"HIT ME. I NEED THE MONEY," it said. The bumper sticker was peeling from the back of my dad's old Ford Econoline forever, but it never made an impact before I learned to read. A half second to decode the words, followed by a long week thinking about them.
I was four and a half the first time I found out money was a struggle, and three years later when I bolted up in bed in the middle of the night, wide awake but super confused. I had no idea how late it was, but the TV was as black as the hallway, so I knew it was probably later than I'd ever been up before.
I had to stare past the shadows flickering from the only light in the house, a single bulb in middle of the kitchen. I could hear my parents talking. I crept as quietly as I could and sat down in the hallway beside the kitchen door.
"I don't know what else to do Debbie," I heard my father clearly. "We just don't have the money."
I felt my stomach twist and tangle into tiny knots, like it does sometimes, then picked myself up and crept back to my bedroom where a mountain of worry kept me from sleep for a long, long time.
The next day was the last one my sister Nicky or I ever spent at "Horizons," the private school our parents had been sending us to since forever.