I met Tam when she was twelve. She had a round face with short brown hair and large soft lips. Her hazel eyes were a kaleidoscope of color and meaning.
She had a woman’s body, healthy and strong, that her stepfather liked too much. When he wouldn’t stop bothering her, and her Mom wouldn’t do anything about it, Tam checked herself out of her Mom’s house and into the Elmwood Girls Home, a place we called the EGH.
Darreliya threw a test on her right up front – she took Tam’s fancy hairbrush. Darreliya was fourteen, six foot tall, had muscles like a professional wrestler, and could beat up every one of us girls … and most of the teachers … even some of the men teachers.
We were surprised when the hairbrush found its way back to the top of Tam’s dresser, and Darreliya found her way to the infirmary with a big knot on her head. Rumor had it Tam took a baseball bat to Darreliya, but neither one would talk about it. Either way, everyone knew from that point on there was a place where you didn’t go, a line you did not cross, with Tam.
There were six bedrooms in the EGH, five were over crowded, paint-peeling-cracked-plaster little cubicles with two bunk beds each, and one was the size of a broom closet. I was the lucky one in the broom closet. Since I had seniority, I gave Tam the top bunk.
We didn’t say much to each other for a few weeks, studying each other’s moves, and then we started to talk after lights out. It began with a few questions and then grew into an all night heart-to-heart ending with the sun coming up. Tam was easy to talk to, a real good listener, in fact, the best listener I ever met.
We became best friends and then we became more than that – we became family. We loved each other and it felt good to feel that way about someone else. The four years we roomed together seemed like a day – until that day ended when I returned to our room and Tam was packing a valise.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“What does it look like, Em?”
“Come on! What’s happening, Tam? Talk to me!”
Tam stopped packing, and whispered, “I’m pregnant.”
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© Copyright 2012 by Zalman Velvel Inc.
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