Elizabeth faces choice between crime and belonging

By Aniya Hunter, Ta’Vair Bruce and Deonday Carter

I am known as the “white girl” even though I’m actually biracial. People in my school tend to stereotype me without even getting to know me.

I often choose to hang by myself because people don’t understand my life.

You might ask, “Why am I alone?”

I left a piece of me behind when my family moved here from my hometown of Detroit, where there were few opportunities.

Some people in Cleveland could relate to my pain and hardship. They could understand what it means to be stuck in bad situations. I used to live in a neighborhood where everyone’s living conditions were the same. But now I’m the outcast in my new neighborhood.

People look at me differently because I’m the “mixed girl” with a weird sense of style. Long clothes, dark colors, very casual, that’s me.

People don’t understand why I wear the clothes I wear. It’s to hide my true identity from the world which reveals pain, weakness and abandonment.

Everyone in my school only worries about themselves. It’s either you fit in or you don’t. No one cares about the way I feel. I often feel abandoned in the place I call home.

Daddy always says, “Elizabeth, you will never be anything in life. You’re a disgrace.”

But I try so hard to not let the pain interfere with my emotions because I know it’s the alcohol talking.

My dad has been a drunk every day since I was a little girl. He doesn’t know how to convey his emotions. My mama tries so hard, even though I can see that she is cracking. I try to be strong for my mama because I’m all that she got.

You might see me as broken, but I try to see myself as a fighter. Am I fighting to fit in or fighting to be myself? I don’t know!

Recently, this girl named Jessica and her friends came up to me, and they seemed to want to be friends. It was seven girls dressed in their most expensive clothes. They walked and talked as if they were invincible. Behind all the makeup and acting I could see that they were just like me, wanting an out for themselves but stuck.

They started to ask me what I like, what I want to do, or even just what I want! They cared about me, or at least I thought.

After biology class, Jessica told me to meet her by the “pin,” which is a place where people go to cultivate plans that are usually no good.

My sense of belonging drew me to the place. “Rob this store with me, Elizabeth, or you will regret it,” Jessica said.

A challenge.

A million emotions started to rush through my head at once. Does this mean I’m alone again? Abandoned? I started to feel like the only fish in the sea. I try so hard to never let my emotions interfere with my judgment, but now I’m stuck.

What should I do? What should I say?

Decision A

I decided to go with them and rob the store. One of the girls had a gun in her book bag, so I took it and pointed it at the store owner. But an incident occurred, and it went off. I accidentally shot the store owner. Luckily, he survived. The upstairs neighbor called the police and I ran out of the store. I was scared. I didn’t want to go to jail for robbery or murder. I kept running but eventually I was caught by a police officer. I ended up getting 12 years in jail.

Decision B

I didn’t want any trouble to happen. “Stay away from me,” I told the girls. Then all seven of them came at me and started to hit me. I saw a knife. I had a black eye, a broken jaw and a large cut on the left side of my face where I ducked a knife. When I returned home, my mother was like, “Oh, my God. What happened to you?” I just cried. “I got jumped,” I said.

[This story was originally published by Cleveland.com.]