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Man with young girl in wheelchair | Source: Shutterstock
Man with young girl in wheelchair | Source: Shutterstock

Mom Doesn’t Recognize Her Disabled Daughter after Leaving Her with Stepdad — Story of the Day

Caitlin Farley
Jun 07, 2024
07:27 A.M.

After Michelle’s mom abandons her with her stepdad, the teenage girl vows to prove she isn’t a burden by becoming successful. After overcoming many obstacles, Michelle comes face-to-face with the woman who left her behind.

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Michelle didn't realize something was wrong until her stepdad, Eugene, collapsed onto the sofa and started crying. They'd just arrived home and discovered a note from Mom on the coffee table. That same note now lay on the seat beside Eugene.

Michelle navigated her wheelchair through the gap between the sofa and the armchair. She leaned over and snatched up the note.

"Michelle, don't." Eugene reached to grab the note.

Michelle reversed out of his reach. She needed to know what the heck was going on. She held the page in one hand. Her fingers shook as she scanned her mother's words:

"I can't do it anymore. You know I never wanted children, but I tried my best to care for Michelle anyway. That burden has taken the best years of my life from me. But now that she's sixteen, I've decided it's time I pursue my dream of becoming an actress before it's too late..."

Michelle didn't read the rest. She crumpled the page in her fist as tears poured down her cheeks. Burden...was that all she was? An accidental pregnancy that further encumbered her mother by needing extra care? Her gaze snapped across to Eugene.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

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"And what about you?" Michelle asked. "Am I a burden to you too? It's not like I'm your real daughter so nobody would blame you if you dumped me somewhere like a dog."

"Never!" Eugene rushed over, dropped to one knee, and wrapped his arms around Michelle.

"I don't understand what has possessed your mother but I love you like my own, Shelly, and I'll never abandon you."

Michelle returned Eugene's hug, but Mom's words were seared into her thoughts. It wasn't like she'd asked to be like this. It wasn't like she enjoyed depending on others for help with her catheter, physiotherapy, or anything else.

Eugene wiped the tears from Michelle's cheeks with his thumbs. "Look at me, Shelly, and listen close, okay? This is...well, it's an awful and shocking situation, but you've done nothing wrong. It will be tough, but we'll carry on without her, okay?"

Carry on? No. Michelle decided right then to do whatever it took to prove her mother wrong. One day, when she was wildly successful, she'd get a detective to find her mom so she could flaunt her achievements in her mother's face.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

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Michelle worked hard at school and graduated top of her class. Several colleges offered her scholarships, and her friends were shocked when she chose to major in film studies.

"Are you sure this is what you really want?" Eugene asked while they ate dinner. "You have so many career options available to you and I'm concerned you're choosing film for all the wrong reasons."

Michelle pursed her lips. "I want to be a director, Eugene. What's wrong with that?"

"Nothing...so long as you aren't doing it because of your mother."

Michelle shrugged and turned her attention back to her dinner. "I like movies, you know that, and I really want to get into cinematography. That woman has nothing to do with it."

She'd never admit to Eugene, or anyone else, that she often imagined her mother staring at her in shock after appearing to audition for a movie Michelle was directing.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

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The other students stared openly at Michelle as she entered the room. A young woman with bright magenta hair leaned over to whisper something to her friend, and both girls sniggered. Michelle didn't think much about it until a few days later.

The instructor asked about the movie the class had watched the day before. Lila, the girl with magenta hair, answered with a ridiculous rant about physical film being superior to digital shooting.

"I disagree," Michelle said. "I think there are benefits and drawbacks to both. Although there's a certain look and feel you can only get from physical film, digital allows you a greater range of editing options that might be more suitable for the project you're filming."

"Only if you're lazy," Lila snapped. She didn't expect the new girl in a wheelchair to challenge her opinion like that. How dare she?

Lila's eyes flickered with anger as she blurted, "Digital can never beat the authenticity of a movie shot on actual film. It's just not realistic."

Michelle rolled her eyes.

"Well, you can shoot silent movies in monochrome if you like, but everyone else is in the twenty-first century."

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Many students laughed at Michelle’s reply and started teasing Lila. The instructor broke up the argument and urged the students to return to the topic, but Lila glared at Michelle for the remainder of the class.

The day wasn't going to end well for Michelle. After classes finished for the day, Lila and her friends cornered Michelle in an empty corridor.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

"You don't belong here," Lila snarled as she loomed over Michelle. "And I want you out of my class."

"Your class?" Michelle arched her eyebrows. "Get over yourself."

Michelle turned and forced her wheelchair through a gap between two of Lila's friends. As she headed away, her wheelchair lurched and tipped backward.

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"Not so fast." Lila sneered at her. She had a tight grip on Michelle's wheelchair handles and was now steering her toward a utility closet.

"Hey, let me go!" Michelle couldn't turn efficiently with her front wheels off the ground. “What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Showing you who's in charge here," Lila replied. "I didn't come to film school to listen to hacks like you."

"Are you crazy?" Michelle reached back and tried to pry Lila's hands off her wheelchair. "Just because you don't agree with me, doesn't mean you get to stuff me in a closet."

"Oh, don't I? You're the one who has a problem here," Lila yelled. "All my life I had to listen to freaks like you dissing actually good movies because all your feeble mind can comprehend is that bull that gets churned out for making money. There's no way I'm going to listen to it in film classes too. Not if I can help it. And the next time you want to cut me off, think about this moment right here."

"Don't do this, Lila. Just let me go."

"Not until you've learned your lesson." Lila grinned as she closed the closet room door and turned the light off.

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For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

A janitor found Michelle half an hour later and called campus security.

"I don't think you should return to college until that girl has been expelled," Eugene said. "It's too dangerous."

Michelle sighed.

"I don't know what to do, Eugene. I don't understand how a person can be so fanatical about such a nonissue that they'd hurt someone else."

"Some people are just..." Eugene shook his head. "I don't know. But you can't take the risk that she'll bully you again."

"I've already pressed charges." Michelle took Eugene's hand in hers. "I won't let her get away with this. Thank you, Eugene."

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Eugene frowned. "But I haven't done anything."

"You've been there for me whenever I needed you." Michelle smiled. "I can't tell you how much I love and appreciate you."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

"We might have a tough fight ahead of us." Michelle's lawyer, Mr. Abubakar, said as he studied Michelle's paperwork. "Your bully, Lila, comes from a wealthy family and is sure to appear in court with an entire stable of lawyers." Mr. Abubakar lifted his gaze to Michelle. "Are you sure you're up for this?"

Michelle nodded. "Absolutely."

"Good. You have a strong case, but I must warn you that nothing is certain. With enough time and resources, which our opposition definitely has, even the strongest case can be sunk when it reaches judge and jury."

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"I understand. I'm not afraid of a fight, Mr. Abubakar and I'll do everything I can to help you." Michelle leaned forward and looked into her lawyer's eyes. "Even if she does get away with this, I want to know that I did everything in my power to see her punished for bullying me."

Mr. Abubakar smiled. "Okay, let's meet again in about a week's time. We'll discuss our strategy then."

Michelle reached across the desk to shake Mr. Abubakar's hand. "I'll see you then."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

Over the next week, Michelle spent all her free time researching legal procedures and precedents for assault cases like hers. It was slow work initially since she didn't understand most of the legalese, but she slowly became more familiar with the terms.

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When she returned to Mr. Abubakar's office, she brought a folder of notes and a legal book she'd loaned from the college library.

"I hope you don't mind, but I've done some research and found some interesting information that may be helpful."

Michelle lifted the folder from her lap and presented it to him.

Mr. Abubakar took the folder and scanned the first page. His brow furrowed in concentration as he turned the page.

"This is useful." He smiled at Michelle. "I'd already noted some of these cases, but there are others here that I can reference too."

"Great." Michelle grinned. "I was a bit concerned it might be too basic."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

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Mr. Abubakar shook his head. "No, you've done a good job here, just like a trained paralegal. Have you been taking classes in law?"

Michelle shook her head. "I just have a knack for research."

Mr. Abubakar began discussing the strategy he wanted to use for Michelle's case. While he searched his desk for a document he wanted to show her, Michelle's eyes were drawn to a collection of framed pictures and handwritten notes hanging on the wall below Mr. Abubakar's diplomas.

"Omg, that's a famous actor," Michelle exclaimed. "Do you know him?"

MR. Abubakar chuckled. "All of those thank-you notes and photos are from former clients. I used to be a junior partner in a bigshot entertainment firm."

"Why did you leave?"

"Job satisfaction." Mr. Abubakar shrugged. "My younger self was starstruck by the opportunity to work with all those famous people and movie studios, but eventually, I realized I was just helping strong people bully the little folk into deals that didn't benefit them." He frowned. "That's not the type of person I wanted to be."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

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Just as Mr. Abubakar predicted, Lila appeared in court with a team of four lawyers and their aides. Lila smirked at Michelle as the proceedings got underway, but Mr. Abubaker soon turned her smirk into a furious pout.

Despite all of Lila's lawyer's efforts to get the case dismissed, Michelle and Mr. Abubakar didn't give up.

They fought hard, and eventually, the jury had to vote in Michelle's favor. Lila was sentenced to community service.

"Thank you, Mr. Abubakar. I can't tell you how much this means to me." Michelle said as she left the courthouse with her lawyer.

Mr. Abubakar smiled. "This is why I do this job, Michelle, to ensure the little guys get a fair chance. It's something you could do too, you know."

Michelle frowned. "What do you mean?"

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

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"You have a knack for law. I noticed it while we were putting your case together." Mr. Abubakar moved closer. "I've heard bad stories about the kids that go to the arts section of your college. You don't belong among cruel people like that, Michelle. You could become a great lawyer and fight against the injustices in this system with me."

Michelle was intrigued by Mr. Abubakar's suggestion but ultimately shrugged it off. She was committed to becoming a director and, although she would never admit it, her vision of one day meeting her mother again.

Michelle returned to college but soon realized it wouldn't be so easy to escape what happened between her and Lila. Even though Lila had been expelled, her friends clearly held a grudge against Michelle and were determined to make her suffer.

Several students snickered when Michelle passed them on her way to class. She didn't think much about it until she saw a second group of students who openly pointed at her and burst out laughing. Then, Michelle saw the posters.

Somebody had photoshopped her face onto several pictures of naked women and put them all over the walls. Vile slurs had been scrawled across the images using a red marker.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

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Michelle halted in the corridor leading to her first class and stared at the pictures surrounding her. They were everywhere! She burst into tears and turned, wheeling away as fast as she could.

Michelle called Mr. Abubakar soon as she got home. "You were right." She sniffed and wiped away her tears.

"The other kids at school are still targeting me and even the administration doesn't seem to care."

"Do you want to fight them again?" Mr. Abubakar asked. "Because we'll need some proof to catch the people behind this."

"I do want to fight them and everyone in this world who is cruel and bullies others. I've decided to become a lawyer like you, Mr. Abubakar. Someone who uses their power to fight the evil people in this world. I plan to switch majors tomorrow, and I'd like to know if you'd mentor me?"

"It would be my honor, Michelle."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

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Seven years later

Michelle completed her law degree and, following Mr. Abubakar's advice, she worked in a large firm for two years.

'You need to know how they cheat the system so you can beat them,' he'd said, and she soon realized he was right. When she could no longer stomach the twisted practices of the big firm, Michelle struck out on her own.

She set up her office and made a good income. Eventually, she put up a sign advertising free legal services for needy people on Fridays. Unfortunately, her health deteriorated during this time. Surgery for her medical condition hadn't been viable before due to the risks, but now Michelle had no choice.

After taking an extended leave to recover from surgery and complete her rehabilitation program, Michelle returned to her office. She parked her wheelchair in a corner of the room and slowly walked to her desk to sit in her brand-new office chair.

It was weird to use her legs. She’d gone into surgery with nothing but the hope that she’d survive and be able to continue doing good for her community. Some people had even congratulated her on social media afterward, as though being able to walk now made her complete. She’d blocked them all.

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Her first client arrived soon and distracted Michelle from her inner turmoil. Michelle stared at her in disbelief when the woman entered her office.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

"Is it true that you help people for free if they can't afford to pay you?" Michelle's mother, Iris, asked. "I don’t have a job and I don't have any money."

Michelle put her hands together in a prayer position before her face. Could it be that her own mother didn't recognize her?

Michelle thought about how she'd looked as a teenager. She'd worn her dark hair short in a boyish cut, so it was easier to care for, and she wore glasses all the time because she was so short-sighted.

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Now, she'd replaced her glasses with contacts, grown her hair to shoulder-length, and dyed it blond. Was that all it took to fool a mother who hadn't seen her child for years?

"I guess I was mistaken." Iris rose to leave, but Michelle gestured to her to wait.

"No, you're right. I just..." Michelle hesitated on the verge of confronting the woman but didn't know how. It was easier to focus on the job.

"I do work pro bono," Michelle continued. "Please tell me why you need legal help."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

Michelle had often imagined reuniting with her mother when she was younger. Most of her daydreams featured Michelle in a position of power, the epitome of success. On the other hand, her mother would be wretched with need and apologize profusely to Michelle as she begged a favor.

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Having her daydreams play out, in reality, was not at all as satisfying as she'd imagined. Iris was in big trouble. She'd crashed into an influential businessman's luxury car while driving drunk, and the man's lawyers intended to throw the book at her.

"Honestly, I don't think I can get you off entirely, but we can push for a reduced sentence, possibly even community service. I'll need more details but first, can I offer you something to drink?"

Michelle stumbled as she returned with refreshments for them. Iris quickly caught her elbow.

"Are you okay?" Iris asked.

Michelle nodded and pointed to her wheelchair in the corner. "I'm still getting used to walking."

Iris nodded absently. Michelle had thought this might be the clue her mother needed to recognize her but no, Iris still had no idea that her lawyer was the daughter she abandoned.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

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Michelle met with Iris several times leading up to the court date. Each time, Michelle wondered if that would be the day her mother recognized her, but she never did. Oddly, this was precisely what Michelle needed to bury her demons.

Michelle fought hard in court and was successful. The judge lowered the sentence to a year in prison or a fine. Michelle was satisfied, but when she turned to Iris, the woman was in tears.

"I still have no money to pay the fine," Iris sobbed. "I'll have to go to jail after all."

On impulse, Michelle turned back to the judge.

"If the court will permit it, I'd like to pay the fine on my client's behalf so she can go home immediately."

"Why would you do this for me?" Iris wrapped her hand around Michelle's wrist.

"You really don't recognize me at all?" Michelle tipped her head. “This may refresh your memory."

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

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Michelle reached into her case and removed a note. It was heavily creased from being read and crumpled up several times over the years, but Iris's words were still clearly legible.

“This can’t be real.” Iris stared at her openmouthed.

"You can keep that, I don't need it anymore." Michelle started to pack up her things. "I'm sorry you didn't get to be an actress after all, but I hope you enjoyed living for yourself."

"Wait, Michelle. We need to talk."

"No." Michelle shook her head. "You didn't even recognize me, your own daughter. And I know I don't look exactly the same as the kid you walked out on, but come on!"

"Please, just let me explain."

Michelle walked out of the courtroom and left her mother behind once and for all. She paid the fine, then returned to her office to help her next client.

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only | Source: Pexels

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What can we learn from this story?

  • Revenge won’t lead to happiness. Michelle planned her life around meeting her mother so she could get back at her, and it only brought her unhappiness. Success and joy came to her once she committed to helping others instead.
  • Make peace with your past. Everyone endures periods of suffering but the only way to move forward is to find a way to let go of the hurt.

Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.

If you enjoyed this story, you might like this one about a man who sends weekly letters to his estranged son, seemingly in vain, until one day he gets a reply.

This piece is inspired by stories from the everyday lives of our readers and written by a professional writer. Any resemblance to actual names or locations is purely coincidental. All images are for illustration purposes only. Share your story with us; maybe it will change someone’s life. If you would like to share your story, please send it to info@amomama.com.

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