Hey. I’m Tony. I’m 13 and used to live in Newmarket, Ontario, with my single mom, Barbra and my little sister, Amy, who’s 12. Dad wanted to leave as soon as he found out mom was pregnant and she didn’t want to have an abortion, but she also wanted him to stick around. She begged him to stay at least until I was born, and he accepted. “But only until then.” Jerk. So, the moment I was born, he ditched the hospital and got in his car, leaving us there. We took the bus home after mom was allowed to come home, and guess what she found? Dad with some other girl kissing on his and mom’s bed. Mom was so mad that she yelled at him to get out and that she was happy to be rid of him. So he and the random girl left and never came back. Mom cried a lot, or so she said when she told me the story, and apparently, dad had been cheating before then. But then, one night, dad came back, contradictory to what mom said earlier, telling mom he was sorry and he hoped that they could make it work. It worked for about a month, then Mom got pregnant again, and dad was all, “Another one?” He didn’t even want me, so you can expect his rage when he found out. That’s when he really left and this time for good. Amy was born without dad, and I grew up looking after her while mom worked. We had a babysitter a lot, but none ever stayed long. My favourite was Troy, a guy who was 13 at the time. He started taking care of us when I was 3 and Amy was 2. He just stuck, and mom kept him as a sitter. As we got older, Amy and I saw less and less of Troy, but he remained a good friend.
Well, enough about the past. Long past, anyway. A few months ago, mom caught pneumonia. She didn’t get better for awhile, and before long, she was in bed almost all day every day. The doctor visited a lot, but nothing helped. Being bedridden and all, mom had Amy and I doing her chores for her, like cleaning up the house and getting groceries. But there was one trip to the grocery store I’ll never forget.
It was a Sunday, like any Sunday, and Amy and I were going to the grocery store like we always do on Sundays. We took our usual way there, past Old Man Mandrake’s house, through the Forest of Eliza and over the Bridge of Pim. Old Man Mandrake is the scary man who supposedly throws rocks at little kids when they step on his lawn, even by accident, or so I’ve heard. The forest and the bridge aren’t actually called those things; they’re just what Amy and I call them to make it more exciting. We also say that there’s a mean old troll who lives under the bridge, but Amy always sings her to sleep so we can pass by safely when we go. Amy wants to be a singer when she grows up, and she’s really good, but that’s beside the point. So anyway, when we got to the store, we saw Troy, who then worked as a cashier. We stopped and chatted for a bit, then showed him our shopping list. We had almost all of our items; just 2 left, and Troy told us that our items were at the back. He got them for us and rung our items up. Handing me my favourite box of cereal to put in the bag, he had a funny look on his face. I distinctly remember him asking how we were going to eat cereal without milk. I realized then that we had forgotten it, so as I continued bagging our items, Troy got the milk for us. “Don’t tell my boss,” he whispered, winking and dropping the carton into the bag. We thanked him, said our goodbyes and left.
We walked home a way we had never gone before, just for some added thrill, and discovered a park and a public pool that we had never seen before. We got lost a few times, trying to find our way back on the right route, and before long we were back on our street. Amy and I walked in quietly in case mom was sleeping and began unloading the groceries. When we were done, we walked into mom’s room to let her know we were back. She likes to know we got home safely, so we went knocked and went in.
“Mom?” Amy called. “We’re home!” Mom didn’t move. That was funny; she usually woke up when Amy or I called her. “Mom?” Amy said again, coming up next to her. No response. I checked mom’s pulse and breathing and leaped back. None of either. “Get me the phone!” I yelled at Amy, who ran and got it for me. I dialed 9-1-1 and told them, and the ambulance was there very quickly. Amy was crying and I was hugging her close, telling her mom would be okay.
Right before we went out of the ambulance, one of the paramedics called us back before any of them left. His sad voice will remain in my mind forever. “I’m sorry, kids. She’s gone.”
Mom was an only child, and her parents were dead. All of her friends lived in the States and only visited on rare occasions. (Thank god for e-mail) This left us with no potential guardians.
And just like that, Amy and I were orphans.
And that’s how we ended up at the foster home.