“I am hurting. Fractured in places stitches can’t heal.” Autumn’s Child tells the desperate story of Layla, as a young and naive twelve year-old girl. Over ten critical years, her life quickly changes like the colors of the trees in autumn. The accidental death of her parents forces her to abandon her religious, middle-class lifestyle. She moves to the inner city of Chicago with her grandmother and aunt, her only living relatives. Layla tries to approach her new life with optimism, but the perfections of her past life haunt her tormented journey. After coming to grips with the reality over the years that her only aunt despises her, Layla soon discovers that she may secretly hold the keys to helping her aunt’s diminishing health in her hands. Layla’s faith and sanity are continuously tested as she matures throughout each season of her life. She stumbles through her newfound reality while learning how to play the distinct set of cards she’s been dealt. Layla’s neighbor and best friend, Shay, helps guide her from adolescence into adulthood. Autumn’s Child chronicles a life on the opposite side of the coin; where friendships grow out of tragedy, and the pressure of a marginalized life weighs heavily on pure souls. Layla must make many compromising decisions, all while perpetually asking the reader, What would you do?
She came to me under a streetlight, with her right eye purple and a staggered step and said, “I wish it didn’t have to be this way.” I was relieved that Sadie could still talk and walk to the degree she did. Shay was a beast: I had seen her in action. When she struck, you saw your life flash in front of your eyes like blacked out memories.
Sadie carried a lavender caboodle that held all of her prized possessions, her makeup. The contents she would cling to, to make her beautiful again. She formed her mouth to speak but only tears and a throbbing gasp of air escaped. The streetlight above buzzed, flickered, and died, like everything else in the inner city. In the darkness, I ran away from her and her smeared makeup, busted lip, rainbow colored jaw and eye and only looked back once to see her still standing there under the silent light. Sadie was alone in the streets. She did not chase me but I continued to run. I wanted to curse her but my mouth couldn’t move even in the distance. I ran through the alley, down a side street, up the stairs and into my apartment. I locked the door, pushed the couch in front of it with the remnants of what remaining strength I had, and clasped onto it. My mind was spinning. I wanted to feel whole again.
With my eyes closed I heard Shay’s voice, dark and confirming and my heart dangled on the ledge of things falling apart. Shay asked me was I okay and I asked her why did she have to do it? I knew she had been waiting for that day, probably pacing her room counting down the seconds until she saw the red flag to pound on Sadie. I opened my eyes to see her soaking her hand in a bowl of ice as if she had done this before. I believe in reincarnation solely from following her around for the last eight years. She always knew what to do. They say that cats have nine lives and I believed that mankind does as well. With Shay’s experience she was probably on her last round. She had to have been here, to have lived this life more than once.
I summoned the courage to speak again and turned towards Shay, heartbroken. She frightened me when she was mad. She needed an owner to tame her sometimes like a pit bull needs a mussel. Her little baby dreadlocks stood up as fist ready to fight again and I lowered my head and said, “We should go somewhere safe. What if she tells her brother and they come back? He’s going to find out.”
Her sole reply was, “I can’t wait.” She paused to shuffle the ice around her hand.
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