As I blew out my birthday candles, fourteen pink candles on a cake smaller than the plate, I sighed. She sat there counting the stretch marks that made their way across her stomach. It was the norm for me to see her like this; depressed. She had lost Caleb, my baby brother, and now would mope all day. I could be compassionate to her; she was my mother after all, but this was getting old. Every day, she sat in that rocking chair, in her pink bathrobe, counting her marks. In them, she read what could have been, what she had lost; they were the braille of a future she would never have. Each one a significant reminder of what was gone; her youth, her chances at a better life, the opportunities she could have seized if she wasn't tied down by the responsibilities of being a mother. She mourned for her youth, not her children, and while she would never admit to these things aloud, I knew she regretted having us- every one of us. She would mumble these thoughts in her sleep, and I would pretend not to listen.

I was the mother for my younger siblings. I was the one who made breakfast and lunch every morning for the remaining five of us. This was her fault, all of this. I could never forgive her. I got up, cut a small sliver of my pink and blue youth, and handed it to her.

"Mom? You have to eat. The doctor said you have to start eating again," I whispered, trying not to disturb the others.

"He's gone...he's gone...he's gone," she chanted. They were the only words she spoke anymore.

She sat up and walked to her room, closing the door behind her. She tried to muffle the sound, but I could hear her sobs. I sent the others out to play and carefully stepped inside my mother's room. She was swaying back and forth, holding her sleeping pills in one hand. I sat down and placed her head on my shoulder.

"He's not gone Mom. We can go back to the courts, and they said we have a chance to get him back."

I pleaded with her this time, gently raising her arms, trying to guide her toward our small bed.

"No. He's gone, my baby is gone forever."



Such a personal color, such a sad one. It made sense for it to be the last one I saw that night. When I awoke, my lips were blue. I still wasn't breathing, and I could feel it; a hollow, constricting feeling within my chest. My eyes widened at the force of pressure as my lungs were forced to cooperate. They resisted the hands on my chest; they refused to let go of the water that would allow me to break away. My escape from this; a reality that I was not prepared for. Images flashed before my eyes. Not in the usual way one would think of when they are dying. It was like a movie, one I already knew the ending to.

My father...A yellow and gold bracelet...Caleb the day he was taken...My mother weeping as she laid on the front porch...A pink birthday cake...The day my other siblings were taken from us...Me falling on the way to school...Being questioned by social workers... Running...running...running. My obscure room that seemed to not be my own...Her legs dangling over the sink... More running...Water...Desperation...Anger...Pain...Fear...Release...

It was like a never-ending movie, these images playing repeatedly, morphing sporadically into another one. When I finally awoke, I was in an all white room. Maybe I did die. No, I wouldn't still feel this pain; my lungs wouldn't feel like they were on fire. I opened my eyes to see that it was dawn. I closed them again, trying to prevent any sunlight from touching my lids; dawn would not be good for me. It reminded me too much of her.