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Every morning I wake up to two things. The smell of sausages and my mom’s voice. Sometimes if I’m lucky, I wake up to the smell of bacon and eggs. Bacon and eggs make me happy not just because they taste good. It means mom got paid last night so she can afford bacon and eggs. At exactly 5:37 a.m, my mom wakes me up by a yell. “Tamia! Wake up!” My mom isn't the most gentle person to me or my little sister, Ainsley. I’ve learned to live with it because I’m 14. Ainsley on the other hand, is only 7 so she's not completely used to it. I get up and walk about 20 feet to the kitchen. We live in a small apartment in the middle of Philadelphia. Not the nice part of Philly, the part where most people worry about getting the bills paid and walk down the street in fear. That’s why we can only have bacon after mom gets paid. I sit at the small table and start to eat. Ainsley comes in and takes a sausage. “Yesterday at school, Tessa was eating chicken nuggets with real chicken in the lunchroom. She even had ketchup. I want to try some.” Mom looks Ainsley right in the eyes. “You know we can’t Ainsley! Never talk about trying foods you know we can't afford!” I was surprised at the outburst this early in the morning. Usually it starts after school if mom got a call from the principal or report cards came out. I run away from the table and go to my room to get dressed. I find a shirt that doesn't smell awful and put it on. My clothes have never been washed because we don't own a washing machine. I have five shirts and five pairs of pants. I find a pair of black pants to wear that doesn't smell awful. I grab my backpack and start on the scary walk to school. I go Strawberry Mansion High School. My school has been on the news lately but I wouldn't know, I don't have a television. On my walk I always the same shady man. He’s tall and he wears a black hat. Sometimes in the winter he wears a ski mask which makes me more scared than I already am. When I arrive at school I have to go through security. The person in front of me in line is a senior that everybody knows and not for a good reason. The police man finds a swiss army knife is his pocket and takes it away. Then I get checked. As usual they don't find anything. I walk to homeroom fast and just look forward. When I get there, I sign in and put my backpack in locker #237. Each day at Strawberry Mansion is blurry. Fights, teachers yelling and chaos. After school I go to work. I need to help my mom because my dad died three years ago after an overdose of heroin. I work at the local grocery store as a bagger. I get $9 an hour and I work 40 hours a week. I have cuts all over my hands from paper bags. When I ask if people want paper or plastic, I pray for plastic. When people say plastic I get a hint a relief. When I hear paper, I prepare myself for blood. Sometimes after work when I get paid, I buy some food. Nothing much, usually some small potatoes and plain crackers. I see the chicken nuggets Ainsley was talking about. 100% real chicken. They cost $4.78 which is too expensive. Most of the money I make goes to pay the bills. I get out of work at 5:00 and walk home. I don't like the walk especially when it’s dark. It’s about 2 miles home and I run for most of it. I takes me an hour to get home and when I walk in the door I see mom and Ainsley starting the prayer. We always pray before dinner to lift our spirits. Mom hands me a plate with 1 small potato and something that smells like ketchup. It takes me 5 minutes to eat and then I put my plate in the sink. I go to my room to do my homework. It’s not much but it takes me an hour to do. I get in bed with my clothes on because I don't have pajamas. I start to doze off to sleep. In what feels like two minutes I hear my mom’s voice. “I guess it’s already 5:37.” I say quietly. I walk into the kitch to get my sausage. I look at the small analog clock on the wall. “Um, mom.” “Yes, Tamia.” Why does the clock say 7:15?” I ask. “I pulled you and Ainsley out of school.” My jaw drops in shock. “Why would you do that mom?” “I need you guys to take care of me.” She answers. “Why? Parents are supposed to take care of kids.” I see a tear roll down her cheek. “Mom, are you ok?” Now she is full on crying. I can barely hear her talk but I can hear just enough. “No.” She says. I don't know why she isn't ok but I start crying too. I hug my mom hoping she will be ok. This is the most she has ever been. Soon Ainsley comes in. “Why are you guys crying?” She asks. I somehow get a few words out of my mouth. “Mom isnt ok.” I dont Ainsley understands what I mean because she just stands there with a straight face. Ainsley starts to eat while mom and I calm down. We sit at the table with Ainsley as she finishes her sausage. Mom takes a deep a breath and flat out says “I have stage two brain cancer.” My mom starts to cry again. Ainsley and I look at each other like my mom is crazy. Ainsley starts crying so I do too. “How do know you have cancer?” “I took an online quiz at the public library.” Ainsley and I stop crying. “What! Why would you trust that?!” “The internet doesn't lie.” I think my mom has gone crazy. “Mom, do have cancer symptoms?” “I’m not sure. The quiz asked questions about emotion.” “Cancer has nothing to do with emotions.” My mom is definitely insane and I don’t know what to do about it.


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