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The Girl in the Box

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Before

Lesley slept on a pile of old, ratty blankets. They were some of the only things she and her daddy had left from when lived in a real house. Moths liked to eat at the fabric and Lesley poked her fingers in the little holes that formed. Her daddy told her not to do that anymore because they needed those blankets to last a really long time. But Lesley made the holes bigger anyway. She tried to remember a time when those blankets were on a real bed. Not forest green plastic boxes filled with clothes that didn’t fit her anymore, serving as mattress. But she failed. She did, however, remember what it was like to get new toys. The kind of toys that came in boxes. Daddy used to buy Lesley lots of toys like dolls with long, blonde, wavy hair. She wished her hair was long and pretty too, but daddy cut it because long pretty hair is hard to take care of. As Lesley slept, she dreamt of playing with her dolls, brushing their soft, long hair. She missed her dolls, but Daddy said he’d buy her more when he got his job back.

“When will that be?” Lesley questioned.

“When the economy gets better,” he told her.

“What’s echo money?” she asked with a funny look on her face. Daddy just smiled and laughed as he tousled her hair.
During

Lesley climbs out of her makeshift bed and closes her eyes to the bright sunlight. She lets her feet dangle off the edge of the green plastic boxes. She yawns dramatically and rubs her hands in her short, blonde hair that makes her look like a boy. Lesley hears busy grown ups walking to work. One man runs to catch a bus, a woman yells at someone on her cell phone, and the street is like an ocean of cars honking at each other to get out of the way. Over all the commotion, she can still hear Daddy snoring. Lesley remembers when Daddy looked like the people in the street. She thinks about his tired eyes and messed up hair he got from waking up too early and working for too long.

“Things aren’t that bad now.” Lesley said to herself. “Daddy can sleep now. He’s happier when he isn’t tired.”
After

Lesley will hop off the tangled mess of blankets and walk down to the end of the street. She will see the other little kids at the bus stop. The girls will be wearing ruffled skirts and pigtails, and the boys will be trying to look cool by gelling up their hair. But Lesley won’t be joining them to school. Lesley will be too embarrassed to even say hi to them. Instead, she will turn into the ally on Brown Street and walk in the labyrinth made by old brick town houses. She will see a group of about a dozen pigeons and try to chase them until they finally decide to fly away. Lesley will do what she does everyday; she will go to the apartment where rich families live and look through their dumpster for old toys. She will skillfully dodge the bags of rotting food by the smell. She has experience doing this; she’s been doing it for a while. She will find a bag that doesn’t stink and rip open the black plastic so she can sift through their old treasures. This time she won’t get lucky, and walk back to her wooden box empty handed.
As Lesley gets older, she will begin to resent her father for selling her toys, giving away her childhood so he could get more money that he would just end up losing to better card players. She won’t listen to him say that he did it for her so they could have something to live on. She will just laugh and say, “Yeah, and now look where we are.”





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