I look in the direction that my old house was. Once when I was curious, I ran to the house just to see who would be living there and as I touched the white picket fence and rubbed my bare feet along the grass in the front lawn, I saw a mom and her two little girls, looking about three or four, and they were making cookies in front of the kitchen window. I started to remember when my mom and I did that. We would make cookies and then sit in the sun on the lawn eating them and talking about space and aliens.
“They could be standing right in front of you invisible and you would never know,” she would say. “They’ll take you in their space rockets and study you in their medical room.”
I would always laugh so hard that I would snort and she would laugh with me as we drank lemonade and finished off the last cookie.
I walked inside the market and became conscious about my bare dirty black feet and ripped shirt when everyone else had on clean washed clothes. People stared at me when I started grabbing random food off the shelves and they started whispering a little loudly that they didn’t think I could pay for it all. That’s the thing, I can’t at all because my dad has no money. Not even a penny. I kept my gaze down and when people stopped looking, I dumped everything in my pants and up my shirt. I look a little stuffed, but it would have to work. When the employees aren’t looking in my direction, I pick up the pace and fast-walk right out the front door as quickly as I could without drawing attention.
When I get home, my brother is playing in the dirt and making his black hands dirtier. Jack is worse looking then I am, but we have the same skinniness. We look like holocaust survivors, no joke. We haven’t had a decent meal since I was eleven and he was four. Now Jack is ten and I’m seventeen. We’ve been living this way for six years and haven’t taken a shower in about a month. We have no water, just a dirt floor we sleep on and food every once in a while. Sometimes, we don’t eat for three or four days and we are really lucky to get two meals a day, which rarely happens.
Now, Jack has scratches all over his body and blood dripping out of his nose, which tends to happen when you’re dehydrated. He doesn’t see me yet, but I take a look at his bloody feet and know it’s time to show myself. There’s no way to help his scratches or bloody feet, but I can make him feel better with the food I stole. I walk around the back of our house and drop all the food at my feet. He looks up and smiles.
“Stella! You’re home! And you brought a lot of food.” His eyes widen at the meat and cheese and few water bottles I got and he stands up and limps towards me with his arms stretched out. I know he wants a hug so I wrap my arms around him and when I let go, he digs through everything and starts chewing the wrapper and all.
“I know we haven’t eaten anything in three days, but that doesn’t mean being a pig. Take the wrapper off, please,” I say.
“Sorry,” he mutters and digs his jagged nails into the top of the wrapper.
I go inside to find dad and see him sleeping against a rock with his hands around the only thing we kept from our old home. It’s a picture of mom standing outside of a tent when my dad took her camping. She looks radiating in the picture and her wavy brown hair reaches just past her shoulders. I feel tears threatening to spill because I miss her too much. I always try to forget how she was because I was too afraid to go into my depressed state again. If I did, nobody would feed my brother and my dad and I would starve right with them. Someone has to take care of this family and I am the only responsible one who would actually do it.