Jamie | Teen Ink


January 28, 2018
By Sugar_Girl2, Allentown, Pennsylvania
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Sugar_Girl2, Allentown, Pennsylvania
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Detention. It was a word Charlie Ackerson was used to hearing. This time, he had been caught trying to shove an exchange student into a locker. The kid had been cursing at Charlie in Spanish.
            The detention teacher, Mr. Renzo, didn’t even look up at Charlie when he walked into the room. He just groaned and said “Welcome back, Charlie. I didn’t see you for a whole 24 hours.”
            Charlie spent the entire time staring at the clock, as usual. At some point, though, Mr. Renzo got up to use the restroom. This was his chance.
             He crept up to the desk, grabbed Mr. Renzo’s wallet, and snatched a 20 dollar bill inside. He didn’t get caught, of course. He never got caught.

            The first thing Charlie did when he left the school was light up a cigarette. He only had 2 left in his pack so he would have to find a way to get more. Being 16, he wasn’t legally allowed to buy cigarettes, so he put on his hoodie so he looked more like the guy in the picture of a fake ID that he had stolen. The cigarettes would cost him $7, so he would have $13 left to spend on dinner.
Charlie wasn’t always addicted to cigarettes. His mom, Rose Ackerson, was very much against children smoking. But since she had been diagnosed with breast cancer last year, Charlie had mostly been on his own. The smoke from those cigarettes made him feel dizzy and left him in a dream-like state, which made it easy to forget his problems. It made him forget that his mother was going to die soon.
So Charlie spent most of his time in the streets, smoking and stealing. The hospital bills were adding up. Charlie’s single aunt, Aunt Maura, was supposed to take care of him while his mom was at the hospital, but she didn’t. Charlie was alone. But he didn’t care. He didn’t care. Or at least, that’s what he told himself.

At about 7:00, Charlie decided that it was finally late enough to go home. The woman that lived in the apartment next to Charlie was a demon under makeup and hair extensions. She must have been in her forties, but she had the wrinkles of an 80-year-old. Charlie didn’t even know the woman’s name, but for whatever reason she hated Charlie. She would knock on the door to scream at Charlie at every chance she got. Usually it was because he was being “too loud” and she was trying to sleep. However, she usually seemed to sleep in the afternoon, because she’d always come around 4 or 5 everyday. Fortunately, she left the house every night to go who-knows-where, so if Charlie came home late, she wouldn’t bother him.
As he started walking on the sidewalk to his apartment building, he began to notice that someone was following him. He could sense the movements behind him. He turned around, but saw nothing. He turned the corner, then felt the movement again. This time, when Charlie turned around, he looked directly into the eyes of the culprit.
It was a little girl.
Whenever Charlie turned a corner, she turned a corner. Whenever he crossed a road, she crossed the road. When he went to the deli to buy a sandwich with his $13, she stood in line behind him. She didn’t order anything.
Refusing to look at her, Charlie speed up his pace to his apartment while carrying his sandwich. He went inside the building, to his floor, and just as he was about to unlock his door, he jerked his head around again.
The girl was still there.
“Go away,” Charlie murmured.
As the girl started to walk in, Charlie shouted “Get out of here, you little girl! I don’t want you here! You’re so annoying, I-” then he stopped abruptly. This girl couldn’t have been older than 4 years old. “I… I wish I knew why you were following me. What... do you want?”
The girl pointed to the counter. “Cupcake,” she said. “Yummy cupcake.”
Charlie didn’t have very much food in the home, but he did have a few cupcakes. “Here,” he gruffed. “You can have this one.”
The girl snatched the cupcake and shoved it into her mouth. Charlie watched her bite the entire top off while making a huge mess.
“Do you at least have a name?” He asked her.
“Can I make up a name?”
Charlie hesitated. Where had this girl come from? Where were her parents? “I’ll call you Jamie,” Charlie said to the girl. Jamie was his mother’s middle name.
Jamie’s eyes grew big. Her humongous smile said it all. “I’m Jamie!” she shouted. “I’m Jamie!” “I’m Jamie.”

Jamie stayed at the apartment that night. Charlie set her down on the couch in the living room. When he woke up, she was already in the kitchen, crumbs on the floor and everything.
It was Saturday. He had all day to figure out what to do with her. She couldn’t live here. His mom couldn’t afford it.
So he went to bring her to the police station, but Jamie began to throw a fit. Charlie didn’t know what to do, so instead he went to the hospital. He hadn’t seen his mom in several weeks.
She looked like a skeleton. Her face was pale and she looked exhausted. But Mom’s eyes brightened when Charlie walked in. They embraced in hug, tears of joy springing out.
“Mom, this is Jamie, she’s lost,” Charlie said.
“Oh, that’s alright,” Mom reassured him. “We can take care of her until we find her parents. Oh! And I’ve got even more good news. Tomorrow I’m going to get out the hospital for a few weeks.”
Charlie did not think she looked ready to leave the hospital. “Oh, that’s great,” Charlie murmured, but his eyes showed concern.
As he left the hospital, though, he had held on tightly to Jamie’s hand. But then, out of the blue, the worst thing that could happen was exactly what happened.
Jamie was gone.

Where in the world could she be? She could get kidnapped. She could get run over by a car. He had just started taking care of this girl, and he already lost her. He went back inside the hospital, and spent the next 2 hours frantically searching for her in every section of the hospital. She wasn’t there. She wasn’t there.
Charlie walked home, in defeat. All he could think about was what might have happened to Jamie. She wasn’t safe. She could be dead. She-
Was standing in the door of the apartment, tapping her little feet. “What took you so long?” she asked.
Charlie scooped Jamie up into his arms. “Oh Jamie,” he cried. “Why did you have to run ahead? I was so worried about you. Don’t ever do that again, you silly little brat.”
But Jamie was laughing, yet she promised not to do it again.

Charlie’s mom did come home the next day. She brought Jamie to the police, despite the fact that she threw another tantrum. The police had no idea who she was and they said they would help find a foster home for Jamie.
But Charlie’s mom didn’t want that. She agreed to adopt Jamie agreeing that if her actual parents found her she would go back to them. So Jamie became Charlie’s adopted sister.
Jamie started to go to preschool. Since it was the beginning of the year, she only missed about 2 weeks. She never said anything about her past, but she called Charlie’s mom “Mommy.”
Charlie always came home early to take Jamie to gymnastics practice. Jamie had wanted to do gymnastics, and his family had more money because his mom found a job online. She taught at a cyber school, so she would constantly help kids by video conferencing them online.
Charlie was really trying not to smoke again. His mother had been horrified when she came home and the apartment reeked of cigarettes. Charlie had only smoked in there a couple of times, but Mom’s face showed worry.
Since he had stopped smoking in the apartment, the lady next door didn’t seem to hate him so much anymore. Charlie lived on the top floor, so he didn’t have anyone who lived above him who would be affected by the smoke. Maybe, perhaps, the smoke drifted into her apartment sometimes.
He also hadn’t gotten a detention since the day he found Jamie. He always wanted to be home early to see Jamie, so he really tried not to get in trouble at school. He began to make friends.
His new best friend, Eric, loved coming over to see Jamie. She was just an angel in a human body. Her smile could brighten up anyone’s mood. She was loud and annoying, so different from the quiet girl Charlie once knew.
Jamie was the light in a dark world. When Christmas rolled around, he remembered bringing her to the mall to see Santa. Charlie had never believed in Santa as a kid. In fact, he didn’t get very many presents, only whatever his mom could afford. His dad never gave him anything.
But Jamie was super excited for Christmas. She would sing Christmas music so loud that Charlie just had to laugh. Charlie didn’t need anything for Christmas that year. He already had what he wanted.
Whenever Charlie felt stressed or was in a bad mood, Jamie would do silly things to make him laugh. His favorite part of the day was picking Jamie up from school. She makes the world a better place.

March rolled around. Jamie had lived with Charlie and Rose for 6 months. Six months. It seemed like just yesterday that Charlie took Jamie to the hospital with him to see his mom. Charlie didn’t have to worry about money anymore because his mom got a pay raise. He hadn’t stolen anything since the day he met Jamie. And Jamie treated Charlie’s home as if it was heaven.
Today was no different. It was Saturday. Charlie didn’t have much homework, and Eric was going to come over later so he, Charlie, Rose, and Jamie could all go the park together. Charlie loved weekends. His mom didn’t have to work, so he could spend time with his family.
Just as Charlie, his mom, and Jamie, finished eating their sandwiches, Mom’s phone rang. It’s probably Eric’s mom. Maybe they’re running a little late. But after his mom answered the call, her face was paralyzed. Her eyes rang out in alarming shock.
“Charlie, Jamie. We have to get in the car,” their mom said. She walked out of the door so fast that Charlie and Jamie had to run to catch up.
“Hurry, we’re going. Now,” Mom snapped.
Jamie and Charlie strapped on their seatbelts. Mom had already started the car. Instead of driving towards town, she swerved the car into the opposite direction. She kept driving straight until she reached a highway. A highway that went out-of-state.
She jerked the car onto the highway. She swerved the car around other cars. She was speeding so fast that Charlie and Jamie were clinging onto the little seat grips on the top of the car. Charlie’s field of vision began to spin. Black crystals were forming in his field of vision. His head was pounding his skull. He couldn’t think. He couldn’t see. He couldn’t-
Everything went black.

Charlie opened his eyes to flashing red and blue lights. The sky was now a shade of pink.
Someone was pulling him out of the car. Charlie opened his mouth to tell the person to leave him alone. But he gasped for oxygen, and he thrashed around until he or she sat him down on the grass.
His mom was talking to a policeman, answering questions. Jamie was sitting in a police car. Jamie, get out of there! Jamie no!
A couple that Charlie had never seen before was yelling “Amanda, get back here this instant or you won’t be sleeping tonight.”
Jamie made a run for it.

Charlie immediately sprinted after Jamie. The couple started running at her too. What do they want? Charlie wondered.
In an instant, Charlie knew.
They’re her parents.
And they both had belts.

Jamie is not going with them. Charlie knew that the man and woman couldn’t be trusted. So, despite his head hurting and people yelling at him, Charlie ran as though he was being chased by someone with a knife. He thrusted Jamie onto his shoulders, and continued his sprint.
Charlie knew that Jamie’s parents were following him. The dad was screaming “I’ll kill you. I’ll kill you with my own two hands.” He screamed as though he was a psychopath. He is a psychopath.
Charlie sprinted into the woods because he heard the police cars coming. He continued running. He ran for what felt like hours. He ran through fields and neighborhoods. He ran as the sun set all the way down. He continued to run even though he didn’t hear the deranged couple or the police anymore. He ran. And ran. And ran. They will never take Jamie.
At about midnight, Charlie saw thousands of lights. He realized that he was in another city. He found a gas station, and sat Jamie down on his lap outside of the gas station.
“Now I understand why you ran away,” Charlie whispered. But she had already fallen asleep.

The first thing Charlie did in the morning was contact his mom. She begged him to tell her where he was. Charlie looked around the unfamiliar city. He had no idea where he was.
“I don’t know,” he breathed. “Mom listen- those people- they were Jamie’s parents. But they abused her. I know they abused her.”
“But you can’t prove it,” Mom said. “Listen, I know you don’t want to come home, but you have to. The police think you were trying to kidnap Jamie.”
“I know.” His mom sounded so sad. “I know you were trying to save her. I know this isn’t fair. But they could arrest you if you don’t come home. The police are looking for you, and they will find you. I don’t want you to get arrested.”
Charlie, in defeat, hung up. Maybe if he just explained his case, he could save Jamie from her parents. He called a taxi, woke up Jamie, and got the taxi driver to drive him home. The ride took over an hour.
When he finally got to the apartment, a policeman began questioning Charlie. Charlie told him that Jamie’s parents abused her. The policeman shook his head. “You made that up,” he accused Charlie. “Amanda’s dad is a policeman.”
The policeman grabbed Jamie. He dragged her to a police car. She thrashed and screamed at the policeman. Charlie snuck around to the other side or the car, where Jamie’s psychopath parents were standing.
Charlie had a plan.

The police had left with Jamie. Charlie snuck upstairs to his bedroom. Laying on his bed, he pulled out a wallet. It’s her dad’s wallet.
Charlie pulled the contents out of the bag, a fake ID, $400 (probably stolen), a fake driver’s licence, and a mini pill box.
Charlie dropped the pill box. This box has some kind of drug in it. An illegal drug. Charlie knew he shouldn’t have been surprised. The dad was a psychopath, after all.
But Charlie had no idea how he was supposed to track this guy. The guy had a fake ID, just like Charlie, and a fake driver’s license. He was a criminal, just like Charlie had been.
Charlie laid on his bed. He was going to rescue Jamie. Tonight.
Instead, he fell asleep.

The next morning, when Charlie came out of his room, everything was quiet. Too quiet.

She was lying unconscious on the floor.

For the second time in 2 days, Charlie was rushing around, trying to save someone again. He called 911, put on his shoes, and was already getting ready to help get his mom into an ambulance. The ambulance people came quickly, and rushed his mom to the hospital.
Charlie had no choice but to spend the day in the waiting room. There were no answers. Whether his mom was even still alive, Charlie had no idea.

Charlie had always thought then when someone died, someone would have to tell him about it. But the instant his mom died, Charlie’s heart ached. He hadn’t seen his mom die. No one told him his mom died. He knew his mom died. His heart lost it.
10 minutes later, a nurse came into the waiting room. As expected, her face was pale. “Charlie, your-”
“I know, my mom is dead,” Charlie sighed.
“How did you-”
“Goodbye. Have a fabulous day,” Charlie groaned sarcastically. The nurse skidded out of the room.
Charlie got up, and slammed the door out of the waiting room. He stomped to the elevator, pushed an elderly lady out of the way, and slammed his knuckle in the Ground Level button. He pushed through crowds, ignoring the people who yelled at him. He pushed another old lady in a walker out of way at the hospital entrance. It doesn’t matter. I’m sure I have way worse problems than them.
 It was a gorgeous day outside. The sun was shining and people were walking everywhere. They were all laughing and smiling. Charlie pushed people who were in his way.
He went to the store that sold the cigarettes. He got out his fake ID, and bought an entire pack. The salesperson called “Wait, I know you. How old are you again?” But Charlie had already left the store.
He stormed into his apartment. He lit up a cigarette, and smoked it until there was nothing left of the cigarette. Then he smoked another cigarette. Then another. And another. One by one, he smoked the entire pack of cigarettes.
The lady next door tried to open the apartment door. “You woke me up from my sleep, you useless little piece of -”
“You know what lady?” Charlie hollered. “I don’t care!”
“That’s it!” the lady screeched. “I’m tired of you being so careless! Do you really think I want you smoking next to my apartment. Use some common sense kid. I-”
The smoke detector went off. One of the cigarettes was lighting the carpet on fire.
“Oh-” Charlie swore several times. He filled up a glass of water, and dumped it on the fire. The fire didn’t go entirely out.
Charlie tried again, and again. Then a piece of furniture caught on fire.
Charlie realized that the building was going to burn. It was an old building, but that was the only home his family could afford being lower-class.
His ceiling has a sprinkler but it didn’t turn on. The smoke started to cloud up in Charlie’s eyes. He had to get out of there, fast. He grabbed the only two things that he could see. A picture of his mom, him, and Jamie, and a wallet. He sprung open the door.
The lady was still there, hyperventilating.
Charlie grabbed her wrist and pulled her with him down the stairs. Together, the flung open a door to exit the building. Gasping for air, he collapsed on the ground as soon as he made it outside.
The clear sky wasn’t so clear anymore. It seemed like most people had were okay, though. Firefighters were pulling people away from the building, families were hugging each other, and news people were there.
A doctor tried to grab Charlie, but he pushed her away. He strode over to a back alleyway and threw up. He sat down, in the middle of the road, and cried.
And cried.
And cried.

A car slammed their brakes. The driver rolled down his window. “What the hell are you doing!” the man hollered. “I can’t believe you’re stupid enough to sit in the middle of the road, kid.”
“That’s not just any kid, dad,” a voice called from the back. “That’s my friend Charlie! Charlie, are you okay? Where’s your mom? Jamie?”
“Just shut up Eric!” Charlie screeched. “They’re gone. Gone!
Charlie sobbed hysterically.
Eric’s face fell. “I’m- I’m so sorry man. That’s horrible.”
“But Jamie is still alive,” Charlie gasped.
This time, Eric’s face was puzzled. “So wait, what happened?” he asked.
Charlie took a deep breath, and spilled out the entire story to Eric and his dad. Charlie talked about everything, even about his neighbor and how she hated him. After several minutes, Charlie showed them the stolen wallet.
“Wait!” Eric’s dad exclaimed. “That’s me!”
Charlie glanced at the ID. The name written on it was Simon Lee. Lee was Eric’s last name.
The trio came up with a plan on tracking the guy.

Eric, Charlie, and Simon hid at the corner of the police station. They watched all the policemen go inside, including the psychopath. He left his car window open.
When the coast was clear, Charlie snuck over and stuck the wallet on the driver’s seat. Eric reached inside to unlock the door to the back seat. He placed the pill box there.
Charlie and Eric returned to their hiding spot. In the meantime, Simon went inside. He informed the policemen that he believed that the psychopath man’s car contained his stolen wallet. A couple of officers came outside with Simon. He took them to the car, where the police found his stolen wallet. They also noticed the pill box in the back. They stormed back inside and arrested the psychopath.

Charlie sat at his desk. He was working on his speech for the National Abuse Prevention Ceremony.
It had been exactly a year since Charlie, Simon, and Eric got Jamie’s “dad” arrested. Because Simon was a victim of the crime, he got to go to the man’s trial. He told Charlie everything that happened.
The man’s name was Charles Smith. Charles was Charlie’s real name. It really disturbed Charlie to know that such a horrible man had the same first name as him.
Charles Smith and his wife, Julia had apparently been kidnapping children for many years. They stole Jamie when she was only 6 months old. They had held about 10 other kids as hostages too.
The police managed to contact Jamie’s real parents. However, it took them several weeks because they actually lived in Canada. Charlie got a chance to meet them.
They were so grateful that Charlie had done everything possible to protect their daughter. Charlie asked the mom what she had originally named Jamie. She smiled and said “Jamie.”
Charlie didn’t understand how that was possible.

Charlie still wasn’t used to his new house. It had been weird moving to a different country, but Charlie was determined to have a fresh start. The only people from the USA he stayed in contact with were Eric and his dad. Charlie also had that picture of himself, Jamie, and his mom on the wall. The only reminder of his old life.
“Charlie, can you play with me?’ a five-year-old voice whined outside the door.
Charlie let out an enormous smile. “Of course I can, Jamie. That’s what big brothers are for.”

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