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Every night before I go to sleep, I tell my sister Angel a story about our parents. Around five years ago (that’s how old my sister is), there was a terrible storm. We were at home enjoying a gourmet dinner in our elegant two-story mansion when the door bell rang. Our father opened the door to a horrible man who had a gun. He said that if we didn’t give him all our valuables, he would kill us all. Our father told our mother, you, and me to run, and he punched the bad man in the nose. The bad man shot our father, and we watched as he fell into a lump on the ground. Our mother charged at the bad man and ordered our nanny to take you and me in one of the cars to the police. Before our nanny had a chance to block our view, we watched the bad man shoot our mother. She fell atop our father and looked like the final death scene in Romeo and Juliet. Our nanny then pulled us away before the bad man could shoot us next. She started down the road and was almost to the city when the bad man crashed into us! Nanny pushed us out of the car and told us to run for our lives! Since you couldn’t walk very well, I carried you behind a tree. Then, we peeked out from around the tree in time to see the bad man shoot Nanny. I pulled you back around the tree and kept us real quiet so the bad man couldn’t here us. He yelled for us a few times but turned on his car and drove away. When morning came, we walked into the city looking for the police station. We looked all day, but the city was too big…
Then, she would ask, “What did we do then?” I told her…Well, we continued to look every day for a whole month, but we could never find the police station. So, we gave up and searched for a safe place where we could eat, sleep, and live…
Angel would ask again, “What happened then?” I would answer…We live on the streets of the city, and that’s about it…
“What about the bad man and our house?”
“I don’t know, Angel. I haven’t gone back.”
“Can we go back?”
“No, Angel, we can never go back…”
Because there was no bad man. And there was no two-story mansion. There was no nanny who pushed us out of the car, and there was no fancy dinner. I’m not even sure who our parents are much less if they are alive or dead. The only truth to the story is that we have lived on the ghetto streets of New York City, New York, for five years. My name is Eve, and I am 12 years old. My whole life I’ve seen the outside of apartments and the inside of cardboard boxes. My sister and I were abandoned at Central Park one day and since then resort to scrounging for food instead of enjoying a sit-down dinner with our mom and dad. I don’t remember much of my parents. They always came and went a lot so I never really knew who they were. The baby-sitter was more of a parental figure than my actual parents were, and when she couldn’t watch us, Angel and I were left all alone. Our parents wanted to go to Central Park to reconnect as a family. Little did I know that reconnecting as a family meant desert the financial burdens and return to the good ole’ days…
“Eve, I’m hungry,” Angel whimpers sweetly in my ear. For a five-year-old, Angel has exceptional speech; she knows all of her letters and their sounds and has a wider vocabulary than most children her age.
As rush hour takes hold of the city, I hear hundreds of people rushing by on the sidewalk and taxis honking their horns, the perfect time for shoplifting a couple of muffins and some water bottles. Starbucks is the best place for water because of the easy access, and the nearby bakery usually has an open counter so customers can get what they want. I usually try to swipe one good meal every few days or so; dumpster diving isn’t that much fun.
“Hey! Stop that thief!”
“Thief! Someone stop her!”
I can’t help but smile. They say the same thing on cue every time. And, like every time, no one stops me or even sees me. Children aren’t the stereotypical thieves any more. Lucky for me and Angel.
I turn a corner to get out of sight of Starbucks then I follow the path to our secret hiding place, our home.
“Breakfast!” I yell eagerly. Muffins, specifically chocolate muffins, are a rare treat and Angel’s favorite. Angel runs out of our cardboard home with wide eyes and a mouth watering.
“…gah…mu...ff…in…s,” she manages to enunciate. I just laugh; it’s so funny to watch her try to cram the whole muffin into her little mouth and gingerly lick up crumbs that always litter the ground.
“If you eat it slower, you could enjoy it longer,” I tell her.
“I can’t help it. All the chocolately goodness calls my name. I can’t wait,” she explains as she gasps for air. I grin and shake my head. She will have to learn soon to conserve foods like muffins because they don’t come around that often and can stay fresh for several days and sometimes weeks if properly stored.
I don’t do all the work to take care of us; I give Angel some jobs. She collects papers and other bedding materials for us to lie on because there is never enough for comfort, and Angel wets the bed. I will sometimes get her to beg for food and clothes when we absolutely need them; she still has that “cute” factor of a young child. And, she will find toys for us to play with or make them. But, I take care of our basic, day-to-day survival. And, once again, I’m only 12.
“Angel, you need a bath”
“Wwwwhhhhyyyy? I’m clean,” she moans. I was far from convinced. She was covered literally head to toe in dirt and grime from dumpsters, had the greasiest hair I’d ever seen on a child, and was randomly sticky where ever you touched her. The only part of her body that was clean was her teeth, and that’s because we find lots of tooth brushes and toothpaste discarded outside a dentist’s office. Ironically.
“I don’t want a bath!”
“You need one. You stink worse than a skunk that sprayed itself and recently got hit by a car. And that is saying something.” She protrudes her lower lip in one of her angelic looks to try to knock down my defenses, but she forgot today is a muffin day. My will is stronger. I won’t give.
“TAG! YOU’RE IT!” Angel yells joyfully.
“Angel, come back here! I’m not arguing!”
“I’m not either! Catch me, if you can, and then I’ll get a bath!”
“NO! Angel!” But, I take off after her anyways. She sprints down an alley, turns right, and takes off into the street.
“Angel! Get back on the sidewalk!” The cars are going by so fast, and she doesn’t hear me. Something in the street catches her attention. She bends down to get just as a speeding taxi comes barreling towards her!
“Angel! Get out of the street!” I yell louder, but she still doesn’t hear me.
“ANGEL!” She looks up at me then at the taxi coming towards her. Her eyes grow wide with pure horror, and we both are frozen with fear.
Just as the taxi is about to hit, a blood-curdling, “ANGEL!” escapes my lips, and I clamp my eyes closed.
I try to open them, but they close tighter. I try to urge my body forward, but I fall to my knees. Tears roll down my cheeks, and I start to sob.
“Angel…,” I whisper hoarsely, “Angel…” I think of all that’s happen to us. Everything. How we live, where we live, why we live there, how we got this way, and who made this happen. Dearest mother and father.
“Curse you mother. Look what you’ve done,” I growl, “She’s dead. Angel’s dead because of you. And—” I feel a familiar grimy, sticky finger wipe away a single, lonely tear.
“Eve, why are you crying?” Angel says. I look up shocked. How? How is she alive? I touch her to make sure she is real. She smiles and laughs when I brush a tickle spot.
“How? How are you here?” I finally ask. She angles her head upward, and I notice that a man has been standing behind Angel this entire time. I grab Angel and yank her into my arms.
“Who are you? I demand you tell me!” I shout unnecessarily.
“It’s daddy!” Angel replies gleefully.
“It’s our REAL daddy!” My expression disappears and is replaced with a look of confusion.
The man sees the opening and says, “Hello, Eve.” He squats down to get a better look at me. “I’m your father. I’ve come to take you home.”
I smiled. I don’t why, but I believed him. I walked up to him and finally wrapped my arms around someone who I’ve wanted to see my whole life: my dad. I don’t know how I knew it was him or how even Angel knew it was him, but there he was. My father. And, as I pulled away from his body, I noticed a dog tag around his neck. It had the initials J.C. I started to wonder what his name was just as Angel pointed out the object in the street that caught her eye earlier. It was a cross. Then I looked back at the man, our father, and instantly knew who he was. I squeezed his hand a little harder. A message to him saying, “You saved us. All of us. I love you, my father, my savior.”