Oh. My God. I feel like the biggest piece of shit on the planet, and I am so sorry I haven't updated. I have reasons, I swear. One of my mom's good friends has been diagnosed with cancer, and it's been a hard time for us. Please pray for her and I'll try to keep you updated on her progress. My computer crashed somewhere in the time I was gone, too, and it took a while for my cousin's husband to get it back up and running, especially since I wanted him to try to save all of my countless iTunes songs :) I hope you guys aren't too mad at me. Here's an update, and I tried to make it longer to make up for the time I was slackin'. Enjoy and review. -Lacey (P.S. I changed a few of the foster kids' names. Don't be confused. I also gave Haley a job that fits in with one of the kids, so don't be confused about that either.)
I decided that I didn't want to get all dressed up for Mason. I mean, we were going to a foster home. I didn't know how old these kids were, but I knew they were younger than him. I know a lot about kids, and I was always the cousin to call when my aunts and uncles needed a babysitter. Mason wanted to pick me up in the morning, before breakfast. I hated waking up early, so I hit the hay right when we hung up the phone and set my alarm clock for six in the morning. Dear God.
I wore jeans and a plain white t-shirt, keeping my hair in a high ponytail. I applied a thin layer of mascara and covered up the traitor pimple on my chin. When I began to brush my teeth in a rush, I saw a red Volkswagen Jetta pull into my driveway through the bathroom window. I spit the toothpaste into the sink, washing it down the drain and dropped my toothbrush on the counter. I stopped my sprint down the hall at Joslyn's door, who was sitting on her bed, painting her toenails.
"I'm leaving!" I said, and continued down the hallway.
"Where are you going?!" She shouted back in a desperate tone. I was not going to let her ruin my day with Mason.
"Out!" I replied, right when the doorbell rang. I flew past the kitchen, and into the living room where the front door stood. I imagined it with a white glow around it, and me opening the door to beautiful Mason with a halo above his gorgeous shaggy hair.
I opened the door, and there he was. No halo, sadly, but I could deal with the regular Mason. He wore jeans and a black t-shirt, and he clearly hadn't spent much time this morning on his hair, because it was wild and sticking out in awkward directions. That kind of brought butterflies into my stomach. He wasn't perfect like I'd thought when I first saw him.
"Hey, no name," he said in his charming, raspy voice.
Keep cool. "Hey," I replied softly. Mason's eyes scanned over my body, and I felt my face flushing. I wasn't stick thin by any means, but I was athletic. I had muscle on my legs and arms, and I had a total tomboy body. I seriously doubted that Mason would want anything to do with a girl that could outrun him. And I don't have a big ego, I just train a lot.
That's about the moment I realized that we were both kinda looking each other over awkwardly. I looked away shyly.
"Well, we should get going. Sara-Anne was about ready to cook breakfast when I left, and the kids should be waking up soon." Mason led me to his car, and I hopped into the front seat, thanking God that I wasn't about to mount a big black motorcycle.
Mason was actually a good driver. He stopped at red lights, only went about 5 mph above the speed limit, and wore his seatbelt. I was extremely impressed, but I knew I probably shouldn't have judged him too fast.
The car took us to a tiny neighborhood in Minneapolis. The houses were small and sort of uninviting, but I tried to ignore it and didn't say a word when Mason pulled up beside the curb, next to a house with light blue paint that was coming off in places. The windows had bars lined up on them by the glass, and it almost looked like a more cheerful version of prison. There was a kid-sized red bike with training wheels in the driveway beside a rusty pickup truck.
"Here we are," Mason said proudly. He didn't seem embarrassed that his house was like this. Maybe he just didn't let it bother him. "Ready?"
"Yeah," I said, hopping out of Mason's shiny car. I wondered how he ended up with a nice new car and his foster parents had a worn out pickup truck.
I followed Mason to the front door, which was wide open, leading right to the stairs. Walking in, I took a look around. It looked...nice. There were pictures of the kids and some even of Mason on the mantel above the fireplace. The walls were painted in a soothing cream color and the carpet was maroon. The house wasn't extravegant and fancy, but small and relaxing. At least that's how it looked.
"We're here," Mason shouted into the house, and imediately I took back my words. A black boxer came out of nowhere, literally, and jumped up, resting it's paws on my stomach, barking. I was never really a dog person, so I backed away from it, clearly frightened, and it collapsed to the floor then jumped up again.
"Deuce, down!" I heard a woman's voice call from the open doorway leading into what seemed like the kitchen, based on the smell of bacon wafting through it.
She was peeking her head out and looked stressed as hell. Her blonde hair was in a ponytail, and strands stuck to her sweaty forehead. She wore a messy apron. I expected her to be more, old and wise. Wrinkled but happy. This woman didn't have a wrinkle in sight, and she was gorgeous, especially for her age. She took care of herself nicely, and her emerald green eyes were welcoming.
"This is Sara-Anne," Mason said, his hand gesturing towards the woman.
"Mason William, I told you to introduce me as Sara. I dropped the 'Anne' portion of my name years ago," Sara said with a smile at me. "And you must be the girl with no name."
I nodded politely. "I'm Haley," I told her, glancing at Mason uneasily. He grinned widely, and my stomach did a small flip flop.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Haley. Ken and I have been wondering when Mason was about to bring a friend around here," Sara said. Mason tensed up beside me. "I guess Deucey has already welcomed you."
The boxer was laying beside the fireplace, its eyes sad and longing towards me.
I just wondered where the kids were. Or was it true that he made them up?
My question was answered a moment later, when a small boy slid down the steps on his butt. He had short red hair and freckles all over his body, and was wearing Spongebob Squarepants pajamas. My kind of kid. He was grinning ear to ear, and I smiled at him when he was finally all the way to the bottom of the stairs.
"Lucas, how many times have I told you not to slide down the stairs like that? Your rear end will turn black and blue!" Sara exclaimed.
"But ith fun!" Lucas chanted with his adorable lisp. He walked up to me slowly and said, "I'm Lucath. Who are you?"
I crouched down to his level and replied in my kid-friendly tone. "I'm Haley. How old are you, Lucas?"
Lucas held up six fingers and smiled again. "Thicth!"
"You're six!" I said, standing back up.
Lucas nodded, then turned to Mason, pulling on the leg of his jeans. "I like her, Mayyy-thinnn. Can thee thtay?"
"Sorry, Luke. She's got her own family to get back to, but she'll stay for breakfast. And maybe she'll come back again, if we're lucky," Mason told him, ruffling his hair. I wondered if he really wanted me to come back. "Sara, where's Seth and Paige?"
"Seth is out back, and Paige is upstairs in her room. Naomi went to the store with Ken. You should take Haley out to see Seth first. He isn't staying for breakfast," Sara replied simply, and Mason led me through the kitchen and out the sliding glass door, right into the forest. I hadn't noticed that there were woods behind the blue house, but all I could see right now was trees and a small muddy path swerving through them.
"Seth and Paige are both thirteen, but Seth is older. He's turning fourteen in a couple of weeks," Mason explained. "He's obsessed with the woods. That's where he's going, you know. Once Ken and Naomi are back from the store, Ken is taking Seth camping for a few days."
"Sara and Ken seem really nice," I said, not knowing what else I could possibly say.
"They are. They dedicated their lives to taking care of kids that aren't theirs. I know it hurts Sara sometimes though, that she doesn't have her own kids. She always wanted her own kids, but she could never have them," Mason told me.
I didn't want to be nosey, so I kept quiet while Mason called for Seth.
"We don't have to walk around in the mud. That's probably not your thing." Mason smirked at me and I rolled my eyes, trudging into the mud.
I looked back at him, and his face was shocked. "Are you coming or not?" I asked with a smile.
Mason followed me onto the path, and continued calling for Seth.
"What about Paige? What's her thing?" I asked, dropping back Mason was walking right next to me.
"Horses," Mason replied, smiling. "She doesn't even know how to ride a horse, but she's studied horses since she was eight. We don't have enough money to get her into lessons if Lucas keeps taking piano and Naomi keeps going to daycare."
I remembered my instructing job at Windy Ridge Ranch in Woodbury, Minnesota. I'd always had a passion for horses, and my own Quarterhorse, Keeper was boarded there. "I could give her lessons," I offered without thinking.
"You ride?" Mason asked.
"I work at a stable in Woodbury. I could teach her on my own horse...for free," I said. This was an amazing deal, and I couldn't imagine Mason saying no to that. I could tell that he obsessed over getting the kids what they wanted.
"Haley..." he started slowly, and just the way he said my name made my heart skip a beat. "That's a really nice offer, but I don't think we could do that."
"Sara and Ken don't believe in people doing them favors and not returning the favor. They'd think they owe you something," Mason explained, and I sighed.
"I'll try to find a way, then."
Mason didn't respond. Instead, he started calling for Seth again. Finally he got an answer.
"What do you want?" Seth asked from above us. We both looked up, and Seth was perched on the branch of a tree, wearing jeans and a black hooded sweatshirt. His blonde hair was spiked upward and the sun shined off of his tan face.
"Seth. Get down and say hi to my friend." Mason ordered, pointing at the ground.
Seth rolled his eyes and began climbing down the tree. He was like a monkey, swinging on the branch and placing his feet firmly on a lower branch. Finally he jumped down and landed perfectly on his feet.
"Hi," he said, then turned back to the tree.
"Seth Jordan. Introduce yourself to her." Mason said, pulling on Seth's right shoulder. Seth scowled at Mason then looked at me. "Politely," Mason added.
"I'm Seth," he said, holding his hand out.
I shook his hand, smiling. "Haley."
"Stop PMSing, Seth. Sara wants you back at the house. Ken should be back soon and if you aren't there when he gets back, Ken's gonna leave to camp without you." Mason took my hand and pulled me away from Seth, back towards the house.
He pulled his hand away once he knew I was following, and I missed the warmth of his palm against mine.
Call me crazy.