Everything I have ever known was gone. My house, my family, even my dog. The only family I had left is the person I’ve never met, my biological mother. Only until about two years ago I thought the mother I had was my biological parent until I mistakenly answered a phone call.
Dalton, my brother was yelling at me from across the room. He was yelling at me about turning off the TV when he wasn’t finished, when I heard the phone ring. That was an excuse to leave. “I’ll get it!” I shouted. The hardwood floor squeaked beneath me as ran to the kitchen.
“Glen, I need to see my daughter,” the voice said sounding concerned. “You can’t keep her from me forever!”
“Sorry, this isn’t Glen,” I replied. She hung up.
Later that night, my father was leaning against the dark counters talking to someone on the phone. Staying out of sight behind the nearest wall, I listened in.
“You have to understand Andrea! She is safer with me, she always has been,” he said to the person on the other line. I remember counting how long I stood there before I heard him talk again, about fifty seconds.
“No! She’s my kid she’s still living with me. I don’t care if you’ve change!” He hung up, turned off the lamp next to him and walked out of the kitchen.
It was a Wednesday when they took me back to my house to look amongst the rubble to see if I could salvage anything that wasn't completely ruined from the fire. Nothing much was left, it's not like we had a very big house anyways so I expected to not find much. I followed the fireman onto what used to be my yard. He only let me look in the first room and the kitchen because the house wasn’t stable enough to go upstairs.
The morning breeze drifted into the room tossing in all directions.
“I’m sorry for your loss, miss,” the man said handing over a pair of yellow rubber gloves. I didn't answer. I just kept looking down at my toes biting down on my tongue, so I didn’t cry. I hate showing any sign of weakness or emotion, I didn’t even cry at the funeral, but this time I couldn’t keep it in. I fell to the ground, the ashes beneath me shifted as I hit the ground, I didn’t care at this point. I was sobbing, coming back here, seeing my house like this made it all real. I just didn’t understand how this happened to me, but I guess everyone says that when they lose someone.
After thirty minutes I stood up. I brushed the dark gray ashes off of the back of my legs and wiped my eyes on my dry sleeve. The fireman was still standing outside. I waved to signal that I wanted him to come back inside. He glanced at me and nodded, starting to make his way back to the house.
“You’re not eighteen!” The social worker said. I could tell she was annoyed.
“Can you make an exception?” I pleaded
“You must be put in foster care unless…”
“Mrs, we got you her file,” A man who looked to be her assistant said handing her the tan folder.
“Did you really need to interrupt?” now she was really annoyed.
“It’s important, she has a mother,” he replied.
“Well, let’s have a look, shall we?” she lifted her pair of glasses that hung around her neck up to her eyes and opened the file.
She must have been on the phone for forty-five minutes now explaining everything.
“She’s wants to talk to you,” the social worker who name I now knew is Delina said. “We’ll drive to see her tomorrow, so until then we will set you up with a temporary foster family.”
I followed her out of the small office and into the fluorescent lighted halls. I carefully stepped down the icy stone steps that lead to the sidewalk.
“Blake! wait!” I turned around to face the social worker standing at the top of the steps in between the doors. “We found you somewhere to stay, you can’t leave yet,” Delina told me.
An hour later we arrived at the Harold’s house.
“This is Blake,” Delina told the family standing in the doorway, “She will be staying with you tonight.”
“Thanks,” I said to the Man who grabbed the bag in the left hand and hung it up on the hook behind the door.
“No problem,” he replied as he sat back down on the couch to watch football.
“So Blake,” a woman who looked to be the wife of the man said. “We have pulled out the bed in the couch for you, and there are plenty of blankets over in that chest next to the TV. Also, dinner will be ready in fifteen minutes,” she said. A couple of seconds later she ran up the tall oak staircase leaving me alone in the living room. I heard murmurs coming from a room the left of the landing, not a minute later she came back down pulling her what looks to be fifteen year old son with her.
“This is Ronnie,” the woman told her. “He will be giving you a tour around our home,” she said giving us a faint smile.
I hadn’t eaten a real meal in weeks. Sitting here reminded me what it was like at my own house, but this was definitely not the same. At my house dinner was full of laughter and excitement, here it was no elbows on the table, and quietly eat your dinner while their father talked about his day at the office.
“So, Blake. What school do you go to?” The father asked.
“Um,” I began to speak with my mouth still full of food. “I go to Riverdale,” I replied clearing my throat.
“Oh, the public school. We enrolled Ronnie in the private school up the road,” he said stabbing a green bean with his fork.
The knock on the door woke me up. I stumbled off of the couch and opened the blinds, outside Delina was standing there.
“Hello Blake!” she said as I opened the door. “I’m here to pick you up, someone wants to see you.”
“Should I get my bags?” I asked wiping the sleep out of my eyes.
“Yes, i’ll help you.”
We had been driving for over fifteen minutes when I finally asked where we were going.
“Ah,” Delina hesitated, “were going to see your mom.”
“Now?” I replied.
“Yeah, it turns out she only lives a few hours upstate.”
“Oh.” I shifted in my seat to face the window to my right. We were passing an abundance of trees on the side of the highway. I remember trying to think back to past camping trips, and hikes, thinking back to when my dad would always forget to put away the food when we slept so it would attract raccoons and other creatures.
“Welcome to Wintervale!” Delina said with excitement.
“Did I fall asleep?” I asked, turning my head to face more trees, “Where’s the town?”
“You’re in it.” We passed about a football fields length of trees until we came upon a very large wooden sign with sky blue engravings that read Wintervale. We kept driving on the dirt road until we entered the town. All the town children were gathered around our vehicle.
“Have they ever seen a car before?” I asked.
“Probably only a few times, it’s very different here than where you live, they believe in a simple lifestyle.”
We parked the car near one of the only few shops, the book store.
“Follow me inside,” Delina said. I followed her past the large bushes and into the bookshop door. The bell rang as we stepped inside.
“Hello?” Delina shoughted.
“Why hello there,” A quirky looking woman stepped out of the shadows. “You must be Blake,” she said.
“I am,” I replied. “And you are?”
"Andrea,” she replied, “i’m your mom.”
“I’ll… give you two some time,” Delina said. Then Delina walked out the glass door, the bell rang behind her startling me.
“Why am I here?” I asked taking a sip of the tea that she placed before me, the tea burns my tongue filling my mouth with a sudden pain. I quickly sat down my cup when she began to speak.
“Well, i’m now your legal guardian, since you have no other family, the position defaults to me,” Andrea explained.
About fifteen minutes later Delina came back. I was so happy to see her, I was so tired of the small talk that happening between Andrea and I.
“Hello,” Delina greeted us handing both of us a red paper cup filled with coffee.
“Hey,” I replied grabbing the cup. “Should I get my stuff?”
“Uh… I don't think so. Actually I'm going to have to get going, you'll be staying here.”
“What? No, I can't live here, I won't!” I realized that Andrea was still standing there and tried to calm down, but I couldn't. “What about my friends? My home?”
“Blake calm down, there's not really much I can do. The paperwork is done and her background check checks out,” she paused, “she'll provide you the perfect home.”
“So Blake, this my house, I mean our house” Andrea told me as we walked up the paved path to the front door of her house.
“...Nice,” I replied awkwardly.
The rest of that week went on just as I thought it would, short conversations, and hiding out in the guest room for most of the day while Andrea was at the bookstore working, but worst of all I had to start school on Monday. Andrea was drinking her vegan protein shake and I was sitting on the couch when she spoke.
“You start school on Monday right? How are you feeling about it?” Andrea asked
“Well… To be honest I'm terrified,” I replied.
“You'll have nothing to worry about, the high school here only has about fifteen kids in your grade.”
“Wow, that's a very small school.”
“Agreed.” We both laughed, probably for the first time I've been here.
“You take a left on Francine street and a right on 2nd and you'll be at the school. Do you want me to go with you?” Andrea asked.
“No, I'll be fine.” I silently shut the door behind me and stepped outside. I walked the route Andrea told me to go until I approached the school, Wintervale High. Outside were two very tall flag poles one with an American flag hanging from it, and the other with what looked to be a flag with the school crest stitched onto it. I opened the doors to the small building and walked inside.
I grabbed the first person I saw, a blonde petite girl by the name of Jane. “Hello? Hey?” I said trying to get her attention.
“Oh! Hey, sorry about that I zone out a lot. I'm Jane by the way! How can I help you?”
“Could you please tell me where the principal’s office is?” I asked shuffling the text books in my arms.
“Down this hall next to the auditorium,” she told me. “By the way I'm going to this party with some friends tonight if you'd like to join, I'm driving.”
“Sure I'd love to! We'll see you tonight then.”
“That's great! You got invited to a party on your first day!” Andrea said.
“I guess it's kind of cool.”
“Do you need a ride?”
“No, a girl named Jane is giving me one.”
“Oh, Jane I think I know her parents, their regulars at the bookshop.” I heard a knock on door. It must be them. I opened the door to Jane and three others.
“Hey Blake! Should we go?”
“Yeah.” We drove to Jerry Wilson's house which is located next to the general store.
Hours past and nothing much had gone on.
“We're not really your crowd are we?” A brunette girl asked.
“It's not that, it's just different here.”
“Yeah, I could definitely agree with that. Do you like it in Wintervale so far?”
“It's okay, better than being in foster care or like orphanages or something like that.”
“Oh, I'm so sorry! What happened?” She asked out of curiosity.
“I wouldn't like to get into that.”
“Oh. Sorry for asking.”
“Um… I need to go.” I politely stood up and walked away.
Where did Jane go? I was thinking in my head. I needed to leave. I called out her name three times before I heard an answer.
“What do you need?” Jane asked.
“I need to go home now.”
“Oh, well let me give you a ride.” Before we left she said her goodbyes and I waved as we opened the oak doors to go outside. Unlike the the city, I could see the stars. They were scattered all over the dark sky like specks of glitter. She was driving me home the same route we came, when all of a sudden we had swerved into a tree.
“Jane! Are you okay?”
“I will be. Are you?”
“I think so?”
“Quick call 911!” Within several minutes of calling two cop cars and an ambulance arrived at the scene. They all rushed out of the vehicles to check on us and the accident.
“Are you guys okay?” The officer asked
“We're fine but my car sure isn't!” Jane responded
“Well your car can be repaired,” the officer replied. “Just go get yourselves checked out by the EMS guys over there while you wait for your parents.
“Blake!” Shouted Andrea who ran over to where I was sitting. “What happened?” She asked as she approached me.
“It was just a small car crash,” I replied.
“What's small about it, you crashed into a tree! Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I will be. Let's just go home.”
“All righty then. Let's go home.”