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The Anderson’s: a nice house with horrible children. The Johnson’s: horrible house with nice children. The Mason’s: nice neighbors with nasty parents, and the Baker’s: nice on the outside and a class four hurricane on the inside, emotionally and physically. Always the same pattern, always the same routine; always the same failure. This is what life is. I don’t know why I keep trying to convince myself otherwise.
“What’s your name?” Mrs. Terrie said expectantly.
“Marie, it’s nice to meet you.” I said unenthusiastically.
“Honey, you’re going to have to learn to smile, I can’t help you forever.” Mrs. Terrie said with annoyance glazing her face.
“No one asked you to.” I said as I looked out the window.
“Correction, the state asked me to.” she said with irritation starting to break her calm demeanor.
Knowing she was about to break I added, “I wonder if your husband felt the same way about staying married to you.”
“You littl- My relationship is none of your business! He’s with me because he wants to be, not because it would look bad if we divorced. His status as a politician has nothing to do with our relationship. What does affect us is why my charge, you, have yet to stay in one house more than a year! You’re making me look bad! If it wasn’t for your little mouth and defiant attitude, you’d have parents right now. You were blessed with pale skin, long hair, and the perfect body, but you insist on looking like the trash you are. The only reason you’re not in the foster dump is because I’m working so hard to get you somewhere. People like you shouldn’t speak about things they don’t understand! At least my husband loves me! That’s more than anyone can say about you!” she said with venom leaking from her voice.
“Gotcha.” I said under my breath.
After Mrs. Terrie finished her tirade she saw the new house come into view. She smoothed her hair down, applied some make up, and said,
“What’s your name?”
I looked up at House Six. It wasn’t as large as house three, but it was decent. I walked up to the door, mentally preparing myself for Mrs. Terrie’s thank you speech. With a joyful excitement, Mrs. Terrie introduced me to the family, aka. the Turner’s, aka. Family Six. From the looks of it, they were a nice family. They had a generally uniform look that would be perfect for a TV commercial. Mrs. Turner’s dark brown hair caressed her tanned skin. Mr. Turner and his son both had shaved heads with stubble fighting it’s way to the surface of their skin and dark complexions that made them mirror each other in appearance. Mr. and Mrs. Turner both smiled wholeheartedly and Mrs. Turner introduced their family.
“My name is Shannon, this is my husband, Michael, and my son, Joseph. It’s nice to meet you Marie.”, she said joyfully.
I avoided her gaze; I decided a long time ago not to bother with people who’ll disappear within a year.
After a weekend of finding my room and learning the basics of my home’s rules and routines, I went to school with Joseph. I was stared at constantly, it was like my every move was under a microscope; it was uncomfortable to say the least. Joseph proved to be better than Family Three’s children. He stayed by my side most of the day and ate lunch with me, despite the stares. He didn’t make a scene out of it or anything either. When classmates came to greet him he said hi and continued walking with me. Whenever he was stopped or asked to hang out he would simply decline and say he was hanging out with Marie today, and walk on. The only time he left my side was when we had a class in the opposite direction. It was then that school became less tolerable. The whispers intensified when he wasn’t around and people approached me more often. It was then when I had to go through the usual series of questions polite and rude alike, “Who are you?”,”Where are you from?”, “You look dirty.”, “Why do your clothes look like that?”. I usually ignored them until Joseph would come out of his classroom and the questions would end. I spent most of my first month of school days following this schedule. I quickly got used to speaking to Joseph and he got used to speaking to me. However, no matter how close we got, I still had the lingering reminder to not get too close.
Our budding friendship went under quick fire within a week of the next passing month. People became more bold and soon enough, it didn’t matter whether Joseph was with me or not. He would occasionally try to defend me, but I made it pretty clear that I could take care of myself. Things were never really bad until the time when Joseph went in the opposite direction as me. It was during this time I was stopped by a group of girls and boys with than less than happy expressions on their faces.
“You’re the trashy new girl, aren’t you?” one of the girls said.
“Why do you wear such ragged clothing? Joseph is always dressed to the T. Doesn’t his family give you proper clothing?” one of the boys said with a confused expression.
“Or maybe she wants sympathy. Poor Joseph must be embarrassed to death of her. Don’t you owe him your life or something? You should at least be courteous enough to dress decently instead of making him look bad.” said a girl with a flustered attitude.
“While this conversation is very stimulating for the death of my brain cells. I have places to be.”, I said with a forced indifference.
“So the new girl’s self-righteous isn’t she? She has no right to be considering the shoes she wears. They’re full of holes.” the girl said with a sneer.
At that comment my blood started to boil. I told the girl off. I screamed and yelled using every curse I knew. The kids finally ran off only to return with the principal. Since I was new to school, he only gave me detention for the day. Joseph picked me up after class. We went home and sat in the living room. Mr. and Mrs. Turner were on a date night, so I had time to think of how I was going to tell them what happened.
“Why did you do that?” Joseph said, interrupting my thoughts.
“What?” I replied.
“You insist on taking care of yourself and yet you lose it when a girl mentions shoes?!” Joseph said as his face heated up.
“Shut up! What do you actually know about me?! My shoes are a symbol. I’ve had these from before I was a foster kid since when I was with that awful failure of a mother! They’re a representation of everything I’ve been through. If I wore pink dresses and heels, people would accept me, and then they would try to erase my history. I’m proud of surviving every home I’ve been dropped into! Want to know why I can’t stay in one home? They either couldn't afford another kid or were too abusive. My Mom tried to get me back a couple times, but then she gave up and decided she didn't need the trouble. I’ve had to struggle most of my life. These shoes show how worn out I am, but they’re still holding together, just like me! That’s something people like you don’t understand. There’s always something with you host families!” I screamed at him with tears budding in my eyes. I felt as if I was bearing my soul and it was infuriating, but also relieving.
After a moment of silence Joseph spoke, “I’m sorry, okay? I get it life sucks, but that doesn’t mean all of us host families are a roulette wheel. The last thing I’m going to judge you off of is appearance. Most of those kids you see me speak to couldn’t care less about me. When they first saw me I was nothing to them, they only started speaking to me after they saw my grades. They took one look and thought of me as a criminal until I started dressing nice and passing classes. No one is dealt the same cards, but trust me when I say something in life sucks for everyone. We all have a bad side we don’t want anyone to see, but that doesn’t always make us awful people. Of course this family has a bad side, Mom and Dad are just too polite to show you. I already know you’re seriously brave, but you can’t always shoulder burdens alone. It doesn’t matter what we wear or how we look. We know who we are and what we’ve done. You don’t need those shoes to represent your strength anyone who speaks to you knows you're strong, it’s just up to them to pay attention.”
It was after those words I whispered “Gotcha.” under my breath.
Joseph helped me to my feet and said, “Now that that’s over with. We need to clean up, like now. You’ll see some of Mom and Dad’s true colors a little too soon if this house is dirty…”
The next day we walked to school together. Joseph wore a T-shirt and jeans and I made the compromise to wear sneakers for part of the day. For the first time in awhile I felt pretty hopeful. House Six had its problems, but that was okay.