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I hurried through the dark alleys. I could hear the pounding of feet behind me. They were closing in on me fast. I never really thought about what I would say if I should be caught. I had just supposed it would never happen to me. I was wrong as all people are.
I could hear my breath coming faster and faster. My heart accelerating rapidly. I could hear others scattering away from me as I ran. The homeless people squeezed out of my way as I flew past. I heard some people shouting obscenities.
That only made me push more. The adrenaline was pulsing through my being. I turned a corner and saw a dreadful sight.
A dead end.
I heard the police come up from behind me. They grabbed me by my wrists and hauled me off. I could hear them whispering to each other as I was shoved into the back seat of their car.
They had finally caught the Midnight Bandit.
Everyone had supposed that the Midnight Bandit was a boy around eighteen. They were so wrong. I was a girl and I was only fifteen the last time I had checked. You could see the look of shock and pure hatred burning across their faces. I gave them nasty glares.
A police officer got in the front seat along with another one. She was a girl with long brown hair. It was pulled strictly up into a bun. She reminded me of my mother. Always sticking to the rules and never wondering if there was more to life.
I had a different philosophy on life. I loved the feeling of adrenaline flowing through me. It made life worth living for. I needed to steal the food that I stole. My family was so poor that this was what I was supposed to do. Nobody else understood that at my school.
They drove me down to the police station. They contacted my social worker. They asked her to come down and pay my fines. I never thought that I would get caught. I had supposed I was invincible. I guess that’s pretty much the weakness of every teenager. I was just one of millions.
Drew walked in. She was my social worker. We’d been together for years. I couldn’t remember when she had been asked to work my case. I knew that I must have been a hard case because she had that tired look in her eyes.
I felt ashamed as I sat on the bench in handcuffs. A police officer sat on each side making sure I was secured. I could hear the clock ticking as I waited for Drew to come back out of the office.
She had been in there a long time. Was she even paying the fine? Or were they discussing where I would go now? I tried hard to think that Drew would never desert me, but it wasn’t like we knew each other like best friends. We were only assigned to each other. That wasn’t what friendship was built out of.
Drew walked out. She gave me a long look. I sat there staring at the floor, my face burning a bright red. I was ashamed. I was sitting in a police station. I had robbed countless things that I would never be able to repay.
She beckoned to me and I followed.
We went out the door and I saw her black mustang waiting for us. I got in the passenger seat and buckled up. I could hear her high heels clicking on the asphalt as she got in next to me.
“Why did you do it?” she said angrily.
“I had to.” I said honestly.
“No you didn’t have to. You don’t have to do anything that you don’t want to. Don’t Don and Kelsey give you what you need?” she said hotly.
“Not all the time.” I said. Don and Kelsey didn’t exist. I had made them up so that I could stay with my brother. I didn’t want him growing up without me. He needed me. I was his only living family. I couldn’t hold a job so I had to steal food and clothes so we could survive. I was able to get him into a decent public school and I thought that was good.
“What do you mean ‘Not all the time?” she demanded.
“Well… I meant nothing. It’s just teenager angst.” I mumbled quickly covering up my lies.
“Well, I don’t know if they will be happy about this. I need to talk to them when I drop you off. So you can just take me to them. Ok?” she asked me clearly not in the mood for anyone to argue with her.
“Actually they aren’t home. Don and Kelsey are at work.” I said trying to sound casual. It didn’t come out that way. It sounded forced and strained.
“Well then who’s at home with Charlie?” she asked me.
“He’s not home. He’s at a friends house.” I was leaving a messy trail of lies behind me.
“Well I guess this is your stop. Man, this is a nice place. Can you believe you live here?” she asked me.
“No I can’t.” I said wistfully.
It was a large apartment building. The people were so rich that they had their own door holder guy. He made sure that everybody who went through the door had a member’s card. It was a really fancy place in New York. Unfortunately I didn’t live here.
I lived in a run down apartment building that had roaches in the basement. It was a one-bedroom one-bathroom apartment. The carpet was old and tattered. We only had one mattress. Charlie slept on the mattress and I slept on the floor our in the small living room.
“Thanks for dropping me off. It means a lot.” I said nicely.
“You are welcome. Make sure to take care. Don’t get into anymore trouble okay?” she said pulling away.
“Ok.” I whispered as I dashed down an alley.
I walked into the apartment building. Charlie was sitting on the floor coloring the picture book I got him for his birthday. He had turned six years old last week. His coloring book was halfway full of color. He loved it more then anything. I was surprised that he had been so excited to get a coloring book for his birthday. All the kids in his class had Nintendo systems for their birthdays.
Yet Charlie had been happy to get a coloring book.
“How was school?” I asked him.
“It was fun. We made paper Mache. It was so fun. I made one that is a pig. I wanted to make one for you too. The teacher said I could if I stayed after school. Can I stay after school tomorrow?” he asked his brown eyes filled with hope.
“Sure. I’ll come to your school with you. I’ll just wait for you at the bench ok?” I asked him.
“Yeah.” He folded his coloring book and put it away in his box. It was filled to the top with pencils and paper as well as crayons. He came home from school almost every day and he would color.
“What do you want for dinner?” I asked him.
“Hotdog.” He said.
I opened the fridge. I saw a carton of milk. It was chocolate milk and it was Charlie’s favorite. That was the other part of his birthday. He got chocolate milk and a coloring book.
There were two hotdogs left in the meat drawer. I took them out and placed them in our only pan. They cooked for a while. I took them out and put them on out nicest dishes.
Charlie came in.
“Do we have any ketchup?” he asked his eyes lighting up.
“I’m afraid this is all we have. So eat up little guy.” I said cheering him up.
His cute little smile lit up the room. His eyes sparkled as he ate his entire hotdog and drank his little cup of chocolate milk.
I glanced at the clock. It read seven thirty. I figured Charlie had a long day and maybe I could send him to bed early. I hoped he would at least be full. I knew that most of the time he went to bed hungry. He didn’t worry about hurting my feelings. It wasn’t like he ever intended to. He just told the truth how it was. He would always tell me that it was my fault we were like this. It was so true. It hurt but it was true.
“Charlie, you need to go to bed. Can you do that for me?” I asked him sweetly putting the dishes away.
He stood up and went into the bathroom. A couple minutes later he came out in his old tattered pajamas. The holes in the knees made me want to weep. His shirt that was supposed to come down to his wrists only made it in between his elbows and his wrists. I could feel the tears shimmering in my eyes.
He gave me a squeeze. He leaped onto his bed and pulled the blankets around him. His big brown eyes met mine. “Can you read me a story?” he asked innocently.
I smiled at him. “We don’t have any books. I’ll just tell you one instead.
“There was this family. They had a little boy and a teenage girl. The little boy was the cutest boy in the whole world. The family loved each other. They had all the money in the world. They bought the little boy all the presents he wanted for Christmas and his birthday. They loved each other so much. The end.” I whispered telling him the fantasy he always had.
I looked down at him. His eyes were closed and his breathing was slow.
I went into the bathroom and changed into my clothes. I lie down on the bed and cried myself to sleep.
I woke up and got Charlie dressed. He had that cute little smile he always had. He was excited for today. He was going to be able to have lunch today. We always hated the weekends. The days he didn’t go to school he didn’t eat two meals. He would only eat one. Same as me. If anything he would be given more. I could always make him go out on the streets and beg. Tons of tourists fed him when they saw him. They pitied him more than anything though.
I dropped him off at his school. He had just bathed and he looked like he had a decent home to go home to. Unfortunately looks were deceiving.
I had hurried and dropped him off then I went to my school. My school was a worse place then Charlie’s. The kids here didn’t know I was basically homeless but they knew something was different about me. After I left school I went to work.
I had a probation officer who followed me everywhere. He needed to meet my parents and soon. He said that tonight would be fine.
“Don and Kelsey aren’t going to be home tonight.” I said sounding sophisticated and matter-of- fact.
“And why not?” he asked snobbishly.
“Well… They are at a… Dinner party. That’s right. They are going to the Robinson’s huge dinner party. Everyone is invited. Well apparently not everyone.” I said returning his snobbish tone.
“Now you listen here. I am not a nobody. I am going to meet your parents tonight. I’ll just go to that stupid dinner party. Ok?” he asked demandingly losing what little politeness he once had.
“Ok.” I said a tear leaking out the corner of my eye.
I was shivering. Charlie was in my arms wrapped in blankets. The heater was out because I couldn’t afford it anymore. I could barely put food on the table. That night we had hardly anything. Charlie had the last of the food and I had nothing. All day I had been running on nothing.
Charlie shivered violently. I hugged him closer. The darkness crept in on us. I could feel the coldness chilling and seeping through my bones. I hoped I would be able to make it through the night.
“W-w-why is it so cold?” Charlie asked his little voice chattering.
“We don’t have any money sweetie. I just hope that you will be able to get some sleep. Can you do that?” I asked shivering more.
He was silent. I could feel his breathing. I could see his breath. I knew he was alive and I supposed he had just fallen asleep. Turns out he was deep in thought.
“Why did they l-l-leave us?” he asked suddenly.
“Who?” I asked.
“Mom and Dad.” He said crying a little bit.
“I don’t know.” I said uselessly.
“Didn’t they love us enough to stay?” he asked.
“Of course they did. Don’t even think that.” I said crossly.
“Then why did Mom kill herself?” he said sharply.
I gasped I didn’t know he thought that. I was shocked. I was sure I hadn’t told him that. I must have let it slip through my lies.
“She got caught up in the moment. She was so talented with the piano. Do you remember that? She was just held back by us. So she didn’t get to live her dream. Instead of being with us she killed herself. She said that she would rather die than live like this.” I said harshly remembering what Mom said minutes before I found her dead.
“Why did Dad die?” he asked softly barely a whisper.
“He missed Mom too much I guess.” I said rubbing his back.
“I miss them.” He said.
“I miss them too.” I agreed.
I heard the door banging. Nobody knocked on our door like that. I looked at Charlie coloring peacefully in his coloring book. He had the same look that I had. Confusion plain on his cute little features.
I went over to the door. I opened it and saw police outside.
“Are you Dani Mayfield?” one of them asked.
“Yes.” I said cautiously.
Thoughts were racing through my head. I hadn’t done anything wrong for a while. It was almost two weeks since I had actually stolen something. Even then it was only one loaf of bread. I needed to feed Charlie that was the most important thing in my life.
“You don’t have legal guardians. You’ve been trying to raise your younger brother Charlie. Is that correct?” he asked again.
“Yes. But I’m fifteen. I can take care of him. Nobody wants to adopt me and I can’t let him go without me.”I said falling to my knees.
“You’ve broken the law. You’re not even supposed to be living alone. You both need legal guardians. You’re social worker Drew Hansen has found a foster home.” He said walking over and helping Charlie up. He whispered something to him and he hurried and got his backpack.
I could see him smiling. We were finally getting a home.
“So when do we leave?” I asked cheerfully getting my stuff.
“Oh. You’re not going together. Charlie has found a foster home. Not you.” He said.
Then he grabbed Charlie and started taking him away. I could hear him screaming for me. I lunged for the officer. The others held me back. I could hear him crying for me. I could see his brown eyes filled with terror. I could hear him crying. My own tears blurred my eyes.
I punched and clawed and tore at the officers. In return I was slapped and pepper sprayed. Luckily I tore free of them. I raced off towards Charlie’s cries.
“I LOVE YOU DANI!!!!!!!!!!!!” he screamed.
“I LOVE YOU TOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I replied bolting towards the car he was shoved in.
I reached out and grabbed his hand. His brown eyes filled with hope. His tears stopped. My heart filled with joy. I could tell we were going to make it. His face was young and happy. He was ready to come with me.
I was about to help him from the car when something hit me in the back of the head.
I fell to the ground. Charlie’s door slammed shut. The driver drove. I saw Charlie’s face in the window crying, his brown eyes filled with terror and dread.
I was determined to get him back. But I never did.
I never saw Charlie again.