It’s so hot in this car that I have to roll down the window. The hot desert wind shooting by my social worker’s speeding car is ten times better than the stagnant air I’ve had to put up with since her AC is broken. It broke last month and she still hasn’t fixed it.
“How much longer?” I ask, allowing the breeze to dance around my face, efficiently waking me up from my stupor.
Tina sighs. “For once, can you just be patient, Thora? We’ll be there soon.”
I feel like she’s asking too much of me. Usually a new home is in the city, but this time they are keeping me in the dark about it and a girl gets impatient, especially me. We’ve been driving for three hours. To where, I have no clue. There seems to be nothing but desert on all sides of us with no end in sight.
Choosing to not respond to my social worker, I stick my hand out the window. The bracelet my mom left with me–two woven bands separated by various green and blue stones, and one I distinctly recognize as turquoise–glints back at me. I’ve worn this thing as long as I can remember. It’s all she left behind before she disappeared. Because of this bracelet, I still think she’s alive. No one else does.
I wave my hand around, riding the wind, as though wielding a wand. If only I could magic myself out of this car and to wherever my mom is, then I wouldn’t have to be shuffled from foster home to foster home again. Unfortunately, magic doesn’t exist, I don’t know where my mom is and I wouldn’t know where to go. After a few minutes, my hand goes up and down with the wind without me really controlling it. Again, I’m lulled into a nap.
The jerk of the emergency brake jars me awake. I hate it when Tina pulls that stupid centerpiece. My fifteen years in the system never cured me from the uncomfortable stomach lurch that inevitably followed. I swear it is her lot in life to only purchase cars with a centerpiece E-brake. Don’t ask me why.
“All right, I couldn’t tell you before, but you need to brace yourself,” she says, turning toward me. My head rolls along the leather seat to look at her as I try to gather my foggy brain power. Sweat dampens the bottom of my hair against my neck and I welcome the brief coolness it brings. “This family is technically your biological family.”
My head and body snap forward. I thought I was the only one left of my family. As I wait for Tina to spill the details, my chest won’t let any breath escape.
“Apparently, she’s your mom’s cousin. Somehow we found her and she’s expressed interest in taking you in.”
I raise my eyebrows. No one ever wants me. I believe the words “more trouble than she’s worth” is a permanent fixture in the mouths of my many foster families. And it’s kind of true. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t listen to orders very well. When I want to do something, I do it regardless if they tell me explicitly not to.
“Now, before you go AWOL like you did last time, please just …” she searches for the words for a moment. “Be good. That’s all I ask. You only have a couple of months until you’re 18 and can do as you please. Until then, stay out of trouble, okay?”
I roll my eyes at her. That speech hasn’t held onto my conscience yet and I’m betting it won’t stick this time either. She does seem more serious than usual though.
It’s beyond amazing that any of my family could be tracked down, so we’ll see if I want to follow the rules or not. It all depends on if they’re crazy or mean.
Since we’ve obviously reached our destination, I look outside and freeze. A small brick house stands completely unoriginal from the others on the street. The only thing that distinguishes it from the other houses is a tree house in the tree in the backyard. Other than that, it has the same square-ish exterior, the same placement of the same white door and windows and the same chimney poking out of the roof on the right hand side–just like all of the neighboring houses. All of the grass is green even though it is early September. And as far as I can tell, there is no broken cement anywhere on either side of the street.
Kids scream through the sprinklers at a couple of houses. It was one of those neighborhoods: a place to raise a family. The last time I was placed in a neighborhood like this, I was ten. My distaste for it came from the fact that it made me think of how I likely would have lived with my mom were she still around. After that, I asked Tina to only put me with families in the busy city, a place where a traditional family life was a little more uncommon so I could avoid those feelings of misery. Apparently that particular request of mine is disregarded this time because a “blood relative” is involved. Just lovely. Note the sarcasm.
Welcome to suburbia, Thora.
Thanks to this week’s FWF prompt by Kellie Elmore, I was able to piece together a better beginning for one of my WIPS. I cannot express enough thanks that this prompt triggered such an inspiration for this story and I’m stoked to be giving it more attention now that a critical piece is now making sense.