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I was sitting in the corner picking at a scab on my knee when I heard the car pull into the driveway. I jumped up and listened carefully, eyes toward the ceiling. I heard keys jingling in the door and footsteps shuffle across the floor above me.

please, please, please, I whispered to myself in the dark, squeezing my eyes shut tight and holding my crossed fingers against my chest, close to my heart. I crawled as close to the basement door as I could and watched it intently, waiting to see if it would open.

As far as I could tell, I had been alone in the basement for about a month now, but I didn’t have a clock or calendar, so it could have been longer. I was getting pretty lonely.

Finally the door creaked open and a thin strip of light leaked into the room. I could see all the dust particles floating in the air and squinted past them to the top of the stairs. My eyes hadn’t quite adjusted to the light yet, but I thought I could make out two figures slowly and clumsily stumbling down the steps.

My heart leapt into my throat and I uncrossed my fingers.

“Hey Jimmy!” I called excitedly, my face pressed up against the bars of the 200 square foot cage I called home.

“Hey Kid,” He said, grunting, as he dragged a boy who looked a little older than me across the floor and into the cage next to me. He tossed him in and locked the door, threw a sandwich in both of our rooms and stomped back upstairs.

I anxiously waited for my new friend to wake up. I was starving, Jimmy had been out all day and forgot about breakfast, but I wanted to wait so we could have our sandwiches together.

I stared at him laying on his side for hours I think, watching his chest peacefully rise and fall in tune with his gentle snoring, until finally he rolled over and moaned.

“Hey! Hey wake up!” I called. The boy rubbed his eyes and looked around confused. Then he started screaming.

They all do this at first. Some of them cry, some pound on the walls and shake the bars of the cage until they exhaust themselves. I never understood why they do this, I guess they are just surprised.
I watched this new boy yell for help and search frantically through his pockets for something. I tried to calm him down, to tell him to eat his sandwich and relax, but I don’t think he could hear me.
Eventually he quieted down and looked at me. I peered at him excitedly through the bars and gave him a warm, welcoming smile.

“Hi! What’s your name?” I asked cheerfully. His eyes scrunched together as he pulled his knees into his chest and rocked back and forth in the corner. “It’s okay, you can tell me. I’m a friend”

“I’m Kyle,” he said in a shredded, raspy voice. “Who are you? Where am I? What’s going on?” He started to cry again but at least he wasn’t screaming.

“I’m Kid,” I answered. That’s what Jimmy always called me so I assumed it was my name. “You’re at Jimmy’s house and we are gonna be great friends!” I grinned at him and stuck my arm out between the bars for a handshake, but he backed as far away from me as he could. I solemnly pulled my hand back inside and tried not to take it personally. All of the kids that Jimmy brought home seemed scared of me at first. I told Jimmy that it hurt my feelings, that I just wanted to be their friends, but he told me they just needed some time to get used to me.

“There’s some lunch for you over there.” I pointed to the peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the zip-lock bag that sat in the center of his room. “I got one too. I waited for you to wake up so we could eat it together.” He didn’t move, but I was so hungry I couldn’t wait any more. I took a big bite and made an MMMM yummy sound, hoping that would make him want to eat, but it didn’t. I dejectedly ate lunch alone again, but I still didn’t give up on my new friend. It had been longer than usual since Jimmy brought one home, and I knew he would be gone soon, so I wanted to make it count.

“You like peanut butter? We get it almost every day for lunch. Sometimes tuna fish, but Jimmy says it makes the house smell. For dinner he brings us macaroni and cheese sometimes. That’s my favorite. Sometimes he forgets about dinner though. Sometimes he drinks this stuff called Vodka, and when he does that, he forgets about dinner. One time he left the bottle down here and I tasted it. It was so nasty, I had to spit it out. Have you ever tried it? I dunno why he likes it so much. What do you like to eat for dinner?” He didn’t say anything. He just sat in the corner rocking back and forth looking all over the place. I didn’t hear any noises coming from upstairs and assumed it was one of those nights that Jimmy forgot about dinner, and I was glad I waited to eat my sandwich.

Kyle rolled over and lay down on his side, his back towards me, with his knees still curled up in his arms. “That’s a good idea,” I said, laying down myself, “We should get some sleep. We’ll hang out tomorrow.”

I woke up to the sounds of him screaming for help and banging on the wall. There was a small window at the very top of the wall across from us that let some light in, but it was still difficult to see.

“Hey calm down!” I yelled. “No one is going to hear you and if you wake up Jimmy he is just going to be mad.” This stopped him. He looked at me, terrified, and crawled over the the wall of the cage that we shared.

“Where are we?” He demanded.

“We’re at Jimmy’s house!” I said with a smile. “It’s kind of boring but it’s not so bad here.”

“Why am I here?”

“To be my friend!” I said excitedly. “Don’t worry though, you probably won’t be here long. Jimmy takes everyone home after a few days.”

Just then, the basement door opened and Jimmy came storming down the stairs. Kyle scurried into the corner. “Good morning Jimmy!” I said happily. “Sorry for all the noise-”

“Keep your fucking mouth shut, you hear me?” Jimmy said, pointing a finger at Kyle who huddled in the corner crying. He tossed a granola bar in each of our rooms and left, muttering something about wanting some peace and quiet before slamming the door behind him.

I picked up my breakfast. “Yes, blueberry!” I held the cereal bar up in the small square of light and asked “What kind did you get?”

Without picking it up, he peeked at it and quietly said “chocolate chip.”

“Nice! Those are the two best ones!”

“Who are you?” Kyle asked, cautiously moving closer towards his food.

“I’m Kid.” I said, extending my hand out one more time. This time he shook it, carefully.

“Why are you so happy? Aren’t you scared? Don’t you wanna go home?”

“Why would I be scared?” I asked, confused. “I am home.”

Kyle scurried back to the corner and curled into a ball. All he kept saying over and over again was “I wanna go home. I wanna go home.”

My feelings were hurt. I tried not to let it get to me, but all the friends Jimmy brought for me just wanted to go home as soon as they got here. Maybe there’s something wrong with me I thought. That had to be it, because why else would everyone be so desperate to go home to their own cages and sit alone, than be friends with me?

I knew I was lucky to have Jimmy, someone who cared about me enough to go out and bring other kids over for me to play with from time to time. One time I asked him if I could go over to someone else’s cage for a while, since no one ever wants to stay here, and he hit me. Slapped me right across the face. He told me that most kids aren’t allowed to have friends over, and that I should be grateful for him. So I was always confused when they tried to escape. I felt bad for Jimmy, too. He worked hard to get these friends for me, and they just wanted to leave. I wondered what could be so great about their cages that made them want to get back to them so badly. Maybe they got better sandwiches than me.

I picked at my granola bar and thought about Lauren, the last friend Jimmy brought home for me. She was here for a few days, 4 maybe, before Jimmy decided it was time for her to go home. I didn’t mind. All Lauren did was cry and cry, and it kept me awake at night. I waved goodbye to her as she climbed up the stairs. I remembered hearing her scream right after the basement door close, and figured she must be really excited to go home. Then I heard a loud THUD, followed by Jimmy making grunting sounds. The floorboards above my head were squeaking rhythmically and I wondered what was going on up there and why I wasn’t invited. I was feeling jealous that they were having fun without me when I heard the Jimmy leave to take her home. When he got back he came downstairs to bring me dinner. I thought I saw blood on his hands, but it was really dark down there and I couldn’t be sure.

When Jimmy returned with sandwiches some hours later, Kyle gave in. He quickly reached for it and tore the plastic off. We ate our lunch together and I was overjoyed. When he was done, he stood up and started examining the bars on the cage, pulling and pushing on them, eyeing each one up and down.

“What are you doing?” I asked curiously.

“Trying to get out, what do you think?”

“Why do you want to get out? Don’t you wanna be friends?” This guy was taking me on a roller coaster ride of emotions. I had been thrilled only minutes before that we ate together, thinking he finally came around and wanted to be my friend, and now he wanted to escape?

He looked at me like I was insane and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt. I had been nothing but nice to Kyle and here he was, doing everything in his power to leave me and go back to his dark room all alone. He went back to work, now tapping on each of the bars with his knuckles. “Because I want to go home, you bitch.” Now I was upset.

“Why? Why does everyone want to go home so bad? Is your cage much better than this one? Do you get better sandwiches for lunch?” He didn’t respond, but he stopped what he was doing and tilted his head slightly to the side to listen. “Or is it me?” I continued, angry and on a rant. “Why does everyone who comes here want to leave and be alone in their cages instead of be here next to me?”

He finally turned his head to meet my gaze and the look on his face changed completely. He no longer looked at me like I was crazy. He didn’t seem scared, and any anger that he had previously felt vanished. his eyes were soft and his mouth hung slightly open as if he wanted to say something but couldn’t find the words. I think it was a look of sympathy.

“I don’t live in a cage.” He finally answered, speaking excruciatingly slow. Now it was my turn to be confused.

“Well, where do you live then?” I asked, half sarcastically. It never even occurred to me that people live anywhere else besides in small dark cages.

“I live in a house in Albany with my dad. I have my own room with a TV and bed…” I heard about beds before, Jimmy has one I think. He told me he had a sleepover in it once with Claire, a friend he brought over a long time ago, before he took her home. “I can come and go as I please. No one locks me up, and it’s not dark and smelly like this fucking place. I have a girlfriend and friends, I have a laptop and an iPhone and I go to school…” He drifted off, losing himself in his cathartic thoughts.

“iPhone?” I asked, that being one of the few words he said that I was unfamiliar with.

“You don’t know what an iPhone is?” He asked in disbelief. His shock confused me, and suddenly I realized what was happening. I smiled and waved my hand at him in a dismissive motion.

“Are you messing with me?” I asked, laughing a little. He just stared, his mouth agape. He got me, I’ll admit that, but I don’t like being the butt of the joke.

“Have you…” he started, cracking his knuckles nervously, “Have you ever left this room?”

“Why would I leave?” I retorted. “Jimmy brings me food and friends… where else do I have to go?”

I woke up to Kyle whispering my name. It was pitch black in the basement but I felt like he was close to me. I jumped up when I felt him wrap his hand around my mouth from behind. My entire back pressed against the front of his body. I had never been so close to another person before. I got goosebumps.

I don’t know how he broke out of the cages, but before I could ask, he was leading me across the room towards the staircase.

“Where are we going?” I asked. He put his finger to my lips and told me to Shh

“I have something to show you but you have to trust me.” He whispered. “Just follow me and be very, very quiet.” I stood frozen in place. I had never been up the stairs before. I didn’t think Jimmy would like it. As if reading my mind he said “Come on, we’re friends, right? You can trust me, and I promise that if you don’t like what I have to show you, I will take you right back here in the morning.”

I was scared but he said we were friends, and I so desperately wanted a friend. When we got up the stairs I saw Jimmy lying on the couch with an empty bottle of that Vodka stuff next to him. I knew he’d be out for a while, and hoped I could make it back before he woke up.

Kyle led me out the front door without making a sound. I still couldn’t see anything, it was so dark, but I felt a chill in the air that took me by surprise. I shivered, but I liked it. It smelled fresh and clean, unlike the dank basement I spent my whole life in.

We walked and walked for a long time, and as morning approached I began to question everything I’d ever known. This spectacular light spilled into the world and everywhere I looked there was something I’d never seen before. I’d seen pieced of trees and grass out of the basement window, but seeing the whole tree was something different entirely. There were buildings so tall I couldn’t even see the tops of them. I stared at all of in in awe, feeling so incredibly small.

“What is that?” I asked Kyle, pointing at a small, gray tube floating in the sky.

“That’s a plane, Kid. Look I’ll answer all your questions, I promise, but right now we have to move.”

It was all a whirlwind. He brought me to a big, tan house with green ‘shutters,’ as he called them. When we walked in the door, and older man, about Jimmys age, grabbed him and hugged him and kissed his head. I’ve never seen anything like it, but whatever it was, it looked beauiful. Kyle quietly spoke to this man, his 'father,’ and gestured toward me. The man looked at me with the same face Kyle did when I told him I’d never left the basement, then he hugged me too. I stood there with my arms pinned at my sides. I didn’t know what to do. Suddenly I was the outsider visiting someone else’s cage, and I realized why everyone was so scared.

The man went to make a phone call and Kyle and I sat at a big table in what he called a 'kitchen.’ He fed me these round, sweet things with chocolate chips that kind of reminded me of the granola bars Jimmy gave me but better. Before I knew it, there were a bunch of other older people in the house, all wearing the same blue uniform and asking Kyle and I questions.

“What is your name?” One of them asked me, a pen and paper in hand.

“Kid.” I replied shyly. There was that look again.

“Do you know where you are?” I shook my head. “Do you know how old you are? Your last name? What year it is?” I answered no to all those questions and kept shoveling better-than-granola bars into my mouth.
After what felt like an eternity, one of the women made me follow her into her car. I’d never been in a car before, and it was very scary. I sat in the back seat and clutched my knees, crying and begging them to take me home.

I’ve been living in a 'foster home’ for almost a year. They call me Emily now. It took me a long time to learn everything and at first I was nervous but I really like it here now. There are five other girls for me to be friends with, and my room here is a lot bigger and brighter. They never forget to give me dinner, either.

A few days ago, my foster parents told me that they found my real dad. Apparently I had been kidnapped when I was just a baby and my Dad had been looking for me for thirteen years. He even had my birth certificate to prove it.

I didn’t really know what made this dad my 'real’ dad, but my foster parents were excited, so I was too. They told me to pack up all my things (I had things now) and that he was coming to pick me up.

When I saw him, my heart leapt into my throat. His familiar eyes glared at me with a blazing anger I had never seen before, but despite that, he knelt down on the ground to be face to face with me and wrapped me in his arms. He never touched me before, and it felt like a jolt of electricity throughout my entire body. He stroked my hair and held my face in his hands, putting on an excellent show for the foster parents. He sobbed into my shoulder and I cried too, knowing the fate of my future.

Jimmy dragged me down the stairs and literally threw me back in my cage. I immediately crawled to the corner and hugged my knees to my chest like I have watched so many other people do, only now I understood how they felt. My hear broke for every one of my “friends” who had been down there with me before. Besides the fact that I wanted a friend, I never minded the cage and the dark and the eerie basement smell, until I learned there was something else out there. Now, as I laid down on the cement floor, I wished I’d never left, never met Kyle and his dad and the nice foster family. I wished I’d never seen the outside world because all it did was tease me and fill me with a longing for something I would never have again.

I shuddered with fear and total hopelessness as Jimmy tossed a chocolate chip granola bar in the cage and sneered “Welcome home, Kid” before stomping up the stairs and leaving me in alone in the dark.


Credits to: AllThingsCinnamon

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