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I was just a seven year old girl with a boring life…not. I was a seven-year-old girl with a disgusting, horrible life. I lived in a tiny apartment with roaches, a smell almost unbearable and a constant mess. I barley had clothes and what I had was either ripped, too small, too big, or smelled because I couldn’t wash it. I barley ever went to school, causing me to have to repeat a grade. I lived on a street where shootings were a normal event. My mother never cared and my father showed up randomly whenever he wanted to. My mother and I never really had money, but when she got her check, we’d go to the local drugstore and get things we needed.
One night after my mom got her check, we headed to the store. While at the store, we separated into different aisles. Alone in my aisle, a tall white woman approached me. She looked at me and asked, “Are you here with someone?” I knew in my head not to talk to strangers, but I avoided that instinct. I answered her with a simple reply, “yes.” I started to walk away but she followed me. I found my mom and told her that the lady was following me. When my mom approached her, the woman said to my mother,
“ You have a beautiful daughter.”
“ Thank you,” said my mother, “What’s your name?”
“ My name is Shelly,” she said.
“ I’m Megan. This is Lizzy.”
Shelly asked my mother and me to sit and talk for a minute. I could feel in my stomach that this was a bad situation. They sat for what felt like hours talking about Passion Of The Christ and Shelly’s church. They exchanged numbers and we left.
Over the next few weeks, Shelly was always over. She insisted on taking me to church every Sunday. One Sunday, my sister Sarah and her boyfriend Nick came to church with Shelly and me. After church, we went to Shelly’s for some hot cocoa. I fell asleep on her couch and my sister left me there for the night.
The next day, I went to school and my art teacher told me I won the 3rd grade art show and my work would be in City Hall. She handed me seven invitations to pass out to my family and friends. I was extremely excited.
The night of the art show, I couldn’t make it. My house was chaos. My mom had people running in and out of the house; I had no way there; no clothes to wear, and my mom wouldn’t let me go. I was really upset so Shelly took me to her house. Little did I know I wouldn’t be able to go home.
I was at Shelly’s for about three days and I asked her to go home because I missed my mom. She didn’t say anything, but just looked at me. I had a horrible sickening feeling in my stomach. Shelly said, “Lizzy, I received a call from child protection services, you have to stay with me for two or three more days.” I looked back at her, shocked and confused about what was happening.
After a week at Shelly’s, I began to see how the living situation would really be. I felt so uncomfortable. At night she would sleep in the same bed as me. It was like sharing a bed with a stranger. Even though Shelly had a nice apartment, she was very poor. Her fridge was almost empty, except for English muffins. She had no stove but a microwave. For a table to eat at, she had a tiny white card table with two metal foldable chairs. For dinner, my meal consisted of half an English muffin and a glass of milk.
At the end of the first week, I was severely depressed. I missed my family. Shelly’s apartment had two bedrooms. One was completely empty. She’d like to tell me it was mine and one day we’d get money to get things for it.
Two weeks passed and I was going insane in her empty apartment. She’d never let me out of her sight unless one of us were taking a quick shower. One day while Shelly was in the shower, I packed what little clothes I had into a book bag and wrote her a short note that read, “Dear Shelly, sorry I had to do this. I’ll be gone by the time you get out.” I put the note on the bathroom door, went to the empty bedroom that was claimed to be mine, opened the window, and jumped out.
Once I was outside, I started to question myself. If I followed through with this, would I be able to go home? I started to cry, figuring I would never get away. I’d never see my family again. Yet, I hated myself for trying to get way from someone that was only trying to help me.
As I stood outside the window crying, I heard Shelly rush into the bedroom. I could hear the panic and disbelief in her voice as she called my name. She saw me through the window and yelled to me to stay, and so I did.
That night, Shelly could tell I wasn’t going to be able to handle not seeing my family so she called my other sister Kalista, the sister who I was closest to, and asked her to come over. When the doorbell rang, I ran to my sister. Shelly let her spend the night and when I woke up my sister was gone. I was back to being depressed. Why didn’t she take me with her?
On our weekly trip to the food pantry, Shelly’s neighbor came out of his house. He looked at me, then Shelly, and said, “Shelly! I didn’t know you had a daughter!” Shelly smiled and said, “Yes, I do. Her name is Lizzy.” I said hi to him and he offered for me to come in and play with his puppy. I went into his house to play with a stranger’s dog.
That night, the doorbell rang and it was my mother, my aunt Lynn and her fiancé, my sister Kalista and my grandma. I gave them all a hug and started to cry. I just wanted to go home with them. My mother grabbed me and said, “Get your bag, you’re coming home.” I quickly ran to get my bag, but Shelly stopped me. That made my family angry and they all started yelling. My mom grabbed Shelly and yelled, “Give me back my child!” Shelly yelled at my entire family to get out of her house or she would call the police. My mom kept yelling. Shelly grabbed her arm and yelled, “GET OUT OF MY HOUSE, YOU CRAZY WOMAN!” No one would leave so Shelly called the police.
The police arrived at 1:30 am. It was a school night. I had about four different police officers pull me into the kitchen to question me about the situation. After an hour of calming everyone down, the police asked my family to leave and for me to remain at Shelly’s.
The next day, Shelly informed me we were going to her friend’s for dinner. The house happened to be down the street from my mother’s house. I wanted so bad to run, but every time I even went toward the door, Shelly and her friend would watch me. Eventually, they asked if I would remain in the front room and watch a show called “Brace Face.” That night I went to bed knowing that things needed to change.
On my way to school the next day, I saw my father, Ray. He passed me ten dollars and once we were out of her sight, Shelly instantly claimed it was hers. When the school day was over, Shelly was at the classroom door and I started crying. Mrs. Gardner, my 3rd grade teacher who I was close to, looked concerned. Mrs. Gardner grabbed my hand and led me to the guidance office past Shelly. Shelly looked concerned. The guidance counselor allowed me to call my caseworker. Shelly was told to remain in the hallway. I could see from the window that she was depressed. This made me want to hang up the phone just to make her happy. The caseworker told me I wasn’t allowed to go home, but that I could go and stay at my aunts Lynn’s house. I was happy. That day I took my last walk to Shelly’s to get my clothes.
As I walked into Shelly’s bedroom, I saw religious coloring books and crayons scattered everywhere on the bed. She bought them with the money my dad had given to me. I felt horrible. I let her down. As I walked away with my aunt, Shelly stood on her porch. I can still picture that heartbreaking look on her face.
About a month later, my sister went with me to Shelly’s to get the rest of my clothes. We rang her doorbell and when she answered, she looked surprised. She let us into the apartment and we got the clothes. On the way out, she grabbed my sister and warned her that her boyfriend would get her pregnant and push her down the stairs, killing the baby. This made us uncomfortable and scared and we ran out of the apartment. When we got home, my aunt was really mad that we went to Shelly’s. I never heard from Shelly again.
About a year later, my aunt was looking for a new apartment. Shelly’s apartment was available to rent. My aunt and I went to look at it. As soon as I walked in the doorway, all of those feelings came rushing back to me — fear, depression, and confusion. I didn’t know what had happened to Shelly. I feared that she would find me and try to take me away from my family again. I cried in that empty apartment. My aunt could feel the stress the apartment brought to me and so she didn’t take it. We got ready to leave, and as I looked back at the apartment I felt relief. I took a deep breath and walked down the stairs. This time finally walking away for good.