So, the same old, same old happened.
This time I went to the shelter, but I wasn’t there long.
Something happened, so I stayed with Herb for a bit. Herb was cool.
He’s got a nice dog, too.
But somehow the cops found out where I was. I got picked up.
I knew not to ask Natalie or Deek, so that time I went to my uncle’s.
Things were good, until they weren’t.
Same old, same old.
But turns out, not this time.
I couldn’t believe they came for me.
I was more grounded this time. It was a whole year later. I was going into my senior year of high school, and this time I was with the normal kids. They got me meds. My uncle got me in to see a therapist who worked with me. There was a new county program where they paid for those services. There was group therapy, and yeah, okay, they sent me somewhere for a bit. But I came out, and it was like the world was shining brighter.
I’ve never felt like this.
People would say things, and I understood them. I responded, and they replied.
I felt like one of them, you know?
If you know, you know. If you don’t, that’s cool. That meant you’re blessed.
The place said I was misdiagnosed, and my symptoms were because my mom was a junkie when I was inside of her. And I got all that. It made sense, but it was awesome. I mean, it wasn’t. The reason I was there and all of us were there wasn’t cool at all.
Though, could I tell you a secret?
I was relieved. And I felt bad saying that. I’d never admit that to anyone else, but I was.
There were no more ups and downs, threats, screams, violence, the streets, shelters, cops, or fostering. From the time I lived with my dad, and the times I’ve been with my uncle, I got that I needed structure. It said a lot that a kid like me got that. Like, it said a lot.
Oh, boy. My dad. He looked wary to talk to me.
He smiled, and he blinked a few times before he came the rest of the way to where I was waiting.
He reached for me, and like a normal person (who can read that this is what he wanted), I moved in, and he hugged me.
I hugged him back.
It was all so cool.
Then Natalie was here, and she smiled at me with all this gentleness. Who knew she could be like that? Not that she was mean mean, but she was at least slightly bitchy mean. If that made sense?
And holy crapola I’m-gonna-crap-my-pants crap!
There’s a little dude next to her, and he looked just like Chad. His hair even had a slight twinge of red in it.
I thought Natalie was reaching for a hug, but no way. I dropped to my knees, smiling wide at this little guy, and I reached for him (because I can now, because I’m a normal person now—there are so many benefits to hanging in the normal, cool crowd), and he came to me!
“Hey, buddy.” Keep it quiet, Cheyenne. Calm. Don’t scare the little dude away. “I’m your big sister.”
I always wanted a sibling.
A little dude to love and look over.
I was almost bowled over by his excitement.
“Hunter,” Natalie reprimanded him.
I didn’t know why, but he stared at her and then he must’ve remembered.
“Oh.” He lifted his arms, wound them around my neck, and squeezed me tight. He said in a rush, “I’msorryaboutyourmomIheardshewasn’tnicebutI’mstillsorry.”
I replayed it back silently, put in the spaces, and I got it.
I eased back and held up my pinkie finger.
He was watching me. Wide eyes. Then, grinning, he lifted his pinkie, and we locked.
“Put it there, dude.”
Could I tell you another secret?
I didn’t like talking about my mom or the reason everyone was here.
There was sadness, and I felt it, but right now I was riding the wave of meeting my little brother. Now I’ve not only met Hunter, hugged Hunter, but we pinkie-duded each other.
Little Dude leaned forward and whispered in my ear, “Do you like koalas?”
I leaned back, giving him the biggest and brightest smile ever. “You serious? I love koalas!”
His whole face lit up. “Me too.”
I looked up, but no Chad. Or Cut. (I was really hoping Cut would come.)
As if reading my mind, Natalie coughed. “Chad’s at a hockey camp where he’s going to college next year.”
I stood, but I had to squeeze little dude’s shoulder.
He looked up, bumping into my leg, and I’m calling it. We’re going to be the best koala-loving friends.
Then he moved over to his mom, and I got that, too. She seemed pretty chill this time.
“Silvard, right?” I asked.
Natalie’s eyes got big.
Me. Normal. I was loving it. “You told me last year that’s where he’s going. Early acceptance?”
“Yeah.” She blinked some more, then shook her head. “Uh. Yeah.” She regained her footing, and her smile was more genuine. “Cut got a ride there until he goes to the NHL. Chad doesn’t think he’ll make the team. He’s not as good as Cut, but he’s hoping for one last year with him.”
I got it. I’d want one last year with Cut, too.
Honestly, I’d take one last moment with him at this point. I still loved the guy, though I’ve realized he had no clue who I was that year and we never actually talked. Like, ever.
I was a bit delusional that year.
“That’s cool.” I was bobbing my head, acting just like what I said.
It’s my new favorite word.
Deek cleared his throat, suddenly all serious. “I’ve talked to your uncle, and he mentioned the agreement we worked out. That works with you?”
I knew what he was talking about, and I nodded. “I’ll stay with my uncle. I’m guessing you want me to go to Silvard next year?”
He relaxed. Dude did not want me in the house. I got it. I understood.
His shoulders lowered, and the lines of tension in his forehead eased at my words.
“We’re figuring since Chad will be there, you might want to get to know your brother a bit.”
Now that I’m better…
Now that my mother wasn’t…
“That’d be great.” I winked at Little Dude. “But only if Koala Dude and I can hang sometimes.”
He giggled at his name.
Deek’s head jerked to the side. “We can talk later about that.”
With a clearer head, it turned out that I was smart, and I might even be a little super-duper smart. I would need to work hard and work a lot, but I could probably graduate like one of those normal people.
The agreement was that I stayed away and Deek would pay for my college.
He was choosing Silvard.
My uncle thought I’d be pissed about that, but I was down.
I wasn’t like one of those girls. I didn’t have plans, dreams, or Pinterest boards about anything. I was just happy to be able to go to college, and Silvard is no slouch school. They’re D1 and pretty fancy-pants. I knew it’d be hard, but as long as I kept current with therapy and meds, I was down for the pound.
I could get a degree, and whadda ya know? I could get a decent job at the end of all this.
I saw my uncle approaching, and I knew what that meant. It was time to get this shindig going.