O N E
I WOKE UP this morning in an unfamiliar bed, in an unfamiliar city. Smackdown in an unfamiliar state. For one second, one split second, everything is okay. Then I remember. I remember why I woke up feeling like I was going to die.
The same dream of my parents and little brother still haunts me like an unforgiving soul.
Four years later and I still wake up screaming for Mom and Dad to wake up. That’s Alijah Grant for you - the little orphan. Well, not anymore but that’s a mere technicality.
I don’t realize I’m shivering into my feet hit the ground. I looked towards the small clock on my nightstand. 6:02.
I sigh, realizing I’m not going back to sleep. Knowing that I start school today, I stand up. I bring my arms over my head and stretch. I pull the cord I see hanging by the clock. The lamp slowly comes to life making the room less eerie. Note to self - this is your room now. Refer to it as such.
While I gather some undergarments, I start thinking about my new family. Technically, though, they aren’t new. Sandy, the mother, is my biologically my auntie. Her full name is La’Sandra Amoro. Hint: she told me to call her Sandy. She has a son. His name is Oscar Amoro Jr, who is also biologically my family. Oscar Amoro Sr., the father, isn’t in the picture. Car accident, I believe. Then there’s Sandy’s boyfriend. His name is Elijah with an E. Coincidence, I think not.
I haven’t met him yet.
I open my door slowly. The hallway is quiet except for some grunting. Out of curiosity, I follow the sound. I stop outside the door before hesitantly pushing it open. A man, probably 40 something, was skillfully punching a punching bag. His eyes meet mine and he stops. He holds the punching bag still.
He closes his eyes, as if in pain. “You look like her, you know,”
“Sir?” I asked, confused.
“Your mother. You look like her,” He said.
My eyebrows shoot up. This is not what I expected our first meeting to be.
“I’m Alijah, sir,” I said.
He chuckled. “Do you fight?”
He gestured towards the punching bag. I nodded and scratched the back of my head. Before he could say something else, I closed the door. I shook my head to myself before going back to what I was doing. The bathroom, if I remember correctly, is at the end of the hall to the right... A-ha! I slip into the bathroom cutting on the light in the process. I put my clothes on the sink. I debate with myself to go back to my room and pick out an outfit. I sighed before closing the door.
I stripped out of the sweaty large t-shirt and shorts. I throw them on the floor near the door. I stand in front of the sink staring into my muddy brown eyes. I stared into my eyes for what seemed like years until I moved again.
I squeezed the toothpaste onto my tooth. I start to brush my teeth, menacingly, twice. I spit and rinsed my mouth when I was finished.
I turned the shower on. Searching for the cabinet, I find a brush. I run it through my chocolate-colored curls until its mostly detangled. I put my hair into a messy bun on the top of my head before stepping into the shower.
My mind returned to my biological parents. Lisa and Adam Grant. My mother, Lisa, is [was] pain in my ass. Didn’t want me to date, didn’t want me doing anything that involved someone [something] getting hurt. I don’t know what happened when I was born. It’s like she knew that I wanted to be a fighter, she knew I wanted to be a tomboy. She wanted a petite, love-able, dress-wearing little princess. Not adventurer, smack-talking, basketball-playing Alijah.
Now, my father was a different story. He was in the military. He was a sergeant. He did 3 tours in Iraq or something close to Iraq. when I was born, he decided to leave the military. He also decided that I was going to be the toughest little girl there is. He taught me how to survive anywhere. He taught me how to speak different languages. Name a language and I guarantee I can speak it. Mom squeezed in some piano and guitar somewhere.
I can also change accents.
I cut the shower off before stepping out. I wrap a towel around my body. I grab my clean undergarments. I slipped the bra over my head and buttoning it in the front. I pulled on my panties. I wrapped the towel around me again before picking up the dirty clothes. I hesitantly opened the door. I heard Sandy and Oscar downstairs. I opened the door all the way and ran back to my room.
I sat down in front of my mirror on the girly stool. My newly bought hygiene products and makeup were laying on the dresser. I pushed a few items to the side.
I start to think of my orphan friends as I start to put makeup on. Kasey and Lisa were their names. I used to steal make-up, among other things, and share the items with them. I would practice on them, intentionally making them look like clowns.
I smile at the memory. I look at my reflection and nodded in approval. I unwrapped the towel and let it fall over the stool.
I dug around in my drawer and pulled out a white t-shirt. I slip it on before walking into my closet. I pull on a red and black plaid long sleeve shirt. I put on my favorite black jeggings [that I stole from my old foster parents]. I slipped on my red hightops.
Someone knocked on my door. Oscar pocked his head, not fully opening the door.
“Hi, uh, Alijah,” Oscar said. He was blushing.
“Hey, Osc.” I step out of my closet.
“Mom said she has your new phone downstairs with your bookbag,” He said, after a moment of silence.
I look at the clock. “Okay. Thanks, Osc.”
I ran a wide-tooth comb through my hair as I waited for the flattening iron to get hot. I started to do my hair. I slipped on a headband when I finished. Someone knocked on my door. I unplugged the iron and wrapped it up. The person hesitantly opened the door.
“Oscar, I’m almost finished,” I told him.
I watched out of the corner of my eyes as he put a pink custom made camouflage book bag on the bed. He dropped my phone which had a matching case on my bed. I quickly made my way over to him and snatched my phone up.
I unlocked it seeing a picture of me, a very old picture of me. I smiled at the sight of 14-year-old me. I slipped my phone into my back pocket and smiled at him. Before he could say anything, Sandy appeared in the doorway.
“You guys ready?” Sandy asked, looking from me to him and back again.
I nodded and watched her leave. I picked up my book bag and slung it over my shoulder. Oscar watched me hesitantly, before leaving the room. I looked around the room - my room. I cut my lamp off and made my way out of my room, following Oscar close behind.