Dear Nifti, several young people face extremely harsh realities – stories that ‘regular’ folk couldn’t even imagine. Most times, these children are helpless and give in to their circumstance or environment. Falling through the cracks…

Everything was quiet when I drove into the apartment complex. As I circled around trying to find my target, I noticed there were suddenly more people lingering in the parking lot. The complex was relatively clean, but more scrutiny revealed broken windows, with cardboard patchwork and garbage bags covering holed sections. More garbage bags littered the corners and trash spilled over. At the far end of the compound walls read JD WUZ HEER in big bright red and white letters. Many of our students misspell words just for fun. They would say they don’t need to spell because no one cares.

We’ve already had twelve dropouts this year so when Bobby didn’t show to up at school for the 2nd week in a row, I drove out to find him.

I climbed out of the truck. There were now two groups of men sitting on two broken-down, stripped-down cars. Never do home visits alone! Words from my superiors rang in my head. But Bobby was my favorite, he was everyone’s favorite. He was a sweet kid although mom was a druggie and “his daddy’s somewhere”, mom told us one day. Bobby never spoke about the problems he faced at home, but we all knew, and helped him out as much as we could. One time his bike was stolen, and the office got together and bought him a new one. The Thank You card he made still hangs on the bulletin board.
I didn’t expect any danger until now. I tried not to pay too much attention to the men who continued to gather around the cars as I hurriedly searched for apartment 205.

“How can I help you?”

My heart beat faster, my throat dried up and I immediately felt dizzy. “Number 205” I managed to squeak. I coughed to clear my throat. The man stared at me for a moment. Was he trying to figure out who I was? Why I was there? Or maybe he thought how much my necklace and watch would sell for? Another rule I disobeyed. I was dressed to the tee!

I have heard several stories about this apartment complex, mostly from the kids about the mugging, jumping, and something about whipping a pistol.

“You here for a pick up?” His chin went up, his head cocked to one side. His buddies on the cars were looking intently at us.
“Pick up?” He  wasn’t going to let me continue without an explanation. “Do you know Bobby?”

The man continued to stare down his nose at me. “You’re real fine” he started. “You shouldn’t come up here by yourself”. At this point, a much younger man started towards us. My heart couldn’t beat any faster. I just knew the men could hear it thumping, and for sure they could hear the ringing in my head. My truck was only ten feet away, I thought I would make it to safety if I tried, but my feet wouldn’t move. I couldn’t respond either. I just stared at them quietly pleading for mercy.

“It’s not good, miss”. The younger one spoke. I recognized him from graduation three years earlier.
 Relief. He knew me well, and was a good kid too.

“It’s no good”. The young man repeated. “Bobby moved in with his dad last week.” He shook his head. “His mom overdosed. There’s no hope for him now.”

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