Sugar and spice and all things nice. That’s what little girls are made of! ~Mother Goose
Running down my ingredient list in my mind, I pushed the grocery cart towards the back section of the store to where the eggs were kept. I needed five dozen; then I could be on my way back to the bakery up the street. Sugar & Spice was small, but it was mine—all that I had besides my daughter Candace, who would be ten in August.
Her father had been my first, and last, crush. A dashing senior, Mark Reynolds had been the star quarterback at Union High School. I became smitten with him when I was a sixteen-year-old junior. I’d been entranced by his bright blue eyes and easy smile, which were always framed by his shaggy brown hair, and his carefree approach to life—it seemed when he smiled, things fell into place for him. Case in point: when he showed signs of struggling in History, a smile was all it took for me to offer my help. Over time, those study sessions drifted into make out sessions, and then more.
He'd seemed so sweet to my naïve self. I never questioned it when he suggested that we meet at the old library downtown—I thought he had an honest concern about the noise volume. I understood when he had practice or a game and didn't have time for “real” dates. It was exciting when he'd drive me home from the library, taking the long route through the park. In the back of my mind, I'd known his touches should not have been so exploratory, but they made me feel alive. Or so I'd thought at the time.
Our so-called relationship had continued, with secret touches in the hallways and stolen kisses under the bleachers in the spare moments before practice—kisses that always had me melting under his spell and left me blind to his rough dismissals when he'd tell me I would distract him if I stayed to watch. That spell had been shattered when I started experiencing flu symptoms that wouldn't go away, and my father took me to the doctor. Imagine both of our surprise when the doctor had come in with the news that I was going to be a mommy.
At first, my father had been crushed, thinking he had failed in raising me on his own. He berated himself, his ramblings of self-loathing revealed to me the true story behind my mother’s absence. In her opinion, she had been too young. She hadn't thought motherhood was for her—a decision she'd made in the middle of the night when I was four months old. That was the last time we'd seen or heard from her.
However, once he'd had a couple of days to calm down, my father was prepared to stand at my side and help me get through it—starting with the visit to let Mark know he was going to be a daddy.
Arriving at Mark's house, his mom had been a little confused because she didn’t know about us, a fact that had been dumbfounding – I couldn't believe Mark had never spoken of me – but she’d been polite and invited us in anyway. We'd been making pleasant conversation regarding the various activities happening at school when Mark arrived home from the gym. I had caught the way his eyes had widened in surprise, and I knew in that moment that I'd been nothing more than a dirty little secret to him—good enough to woo into bed, but not good enough be “together” in public. Despite Mark's protestations that he didn’t know me as anything beyond a fellow schoolmate, my father had pressed forward and dropped the bomb.
Mark had denied it, and his mother had supported him. He had a full ride to Notre Dame on a football scholarship, and she was not going to let his future be ruined because of his promiscuous inclinations. This had angered my father to the point that he made Mark sign a statement waiving any claim to parental rights. Daddy didn’t want any trouble from him later on over custody. That had been January, and I'd been almost three months along.
With my father's love and support, I'd finished out my junior year, determined to make something of myself in spite of my situation. I refused to let it ruin my life or that of my unborn child. My belly grew more each month, along with the whispers and stares from my classmates and some of the ladies from church. I ignored them all, stopped going to church, and disappeared into my love of baking, which had been born when I was five and Daddy had gotten me an Easy Bake Oven. Daddy would take the surplus of the baked goods out to the Royal Hills Nursing Home. His job title there was head groundskeeper; in reality, he was also maintenance, chauffeur, and friend to most of the residents.