Kaz had six months to adjust to the idea of sharing his life with another child before a baby boy was born. He was named Jozef in honor of Jozef Pilsudski, and the apartment instantly became smaller and noisier. A second-hand high chair was added to the kitchen table; a tiny, unpainted crib was hauled up the four flights of stairs and squeezed into the main bedroom; and a pair of lusty lungs howled day and night. Despite the disruptions to their quiet life, Uncle and Aunt fussed endlessly over their new son. Uncle's voice softened, and he stopped smoking in the apartment. Even his evening newspaper was often ignored. Kaz had never experienced such affection. He wanted to share in the joy he sensed around him, but he felt excluded. Disappointment filled his heart; he eyed the newcomer with envy.
His thoughts turned to the cold woman who'd refused to accept him as her son. Even though he felt no affection for her, he still longed for some sign of kindness, something to tell him he counted. There were his friends, of course, but they had their own families. The world was clamping down on his head with the grip of a large vise. He grew lethargic, unable to cope with the family scenes unfolding before him. His aunt still greeted him warmly each day when he pulled himself up the stairs after school, but she no longer tousled his hair. He sensed a hint of restraint in her manner. The affection he'd enjoyed from her lost its glow. His uncle showed even less interest in Kaz than he had before. Evening discussions about the news ceased. His attention was consumed by the wriggling figure wrapped in his arms. Kaz retreated to his bedroom, his only sanctuary in the apartment, and stared for hours at the ceiling. It took all his strength to present himself at the dinner table, and his appetite waned. The apartment no longer felt like home.
Disturbing thoughts skittered through his mind, thoughts about metal railings and the undertow of river boats. Life, he decided, was nothing more than a deck of cards, only his deck held too many deuces and not enough aces. Every time he shuffled the cards, he drew a losing hand. One thing was certain. He didn't fit into the family puzzle anymore. He would be better off somewhere else, but where? Not with his mother. She didn't want him anymore than his uncle. Kaz was still orphaned, still abandoned, and now he'd been pushed aside by a crying baby who demanded everyone's attention. He had an overwhelming desire to run away, but there was nowhere to go, no place to hide.
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