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Aman awoke and quickly jumped into a pair of pants and a t-shirt that had been sitting on the top of the laundry. A quick sniff check let him know they were passable. Hopefully. Heather had the nose of a hound and would make him change if she thought he was even the least bit smelly. It would be okay though. He didn’t have time to change so this would have to be it. On his way out his bedroom door he grabbed his backpack, filled to the brim with school supplies in anticipation for his first day of 4th grade. His heart swelled with pride. 4th grade was a big deal. Especially because he had completely skipped the 3rd. After last year’s standardized testing the principal said he was really smart and would be better challenged if he skipped a grade.

This meant that he was one of the big kids now and couldn’t afford to be late. As his feet hit the top of the stairs, he heard Heather calling him from the kitchen, “Aman! Let’s go!”.

The sound of her voice was followed by the smell of bacon and eggs, his stomach grumbled as he sped his way down the stairs giving a breathless response, “I’m coming!”. It felt like it only took 2 huge steps for him to get from the bottom of the stairs to the kitchen. “Bacon!” he screeched, grabbing a small piece that was hanging off of a grease covered paper towel. Quickly he stuffed it in his mouth as Heather’s hand swatted him away, laughing lightly.

“You ready for today?” she asked, her hands deep in sudsy water. Dishes clinked in the sink as she washed them one by one.

“Yeah! I was born ready for this mom,” he answered stuffing his face full of delicious and incredibly fluffy eggs. He loved mama’s cooking, in fact he had never had anything better.

Heather, laughed as her hands worked in the sudsy water in front of her, “You remember what Daddy and I told you right?” her hands dipped down release the drain as she washed the last fork. A gurgling sound filled the air that made Aman giggle.

Of course he remembered, “Ah huh. Stay on the sidewalk. Follow the way we practiced. Go straight there and after school come straight back–” another piece of bacon he shoved in his mouth and devoured quickly.

Drying her hands on the green wash rag next to her, she made her way to his place at the table, placing her palm on the top of his head, and looking down at him with loving eyes, “And no talking to strangers Aman. None,” her face grew stern, and she stroked his chin.

“I know mom!” he replied cheerfully, scarfing down the remainder of the food in his mouth before quickly standing.

Heather crouched to his level, straightening out his shirt and smoothing the top of his hair, “I’m serious Aman, I know your friendly and want talk to everyone but you need to be safe okay??”

Aman nodded enthusiastically, “No strangers! Not even if they have a puppy…or…ice cream…or a cool truck!”

“Exactly,” she booped his nose playfully, “You have the phone daddy gave you?”

Digging deep in his pocket he fished out a small grey prepaid phone, it was heavy and could probably survive a nuclear fallout or the apocalypse. The only thing it could really do was make phone calls and play the game snake. Dimitri said that was all he needed and Aman was okay with that. Having a phone at all made him cool.

“Yes!” he put it back in his pocket and let Heather continue to smooth his clothing or at least tried to. The excitement coursing through is body was almost to much to bear, so he fidgeted as she continued to nitpick.

“Alright, call me when you get to school okay?” She hugged him again, it was long and tight.

Aman wanted to wriggle his way out of it but couldn’t so he complained instead, “I will! I Promise! Can I go now Mom? I’m gonna be late.”

Heather smiled and hugged squeezed harder, “Yeah. Go. I love you lil man okay? Always remember that,” she caressed his cheek and gave him another hug that seemed to be bordering on being another long one.

“I love you too mom!” he quipped, finally wriggling out of her grasp and bolting towards the door. “Bye Mommy! Bye Magnus,” he waved as he walked out the door.

Heather followed, pausing on the porch as she watched him skip down the steps.

Aman looked back and waved. “Call me when you get there!” Heather yelled as the distance between them increased.

Aman waved giving a final “Okay mama!” as he skipped down the street. They had walked this way probably a hundred times. At least that’s how many times that he had counted. 5,000 steps, and 16.8 minutes away from his house on 19 Walnut was his new school Germaine Florence Primary & Middle. He didn’t know much about it other than he knew it was a good school. Better than the one he want to before. Or that’s what the adults told him.

Taking a deep breath he focused on the path before him, counting with each step.

—Fifty-two, fifty-three, fifty-four. Still a ton of steps left, but he wasn’t worried he would be there in no time. The breeze wafted past him indicating the first day of autumn. Foxgrove was beautiful, a little suburban city a few miles outside of downtown Del Sol Valley.

The leaves were starting to turn into brilliant oranges, yellows and reds. Aman wished that he could see some purple leaves, because purple was his favorite color. He read in a biology book once that there was a plant with purple leaves that grew in a place called Selvadorada. He hoped to visit that place one day. But for now he was content with living in Foxgrove. It was nice here. He barely remembered moving from their apartment in Del Sol. He was still a little kid then.

He did remember that the move was sudden. One day they were packing up and he couldn’t really understand why. Only that they would be living somewhere new. That’s what Daddy said anyway. Del Sol wasn’t a good place for a family, too many people, too much crime, the schools weren’t good, plenty of reasons to move to a quiet suburban town. Aman always wondered if they moved because of that lady. It was a lady he had seen when he and Daddy had gone out one day to the park.

A large majority of the memory he had forgotten by now, but he did remember that the lady looked a lot like momma. It was weird that this lady and his momma had the same face. Except she smelled different, and didn’t have cool drawings all over her arms. Her skin was smooth and bare as a Hershey chocolate bar.

Aman had been playing in the tunnels when he saw her. The moment his eye’s found her, his heart grew with excitement, he didn’t know mommy was coming to visit them at the park. But now that she was there he was going to show her how cool the tunnels were. So he ran to her, her eyes growing wider as he closed the distance between them. Aman didn’t know where daddy was. Last he saw Daddy, he was sitting on a bench, looking at something on his telephone.

“Mama!” he exclaimed running up to her on short stubby legs, raising his arms above his head wanting to be picked up. The lady who looked like mommy smiled hesitantly but scooped him up in her arms. It was only at that moment that Aman realized that it wasn’t his mommy, her eyes looked different, her smell was something of strawberries and some other scent that Aman couldn’t identify. It was a pretty smell though. The woman asked him a question and kissed him on the forehead as he saw his father running towards him. A mix of panic and anger plastered on his face.

The next few minutes were a blur that Aman didn’t like to think about. A lot of yelling, being pulled away from the women, the intensity of the situation making him cry and cry. Moments later daddy was carrying him far away from the woman who only stood there while Aman reached for her. Why was daddy taking him away? He wanted to spend time with the lady. He wanted to ask her why she looked like his momma, but he didn’t know big boy words then, he only knew how to cry.

Four thousand nine hundred and ninety-five, four thousand nine hundred and ninety-six, four thousand nine hundred and ninety-seven…he was almost there.

A few more steps and he would have successfully walked himself to school. The large blue walls greeted him as he approached, the sounds of children giggling growing louder. For a moment he felt kind of timid. Even though he had walked with mommy and daddy a million times, it was different approaching the large series of buildings alone.

Other kids were arriving with parents, or being dropped off by car. Watching the other children milling around the playground sitting between him and the front entrance, he remembered that he was supposed to call his mom. He fished the phone out his pocket and slowly recited Heather’s cell phone number outloud, “—Five-Five-Two….Zero-Three-Seven—” the phone beeped loudly with each press of the button. The phone rang loudly as he placed speaker to his ear.

Heather answered immediately. “Aman?” her voice was slightly frantic, but relieved.

“I’m here mommy!” he answered joyfully. “I did it all by myself!”

A soft laugh came from the other end of the line, “You did my boy you did, good job. Now have a good day at school okay? Call Daddy when you’re leaving.”

Aman nodded even though Heather couldn’t see him. “Okay! I love you mommy!” he said loudly, it didn’t matter if the other kids heard or not. Daddy had always told him to tell people you care about I love you anytime and everytime.

“I love you too sweetie,” her voice sounded proud and made his heart swell, “I’ll see you at dinner. Bye baby,” the phone clicked and Aman was met with silence. But the silence didn’t bother him at all, the world around him was buzzing with excitement, and he was more than ready to embark on the adventure of 4th grade.

Today was gonna be a awesome day, he just knew it.

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