A Walk in Our Shoes, by Sarah Krolikowski

The sun was going down and the ground was starting to freeze. I held my sister close to me and whispered, “I’ll keep you warm Lily.” Mom had left us again, supposedly to find us food. She smelled of cigarettes and sweat and I noticed the dark marks on her arm again. This meant another night on the streets, to fend for ourselves. If she did come back, we knew she’d be strung out again. At least she’d come back to find us at some point, unlike our dad, who was stuck in a cell and couldn’t leave.

I wrapped my sister in the extra clothes we had and put socks on her hands. There was no way I was going to let her freeze. I told her we had to start making the voyage. Her eyes filled with tears, but she found enough strength to stand up. “Everything will be okay,” I lied. My plan would allow us to make it through the night though, if trouble is avoided.

We made our way to the grocery store, walking swiftly to stay warm. Inside, the colorful fruits and vegetables immediately caught my eye. I stopped at the apples, inspecting them for imperfections, like any other customer would. The apple was alright, so I stuffed it in my coat pocket. Next stop was the carrots because I knew my sister loved them. As we passed, I knocked a bag onto the floor, and stuffed it in my jacket as I got up. Lily looked at me with sad eyes, as I grabbed her and headed for the door. She was old enough to know the difference between right and wrong, but too young to know the swiping skills.

Nearby was a park, where we found a bench to rest on momentarily. I gave her the carrots and she immediately gorged on them. I ate the apple to the core, and licked my sticky fingers clean. My confidence peaked as I saw her filling up on her healthy snack. It was fuel for me to keep pushing on. “You done for now?” I asked, as I got up and extended a hand to her. “Yeah,” she said quietly as she grabbed my hand and sluggishly rose.

As we continued the journey, I noticed a forested park area in the horizon. “It’s better than a park bench”, I thought to myself. The trees were very close to each other, which would serve as protection from the elements. I sat my sister down and gave the carrots back to her so she could eat the rest. I let her know we were building a fort, like we used to when we were young. She smiled and sprang up, excited to help me. We scavenged twigs and leaves to create our home for the night. To a passerby it looked like a pile of leaves, but it would keep us hidden.  After our fort was made, I tucked her in with leaves and extra clothes we had in our bag. She dozed off almost immediately.

Sleep came easy for Lily, but for me, it seemed virtually impossible. No matter how tired I was, I had to figure out the next plan of action. Every day was a new day to bring us trouble or hope. “Maybe we will run into our mom and she will have food for us and a warm place to take us to?” I thought to myself as I pulled out a picture of my family. In the photo, the sun was shining, with no clouds in sight. That was long time ago though. Whatever was in store for us, I knew my little sister could rely on me. I would make sure trouble didn’t follow her, like it chased our mother.

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