Jody meets her new foster son
|Written for "Plot Support - Results announced!" .
The lunar eclipse mentioned to be on January 20 is for 2019.
Prompt: "In this contest, the plot is important, but it's not the most important thing. The most important thing is something else to be showcased..." I chose to showcase the month of January. I'm not 100% sure if this follows the intent of the prompt or not.
Story Word Count: 1317
"This is Marcus." Mrs. Wilson had her hand on the shoulder of a petite child whose dark skin made him almost disappear into the night. "As I mentioned on the phone, he's been through this before and isn't a shy one, are you, Marcus?" She smiled down at him.
Jody forced a smile. While she was excited about meeting her first foster child, she was also very nervous. She'd been told that Marcus had to be removed from his home again, but it was expected to be only temporary...maybe a month or two.
"Marcus, this is Ms. Jody. Where's his room so he can start settling in while we talk for a few minutes?"
"Right this way, Marcus." Jody ushered him down the hall to a room with blue walls, bright posters, and a bunk bed. "Choose whichever bed you want."
"Cool," said Marcus. "I never get the top bunk."
"The dresser and closet are empty, so put your things anywhere. And your bathroom is right there." She pointed to a corner door.
"We'll be in the living room, Marcus. Let us know if you need anything." Mrs. Wilson headed back down the hall.
He was already opening his backpack and ignored them as they walked away.
"I already told you a little about his background. He's a great kid to start this journey with. Of course, that means all the rest will be harder." Mrs. Wilson laughed and straightened her glasses. "He's still a kid, full of mischief, but he's a good kid. In some ways he's had to grow up fast, though. You've got my number. I'll call in the morning to see how things went and, of course, you can call if you need anything before then. Just so you know, he's picked up a curious new way to connect with people. He will trivia you to death. Personally, I think it's also a nervous habit. Hopefully it will calm down when he's more comfortable in your home." She chuckled again. "I think I now know more about Paul Revere than most history majors. Did you know both he and Betsy Ross were born January 1?" Mrs. Wilson let out another chuckle and headed for the door.
"You're leaving?" Jody tried to hide the panic that leaked around the edges of her words.
"You'll be fine. You were a natural in training, and like I said, he's a good kid." She continued to the door.
"Thanks for breaking me in gently," Jody tried to laugh. It came out sounding like she was choking. She thought she might.
They said their goodbyes, then Jody turned and headed down the hall to her new visitor...her new roommate...her new kid...she wasn't sure what he was yet.
"Don't worry. After my honeymoon period, you won't try to give me back," he said with a broad smile.
Jody was alarmed at his brazen statement. How could he even think that she would? But she remembered training discussing all the people who only thought they wanted to be foster parents and all the kids who were only trying to behave for the first few weeks, or days if you were unlucky. He knew about 'the honeymoon period.' Either he was pretty insightful or had a lot of experience in the foster system. Sadly, she knew he had a lot of experience.
"My mom's sick again. But when she gets out of the hospital, I can go back. Sometimes they make me wait a while, but they always let me go back. She won't stay on her medication. Do you take medication?"
Taken aback, Jody realized this was going to take some getting used to. "No."
"That's good, I guess. But if you ever do, take it. Otherwise, you can't have foster kids no more."
"Thanks for the tip." She smiled and wondered if she should correct his English. Maybe not right off the bat, but perhaps tomorrow...or in a few days she could start correcting him. Or maybe she, too, should wait until after the honeymoon period. That was something she should ask Mrs. Wilson tomorrow. She leaned against the doorway. "Do you like pizza?"
"Of course. Who doesn't like pizza? But I only like cheese pizza--just so you know. Don't try to sneak any vegetables on it."
Jody had to laugh at him. "I won't."
"When's your birthday?"
Marcus smiled. "Four days--same as Jody Watley, the R&B singer. You're both Aquariuses--January twentieth to February eighteenth." He stood proudly. "Also, Phil Collins and Gene Hackman."
"Cool. I didn't know that." Jody said. "I'm going to order the pizza. Do you want Papa John's?"
"Uh-huh. I mean, 'Yes, ma'am.' but that will probably go away after the honeymoon period. Also, Franklin Delenor Roosevelt."
She suppressed a giggle at FRD's new middle name. "I did know that one. You sure know a lot about being in foster care...and January."
"'Cause I'm in foster care. You probably know a lot about math because you're an accountant."
She felt chastened, but wasn't sure how he intended the remark. She didn't bother to mention that that didn't explain how he knew so much about January.
"I'll go order the pizza."
"Capricorn is December twenty second to January nineteeth."
"Good to know." She left to make the call. She had her phone on her and Papa John's number was programmed in, but she needed a moment. This was a bit much for her. She didn't know what to make of the kid. He seemed nice enough, but--was she really ready for this?
Marcus had been in his room since she ordered the pizza and she'd busied herself with setting the table and basically staying away from his room--nerves, she supposed, on both their sides.
The doorbell rang.
"Marcus. Pizza's here!"
He came out already speaking, "MLK Day is the third Monday. And January is National Clean Up Your Computer Month. It was named for Janus, the Roman god of doors and gates 'cause it's the first day of the year, or for Juno, a goddess, I'm not sure which. But it wasn't a month at first. They didn't have months in winter time at first."
"Well, now, that's interesting! Grab a slice of pizza...or two. I don't know how much you eat."
"It's the coldest month here, but the warmest in the Southern Hemisphere."
"How do you know all this about January, Marcus."
"'Cause when mom gets sick, I lock myself in my room with the iPad so I don't get hit or nothin'."
Jody was embarrassed for asking. "Well, you're really smart if you can remember all that."
"I can. There was a lunar eclipse January 20, but it was past my bedtime, so I couldn't see it."
Marcus's nonstop chattering about the month of January wasn't something Jody had expected. She was used to a quiet household. This would take some getting used to. She worried if she'd made the right decision. She worried about whether or not she'd be a good mother, even if it was only a temporary foster mother.
"I like you, Ms. Jody. You're good at this." Marcus smiled as he took another bite of pizza.
Perhaps she'd be okay at this. He was a good kid, after all. And, if nothing else, she'd keep him safe until he could go back to his mother...and learn a lot about January in the meantime. She just hoped he's shift topics soon.
"Do you like football?"
"Yeah, uh, yes ma'am. The Super Bowl is February third. James White is a running back with the Patriots. He had three touchdowns in the Super Bowl in 2017 and his birthday is February third. And so is Charles Follis's. He's the first African American to play in the NFL and they have the same birthday. There are a lot of NFL players with a February third birthday..."
Jody took a deep breath and made a small smile. He's a good kid, she told herself.