Touched – Part One

Taryn McGraw, Staff Reporter

Miles sat on the tan carpet floor in the corner of his small room; his bed could barely even fit. The light coming from the small window on the wall revealed that it was slowly inching towards dawn, providing just enough light for him to see.

He balled himself up tightly, his arms around his legs holding them for dear life. Miles hid his face and just thought about nothing, nothing at all. He didn’t want to think about all the pain in his life and there weren’t many happy memories that he could use to keep himself from spiraling into his mind’s darkness, so he just thought about nothing. 

Miles knew exactly what time it was when he heard the dreadful noise of a blaring alarm clock from the room next to his. It was then followed by a loud bang, then yells of curse words leaving a gruff and very angry man. The alarm stopped making its noise, which started the stomps that left the room and came to his door. 

On cue, powerful knocks on his door cause it to shake violently. Miles didn’t even understand how the door was still standing by how many times the man had done it in the past. He could even feel the pounding through the floor. 

The door bursted open to reveal a big man with a very protruding beer-belly, unkempt face and stained wife beater on. 

“Get up, you stupid brat. The social service lady, whatever her name is, will be here in half an hour. Get all your stuff packed ‘cause you’re not comin’ back.” The man grinned to reveal his rotted, yellow, crooked teeth that made Miles want to gag, but he knew bad things would come to him if he did.

Miles didn’t say anything nor move a single muscle as he waited for the man he never thought of as a foster-father to leave before letting out a breath of relief. He stood up and moved over to under his bed to pull out his already-packed suitcase, placing it on the bed. He styled his hair the best he could without a mirror before placing a black beanie on his head. Reaching into the suitcase once again, he pulled out his sleek black pair of glasses, taped in the center, and put them on, adjusting them until they felt right on his face.

Miles then glanced down at his outfit, already on since the night before. He wore black ripped skinny jeans with a sweatshirt of the same color that was too many sizes too big for him. Even though he had an average height for his age of 17 at 5’ 9”, the sweatshirt looked like it could just swallow him whole, which he wasn’t opposed to. The largeness brought safety and comfort to relax his non-stopping mind, even if it wasn’t true in reality. 

“Get down here, you stupid brat! She’s here!” The man’s voice echoed through the house, making Miles cringe.

He was never able to come up with something better than just ‘stupid brat’.

Miles rolled his eyes, knowing the answer to his own question. To add the finishing touch, Miles reached into his bag, pulling out thin black gloves that go a little past his wrists, putting them on before grabbing his suitcase and walking out of his small room and down the stairs. The man had the door open, but Miles couldn’t see past him, but he could hear the voice of a young woman. 

Guessing correctly, he silently walked past the big man, feeling nauseated by the putrid odor radiating off of the fat man. Even though he combed his hair and put on a shirt, the smell was still as clear as ever. 

“Hello. You must be Miles, I presume.” The female voice said, making Miles turn to get a look at the person who spoke to him. 

As he had guessed, the woman in front of him was in her late twenties, with long black hair neatly placed in a bun and a white-collared shirt tucked into her black suit skirt, matched with a jacket that was in her hands.

Realizing that he never responded, he silently nodded my head in confirmation. The woman beamed, revealing her perfect, pearly white, straight teeth.

“My name is Kathrine. I will be taking you to your new foster home today. Are you excited?” She said enthusiastically, too enthusiastically for Miles’s taste. He just shrugged and avoided eye contact.

Kathrine wasn’t discouraged, most likely used to all sorts of treatments from other kids she had to deal with previously. “Well then, can you head to the car? I’ll meet you there as soon as I finish discussing the details with this man here.” 

Miles nodded and immediately made his escape, not wanting to interact with her and her bubbly behavior any longer. He opened the door to the back seat and crawled in to the other side behind the passenger’s seat. After buckling himself in, he rested his face on his hand and looked out the window. He waited patiently for the lady to be done. 

Although moving to another family is hard and nerve wracking, Miles was overjoyed by the fact that he didn’t have to see the fat man anymore. He still couldn’t even figure out why the man even took him in the first place. All the man ever did was drink and treat Miles like garbage, barely providing him food and never giving any form of love to him, unless yelling angrily counted. The fat man was never abusive towards him, but when he was drunk, it came very close and there were times when Miles had to run away from him for his own safety.

Miles was snapped out of his thoughts when he heard the car door open, then close. The car started and the scenery began to move. He looked one last time from the back window at the man, who was waving to him with a smile. Regretting his decision, Miles turned back towards his window.

“Do you remember Ms.Willis? The one who has been taking care of you while in the foster care system?” Kathrine asked, but Miles gave her no response and continued keeping his eyes trained on the passing scenery. “Well, she remembers you very well and is waiting at your new foster mom’s house. Her car wasn’t working properly, so she said she was going to meet us there to help you meet the woman. I heard she is very kind, but Ms.Willis can give you more details when we get there.”

Kathrine didn’t talk again, knowing that Miles wouldn’t respond if she did, so she just turned up the radio and kept driving. She would occasionally sing along to some of the songs that played, but other than that, the drive was smooth and simple, but long. 

“Miles.” Kathrine asked, but there was no movement. She parked the car and turned to face the boy, who didn’t even bat an eye. “Miles.” She tried again, but the response was the same. She reached over and tapped the boy on his shoulder.

The response she got was not expected. Miles immediately jumped away from the touch, holding the area in his hand and looking at Kathrine with fear in his eyes. His heart was beating wildly and his breathing picked up.

Kathrine put her hands up in surrender, surprised and a little worried about his reaction. “I’m sorry for startling you. We’re here.” 

Miles began calming down, his shoulders relaxing and his breath evening out. He looked out the window on the opposite side of the car to peer at a fairly nice house. It had grey paint with white borders. It was a two floor house with a two-car garage and numerous windows. 

Here we go again.

Miles sighed and stepped out of the car, dragging his suitcase with him. He stopped and placed it on the grass as he watched two women on the porch direct their eyes to him. Feeling uncomfortable, he looked at the ground and paid attention to how green the grass under him was. He could just relax there and look up at the bright blue sky holding fluffy white clouds.

“Miles.” He looked up to find a familiar face in front of him, keeping a small distance between each other. 

The woman in front of him, Ms.Willis, had her hair up in the same bun as Kathrine but grey roots were showing and her face had a few wrinkles. “It hasn’t been long since we’ve seen each other. Do you still remember me?”

Miles nodded. Ms.Willis was one of the only people he had met that he respected. She understood his need for a large personal space and she tries her hardest not to make him uncomfortable. Her choices in possible foster homes can sometimes be poor, like the one Miles just came from, but most are nice choices where any other kid would have fit in. 

Not Miles though. He wasn’t like others and he hated it. He’s an outcast that kept getting kicked out of foster homes. Ms.Willis stayed by his side, though, accepting and supporting him with the best of her abilities, which Miles appreciated and acknowledged.

“This is, what… the seventh or eighth new family?” Ms.Willis asked me, her memory failing her. 

“Eighth.” Miles whispered. Ms.Willis’s face brightened, happy and pleased that she got a response.

“Well then, I guess eighth time’s the charm.” She said brightly, gesturing for Miles to follow her to the woman still standing on the porch. 

It was when he got closer when Miles could see what she looked like. The woman must have been in her late thirties, but she looked like she was in her early ones. Her figure revealed that she kept in great shape and the lack of blemishes and wrinkles on her face and skin meant that she took very good care of herself. When they got closer, the woman smiled as brightly as Ms.Willis.

“Hello, Miles. My name is Harper. I will be taking care of you for the time being so we can see if we’re a fit for each other before we make things official and I become your foster mom.” Harper said cheerfully, excited for the new experience. Miles was hesitant, but she seemed like a nice woman to him, so he nodded. Harper smiled wider. 

“Amazing! It’ll be so much fun having you around. Let me take your bags inside while you say bye to these amazing women who brought you here. Come inside when you’re done and I’ll show you around.” Harper walked down the steps and grabbed his bag. Miles nodded in gratitude when they made eye contact. Harper nodded back before walking into the house.

“Honestly, boy, I hope I only have to see you one more time and that is when I make this official. She is a nice woman and I think you’ll like her.” Ms.Willis said, not moving any closer. Miles appreciated her positivity and smiled slightly towards her. She returned the gesture before going into Kathrine’s car. 

“Bye, Miles. It was nice meeting you.” Kathrine said, turning the other direction. Miles did the same and began walking to the house.

“Oh, wait. Miles, you dropped this.” Kathrine said, grabbing Miles’s wrist and spinning him around. 

Then, it felt like time had slowed down. As Kathrine’s skin brushed against Miles’s, that’s when he felt it. 

Everything around him went black as he began struggling to breathe. His throat felt like liquid was being forced into it with every breath he tried to take. Miles tried holding it for as long as he could, but time won the round and he had to inhale once again. Liquid filled his lungs quickly and he felt like he was going to pass out.

It was only a couple minutes, but to Miles, it felt like hours before he was back in the real world. He opened his eyes to be greeted by the faces of all three women, all staring down at him is fear and shock.

Ms.Willis was telling the other two to stay back and just let time handle it. She had seen this type of incident, different reactions every time, but lasts for the same amount of time. 

“Hey, buddy. Welcome back.” Ms.Willis said quietly, forcing the others to back up and give him enough space to sit up. Miles did and dizziness swept past his eyes. He held his head for comfort, his lungs still feeling bruised.

“What was it this time?” Ms.Willis asked carefully.

Miles didn’t respond for a bit, unsure if he wanted to tell her, but she already knew about this; he told her years ago about his problem. Miles glanced at Kathrine before speaking. 

“Drowning.”