Trenton, New Jersey
Jane, 4 years old
“Mama, why are we here?” I asked, hugging my bunny rabbit tighter to my chest while looking around.
The building was massive; there was this big cross thingy on it, and many windows with colorful paintings. Me and Mama moved around a lot, but I never saw this building before. It was green all around it, but it was hard to see more because of the rain falling on us.
Mama kneeled in front of me and put her hand on my face as she cried. Her usually beautiful face was super sad, and she hugged me close to her.
Mama’s arms were the best place in the world, and despite our clothes being wet and sticking to our skin, I could still feel warmth from her. She kept on kissing my cheek, my head, and murmuring something I didn't really understand.
Why was Mama so sad?
“Don’t cry, Mommy.” Removing myself from her arms, I gave her my bunny. “Hug Tommy, Mommy. He can make it all better.” She sobbed even more, which made my chin tremble.
I didn't like seeing Mommy sad.
“Honey, I love you. Mama will always love you,” she whispered into my ear.
“Love you, too, Mama.” Was that why she was sad?
She stood up, took my hand in hers, and moved us toward this big building. We made it to the gate, she put me closer to the door, and there was some round thingy above that made sure rain didn't touch me.
“Mama, come here. See? No rain!” I giggled. She shook her head, sobbed once again, but this time, she tried to wipe water and tears from her face.
“Honey, I need to go.” Her words scared me.
“Go where, Mama?”
“Mama needs to go. Can you be a good girl and stay here?” Her words made me scared, and I hugged Tommy closer. She never left me alone; we always went together. When she had to work in some strange places where men were mean and some touched Mommy in a bad way, she always hid me under the table or in someone’s office.
She never left me alone.
“I wanna go with you, Mommy!”
She shook her head. “Someday, you’ll understand, honey. I need to give you a chance,” she whispered then kissed me one more time on the cheek and leaned back, taking my face into her hands. “Stay here for Mama, okay? And when that door opens, go inside. Can you do it for me, baby?” I didn't want to do it; Mama was scaring me and leaving me. Did she mean she would come back?
Maybe she was going out for food.
My stomach was making funny noises for a long time, and it hurt really bad. I wanted to eat.
“I’m hungry, Mommy.” Her eyes closed for a second. She squeezed my shoulders tight and then let go of me.
“I know, sweetheart. They will feed you here. Just do whatever they say, okay?” That was it; she needed time to work, and this time, she couldn't take me.
“Mama loves you, baby.”
“I love you too, Mommy.” She knocked on the door loudly, looked at me one last time, and then because of the rain, I couldn't see her anymore.
Trenton, New Jersey
Jane, 11 years old
“Jane, get me another fucking beer from the fridge.” Adrian and Colt jumped at the loud words of our foster father, and I quickly ran to do whatever he wanted.
The house was bad—smelly, small, and we barely had any place for each other. However, the Parkers sure loved the money they could live on from all of us, so they took as many kids as they could. When the social workers came, they cleaned us, themselves, and the house to make sure we looked like the ‘perfect family.’
I freaking hated those people.
Grabbing the cold bottle from the fridge, I made the few short steps to the ratty living room, which had used furniture, one big chair where Charlie sat, and a big TV in front of him. He took the beer, grabbing my hand so tight it was painful, but I knew better than to make any sound.
“Next time, fucking come when I tell you the first time.” I nodded.
He narrowed his eyes and squeezed a bit harder. I barely swallowed the scream of pain; Charlie’s hold would leave red angry bruises that would hurt for days. Finally, he let go.
Merry came inside, laughing at something she heard from the white phone she was holding, and sat down on the couch, putting her legs on the table, which was overflowing with leftovers and bottles. She covered her phone with her hand and snapped at me.
“Clean this mess, girl. You aren't here on vacation.” Without another word, I proceeded to do just that, and then washed everything in the sink.
Adrian and Colt were a bit older, so they were fixing some cupboard and taking away the trash. Occasionally, they took care of the grass.
When everything was done, I took the bottle of juice and a few sandwiches I made earlier and sat down with the boys in the so called ‘kid’s room’, which was basically used for storage, but had a wide enough table for us to eat there.