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How To Lie MAG
All of the social workers were the same, if you thought about it.
There was Grace, with the blond curls and too-bright smile, and Esme who laughed when nothing was funny. Michelle was tall and always talked about how concerned she was, and Layla gave squeeze hugs all the darn time.
Each of them was ridiculously annoying in their own way, and they were all nosy – but the reality was that they didn’t care about me or Nia. Their job was to talk to us and sympathize, but it didn’t matter what went on in those meetings, as long as their stupid forms were filled out.
Nia and I got past each of them easily, rambling on and on about dumb things. We never really gave them useful information about us and our lives.
But then Rey came along. Rey, he was different. He made us think twice before saying nothing.
To start off, Rey was a man. Me and Nia had never talked to a male social worker before. But there he was – a tall, good-looking man with a deep voice and warm eyes.
The little girl in me wanted to hug him and tell him that he reminded me of my Dad … before everything that happened. And Nia, who was still a little girl, must have wanted to do the same.
But both of us resisted giving him even the smallest smile, because no matter who he reminded us of, he was our enemy. He was the one trying to tear our carefully constructed lives apart.
And Rey seemed to understand. He seemed to get that we would never – could never – trust him, no matter what he said or did.
The first thing he said to us wasn’t said with an infuriatingly calm smile. He didn’t try to hug us or hold our hands, and there were no promises about it “getting better.” I’m sure he knew as well as we did that it wasn’t getting better because of one useless social services meeting.
So Rey, considering the situation, did the best thing he could. He looked both of us in the eye and said, “Y’all have been through a whole lot.”
Then he waited, staring at us, willing us to give him some sort of reaction. When we said nothing, he sighed. It was a sad kind of sigh, and it held the weight of the world. It made me wonder, how much this man really knew.
“Look,” he said, pushing his longish hair out of his eyes. “I can’t force you to talk to me. I can’t force you to tell me the truth. But the situation you’re in, it’s not good. You’re in danger, no matter what you think. When I was a kid …” He breaks off, shaking his head.
“But this isn’t about me. This is about you two. You can’t push away help if you need it. All we’re trying to do is help.” He looked right at me then, as if he knew that I was afraid of accepting his help.
Instead, I glared at him, hoping he could see the fire in my eyes. When he didn’t flinch, I crossed my arms. “You tryna say my parents are crap? Cuz they’re not.”
He didn’t back off. He’s a strong one, this Rey. “No, not at all.” His voice was calm. “I’m trying to say that if you need help, any help, you better ask for it. Because from what I’ve been hearing, your dad ain’t been treating anyone right. And I think you know that it’s not okay for him to do anything to you or your mom.”
I thought of Nia crying herself to sleep at night. I thought of my mom staring out the window for hours at a time. I thought of the blisters and burn marks on my hand. I thought of the bruises and scars on all of us.
For a second, I wanted to tell Rey everything. I wanted him to help.
But then I thought of foster families, and leaving behind the few good memories I still had left. No, I decided. Rey won’t be getting anything out of us.
I glared again. “We’re being treated fine, thank you very much.”
Something in his face changed. His soft look became determined. “Oh really?” he said, his voice challenging, almost daring me to lie again. This guy was a lot more persistent than the rest.
“Your little sister ended up in the hospital. It seems like your father pushed her down the stairs. Is that fine? Is it really?”
“She fell, you moron! Don’t you dare say those things about my dad. It was an accident, nothing more!” I was screaming and couldn’t help it. I didn’t want to admit that he was right. Saying it made it true. And maybe Dad would get better. He promised he would.
And he promised the time before that. And the time before that. But Rey doesn’t need to know that. No one needs to know that.
“Okay then, Ana.” He said my name like a curse, then shook his head. “I hate to do this, but if you’re not going to talk to me, then you can say what you want to the authorities. I’m filing a police report about your dad because I have a sneaking suspicion what’s going on here.”
All the fight slowly drained out of me. This was it. I had nowhere to go from here. You can’t deceive the law, can you?
As if he knew what I was thinking, Rey frowned at me. “I’m going to ask you one question. And you are going to answer me honestly.”
No, no I wasn’t. Not if I could help it.
“Does your dad hurt any of you – physically or emotionally?”
He knew the answer. He just wanted to hear me say it. He needed proof that it was true, so he could prove my family guilty. So he could tear my life apart.
One second passed, then two. I knew I should tell him the truth.
But Rey, sitting there, made me so mad. He knew nothing about me, nothing about my “messed-up family.” Or, he knew something, but not the important part. He knew my dad was a monster, cruel to his kids and absorbed in his problems.
But Rey didn’t know that Dad used to spin us until we were all laughing too hard to breathe, that he taught me how to deal with life better than anyone else could.
Rey would only ever see my mom as fragile and depressed. He had never tasted the secret apple pie that she used to make, he hadn’t felt her gentle hands comb his hair.
Me and my sister would never be anything but a charity case to him. He would never hear Nia sing her songs, her voice light and feathery. He wouldn’t ever see me paint, my eyes relaxed at last.
I knew he would never see us as real people. When he left this building at night, he had a whole other life. He was probably a dad, and maybe a brother and husband too. He probably had hobbies and friends to go to when he was done with us. Why should it matter to him what happens to stupid kids like us?
He. Doesn’t. Care.
Repeating that in my head, I do the only thing I can.
I look him in the eye and lie.