I cry myself to sleep. I feel the tears come down my cheeks and as I touch them, I see a horizon, better place, where peace and acceptance welcomes you. I see angels. Soon, everything darkens and becomes red. I look around and everyone's pointing at me, shouting, cursing, screaming to a God asking why I exist.
I wake up, shaking. I hear arguing in the room next door, the baby's room. I run over and see Erick and my mom arguing. I listen in, twirling my head about,
"Erick! Calm down! It's your temper!"
"Temper, temper, wonder where I get it from, mother. Maybe, if you didn't marry that prick and have this baby then, I wouldn't have a temper!"
"Erick, you don't mean that."
"Oh, but, I do mother. Like, how I mean this!"
He pulls out a gun and shoots my mother right in the head. I step into the hallway and run to my room. I gather myself and run out the door. I run to the end of the sidewalk. My father pokes his head out the door and yells to me,
"Get back here!"
I have the choice. I look to the end of the road and at him. I run to the end of the road and hear,
"You'll be dead by morning!"
I keep going. I keep pushing. I hold back the tears and keep a straight face. I can't let anyone know what happened. I start new, now. I'm making a fresh start.
I get to the next city over and see a bench. I lay on it, terrified to close my eyes. A boy walks over and sits on the end,
"You catching the bus?"
I shake my head, 'no.' I keep my head towards the ground,
I let it all out. The wall of tears break and I falls to my knees. The boy comes to my side. He touches me and I flinch back,
"What have you gone through?"
I can't speak. I just stare at the ants, working together as one.
The bus arrives. The boy looks at the bus and then, at me. He shakes his head at the driver. I look up,
"You could've left me."
"But, I didn't."
"I couldn't live with myself if I let a pretty thing like you sad and alone."
"You don't have to lie to me."
"I would never. Now, tell me why you're crying."
"Why don't we go for a walk? We can clear our minds."
I stand up, slowly. Nervously watching the boy walking with me,
"What's your name?"
"That's nice. I'm Benin."
I nod my head,
"So, you wanna tell me where you're from?"
"You came quite a ways to get here. Take a train?"
"You got some fast legs, then."
He laughs and then silence,
"Tell me more."
"Tell me more about you."
"I rather not."
"Your life can't be any better than mine. I live in the woods, steal for food, can't find my parents-"
"My parents were never around, either."
"I had a cousin who lived with us. He disappeared."
"My brother's a drunk. He killed my mother."
"Tatum, I'm so sorry."
"That's all I'm telling you."
"I know you had a hard time but, you can trust me."
He reaches out to hug me. I jump back,
"No! Don't-don't touch me."
The silence is upon us for awhile. We continue walking to the woods were Benin shows me his tree stand,
"Here we are. You can sleep up there and I'll sleep down here."
"I'm not staying."
"I'm not letting you walk out there alone."
"I can protect myself!"
He jumps back at my yell. His face drops and looks at the ground,
"Okay. Gather yourself and leave, then."
I walk out of the woods. I keep walking under I stumble upon a store. I walk inside and smell food. My stomach instantly growls. I sneak to the back of the store where bags of food lie, waiting to be feast upon. I reach in my pocket and find no money. I look around, being aware of my surroundings, stuff the bag in my shirt and head for the exit. The clerk stops me,
"Could I help you with anything?"
I shake my head no. Suddenly, the bag falls out of my shirt,
I run down the sidewalk. I turn and see hundreds of people after me. I stumble and fall, feeling as if I hit a brick wall. I look up, ready to fight. I see Benin. He picks me up and runs into the woods. He sets me down, paces back and forth, scolding me like a child,
"You're lucky I was there. They could've taken you to jail! And your family would find you and you'd be miserable."
"Why do you care?"
He bends down towards me,
"Tatum, I'm not letting you leave here, ever."
I feel chills down my back and remember flashbacks from my father. I look at Benin,
"Benin, I can't-"
"Can't isn't a real word. It's two words put together, two totally different words. There's a positive and a negative. I look at my life in a positive way, maybe you should, too."
He got up and walked away from me. I sat there questioning why I even ran off. I look up to his tree stand. I climb up and sleep, for the first time in forever.