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Author's note: I hope that this story seems realistic and captures the different characters in the light that I see them. It is an interesting story to write and I enjoy it.
My name is Leina Išvaizdus Aleksa. My mama named me this because I am named after my great grandmother Elena Išvaizdus, and she loved her very much. I’m six years old and this is my journal.
Today we have to write about our history. I am in the first grade at George Elementary School. My teacher, Ms. Jane, told us we have to write in a journal every day for thirty minutes for the rest of the year. We have a lot of days left. Everybody complained, but I like writing, so I’m excited.
We made our journals out of cardboard and paper and string. I’m really proud of mine. I cut pictures out of an old magazine I found and glued them all over the front. Mine’s the best out of all the class, but my friend Claire doesn’t think so. She says it has too many flowers.
Ms. Jane says we have to write for a half of an hour every day because of the empty curriqulum. That means that she doesn’t have to teach us very much. But I think she will teach us a lot. She uses big words like prestigious, and everybody knows how to spell it because Ms. Jane is a good teacher. I think she should teach at a better school than this one. Once we drove by a school that was really pretty, with two stories and windows and green grass. Mama said it was a damn rich school that took everybody else’s money, and I asked how come I couldn’t go there, and she told me because she didn’t want to live with the rich people who stole other people’s money. And I asked how they stole other people’s money and she told me to shut the hell up.
I miss mama. Now I live with a lady named Jamie and her husband, Paul. Mama had to go to jail for a week and then the court said I couldn’t live with her anymore and that she had to move to a different place, but I don’t know why. I go to the same school but I live in a house that’s a lot closer. It has a pretty garden, but the house is not very nice because it is rusty and broken, and when we had a storm, it leaked and leaked like crazy. The floor was so full of buckets!
Another bad thing about the house is the smell. It smells like mold covered up by a really overly sweet flower. Tangy, Claire said. It smells tangy. Claire and I decided not to go inside each other’s houses, ever, and play outside instead.
Yesterday Ms. Jane said that based on my journal entry, I could move up to fourth grade if I wanted. I read it out to the class and she was shocked by how well I write. I can write better than everybody else because mama taught me. She taught me how to make letters, then words, then sentences, and paragraphs.
So I went home to tell Jamie and Paul. They were quiet at first, and then Jamie said that she and Paul would talk about it. So they talked about it. I eve-dropped. Jamie said she only wanted a normal child, not a genius prodigy, goddammit, and Paul said, well, maybe we should tell her she wouldn’t want to move up into fourth grade, because she would be with old people who wouldn’t like her, and Jamie said no, because I always wanted to be the smartest and to prove everyone wrong, so I would choose to go into the first grade anyways. They would have to stop me from going. And then they started arguing and throwing things, so I went to bed.
Today I told Ms. Jane I didn’t want to be in fourth grade, and she asked why not, and I told her. She said she could teach me at a more advanced level, secretly, and that this would be a better option. So now I get to read different books than everybody else and write more. And nobody minds, because they don’t like doing extra work.
Today we have topics to write about. The topic is our friends.
Claire is my best friend. She looks like curly hair that is gold-colored around her face that has a little bit of freckles, and greenish eyes. Sometimes she scrunches up her face and growls and looks like a lion. She is special because me and her are the only people in our class with hair that is this color and light skin.
One adventure we had together was on the first day of school. It was when we first met. We were coloring and Jonathon wouldn’t let Claire use the red crayon. Claire tried to grab it from him and he broke it, and she screamed. When our teacher who was mean yelled at her not to scream, she screamed again. And again. And she was sent to the principal.
Then I screamed because I was trying to be funny, and I did not even get one warning.
So we sat outside the principal’s office and we both knew that the principal was really mean, so we decided to run away. We snuck out to the playground and played there until the end of school, and then we went home. It was really fun because nobody knew we were there since we were so sneaky.
I like Claire because she and I have a lot of fun together. We sometimes get in trouble but never too much. We are always going to be best friends because of how well we get along.
Sometimes I wish I could go wherever I wanted and nobody could stop me.
Like when Jamie is yelling too loudly. Or when Paul gets mad and breaks something.
Or when the police sirens get too close and I can hear their radios talking.
I wish that I could leave and nobody would know I was gone. Claire thinks the same thing. Claire says she knows a place. It’s like an apartment and they would let us live for free as long as we did a couple of chores, but she says they are always doing fun stuff. She’s been there, but not for very long.
She even knows how to get there, but it’s a long way from home. It’s called Hogar Sol Brillante de Niños. The name is in Spanish, but there are lots of different races who live there because it is for anybody who needs to stay somewhere. Me and Claire don’t need to stay there because we already live in homes but one day we might. We promised that if one of us decided we needed to stay there we would both go because that is what friends do for each other.
Jade is a girl who is tiny with dark red hair and green eyes and pink cheeks. Sometimes she will run off all of a sudden if she feels like it. Normally it is when somebody says something mean even if it is not to her. But she will run away because that is how she is. I wish I could be like her and leave when I wanted and nobody would mind because that would be just how I was.
Today is Poem Day for me because my birthday is on the third so every month I have to write a poem on the day that my birthday falls on.
We have a poetry topic for September called What I Want To Be.
Some dreams are wasted and drift off
They float away like a lost balloon
And never will they ever be found
The dreams they disappear
I dream of my balloon beside me
Everywhere I go
I cannot let it float away
Because it is valuable.
I read my poem to the class, but nobody liked it except for Ms. Jane. She told me it was exceptional and that she loved the symbolism in it, whatever that is. Then Jack read his poem and everyone loved it, even me. He let the class write it down in their journals:
Don’t Tell Me What To Do. Go Away Please.
Don’t tell me what to do because I will do what I would like
Mom says, “Pick up your toys,” when I would rather ride my bike.
Dad says, “Clean your room,” when it is clearly not a mess
And when he hits me hard, I like it even less.
My teachers say, “Write your name,” when sometimes I would rather not
On tests if I don’t know the answers I change my name and hope I don’t get caught.
Liz told me to give her a kiss but why would I do that?
She is always kissing boys and she eats so much she is fat (just kidding!)
When someone tells me what to do I feel like saying “No, thanks!”
But always when I do there is some kind of consequence.
I could go on writing this poem but I had better sit back down
Or else Ms. Jane might tell me to with a consequence of a frown.
So this is for all you people who like to tell me what to do:
Go Away, Please!
Ms. Jane was not so impressed, but Jack is not too smart so nobody expected for him to write anything really good. He ecseeded expectations!
On Saturday I went to the park for a long time with Claire. There were lots of people there. I knew a lot of people from class so it was really fun. When we got bored we walked around our neighborhood. We got ice cream from the little ice cream shop on the corner and then we went to Ben’s house. He has a big backyard, and everyone always plays there. There are lots of trees, so we play Hide and Seek. There are two tree houses! It was scary when Max, who is Ben’s big brother by two years, fell out of the high one. He cried and he had to go to the hospital, and now he has a cast over his whole arm! And a sling!
But the main event was on Sunday. Claire and I were having so much fun that we forgot to go home on Saturday. Jamie and Paul didn’t know that I was so late because they were asleeping, but Claire’s parents got really mad. They yelled at her so much that night, and then she told her parents she had fun at least. And then her dad got up and hit her really hard across her face with his hand. Claire started to cry and he pushed her so that she smacked into the floor. I know because I watched from outside her house. They were drunk, I think. I think they are, normally, even though Claire says they don’t drink that much.
Finally they let her go up to bed and she did, and she whispered out of her window to meet her back at her house at three o’clock with some belongings, please, because she couldn’t stand it no more, she said.
So at three o’ clock I was there with my packed bag and she was ready to go. We walked a long way, but Claire knew where she was going. Just when I thought we were really lost we were there. The letters were clear on the wood sign above the door. Hogar Sol Brillante de Niños. The building was tall and made of bricks the color of rust red crayons with stacks of four square windows.
Our time is up, but Ms. Jane told me I could keep writing if I wanted. So this is what happened next.
I was really tired and I sat on the uneven sidewalk outside, but Claire told me I had to get up because we were there, and we just had to get inside. So we knocked and the door opened after a couple seconds and there was a lady standing there. And she looked at us and said, “Yes?” and then Claire started to cry. And I told the lady about how she heard it was a safe place to go for people like her and that we couldn’t stand it anymore, that our parents were not nice, especially Claire’s, and that they pushed her too hard, couldn’t she see the bruises? Couldn’t she see the hand on Claire’s face?
She looked at us, and looked at us, and I started to cry a little bit too because if she didn’t let us in, where would we go? We would have to go back, and then that would be the end. But then she told us quietly in a tired voice to come in, then, but she couldn’t promise us that we could stay.
She called CPS, which are people who have Child Protector Services. They sent somebody to talk to us in person but then they asked us a bunch of questions, like why we came and what our parents did that hurt us and didn’t make us feel good. Claire talked about them pushing her, hitting her, and bruises and I talked about how Jamie and Paul were not my real parents and how they didn’t want me to be in a better class because they didn’t want me to be smart and how they scream and throw things and a couple times they hit me but not with fists, with glass things mostly. And I showed them my scars where Jamie through a vase at Paul and it hit the mirror behind me and I fell with all of the glass. But they didn’t know until they stopped yelling.
Then we went to bed while CPS was getting there and then they did, at eight o’ clock, and it was two people in a car that asked us the same questions as the person on the telephone. We talked to them for two hours! They called our parents after that, and they had to show up here in a half an hour. They did, mine first and then Claire’s. Jamie ran to me and said she was so worried, and Paul gave me a hug. Claire’s parents were serious and they seemed tired. They hugged her and asked her what was wrong, what had happened, but she didn’t want to be hugged and squirmed away and sat away from them, and CPS stood and watched. I sat with Claire and the adults left to a different room to talk.
After some time a tall girl came and stood in front of us. She looked like a third grader and she had brown hair that was a mess and green eyes.
“I’m Karlen,” she said, but not very friendly. “Why are you here?”
Claire and I looked at each other. “Because,” she said.
“I said why.” Her eyebrows made a V and she took a step towards us.
“Why do you want to know?” I asked. “It’s none of your business. Why are you here?”
“Just shut up and tell me why you’re here. We don’t want anybody else here. The place is full as it is. You should just go.”
“The sign says there is room here and we need a place to stay. We–”
“Are those your parents in there?” she demanded, nodding to the closed door.
“Claire’s parents and my foster parents.”
“Lucky they came, eh? Most don’t. They love you, they show up. They don’t show up, they don’t love you. And you only get taken away from them if they don’t love you, otherwise they think you are making it all up.”
“It’s no wonder your parents didn’t come!” screeched Claire. “You’re a nasty person with a nasty personality. Go away!”
“My parents didn’t have to come. I live here,” the girl kept talking in the same voice, “Besides, if the adults come in here, all they know is that I am perfect and everything they want and you are a burden to the house. They won’t take you. That’s how it is. And if you stay… if they do let you stay, which they won’t… you wouldn’t like it here, anyways. You’d think you were better off staying with your families.”
“We wouldn’t. You don’t know our families at all.” I didn’t want her to know about our families. I didn't want her to know anything about me at all.
“Your families are no different from any of the others around this place, so stop whining. Mine’s only better cause my dad left and my mom opened this cheap place for a bit of money. We get paid by the state and it’s not much, so get outta here.” The girl called Karlen walked out of the room, slamming the door behind her. And right after that there was stomping on the stairs and a group of ragged kids dragged themselves to the front door, pulling wagons and carrying boxes. One small boy noticed us and walked down the hall. “Are you two new?” he asked us, but he had a lisp and it sounded more like “Ahh you two new?”
“Hopefully,” I said, while at the same time Claire said, “Not officially.” The little boy looked confused. “Wow, you must come fwum a weally weally weally mean family then. I don’t think anybody would wanna wuhk heeya. We have to make money each day and if we don’t make enough we don’t get to eat. Most of us have’n eatin in fwee days!”
“Hurry up!” someone yelled, and the little boy ran away back towards the door. “I don’t wanna stay no more,” Claire said. “I don’t think so, anyways. Unless they’re lying.” She started to cry again, and we sat there for a while longer until our parents came out of the room with CPS. They had made a decision.
It went like this:
Neither of us could stay here permanently.
Rules say I have to move to a different foster family and I have to stay here while they find one.
Claire goes back to her regular parents but meets with CPS three times a week.
Depending on where my new foster family lives I might and will probably not be able to go to the same school.
After that I went back to the house with a CPS officer and Jamie and Paul, packed up my things, and said goodbye to them. Jamie seemed angry because she doesn’t like when somebody takes something from her. Paul was quiet like normal. And when I got back to the home Claire and her parents had already left.
But the home didn’t seem bad like some people had said. I ate dinner and went to bed apart from everybody else because I was so tired, and this morning I took the bus to school with everybody else. The only bad part was that nobody talked to me and it was really lonely on the long ride.
That is all of my very eventful weekend. I will hear about my new family on Tuesday, they say.
The Secret Bruises
Today is a free write.
I called my journal entry this because of what Claire showed me. They were on her back and arms and knees.
There was something wrong with her yesterday at recess because she would not go down the slide. We always play tag at recess and she got caught every time she was cornered by the slide because she would not go down. And when I asked her why she said it was because it hurt her. She has a bruise on her back.
But she was being really careful the whole day and finally after school I asked her what the matter was and then she showed me them. She was crying and she said that when she had gotten home her parents were fureous and her dad hit her really hard on her back and her arms but not on her face and neck because he didn’t want anybody to see them, and her mom yelled at her like crazy. She said that her knees were bruised too from falling down so hard. I gave her a hug carefully and told her to tell the CPS officer and she said that she could not, could not, and that I could not, could not, because she was forbiden by her parents to tell anyone and if she did they would hurt her really, really badly and take away all of her priveleges and a lot of other things that she didn’t tell me. So I wrote it here because I cannot tell anyone since she will get hurt.