Anica walked around with her head held low, staring at her bare feet smacking the bricks of the busy sidewalk, feeling invisible, scared, and hungry. It wasn’t always like this. She had a happy family, a dog, and a guinea pig once.
That was until the car accident that claimed her father’s life, and her mother in such pain she relied on morphine and pills to keep her from hurting. When those ran out, and when the doctors tried to get her to stop, she went to something more.
That’s how she met the monster who made her feel invisible. He would constant yelling, telling her children should not be seen nor heard. When she would come out of her room if you’d call it that. He would grab the belt and smack her with it until she was a heap on the floor, knowing if she cried it would be worse.
Some days she would crawl back to her room, barely moving from the welts on her back. She would sneak out at night to go to the kitchen and quietly get what little food there was. A few crackers, and if she was lucky a teaspoon of peanut butter, but only if it was already open.
She knew if she was caught, he’d grab the belt again. Even taking the little food she could scavenge was a grave offense. She didn’t work for the food on the table, so she didn’t deserve to eat.
One day, after being in her room for days, stomach hurting so bad, the feeling of it eating itself. She snuck out of her room to try and find a clean glass for water and some crumbs left on the table to get her stomach to stop hurting.
As she rounded the corner her mother was sitting at the table, slumped over with her head laying at an odd angle on the table. Her arm dangling by her side, the needle still in her discolored veins, her eyes glassy and staring at her. She scampered away and ran right into the monster who introduced the poison that was stagnant in her mother’s veins. The man stumbled as she fell down and swung his fist downward, barely missing her.
She got up and ran for her bedroom’s door, tears fresh in her eyes, knowing if he saw them it would enrage him more.
“COME HERE YOU LITTLE BITCH!” he yelled after her, stumbling drunkenly toward her as he pulled at his belt.
Eyes wide at the belt, she turns from her room’s door and runs to the front door. Her mother’s glassy eyes haunting her, she grabs the front door handle and pulls harder than necessary as he reached out to grab her.
The door swings open and knocks his arm away from the collar of her shirt, and she runs out and down the stairs of the dirty apartment building. Watching her bare feet barely miss glass, dirty needles, and cigarette butts, she almost flew down the 3 flights of stairs, reaching the entrance to the street in, what seemed like, seconds of her leaving the place she was a prisoner in, for over a year.
The sun was bright, or maybe it was the fact she hadn’t been outside since her mother moved them to his grungy apartment for an endless supply of poison. She squinted as her eyes adjusted to the brightness of the outside world. She felt scared and alone, yet free from the monster. She imagined that she was a princess, finally escaping the evil dragon and started running into the new world.
It was a colder day, her bare feet trampling across blades of frosted grass, slicing her tiny toes with even smaller, almost invisible cuts. She ignored the pain and felt the cold seeping in from her bare arms and feet.
Wearing just a t-shirt and a pair of pajama shorts, she was shivering and slowing down just blocks from the apartment building. She tried to remember anything from the trip from her old home to the apartment complex but she slept through most of it.
She thought she recognized some of the taller buildings but she wasn’t exactly sure if they were the same tall buildings she saw from her suburban home so long ago.
She pointed her feet in the direction away from the apartment and toward what, she hoped, would take her back to her old home where the neighbors would throw block parties and shut down the street so other kids could ride their bicycles.
She passed by men in business suits who wouldn’t even look down at her, and mothers fighting their way through the crowded sidewalk with their strollers and crying kids too bothered to deal with another kid.
She couldn’t remember what it was like being able to cry about something, anything. If she even whimpered the monster would come out and make things worse. She almost smiled at the thought of the freedom from that prison but the cold stopped her from being completely happy.
She passed by an alley when a gust of warm air blew against her skin. She turned and stopped, facing the direction of the warm air and saw a garage door opening and a cat jumping away from the door and scurrying down the alley.
Anica remembered that cats like warm places and thought the cat wouldn’t be laying next to the garage door if it wasn’t warmer than someplace else.
She ran toward the garage door as it was opening, feeling more warm air rushing toward her. Her arms were crossed, covering her chest, as if trying to keep any warmth from escaping her already freezing body.
She ducked behind a dumpster as a man was struggling to carry a black garbage bag. The dumpster was cold and canceling out the warm air as it seeped out of the opening.
The man grunted as he lifted the bag to throw it in the dumpster. She heard a soft thud as something hit the ground and the man cursed.
“Screw this, I don’t get paid enough to clean this up,” he said as he walked back toward the opening, carrying the ripped plastic garbage bag.
Anica peeked around the dumpster as the garage door was closing and saw a mound of clothes laying half in the dumpster and all over the ground. The door stalled a few inches from the ground. She heard the man again.
“Can my day get any worse? Not my problem, I’m clocking out! Dave, come and fix this door,” he yelled.
Anica ran out from behind the dumpster and grabbed an armful of clothes and took off down the alley until she came to another dumpster to hide around, this one smelling of old cheese.
She set down the clothes and looked through them. She thought she had hit the jackpot. Not only where their clothes, but there was a shoe too! It was too big for her, she knew, but it was better than just her bare feet.
“No socks and only one shoe,” she said quietly, then shrugged.
She peeked around the dumpster again and saw another shoe. It wasn’t a match but she didn’t care. She ran from the dumpster to grab the shoe when the garage door started moving again.
“Dammit Jonny, I told you not to use the chain! We have a button for a reason,” another voice said from behind the moving door.
Anica grabbed the shoe and ran as fast as she could back to her cache of clothes.
“Hey, wait!” the man said as she cornered past the dumpster.
Anica grabbed up as much as she could and ran down the alley, not looking back in fear that the man was chasing after her. She knew that if he caught her, she’d have to go back to the monster in the apartment.
She ran for what seemed like forever, dodging in and out of alleys. When she finally stopped, she bent over and dry heaved, with still nothing in her belly.
She knew she needed to eat but her clothes were soaked in sweat from running and the light was fading from the sky. Anica knew this meant it was going to get even colder so she dropped her pile of clothes and mismatched shoes and started digging through.
She found a sweater with the words “Brooklyn New York” and the numbers 1691 on it, but she couldn’t sound out the other word that was on the sweater. EST didn’t sound like any word she had heard before, but she knew she missed a lot of school after the accident. She hadn’t been to school since her mom moved them to the monster’s apartment.
She remembered her 1st grade teacher having them learn to write down their address just in case they ever got lost and take it to a police officer, but it had been such a long time ago she couldn’t remember that old address. Even if she could, would the neighbors even remember her? Would they tell the police that they had moved a long time ago or would they recognize being in need and take her in? They were all nice, but to take in someone they hadn’t seen in over a year? She thought not.
She pulled the sweater over her shirt, and the bottom fell to her knees. The arms were past her hands but she didn’t mind it. She folded the armhole of the sweatshirt inward to create a makeshift glove. She knew there weren’t pants in the pile that would fit her, but there were still some other things that she could wrap her legs in. She grabbed, what looked like, an old blanket and wrapped it around her waist.
“I could be a fashion model,” she said out loud snickering.
“Why do you say that,” a small voice asked.
She turned around to see a boy, about her age, sitting against a vent on a building. His hair was blowing from the air in the vent and he was wearing sunglasses even though the sunlight was almost gone.
“You scared me!” Anica said to the boy.
“That’s funny, usually people scare me, not the other way around. You didn’t answer my question. Why could you be a fashion model,” the boy asked.
“Umm, because I am wearing a blanket as a dress and a sweatshirt big enough to make another dress,” she squeaked embarrassing.
“Well, I think you look beautiful. But take that with a grain of salt. I can’t actually see you.”
The girl opened her mouth in amazement. For years she stayed hidden away, invisible to the world and now, here sits a boy who can’t even see her. She really was invisible. Maybe the man near the dumpster didn’t see her, just saw a shoe floating in the air.
“You can’t see me?” she asked the boy.
“Nope, but that’s okay. I can tell by the sound of your voice that you’re nice. Are you cold? You’ve got to be if you’re only wearing a blanket and a sweater. Come and sit by me. They keep the vent on all night. It’ll warm you up.”
Anica thought about this for a moment. She didn’t know the boy, but he also couldn’t see her. She was invisible after all, it’s not like he could see her if someone came and she had to run away. And she was still cold.
She shrugged and grabbed the clothes, bringing them with her and putting them between her and the boy.
“The name is Ben, but my friends call me Ears.”
“I thought it was obvious…because I can hear better than everyone else.”
“Oh, is that how you knew I was here or was it the floating clothes?”
“Floating clothes? What are you talking about?”
“Well, I didn’t know if the clothes turned invisible when I was holding it or if you could just see the floating clothes.”
Ears laughed. A laugh from the belly, as my dad used to say. “What? You’re not invisible, there’s no such thing as an invisible person. At least I don’t think so. I’m blind!”
Anica laughed just like Ben, from the belly, about this. It did seem absurd to think she was invisible. She felt stupid but Ben’s laugh was contagious.
Ears slowly stopped laughing and said, “What’s your name Inzy?”
“Inzy? My name is Anica.”
“Nah, I like Inzy better. It’s short for Invisible. I’m pretty good at nicknames.”
Inzy sounded really good to Anica. Hardly anyone even saw her in the apartment complex, let alone knew her name, but if she was ever caught, no one would be looking for an Inzy and she was just fine with that.
She and ears just sat leaning against the vent soaking up the warm air as it passed through. Inzy grabbed at her feet and rubbed them, still sore from the running and her bare feet running through the alleys, slapping the pavement and stepping on and in God knows what.
“What are you doing Inzy?”
“Trying to warm up my feet. The clothes I found didn’t have any socks.”
“Does it have any small shirts?”
“Yeah, I found some baby shirts.”
“Give me your feet and a shirt. I’ll show you a trick I learned.”
Inzy gave Ears a foot and a shirt and he took off his gloves.
“Wow, you must’ve run a lot today,” he said as he wrapped the baby shirt around her foot expertly. “Shirts can be wrapped around the foot like this to make socks. It’s better if it’s a sweater or something but t-shirts work too. Did you find any shoes? I’m guessing you didn’t bring any with you.”
“Yeah, but they don’t match and they are a little big,” Inzy said.
He chuckled again and said, “I don’t mind. We’ll stuff the shoes a bit so you won’t get blisters. They are the worst.”
“Thank you Ears,” Inzy said quietly.
Ears smiled and grabbed something from a sack laying next to him.
“Listen Inzy, if you stick with me we’ll be alright. No one will even know we’re here,” he said as he handed her half a sandwich.
“The deli down the street throws out leftovers twice a day, it’s a secret though so don’t tell anyone, okay?”
Inzy smiled and took a bit of the sandwich. The bread was hard and the meat was slimy but it was heaven to her.
Inzy pivoted her body to lay longways against the vent and laid her head on the pile of clothes.
“Stick with me and we’ll be alright,” was the last thing she heard before falling asleep under the warm air.