Grace, Eli, Brooke and Chris are faced with an important decision after their parents die
|"AH!"I yelped as Amanda's yellow car bounced over yet another pothole, sending me flying up to the ceiling for the hundredth time.
"Sorry, the car's sensitive." said Amanda as she patted the steering wheel tenderly and I rubbed the newly formed bump on my head. I gazed out the window and watched the changing scenery. I watched as small victorians were slowly replaced by city skyscrapers. Suddenly, a large glass building came into view. Neat trees dotted the sidewalk and a large red awning protected the door.
"Where are we?" asked I as I stepped out of the car and followed Amanda onto the crowded city sidewalk. I was surprised when a man in a green uniform opened the door for us. I blushed and followed Amanda inside even though I knew that it was his job.
"This is home base. For us social workers at least," said Amanda as she stepped into the lobby, "We thought we would hold the meeting in a neutral environment." Amanda suddenly turned and scanned me like a bird stalking its pray. She spun me around and stared me directly in the eye. She let out an exasperated sigh before biting her lip. "Why don't you go into the bathroom and 'freshen up'." said Amanda as she pushed me in the direction of the nearest bathroom.
I wandered in and was surprised by the condition of the bathroom. It was a powder room fit for a queen. White marble tiled the floor and framed portraits hung on the walls. I stepped in front of the mirror and gazed upon the figure that looked back at me. I took a deep breath and exhaled. My brown hair was neatly brushed and my gray sweater hung low over my torn skinny jeans. "What if they don't like me?" I thought. These kids were my last chance. With one final breath, I left the bathroom and returned to my mistress.
"Much better!" said Amanda. I laughed internally since I hadn't changed my appearance at all. "It's time! Come on!" said Amanda as she dragged me down a complicated system of halls. My mind raced as we passed through the complicated labyrinth. Suddenly, we came to a set of glass doors. Amanda turned to face me and looked me dead in the eye with a concerned gaze. "Look, I want you to try your best in there. Okay?" said Amanda with a shake of her finger like she was scolding a dog. I nodded. Amanda threw the doors open and strolled into the room. I took one last deep breath and followed.
Inside couldn't have been more different from the scene I had expected. As soon as I entered the room, any hope for new friends left me. A tight knot began to form in my stomach as I felt my confidence wash away. Inside the room were several padded chairs set up in a circle. Two of the seats were occupied by adults who appeared to be social workers. One was a man in his 20s who appeared to be trying to grow a beard, which wasn't going to well. Next to him sat a little-miss-sunshine in a bright yellow pants suit. She looked overly cheerful as if she might break out into a choreographed musical routine at any moment. Amanda shuffled over and took an available seat next to the grizzly man.
I instantly noticed the other teenagers as soon as I entered the room. They were hard to miss and stuck out like sore thumbs. In one of the seats sat a scruffy boy that appeared to be a year or two older than me. He wore ripped blue jeans and a dirty gray hoodie. His hair looked uncombed and his feet were resting on the seat next to him. He was digging dirt out from under his nails and appeared to not be the least concerned that I had entered the room. A few seats away from the boy sat a girl that seemed to be the exact opposite of him. Her hair was pulled into a long braid that cascaded down past her shoulders. Only one strand of golden hair had managed to escape the hairdo which hung freely, softly touching her cheek. She wore a light blue long sleeve t-shirt, a golden pendant, and a blue checkered skirt. I carefully looked around for a seat to take. "I assume that this seat is taken." I said motioning to the seat that the boy had his feet on. He looked up for a moment and smirked before going back to his work. I quietly took a seat next to the proper, prissy.
At that moment, the door opened once again. A tall woman and yet another boy entered the room. His eyes grew to the size of saucers as soon as he entered the room. His brown hair hung around his face but was in much better shape than the other boys. He wore an old "The Who" t-shirt that seemed to have seen better days. His jeans appeared to be brand new and he wore a leather band around his wrist. The woman wore a dark blue dress and took a seat in between Amanda and the yellow girl. The new boy stood awkwardly in front of the room since all the seats were full.
"Eli, can't we give that extra seat to your new friend?" said the gruff man with a stern glance at the rugged boy who was apparently named Eli. Eli looked up and glanced over at the new boy.
"He can sit on the floor." said Eli as he continued shoveling under his fingernails as if it were more important than the other boys existence. The man cleared his throat and shot Eli a we-talked-about-this-look. Eli rolled his eyes and dramatically removed his feet from the chair. I hated his instantly. A deep hatred boiled inside me for the young boy who refused to help others.
"Well, let's get started!" said Amanda with the most fake enthusiasm I had ever heard. The entire group fell silent as the social workers glanced around the room.
"Anyone, anyone at all?" pleaded Amanda to the silent room. When she got no response, the yellow girl suddenly spoke up. "Why don't we give you kids a moment alone? We'll be out in the hall if you need anything." she said as she ushered the other social workers out of the room. The bearded man gave the group a thumbs up before finally shutting the door. As the door slid shut, an awkward noise filled the room. I quickly realized that it was the sound of silence.
"So, are we going to do this or what." said the "The Who" shirt boy once the silence had become too much.
"Sure! Why don't we all tell our life stories so that we can all become best friends?" said Eli sarcastically as he leaned forward in his chair and put on a fake, exaggerated smile.
"Can we please just pretend we talked about something so we can get out of here?" said the girl as she stared at the floor, desperate to avoid eve contact.
"So what? So that they can drag us off to live with some random people?" said Eli, "Trust me, what happens after this won't be pretty."
"What do you mean?" asked I before I knew what I was doing. My curiosity had finally gotten the best of me. I couldn't take not knowing anything about my future anymore.
"After this, we will be taken to our foster families. Everything will be fine until they suddenly decide that they don't want us. Then we get sent to the next family and then the next family and it keeps going until we are finally old enough to live be ourselves. But, we will always be alone. Believe me!" said Eli. I noticed that the other girl looked like she was going to break into tears at this comment.
"Well, we might as well learn each other's names if we are going to be forced to talk to each other." I said, desperate to meet some genuine people.
"Well, my name's Matthew." said the "The Who" boy.
"Your lying." said the quiet girl suddenly.
"Wow! How did you know?" asked the Matthew impostor. The girl shrugged and looked away.
"Lucky guess." she mumbled.
"My name is actually Chris." said the fake Mathew.
"And why should we believe you?" I asked.
"I don't have any reason to lie now do I?" smiled Chris. I was taken aback by this gesture. After everything I had been through in the past couple weeks, I had forgotten smiles even existed.
"I'm Grace." said the quiet girl.
"Eli. But, I guess you already know that." said Eli.
"I'm Brooke." I said. The group became silent as if we had no idea what else to say. For a minute, we all sat in silence.
"What now?" asked Chris.
"We wait for our doom I guess." laughed Eli as he leaned back in his chair.
"Isn't there even the slightest possibility that we will be paired with a nice family?" asked Grace with a glimmer of hope behind her eyes.
"Doubt it." said Eli, "We are as good as gone now. There's no saving us."
"I wish there was something we could do." said Chris as he ran his hands over his face. The group was silent once again. Suddenly, a switch flickered on inside of my head. It was as if I had found a small campfire after trekking across the icy tundra.
"Can we?" I said. The entire group instantly stared at me. Their eyes acted as flint to my fire. "I mean, it's our lives! Isn't there something that we can do?" I said.
"I like your moxie kid. But, in case you haven't noticed, we are kind of being patrolled here. It's us against the world." said Eli with a smirk.
"She's got a point though. Cant we do something?" said Chris.
"I'm open to ideas." said Eli as he leaned towards the group.
"Can't we make a run for it or something? After we leave here, can't we just take off?" I said. I knew that it was farfetched but it was worth the try to get the ball rolling.
"Nope, they'd be on us in a minute. If you are going to run you have to do it at night and then head to the city for a while until things calm down." said Eli with as he rolled his eyes as if it were obvious.
"Looks like someone's been pondering escape plans huh?" smiled Chris to Eli. Eli returned the gesture and clapped his hands together.
"Well, I guess my secret is out! There's no way that I'm going to stay with some random people." said Eli proudly, "At twelve o'clock tonight I'm going to make a break for it. The classic climb-out-the-window and then take a bus into the city until the social workers give up hope."
"I'm coming too then." said Chris bravely. He sat up straighter as if he were trying to prove that he was up to the challenge.
"Sorry buddy, but this is a solo operation. I greatly support all escapes but I work alone." said Eli firmly.
"Wont extra numbers be helpful though?" said Chris desperately.
"See I knew that telling you guys would be a mistake. Now I have to play babysitter to some clueless kids." said Eli with an annoyed sigh.
"Does that mean that I can come?" said Chris with a big smile.
"I'll tell you what, if you want to come, meet me at the town green at 12:30. Come a minute too late and I'm gone. Get the picture? I'm not waiting around for some slowpokes and risking my own neck." said Eli. The look in his eyes made him look instantly reluctant of his promise. The entire situation suddenly became clear to me. This was my last chance. I could either leave everything I've ever known with some people I had just met or live with some random family. Either way, I was putting my complete trust in complete strangers.
"So I'm supposed to just trust that you will be there? And get us safely to the city? We just met!" said Grace as if she were reading my thoughts.
"Frankly, I don't care what happens to you. But the choice is yours doll face." said Eli with a smile. Grace looked completely disgusted which almost had me break out in laughter. At that moment, the glass doors swung open.
"I'm guessing that we all have had time to get to know each other by now." smiled the yellow woman. Eli smiled and nodded so I followed his lead. My heart rate increased.
"What if they were listening in through the door?" I asked myself as I began to sweat. Amanda smiled at me which gave me the impression that she had no idea what was going on.
"Grace? Are you okay?" asked Miss. Sunshine. I quickly looked over at Grace who looked like the most uncomfortable person I had ever seen. She obviously hadn't made up her decision. Her eyes looked up at her social worker and appeared to be full of fear. I looked over at Chris who looked just as nervous as I. I suddenly noticed him cross his fingers. Grace suddenly looked over at me as if she needed support. I gave her a soft smile in response.
"Please?" I pleaded her mentally.
"Yeah, I'm fine." said Grace suddenly, "I think this was a good idea, for us to talk about what we are going through and all." I noticed that as she said this, her eyes seemed to looked past everyone and she strongly avoided eye contact with the rest of us.
"Okay great!" smiled Miss. Sunshine as she took her seat, "Where would you all like to start? Now that you are all acquainted."
"Actually, can I meet my foster family now?" asked Chris. It surprised me how honest he looked. It almost made me think that he was having second thoughts about our plan. "After talking with these guys," said Chris as he gestured around the room at us, "I think I'm ready to move on."
"That's great!" said the woman in the blue, "I'm sure that that can be arranged." Chris smiled. I felt a sinking feeling develop inside of me. Suddenly, while the social workers' heads were turned, I noticed him give Eli a slight nod as if to say "I'm in". I let out a breath I hadn't been aware I was holding in.
"I think I'm ready too." Eli and I said simultaneously with a quick look at each other.
"This is great!" said Amanda as she started pulling out paperwork, "I'm so pleased by this sudden change of heart." I awkwardly smiled at my new group of friends who both suddenly looked very serious.
"I guess I'm ready too." whispered Grace. Miss. Sunshine nodded and turned back to her work as if she had seen Grace's decision coming.
"Alright, we are good here!" said the woman in blue, "We can go now Chris."
"Great!" said Chris, "See you guys soon!" I froze and Eli almost slapped his forehead in disappointment. "I mean I hope I can see you guys soon." blushed Chris, obviously embarrassed at his mess-up. As Chris was lead out of the room, Eli's social worker nodded at him. Eli stood up began walking towards the door. As he passed by me, he suddenly hit my shoulder and knocked me to the floor. I let out a yelp as I collapsed in a heap.
"Oops, sorry!" said Eli as he reached down to help me up. Just as I was about to yell, he whispered something in my ear. "12:30, no later." Eli whispered in the split second before he walked out the door. This smooth gesture totally took me off guard. I stood there awkwardly for a second before Amanda rested a hand on my shoulder and began to lead me towards the door. I stole one last glance at Grace who was busy talking to Miss. Sunshine.
"The family you will be living with is called the Bensons. They have an older son and a daughter who is just about your age!" smiled Sunshine at Grace as she showed her a photograph of the family.
"Wow! I've always wanted a sister!" laughed Grace as she eagerly looked at the photograph. A lump began to form in my throat. Something told me that Grace wouldn't be in the green that night. The lump grew as I asked myself, "Will I even be in the green tonight?" This question somersaulted through my head all the way to the little white house that was waiting for me along with the people I was supposed to call my family.