I walked along the empty streets of my city. Lights flickered and hummed over my head as the air never felt so cold to me. It was the fifth time I’d been tossed to the streets. After the third time, it was easy to shove aside the hurt. In fact, I found that I wasn’t hurt at all. I hated that place and those people, so it was a gift over a punishment.
The air continued to chill my bones with its winter bite as I realized I’d been thrown out without a jacket again. I sighed and stared at the warmth of my breath being casted into the open air. While I didn’t care about being tossed out like the worst of garbage, there was a part of me that hoped for someone or something to care. It’d been nearly twenty years of rejection from the people meant to love me the most. If they didn’t love me, who would? What was I worth?
I had my answer even though the question swirled around in my head like a taunting death threat. I wasn’t worth a damned thing, and it was finally becoming apparent. I wasn’t worth anyone’s kindness, time, or consideration. I was forever meant to be lost, I guessed.
The slide of my feet against the pavement paused when another noise finally caught my ears. It was laughter. I allowed myself to move about eight more paces toward the noise. As I did, light emitted from a nearby house. It was something other than the streetlamps, so I decided to walk over to the window as more laughter rang out.
When I peeked inside, I saw a smiling, happy family–something I always longed for even though I hated to admit it to myself. In the window, there was not only a loving family but the cozy house to match. Soft light dangled from the ceiling of the front room, family photos were carelessly hung on the walls beyond my field of vision, and the fireplace was grand with a welcoming aura. The fireplace had a lovely looking couch sitting happily in front of it. While I stared in, I recognized the laughter I’d heard from the side of the street as a girl.
Then, amid her laughter, she spoke, “Daddy! That’s not how you play!”
A man laughed back from a room I couldn’t see, but I found myself inching even closer to the window to find the voice. Of course, leaning closer didn’t provide a better look into the house, but I tried. Oh, I tried.
What would it be like to have this? Would I like it just as much as the little girl that was then met with her father’s happy smile? If I could have them, would they bring me in? Could I have the thing I wanted the most? It was odd to think complete strangers would want me in such a way, but the hope of it was all I had.
The unnamed mother wandered in from what I assumed to be the kitchen. Bright and warm just like the house appeared to be, her smile glowed against the light. Her pale skin glistened with sparkles. I wasn’t sure why she was sparkly, but I would’ve loved to know why. I wanted to be hugged like the little girl she was walking a bowl of popcorn to.
I yearned for it, and I started to wonder what I could do to be noticed. Would they let me in? Would I be shunned and shooed away? The second option was more likely, because who would let a strange kid in? I was spying on them, after all. Still, the thought was there, and it was becoming more compelling the longer it lingered.
I shifted my jaw as the father disappeared but quickly returned with a bundle of empty blankets. Playfully, he tossed them over the girl’s head, and he laughed as loose kernels of the popcorn bounced from the bowl and onto the floor. I watched the mother’s face form a small frown at the mess as she continued to move around the front room mindlessly. However, it quickly changed. Instead of her initial disapproval, she beamed at the sound of her daughter’s mutual laughter as she yanked the blankets away from herself.
“Daddy!” She whined.
“What? What happened? Is that not how you play hide and seek, either?”
“No! You’re not supposed to hide me!”
“I guess I’ve been playing this wrong my whole life, Margaret,” he looked at his wife.
Their small conversation faded into my mind while I thought about how much I wanted them to love me, too. What would happen if I knocked on the door? I was cold and alone. I also looked younger than my age, but that was a cheap shot, and I knew it.
Even though I didn’t care about being tossed aside, and I tried not to care about whether someone would want me or not, my chest started to sting. I did want a family to love me, and I wanted it more than anything. I’d give my right lung and one of my limbs if I’d only had the chance to prove my worth. If I walked to their door and told them of my situation, would they give it to me? Would I finally have a real mother and father? I was a year older than an adult, but was it possible to start over like I’d been one of them since being born?
I watched the woman named Margaret take a seat next to her giggling daughter and remove the popcorn from her lap. Mindlessly, she fussed over the girl’s hair as the static from the blankets caused the girl’s hair to stand up in random directions. I wasn’t sure why it mattered at first. They were all dressed in their night clothes and settling down. Then again, what would it be like to have mother to fuss over me in the right ways like Margaret had? What would I say? Would I take her hand and push it away with a whine like the girl did? Would I let her fix it to please her need to be a caring mother? I didn’t know, but I wanted to.
I shoved my freezing hands into my pockets, and the tears of wanting fell from my eyes. I swore, as they slid down my cheeks, the cold was turning my tears into icicles. I took a painful breath. Though I wanted them, I knew the family before my eyes was not meant for me, but I promised myself that should I ever have the opportunity to create one for myself, they’d be just as loved as the girl in the window.
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This story definitely captured the prompt. I love that the narrator fixated on such a simple yet loving moment in this family's life--it felt incredibly real. I would love to know a little more about the narrator, though. Maybe a few glimpses into a memory would help me feel more connected. Overall, very emotional. Well done!
Thank you! I appreciate it! I'm still getting used to word counts, so I'll definitely keep the advice in mind for the next one!