November 24, 2012
Today I left my house with nothing but a sleeping bag, the clothes on my back, and a backpack stuffed to the brim. Now my family can be the perfect, upper-middle class, suburban family they’ve always wanted to be. Now my “friends” can stop hating me and stop talking about how I don’t belong.
Right now I’m in the woods. Still close to home, and yet nobody knows where I am. My family thinks I’m upstairs in my room. Not that they care. They never wanted me. No matter how hard I tried, they never saw me as good.
I was born when Little Miss Perfect, AKA Jessika Cassandra Aceley, AKA my devil of a sister, was three years-old. Back then, my dad was still a corporation owner, and we had more money than even my mom knew what to do with. As if it wasn’t obvious enough that they didn’t want me, they hired a nanny to take care of me. Her name was Miranda, and she was my favorite person on the planet. While my mom went out on lunch dates with her girlfriends and Jessika played with their kids, Miranda read to me, took me to the park, and did everything my mom should have been doing. She was the only person who loved me at all besides my Aunt Merida, Uncle Jack, and their sons.
I rarely saw my parents or my sister when Miranda was around. When I did see them, they were always rushing around and angry or irritated. There was no small talk, no family meals, and definitely no hugs and cuddles. Especially not for me. Miranda tried to hide this reality from me, but she couldn’t. And she couldn’t fill the hole my family left in my heart either.
When I was five and ready to start kindergarten, my parents fired Miranda. I never even got to say goodbye.
“Where’s Miranda?” I asked my mom as she pulled me by my arm out to the car.
“None of your business, you self-centered little brat,” she spat.
She pushed me into the backseat, and we ended up at my aunt and uncle’s house. “Go inside,” my mom told me. I didn’t bother asking what we were doing here. By the time I rang the doorbell, she was gone.
“Jedidiah, hi bud,” my uncle greeted me at the door. He ushered me inside. “Are you okay?”
I bit my lip and nodded.
“You’re going to stay with us awhile, okay?”
I nodded again, and the tears came.
Living with them really wasn’t so bad. My cousin Martin was five, like me, and his little brother Matthew was three. We were like brothers, meaning sometimes we got along, but sometimes we drove each other crazy.
Kindergarten was the most carefree time of my life. For once, I was surrounded by people who loved me. They even got in contact with Miranda and let her visit a few times. Besides that, I loved learning, and school was my favorite.
The summer after kindergarten was when my life really changed. Uncle Jack took Martin, Matthew, and I to the pool. There we met up with his friend Ben. While Martin and Matthew played with Ben’s daughters, I put on my goggles and swam all over the pool. I was a good swimmer, and I pretended that the other people in the pool were seaweed, and I was a deep sea explorer. Swimming made me feel so happy.
I came up for air near the edge in the deep part of the pool. Back then, deep was about five feet. Just as I was about to dive back under, a kid my size got pushed into the pool by some mean-looking older kids.
“Isaiah!” another kid my size yelled frantically from the side of the pool. I met his eyes. “Isaiah can’t swim!”
I took a big breath and went underwater. The boy who had been pushed in, Isaiah, was flailing around at the bottom, his eyes big. I grabbed his upper arm and swam up as hard as I could. Looking back, it was probably one of those moments where my body gave me more strength than I knew I had because I knew it was a life-or-death situation. When my head broke the surface, I grabbed the edge of the pool. I saw Isaiah’s hand grab the edge, and the other boy calling his name grabbed his wrist and helped Isaiah pull himself out of the pool. Exhausted, I watched as Isaiah coughed up some water. His friend patted his back, telling him he was going to be okay over and over, until Isaiah stopped coughing. When I was about to follow the side of the pool back to where Martin and Matthew were, Isaiah turned to me. “You. You saved me.”
I shrugged and pulled my tired body out of the pool. Isaiah’s friend introduced himself as Jacoryn, and he called Isaiah his best friend. I didn’t really know what that was, because I mostly just had Martin and Matthew and some kids me and Martin played with at school. Somehow we ended up talking to Jacoryn and Isaiah’s dads, who were also best friends. They were very nice, and they were funny. I decided that I liked them a lot and that I wanted to be their best friend too.
Soon enough, Uncle Jack must have realized that I was hanging around four strangers, so he came over and met my new friends.
“Hey Jed, let’s go down the slide,” Jacoryn said. I looked at Jack, who nodded. Isaiah just stayed sitting next to his dad, a towel wrapped around him.
“Is he not coming?” I asked.
“He can’t swim, ’member?”
I smiled. The slide went into the deep part of the water. Of course Isaiah wouldn’t be coming. Little did we know then that Isaiah would never get into a pool again.
That was the beginning of our friendship. Isaiah asked me to come to his house just about every weekend after that. Usually Jacoryn was there, and sometimes their neighborhood buddies Leo and Brendan came over too. That was back when we were just ornery little boys who stretched the rules, played in the dirt, and ding-dong ditched (something Jacoryn’s dad taught us).
When the other boys weren’t there, Isaiah dropped his “cool,” the swagger he had around the other boys, and we joked and talked about everything. He told me how he was scared that his mom was going to have a baby, and I told him about my family hating me.
Slowly Isaiah’s friends, and I guess they became my friends too, became more of a disturbance. We weren’t just little boys being little boys anymore. We excluded other kids and did things we knew we definitely weren’t supposed to, like climbing onto roofs and peeing on the side of people’s houses. Sometimes they even stole little things, like gum and baseball cards from stores. They made fun of me for not doing it until a couple of them got caught.
By third grade, my whole world was shaken when my aunt and uncle sat me down for a talk.
“Jed, honey, what do you know about your dad’s work?” Aunt Merida asked, holding my hand.
“He’s a businessman,” I told her. “Miranda always said it keeps him busy.”
Uncle Jack chuckled. “It sure does.”
“Did.” Aunt Merida corrected. “Jed, your daddy lost his job. He got in trouble and he might go to jail.”
That didn’t bother me at all, if I was being honest. As far as I knew, at the time, my dad’s business had never done anything to help me.
“Your family is moving to a smaller house now,” Uncle Jack said. “They’re going to be less busy. We think it would be good, while they are going through some changes and may be open to new things, for you to move back in with them.”
I sobbed, and Aunt Merida pulled me into her arms. “They’re looking at a house in your friends’ neighborhood.”
I had mixed feelings about the whole thing. I wanted my family to love me, and I wanted to believe they’d give me another chance, but all of my memories made me want to stay with Aunt Merida and Uncle Jack forever. Despite the times I had heard aunt Merida on the phone begging my mom to visit me, she never had. Not only that, but I had mixed feelings about living next to my friends. I was ecstatic to be closer to Isaiah, my best friend, and his family who loved me like their own. But the other boys, not Jacoryn all the time, but Leo, Brendan, and Zeke, scared me. When they were around we always did things I didn’t like.
I didn’t say a lot on the matter because I was so confused about my feelings, so I ended up at my family’s new house the day they were moving in.
“Why are you here?” Jessika sneered when Aunt Merida led me up the driveway.
“Jed is coming to live with you. Isn’t that wonderful?” Aunt Merida said with a big smile.
I squeezed Aunt Merida’s hand harder. This was a bad idea.
“It’s going to take a little bit for all of you to adjust,” she told me.
I wanted so bad for my family to love me.
Aunt Merida held my hand almost all day. Whenever I saw Jessika, I thought about how the fire in her eyes scared me more than my parents’ refusal to even glance at me.
“Why is she mad at me?” I asked Aunt Merida.
“Your sister isn’t mad at you,” she promised as she hung up my clothes in my new walk-in closet. Everything here was ten times as big as what Uncle Jack and Aunt Merida had.
Years later, when I think back to this, I realize that the fire in my sister’s eyes was jealousy and fear, as well as hatred. She enjoyed being an only child, and she thought I was coming to steal her title.
The last five years just go to show how wrong she was. My parents only ever pay attention to me when something bad happens, and now I don’t even have that.
They never took me on a vacation with them. Not once.
Aunt Merida called once a week and begged me to call her more so she knew what was going on. She dubbed herself my guardian angel. But I never called her more. Not even when my parents and my sister left me alone for Christmas. Instead, I spent every minute I could at Isaiah’s. His house was my real home. His parents loved me and never left me out.
That was, until I couldn’t participate in some of the things the troublemakers got themselves into. I just couldn’t participate, even if word got back to my parents and they’d take a second to yell at me. It wasn’t worth it.
I couldn’t be so fearless that I’d ride my bike down the biggest hill in the neighborhood with no hands. I couldn’t pee on people’s houses, even if we didn’t like them, and I couldn’t be a bully. I couldn’t side myself against the “nerds” because they were more like me than anyone else I knew. In a lot of ways, they were more accepting of me than Isaiah, who cared about video games and troublemaking while I cared more about books and school. He always said things like “stop being so dang smart” even though my smarts helped him not flunk EVERY YEAR.
I could rant forever. I’m shaking so bad.
I think anyone could understand why I blew up. Why I left.