• Little Serenity was running around the house. It was the second day of the eighth month of the year. Her birthday. Her fifth birthday, to be exact. She was so excited to be five. Soon, she'd be starting Kindergarten and making new friends, and perhaps eating more sweets. Also, presents. Who could forget presents?! That was the thing she was looking forward to the most out of all the things that came with birthdays and being five.

    Serenity ran to her mother's side, tugging on her skirt lightly. "Mommy! Mommy!" she said. "Is Daddy gonna be here today? Huh, huh? Is he??!" she asked, very excited and hoping that he would be.

    He was always there on her birthdays, or at least within the week after, and her mother said he always would be. No matter what.

    Serenity's mother just shrugged. "I really hope so, honey. I really do."

    An hour later, when the girl had finally sat down and stayed quiet (though she couldn't stay still. She had to move every few seconds or so), the doorbell rang. The sound echoed through the house, sending Serenity to her feet. She ran over to the door, reaching up and trying to grab the handle so she could see who it was. She was convinced that it was her father. She really was.

    Her mother came and answered the door. There were men dressed in some sort of uniform at the door, sort of like the ones her father wore sometimes when he came home. They spoke in hushed voices to her mother, then handed her something. A necklace?

    Her mother started crying. Then, when the uniformed men left, Serenity tugged at her mother's skirt again.

    "Mommy, Mommy! Why are you crying?" she asked, confused by the tears.

    Her mother then explained to her that her father would never be coming home. He was gone for good. Serenity couldn't quite grasp the concept of 'gone for good.' After all, nothing had ever been 'gone for good' with her, only 'gone for a little while'. Always only 'gone for a little while'.

    She understood some of it though. Her father wouldn't be coming back. But, instead of crying at that time, she sat on her mother's lap in the living room and did her best to make the only parent she had left feel better...

    For the first few years after Serenity's father's death, her mother had been sad. She'd often cried herself to sleep... Moving on from the crying and the sadness, Serentiy's mother had been a good mother. She'd told her daughter that she wanted her to do her homework and get good grades, but had never nagged the girl about doing her homework or anything really. Because Serenity had always gotten things done. When she'd gotten homework, she'd complete it as soon as she'd gotten home. And when her room had gotten messy, she'd made it clean.

    Then things changed, and it was all his fault. His name was Erik, and he was a wealthy business man with no wife, girlfriend, or fiance to speak of. And he had no children of his own. Immediately after finding all these things out, Serenity's mother was attracted to him.

    One thing led to another and soon enough they were married. At first, Serenity was happy for her mother, glad that she was smiling again. The girl quickly changed her mind though.

    Erik had changed her mother, turned her into a completely different person. The woman flaunted her money, buying a bigger, better house. Plus a slightly smaller guest house next to it. She wasn't okay with her daughter's imperfections, and she wanted everything to be perfect. At first she tried to be subtle, then when that didn't work out, she straight came out with it.

    She wanted her daughter to be perfect: perfect hair, perfect house, perfect friends, perfect grades. Anything less than perfect was not acceptable.

    Serenity went along with things for awhile. Perhaps being perfect would be fun. But, as a matter of fact, it was not. It was hard, and her so-called perfect friends were anything but. They weren't her friends, and they certainly weren't perfect. But they were popular. And being popular, in her mother's eyes, was a part of being perfect.

    Being 'perfect' was nearly impossible, and so time-consuming that she didn't have any time to do what she wanted to. She barely had time to sleep! It became tiring and old quickly but she put on a smile because she thought that doing all this would make her mother happy.

    But her mother wasn't pleased, and certainly wasn't happy. Not with Serenity, anyway.

    Being perfect wasn't enough. She demanded more of her daughter, and no matter how much her daughter did to please the woman, she was not satisfied. Nothing Serenity did seemed to be good enough.

    She hoped Erik would talk some sense into his wife, but he never did. In fact, he went along with what she said. Erik didn't care about Serenity, and it pretty much sucked.

    Eventually, Serenity just stopped.

    Stopped getting straight A's, stopped being friends with those people her mother loved so much, stopped dressing like a model, stopped being popular, stopped listening. She stopped being perfect, or what her mother considered as being perfect.

    She didn't do it slowly either. One thing stopped happening, then another immediately after.

    Her mother was furious, threatening to take away all of her electronics. Serenity knew the threat was bogus. And even if it wasn't, she still wasn't going back to that. Then her mother said that she wouldn't get any scholarships if she didn't get her grades back up, and that she wouldn't pay for college.

    That upset the teenager, so she started doing her homework again, and managed to get all of her grades back to A's without a problem. But that was about all she started doing again.

    After awhile, her mother cooled down a bit. But she still wasn't happy with her daughter. She stopped talking to her, and didn't buy her much more than she needed. And not wanting to even be in the same car as her, bought her a car and made sure she got a license.

    At the age of fifteen, Serenity moved into the guest house, and basically lived on her own, rarely visiting the main house. Except for those few occasions where school required one of her parents to sign it. Since her mother didn't want to do it, she had Erik sign them.

    Serenity also got a job. Part-time during school and full-time in the summer while her mother and step-father away.

    On her free time, she often wondered what it would be like, actually living on her own. Paying her own bills, dealing with having to have money to pay for stuff while still in school. It seemed to hard to the girl, but she was sure she'd be able to handle it.

    After all, she'd been earning money and not spending it. Two summers and one school year worth of weekends and after school worth of money she had in a bank account.

    At seventeen, the girl had decided. She wanted to get emancipated. But she was worried. Her mother was finally sort of, kind of warming up to her. And so was Erik. If she got emancipated, she was sure her mother would withdraw from her once again, along with Erik. And if that happened and she ever needed help, she knew they wouldn't be there for her.

    She was torn between two things. Her mother's love and being free. It was a hard decision to make, and it took her forever to make it.

    Her mother could change her mind at any moment, and go back to the way things had been. Then she could get emancipated, but it would be too soon to her eighteenth birthday to really count for much. So she would probably just wait.

    And if she got emancipated, there was the possibility that her mother would totally forget about her, pretend that she'd never had any children. It might have sounded stupid to anybody she told it to. But Serenity knew her mother, and it was totally possible that that could happen. Her mother being mad at her had been bad enough, then the ignoring had been really hard. What if she were completely forgotten about? Pictured burned, all evidence that she ever existed gone?...

    The mere thought of that happening nearly sent Serenity to tears.

    Both sides had their ups and downs, and she wasn't sure which things—her mother or her freedom from her mother—she could live without.

    Every day when Serenity got home, after her homework was done, she thought about her options, all the things she could do. And after a long while, she knew what she would choose.

    Family had been important to her once before, and she knew it still could be. If only she reached out to her mother, tried to let the woman into her life if that's where she wanted to be. She'd even risk having to be slightly more perfect than she was, though she knew she'd never go as far as she had before.

    Exiting the guest house, Serenity was very nervous and anxious of things to come. She was unsure if she'd made the right decision, but she wasn't about to back down. The teenager walked the path to where her mother lived. She didn't bother to knock on the door. After all, she'd entered without doing so so many times before.

    She walked quickly and slowly to where her mother sat in the living room. She knocked on the side of the doorway slightly to catch her mother's attention.

    When her mother looked up, Serenity asked, “May I come in?”

    “Sure. Why not?” her mother responded.

    Serenity entered the room and sat down on the couch next to the woman.

    “I think we need to talk...” she started out.