As I walked along the street, every step was heavier than the last. Today was the day. It marked two years. Two years since mum died. Two years since Dad went to jail. Two years since my older brother, John, had run away. Two years that I had been in foster care. Everyone knew me. Once I was normal. A normal boy, with a normal family and a normal life. But now I wasn’t normal. I was the son of the man that killed his wife. I was the brother of the boy who had run away and was never seen again. I was the boy that stole. Just like his father, they say. I pitied Jackson at first, but now he’s just turning into his dad. Maybe they were right. I do steal. I’m really good at it, no one notices until it’s too late and I’m long gone. That’s why I do it.
As I walked along the path, I saw a man with a heavy pocket. He was my next target. I followed him down the pathway, never taking my eyes of his pocket. From what I could see, he had a Mars Bar some keys. I was pretty hungry. Soon he went into the supermarket and I followed him in. It was time for me to make my move. As he looked at different types of bread, I ‘accidentally’ bumped into him. Although we only made contact for a second, it was long enough for me to reach inside his pocket and take out the chocolate bar.
“Oh sorry, Jackson,” the man said as he turned around.
“Yeah, sorry,” and I walked away, stuffing the chocolate into my pocket.
I looked at my watch and realised Sarah would be freak out if I didn’t get home soon. I chewed down on the soft chocolate and it melted in my mouth. As I walked, I reached into my pocket and took out everything I had collected that day. A $10 note, a gum packet, a slip of paper, a gift voucher and tones of coins. It wasn’t my biggest day, but I was happy with what I had got. As I turned the corner and my house came into view, I shuddered slightly and hid the items I had gotten inside my hoodie pocket.
I shut my door tight and thew the stuff from my hoodie into my draw under the bed. I walked around the room and looked at everything lined up against the walls. Although I had been living here for two years, it still felt distant and fake. Every smile photos had been forced and every trophy, not that there were many, had been a stolen an idea from someone else. But as I walked to a photo hanging on my wall, and saw a photo, and for once it had been a real smile. I was standing there with my brother John, mum and dad, in front of a glistening lake. I still remember that day. My brother had come back from uni that day and we all went sailing together to celebrate. That’s when my life was perfect. Had I have known that only a week later everyone I loved would be gone and my whole life would be turned on its head, I would have realised how great my life actually was back then.
A few hours later, Sarah came in to tell me to go sleep and as I hopped in bed and pulled the covers tight, Sarah smiled.
“Have a good sleep, Jackson.”
“Thanks, I will.” She paused for a second and stared at me as if she was trying to read me like a book.
“I love you,” she said hopefully, and I just looked at her.
“Ok,” her face melted and all the hope and joy was drained out of her as she walked out. What did she expect me to say? I love you, too? Well, that wasn’t happening. The only reason she took care of me is because she and Lachie couldn’t have any kids, as much as they tried. She just didn’t get it. I wasn’t the kid that ran up and hugged his mum every time he got back from school. Well, actually, I was. But not anymore. I didn’t have a mum to hug.
The next day was one of the best days for pick-pocketing I had ever had. I was on a roll and had collected $150 all up long with lip balm, chocolates, a notepad, and a new phone case. No one would stop me. When I walked past a boy about the same age as me, he had a blanket and a small, tattered backpack. He sat alone, shivering and cold with his hat tipped upside down on the ground with money inside. The boy was covered in dirt and was too skinny. But I wasn’t focusing on that. I was focusing on the money in his hat. Walking past, I smiled at him and took a dollar out of my pocket. I bent down to put it in the hat and saw about ten dollars in change. As I dropped the dollar, I picked up more than half of the coins that were already inside the hat and walked away. No one noticed or said anything, and the boy was fine.
On the bus to school the next day I sat alone, as usual, and listened to the radio that was blasting out of the speakers.
“And the news today, terrorist attack on London Bridge, more riots in japan and boy dies in our local area after living in poverty,” the lady on the radio said.
“A boy, James, dies after living his whole life in poverty. Being one of the few people living on the streets our area he didn’t have a lot of support. He stayed next to the shops living only with a blanket and a small backpack,” what. No, surely not. It couldn’t be. “At about the age of 12, James spent his last few hours begging for money, but after not receiving enough money to buy food or shelter he passed away in the late hours of the night,” no, no, no, no, no. “We wish him his best and to donate and help with locals in poverty go to helpthelives.com or call (123) 456 789. And next, we have a stabbing in London -” It couldn’t have been him. No, of course not. The boy I took from was fine. Yeah, fine.
After school that day he went to the place he had been last night. After searching the streets, I found his blanket and bag, but not the boy himself. Just lots and lots of crosses and flowers. No. Surely not. What if the boy, James, could have lived? What if he could have lived if I didn’t steal? I’m just like dad. A killer. I deserved to be where he was in jail.
After looking for him, I saw a man who looked old and frail along the sand dunes with a chocolate labrador. I looked at him sadly and handed him the money that I had taken from James. The man smiled warmly.
“Thanks. The world needs more people like you.” I smiled not bitterly but with sadness in my heart. He didn’t know what I had done. That I had killed someone like him. Someone that needed help, and I didn’t deliver.
That day it hit me hard, I was a criminal. Even though it wasn’t intentional, that boy died because of my actions. My stealing. People get locked up for stuff like that, people like me. I may have lost my family, but I had more than James ever did. A home, an education, people that cared for me, a pantry full of food. It was that day that I stopped pick-pocketing. I had enough already, and the people I took from didn’t. I changed a lot that day.
As I tucked myself under the covers and prayed for my mum, my dad, my brother, and now the homeless boy, James. I prayed for them and that they would do well and when I was about to turn the light off Sarah came in.
“Night night, Jackson.”
“Night night Sarah,” and as she closed the door, I called out.
“I love you,” she opened the door again and started to smile warmly.
“I love you too Jackson,” she whispered shutting the door, and I fell asleep dreaming about not my past life or what I used to have, about what I had now and how lucky I was.