“Amy! Dinnertime! C’mon home!”
“Coming, Mom!” Amy yelled from the dense bushes in the park’s far corner.
“Gotta go. See you tomorrow. We’re having lasagna. I’ll bring you some in the morning.”
“You don’t have to do that,” Tommy answered. “But thank you. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Amy tossed in bed that night, worried about Tommy all alone in the corner park across the street. No one but she knew he was there. Four days ago he ran away from the foster family he’d been living with for the past year and no one had reported him missing. It was summer so the school wasn’t aware, and other than Amy he didn’t have any friends. He was quiet and kept to himself, learning at an early age that it was the best way to survive the foster system.
Previous foster parents had deprived him of food, but he was on the free-lunch program at school so knew to eat as much as possible there. He’d been forced to sleep on a blow-up bed in a garage, had his few possessions stolen by other foster kids, and told he was worthless and a burden. But he had never been beaten. Until this couple.
He didn’t eat the cold fast-food burger and fries that was tossed to him when the husband came home. Tommy’s “no, thank you” was met with a swift backhand across the face. After that, he was regularly shoved into walls, kicked and punched if he was “in the way” of either adult. He learned to keep his mouth shut and stay out of sight. He left before dawn for school and returned right after to do the many chores assigned to him. Weekends were spent putting on a show for the social worker and more chores.
The last beating left cuts and welts all over his body. He didn’t cry; just waited until they had left for work the next morning and wiggled out the doggie door as they had locked all doors and windows from the outside. He didn’t know where to go and had no money, so he hunkered down in the fort that he and Amy had made in the park bushes. She found him there and brought him food, blankets, and a flashlight. It was definitely an improvement over his foster home. But at 12, he had no idea what his next step would be.
“Tommy, honey, come on out. This is Jean, Amy’s momma. We’re going to help you. No one is going to hurt you again.”
Tommy poked his head out of the bushes and looked into Jean’s kind eyes. Amy was clutching her mother with tears streaking her cheeks.
“I’m sorry, Tommy. I had to tell. Mom and Dad have promised to fight for you. We want you to come home with us. You can be my brother.”
For the first time in his life, Tommy felt safe and wanted and allowed his own happy tears to flow.
Written for the To Live & Write in Alameda 2019 “Flash Lit February” Challenge #2. We had three days to write a poem or short story (of 500 words or less) or draw a piece of art to the theme “The Corner Park” and submit.
You might notice a link in the story … I’m adding my own stretch goal into each of these challenges by incorporating a link to one of my #TinyKitchen recipes posted on VivoOSonho.com in the storyline. This one is a healthy, low-cal Lasagna using ground chicken and cottage cheese. Yummmm!