Lost & Found

It was a chilling evening, and Candice had just tucked her toddler into bed. The world outside was quiet, shrouded in the cold embrace of the night. She was about to relax after a long day when a sudden, loud scream pierced the stillness. The sound was hauntingly familiar, but Candice couldn’t quite place it. Her mind raced, replaying the scream in her head as her heart raced.

As she continued to mull over the sound, she heard her toddler screaming from his room. Panic surged within her, and she rushed inside to comfort him. There, she found her young son, Boulder, repeatedly calling out his brother’s name.

“Bruh-bruh. Bruh-bruh say, ‘Yah!’”

It finally dawned on Candice. The scream she had heard was Grey’s, her older son. If anyone knew that sound, it would be Boulder, for Grey had always been the one person he still spoke to. For a brief moment, panic took hold of Candice, but then she realized the playful nature of the scream. Still, it had been almost five minutes since she had heard it.

Candice attempted to text Grey but received no response. She tried Marcus, her husband, but he too remained silent. Panic gnawed at her as she called her brother, Rasheed. To her surprise, he didn’t answer the call, but she soon met him at the door, where he was banging forcefully.

Candice rushed to the door, her heart pounding in her chest, only to be greeted by her brother, Rasheed, accompanied by a group of women and a couple of men.

“What are you doing here?” she demanded, her attire far from suitable for unexpected company. Normally, at this hour, she would be in her restaurant uniform, as she juggled work and family responsibilities.

Candice had worked at various fast-food restaurants like Jack in the Box and McDonald’s, often dealing with job losses and rushing to Grey’s school due to his frequent troubles or Marcus forgetting to pick up the kids on time.

Now, she had the luxury of staying at home, thanks to Grey’s sacrifices for his younger brother’s sake. Grey had made tremendous sacrifices to ensure her comfort, even though their relationship felt more like siblings than that of a mother and son.

Candice was well aware of Grey’s involvement in certain activities, and she vividly remembered their arguments when he had pleaded with her to work alongside Rasheed. It had been a decision she had come to regret, but circumstances had left her with no other choice. Their rent was three months overdue, and another eviction notice loomed ominously. Marcus lack of support and her growing family made matters even worse.

Until now, she had never thought of Grey as her child, but the sight of her brother at her doorstep triggered a deep sense of worry. The people Rasheed had brought with him began moving through the house without her consent. Two women had taken her daughters, while another had picked up her youngest son.

“Where are you taking my children?” Candice demanded, her anger rising. “What’s going on, Rasheed? Where are they going?”

Candice became increasingly confrontational, and her brother had to physically restrain her as the others continued searching the house for items to take with them.

Rasheed noticed one of the men holding a box filled with chains, a sight that struck fear in his heart. He recognized the contents because Grey had shown him before. He ordered the man to put that particular box back.

After everyone had left, Rasheed finally began to explain the situation to Candice. He revealed that he had received a call from friends about a fire nearby.

“A fire?” Candice asked, her voice trembling with anxiety.

“Just listen, Candy,” Rasheed implored.

Candice pressed for answers, her concern growing. She began to connect the sound of sirens to her missing son and husband. Tears streamed down her face, and she covered her mouth in shock.

“Where is Grey? Where is he?” she pleaded.

Rasheed looked around anxiously, realizing that time was running out. “I’ll take the kids to Mama’s.”

“Why? What is happening?” 

“The police are going to show up soon. They’ll ask you a lot of questions. Tell them you’ll wait for a lawyer.” 

“You’re still not telling me what’s going on.” 

Candice’s emotions overwhelmed her, and she struggled to find the right words. In this moment, she understood the frustration Grey must have felt, unable to communicate effectively. There was so much she wanted to say and understand from Rasheed, but he was ignoring her, just as she had often ignored Grey.

Candice’s mind raced, wondering about Grey’s actions before the car fire and what he was doing now. Why had he screamed? She couldn’t escape the overwhelming guilt that it was all her fault. She had never mustered the courage to stand up to Marcus, even as she watched Grey grow distant.

In a fit of anger, she struck Rasheed’s chest repeatedly. “This is all your fault. You did this to him.”

Although Rasheed was a strong man, her punches still hurt, and he managed to wrap his arms around her, holding her down. They sat on the floor together, crying in shared anguish.

“I know,” he admitted.

Candice couldn’t help but think of how she had treated Grey. She had often torn out pages from his notebooks when she didn’t like what he wrote, thinking it was a joke. She had seen the anger in his eyes but never fully understood his frustration.

His siblings were no better, mocking his stutter and taunting him to speak. Grey remained stoic in the face of their provocations, as though he were the only adult in the house.

Now she wondered where he was.

Grey had a temper that occasionally consumed him, a trait he inherited from both his parents. Candice continued to blame herself, lashing out at her brother. “This is all your fault. You did this to him.”

Rasheed was tough, but the emotional punches hurt just as much. He held her tightly as they both wept on the floor together.

In her heart, Candice knew her options. She could have called the police, obtained a restraining order, gone to her mother’s house, or had Rasheed confront Marcus. But she had chosen to stay with Marcus, and now she longed to be with Grey.

As the sound of approaching sirens grew louder, Candice couldn’t help but associate them with her missing husband and son. Panic surged within her, but she couldn’t bring herself to confront the situation head-on.

“Go,” she cried.

Even in her chaotic state, Candice couldn’t muster the courage to apologize to her brother or take responsibility for her actions. Instead, she used the impending arrival of the police as an excuse to push him away.

“Go,” she repeated more forcefully. 

Candice didn’t feel like a mother, a sister, or a friend. She was a victim, and she played that card better than anyone else.  

In the end, she just wished she had grown up fast enough to confess her immaturity to her brother. Instead, Candice watched him leave the room for the last time.

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