"There’s a hearing," he went on, "tomorrow in a courtroom downtown. We’ll all be there with you to figure out what to do."
For the first time I felt a little better inside. I thought the good ones had gotten together to help me after all. I didn’t have a clue what I was walking into.
It had been two months since the crash. I woke up early and drove downtown. I was thinking as I drove there about how the day would be. I wondered who would be there.
When I walked through the door to the courtroom I thought I was in the wrong room. There was a judge on the bench talking to three or four people. Two guards by the door, no one else was there.
I was just about to leave when one of the men talking to the judge called my name. As I walked down front I began a journey that lasted for about three years
You see, the day I walked into the courtroom I was set up and hung out to dry. I wasn’t there for a hearing like I was told. 1 was there to be turned in as a ward of the court.
The court records showed my grandparents weren’t mentally capable to take care of me, and out of all the friends and family we had, not one of them came that day.
They took me into custody. They wouldn’t let me leave. “How can you keep me here?” I asked. I admit I was righting hard not to cry. “What have I done for you to lock me op?”
“Calm down,” The judge told me as the guards started walking my way. “There’s no one willing to take care of you right now. This is all we can do.”
I looked around at the empty room as a guard led me away. It was then when the dark cold reality sank in. No one was coming to save me. My family was truly dead.
All hope was washed away as they led me through the hall. Going into that room a few minutes ago, people looked at me and smiled. Coming out with the guard holding my arm, the same people now turned away.
In those few minutes they had taken away who I had been my whole life. They made me put on their clothes and their tennis shoes then took me to the ward.
The ward was a long cold room, cracked tile upon the floor. The walls were all concrete. The windows had bars instead of curtains. About sixty beds went down the sides. When the guard took me in and told me to find a bed, there were only two empty ones there.
As I sat down on my bed I was trying to figure out what had happened. In my head I wanted to scream out loud for someone to save me, to wake me from this terrible dream. I had never known kids like the ones around me. I didn’t know such lives could be.
I thought somehow those terrible things just happened on TV. I thought a lot about God that night and the great eternity. I still couldn’t figure out why he would do these things to me.
Oh, he was there with me that night, I knew that, but I was too full of my own despair to talk to him or even act like he was there. “What could he do to me,” I thought, “worse than he had already done.”
All the kids around me had different stories, although basically all of them were the same. Every kid there was there Because when they had to stand before the judge no one came.
Over the next three days I saw their Psychiatrist. Every day he probed inside my brain. Then one morning when they called me, instead of seeing doctors they took me back to see the judge again.
At first he was stern and quick. He told me alt my tests acre good. The only thing wrong with me was my age. The orphanage didn’t have room to take rne. I was going to end up in the ward until I turned eighteen.
Then, as a slow smile came over his face, he explained to me about a minor’s release. Now I have to stop and say, in my first book, One Wave at a Time, I didn’t talk about what happened next at all. I did say the last thing on the list to get the minor’s release was a GED, and that’s completely true. It was the first thing on the list I didn’t tell you.
You see, the first thing on his list was the fastest and surest way to get a minors’ release at that time. “If you get married,” he said, “I can let you go.” He released me that day to the custody of a lawyer who was in the Big Brothers program.
The next three years of my life was confusing to say the least. For those years of my life there’s not much I want to say. The girl I married was rooted deep in middle class reality, people who work hard for what they have.
She was mature for her years. I was a rich kid with no money, completely new to the realities of life, and immature. She never loved me, she told me so, and in less than a year she found she didn’t even like me.
The other part of my brain was agreeing saying, “Stop, go back right now! You know you’re afraid to do this! Run back while you can!”
Billy Bryan Brown