They say charity begins at home. What about anger? Anger that never sleeps, never leaves, never dies. Anger that tears families apart. Well, for young Keisha, anger did begin at home, and it was eating her alive.
"I hate you!!" The harsh words were dragged out from the pits of her soul.
"Why did you bring me into this world only to make my life miserable? I wish you were dead! No scratch that...I wish I was dead!"
Keisha was clearly not enthused by the "great" news. Dad got a promotion, but the post is at a different firm in a new city. He's due to begin a month from now. Mom is happy for him, she's always happy for him, even when she shouldn't be, even when he doesn't deserve it.
"Hey pumpkin, what are you doing home so early? I thought I was picking you up from school today." "Tennis practice got cancelled. I decided to take the bus home." Tense and rather confused, now clenching onto her purple racket. " Who's that? And why is she wearing mom's robe? And mom's slippers? "
The long drive is disturbingly quiet, and although in the same car, Keisha is unreachable. The tyres rolling on the stretch of road are more alive than she is. Dad tries to excite her with details of the new house. "It's much bigger than our old house. And your bedroom is bigger too. Now you have more room to dance in front of the mirror." He tries to get a chuckle, a giggle, a grin, even just a smirk out of her - anything - to let him know he hasn't lost his daughter for good. But she would rather stare at endless sky and sun bleached bushes than to speak to her parents.
"That was just daddy's friend from work. She needed to take a quick shower after she spilled some coffee on her shirt, daddy couldn't let her friend walk around in public looking like that. Would you let your friend walk around with a big coffee stain on her shirt?" Cornered by her youthful uncertainty, she quietly shook her head, knowing that was the answer her father was looking for. But deep down she knew something wasn't right. Deep down, something changed.
They finally arrive in a beautiful suburban area only a few minutes away from the city. As they slowly drive up the street that leads to the new house, Keisha catches sight of a young boy, who looks roughly her age, rummaging through a dustbin at the park close to her new home. They lock eyes as the boy raises his head. He looks out of place, not only homeless, but heartless, and almost angrier than Keisha. There was something about that boy...
Making it up the driveway, Keisha disinterestedly climbs out and slams the car door shut. Her mother looks at her with such defeat. "Sweety. What do you think of the garden? You're going to play lots of games with your new friends here. We can even put a …" Keisha hastily interrupts her mother. "My new what? What makes you think I want new friends? And even if I did, I would never bring them here!" Her rude abrupt tone repeles her mother from further conversion.
They settle in as the days go by. Keisha does get the bigger bedroom she was promised, but she doesn't want it, she doesn't want any of this, this new place, this old life.
"You knew? What do you mean you knew? If you did, why is he still here, and why do you act like everything's okay?" "Keisha, he's still your father. He loves you. You're just a child, you won't understand the sacrifices a mother has to make - that adults have to make. Your father made a mistake, we all make mistakes sometimes. Listen, let your father and I handle this, okay."
Keisha decides to take a walk to the nearby park. She plants herself on a swing and rests her gaze on a father and son playing chess on a bench not too far from her. They look happy. She can't remember the last time she was that happy.
She's distracted by a slouching figure, tiredly walking across the road from the park. It's the homeless boy from the other day, looking more pale and absent than he did when she last saw him. She runs over, as if running to an old friend. He's startled. Not knowing what to make of the situation, he just stands there and stares at her. She smiles, gracing him with a soft "Hello." Still puzzled, he begins to retreat a few steps back. She reassures him that she means no harm. "You must be hungry. Can I get you some food? I'm Keisha by the way, what's your name?"
"I was Andrew once. At least I think that was my name, it's been so long. Then I was taken in by a mean old lady who called me everything from Sam to Jerry, Lewis and Timothy. I don't think she cared to remember my real name. I ran away. Now everyone just calls me boy. That stupid boy, that dirty boy, that poor boy - but always boy.
Keisha was certainly not expecting that response. Nevertheless, she sneaks into the new kitchen while her parents are lounging in the backyard, makes four hotdogs, and gives them all to the boy. They sit under a large tree in the more secluded area of the park, and they talk, and talk, and eat some hotdogs, and talk some more.
"I lost my parents when I was around four years old. I've forgotten a lot about my life. My name, where I lived, even which school I attended. But, I can never forget that day. I don't remember the time, but it was getting dark. My mom kept on telling me to come inside the house. I didn't listen. I was far too concerned about my favourite soccer ball and how hard I can kick it against the wall. Eventually, my dad came out to fetch me, but instead of going inside, I ran around the house and tried to kick my ball at him. I can't imagine why I would do such a thing." They both giggle.
"I missed my father, but got a bull's eye on the bathroom window. They were furious! The next thing I remember is running out the front gate. I managed to quickly hide between some thick greenery in a neighbour's yard two houses away. I was so quick in fact, that my parents missed me. They hopped into their car and sped off, thinking I had run onto the main road close by. The next thing I heard was a long screech and a horrible thump. I had no idea what it was, but I knew that I never wanted to hear it again. I hid for so long I ended up falling asleep. I was found the following morning...everything else after that is a blur."
Keisha's throat is heavy. She takes a while before saying anything. "Do you still miss them...after all these years?" The boy eagerly bites into his third hotdog and takes his time chewing it. "I do. Not as much as before. The feeling comes and goes, but I do. I regret more than anything else though." "Regret what?" Keisha sincerely asks her soiled companion. "Not getting the chance to go inside the house when my mother told me to."
Keisha's throat gets even heavier and the tide in her eyes grows higher. She knows what she has to do. It might be too late for "boy" and his parents, but it might be the best time for Keisha and hers.
Keisha saw "boy" everyday after that.