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Coming of Age Speculative Fiction

“Oh, I love the Bangles! Turn this up!


All the bazaar men by the Nile

They got the money on a bet.

Gold crocodiles (oh way oh)

They snap their teeth on your cigarette.

Foreign types with the hookah pipes say,

Way oh way oh, way oh way oh

Walk like an Egyptian, Sienna sings along.


Ugh, the memories. This song takes me back to when I was really little. Me and girls from school would sleep over and do our make-up like Egyptians and pretend we were having a concert. We’d have to take turns being Susanna Hoff singing into hairbrushes. She was our favorite you know. God how I long for those days. Being young and carefree. Cabbage Patch Kids, Strawberry Shortcake, Rainbow Bright, and the Munchichies that sucked their thumbs; I had them all. We used to run in the streets; ride bikes, skip rope, and play tag. What about you honey? You never talk about your past. Hell, we’re about to be married and I’ve never met your parent. You haven’t even mentioned them, not once. Nothing about where you grew up, siblings, friends, nothing,” Sierra Michaelson rambled as her and her fiancé Thomas Wilcox were on their way to a dinner party with friends and co-workers from Sierra’s firm.


 “There’s not much to say, sweetie. I’m not nostalgic like you are. I’d rather not live in the past but focus on my future… with you.”


Sierra’s lively mood changed. “Come on, Tom. I can tell when you’re hiding things. I think I deserve the truth before we get married. Actually, I demand it, right here, right now, or this engagement is off,” she said turning her head to gaze out the window, not wanting to look at him.


Thomas swallowed hard, one hand on the wheel as he gazed forward. “I never knew my birth father. He ran out on me and my birth mother long before I could form memories. My birth mother was a heroin addict. I have some memories of her and the trailer I grew up in until they took me away when I was six.


“I remember finding a couch on the side of the road and taking it home, patching it with duct tape. That’s where I slept most nights when there wasn’t a party going on. Sometimes I’d wake in the middle of the night to find mom lying on the bathroom floor. I was too little to get her up and cleaned, so I laid there on the cold linoleum with her and shared my blanket. The place was never clean. It smelled like cigarette butts and stale beer, and for good reason. Ashtrays were always overflowing, and bottles of beer lined the counters and coffee table where you could also find foil packets, roaches, traces of coke, spoons, and the occasional needle. The funny thing is, I remember my mom and all her friends being good to me. They were nice, fed me a lot of fast food, and brought me toys. Some would play with me. My mom never registered me for school. That brought a social worker and a cop to the house. Once they saw the state I was living in, they took me away. I don’t know what happened to my mom, but I remember being scared. Scared for myself and scared for her.


“I went into the foster system, and I was there for quite a while. I was eight before they got me placed with the Sullivan’s. Bob and Janice Sullivan were rather boisterous people with a lot of rules. They had a big house, albeit old, in the middle of nowhere. A, nobody can hear you scream, scenario. They made a living by taking in fosters. I was number six and the ages ranged from three to fifteen. The Sullivan’s were harsh discipliners, and the other kids were not friendly. They competed for attention and praise from their foster parents. One time, while I was still new there, Toby, the oldest, convinced me it was okay to go outside to the dog pen and play with the dogs. I had always loved dogs and was excited to join him. We went out there and the dogs swarmed us for attention. I was in heaven. After moments of joyful play, I looked for Toby to see if he was having as much fun. I thought I had made a friend, and we were bonding. Instead, he had disappeared. He went and got Bob, who pulled me out of there and whipped me with a switch, bare assed, so many times I was bleeding heavily and couldn’t sit for days. On top of that Janice put me on bathroom duty for a week, where every inch had to be cleaned by toothbrush. After that, I was the bad kid. All the other kids threw me under the bus for everything they did and the Sullivan’s believed it without question. I think everyone in that house enjoyed watching me stand for the six months I was there before running away.


“I made my way into a neighboring town where I met up with some older runaways. They introduced me to pot at age nine and had me selling it on the playgrounds. Made a few friends that way. We lived in an abandoned trailer in the park in town. No one in the park cared. It was a rough park anyway with a ‘snitches get stiches’ motto, so no one ever bothered us. It wasn’t a luxurious lifestyle, but we had each other, our music, and our freedom. We would get hand-me-down clothes from people we knew and an occasional bite to eat, but food was the hardest thing to come by. I got picked up by the cops for stealing a pack of hot dogs from the grocery store when I was twelve. The owner pressed charges and I did a stint in juvenile detention before being released back into the foster system.


“I was in the foster system another three years before they found someone willing to take me in. A teenage kid with a record is not appealing to most people. This time I went to a very prosperous home where I was the only child of Walter and Madeline Kennedy. He was an investment banker and she, well, she shopped and led a very social life. I thought I hit the jackpot. They bought me new clothes and enrolled me in a prestigious private school. Anything I wanted they provided. All seemed well until I came home early from school one day to find Mr. Kennedy cheating on Mrs. Kennedy. I was shocked. I apologized for walking in on them. I closed the door and went to my room. He came in and I told him his secret was safe with me. He tackled me to the bed anyway, and continued to pound on me, telling me that it better or worse would come my way. That night at dinner, I had to tell Mrs. Kennedy that my black eye resulted from a fight at school.


“In another incident, after a dinner party with all of Mr. Kennedy’s associates and clients, he felt that Mrs. Kennedy and I embarrassed him. He tore into her first for talking back. He knocked her all over the room and began to choke her. I stepped in. I managed to get him off of her, but he turned on me, knocking me to the floor and kicking me in the ribs. He dropped down on top of me and grabbed me by the windpipe. Not the neck, he grabbed the windpipe and separated it from the rest of my throat until I passed out.


“When I woke, I was in bed and Mrs. Kennedy was tending to my wounds. I could hardly talk, it hurt so bad. She stroked my hair and told me I would be alright, that I was so brave. She caressed my cheek and kissed me passionately on the lips – not in the way a mother kisses a son. I was stunned. My eyes had to have been as wide as saucers. At first, I couldn’t move. There was nervousness, fear, as her hand glided over my chest and down my stomach. When she began to fondle me and lean in for another kiss, I panicked and jumped out of bed. I struggled to get my pants on as she cursed at me, calling me an ingrate, and a stupid boy. I ran out of the room, flew down the stairs, and left that house with nothing but the clothes on my back.


“I lived on the streets for another year and enlisted in the army just in time for Desert Storm. I served my two tours, used the GI bill to go to college for financial planning, got a good job straight out of college, two years later I met you, and now we are engaged to be married with the hopes of starting a family that I can raise in a way I wasn’t.”


Sienna’s hand is on Thomas’s. Her mouth is hanging open. Thomas’s eyes are wet. She had no idea. She thought maybe there was some bad blood between him and his family, something she could help him work through. She knew that millions of people went through the foster system, but she never thought it would happen to someone she knew, especially to someone as successful as Thomas.


“I can’t believe you went through all that, baby. No wonder you never talk about your past,” Sienna says, sympathetically.


“That’s what it is, the past. If I let it eat away at me, it will disrupt the present and destroy the future.”

February 03, 2024 01:24

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7 comments

Michał Przywara
21:51 Feb 08, 2024

That's a hell of a history! It's clear why he doesn't want to talk about it, but when he says “I’d rather not live in the past but focus on my future” we believe him, because when he is pushed to open up, he does, and he does so in a matter-of-fact way. It's clearly something he's grappled with, and found a way to process. “Sierra” - she is sometimes referred to as Sienna. “I remember finding a couch on the side of the road and taking it home, patching it with duct tape” - I'm not sure I understand, did he do this when he was under six y...

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Trudy Jas
21:11 Feb 05, 2024

Awful history. You told it starkly, little inflection, no sentimentality. "These are the facts. Now you know. Let's move on." Well done!

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Stella Aurelius
10:25 Feb 05, 2024

Ooof, no wonder Tom isn't nostalgic at all. Great job.

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Mary Bendickson
06:57 Feb 03, 2024

Believable story why someone would not be nostalgic about their past.

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Ty Warmbrodt
07:07 Feb 03, 2024

Thanks, Mary, I wasn't too sure about this one. I always look forward to your feedback. It means a lot.

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Christy Morgan
03:58 Feb 03, 2024

Wow, read it straight through with bated breath. In a short space, you created a believable and relatable character. A perfect take on the prompt…enjoyed reading it, Ty!

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Ty Warmbrodt
06:17 Feb 03, 2024

Thanks, Christy. Your feedback means a lot to me. I wasn't sure about this one, so I did two this week.

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