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Stranger in the house
I got out off my car and walked to the little green house I call home. There was the sound of footsteps coming from inside, pattering as if in an attempt to be silent. Taking a step back, I called,
“Hello! Is anyone here?” I took another step forward grabbing the broom leaning against the wall. I wasn’t quite sure what I intended to do with it, but I continued pacing slowly toward the head of the hall, where the sound had gone. “Hello” I said again, cautioning to the room in the back. I pushed open the bedroom door, bracing for the worst. But nothing was there. “Hello?” I shoved the curtains aside. I checked below the bed, prodding underneath it with the broom stick, nothing. Then there was a thump, it echoed in the air like a heartbeat. It had come from the closet. My heart was pounding I stood. I took a stride closer to the closet door, then a deep breath before fixing my eyes on the knob, and with a quick thrust the door was open. And In that moment, I heard a scream and everything went black.
I awoke to the sight of two brown eyes hovering over me, which widened at the sight of my waking up. My eyes slumped close in a groggy haze, only to find when they’d opened back up that the mysterious face had vanished. I sat up, my brain still a bit slow from… whatever had happened. The last thing I remembered was coming home from work. I twirled a strand of dark blonde hair around a finger, like I always did when I was thinking. What had happened? Then I noticed something to my right. In the corner , staring wildly, staring wildly. She had a scrape on her brow, a bruise going down the length of her frail arm, and wore only one muddy red sandal. We both stared at each other.
“Who are you?” I finally asked. She just stared at me, scared stiff. I waited a moment. “Why are you here?” she still didn’t answer “why was I on the floor?” I asked.
“I…I don’t know” she paused “you fell”
“You opened the closet… then you fell” Then I remembered the footsteps, the closet, the scream.
“The scream…” I whispered “who screamed?”
“I did” the little girl said. Suddenly I felt bad for her; she was probably more scared than I was.
“You still haven’t told me who you are” I said.
“Clara…that’s a nice name” she smiled shyly. “Well… Clara, do you know where your parents are?”
“Please don’t make me go back!” she pleaded.
“Where?” I waited for her to answer then started back again “Where are your parents?”
“Please, please don’t make me go back again!”
“I need you to tell me where they are”
“Oh…” now I felt even worse for her. We were silent for a moment “Well you have to have somebody that takes care of you, don’t you?”
“They don’t cawe about me; they only keep me because they give them money”
“What…Who gives them money?”
“The old people with the black dresses, in the jacket house” she said easily, as if anyone would know what she was talking about.
“The jacket house?”
“Yeah, the coat house, with lots of steps and the big fat tree” she said simply, her brown eyes flashing from under her knot of hair.
“Oh…You mean the courthouse?” I said.
“You have to have someone who I can take you to, a friend, a grandma, a grandpa?” I said, slowly to make sure she understood what I was saying.
“You don’t have anyone?”
“No,” she huffed. I sighed.
“What’s so bad about…them anyway,” I asked.
“Kuwt and Jessica don’t care”
“I’m sure they do”
“They huwt me!” she cried.
“She hits me… Jessica hits me!” she said looking down at the long purplish bruise going down her thin arm.
“They’re aloud to do that… I mean the court lets them?” She shrugged.
The doorbell rang. I opened the door,
“Good day mam, we just need to ask you a few questions,” said a man, tipping his police cap. I nodded. “If you will please let us in for a moment”
“Um, ok sure.” the police man walked in, a man and a woman trailing after him. I sat them down on the sofa.
“Sorry, for barging into your house like this, but it is an emergency” the police man said. I nodded for him to keep going. “You see Kurt and Jessica here” he said, signaling with his arm at the couple on the couch “woke up this morning, to find their daughter, Clara, missing.” Suddenly I realized Clara wasn’t there, where was she?
I didn’t really feel like telling them I’d seen her, especially if Kurt and Jessica where as bad as Clara had said, so I just went along with being someone who didn’t have a clue.
“And what do I have to do with it?”
“We found this on your lawn” said the police man, holding up a muddy red shoe.
“Oh,” it was Clara’s missing shoe.
“It’s our daughter shoe,” the father explained. I gave up; I couldn’t really deny seeing Clara,
“Now that I think of it, I saw a little girl run across my lawn just this morning” The mother, Jessica, smiled in relief
“Which way did she go?”
“She went into the woods back there” I gestured towards the back yard.
“Thank you” Jessica smiled and the three of them left the building.
As soon as the foster parents drove off I began looking for Clara. I checked the bedroom closet first.
“Clara!” I shouted. I stomped into the bathroom “Clara, are you there?” I checked all of the rooms, looking under beds and in cabinets, but she was nowhere to be found. And then I saw the window. Dirt was caped onto the frame and a few crumbled chunks led outwards towards the back yard. I climbed through, “Clara” I shouted. This time she came running towards me.
“Awe they gone?” Clara asked, looking wearily back into the house.
“Yes.” Suddenly there was a rustle in the trees.
Out of nowhere came the policeman, Kurt and Jessica trailing closely behind him. We all stared at each other for a moment.
“Mam …we are going to have to ask” the policeman began
“What right do you have taking my child!” veronica interrupted.
“I…”…I didn’t know what to say. She walked up to me pushing Kurt aside, who moved abidingly, seemingly used to it. She grabbed Clara by the wrist, who immediately began crying.
“Come on” Veronica tugged the child along, making Clara sobbed harder. I had to do something. I reached my hand out and grabbed Clara’s other wrist
“let go of my child!” veronica shrieked. I didn’t budge. Kurt and the policeman stood by the forest edge, unsure what to do.
“She’s not your child!” I finally said. Veronica glared at me.
`“What?” the policeman said.
“She’s a foster child” I said.
“Why didn’t they tell me… there are special procedures that have to be done, and documents that have to be signed, not to mention…”
“She didn’t want to pay the fees” the father interrupted.
“Kurt!” veronica glared.
“No! In fact I should’ve said this earlier. I’ve been quiet too long, what you’re doing isn’t right to the child. Veronica, I know you never wanted the child…”she glared heavily at Kurt. “… All you wanted was the money” he paused “You’ve been hurting her…”
“Kurt shut up!”
The policeman had arrested veronica and Kurt. Veronica had been sentenced to prison, for abusing a foster child and lying to a federal officer. For how many years, it was undecided. Kurt had been arrested too, but only for a matter of months, because they had little evidence that he’d really been a part of anything. The child, Clara, had been put back up for adoption. As for me, I couldn’t bear parting with Clara, not knowing what trouble she’d get into with her new foster parents. So I decided the best way to keep her out of trouble was to adopt her myself.