You’ll never amount to anything. You’ll drag us all down with your foolish ways. It’s your fault your mother’s tired. It’s your fault your brother is weak. It’s your fault your sister’s hungry. It’s. All. Your. Fault. Undeserving wretch.
My father’s words rang in my head. I had been running for hours trying to get them to stop, but his monstrous figure kept appearing in my mind, followed by his angry words. My ragged shirt and trousers clung to my skinny frame as did my cropped brown hair to my face. I had been running so long I hadn’t realized how frigid the air was. The cold ground sent needles into my bare feet and left them burning. A shiver crept up my spine as the icy wind whipped by. I wrapped my arms around myself, wishing for my coat despite its holes and tears. Mama had done her best to patch them, but I always managed to create new rips not long after.
Another gust of crisp air told me to keep moving before it froze me where I stood. I did not need to be prompted twice. Keeping my head down, I eased into a steady jog and wove through the darkening alleys. Shops were closing. The swells of New York locked themselves into their comfortable parlors. My stomach growled as a whiff of leftover dinner floated in the breeze. I put a hand in my pocket and rubbed two coins together. He’ll never know… Shrugging I turned toward a bakery but stopped short of the door. You’re low on money as it is. It’ll only make it worse. I fought the urge and reluctantly turned back and ran up Kingston Street.
The alley I slipped into was lined with waste. Forgotten laundry draped from window to window. The settling night was interrupted by the occasional sound of skin hitting skin, a child’s cry, and a mother’s warning. Coming to the last cracked, wooden door on the right, I slowly pushed it open. It was dim inside, lit only by three small candles. Please be asleep, I thought, quietly closing the door. When I turned around, my heart sank. At the broken table sat my younger brother, Matthew, a shiner below one eye. His chin shook and he shifted toward my baby sister, Maylee.
Note from Inspire Christian Writers: This piece has been reformatted for the Web.