Burnt (Out) Memories

December 13, 2007
By Brenna Palen, Tucson, AZ

He was just turning 10 and his brother, Sean, was trying his best to make it a happy occasion. Mother was out at work at the local Denny’s and Sean had managed to get him a cupcake, something quite rare for their family. He could directly remember the proud look on Sean’s face.

“Not everyday you turn 10. Just think, Ethan. You’ll never be in the single digits again!” He said with a bright and shining face as he set the cupcake in front of Ethan and tousled his hair with a goofy grin on his 13 year old face.

Ethan smiled up at his brother, the one person in his life that made everything right. That loving gaze was broken as the door opened. She was certainly early. Their mother nearly fell through the doorway. Dark circles were formed under her dead eyes. Frizzed hair looked as neat and soft as straw as it fell against her pale, bone thin face. The look of his mother always caught him off guard, but this was what she always looked like, ever since that year. But something was off tonight, what was it? Just as soon as his mother walked in the door, she fell to the ground in a coughing fit, splattering blood against the already stained carpet of their trailer. Her nose was already bleeding and her face as a ghost pale, more pale than at any time Ethan could remember.

“Mommy!” Ethan screamed and tried to run towards her but Sean held him back. Ethan looked up at him in a beseeching way. “Help her! Help her!” He screamed at Sean, but Sean was just as helpless as he was. Ethan shook his head and couldn’t drag his green eyes away from his mother as one simply could not look away from a car crash. He didn’t want to look, but he just couldn’t stop. Sean started to drag Ethan away from the person that was supposed to be their mother and Ethan just let him, too much in shock to try to fight anything that his brother would do.

Ethan could feel his heart in his mouth as he turned away from his mother and threw up on the floor, not being able to take the scene. Sean’s hand left him as he sprinted into the kitchen and dialed 911, leaving Ethan to fall back onto the couch, shivering , and holding himself, his arms in a vice like grip around his legs and his face buried in his thighs. He listened as his mother muttered nonsense only being able to make out a few select words every now and then like “shouldn’t” “Damn kids” “f**king drugs,” but he tried not to listen. He didn’t want to hear his mother like this. Minutes later, sirens wailed into hearing range and Sean came back, sitting next to Ethan and hugging him to him, telling him that everything would be alright, despite the lump Ethan could hear in his voice and the wetness of Sean’s tears against his neck. Ethan sobbed into his brother’s shoulder, shaking uncontrollably. The sobbing didn’t cease until long after the paramedics left after they told Ethan and Sean that their mother died due to the amount of drugs in her system and that they were to be taken away from everything that they had known.

How could people even begin to question how Ethan ended up in this dark, dank alleyway, waiting for his dealer to arrive?

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