BY MARITZA RUIZ 

“If you keep on playing with the toilet, the monsters will get you!” I warned my younger brother Elijah, trying to elude him from any trouble. By the age of seven, I’d learned how to care for my younger siblings and keep them out of trouble as if I were their parent. Despite my precautions, Elijah continued with his antics.

“Elija­” I walk back to yell at him again, only to be presented with a flood of water trailing down the hall. My jaw drops and I’m speechless. I hear my mother’s footsteps. I scurry to my room, anxiety flooding my mind. I know he’s going to get in trouble, and I know I can’t stop it, but what if she goes too far? What if he gets badly hurt?

“I told you to stop messing everything up!” I hear the belt whip down between each word my mother screamed, and my brother cried through the walls. I distractedly played Barbie with my younger sister Monica. Monica and I look at each other with worry before going back to animatedly playing with our dolls as if nothing were happening in the other room. My two younger brothers Gabriel and Anthony were probably in the room down the hall watching T.V. and doing the same as us, ignoring the situation.

Nobody knew that today would be our last day together in our apartment building. The day after, we’d all been watching T.V in the living room. Everything was normal. We hadn’t done anything that day, ignoring the previous day’s events

After all, it’s not anything new. It had been a year since she hit us. Resorting to yelling and time­out It was a result of being taken away by DCF one too many times ­ if she got in trouble one more time we were out for good.

“Open up, it’s the police!” A fist pounded on the door and a voice boomed through. My mom cautiously opened the door and three men in uniform came in. I knew immediately why they were here.

“Please don’t take my babies away!” My mom sobbed. I shuffled to my room, packing up what I could. It was clear they wanted this to be quick. Once I finished my mom grabbed me. She hugged me, tears streaming down her face. I numbly stood in her grip, unaffected by the familiar situation.

Everything seemed to blur through as I lived through situations in my life. It was as if I were reading a badly described autobiography on myself, only having vague pictures of memories. I’d been put into multiple unstable foster homes, only being ‘secured’ when I turned 8 with a woman who hadn’t even cared about me. She was forced into caring for me until they dictated it was over. She’d been dismissive of me, resulting in me being aggressive toward her. My sister Gabriella and her mom had gotten in contact with me because they thought they would provide a better life for me than my foster family. They made plans to adopt me, but they decided I was too troublesome.

I felt unloved and angry, until I was adopted my aunt and uncle. They’d taken me in despite being a young couple. They’d treated me the kindest anyone’s acted towards me.

“What do you mean you only have 4 pairs of pants?” My aunt exclaims angrily. Until now I hadn’t realized how little the amount of clothes I’d owned. I just shrugged, embarrassed. “We’re going shopping, get ready.” I silently obliged, putting on my shoes. We headed to KMart. When we came back I had two bags full of clothes that I was able to pick out myself. It’d only been my third day there, but I had a good feeling.

As a kid I was scared of everything due to the physical abuse i’d endured. I’d flinch every time someone moved towards me. I didn’t know how to feel love and I didn’t think I deserved it. Once my aunt and uncle adopted me I understood what a kind and loving family was. I began to feel more confident and much more happy with the life I had. I still may not be 100% happy, nor am I the most confident, But now I know how to feel and I’m able to use that to fuel me to be the best person I can be.

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