Caroline has everything going for her. She has a vivid imagination, a disarming smile and an almost musical laugh that came easily and often.
"She's an unusually bright and inquisitive child," her kindergarten teacher had said.
"She's going to be quite a beauty," remarked her great uncle Robert, who hated to be called Bob.
"That’s what apples do in the water," he always told everyone whenever they called him that.
Her great uncle was right about Caroline though. Between her long, light brown hair that swung whenever she turned her head, and the few freckles that crossed her pert nose she registered very highly on the cute scale. Her legs were long, and her face had the shape that promised that she would be quite a looker when she becomes a young woman.
Still, even at seven years old the boys always seemed to be vying for her attention, though they just as always pretended that they weren't. Caroline didn't seem to notice most of the time, and whenever one of them did gain her attention she always rewarded their efforts by sticking her tongue out at them.
Pam was like so many other teenage girls when she was in high school. She wanted to be popular, tried out as a cheerleader, and when she didn't make the cut she smoked cigarettes and did everything else she could think of to make herself look older than she really was. Her goal of course was to get noticed and date the most popular guys in the school. That would ensure her own popularity and make her one of the "in" crowd.
Her make up, short skirts and low cut tops certainly got the attention of Randy. He was the football team's running back and their star as well. True, he was a senior, and she was only a sophomore, but she did look good, and since he'd been through it all before he knew her to be an easy mark.
Everything was right for it to happen. His girlfriend was being a bitch, and here was a good looking girl who was trying to get with him and in his click. The fact was he had done this a few times before and knew just what to do. He took her out a couple of times to places where he knew none of his friends would see them and said exactly what he knew she wanted to hear.
He just needed to string her along enough to convince her that he really was interested in her, and in a way he was. He just wasn't interested in her in the way that she thought or wanted.
Pam knew all about sex of course. Most of her friends were already doing it, or they knew someone who was. Besides, at fifteen she wanted to try it too. She felt like she was ready, and was just waiting for the right time and place ... and the right guy to do it with.
Randy wasn't exactly what she thought as the right person, but he was the most popular guy in the school, and if she didn't do something to keep him interested in her he'd certainly go and find someone else who would give him what he wants. Oh, her friends tried to warn her, but she knew they were wrong and that she could hold on to him.
What Pam wasn't ready for was the let down she felt. It was bad enough that her first time wasn't nearly as good as she'd imagined, but after she did "it" with him, he didn't want anything more to do with her.
She had let herself be duped, and what was worse after two months there was no sign of her period. Pam didn't need anyone to tell her that she was in serious trouble. She couldn't believe what was happening to her. She'd heard that a girl couldn't get pregnant her first time, and she only did it once. Besides, the few girls she knew who had gotten pregnant had done it a lot.
By the time she was three months pregnant, she knew she couldn't keep it a secret much longer, but it was already June, and Randy was graduating. Naturally, he denied everything and went to college at the other end of the country on his scholarship. He was an only child, and his parents promptly moved out to California to be near him.
"You got yourself into this mess, and now you're stuck with it!" shouted her father.
They were the last words he ever said to her. The look on her mother's face with the tears running down her cheeks said it all.
"Let her go!" yelled her father, while holding onto her mother's arm. "I didn't raise a slut, and I'll not have one living in this house!"
No family, no money, no job and a high school drop out. It was something that only happened to other girls, and she couldn’t believe that she was now one of them! The older people looked at her and shook their heads, the girls her age shied away from her, and the guys would have nothing to do with her beyond an occasional snicker.
It was extremely difficult for her, to say the least, during those first few years. Living for short periods of time with distant relatives and in shelters was tough on her and her new daughter. Pam worked what jobs she could get, and all the while she had to keep fighting to keep her baby. It was hard on her, and it took a heavy toll on her too, but she was determined, and she refused to give up on either herself or her daughter. There were some local and state programs that helped also, and after attending night classes, Pam finally managed to get her high school diploma. She was twenty by then, and her baby, Caroline was five.
Pam had chosen the name Caroline because of a trip she'd taken with her parents while she was still a little girl. Her father had driven them down through the Carolinas and spent their vacation at Surfside Beach that year. It was the only place he'd ever taken them, and it was the happiest time of her life. Therefore, when it came time to name her baby girl she'd named her Caroline in the hopes that the name would bring her daughter all the happiness that life could bring her.
Caroline was perfectly healthy and was growing up fast, and Pam and her daughter were as close as two people could be. Pam read bedtime stories to her even before she was old enough to talk. She answered most of the questions her two year old could think of, and when she was faced with a question that she couldn't answer, she took her daughter down to the library where they found the answer together.
Pam had Caroline reading her own children's books by the time she was four, and after all the time they spent at the playground together it was becoming obvious that her daughter could be an athlete as well.
"At least Randy's genes were good for something!" she'd told her friends.
Everyone at the school was impressed with Caroline, and there was talk of her skipping a grade, but Pam wouldn't have any of it.
"She is going to live every bit of her childhood. I'll not have her skipping over any of it!" she told them. "My daughter is going to have every opportunity to be as happy as she can be. She is not going to have the problems I had, and I don’t care what she grows up to be as long as it’s happy!"
Despite the urgings of Caroline's teachers, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that Pam meant every word, and there was no more talk of her skipping any grades. Pam didn't need to have her daughter jump to the next grade in order to be proud of her. She was perfectly satisfied to see all the As on her daughter's papers and report cards.
Of all the things they did together, their favorite was to go out and pick flowers. Sometimes they would pick daisies and black-eyed susans in the meadows, and sometimes they would pick the flowers in the small garden they made together. Sometimes, they would even sneak a few from other gardens around the neighborhood, but wherever they went they had a lot of fun gathering them. They would always bring them home where they'd make a bouquet out of them and place it in the middle of their small table.
"I bet a butterfly has been on that one," Caroline would say, pointing to one of the flowers, or she would say, "This one is so pretty. Do you think a princess had ever held one like it in her hand?"
"I wouldn't doubt it," replied her mom and then added, "I bet at least two bees have been on this one," while pointing to another.
Their conversations would go on while supposing who might have noticed what flower or sometimes making up stories about them.
There would always be a bouquet of flowers on their table. During the winter months, they would be made from sprigs from a pine or holly with pinecones decorating them. Collecting the flowers and the things they needed to make the bouquets were a special time for them. Of course, Pam was Caroline's mother, but she was also her teacher, mentor and confidant, but when they were out gathering flowers for their bouquets that was the time when they were simply best friends.
Naturally, Pam had to work two jobs. Her first job was as a maid at one of the big hotels near the highway, and the money she made from that job paid her bills. What she made as a waitress paid for their food and the daycare program that Caroline attended. Between her two jobs, one would think that she couldn't have much time for anything else, but Pam always managed to find time for her daughter. There wasn't anything left for romance though but after seeing what trying to get romance could do to a person she wasn't that interested anyway.
"That's what television is for," she told one of her friends at the diner. "I already had my life ruined by it once. Right now I'm happy just to have Caroline in my life, and there isn't room for anyone else anyway. Besides, these are the childhood memories I want my daughter to have, memories that will last her her lifetime."
By the time Caroline had turned seven, she was already on her way to becoming a well adjusted, fun loving adult. Her relationship with her mom was so strong that it didn't matter to her that she didn't have a father, and though she thought about it from time to time she decided that she really didn't need one. This was particularly true after hearing about all of the fighting between moms and dads from some of her friends. It was apparent that some couples didn't care what they said around their children, and even at the tender age of seven Caroline was smart enough to know it.
Pam drove an old car, and though it didn't look like much, she managed to keep it up, and it ran well. She always promised herself a new car someday, but there never seemed to be enough money to get one. At any rate, Caroline didn't care. She never thought about it and was happy to sit in the back seat of their old car whenever they went somewhere. The one thing she did want though was to sit up front, and she couldn't wait until she was old enough to sit in the front seat next to her mom.
One day after they had finished their grocery shopping and the bags were in the trunk, they got into the car to go home. It was something they had done hundreds of times, but this time when Pam looked into her rear view mirror before backing up she noticed the shopping cart still next to the back of her car.
"Oh shoot! I forgot to put the cart away."
"I'll get it," volunteered Caroline, enthusiastically while unbuckling her seat belt.
"Oh thank you Sweetie," replied her mom, smiling warmly. "Be careful though!"
It wasn't until recently that Pam allowed her daughter to do anything like that on her own, and Caroline felt very proud of herself as she pushed the cart into the space provided for them. It wasn't very far from where Pam had parked, and she carefully watched her daughter every step of the way.
Caroline happily skipped back to the car, and after getting in, Pam asked, "Ready to go home now?"
"Yes. I can't wait until we get home so I can help you cook some of the stuff we bought."
Pam smiled at her daughter in the rear view mirror as she carefully backed out of the parking space.
There was a traffic light at the entrance of the store, and they talked about what they were going to cook for dinner as they waited for the light to turn green, and when it did Pam began to pull out into the street.
Just then, a young man raced his car through the red light, and Pam had to slam on her brakes in order to keep from hitting him.
Caroline, who'd forgotten to replace her seat belt, fell to the floor of the car and said, "Mommy, you scared me!"
"I'm sorry Sweetie. Are you ok?"
There was no answer.
"Caroline! Are you all right?"
Still, there was no answer.
Pam frantically pulled over, and after jumping out of the car, she ripped open the passenger door and began screaming for help.
The motorist behind her bolted out of his vehicle, and when he saw the little girl lying on the floor of the car and not moving, he immediately called 911 on his cell phone.
By the time the ambulance took them away, Pam was completely hysterical. She wasn't thinking of the thoughtless jerk who'd cut her off or even the motorist who called for the ambulance. All she could think of was her daughter and prayed that she would be all right.
Caroline had been in a coma. The last thing she remembered was her mom slamming on the brakes of the car, and the first thing she could remember after that was sitting in a garden surrounded by a high wall.
She looked around, but didn't see her mommy. Somehow though, she knew Pam was there. She was warm, and she knew that she was safe, and as she sat there among the flowers she thought how lucky she was to have a mommy that loved her so much. The flowers were amazing, and she thought how much fun it would be to pick some for a bouquet.
"They will look wonderful on our table," she said.
Two weeks later, Pam returned back to work at the diner.
"Are you all right?" asked her friend.
Pam smiled at her through some tears and replied, "I'm ok; I know Caroline is in heaven picking flowers for me."