Sierra Mullaney, 20, glances at the 8th consecutive image sent by her ex-girlfriend Alyssa Camp, 19, a day after their break-up. “Tell her she can’t have you back” Taylor, 19 , the father of her child Aydin, yells off the couch. Sierra broke up with Alyssa after finding out that she had cheated on her.
Sierra plants an affectionate kiss on her 17 month-old son Aydin. Sierra’s mother and step-father used to deal prescription drugs when she was younger, “I don’t want my child to be around that, I want to give him the best life possible.” Sierra’s mother has no knowledge of her grandson’s existence.
Taylor and Aydin are fast asleep on the living room floor when Sierra walks in at 5:30am from her night shift at Casey’s General Store. Taylor and Sierra don’t usually sleep in the same room, but what they do share is an unwavering love for their son and each other.
Sierra works the grave-yard shift at Casey’s General Store starting at 8:30pm and ending at 5:30am. It was here that Sierra and her ex-girlfriend, Alyssa, met. Sierra dreams of one day becoming a chef. Her hope is to take classes through Le Cordon Bleu.
Awoken by Sierra’s 5:30am entrance, Taylor begins cleaning the kitchen before the building inspectors arrive at 10am. He is currently looking for a full-time job in Troy, but has had no luck. In the meantime he is a stay-at-home Dad while Sierra works nights at Casey’s.
Sierra, Aydin and Taylor visit with neighbors outside their government subsidized apartment complex in Troy. Both parents want the child to be surrounded by positive influences, but living in this environment presents many challenges.
Alyssa Camp, 19, Sierra’s ex-girlfriend comes to collect her belongings from Sierra’s apartment with the girl that she cheated with her on. “My girlfriends are way too immature and it’s because my soul is way older than I am,” Sierra claims.
Alyssa Camp, Sierra’s ex-girlfriend walks out of Sierra’s apartment with her stereo. Alyssa was fired from Casey’s the previous week and is planning on moving to Kentucky to live with her father. Taylor and Alyssa were never amicable with each other.
Aydin ignores the constant stream of cartoons on television and repetitively stares out of the window. He seemed to have a desire to play in the grass while his parents appeared to have little interest in taking him outside that day.
Alyssa and Sierra say their final good-byes in front of Sierra’s apartment block.
As Taylor tries to eat his lunch, Sierra jokes around with him and tries to feed him her son’s baby food. “We met in the hallway Sophomore year of high school…I knew he was going to be my best friend.”
Taylor routinely brushes Sierra’s wet hair after she takes a shower. He gave her a promise ring last christmas. “I know he will always be here for me no matter what, I love him to death.” Sierra says.
Sierra, Taylor and Aydin share an intimate moment before Sierra takes her afternoon nap. Taylor tries to ensure that Sierra gets adequate sleep everyday before going back to her night shift at the gas station.
Troy, Missouri 2012
“My life is like a movie. There’s love, violence, and drugs.”
Sierra Mullaney, 20, Taylor Barton, 19, and Aydin Barton, 1, are an unconventional family. As a young gay teen, Sierra asked her best friend Taylor to father her child. Now, within the walls of their one-bedroom government subsidized apartment both parents strive to recreate an isolated reality for their son Aydin – a raw safe space imbued with the love and stability absent from their own childhoods. Sierra emerged from a background tattered with abuse, neglect and drugs, while Taylor’s family have continuously applied pressure abhorring his life style choices with a woman who is “too dark skinned.”
Matters are complicated as Sierra continues to date and love women and Taylor wants his best friend to love him in a committed relationship. Despite the complexities of raising a child in an unorthodox manner, Taylor harnesses an unwavering loyalty to his new family.
Taylor, currently unemployed, yet a dedicated father, cares for Aydin during the day, as he juggles nappies and maintains the home with cartoons blaring the background. Sierra works the graveyard shift at Casey’s – a nearby gas station, making ends meet.
“I’m surprised through everything that he’s still here.”