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Standing hunched and shivering in the cutting rain, every bone in my body aches to go home, but there is no home; not anymore. My family needs me to do this, and for them, I’d do anything.
“Excuse me, ma’am?”
The lady quickly walks by, avoiding a puddle, just like her gaze avoids me. I know it’s raining, and I know it’s cold, but shouldn’t that make my condition seem more dire?
“Sir, could you…”
The man in the tailored suit uses his black umbrella to shield himself from my pathetic being; it’s better than a pity filled glance, I suppose. What am I supposed to do with sympathy that provides zero money? Other people’s sadness for my condition doesn’t do anything, and they’ll forget about their sadness as soon as they get into their comfortable home paid for by the job they didn’t get fired from.
A loud clap of thunder startles me, my eyes travelling to the sky; lightening. Perfect.
Willow will worry if I don’t come home now, if you can call a what can only be described as a child’s outdoor fort a home.
Walking the few blocks to the fort, my only pair of shoes fill with water creating a sloshing sound with every step I take.
I don’t want to continue on this way. Three months of being homeless. Three months of coming home to my wife and year old child empty handed. When I married Willow, I promised a happy ending. How could I have broken my vow to her so quickly?
Willow looks up at me, damp curls clinging to her shivering shoulders, “Hi, love. Any luck today?”
Her voice is weak, and her question is drowned out by wailing Emma.
Willow tightens her hold on Emma, whispering soothing words to our starving little girl. I wanted to place Emma in a foster home, at least until we could get back on our feet, but Willow refused despite the horrible cries from a slowly withering being. Willow, having been an orphan, refuses to let Emma go through the system like she did. I understand, of course it had to have been horrible, but worse than being homeless?
“They’ll get back to me, and the rain seemed to push people away from stopping and giving some spare change.”
It’s not as easy to get hired at a fast food restaurant as I thought it would be.
“Better luck next time.”
Willow pulls Emma to her chest, trying desperately to stop her crying,
“Let’s go to bed, yeah?”
The only thing that dulls the piercing pain of hunger is sleep which is typically dreamless and interrupted by the growl of empty stomachs.
Willow smiles, and my heart lightens. I don’t know what I did to deserve this constantly optimistic woman, but I know I wouldn't be able to go through this without her. My family won’t help; I was with a silver spoon shoved down my throat by the nanny. Those careless bastards I call family would rather see me die than help their only son, one of their many mistakes.
Willow places Emma between us, both our bodies trying to provide warmth to the tiny human.
Willow’s breathing immediately evens out, and Emma’s cries slowly die, but I don’t feel the rise and fall of her chest like I usually do. Sitting up quickly, I touch Emma’s forehead; she’s so cold.
I pick Emma up, willing her beautiful blue eyes to open, but they don’t.
Willow jolts up, her eyes slowly adjusting to my tear stained face, “Love, what’s-”
Willow cuts herself off, her hand clamping to her mouth, heart wrenching sobs muffled by the palm clamped to her lips.
Setting Emma down on the cold floor, I get up. I can’t stay here, not right now.
“Where-where are you going?”
Willow’s voice cracks twice while inquiring where I’m going, but I can’t speak; I know if I do, I’ll say something I don’t mean.
“Where are you going?” Willow screams for me to answer, and I turn to face her reddening face.
“Out! Away from you!”
Willow flinches away from the sound of my voice, “Why?”
Tears continue to flow out of her eyes and onto her angelic face. Angelic my ass.
“I told you we needed to get her into foster care! I told you she wasn’t ok here! I! Told! You!”
Willow sobs harder, picking Emma up and cradling her stiff body.
“I didn’t know. I didn’t know. Love, I swear I didn’t know.”
I storm away from Willow and our dead child, leaving her to whisper “I didn’t know” over and over again.
She didn’t know, but I knew! I knew and I didn’t try hard enough. I didn’t do what was best for Emma, my little princess, my little girl. I knew. I knew. I knew!
Dropping down onto my knees in the middle of the sidewalk, thunder booming in the background, blanketing my cries, I let go. I let all the tears and screams and anger out into the air, and I do so until my lungs give out and can’t anymore.
Dawn comes, the sun peaking out from behind dark clouds, rain slowing into a drizzle, and I get up. Willow needs me, and I need her. We need to bury our Emma, and we need to honor the short life she had.
Having walked only a block away from Willow, I make it back before the sun completely rises.
“Willow, I’m back.”
Not even the sound of crying.
Collapsing to the ground from the sight in front of me, my entire heart shatters.
“Willow, no. No. No!”
My voice already gone from screaming for the loss of Emma, the hoarse cries sound more like a dying cat, but I can’t give her anything else. I can never give her anything else.
“Willow, why? Why would you leave me?”
Holding onto my wife’s limp hand, I remove the plastic bag we used for coins from around her neck.
“I didn’t mean to lose you, my life, my world, my everything!”
I don’t know how long I sobbed. I don’t know how long I sat there, “sorry” leaving my lips continuously.
If someone, one person, could have just spared a dollar, one dollar! One dollar could have saved my baby. One dollar and I wouldn’t be responsible for the death of my family. A job... How could my life have come to this? Homeless. Childless. Worldless.