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Sad Fiction Suspense

This story contains sensitive content

TW: Substance and physical abuse

I'll never forget the sound of my little brother crying in the middle of the night. I groggily sit up, blinking against the dark until my eyes land on the night light across from my bed. Arlo's cries intensify, urging me to slide off my bed and hurry to the crib close by.

Searching with my feet, I soon find the step stool and stand on it so I can lower the crib rail. Leaning over, I scoop him up as carefully as I can and hold his flailing body close to me. His hiccupped cries quiet for a moment, but I know it won't last long.

Careful not to trip over any of the stuffed animals or blocks on the floor, I go to the door and slip out into the hall. As Arlo's small mouth sucks against my shoulder -sounds of frustration emitting from him- I hurry down the hall towards the kitchen.

As I'm walking through the living room, I pause for a moment as I pass the motionless form of a woman sprawled out on the couch. Her mouth hangs open with one arm hanging off the edge. I turn away at the sight of the needle still sticking out of that arm.

All the while, Arlo's screaming rings in my ear as his head bobs back and forth against my shoulder, demanding food. I hurry to the kitchen, not because I'm worried his cries will wake her –they never wake her- but because I want to go back to bed. I coo softly as I lay him down on the makeshift mat I created for him yesterday. I figured out that I could pile up blankets into one of the laundry baskets and lay him in it safely while I made him his bottle.

His cries are ear-splitting the moment I lay him down. I need to hurry. I grab a chair from the dining room and pull it over to the stove so I can flip on the light above it. The stench of rotting food from the pots and pans below me wrinkles my nose. I would have to do those tomorrow.

I thank my past self as I reach for the clean baby bottle sitting next to the sink, ready to use. Speaking softly to Arlo, I fill the bottle with water from the sink up to the number four. I wish my voice could soothe him like the mommy I saw at the park with her baby.

I dump in a scoop of his formula. Arlo's crying becomes hysterical and I can't shake the bottle fast enough as I jump down from the chair and kneel beside his basket. He stops crying seconds later when the bottle nipple enters his mouth and I sigh with relief.

His soft grunting sounds as his fists slowly relax makes me smile, but as I watch a tear roll down his temple, my face falls.

“You promised...” I whisper, reaching up to rub my eyes. “You promised no more.”

I nearly fall asleep on the kitchen floor waiting for Arlo to finish his bottle, but his cries of frustration when the nipple slips jolt me awake. When he's done, I lift him up, holding him close to pat him on the back.

Exhausted, I walk back to the room we share but I avoid looking at the couch this time as I pass through the living room. I'm rocking him back and forth -ready to put him back in his crib- when I remember his diaper. If I didn't change him now, he would just wake me up again later. I don't want to wake up again. I want to sleep.

I force myself to lay him down on my bed while I grab a packet of wipes and a diaper from underneath his crib. My stomach sinks when I realize it's the last diaper. I change him as quickly and as carefully as I can, hoping he won't wake up crying.

When I'm done, I put him back in his crib and jump back into my bed. I grab my stuffed cat and hold it close as I wrap the covers tightly around my body, ready for sleep. But all too soon, I'm awake again. Early morning light pours in through the window and Arlo's hungry. I don't want to get up, though.

“Why can't she do it?” I groan into the pillow.

I let Arlo cry for several more minutes until I can't take it anymore and I get up to go back to the kitchen with him. I cry when I see the used bottle on the counter. Arlo's screaming pitches as I lay him down in the laundry basket and I hurry to wash and make him a new bottle. As I'm feeding him, nodding off, I jump when mommy stumbles into the kitchen.

The moment my eyes land on her sunken face, the dark circles under her eyes, and the sour look on her face, I look away. She doesn't say anything as she shuffles through the kitchen to the fridge behind me.

“Mommy, I'm hungry--”

“Yeah, and so am I.”

I bite my lip to keep from crying as she slams the door to the fridge.

There's nothing in there anyway.

“I'll go get something later.”

Then, she's gone. I feed Arlo until he's full and return him to his crib, hoping he'll sleep so I can go back to sleep, too. On my way to my bedroom, I stop to peer into mommy's bedroom where she lies on the bed. I tell her we need more diapers, but she doesn't say anything or move.

I don't bother to repeat myself and can only hope she will remember when she goes shopping later. If she goes shopping. It takes me a while to get Arlo to sleep, but once he's out I go to the bathroom to find the washcloths and take them back to my room. I find some of my hair elastics and set them down next to the washcloths.

“You can have my pink hair ties,” I whisper to him as I begin to change him inside his crib. I keep my movements minimal and slow so as not to wake him.

I sleep for a few more hours before he wakes me again. This time, I change him first because he's already soaked through the washcloth. After another feeding, Arlo doesn't want to go back to sleep and wriggles contently in his laundry basket.

I try to show him some of my toys, but my stomach growls to remind me of how hungry I am. I look for mommy, but she's not in her bedroom or the bathroom. When I peer out the window, I see that our car is gone.

“Mommy's getting food,” I tell myself, “and diapers. Please bring diapers.”

I feed and change Arlo many times throughout the day, but she still hasn't returned. I'm worried she won't come back until bedtime, like last time. There was that one time she hadn't returned for several days.

I've already eaten a pack of crackers I found in one of the cupboards, but I'm still hungry. Hoping to take my mind off my stomach, I drag the laundry basket outside on the porch so I can play. I dig in the dirt of our tiny front yard for what feels like a few minutes before I hear my brother's cries and I sigh as I stomp up the steps to go get him.

As I hold him in my arms, I hear a woman speaking somewhere in the street. I look up and see her pushing a stroller while she sings something to a little girl beside her. She's skipping and smiling as the words to the alphabet song roll off her tongue and I realize she must be my age. I wonder if she goes to school. I want to ask her where her school is; maybe I can go too.

Motivated with excitement, I run down our driveway with a hand on the back of Arlo's head just as they're passing our house. Upon closer inspection, her mommy looks just like the one I saw at the park. The one mommy took me to before Arlo was born...before she got sick. Maybe they have some diapers for my baby brother. Maybe they have a snack they can share with me.

“Hi!” I call out and they begin to slow as they turn their attention to me.

“I'm Emma! What's your name?” I ask the girl.

“I'm Mia! Is that your baby doll?”

Her mother's smile is fading from her face and for some reason, I feel ashamed, but I'm so desperate to make a friend -just one friend. I shake my head.

“This is my brother Arlo. You want to see him?”

“Where's your mommy?” Mia's mommy asks.

“Um...I think she went shopping to get us some food and diapers.”

“How old are you?” She asks next, “you shouldn't have your baby brother out here. Is your father inside?”

I start to shake my head again until I remember I can't tell anyone that. Mommy said I have to pretend.

“Yes...”

“Go back inside, honey.”

“Okay,” I say with a nod but give Mia one last yearning look, wishing she would say she wants to play with me. But she doesn't.

“Come play with me sometime, okay?” I call after them as I back away.

Mia waves at me, a big smile on her face, but her mother never turns around. My throat closes up and hot tears burn my eyes. Arlo starts to squirm in my arms and I want nothing more than to leave him inside and run back out to find Mia again.

I don't like my little brother. I don't like taking care of him. It was his fault mommy got sick. I wish he had never been born.

I go back inside and put him down in his crib as he begins to cry, but I shut my bedroom door and run into the bathroom to cry too. I call for my mommy again and again as tears stream down my face and the stench from the trashcan fills my nose.

“I hate you, mommy!” I scream. “You're a bad mommy! I want a new mommy!”

After a while, I go back to my room to care for Arlo and when mommy returns, I run out to greet her, hoping she's brought food. When I see she only carries the bag of needles, I start to scream at her. She ignores me. When I stand in her way, still screaming, this time she screams back. She calls me ungrateful, but I don't know what that means.

Overwhelmed, I clap my hands over my ears, eyes wide. She's looming over me now. She raises her hands. I squeeze my eyes shut and feel my body hit the wall next to me hard enough that I fall to the floor in a heap. I cry harder as I hear her bedroom door slam shut followed by the sound of the lock turning.

As the days pass, the sound of the scoop scraping the bottom of the can sends a wave of anxiety through me. I try to tell mommy one day as she throws a loaf of bread on the counter and I remind her about the diapers, too.

But she doesn't listen. She never listens. I eat four slices of the bread and look over at Arlo who rests in his laundry basket. I wonder if I can feed him some too, but I remember that I have to save some for mommy and put it away. While he's calm and happy, I decide to wash the stinky washcloths from the hamper in my room.

Later that night, when mommy is gone again, I go and eat the rest of the bread. I don't know when mommy came home last night, but the next day I find her on the couch like last time and I quickly go outside with Arlo. Her body was jerking around really weird this time and it scared me.

I cry as I sit on the porch next to Arlo's basket until I hear a familiar voice in the street. I stop to wipe my nose and look up. It's Mia and her mommy. I don't know how many days it's been, but it feels like it's been forever.

Leaving Arlo in his laundry basket, I run down the driveway. The sound of my bare feet smacking the asphalt is loud enough that it alerts Mia's mommy first.

“Mia!”

She looks up and waves, but she has an odd look on her face as she looks from me to her mommy. She asks her something, but I can't hear it.

“Can you play with me today?” I ask, but I can see on the mother's face that she doesn't want her to play with me. I know she's going to say no.

“Please?” I say anyway.

“Perhaps another day.”

I watch them leave, twisting my fingers in my hands before I walk back up to the porch to find Arlo asleep. I take him back inside and I avoid looking at my mother's now motionless body as I take him back to my room.

I try to play quietly with my dolls as he sleeps but my empty stomach and loneliness take me back to the kitchen. I find a can of beans, but I don't know how to open it. I find a box of cereal on top of the fridge and eat whatever remains inside.

Why doesn't mommy bring home food? Does she eat somewhere else and forgets to bring anything back? I hear Arlo crying and I check his can of formula. There are two more scoops left. Arlo and I cry the rest of that night, neither of us sleeping much.

The next morning, mommy is gone again and she doesn't return that night or the next day. I have to sleep in mommy's room while Arlo cries in mine. I tried to give him some water, but he wasn't happy about that.

"I'm sorry, Alro," I whisper.

On the third day, I drag his laundry basket outside on the porch with me as he whimpers softly. I try to tell myself that mommy will bring home food and diapers this time, but my eyes still look up and down our street for Mia and her mommy.

I don't know how much time has passed, but Arlo's screams are getting too loud so I take him back inside. I can't do anything for him, so I leave him while I go back out to wait on the porch. I think hours pass before Arlo finally quiets and when I check on him, he's staring blankly and doesn't move aside from the hiccups that jerk his tiny body. I cry when I see him and rush back outside.

I continue to cry as I sit by myself on the steps of the porch, wondering what I should do when I hear voices coming down the street. Heart racing, I stand up, wipe my face, and walk down the drive as I look for Mia and her mommy.

When I finally see them, hope blossoms inside me, but just as I'm making my way to the end of the drive to wait for them, Mia and her mommy turn to go down a different street. My chest tightens but I know I can't let them go. Not today.

I take off as fast as I can, calling out to them to wait. Mia's mommy stops first and when she sees me running she starts yelling at me to go back home. Mia just stands there. She's not smiling.

Tears streaming down my face, I slow down, rethinking my actions. I should do as she says. She's a good mommy; she knows what's best. But when I think about my hungry little brother who stares at nothing, I start running again. Because she doesn't know about Arlo.

“Arlo's hungry!” I scream. “Please, help him!”

Mia's mommy stops again, her eyes widening. Mia's mouth drops open as I come to a stop in front of them. My breathing is scaring me as I continue to cry and take in big gulps of air. Why was it so hard to breathe? Do I have a needle in me? What's wrong with me?

“I think my brother is going to die,” I gasp out, “mommy won't bring us food. She won't bring him diapers and I'm hungry!”

I rub my eyes as they stand there, stunned and silent for what feels like forever.

“Where is your daddy?” I hear her ask.

I shake my head. “I don't have one.”

“Where is your mommy?”

I shake my head as sobs rack my body.

“She's been gone a lot of days. I think the needles took her.”  

August 30, 2022 01:28

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4 comments

00:15 Sep 23, 2022

I just might have started crying at the end. Just maybe. I just relate to this story too much. It could have been me without my grandparents there.

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Sarah Glass
00:45 Sep 28, 2022

I almost couldn't write it because it nearly made me cry. It feels weird to say I'm glad you liked this story considering how dark, real, and sad it is, but it was meant to make the readers feel something, so I'm glad I was able to do that. I'm glad you had such loving and caring grandparents. Hope you're doing well. <3

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Betty Gilgoff
20:49 Sep 04, 2022

Wow, this is a pretty powerful story. You tell it well giving us just enough of a sense of how young and helpless the young girl is, trapped between wanting to play and having to take care of her brother just to keep him quiet, with the desperation finally getting the better of her loyalty to her mother. All too real in fact. Thanks for sharing it. I look forward to reading more of your work

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Sarah Glass
01:24 Sep 05, 2022

Thank you so much! I really appreciate your feedback. It was definitely a hard one to write but a story I felt needed to be told, because yes, it is sadly all too real. It's why I hope to do foster care and even adopt one day. I don't typically write such deep stories, especially ones that might make me cry. I even had to put up a mental block in my mind in order to write it. Thank you for the follow! I'm looking forward to writing more. It's been a long time since I last wrote so I'm looking forward to doing this more often. :)

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