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The Likes of My Bear

TW: Sexual Violence, Mental Health Disorders

It tackles a very different angle than I usually write: psychological horror or thriller. This piece is a tragic drama; it's written from a child's perspective, and it sheds significant light on the fact that Foster care systems are, as the story describes, "Bi-po-lar" in the sense that they might provide good homes and care for some kids, but project extremely traumatizing experiences to other ones.

I've never won a staring contest before.

Yet, somehow, today, I'm weirdly making it happen by staring at a horrifying end, also known

as Miss Foster's eyes; they are so vast it's a challenge. But she has one that is blue and one

that is brown. It makes it easier to alternate between the two.

Miss Foster is our caregiver, whom I thought is a polar bear. When I told her that once before,

she smacked me on the back of my head and said that wearing funny socks and having hair a

different color every day was not bi-po-lar. I heard her cry during our nap time that day.

Is that why she called me here?

She impatiently taps her foot three times and asks, "Do you know why you're here, Amgad?"

I’m not sure. I haven’t snuck out any of the expensively-wrapped candies from her desk

drawer past bedtime with Georgie- at least not for a while now.

She sighs, and I feel its heaviness cloud over my seat. I shake my head cautiously, so it doesn’t

start raining and thundering.

"Amgad, why do you keep running away?" I would instead tell her about the candies myself than answer this question. I lose at the staring game when I look away, suddenly developing a passion for exploring her office, the one I've been to millions of times. Has that stain on the carpet always been there? That’s a lovely vase on miss’s desk. Does she remember to water the flowers? Isn’t that the candies drawer?

More impatient foot tapping. I look at miss again. Her severe eyes are now scary.

"You know I'm doing my best trying to help you, kids. Find you a home." That word, the H-word Georgie and I swore never to use, hurts my ears.

"Do you not want a home?" She softens her tone a bit, reasoning that's what made me wince. I look down at my feet. Somehow the weight of having to answer her question makes me

forget the ache from wearing the ragged sneakers I'd outgrown long ago. I notice the blacks I shaded to hide the original pink stripes are fading. I have to remember to line them with the marker again. Georgie reminded me to do that.

I sniff and wipe my eyes. I don’t want to cry; Georgie used to say it made my snot fly

everywhere, making us laugh. This makes me cry even more, and now my snot is flying everywhere. Miss hands me a tissue.

"I know you're scared. But I can't help you if you don't tell me what you're afraid of."

Miss treats us like nine-year-olds, so we're not old enough to be spoken to as grown-ups, but old enough to be spoken to as..well, maybe ten-year-olds? Ten and a half. Either way, it makes us feel special. Safe. That's why I think, for the briefest moment, that I should tell her. I should tell her that the first time I ran away was the first time I learned the word: Abuse.

When the Hairy man in the big house with the fancy wooden door and the porcelain elf by the porch wouldn't let me have dinner unless I did things. Horrible, horrible things. Things I

couldn’t even tell Georgie about when he came to visit.

But I would do them because I was hungry, and food tasted like cotton if I snuck it into my

bear's back zipper. If I should tell her that, about the third time, the pretty lady would come and wake me up every night and tell me she wanted to take me to her special place where we would sing, float with fish, and listen to the world go quiet.

But then her kind husband would come in, gently stroke her hair, whisper something in her

ear, and she would nod and leave me alone. I learned her tell-tale was when I heard her shout and cry and shout and cry. An object would shatter, then I knew she would find me next. So I would sleep under the bed with my bear hiding my face. Georgie said once, in hide and seek, that if you can’t see people, they can’t see you. He was so wise.

I should tell her that the seventh time was to visit him because he’d stopped coming. But I couldn't find him anywhere. When I asked, I was given his glasses, broken and sad, and pointed to look at the ceiling spot where an old chandelier used to hang.

I held my bear tight that night, so tight one of his button eyes popped, praying Georgie would

be in the pretty lady's special place. I apologized to my bear. I apologized to Georgie. And I cried to sleep.

I should tell her that 15 is a lucky number. It's how many years most kids like me spend

before finally finding, forgive me, Georgie, a home. But I shouldn't tell her that I won't wait that long because I died seven deaths. I died when Georgie died. And I don't even have anywhere to be buried. I look at Miss’s wide eyes, beautiful and not scary. Worried and not frightened. And I should tell her something Miss Foster will find reassuringly- fitting for Amgad's ten-and-a-half-year-old brain to say.

I will tell her, "I have my bear, Miss. I am not afraid. Home is the likes of my bear."

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