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I've made a pact to enter the contest every month - even when I struggle with the prompt because at least then my my mind is working and creativity is flowing. And I also have made a pact with myself to share the entires here, but I will only share the entry after the winner has been announced.
The winner was announced on Sunday which means I can now present my take on the prompt. The title of the short story is "Moving On."
It started with a knock on the door. It was me and the baby at home. Mama was “asleep” on the couch. That’s what I called it then. Now I call it high and passed out.
I pulled the sheet to the side and peeked out. Flashing lights on the street and a lady standing at the door with a clipboard.
I tried to wake Mama. But she wouldn’t budge. Her eyes didn’t blink. She made no noise. The baby started crying, and then there was another knock on the door. This one was louder.
I squared my shoulders and walked to the door. “My mama’s not home.” I ran from the door to the window and pulled the sheet to the side.
The lady with the clipboard wrote something on a piece of paper and shuffled her feet. She squinted at the door and then looked to the side. “Is there anyone else home?” Her voice sounded like honey.
I could say there wasn’t, but when Jessie did that, the cops came into the house and took her out of the house. I could say someone else was, but then the lady would want to talk to them.
“We just wanted to make sure you were okay.” She looked at the clipboard and flipped through the
“I’m fine,” I said. “You can go home.”
The lady glanced at the street, and a car door opened. He was a big man. It took him a little while to walk up the yard because he had to step over empty boxes and a broken bike. “Please let us in.”
This is when it got tricky. I knew he could come in. I didn’t even have to open the door. That’s what happened to Jessie. She ran and hid in the closet, but they came in anyways. Cops have that kind of power.
So I opened the door.
I don’t really remember what happened then. Lots of questions. The cop tried to wake mama, but she still didn’t move. He got worried and pointed at me and then to the baby. The lady took us both out of the house and put us in the backseat. Her car was dirty. I drew on the windows and kicked at the bags of McDonald’s on the floor. The baby kept crying, but I didn’t have the pacifier so I couldn’t make the baby stop.
We went to McDonald’s. The lady bought me a milk shake and chicken nuggets and French Fries. The baby ate French Fries.
The lady asked more questions. How much time did my mama spend asleep? Who took me to school? Did anyone else live with me? How did I get the bruise on my leg? What did the baby eat? How often did the baby eat?
I asked to go to the bathroom, and she said I could. I looked for a window but there wasn’t one. Then she came and got me. She took me to a brown building. She said I was going to stay there and that she would take the baby somewhere else.
I told her I wanted to stay with the baby. I said I took care of the baby and that I put the baby to sleep. I told her that the baby needed me.
She looked sad when I said it. She bent down and pressed her knees to the ground. She looked up at me and her eyes met mine. I think she almost started to cry. She told me that I would see the baby again but that I needed to let someone take care of me.
I cried. Shaking shoulders and snotty nose. The kind of crying that doesn’t stop and can’t be contained. All these people looked at me like I was crazy, but I kept crying. And then I started talking. All these words came out of my mouth, and I don’t even know what I said. But the lady’s eyes got really big. She handed the baby to someone else and then took me in her arms.
I didn’t want to be alone. I told her I needed someone. I said that the baby protected me from hands and that when the baby was in the room no one would hurt me.
“You’re safe now,” the lady said. She handed me a napkin and waited for me to blow my nose. She gave me a hug and then pushed me in the direction of another lady. I took a shower and changed into pajamas. And then I sat on a bed alone.
The lady promised I would see the baby again. She promised that I wouldn’t be alone and that I would be safe. The next day she brought me a trash bag. The bag had clothes in it and a pair of shoes and one stuffed animal. And then she had me take the trash bag to a new house. The baby wasn’t there, but the lady promised me these people would care for me.
Every month, sometimes every two months, I moved. From one house to another house. The people always asked for me to leave, and the lady with the clipboard always moved me.
I saw the baby once a month. A different lady with black hair held onto the baby and gave the baby kisses on the cheek. The lady with the black hair never let me kiss or hug the baby.
I was 16 when it started with the knock on the door, and when I turned 18, I grabbed my trash bag and I chose to leave the last house. The baby was two by then. The baby called the lady with the black hair mama.
The lady with the clipboard asked me to stay, but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to be taken care of. I didn’t need anyone. In the end, there would only be me, but I realize now, that’s actually quite a lot.
(title from "ghost" by eastmountainsouth)