The sunlight filters through the threadbare white curtains, casting a cheery glow on the bright yellow walls and a sleeping boy.
Caleb Michael Richardson, nine years old, 4 feet tall, 56 pounds.
He stirs, blinking into the light and raising one hand to rub at his face. His black hair is buzzed short, but still flattened on the side he was sleeping, and as he gingerly sits, careful not to rattle the cuff locking him to the bed, his ear unsticks from his head, popping out just as far as the other one.
It's 9:06 according to the digital clock next to his bed. He's missed the bus again and he knows his teacher will be upset with him. But there's nothing he can do. He rubs at his face again, tearing away the scraps of sleep and tries to make his hair all stick up or lay down. It doesn't cooperate with just his one hand and no water.
He licks his dry lips with a dry tongue. Now that he's thought about it, he's thirsty. And he needs to pee. But he has to hold it. Daddy gets angry when he pees the bed, even though there are special sheets to easily clean it up. Daddy will be awake soon, he's sure of it, and then he'll pee and get a glass of water. Then he can get dressed and maybe Daddy will take him to school, or maybe he'll walk. It's not far and he knows Daddy is busy. Daddy is busy a lot.
Standing, he crosses his legs to keep from peeing himself and looks up at his bedroom door. It's closed, so he can't tell if Daddy is awake yet. Normally Daddy opens the door when he wakes up, but sometimes he doesn't if he has a headache and doesn't want Caleb being noisy. So Caleb makes sure the cuff doesn't jingle when he moves and even though he has to pee really badly, he just slides down to sit beside his bed where he has a pile of books stashed for mornings like this. He hopes one of them will take his mind off peeing.
Soon he can barely turn a page without thinking about how bad it hurts. After carefully returning his books to their spot, he gingerly puts his hand on the cuff and pulls his other arm, trying to slip it through. Sometimes it works and he can go to the toilet and pee. As long as he isn't noisy, Daddy doesn't get mad. So he tugs and tugs and although it scratches and tears away some skin, his hand is free.
He doesn't take time to rejoice, he's already scurrying to the toilet to relieve himself. And then he gets out band-aids to put on his hand and quietly--silently, almost--he goes back into his room to get dressed for school.