A Beautiful Mess


Emily McKee

For Erica:

I feel like without you I would not have even started writing in the first place. You introduced me to the amazing Kindle app and lent me all of your books and wrote down recommendations for me to read after all of those. We have gone from talking about other people’s fictional characters to talking about the one’s I’ve created. You were the first person outside of my family I told about my book and your first question was, “When can I read it?” I’m so grateful for your friendship and help through this process and you will forever be in my heart.

“This life is what you make it. No matter what, you’re going to mess up sometimes, it’s a universal truth. But the good part is you get to decide how you’re going to mess it up.”

Marilyn Monroe

Prologue — 2 years earlier


“Truth be told I tried my best, But somewhere along the way, I got caught up in all there was to offer, But the cost was so much more than I could bear, Though I’ve tried, I’ve fallen, I have sunk so low, I messed up, Better I should kno—”

“Dad! Do you not know that Fallen by Sarah McLachlan is like the BEST song ever?”

I was just getting ready to turn the radio back on to sing along to my all-time jam but Dad slapped my hand away. He just shrugged his shoulders and kept his eyes on the road while I was going off on my little rant.

“I’m sorry honey but I wanted to talk to you about something before we got to school. You mind giving your old dad a few minutes?”

Dad and I were on our way to the University of Maryland for the beginning of my four years of college. I was so excited and I couldn’t wait to meet new people.

Try new things.

Experience life and everything it had to offer.

Turning to him I saw that he was looking at me and I gave him this, Seriously? Yeah because we won’t talk every day on the phone and Skype once a week look.

Letting out a breath, he poked his lower lip out and said in this funny and pathetic voice, “After all you aren’t going to see your dad till probably Thanksgiving, baby girl.”

I just laughed at his pathetic, yet lovable, excuse but then I looked at him seriously because I wanted to remember him this way. When he was joking around with me and acting like a little kid. When he would terrorize me and joke around about it. When we were talking and laughing with one another because I would miss him terribly after he dropped me off at school and I was all by myself. I wanted to make him proud and not make a mess of things.

Daddy never went to college and said that he always regretted not going. I joked around and said it was because he didn’t get to go to all of college parties. He would always laugh and say, “Yeah, you caught me.”

Dad was a bad boy in high school and then his senior year fell in love with mom. Mom was a bookworm like myself who fell in love with dad the first time she saw him on his motorcycle. After high school dad decided to go and work, while he was smart he couldn’t stand sitting in a classroom and listening to a teacher lecture on and on about math or science. History or English. It was kind of ironic actually because he lectured me all of the time growing up.

Choosing the right friends.

Choosing the wrong friends.

Being too nice to people.

Being too mean to people and so on and so forth.

Of course we would joke around for a few minutes and then somehow we would get on the topic of mom and dad. He told me stories about how fast he fell in love with mom. I always loved his lectures because then I could hear stories about mom. Of course dad told me stories about mom to keep her memory with us but I loved when he told me the stories about first seeing her because I knew that love existed because of them. I was the product of two people in love.

Tearing up from the stories of mom he would then get all serious and say, “But I do really regret not going to college. My Annette, your mom went to college and at times I felt terrible because I wanted to be able to provide for us in a way that I was proud of. I wanted to spoil you and your mom rotten and give you both the world. Your mom would always say that the only thing she needed in her life was me because I was the world. And then when we had you she said, ‘The only things I need in my life are the love of my life and our little sunshine we made together.’”

Mom always referred to me as her little sunshine and would always sing, You Are My Sunshine, My only Sunshine to me when I was little. She and dad had trouble getting pregnant and started to give up. They were happy with one another but they wanted desperately to have children. She decided to call me her little sunshine because she said I brought light to the world, referring to her world with dad.

Breaking me from my thoughts dad said, “So I want you to go to college. I want you to have fun but I also want you to make something of yourself and be happy with your choices and don’t mess up too much.”

He then turned to me with this serious look and I kind of, sort of, had an idea about what my dad wanted to change the topic to so I took a few deep breaths and said, “Ok, what now Daddy?”

I thought by calling him daddy he would get tears in his eyes and forget all about where he was taking this conversation but no such luck. I decided to turn and look out the window because I was so embarrassed but I could hear my dad tightening his grip on the steering wheel.

He began to stutter and kept clearing his throat so I knew he was embarrassed about having to talk to me about this. This being, “I wanted to talk to you about being safe. And by being safe I mean with boys –.”

I was about to yell at him to just stop because I would have rather stabbed myself in my nether regions with a rusty knife than hear my dad talk to me about boys and sex. I mean he wasn’t actually talking about sex but I knew that was what he was referring to. Plus he tried to have the sex talk with me once and that experience just didn’t work out very well and I have mentally blocked the experience out of my noggin for the rest of my life. He referred to it as the birds and the bees, which I still don’t understand! Not the act, but why it’s called the birds and the bees. That just doesn’t make sense to me.

He turned to me at the next red light and said, “… , but I love you honey and we’re all each other has. I just want you to think with your head and not with your heart. I’m just so proud of you and I don’t want to see you get hurt. There are good guys and then there are bad guys. I know you’re smart so you’ll figure out which is which.”

Dad paused so I could let his words seep in.

I knew the differences between good guys and bad guys. Ok, what I mean to say is that I knew of them. I didn’t really get to experience all of what high school had to offer. Of course I went to my classes and did the afterschool activities like soccer and chorus.

But I didn’t get to experience the house parties and the sneaking out of your bedroom in the middle of the night to do absolutely nothing but feel like you’re accomplishing everything. To feel like you’re messing up in the best way possible because you’re living. You’re making mistakes and you’re learning from them.

I was friends with everybody in high school and I was asked out on dates, but there just wasn’t that thing. That spark. Where you feel the fireworks and your heart skips a beat. Where all you do is think about that person; in a non-stalkerish way of course.

Where you talk all of the time about absolutely nothing but you feel like you’re connecting on a certain level with the person. Where you understand one another and for once you’re selfless because you think about what the other person needs before yourself.

I’m a smart girl when it comes to education. Taking tests and doing homework. Staying up at all hours of the night to do projects and write papers. But when it comes to relationships I fucking suck at it, which is probably the biggest understatement of the year.




My problem is not finding a guy but actually feeling something for them. A lot of people say that I’m picky but I don’t want to waste my time. Wasting my time on someone when I know from the beginning when I first shake their hand or look into their eyes that it won’t last.

We won’t last.

Life is too short to waste your time, so I’m not. It’s a smart thing, but it’s also the dumbest thing because my life is quickly passing me by and before I know it I’m going to be on my death bed. So while my dad is talking about the good vs. the bad and the right vs. wrongs in life I’m thinking about finally starting mine.

Going to college parties.

Getting drunk and then suffering from the horrible hangovers.

Wearing sweats and ratty t-shirts to class.

Messing around and enjoying it.

We have long since moved on from that red light and have now pulled into the parking lot of the school. I see kids moving in and parents hugging their kids and I’m instantly nervous. My palms began to sweat and my heart plummeted and before I knew it I was freaking out. I had never been away from home for an extended period of time.

I guess part of it was because my mom died in a car accident when I was four. It was just any normal day where she was running errands and picking up groceries. And then my dad got a call from the police saying his wife, and my mom, was gone.