Deceit in Bloom

By: Jennifer Michael

To those who have stood by my side through all the ups and downs and have helped carry the load along the way.

I’ve been deceived. Bits and pieces of the life I once knew lie crumbled and torn at my feet. I believed I was untouchable. I was untouchable. Until I wasn’t.

A girl.

The destruction—my undoing.

Lust. Lies. Loss.

The crumbling of a family. A betrayal marked by blood.

The good and the bad run together, twisting into so many knots I have no clue what is what anymore. The lies are deeply rooted and more complicated than I could ever untwine. The reality is I’ve been played for a fool and never saw it coming.

My body is running on adrenaline, fueled by anger. I’m thriving on the madness inside me. The fear radiating off her is electric. Her eyes stare back into mine. Eyes that are glazed over and unreadable to me. My stupidity taunts me as I stare down the barrel of my gun. Every wrong move and misstep screams inside my head, tormenting me like a nightmare I can’t escape. My mental commentary is self-loathing one minute and geared to take down the world the next. Months have led up to this moment. Months of lies, games, and errors on my part. My finger rests on the trigger with certainty and hesitation, both at once. Time stands still. I search for any sign of the answers I want from her, but her face gives nothing away. Our time together plays in my head on a loop. The naïve side of me sees truth and sincerity, while the skeptical side sees deception and lies.

Inside that house are my answers. Only about one hundred feet away are dozens more dots to connect. Through that door is what I came for.


My eight-year-old nose crinkles at the sharp tang of mothballs clinging to the lady who is dragging me away from the last place I called home. She tugs on my hand harder and pulls me along faster than my little legs can move. That last home wasn’t bad, but the couple I was with couldn’t keep me anymore. Too many kids. Existence as a foster child leaves you feeling like a number. One of many . . . in a house, on the state’s plate, to the world. The term “abandonment issues” isn’t anywhere near an accurate description for the scars the lifestyle leaves behind.

The couple I had been with before them was bad. The lady used to make me sit in the back seat of her car while she put needles in her arm. I hated needles at the doctor, so I never understood why she did it. She must have been very sick. The car was always too hot, and she’d fall asleep for hours after she took her medicine. One day, she put the needle in her arm, and I couldn’t get her to wake up. The sun went down and then came back up. I shook her, but she just kept sleeping. A man in a uniform came and took me away. I never saw her again. I didn’t miss her. She never let me play with the kids on our street.

Mothball lady doesn’t stick around long. She brings me inside, takes a look around, and is out the door with barely a few words spoken between her and the man she leaves me with. She never even said good-bye.

I don’t like this new man she left me with. He doesn’t look nice. He didn’t even ask me if I was hungry. I haven’t had anything to eat. He just pushed me into a small room to meet my new sister. His words, not mine. The kids at these houses aren’t my brothers or sisters. I barely stay anywhere long enough to remember their names.

With the door closed, I’m left alone with my new friend. She’s tiny with dirt smeared on her face. She doesn’t say hi or ask me to play with her. She stares at me until I have the urge to cry. I’m scared of my new home, and it doesn’t seem like this little girl wants me here. She moves around the room and grabs something from behind a dresser. It’s a doll in a pink dress.

“Hi. My name is Paisley.”

The little girl looks at me and smiles. Maybe she will be my friend.

“My name is Braelyn. You can share my room, but don’t touch my dolly and don’t tell Joe about her. We’re not supposed to have toys, but I found her.”


No toys? That doesn’t seem fair.


“Why doesn’t your dolly have a head?”


“I didn’t like her face. So, I took off her head. She’s prettier without it.”

Each bang on the wall pulls me farther away from memory lane. My thoughts drift from the day Braelyn and I met to our current reality as her headboard crashes against the wall. Braelyn moans obscenely loudly in our room, like a porn star. I guess for her it is a performance, similar to those shown in skin flicks. She’s been whoring herself out for money and material things since she was about fifteen. We’re so different, but she’s all I have, and honestly, I’m not even entirely sure how she really feels about me. I’ve never been sure.