and so, 6.

Ten years ago.

Christopher sat on the steps of the school, waiting to be picked up. He picked at the hem of his denim jacket, kicked his shoes against the concrete. He itched. He hadn’t stopped itching since he moved to the suburbs.

Chris had just had his third AA meeting, because his drinking was a thing, or so Dana had said. His foster sister explained that when her older brother Davy got drunk the first time, their dad made him spend a whole day at an inpatient rehab center, talking to the addicts. And Christopher had a real problem, so he’d probably be going to AA until the end of time if her father had anything to say about it. Dana was a real authoritarian on such things. And Chris went, but mostly because he was afraid of Mr. Reagan.

He needed a sponsor, he needed to share, and he needed the 12 steps. Or so he was told. Christopher didn’t want any of that, just  wanted to feel normal, but he couldn’t remember what normal felt like.

He was six years old when his mother left him in a social worker’s office, leaving the harassed looking woman to explain what was going on. He hadn’t been scared to hear she wasn’t coming back, just stared at the woman who told him he was going to live with some people who took in a lot of kids like him, and he’d be happy there if he gave it a chance.

He was scared that first night though, when he found out why his new family had so many children. He was told to be good and that the customer would tell him what to do; that he liked new kids best. He was wanted because he was new. If he made him happy, he would be allowed something special afterwards. The other kids called it candy, but it wasn’t candy like Christopher had ever experienced. That first night, after the initial shock and pain and trying to fight back, he fell asleep as his foster mom gave him a bath, then dressed him and slipped a needle into his arm.

Chris was startled out of his thoughts when Mrs. Reagan pulled up. He climbed into her car and met her eyes as she noticed his wrist, practically raw from the rubber bands he had snapped against it while waiting for her, trapped in his memories. He looked at her apologetically and then down, wishing he could sleep forever.

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