The blanket of seclusion enveloped me in its cold grasp as I trudged down the street. No one walked around me -- the street was completely void of any life whatsoever. Though it didn't appear sufficient to sustain life anyhow. The smells emitting from the dark alleyways choked the life out of you at every breath, and the air that you breathed seemed dirty, smokey. I hated it, but it was my home.
I made a left and ran across the street, shoving my hands into my coat pocket just as the rain began to pour. It always seemed to rain when I was outside. As if it couldn't have rained before or after. It always had to rain on me. Just like everything else.
I ran around the back of the abandoned apartment and came to the shattered window that we used as a substitute for a front door. I carefully slipped in, cautious not to step on any shards of broken glass. I ran up the steps until I reached the third floor, making a right, trying to ignore the sounds of crying and bitter weeping. I pushed open the door to our room and entered. My mom was in the corner of the room, clutching my baby sister, Mariah, trying to force some food into her mouth. Mariah hated eating, even when she was hungry.
I fell to my knees in front of her and handed her the paper bag. It was mostly empty, but there were some coins laying at the bottom. My weekly wage. It was pitiful.
"I'm sorry, Mom, I'm so sorry," I choked.
She just stared at me blankly, as if she had no hope left. I wrapped my arms around her in a hug, trying to hold back the tears, but she didn't even seem to notice.
"Michael," she said suddenly, drawing back quickly. "You need to find Joseph! He can help us! I know he'll help us!"
Anger rose in my chest at the mere mention of the name, but it weakened when I realized she was right. I put my hand to her cheek and nodded. "I'll find him, Mom, I promise."
"He always loved you like a brother, Michael," she said soothingly, her gaze still off and distant. "I think it's time we forgive him."
"Forgive him?!" I stood up, my fist clenched. "How can you even say that?! After what he did to us!? I will never forgive him!! No matter what happens I won't --"
"Michael!" she said angrily, "Forget about your pride for one second and see that we need his help!"
"I know we need his help, Ma! I know that more than anyone else does!! But this isn't about pride, it's about protection! We can't let him hurt us again!"
"He didn't mean to hurt us! You know he cared about us!"
"If he cared he wouldn't have done what he did!"
"Michael, stop it with this endless grudge!"
"You didn't feel what I did, Mom! Don't tell me how I should feel!"
"Of course I felt what you did, Michael! I'm your mother --"
"THEN ACT LIKE IT!!"
I stopped. I was breathing fitfully, and my eyes were filled with tears. There was a silence looming over us as we stared into each other's eyes. I diverted my gaze then turned.
"I'll find him, Mom . . . I'll ask him for help. But I will not forgive him.."
And as I headed for the door, I added, "Or you, for that matter."