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"who's that kid?" i ask, pointing at the boy whose hair cannot decide if it is red or gold. he holds a basketball in his small hands, bouncing it, once, twice, before putting it through the hoop in a perfect arc.

"james," the counselor responds, and leans closer. "he's a foster kid, you know."

i don't know.

the boy turns at that moment and catches me watching him. unthinkingly i form my thumbs and index fingers into a heart and flash it at him. he nods to his teammates and leaves the court, climbing the bleachers to where i sit.

"did you see my shot?" he asks.

"yes." pause. "i'm kelsey."

"i know," he says, and runs back to his game.

at the end of the camp day i wave to the buses as they leave the parking lot. the final bus clicks and pops to life, and from the last seat i see james cup his hands into a heart and press it against the window at me. i fumble to free my hands and return the gesture, but the bus turns the corner and he is gone.


it doesn't take long for me to vow that if i had the time and the money i would adopt this boy and raise him as my own. unfortunately i have no time and no money.
for now, his hugs will have to be enough.


the pieces of james that make him lovable:

the way he doggedly keeps shooting for the hoop even though the ball sometimes misses the net. the way he unabashedly serenades me with justin bieber. the way he is always the first to help others.

the pieces of james that break my heart:

the way he searches for me first thing every morning. the look on his face when he's thinking about something serious. the way he'll play with the other children but gravitates towards the adults, cracking jokes and trying his hardest to show them that he is worthy of love.


i show james the friendship bracelet i spent all night on and he willingly offers me his right wrist.

"i'll tie it loose," i say. "in case you don't like it."

"okay," he says noncommittally, combing the fringe with his fingers. the next morning he hands me a note:

Do You Rember that Answer that I gave you about loosning the bracelet up and I said "okay" That is the wrong answer the answer is I will never take it off : )

weeks pass and the bracelet remains on his arm, its edges frayed and worn. sometimes when he is upset he grabs it tightly, a cheap talisman that i can only hope will bring him luck.


for every moment of his bald-faced enthusiasm there is a moment of somber silence.

i notice james staring into the woods and call his name to shake him from his wondering. he turns, frozen in place, and only the slightest quiver in the corner of the mouth shows that something is wrong. the helplessness hits me in a rush--i don't know what it is that bothers him, only that i want it to stop. i hug him fiercely and smooth his hair and think of the stories i would tell him if i had the time, stories about witches and dragons and basketball players. stories with happy endings.

maybe i'd tell him a story about a tree. i'd tell him how the tree grew tall and strong in a forest until one day there was a terrible storm. because the tree was rooted so deep in the ground, the only thing it could do was pray it wouldn't be split apart by lightning.

i don't know how the story would end. maybe james could tell me.


"i love you," he tells me, and absentmindedly presses his hand to my face.

"i love you too," i tell him, not because it's what he wants to hear, but because it's true.

james has a grin that could power a city. see, he doesn't know how long his happiness will last, but he smiles like it doesn't matter.


fridays always hum with pent up tension. it's the end of the camp week and the children are in chaos, hurrying to get to their buses and their mcdonalds and their air conditioning. it's been a horrible day and my head is pounding when james tentatively approaches.

"can i have another hug?" he asks. "because i'll probably never see you again."

"james!" i sputter, aghast, and his face crumples into an uncertain grin. i am frustrated and tired and not in the mood for jokes. "don't say things like that, i saw the registration. we'll both be back monday. there will be plenty of time for hugs the next time i see you."

he hesitates. "but--well, okay. promise?"

"cross my heart, hope to die."


it's monday. i am waiting for him and i am sorry. i am so, so sorry.
does he know it?

i wish i'd turned the world off for just one moment and let him hug me tight. i wish i'd stopped being selfish and pressed my face into the soft redgold of his hair. i wish his foster family hadn't had to move to florida and give him up, abruptly cutting him from my life and letting him disappear into a new family without a trace. i wish i could just know if he's okay, if he still has his bracelet, if he knows everyone misses him.

james: i am staring at your empty bus seat and waiting for your hug and i will never stop waiting. i promised.
my heart has been crossed.
you crossed it.
a story i hope i someday get to tell someone whose name is not james.
Add a Comment:
Truth-Never-Lies Featured By Owner May 1, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
i love it! oh, i'm crying so badly now, and it won't stop!!! Pikachu Crying Plz Cry emote
Randomization1998 Featured By Owner Sep 20, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
oh my goodness the feels!!!! :iconsadhugplz:
Sebonsall Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2013
I'm bawling my eyes out. Thank you I guess for really touching my heart even thought you have no idea who I am. Thanks.
wagiina Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2012
love will find a way.
do-they-collide Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
this is just so heartbreaking and sad and beautiful. i'm about to cry.
KtheCard Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2012  Student Writer
oh god this made me sob. I had an experience very similar to this and you made me remember it freshly so thank you. this is the heart at its best
CindyJade Featured By Owner May 27, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I've come back to this story a few times, and it still pulls at my heartstrings. :+favlove:
It's so beautiful and bittersweet. Wherever he is, I'm sure he is thinking of you.
I truly hope you two l find your way back to each other. :heart:
AsTheDarknessFalls Featured By Owner May 4, 2012
This made me cry <3 It was beautiful in every possible way.
estallidos Featured By Owner May 4, 2012  Professional Writer
i'm glad you liked it <3
LetMeBelieve Featured By Owner Apr 9, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
oh wow... thats really powerfull
i'm almost crying here. :")
estallidos Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2012  Professional Writer
Lost-in-Underland Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2012  Student General Artist
amazing it actually made me cry
estallidos Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2012  Professional Writer
i'm so glad you liked it :)
Lost-in-Underland Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2012  Student General Artist
it was beautiful
BlackPaperMoonSE Featured By Owner Mar 15, 2012  Student Writer
You have been featured heeere~ [link] :heart:
MirroredSadness Featured By Owner Feb 27, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
This is such a beautiful story. Heart wrenching. You have amazing skill as a writer and I hope everything turns out for you.
dull-glitter Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2012  Student Writer
Oh. Wow.

Reminds me a lot of my little brother. Now I just want to hug someone!
estallidos Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2012  Professional Writer
i've tried hugging myself but it never feels right.
dull-glitter Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2012  Student Writer
Aww. Internet hugs forever! :huggle:

For the record, I greatly admire your ability to love someone that much. ^^ And even if you can't find each other now, there is no doubt that you made an impact in his life, wherever he is.

Was it at a camp that this took place?
estallidos Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2012  Professional Writer
yay for virtual cuddles :)

it was indeed at a camp.
Petite-Soleil Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2012
boohoo your stories make me want to cry! but in a good way!waaaaaah!
estallidos Featured By Owner Feb 5, 2012  Professional Writer
i really am so very glad that you like them! thank you for the favorites <333
psychicwallofenergy Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2012
wow. my heart just got broken. wow.
estallidos Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2012  Professional Writer
i'm glad it could move you <3
looking-glass-pear Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2012
There DOES have to be some form of notification. Apparently 'social workers' are the ones notified. Er. Don't know who 'social workers' are. Apparently a lot of children are 'lost' or poorly tracked because there aren't enough of them...but there's still a chance. Is there a state social service where you are? Maybe his previous foster parents know where he went next.

Gosh look at me. Being all bossy and telling you to do this, do that. Sorry. I'm just so furious! There must be a way. If there is no way then I'm going to lose all my faith in governments and politics, and I'm going to shave myself bald and become a nun on wutaishan.
estallidos Featured By Owner Jan 28, 2012  Professional Writer
i fully support the bald thing, just for the record! i wish i could pull it off.

after i wrote this i got in contact with his foster sister, who promised to send me his new address...and then never did. i think you are correct in the belief that there may be other legal ways, but i have since moved, which makes it that much harder.

looking-glass-pear Featured By Owner Jan 27, 2012
:cries: *tears out hair* *rolls on the ground* *gnashes teeth*

I hope you find him! Maybe you could ask the...police or something? Doesn't the government keep records of this stuff? I thought they had to. They can't just let foster children go from family to family without notice, can they? Or else they'd have one hundred and one 'missing people' every weekend! I don't know, look the system up online maybe? In America you have people in charge of your 'area' right? Maybe that person would know. oooo. I wish I could help.

I'm sure you'll meet again. "Always the way"<<< that's what my Nana would say.
Leuthy29 Featured By Owner Dec 11, 2011
But, but, but, no! Is there no way?
zukis-got-roxas Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2011  Student Writer
i friking love you. youve inspired me so much and this actually made me cry so hard i almost threw up (gross buti havent cried like that since i was REALLY little) your amazing
elakziell Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2011  Professional Writer
Wow. Amazing. Reading this makes me feel emotions I haven't felt in such a long time. This is what writing is supposed to do. Thank you.
Kininmarii Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2011  Student Traditional Artist
Made me sad..but I love it 8C <|3
SimoneTutti Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2011  Hobbyist Artist
You ALWAYS make me cry! I love your writing anyway's so beautifully melancholy.
KearaClearwater Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Omg that tore a hole in my heart...

I want to send him a hug. :heart:
deadxbirds Featured By Owner Sep 1, 2011
please let us know how things turn out?

it is the smallest things we do that can lead to so much regret.
i'm sure he knows you love him.
moonlitwarrior95 Featured By Owner Aug 30, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Oh my goodness I almost broke into tears. (I'm definitely crying on the inside.) This is so sad! :(
Perither Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
blueviolets Featured By Owner Aug 26, 2011
i cried a little. <3
Scarlatti Featured By Owner Aug 24, 2011  Professional Writer
BlueSteelEyes Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2011  Student General Artist
</3 I worked at a summer camp for children from broken and abused homes this summer, and this story brings me right back.
It pains me so much to see what strife and heartbreak these kids face.
They shouldn't ever have to face this.
Frederik21st Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2011
"see, he doesn't know how long his happiness will last, but he smiles like it doesn't matter."
And everything else. You. are. so good. (: Even with Just.Bieb. mentioned, no offence.
chocolatelove-x Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2011
jobbey Featured By Owner Aug 17, 2011  Student Writer
i loved this piece. you inspire me with every sentence. :)
rocketshipsandradios Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2011  Student General Artist
Ugh, you write so beautifully. I can always find something to relate to in each of your pieces. <3
kittykatz55 Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2011  Student Photographer
I cried. I wish I could meet James. I'm sure he still thinks of you, always.
gracelette Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2011
Scarlet-Obsession Featured By Owner Aug 14, 2011  Professional Photographer
This is one of my favorite pieces, so very intense. Brought tears to my eyes. I hope you come out with a new piece soon!
ForeverNever22 Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Beautiful and heartbreaking, I'm crying right now.
Jazzmin15 Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2011
This is beautiful and inspiring. Thank you for sharing this. :)
9631-meaningless Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2011
this almost brought me to tears :heart:
i hope your james reads this one day :heart:
made me cry.
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