Chapter OneI sit quietly in the corner of my room, which I share with two other people, and listen to the bickering in the living room and the rain on the window. Someone, probably Sam, knocks a kitchen chair over. Maria screams. Madison squeals and yells, “Ow! Mom!” Rachael, small and innocent, sneaks quietly into our room and climbs onto my bed next to me.
“Sam broke another chair.”
“Figures,” I mutter. This is how it is every night. Everyone fighting and me sneaking away from the chaos. Sometimes I go into the woods. Sometimes Rachael comes, too. She’s the only normal one here. She lost her parents in a car crash. That’s the most common story here. My parents were never found. They didn’t want me. Most foster kids dream of running away and reuniting with their family. Not me. I never want to see them for what they’ve done to me.
I look at Rachael. She yawns.
“You can sleep here tonight, if you’d like,” I tell her. She nods her head, causing her brown hair to fall in her eyes. She curls up beside me in the bed. I cover her up with the scratchy, blue comforter with pictures of ugly white clouds. She’s asleep within minutes.
I’m almost asleep when Madison bursts in the door, a snobby expression on her face.
Madison’s fourteen., two years younger than me. She’s a complete brat who only cares about hair and her phone. Maria’s her sister. They’re Rhonda’s real children, and the only ones she actually cares about. That’s why I feel I have to take care of Rachael. I’m more of a mother to her than Rhonda. Us foster kids stick together.
Sam’s a different story. He takes care of himself. He also destroys everything in his path while doing that.
Madison sits on her pink, fluffy, comfortable bed. She takes out her iPhone with the pink silicone cover on it and starts texting, as usual. I wish I could just slap that phone out of her bony little hands. I’ve hated her from the start. She’s constantly calling me names, tattling, or complaining about something involving herself. She sets her phone down on her side-table and falls back on the bed.
I stand up and start getting ready for bed. Madison glares at me as I walk by. I ignore her.
I open the door and step into the yellow hallway. The color reminds me of mustard. I walk into the bathroom we all share.
After I brush my teeth (with my secret toothbrush I keep in my room after I found out that Madison “dropped” my old one in the toilet), I walk into the kitchen to get some food to make-up for the dinner I missed. I hear Sam and Rhonda talking in the other room.
“You better stop causing all this trouble. You’re turning my house into a barn. As if I don’t have enough trouble taking care of five kids. If you don’t turn your attitude around, I don’t think I can take you anymore,” Rhonda says to Sam, softly but firm.
Rhonda’s a lazy foster mom, and clueless. She doesn’t like to see us fight, but doesn’t know or have the energy to stop it.
I grab an apple from the bottom drawer. Sam stomps into the kitchen. Rhonda follows. She barely looks at me.
“You missed dinner,” she says to me.
“Sorry,” I mumble, trying to sneak away.
“You know I like when we eat together as a family.”
“Well, then it’s a good thing Madison and Maria were there, isn’t it?” I say coldly. We’ve been over this before.
“You know I think of you all equally,” she lies.
“Mhmm,” I mumble as I walk out. I walk into my room and lay down next to Rachael. Her empty bed is messy and unmade, the ugly green sheets wrinkled and falling off. Madison has turned the lights off and is under the blankets playing with her phone. I can hear her tapping at the screen noisily. Maria’s probably in Rhonda’s bed. She goes in there every night.
Maria is seven, a little older than Rachael. She has a dark brown bob and big brown eyes. She would probably be cute if she wasn’t crying all the time. Like Madison, she’s a spoiled brat.
I hear Sam’s squeaky door open and close right around the corner. I see the light in the hallway go out from under the crack in the bottom of the door.
I am half-asleep when I hear my name called softly from the hall.
“Dakota,” he calls.
“What do you want, Sam?”
“Come here,” he says, a little impatient. I sigh dramatically, but pull the covers off. I squint to the sudden light as I step into the hallway. I look at Rhonda’s bedroom door, which is shut. I peak into Maria’s room, which, as I predicted, was empty.
Sam’s standing in his doorway.
“Is Madison awake?”
“I don’t think so, what do you want?” I say, curious yet irritated.
“I-I don’t really know. It’s just, I have been having this weird feeling that something bad’s gonna happen. I don’t really know how to explain. It’s like, for the last week, I’ve been really depressed and angry for no reason-”
“I’ve noticed,” I mumble. He ignores me.
“-but tonight, I don’t know, I’m terrified. For no reason, and, and, I, I can’t…” Sam was completely distracted, staring wide-eyed into nothing.
“Sam?” I say, a little worried and extremely confused. “Sam.” I grab his arm and shake it lightly. His eyes snap back into focus. “Sam, what are you talking about?!”
“I don’t know, I’m scared.”
“Why?!” I demand.
“I don’t know!” he yells, a little too loud. “I don’t know,” he says again, quieter. “Something’s happening. Tonight. Something big, and I don’t know what. Help me. Please.” He stares at me with pleading eyes.
This is so weird. Big, tough, I-Can-Take-Care-Of-Myself Sam, coming to me for help. He’s terrified, like he’s certain something’s happening tonight.
Obviously, he’s just insane.
“What do you want me to do?!” I snap. I don’t know why I’m mad at him.
“I don’t know, Dakota. I just-”
“Dakota, Sam! What are you doing up this late?!”
I spin around to see Rhonda standing behind me. Sam jumps.
“Nothing,” I say to her.
“Really. Well, I could hear Sam yell from my room with the door shut.”
“I was just getting ready for bed,” I say, as I reach for my bedroom door.
“No, we were talking,” Sam says to her, with an angry look on his face. That’s Sam, taking every opportunity he can to argue with her.
“Well, stop talking and go to bed.”
“No,” he says firmly.
And then he fell.