A/n So here it is!!! My comeback, my first actual story in 4 years!!! Well, that's not true, I've been writing a lot in the past few years, I just didn't feel like putting it on FP. This is actually a book I wrote, not intending to put it online, but I've decided that I need to get some feedback before I ship it off to about 30 or 40 publishers hehe. In other words, CRITICISM IS HEARTILY ENCOURAGED!!! Not the mean kind though, pretty please, flamers make me sad. Anyway, enough talk. Read on!!!
"Oh!" I gasped awake, bolting upright in the dark. Quickly, I turned on my lamp. Light flooded the room, and I breathed a sigh of frustration. I was safe, of course. Dreams couldn't hurt you.
I sat huddled against my pillow for another minute, giving my heartbeat some time to slow down. Once I felt calm enough, I finally rolled out of bed, glancing at the clock. The blue neon letters read 4:53 AM. Ugh. There was no going back to bed now. By the time I finally fell asleep, it would be time to get up again. Sighing, I trudged down the hallway to the bathroom. The reflection in the mirror looked horrible, and it wasn't just the flickering fluorescent light bulbs. My many sleepless nights were starting to take their toll on me physically as well as mentally, showing in bluish smudges under my olive green eyes. Dark blonde hair stood up in a tangled cloud around my face, which was still covered in clammy sweat after the nightmare. I grabbed a clean washcloth from the cabinet and wetted it, trying to recall any part of my dream. As usual, all I could remember was a pair of strange yellow eyes. Obviously this one detail wasn't enough to explain why the dream terrified me night after night. It seemed like I would never be able to unravel the mystery that plagued me night and day.
After cleaning up a little, I walked into the kitchenette, still distracted by my exhaustion. It wasn't a surprise to see Margaret there, already making breakfast.
"Morning," I greeted her.
"Hey." She looked up from the toast she was busy spreading with jelly. "You're up early."
"Couldn't sleep," I explained with a grimace.
"Nightmares again?" When I nodded reluctantly, she frowned. "Have you been taking your sleeping pills?"
"Yes," I replied, avoiding her eyes. The truth was, I had run out of my prescription weeks ago. It was so expensive though, that I didn't have the heart to ask Margie to renew it for me. Anyway, it wasn't like it really helped. I still had the nightmares even when I was on the drugs.
"Do we have any yogurt?" I asked absently, taking the conversation in a completely different direction.
My change of subject threw her off. "I think there's a banana flavored cup still in the refrigerator. I'll pick up more after work."
"Thanks." I pulled open the fridge, and after a bit of rummaging I was holding the yogurt and a bag of granola. It was too early for breakfast, in my opinion, but if I didn't eat now I'd regret it. Sitting down at the table, I began mixing the two. After a while, I noticed the Margie was watching me. I stopped eating, my spoon suspended halfway to my mouth. "What?"
Margie blinked and dropped her gaze. "Nothing, never mind." She hesitated then, looking up at me again. "Alexa, I have to talk to you about something."
I slowly set my yogurt back down on the table, sensing trouble. "What is it? Are you sick?" Margaret had been a sickly person ever since we had met five years ago, and had spent countless nights in the hospital as a result. I'd learned about nearly every illness in the book by now. Sometimes I wondered just how much of Margie's small weekly paycheck went toward her doctors.
She shook her head fervently. "No, it's not that." She bit her lip nervously, her big brown eyes misting over. "The social worker showed up yesterday."
My heart skipped a beat. "What? I thought she wasn't coming around until the end of the month!"
"I guess the agency sent her early as a surprise." I was appalled by the touch of bitterness in her voice. This had to be bad; Margie never got angry, even at the bitch who liked to call herself our social worker. That was usually my job.
Margie frowned at her hands. "The agency found out that we're behind on our bill payments. They also noticed that you've been skipping school a couple times a week, and they're not too happy about it."
I stared at her in disbelief. "Seriously? Maybe they should do a little more checking up at the restaurant. Then they might see that I don't go to school because I'm working over twenty hours a week!"
"I know, I know!" Margie cried, her stress finally breaking through. "I tried to tell the worker that, but she wouldn't listen. Now it's too late."
My breath caught in my throat, dread slowly pooling in my stomach. My voice came out in a whisper. "What do you mean, 'it's too late'?"
"They're taking you away," she moaned. The tears were rolling down her cheeks now. "According to the agency, I'm too irresponsible to be taking care of you anymore."
A deafening silence followed her words. It felt like my whole world had just stopped turning. "They can't do that!" I finally spluttered. "We won't let them! Besides, where would I go? You're the only decent foster parent I've ever had!"
My last comment was missed entirely as Margie buried her head in her hands. "We can't stop them, Allie. you know that I'll be arrested if I try. I'm not even your legal guardian." She sighed heavily. "You're almost eighteen anyway. In another couple months, at least you'll be an adult. You can come back here right away, if you'd like."
"If I'm moving back here anyway, then how come I have to leave in the first place? This isn't fair!" Unable to handle the anger that was pulsing in my brain, I shoved my chair away from the table and ran into my room, slamming the door shut behind me.
After a minute or two, my breathing finally slowed down. I knew that I had behaved childishly, and I regretted taking out my anger on Margaret. I'd lived in New York City with her as my foster parent for years (though she seemed like more of an older sister); it wasn't her fault that this was happening. We both did whatever we could to make ends meet. I worked part-time at the Chinese restaurant two streets over, and she slaved twelve hours a day as a secretary at a small insurance company. None of my previous caregivers had done half as much for me as Margie did. She really was the closest thing to family that I had had in a long time. I had no idea how I would live ever live without her.
The realization that I would have to learn how hit me like a wrecking ball. Silently, I curled up into a ball on my bed, letting the tears flow for the first time that morning.
A couple mornings later, I stood outside the apartment building, shivering in the chilly air. It seemed too cold to be the middle of June, but the wind raised goose bumps on my arms. Even the thick hooded sweatshirt I wore didn't keep me warm. I glanced over at Margaret and reflexively looked away when I saw her tear-stained face. We hadn't spoken a word to each other all morning. Now I wondered if she assumed I was angry at her. In fact, I felt exactly the opposite. The reason I couldn't talk to her, though I hated to admit it, wasn't because I hated her; it was because I was afraid of saying goodbye.
My melancholy thoughts were interrupted by a sleek black car pulling up against the curb in front of us. I narrowed my eyes in disgust as Gretchen Carol, the instigator of this whole disaster, stepped out of the driver's seat. She was clothed in her trademark black dress suit, as usual. How appropriate, I thought wryly. The look made the funereal aura complete.
"Good morning, Ms. Seelman," she said, nodding at Margaret. "Alexa."
I ignored her. Instead, I watched protectively as Margie gathered her thoughts.
"Hello, Gretchen," she replied in a broken voice. I could just barely detect the bitterness that lingered there. "Are there any papers that I still have to sign?"
"Just this." Gretchen slid a very legal looking document out of her briefcase. "It's an agreement stating that you won't attempt to contact Alexa once she is gone."
"What?!" I couldn't believe it. "We're not even allowed to talk on the phone?"
"It's standard procedure," Gretchen replied dismissively. "Foster parents aren't supposed to get too attached to the child as it is. Besides, you've been through this now many times before. You should what I'm talking about by now."
"The last time I moved, I was twelve!" I spat at her. "You didn't consider me old enough to know the specifics, and I wanted to get out of there so bad that I didn't think to question you!"
"Then don't question me now," she retorted coolly. "You should watch yourself, Alexa. With your record, you're lucky you found a new family at all." She still had that business-like look on her face, but her expression betrayed a hint of annoyance at my behavior. My face burned in shame at the reminder of my past; I opened my mouth to argue with her again, but Margie cut me off.
"Stop it, Alexa," she ordered. I turned around, gawking at her in shock. "It's not going to help anyone if we keep fighting it," she continued quietly. "It's over. We've lost." Before I could protest, she took the paper from Gretchen and signed it. She was pretending to be calm, but her shaking hand as she wrote her name gave her away.
"Good," Gretchen said, putting the paper away again. Then she turned to me. "Alexa, we should get going. You can put your luggage in the trunk."
I glanced down at my small ragged suitcase. It was awfully pitiful looking after the many times I'd changed houses. I'd hoped after the last time that I wouldn't need it anymore. Slowly, I picked it up and laid it in the spacious trunk. I was trying as hard as I could to not look at Margie, but it was useless. I couldn't avoid her eyes. When I finally glanced over at her, the grief in them knocked the wind out of me. I suddenly realized that despite all of my plans to return, there was a slim chance I would ever see her again. Caught up in the moment, I ran to her, hugging her small frame tightly. She held me just as close, sniffling into my shoulder. When we pulled apart a few moments later, there was a wet spot on the shoulder of my sweatshirt, and her eyes were puffy and red. I assumed that I probably looked just as bad right now.
"Stay safe, Allie," she whispered, holding my hand. "And promise me you'll write."
I stole a quick peek at Gretchen, but she was turned away from us, towards the street. It wouldn't have surprised me if she had an allergy to public displays of affection. "I promise," I whispered.
Margie smiled and hugged me tightly again. "Goodbye," she managed to choke out.
"Bye." Finally, we let go of each other and I got into the car. As Gretchen drove away, I turned around, watching and waving to Margie until we turned the corner, blocking her from view. When I could no longer see her, I slumped down in my seat and took a deep breath. This was the beginning of a new life, and I had to face it bravely, for Margie's sake.
Well, how do you like it? Is this a good start?? Obviously the prologue isn't toooo exciting, but I wanted to provide some background for Alexa. Oh, and before I forget, a lot of my chapters are pretty long, so I think I might divide them into installments to make them easier to read (not that you guys aren't smart of course haha).