Title:A Valuable Lesson.Rating: PG13
Beta:None...nope. All crappy mistakes are mine I tells ya.
Disclaimer: I don't own The OC, Ryan or Benjamin McKenzie. Set: AU Chino fic. Set when Ryan is about 11/12ish.
Notes: Set in Chino when Ryan is a wee lad of 12ish.
A Valuable Lesson
I'd always been a fairly solitary kid.
I guess I was conditioned from an early age to be perfectly happy with my own company. I didn't need to be entertained, not that that was ever really an option. I'd learnt that it was usually prudent to stay in my room and away from the drama that surrounded our household.
It's fair to say that my childhood wasn't exactly filled with the normal heart warming family stuff I saw on TV or read about in books. Mom liked to blame it all on dad, saying that it had changed when he was sent to prison but to be honest it had always been the same even when dad had been around. No educational trips to the zoo, bonding at baseball games or fun jaunts to the circus for us. A trip to the supermarket was about as exciting as it got and as scintillating as it was for a twelve year old, chiller cabinets full of Hungry-Man TV dinners weren't quite the same as gazing at a dangerous and snarling lion through a wire fence but you took what you could get in our household.
Family holidays for us were odd weekends spent with my fraternal grandma, two days of arguments, dry meatloaf and boiled cabbage.
I had no real expectations. I lived in Chino where trips to Disneyland were rare. I'd long ago learnt that if you aimed low you were never disappointed. So when I heard my mom talking about a trip to Reno I knew that the possibility of my going was zero…less than zero if that were possible…more like 'ain't a cats chance in hell kiddo'. I fully expected to be palmed off on to the aforementioned grandma for yet another lesson in cooking the color out of every vegetable known to man but as the date grew closer and nothing was said about me going to Santa Teresa I found myself doing something that I never allowed myself to do, I found myself getting excited. Ten days in Reno with my mom, even if it meant spending more time with AJ. It was a holiday so he'd be in a good mood and less likely to use my face as a stress ball I figured. A holiday…it would be awesome. I never actually asked mom about the trip, I just assumed that I was going and she said nothing that would make me think otherwise.
I even told my brother about the vacation. Trey had snuck in one evening. Trey was seventeen and was never at home these days, when AJ had moved in he'd essentially moved out. I think she felt relief that he wasn't around anymore and she changed the locks on him to show how much she cared.
We slumped on the couch watching The X-files on TV whilst we ate pepperoni pizza with extra jalapeños. As we wiped our greasy hands on the brown velour of the couch and our jeans and he tried to warn me. He'd called me brain-dead if I thought I was getting a proper vacation. Trey said mom was one selfish bitch and it was time I realized it. Roses smelt like shit in our household and it was time I grew up to that fact. I really hated it when my brother talked like that about our mom. At that stage in my life I still had a fairly naive view of my mom even though she'd let me down more times than I could count.
As I said, I really thought that things would be different.
The night before the Reno trip I even packed a bag. Stupid huh.
I had butterflies in my stomach when my alarm went off the next morning. I was washing up my cereal bowl and spoon when AJ emerged from mom's bedroom scratching his ass as he always did. He immediately told me to get him a coffee.
Let me tell you about AJ… he was huge. Okay, I was a short, skinny kid back then but even when I hit my teens and developed muscles of my own he was still this immense and immovable mass of bone and sinew. His greasy dark hair was always pulled back into a tail and he was covered in tattoos, not all off them professional. Not that I knew it back then but a good percentage were acquired in prison and their inky crudeness added to his general threatening exterior. He also had a quick temper. His mood would change in an instant and I swear his eyes sometimes glowed red like the devil himself. If AJ told you to do something you did it.
So that morning I got the canister down from the cupboard with no argument and measured out the spoon and a quarter that was required by AJ as he sat reading an old paper. I placed the cup down next to his hand. He picked up the coffee and took a sip as he stared at me. I felt my gut clench. You didn't want AJ looking at you for longer than five seconds as it invariably meant big trouble, usually leaving me with a fist imprint somewhere on my body. He lowered his eyes and I felt myself breathe again. I started to back away which was usually the best thing to do when I'd been pulled into AJ's orbit. His deep voice broke though my confusion as I frantically tried to think of what I'd might have done wrong.
He casually told me I could have a cup of coffee if I wanted.
I remember blinking at him in disbelief. Rule one in the house was no one but no one touched AJ's coffee. Even my mom wasn't allowed although she did sneak the odd cup when he wasn't around just to get one over on him she said. The man mountain had no class but he did like his coffee and even though it was instant it was the good stuff and not the usual Wal-Mart special we drank. Was it some kind of trap? He laughed at me, as I stood frozen to the floor. He actually laughed and this time it actually reached his eyes. He clapped me on the back and I couldn't help but flinch as he got up and moved over to the counter. I watched as he spooned the dark brown powder into a mug and added water. He handed me the steaming cup as he sat back down at our chipped Formica table. He told me to sit. I did quickly, still thinking that this was some kind of trick but he resumed reading as he noisily slurped as he drank.
I've gotta say that it was that single cup of coffee that lead me in my lifelong addiction to the bean. It was so smooth with a thick warm flavour that coated my whole throat. The bitterness I tasted was not like the cloying tang our cheap stuff had. I sat sipping the coffee as I watched AJ. I spent my time wondering what had led to this unexpected treat. I should have known then why the king of morning temper was being so mellow and nice to me that morning.
As I approached the bottom of the cup my mom rushed into the kitchen in a flap. She was applying pink lip-gloss with one hand as she asked AJ if he'd packed the wash bag from the bathroom and where were he'd put the spare cigarettes for the journey. She heaved several large holdalls behind her as she nagged. AJ muttered several terse replies as reluctantly got up to load the car. I ran to my room to get my stuff.
Mom looked pissed when she saw my bag. In fact her exact words had been 'Where the fuck do you think you're going?'
She got a pinched, constipated look on her face and she studied me like I was a bug. She launched into a full-on mother rant, telling me that I was an ingrate, didn't I know she 'needed' a break from looking after me, she worked hard all year and how dare I try to make her feel bad.
I was apparently being a selfish little bastard.
I couldn't help it, my eyes filled with heavy wet tears but I wouldn't let them fall as my brother's words came hurtling back to hit me in the face.
I think my welling eyes made her feel guilty and maybe even touched a part of her that still felt maternal feelings for me. One of her eyes twitched but obviously upsetting me didn't make her feel bad enough to change her plans. She rubbed the top of my head and hugged me. I was old enough to look after myself apparently and I should feel proud that she trusted me. Mom even stopped long enough to tell me that she'd miss me.
Big whoop-de-fucking-do. Being trusted made me feel so much better now I was being left behind.
Mom slapped down fifty dollars on the counter and told me not to spend it all on junk food before she slapped her forehead and rushed back into the bedroom apparently forgetting something. AJ came bustling back into the house and I stared at the bag at my feet as he started yelling to my mom that they'd better get going if they wanted to get to the hotel for the free lunch buffet.
One promise to ring and a slammed door later, I was left standing alone in the centre of the kitchen. The tears started to fall now that there was no one to witness it.
I felt so stupid.
I kicked my bag clean across the room. It hit one of the chairs and knocked it sideways with a crash, it helped but I still felt frustrated. The new rejection cut deep and I felt an empty hole open up deep in my chest. I picked up one of the dirty coffee cups and threw it hard against the wall. It shattered sending shards of china across the linoleum. I slid down the fridge door until my ass hit the floor and hugged my knees against my chest.
It was a great feeling to know that I rated lower than a blackjack table with my mother.
I must have sat there for almost an hour before the cramps in my legs made me stretch. So I was on my own for ten days, I could cope with that, I spent a lot of time alone anyway as mom worked late shift at the diner but as I tried to convince myself I'd be okay I couldn't help feeling large dose of panic. Especially as the one person who'd make me feel better was away visiting her aunt in Sacramento.
Theresa was the only person I could really be myself with. She was a tiny Latino firecracker who no one messed with even her elder brother Arturo treated her with respect despite the five years between them. We were the same age and she understood me more than anybody. She covered for me at school when I had to skip, she held me when I needed the closeness of someone who cared and her mom had patched me up more times than I care to say. The house next door spelt sanctuary for me but the little square house stood empty and I'd never been more aware of just how much I'd come to rely on Theresa and her family as that moment in the kitchen as I picked up the fragments of the coffee cup. I suppose I the first thing I should have done was contact Trey but part of me wanted to prove my mom right.
I didn't need anyone.
It wasn't until later that night when I realized that the money my mom left on the counter was gone. I didn't have to be Columbo to work out who'd taken it. It seemed that the cup of coffee I'd had for breakfast turned out to be the most expensive cup I'd ever drink. I opened the cupboards to see what we had in. I wouldn't starve, I found packets of noodles, tins of ravioli and soup, packets of cookies and tubs of pudding. The fridge was less promising. No milk but plenty of beer and pickles. I had peanut butter sandwiches for my dinner that first night and for the next three nights. I'd survive and it wouldn't be the first time I'd had to find myself something to eat.
The sound of someone knocking at the door woke me the first night. I sat up and peered at my alarm clock. It was ten-thirty in the evening. I waited without moving as I fervantly hoped whoever would go away…they knocked again and again. I wasn't religious but I prayed that they'd just go. I started to get visions of police breaking down the door and charging in or maybe it was someone casing the house knowing that my mom was away. Eventually I heard footsteps retreating and the sound of a car door slamming.
All the next day I worried about who it had been. Our family had its fair share of encounters with the social services and I can't say I had any trust in them. They looked at me like I was a specimen on a microscope slide. They tried to trip me up and make me say things I didn't want to say. So I mistrusted social workers and what they could do. They were always a blackness that loomed over me, sometimes when mom yelled at me she'd threaten to put me into foster care and I lived in fear that I would be taken away. As much as I hated AJ I loved my mom and the thought of living with strangers terrified me.
So I worried.
According to mom the people on our block were always out to get us. Maybe someone had tipped the social worker off? I knew I was a terrible liar and I wouldn't know what to say if someone asked after my mom so I decided that I'd stay inside so no one would know I was in the house. The fact I lit the house up like a Christmas tree was a big give away in the attempted stealth stakes. Hey, I was smart in some ways but I was also twelve.
I caught up with my school reading list during the day and sat up late most nights watching TV. I thought I'd like being on my own. I didn't have to fight with anyone over what I wanted to watch, I could flick channels and not have AJ shout at me but after a few hours the fun wore off. I'd never really noticed how noisy our house was before but every creak and groan seemed to be amplified in the silent house and the ominous blackness from outside seemed to seep its way inside hence why I kept the lights blazing.
I didn't like the feeling of space, so much space and only me to fill it.
I'd also developed a convoluted ritual each night, I knew I was being stupid but I couldn't stop. I worried about burglars not that we had anything to steal, so I checked and rechecked the locks and bolts on the doors and made sure that all the windows were shut tight every night, once I'd finished I found myself unable to relax until I starting it all over again… just in case.
I couldn't break the fucked up cycle, if I didn't recheck then I got it into my head that something bad would happen and it would all be my fault. I imagined freeway pile-ups involving my mom, my brother would get shot, Tee would be murdered by a homicidal maniac in Sacramento…the list went on and on and it would all be my fault because I hadn't checked the deadlock on the front door yet again.
I couldn't sleep for fear that I'd bring Armageddon down on all my family and friends.
The only upside of one of my obsessive rounds of checking was I found a half full bottle of vodka and several porn magazines in my brother's closet. Yeah, I was even checking in all the closets and under the beds in case someone sneaked in whilst my back was turned. The magazines kept me busy for the next couple of days. I didn't think that Trey would mind under the circumstances. I've got to say that it was probably a good thing I was on my own because I don't think I could have faced anyone without blushing, as it was I don't think I'd ever be able to face Theresa again.
I'd had no contact with anyone for almost a week and I tried not to feel betrayed at the telephones continued silence. I would not let it get to me. Everything was going okay apart from being lonely and my minor OCD problem.
What hurt most was mom still hadn't rung me.
On the fifth night alone I stole several beers from the fridge to help ease the loneliness I was feeling. I knew AJ would kick my ass when he got back but that seemed like such a long way away I didn't care. I was also hungry but the food in the house now was making me feel sick just thinking about it. Dry cereal out of the box and ketchup on toast made from slightly blue bread had become a staple for me and I never wanted to see chicken noodles ever again. I wasn't going to get malnutrition after only five days but I craved real food. Thick juicy steaks and fries and surprisingly I started dreaming of big glasses of cold orange juice, my mouth watered just thinking about it after all the cherry Kool-Aid I'd been drinking. I decided that I needed to eat something that wasn't stale bread or dehydrated. After several minutes of deliberation I picked out a tin of chicken soup. I wasn't normally a fan of soup but it sounded tempting to me, and if I scrapped the mould of the remaining two slices of bread I could have some toast to dunk into it.
I opened the can of Campbell's and poured it into a saucepan. I lit the gas and stood watching the pan before I remembered my toast idea. The blue was a little too much for scraping so I cut the crusts off and put the wonky shapes of bread into the toaster. The soup began to make plopping noises as bubbles of heat broke the surface pale cream surface. It started to smell good and I felt my stomach rumble. I checked the can again and it said heat for five minutes so I decided to give it more time. I grabbed the toast and a bowl. Time to eat.
I don't know what happened. I think the sleeve of my sweatshirt caught on the pan but I can't be sure because it happened in a kind of blur as I felt the searing pain as the thick soup splashed on my hand and soaked into the grey material of my top. What was strange is that it took what seemed like an eternity for my brain to actually catch up to the fact that it hurt. I just stood there and stared dumbly before I gave a pained yelp and ran to the sink. As the cold water washed my hand clean I could see livid red appear. I pushed my sleeve up and saw the same scarlet rawness. I felt sick but I kept my arm under the tap even though the gushing water hurt more than I could almost bare.
I never felt more alone in my life as I watched my skin start to blister under the cold tap. I miserably turned off the gas and left the pan where it lay on the floor, the chicken soup already congealing on the lino.
The only medical supplies I found in the bathroom were a squashed pack of plasters, a tube of cold sore cream and a pack of Tylenol with four left in the bottom. I took two and wrapped a towel around my hand and up my arm in lieu of a bandage.
That night I curled up on the sofa with my arm cradled in my lap. I couldn't bend my fingers easily without wincing and my whole arm throbbed hotly. The Tylenol didn't help much either. I must have watched every episode of Knight Rider in a pain filled trance, I think I finally fell asleep just as the sun was coming up.
I woke with the TV still on and a crick in my neck. My arm felt worse than it had the night before. I gingerly lifted the towel to see how bad it looked, my heart started to pound in panic when I found that the cotton had somehow stuck to my skin overnight. I tried to gently pull away the towel but even the tiniest of movements made me cry out in agony.
I wanted the towel off my skin, it became important to me although I couldn't tell you why…I just thought that maybe if it was off then it wouldn't hurt so much.
I stood and started pacing. My breath coming in heavy heaves as I fought to think.
I remembered Trey telling me that the best way to take a plaster off was to just rip it in one quick movement. I wasn't a doctor and this was the only thing I could think of doing and the only other thing that came into my head was memories of bad cowboy films watched with my dad.
I felt better now I had something I could work towards but I needed supplies.
With my arm held against my body I rifled through the kitchen before settling on a wooden spoon and made my way into the room I shared with Trey. I had trouble opening the illicit bottle of vodka with one hand but with the help of my teeth I eventually managed. John Wayne was sitting with me as I sat on my bed and took a big gulp of the vodka. I gasped and gagged as the vile liquid burned down my throat but I took another swig. With the handle of the wooden spoon in my mouth I took a deep breath and grabbed the towel.
I let the out deep breath I'd been holding. I couldn't do it. John Wayne shook his head at my cowardice.
I tried again. I was not a 'pussy' no matter how many times my brother called me it in the past. I paused and shut my eyes, ignoring the line of drool that ran down the spoon and onto my thigh.
I pulled hard with one fluid yanking motion.
I've never felt anything like it before. Being punched had nothing on what I felt as when that towel came away from my skin. I'm not ashamed to say that I screamed. I hyperventilated until the intense burning sensation lessoned a degree. I rocked back and forth with tears streaming down my face. A good percentage of my skin was attached to the fluffy fibres of the towel leaving a mass of bloody and weeping sores.
I never wanted my mom more in my life. This was bad…really bad. I'd broken my ribs before, my ankle and collarbone but this was worse than each of those put together. My whole arm felt like it was on fire and even the slightest movement made me want to throw up.
I tried to cope, hoping the hurt would lessen as the day wore on. It didn't. I finally managed to fall asleep late into the night but the nightmares I suffered made me wish I hadn't. My arm woke me up several times and the need for the bathroom made me leave the nest I'd made for myself on the couch. In my mind I thought that if I just made it through the night then maybe my arm would be better in the morning.
I found myself staring at the floor for a long time the next morning before I plucked up the courage and rang the number I had for Trey. My usual luck was in full swing. No one answered. I left a pleading message, hoping that he could understand me through all the hiccups and snot.
Stupid I know but I expected my brother to charge into the house immediately. Trey always knew what to do and he'd always protected me from my dad and later from my mom's boyfriends. I aspired to be like my big brother, nothing seemed to rattle him. He seemed so in control. I was scared of my own shadow back then.
I waited and waited but after four hours of intermittent tears and shivering I realized that he wasn't coming. Disappointment and fear hit me when I realized that I this was it…I was truly on my own. I guess I thought my brother would always be there for me. He was my very own Superman always to come flying in when I needed him most. Maybe he'd gone to Reno too. Maybe that had been the plan all along.
I was truly on my own. It hit me then the difference between being happy to sit in my room by myself in a house full of people and being honest to goodness alone. I wanted to curl up into a ball, curl up inside myself until I disappeared which is what everybody wanted apparently. I'd been told a million times by that I was a mistake and should never have been born, oh she always acted like she was joking once she sobered up but I'd learnt with mom that never a truer word was spoken when the vodka was talking.
I eventually shook myself out of my pity party and dried my tears on my shirt.
Trey wasn't coming so I had to do something for myself. I'd taken the last two Tylenol hours before and they'd long since worn off. I tried running my arm under the tap again to help with the burning but the water hitting my arm and hand hurt way too much. I couldn't even move my fingers anymore. Out of desperation I went into moms room, something that was forbidden if mom wasn't in there and looked in her bedside table. I'd seen her take tablets out of the drawer before so maybe she had something in there that I could take. I pushed through piles if old letters and junk before finding what I'd hoped. With one hand I picked up the little brown pill tubs I found. I read the labels, I'd only heard of one of the medicines on the tubs. The worn label was not that clear and I couldn't understand why mom had a bottle of tablets that had a 'Mrs. Irene Warburton's' name printed on it but I thought that it was a pain medication, I was sure I'd heard Trey talk about OxyContin but to be honest my arm hurt so bad I'd have taken it even if I hadn't.
I shook out two of the pills but added two more when I thought about how ineffective the two Tylenol had been. I put the bottle of tablets in my pocket and made my way back to the den and took them with a swig of stale warm beer. I wasn't religious but I prayed that they would make me feel better. I left the curtains shut as I sat down on the floor with my back against the couch. The TV had become my only distraction and I stared at the screen vacantly not really watching. I don't think I'd ever felt so low in my life. I wanted Theresa, I wanted Trey, and I needed my mom.
On the TV a chef was piping whipped cream on a cake and grinning manically at me. The screen had started to get an otherworldly feel about it. It seemed so big and bright. I watched dumbly as words floated around the room surrounding me with heavily accented British vowels. I could hear someone's car alarm going off outside and it felt strange to think that everything outside was normal when things had started to turn upside down for me. My eyelids felt heavy and my whole body was starting to vibrate but I didn't mind, I felt a deep sense of peace creep over me and for the first time since it happened my arm didn't hurt.
Looking back I felt the same kind of wellbeing when AJ filled the house with acrid blue smoke when he smoked skunk all weekend. I was high without realizing and it was so great to feel happy after the past week I didn't even register. I only started to panic when my ears began to buzz and I realized that I couldn't have moved even if I wanted too. Everything was blurring around the edges and the blond cook's voice was getting louder and louder. I felt confused when I couldn't stay upright. I was also sick and heaved several times as I slid sideways onto the floor. I landed heavily on my arm but again I felt no pain only the incredible sense of loosing touch with reality. I should have been worried about the vomit on the floor and the fact that I was lying in it but the hum in my head was blocking out all thought as the room faded for me.
I don't know how long I lay there floating in between consciousness. Even when I was awake I couldn't open my eyes. I heard a crash from somewhere far away and the sound of breaking glass but again everything became faint until I felt someone grip my shoulders as they shook me. I could hear them, also several other voices converging into a cacophony of sound that made my head scream. I wanted to tell them to stop shouting but no words came.
My brother always shouted.
'Is he dead?'
'Ryan, wake up…wake the fuck up.'
'Trey...look at him, look at his arm. What the hell happened?'
"He's not waking up…do you think he's taken something.'
'What's he taken?'
'Here…it's half full.'
'Shit, how many has he taken?'
'How the fuck should I know. Shit…Ry don't do this to me…wake up please.'
Again I felt my body shake violently. I wanted to tell Trey to leave me alone, I wanted to tell them all to leave me alone.
'Trey man, we gotta get him to hospital.'
'No…. let me think.'
'They'll take him this time Turo. I can't believe she fucking left him. I thought she took him…I called round to check…I did … he didn't answer the door. Why didn't he answer the door?'
'Trey…we need to get him out to the car.'
Someone lifted me up. They were crushing my arm against their chest and a zipper rubbed with each step, I felt my head loll backwards as a car door opened. The voices were still around me and I wondered where we were going. It seemed like a strange time to go for a drive considering I was asleep. Maybe Trey was taking me to go see mom. The car smelt of stale beer and cigarette smoke and it was strangely comforting as was the fact that someone was stroking my head and face, which was a totally gay thing and I couldn't picture my brother doing anything like that but I could also smell the Polo cologne he always wore and hear his voice whispering in my ear so it must have been him.
I kept fading out to the sounds of the soft words pleading with me to be okay, panicked cussing and car horns. It was like I was in a weird dream in which my brother and his gang friends had changed into Eagle scouts on a mission to get a badge. I'd have laughed if I could because most of the time they barely tolerated me. I was just the little brother who tagged along like a pain in the ass.
Bright lights and antiseptic, shouted instructions and pleas came next. They pushed a tube down my throat and I threw up. I had something up my nose, which tickled coldly and smelt like plastic and crushed walnuts. They stuck needles in my arm and pulled me around until I whimpered. I think I kept asking for mom and through half open lids I saw the looks of pity that flew around the ICU. I'd seen the same look from the dean's assistants whenever I turned up at school with fresh bruises on my face. More than anything I wanted people to stop looking at me like that. Once again tears forced their way past my carefully built defences.
People continued to pull me around until I couldn't take it anymore and eventually everything went peacefully black and this time I didn't have the strength to fight it.
I don't know how long I slept but when I woke I was in a bright yellow room of beds full of kids with cartoon characters on the walls. My arm was covered in what looked like plastic wrap and Vaseline. I studied my hand for a while wondering if my fingers would ever look normal again because the swollen sausages on the end of my arm didn't look like my fingers. I struggled upright and I couldn't help crying out when I moved. A kind looking woman appeared next to me as if by magic. She was plump and pink cheeked with hair alarmingly the color of Heinz tomato soup. She asked me if I hurt and I nodded shyly suddenly scared. She smiled and injected something into the canular on the back of my unharmed hand, I started to feel woozy and the pain thankfully receded. The nurse talked to me in a soothing tone as she introduced herself and told me that my brother had sat with me all night, he'd just gone off in search of coffee.
She sat by my bed until I saw Trey walking back into the ward clutching a paper cup. My brother looked up just as he was nearing the bed, his eyes were red rimmed with smoky smudges underneath but his face lit up in a lopsided grin when he saw me sat up in bed. His stance seemed to change before my eyes, the slumped shoulders straightened and the usual cocky swagger was back. He lent down and gave me a one armed hug before he gently tapped my knuckles. I wanted to ask him so many questions but he took the time to flirt with my nurse, promising a drink after her shift before she left us alone.
Trey sat down in the recently vacated seat. With no preamble he asked me what the hell had happened, I could tell by the angry way he spoke that he suspected AJ had a hand in it. My mom's boyfriend usually used his fists but AJ could also be creative when he wanted and on occasion he'd put cigarette butts to use. Even though I told him what had happened I guess I'd lied one too many times about my various injuries even to my brother. Of course I didn't lie out of any allegiance to AJ. I guess I feared what Trey would do if he learnt the full extent of what life at home had become in his absence and although I'd pictured AJ with a knife in his back many times but I didn't want Trey to be the one responsible for it.
I pleaded with Trey to believe me and I think I managed to convince him that it had all been an accident on my part but Trey was too angry to calm down. He raved about mom and how it was all her fault. If she hadn't have left me alone then it wouldn't have happened as if he didn't know that most of the time I got my own meals anyway. It wasn't like mom was like the mom's you saw on TV who waited for you when you came home from school with a smile and milk and cookies. I sat silently ignoring the curious looks from the other kids on the ward and let my brother vent.
They couldn't find my mom. Reno was a big place and she hadn't bothered to tell anyone where she'd be staying...which was just typical according to Trey.
It hit him that I'd gone quiet and all the fight seemed to go from Trey in an instant. He hugged me again and that worried me. Two hugs from my brother in one day meant that something was up. He couldn't seem to meet my eyes when I asked what was wrong and I started to get upset. I asked again and again only to see Trey bite his lip and take deep breathes as if he wanted to be a million miles away. Eventually he told me to calm down and then he told me in a voice so quiet I had to strain to hear it.
Social services had been called.
I was going to be taken away.
Put into foster care.
I stared at Trey unable to speak.
Last time I had my big brother to protect me but I knew this time I would be on my own.
I pleaded with Trey to let me stay with him even though I knew that would be impossible. Even as a kid who idolised his brother I knew that there was no way that 'they' would let me stay with him. He was seventeen then and already had several stays in Juvie Hall behind him but I still hoped that the twist of fate that kept screwing up my life would be on my side this time.
Trey stayed with me the whole time I was in hospital.
But no one cared that he was there for me and they came two days later.
I went quietly.
Fighting those people was a waste of energy.
I'd learnt that a long time ago.
My mom appeared the same morning they took me.
She didn't bother to try and stop them.
…. for now