sad look on his face, like I do every time Mom leaves with a strange man.

I watched the door open and Mr. Thatcher came walking in. I jumped off my stool and ran to him. He’s great. He teaches me how to play pool and always gives me advice about life. He’s been out of town for a while now though. He travels a lot, but I’m always happy when he comes back. He took out a small red bean bag dog from his back pocket and handed it to me.

“Wow! Thanks! I love him!” I clutched my new dog tightly to my chest.

He smiled down at me and ruffled my hair. “Did you finish all your homework, Iz?” I nodded my head. This time I really had. He doesn’t usually check, but one time he did and he made me finish before I could play pool.

“Now can we work on my bank shot?” I asked as I watched Harry hand him a beer.

“Yep, let’s grab that table over there.” He gestured toward my favorite table. It was my favorite because I couldn’t see the door. People coming in and out always makes me a bit jumpy and then I miss my shot. I hate missing my shot.

“Can I use a stool this time?” I asked knowing he probably wouldn’t let me. I used to be able to use one, but then I got to a certain height and he said I need to learn how to play like everyone else. I hated that.

He gave me a funny look, making his eyebrows pull together. “Now, why would you get one this time when you haven’t used one in a while?” He handed me a cue stick. I huffed and he shook his head while laughing at me while he lined up the balls on the table.

That guy Joey walked in. He annoys me. He always makes a fuss about me being in here. Says there shouldn’t be kids in here. Harry always tells him it’s his bar and I’m not drinking so I can stay.

Joey glanced back and shook his head at me. Mr. Thatcher helped me angle the cue stick to make sure I hit the ball correctly.

“Why you teachin’ her that, Ted? She shouldn’t even be in a place like this,” Joey yelled over from his bar stool.

Mr. Thatcher shook his head and walked towards Joey lowering his voice. They never think I can hear what they say, but I always do.

“I’m not gonna fight with you about this every time, Joey. She just needs something to focus on rather than what her Mom does. Would you rather her just sit at home listening to CC go at it with her latest John?”

“I think the better thing to do is let the authorities take care of it,” Joey huffed while staring over at me.

“No, if they do that, she’ll be in the system forever. She’s a sweet kid. If we can just help her out a little, then she’ll have a good basis for life.”

Joey shook his head as he watched a gang of bikers come in. “You think this is better for her? Would you want your daughter here?”

“No, but I also wouldn’t want her back at home with CC and one of them trying to come on to her.”

“How do you know that wouldn’t happen when you’re out of town?” Joey asked really loud. He seemed really mad.

“Because she’s been coming here straight from school and Harry’s been watching her. Between me, Harry, Mikey and Dave, we’ve got it figured out, so she’ll be alright,” Mr. Thatcher told Joey.

“Hopefully. This is just messed up.” Joey said and drank from his beer.

Mr. Thatcher walked back and we played pool for a while. Mom finally came back. She nodded her head to me that it was time to head home. I ran around and got my hugs from all the guys. Mr. Thatcher said he’s in town for a while again. That made me happy.

Mom and I got home, well, most kids wouldn’t call it a home. It was really a motel room, our third one this month.

“Not a bad night, Isabella, huh? You got to play pool and I was able to make a little bit of money. We’ll be moving on to a nicer place in no time.”

I shrugged. “You always say that.”

She sat down on the bed next to me with that pouty face she makes. “Aww, but this time, THIS time, Isabella, I promise!”

It’s the same promise as always. I keep hoping one day we’ll actually have a nice home like my friends or she would be a mom like my friends have, but her promises always fall through. Always. “Promises, promises,” I huffed back at her. She rolled her eyes.

“It’s gonna happen, Isabella. Mark my words.”

Harry taught me that sometimes promises are only as good as the action behind the promise. Other than that, promises are just that – promises, promises.