One Last Breath
Never Knows Best
I Think I'm Falling
Trista Park sat stiffly on the wooden bench outside the bus station, slowly scratching her toes along the cement beneath her, her eyes fixed on her delicate hands. At her feet sat a single duffel bag, and under her arm was her old, worn out backpack. Normally she would have had a new backpack to carry around by now, but after last year nothing was normal anymore. A representative from the agency sat next to her, looking extremely bored and popping her gum loudly. Trista wanted to tell her to stop, but she kept her mouth shut. She didn't talk much anymore. And if she focussed on other things she could barely hear it anyway.
"They should be here any minute now," The representative assured her. What was her name, again? Jenny? Or was it Jenna? Trista didn't care. She was a snob and Trista would only see her again when someone new wanted to try their hand at 'fixing' her.
She was surprised when she found out the newest couple were from the other side of the country. Trista had spent her entire life in Ontario, although in the last year and a half she'd lived in three very different cities. There was the first, a pleasant condo in Toronto, then a run-down apartment in Hamilton. Her last fosters had been rather well-off and had lived in a mansion in Niagra Falls, but they had tolerated her for the least amount of time. It was too bad, Trista really enjoyed having a snack cupboard that was always full. Of course, her foster mother at the time had insisted the snacks were for her own kids, but Trista still snuck them anyway. Sometimes her kids would even help.
But this time...these new ones lived in BC. Her case worker had gone on for twenty minutes about their 'beautiful country home'. They lived in a small valley town, close to a lake and had 20 acres of property. "The neighbours have horses," Gina, the case worker, had gushed, "You like horses, don't you? Of course, all young girls do." Trista had no interest in horses, but she didn't feel much like mentioning it to Gina at the time. When Gina got going there was no stopping her. "And they're animal lovers too, with a big home, they're well-off too. I'm sure you'll like it there. And the scenery is gorgeous. They seemed very eager to meet you, honey."
"Uh huh," Trista had yawned. It was always the same. All the others had been eager too, at the beginning. Until they decided she was a spoiled, selfish, cold, insensitive brat. There had been worse names, more excuses as to why she acted the way she did. There was never any suggestion that she was like that because she'd just lost her parents a mere year and a half earlier.
So she'd been put on a plane to BC and was met in the airport by Jenna or Jenny, who didn't have a car so they had to hustle onto a bus to get to the small town where her new fosters lived. They were due to meet the pair at 4:00. It was now 4:30 and Trista was getting frustrated. To pass the time she began to bug Jenna/Jenny.
"What kind of car do they drive, again?" She wondered.
"Red minivan." Jen - Trista still wasn't sure of her name but she was confident it started with 'Jen' - replied.
"And how far is their house from the bus stop?"
"Pretty far. Half an hour maybe."
"What did you say their names were?" Trista knew all this already, but she was so bored she wanted to hear it again.
"Meg and Bryant Tetherland." Jen popped her gum again and crossed her legs the other way, slouching down on the bench. She made a show of checking her watch for the umpteenth time since they'd arrived and sighed loudly.
"So I guess they have pretty good jobs, right?"
"Bryant does." Jen replied patiently. "He's a doctor..."
"Vet. He's got his own practice in town but they also run a kennel out of their home. Meg runs that most of the time, since she's a stay-at-home mom."
"They have a kid?" Trista blinked. She'd missed that when Gina went on her little rant about them. She started to ask about their child when Jen suddenly straightened out and squinted at something in the parking lot. "I think that's them." She announced. "Come on, stand up. You want to make a good first impression."
With a sigh, Trista stood and waited next to Jen, her hands held closely to her sides. Sure enough, a red minivan was pulling into the bus station parking lot and rolled to a halt in front of them. The passenger side door popped open and a woman stepped out.
For a woman in her forties, she certainly was attractive. Her dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail and she wore a pale pink blouse and blue jeans that gave her a warm, motherly feel. Her eyes were friendly, dark blue, and her skin, although not lacking a few wrinkles here and there, was clear and soft.
Her husband came around the vehicle and immediately held his hand out for Jen to shake. He was tall, just as handsome as his wife was pretty, and still fairly young-looking. His sandy hair was carefully combed and he was dressed in a button-up cobalt shirt and jeans like his wife. "Jenna! It's so good to see you again." He grinned at her. So that was her name.
Jenna smiled back and greeted both of them before they turned their attention to Trista. Jenna was the agency's contact in this part of BC, so it was likely that the Tetherlands had dealt with her quite a bit to make this arrangement. Apparently, Meg and Bryant were looking to adopt, so Trista was told to be on her very best behaviour. This could be her chance to stop moving around all the time.
"Meg, Bryant, I would like you to meet Trista Park." She put a familiar hand on Trista's shoulder, but she quickly shrugged it off. Her two new fosters were smiling at her like she was a child, and Trista did her best not to be indignant. She stared them both in the eyes and waited for them to say something.
Bryant acted first and stuck out his hand. "Well Trista, it's a pleasure," He said, flashing her a charming smile. "My name's Bryant." Trista cautiously took the offered hand but didn't say anything. "And I'm Meg." His wife cut in, also shaking her hand. Trista still didn't respond. The Tetherlands seemed at a loss as to what to say next. If Trista wasn't so nervous about this new arrangement she probably would have laughed.
"She's just a little shy." Jenna explained hurriedly, and then removed a few papers from her briefcase. "If you could just sign these so the agency knows she was picked up, you can all be on your way!"
"Oh, of course!" While Bryant was occupied with papers, Meg attempted conversation once again. "Well, how about I put your things in the car?" She smiled.
"Sure," Trista shrugged. The way Meg was looking at her made her uncomfortable. She felt like the woman was about to squat down to her eye level and start gurgling. The image, although amusing, made Trista shudder. Trista allowed Meg to put her duffel bag in the back, but she held on to her backpack. All her more personal items were stored there and she felt better when they were within arms reach.
Bryant opened the door for her and she climbed into the back seat of the van. It was surprisingly clean, they'd probably had it cleaned before they came for her, but they'd been unable to get the smell of dog out and it made her want to plug her nose. The Tetherlands climbed in after her, waved goodbye to Jenna, and then they were on their way.
"You're going to love our home, Trista." Bryant started saying when they were on the road. "Our neighbours have horses. You can ride them any time you want. Do you like horses?"
"Not really," She shrugged.
"Oh...well there's lots of other things to do as well. There's always animals in the house. We have a dog and a few other pets. I'm a vet you know."
"And our son has a lot of video games. I'm sure he'd be happy to share with you."
Trista's ears perked up at the mention of the mysterious child the agency had failed to mention to her. She wanted to ask about this son of theirs, but decided she didn't feel much like stringing together complex sentences. So Bryant babbled on.
"There's the woods as well. We own most of them, and there are trails up the mountain if you like hiking. And a pond as well, with a dock and a boat too."
"Do you like ham, honey?" Meg cut in. "I made ham for dinner."
"Wonderful! And there's broccoli and mashed potatoes too. I even baked pie for dessert." She clapped her hands together in excitement. "Kind of a big 'welcome to the family' dinner, you know?"
Trista nodded at her and slumped against the seat, staring out the window at the passing scenery. The van fell quiet once again.
Before she knew it, they'd arrived at the Tetherlands' home. Gina hadn't been exaggerating when she'd said the place was huge. It was as large as the mansion she'd lived in last, set far back on the property with a drive lined with mature trees. The mountains and a distant forest made a beautiful backdrop for the home. It was an older house, with a wrap-around veranda, large bay windows and peeling purple paint with white shutters on the windows.
Bryant pulled to a stop and offered to give her a tour. Trista agreed and followed him around the house as he pointed out the forest and explained where the pond was and the trails. He gloated about their new in-ground pool for a bit, told her where the key to the gate was, and then took her around the house to show her the kennel.
"We have four residents at the moment." He explained. "All dogs." He let her into the addition on the house the was home to their kennel. Immediately the dogs started barking. Two were large dogs, a German Shepard and a Doberman, but the other two were a pair of stupidly tiny Chihuahua's. "My wife usually takes care of this place. It connects to the house back there, see? That's my wife's office."
Trista nodded dutifully and tried to look interested as he told her about their side-business and pointed out the dog run and other things.
Trista was relieved when they finally went inside. She could smell the ham and it made her mouth water. She heard a strange jingling sound and looked down to see a rather large, fat orange tabby rubbing against her leg. Trista smiled. She'd had a cat when her parents were alive.
"Hey kitty," She said as she bent down and picked it up. The cat looked at her and she almost dropped it in surprise. "What happened to his eye?" She gasped. One of its eyes was missing, with only a closed lid and a long scar where the organ should be.
"That cat is accident prone." Bryant sighed. "He knocked over a coatrack and stabbed himself with it when he was a kitten."
"Poor thing," She cooed, scratching under its bell collar.
Another, larger animal trotted up to her and started to sniff her. It was a large, and thankfully completely normal Husky with dazzling blue eyes. Trista smiled at the dog as well and scratched his ears.
"That's Storm," Bryant nodded to the dog, "And the fatso there is Tex."
"Cute," Trista said with approval, still holding the cat. She allowed Bryant to lead the way around the house as he showed her the kitchen, living room, offices, dining room and bathroom on the first floor, then headed upstairs so she could peak in all the bedrooms.
"Tiergan lives in that one," He said, pointing to the first door on the right. "He doesn't let anyone in."
"Tiergan?" Trista gaped.
"Meg picked it," Bryant explained hurriedly. "She's always had a taste for unusual names. Come on, I'll show you the rest of the rooms." The bathroom was across from Tiergan's room, the music room was beside Tiergan's and Mega nd Bryant's room was at the end of the hall. There was only one room left now, so Trista assumed it must be hers. But when they opened the door there was only a narrow flight of stairs leading up.
She was confused but didn't say anything as Bryant ascended the stairs. She followed him up and he opened a latch in the ceiling at the top, letting them into the attic room. Trista nearly gasped out loud when she saw it.
The attic was furnished with a huge bed, dresser and desk with a stereo and...was that a walk in closet?! It was! Trista wandered in, her eyes wide. She looked out the huge bay window that overlooked the back and marvelled at the view. The room was gorgeous and completely enormous!
"Do you like it?" Bryant asked with a grin. Trista could only nod.
"You'll love this." He was still grinning as he opened a door and showed her the en suite bathroom.
It wasn't as large as the other bathrooms, but it still had a shower, sink and toilet and a small medicine cabinet behind the mirror. And it wasn't pink! Trista hated pink. It was tastefully done in greens, which impressed her greatly.
"This is your new room. I hope you're comfortable here."
Trista didn't know what to say. They were way nicer than any of her other fosters had ever been! She was already starting to warm up to them a bit. "Thank you," She said softly. And she really meant it too.
"Well, I'll bring your things up so you can get unpacked. Dinner's in about an hour. Tiergan will be back from his friend's place then so you can meet him." Bryant smiled at her one last time before he finally ducked back down the stairs.
"You know kitty," She said to Tex. "I don't think this place is going to be so bad."
Trista came down when she heard the phone ring. The loud noise jolted her out of a dreamlike state as she explored her new room and unpacked what few possessions she had. Her dirty stuffed white bunny was now sitting on her bed where it belonged, her few books were stacked on the shelves, and her clothes where all in their proper place in the closet. She'd been staring out the window when the phone started ringing, and when she glanced at the clock she realized it was already six and dinner was probably almost ready.
She descended the two flights of stairs quietly and padded across the living room towards the kitchen where Meg was on the phone. She could hear her speaking animatedly to whomever was on the other line.
"That's right honey. She just arrived an hour ago." Trista was close enough that she could hear the voice on the other end. It was male, but the words were jumbled together so she couldn't understand much. She did, however, understand the outburst that came after Meg's statement. "She?! I thought you were picking up a boy!"
"I know honey, but there was a change of plans. Didn't we mention this to you?"
"Oh, well she's a sweet girl. I'm sure you'll like her." The voice on the other end quieted down a bit and Trista couldn't make out any more, so she hovered in the doorway and contented herself to listen to Meg's half of the conversation. From what she'd heard she figured she was talking to her son, the oddly named Tiergan.
"So how was practice?" Meg continue idly as she started taking dishes from the cupboards and piled them on the counter.
"That's good. You'll be home soon, right? What, you're in the car? Five minutes? Alright, see you then." She didn't notice Trista until she'd hung up the phone and jumped when she saw her. "Oh, Trista! You should have told me you were there. I would have let you talk to Tiergan."
"It's alright," Trista shrugged. "He'll be here soon, right?"
"That's right." Meg smiled.
"I'll help with the table." Trista offered, feeling uncomfortable watching Meg do all the work.
"Oh no you don't!" Meg cried. "This is your welcome dinner. I refuse to let you lift a finger tonight!"
"No, no, no." She quickly shoed Trista out of the kitchen and told her to go sit down at the table. "I'll handle this. You just relax."
Trista sighed but eventually gave in and took a seat next to Bryant at the table. "All unpacked?" He asked warmly.
"Yeah, I don't have much." Trista shrugged. She slouched over her plate and watched Meg dash around the kitchen, setting the table and preparing the food. She felt really guilty that she wasn't helping, but neither of the Tetherlands seemed to mind.
After a few minutes Trista heard the distinctive sound of a car pulling up the gravelly drive. She stiffened in her seat as she listened to the car door slam and footsteps crunching up to the front door.
"Ah, that must be Tiergan." Bryant smiled and stood from the table, but Trista couldn't move. 'Just one more introduction,' she thought, 'Just one more person to impress and your life here won't be hell.' Trista had gone through great lengths to avoid boys her age since her parents died. She just wasn't comfortable around people, boys especially. She shut everyone out so this next meeting was really starting to make her nervous.
She found her eyes trained on the entrance to the dining room, waiting for the inevitable arrival of Tiergan. Tiergan, who had been expecting her to be a boy. How well would he accept her?
She heard him greet his parents nonchalantly and answer their questions about his 'practice'. Trista wondered if he was on a sport's team or something. "Well, come meet Trista." Meg urged. Soon she had appeared in the dining room with Bryant close behind. Tiergan slowly made his way in behind them, but Trista remained sitting, frozen in place. Why was she so terrified? Meg and Bryant were nice people. How bad could their son possibly be?
When the boy in question finally stepped into the room all of her thoughts fled her head except for one, simple phrase. 'Uh oh.'