When Tori's mother died, Tori was not there. She received the voicemail on her answering machine after she got home from school that day at the trailer. Tori's mother had not wanted her to be there, she said that she simply wanted to let go and that the sight of her daughter made her want to stay too much. Tori cried on the floor all that night alone. Her grief was too much to take and she missed school the next day as well. The hospice facility made all of the funeral arrangements for her mother. The quiet ceremony put together by the cancer society was respectful, yet it did not alleviate the pain Tori felt. She knew she had to cope, but the weight of it was unbearable. The fellow residents of the trailer park were kind to her. Her friend from school, Molly would bring her the school work she missed but after a week the expectation was business as usual by the school who threatened to send a truancy officer to her trailer if she did not return. This threat jaded Tori who was now greatly disenchanted beyond her years from the trauma of it all.
The result of this new disdain for Tori was that she began to buck back against what she felt was unfair. For a person whose whole life had she been willing to take whatever was given her, there was a saturation point of hellishness that she had already knowingly reached. A point where there was no looking forward or being hopeful, this was her moment of being present for what had happened, this was her moment of no longer being okay. Tori completely checked out of her schoolwork altogether. When Tori's social worker called her at her trailer to see what she could do, Tori could only ask to begin the emancipation process through the courts because nothing else was on her mind. She had no will left in her to sit in class waiting for the bell to ring as her life became so empty. She couldn't help reeling in that all that she had in this world was herself. The court granted Tori her request under the condition that she pass her GED, something she could easily do as the questions were designed to be answered by anyone with an eighth-grade reading level. In summation, it took a mere two court dates and Tori was no longer on the path that a typical American teenager followed, not that she ever truly was on one, to begin with.
Her social worker had done her a couple of kindnesses before she all but disappeared, the first being that she organized for Tori to receive food stamps, a housing allowance to pay for her trailer's slot, and to have welfare checks sent to her at her trailer every month. These amounts of money went a short distance though as Tori found out. Her mother had shown her how to pay bills before she died, Tori just didn't realize at the time how much they were barely getting by. Tori did not take her health for granted at least and decided to get a job. She asked around the trailer park, learning that the nearest places that were hiring were over ten miles away. With many of the residents too disabled or nonfunctioning, Tori could not find a person to car-pull with to get to work. Her friend Josie said that the only person who had a vehicle cheap enough for her to use was an elderly man by the name of Mr. Ronny, but without a new transmission, his beater truck was bound to break down on the side of the road. Tori went over her options and realized that she would need to find an initial cash infusion to begin to even start to work to live or risk being a lifetime welfare recipient scraping by from paycheck to paycheck, going slowly mad in between.
Over dinner at their trailer, Josie and her father cooked ramen noodles with chopped-up hotdogs in pocketed ketchup packets for Tori as a celebration of her emancipation ruling. They talked about Tori's future as interested hosts. Josie had dropped out of school years before due to her teenage pregnancy but lost custody of her baby at birth anyway due to a failed drug test given to her without her consent. As for Josie's father, he was once a part-time bricklayer who had an on-the-job back injury that never fully healed. The two were all but forgotten by the world and written off as ner-do-wells by anyone considered to be well off. Still, they did continue on, despite it all. People like Tori's blood relatives could never buy what the family who invited her to dinner had. They were kind despite barely being able to feed themselves: empathy. Tori appreciated them and also feared becoming them too. Josie's father smoked a cigarette as he scooped their food onto mismatched thrift store plastic plates when it was ready to be served. Tori listened to him as he mumbled about what he would do if he were still young. Josie nodded her head as he spoke as if she were listening to an inspiring church sermon. "You don't do no drinkin' or nothin'?" He asked Tori, she answered that she did not with a wave of her hands and a frown. "Well then git yourself to the blood donation center, they'll pay ya good money." Josie reaffirmed his suggestion by explaining that the clinic probably won't check her identification thoroughly enough to realize she doesn't meet the age requirement. Tori ate the food there and politely took her leave before she went home to look up the clinic address in an old yellow-page phone book.
In the morning Tori snuck onto the bus with Molly who was still in school. It was the best way for Tori to get into town as the school was near the business district of the city. Tori knew this would only work until the bus driver found out she was no longer a student at the school and only during the school year, making it a temporary solution. As soon as she exited the bus she said goodbye to Molly and walked to the blood donation clinic. In contradiction to Josie's assumption, the clinic staff immediately noticed via Tori's identification card that she did not meet the age requirements. Tori explained that she was an emancipated minor and pulled out a copy of the court order saying as much. The man working behind the check-in counter put his hands in the air and firmly told Tori that he could not help her. Tori was self-conscious as the other people in the packed waiting room saw the whole exchange. She felt her face become a hot red hue in embarrassment. She went to leave, not knowing what she would do for the day as there were another five hours to waste until she could take the school bus back to the trailer park once more. With her head down she went toward the exit. As she walked out a woman holding a crying baby told her that she could still donate bone marrow for money as there were no laws against it in that state regarding minors. Tori asked where, and the woman said at the hospital. Tori thanked her and went in that direction. She had nothing to lose.
At the hospital help desk, Tori was told by a senior volunteer that she in fact could sell bone marrow. The woman handed her some information sheets and scheduled her for lab workups the following week. Tori felt like she was on the right path as she walked back to the school in time to hop back on the bus to her home. That night as she read all of the paperwork that she received at the hospital that day. She was delighted to find that the compensation for the procedure would be enough for her to buy and fix up Mr. Ronny's old truck, allowing her to drive into and out of town for work at will. There was also a surrogacy pamphlet that had been slipped into Tori's information packet stack. Tori read it over thinking about how nice it would be to be paid as much as $80,000 to have someone else's baby. She almost let the idea seep into her head before she threw out the packet remembering how Josie had to be put on a suicide watch when her baby was taken from her at the hospital. Josie to this day can't speak of it, and anyone with a heart would not dare bring it up. Tori silently reminded herself that she shouldn't get greedy, not to mention it would be hard to have a baby as she had never even had a boyfriend. The bone marrow donation would suffice.
In her follow-up exam at the hospital, Tori underwent all of the testing and questioning to determine her as a bone marrow donor candidate. Tori loathed the ordeal but knew she needed the result. By the end of it, she was scheduled for the procedure eight days from then to do the donation. She was both dreading and excited about it. On her walk to the school for her ride home, Tori in a hopeful mood picked up some job applications from the nearby fast-food restaurants. She realized that the summer would be a good time to look for work. In a way, she was glad to have the stress to fill her thoughts instead of thinking about her mother's death. She tried to push all of her depression to the most recessed parts of her mind. She wanted to work and to be as busy as possible. The less she worried or thought about anything at all the better off she felt. She wondered if she could work a day and then a night shift at two different restaurants, and do some weekend shifts elsewhere too. That was her plan for the evening until she fell asleep; to fill out as many applications as she could. She planned to be up to her eyeballs with work until she was too tired to think or care about anything anymore.