Chapter 1

"Leo, stop it- you'll hurt yourself!"

I jumped down from the wobbly white and blue chair I had been balancing on to grab the half-eaten box of Fruity Pebbles off of the fridge. My mother, almost taller than the fridge, grabbed the box and set it on the counter.

"Why didn't you wake me up, honey?" Mom asked. "I would have helped you."

"You were sleeping." I said. "I didn't want to wake you up."

My mom stroked her fingers through my short, dark yellow hair before moving the chair back to the table. She lifted me and sat me on it.

"I already got a bowl." I said. "It's on the floor behind you."

My mom bent over to get my blue bowl. Everything was blue in here- my mommy loved blue.

"Milk." I said as she poured cereal in my bowl.

"It isn't cereal without milk, sweetie." Mom smiled and opened the fridge. She pulled out the jug of milk. It didn't have a top- I always seemed to lose it.

Milk joined my cereal in the bowl. I took the offered spoon and began shoveling food into my mouth.

"Don't eat so fast, baby." Mom caressed my head again. "You'll get sick at your first day of kindergarten."

That slowed me down. I suddenly felt sick. My stomach twisted. I pushed my bowl away and gazed down at my Superman PJ's.

"What's wrong, baby?" Mom rubbed my back.

"What if no one wants to be my friend?" I asked quietly.

"You'll make friends, Leo." Mom smiled, her green eyes wrinkling at the corners. I didn't believe her.


"I don't want to go!" I cried, wrapping my arms around mom's leg. Daddy sighed and mommy pushed me away. She knelt down, her eyes meeting their replicas.

"If you go, I'll pick you up after with ice cream." She whispered. I widened my eyes.

"Ice cream?" I gasped. She nodded. I threw my arms around her neck, then pulled away.

"I'll make friends and tell you all about them!" I said happily. Mom nodded and walked me to classroom number 6. Daddy stayed next to our blue car.

"Who's this?" A plump woman in a dress with animals on it and nice brown eyes took my hand from my mommy. I swallowed my fears and looked up at her.

"I-I'm Leo." I said, my voice shaky. I couldn't help it.

"Have a great day, Leo." Mommy said. "I love you."

"I love you too." I answered and my eyes filled with tears. Why did I have to come to stupid kindergarten? I wanted to stay home with mommy and daddy.

"Come along, Leo." The plump woman said, pulling me with her into the room. I looked round at all the toys and colors. They were so pretty! I felt myself smiling, previous fears forgotten.

"Hey look!" A tall boy with light orange hair and freckles yelled. "That boy is crying! He's a baby!"

Laughs filled my ears. I tried to hold back more tears. He was so mean!

"Chris, that isn't nice." The plump woman said with the same voice mommy uses when I'm bad. "You need to say sorry."

"Okay, Mrs. Martin." Chris shuffled closer to me, smirking.

"Good job, Chris." Mrs. Martin let my hand go and went to greet more kids at the door.

"Sorry, baby." Chris said before laughing. The other boys and girls laughed, too. I tried not to cry again but it was hard. I fisted up my hands and sniffled. That made Chris laugh harder.

Mrs. Martin made us all sit in a circle when all the other kids got here. I tried to sit far away from Chris but Mrs. Martin made me sit by him. I didn't want to sit by him because he was mean. He just kept poking me and calling me a baby in quiet so Mrs. Martin couldn't hear him.

Mrs. Martin made us say our names, how old we were, and what we liked to do. Chris said his name was Christopher Carmichael and he was six and he liked to play video games. I didn't know what that was, but I didn't say anything because Chis would have laughed at me again.

I said my name was Leonard Manteuffel and that I was six and that I liked to read books with my mommy. Chris Carmichael laughed at me. I jutted out my lip and crossed my arms like I did when mommy said I had to go to bed. Mrs. Martin told Chris not to laugh at me and she looked at the boy sitting next to me.

"My name is Kevin Anderson." He said. He had a funny sounding voice. "I'm age six and I like to visit my grandparents in Wales."

Chris laughed at him because he talked funny. Kevin Anderson didn't even cry. Mrs. Martin told us Kevin came here from England. I didn't know what a England was.

At took a long time for all the kids to say their names. After, Mrs. Martin said we could go outside and play on the playground. I was excited because I had only played on the playground at the park and this one was bigger and colorfuller. It was plastic like the one at the part, too. I was going to climb all the way to the top.

I ran toward the structure. Chris Carmichael stepped into my path and I ran into him. He pushed me and I fell down on the woodchips.

"Babies aren't allowed to play here." He said in a mean voice. "Only big kids."

"I'm not a baby." I said and my eyes filled with tears again. Chris laughed at me and walked away.

"You alright there?"

I looked up. The boy with the light yellow hair and funny voice held his hand out to me. I took it and he pulled me up.

"That Chris isn't very nice." He said.

"He laughs at me because I like to read with my mommy." I said.

"I like it when my mum reads to me, too. Is your name Leonard?"

"Leo." I corrected.

"Well, Leo; I'm proud to inform you that we are now best friends. Come on, then. We must be off if we are to climb this structure."

I nodded and followed Kevin to the structure. Chris didn't even make fun of us because he was in time out for pushing me. Mrs. Martin waved at me before I turned to face the big red structure.

When Mrs. Martin told us to line up outside and wait for our parents, daddy came and took my backpack from me. I followed him to his red truck, wondering why he was getting me and not mommy in her blue car.

I was gonna ask daddy but he looked sad. His eyes were red and puffy, like he was crying.

When we got home I went to the kitchen. I looked around for mommy. Daddy walked in and picked me up. He sat me on my chair. He sat in mommy's.

"Leonard," He said, his voice scratchy. "I need you to listen to me."

I nodded, feeling like I was in trouble. I only got called Leonard when I was in trouble.

"Mommy got hurt." His voice caught and his blue eyes started crying. "She got hurt really bad and she can't come home."

"Is she in the hopspital?" I asked, keeping my voice quiet. I didn't want daddy to yell at me.

"She was, but now she's not." Daddy looked out the window. I looked, too. Was mommy outside?

"Is mommy coming home now?" I asked.

"No." Daddy shook his head. His hair that looked like mine was messy. It was never messy. Daddy always had it nice and flat.

"But if she isn't at the hopspital and she isn't coming here, where is she?" I was getting scared.

"She's going somewhere special." Daddy ran his fingers through his hair, making it more messy. "It's all your fault."

"What?" I felt like crying. Where was mommy? Why was it all my fault?

Daddy stood suddenly, his blue eyes angry and watery.

"It's all your fault!" He screamed at me. I covered my ears and closed my eyes. I didn't like it when he yelled and this yelling was different than usual.

"She left to go get you fucking ice cream and she got hurt! You don't deserve anything after what you did to her!"

I tumbled out of my chair, backing up into the blue counter. I didn't do anything wrong! My eyes began to water. My throat tightened and I couldn't talk. I couldn't tell daddy I didn't hurt mommy. Daddy came closer to me, his fists clenched.

"Daddy." I choked out. "Stop it."

"No! You killed her! How does that make you feel? You killed your mother and she's never coming back!"

I just shook my head. I didn't know what killed meant.

"You're a bad boy, Leonard." Daddy spat at me. "Very bad."

Daddy then opened a drawer and took out the knife he uses to cut steak with. I froze on the spot. He took me by my hair and dragged me into the red living room. Daddy liked red.

Daddy hurt me. He hurt me really bad. I cried and begged for him to stop but he kept sticking the knife into my skin. Red came out and turned the cream colored sofa dark red. I screamed when he stuck the knife in my tummy. A lot of blood came out of there. It hurt a lot. More than when I burnt my fingers on the stove fire or even when I scratched my knee on the blacktop from falling outside. It felt like daddy was ripping my skin off. I screamed and screamed but no one came to help me.

Daddy hit me for crying.

Daddy hit me for trying to run away.

Daddy finally stopped hurting me, but that was after he drank all the clearish-yellow stuff from the glass bottle and went to sleep.

I heard a car noise from outside. I couldn't get up to open the door, but the person came in anyways. I hoped it was mommy.

It wasn't mommy- it was Aunty Carol. I thought she was going to yell at me for making such a big mess and being a baby but she just cried, too. She called the hopspital and they came to my house in a square white truck with blinking red and blue lights on the top. It made an awfully loud noise, too. I didn't want to go inside.

I got lifted onto a stretcher, Aunty Carol called it, and I was taken to the truck. I didn't stop them- I was too tired. I closed my eyes even though the man in the uniform told me not to and I went to sleep. The last thing I heard was Aunty Carol telling me to stay awake, but I didn't listen. I hope she didn't hurt me later because I didn't listen.