Hidden Girl: The True Story of a Modern-Day Child Slave

Hidden Girl: The True Story of a Modern-Day Child Slave by Shyima Hall

Book: Hidden Girl: The True Story of a Modern-Day Child Slave by Shyima Hall Read Free Book Online
Authors: Shyima Hall
libraries or movie theaters existed.
    This family said the right things, but I was still mistrustful of people I didn’t know, and especially of Muslim men. The men in my life so far had not been good to me, as all of them had been angry, domineering, and belligerent. But I wanted a family. I very much wanted to belong, and when the staff at Orangewood asked if I wanted to give this family a try, I said, “Sure. Let’s go for it.”
    •    •    •
    My first foster family lived about a fifteen-minute drive from Orangewood. It was a nice, calm neighborhood, with lots of retired people. There were several bedrooms and one bath in our home, along with the usual kitchen and living room.
    I was thrilled to find that I had my own room. In it was a set of bunk beds—one stacked on top of the other—a chair, and a closet with no door. It was a small room, but it was mine and I was grateful for it. Next to me was my foster mom and dad’s room, and behind that, another bedroom. To get to that room you either had to walk through the mom and dad’s room or go outside and into the room through the back door. It was an odd layout.
    My new family included a dad, Ahmed, who was originally from the Middle East and a mom, Sarah, who was from here in the United States. I thought of them as another version of The Mom and The Dad. Sarah was an aggressive woman of average height and blond hair who had been raised Christian but had converted to the Muslim faith when she married. Ahmed was tall and thick, and something about him gave me the creeps. I never felt comfortable around him and was never able to establish any kind of a relationship.
    The couple had a son who was in his twenties who was in and out of the home with his own daughter, who was two or three. The second child was in high school, and neither of these siblings practiced their Muslim faith, even though they had been raised in it.
    Ahmed and Sarah also had a young girl, who was two or three. This girl slept in the back bedroom. In addition there was a baby who slept in a crib in her parents’ room.
    This family was nice to me and tried hard, but I never felt that I fit in. I had nothing in common with the other kids, and we weren’t close enough in age to be going through the same life stages together. There was a baby, a toddler, a kid in high school, a young man in his twenties—and me. Even though I knew this was supposed to be a long-term placement, every day when I woke up, I’d think, What’s next for me?
    Instead of going to school, as I had hoped I would be able to do, I was homeschooled. The family did this for religious purposes, and even though I was disappointed about it at the time, it was good for me because I got more personal attention than I would have had in public school. Both Arabic and English were spoken in the home, and I believe Orangewood wanted me placed with this family so I could learn to speak, read, and write English. In that way, I was where I needed to be.
    I was homeschooled along with another Muslim family, and that mom taught us. She was a good teacher, but I was frustrated. Orangewood had given me a start, but I was far behind everyone else. I cried in frustration almost every day as I struggled to learn to say the names of letters, colors, and numbers. Then I had to learn to put meaning behind the words. I might be able to say the word “walk,” for example, but it took much longer for me to differentiate the word from the action.
    Slowly, however, some of it came together. I went from learning letters to understanding how to put the letters together to make words. Remember, I didn’t even know how to do this in my native Arabic language, so every thought, concept, and idea was new to me. After I could make a few words, I learned how to put them together to make a sentence. And as my English speaking improved, my writing, reading, and comprehension did too. I was still way behind, though. Imagine being a teenager and

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