Author's Note: I started this story almost two years ago and have recently rediscovered it. I had this story posted earlier, but have taken it down to repost and rework it. New chapters will be posted as they are reworked.
Chapter One: A New Beginning
I never asked for this. Therefore, she cannot blame me. It's not my fault my parents are dead. I did not ask them to die; they just died. It's my fault that they were shot on the streets of New York City.
It's not my fault that I failed to save them. By the time I realized that something was deadly wrong, it was too late.
My parents, Greg and Sarah Block, were shot last week in New York City. They were just strolling down the street to go home and they were caught in the cross fire between two rival gangs, at least that was what we was being told. My mother died instantly; my father died on the way to the hospital. I was baby-sitting Annie and David, my little brother and sister, when this happened.
It happened right outside our apartment building. If I had just gazed out the window, I could have warned them. If I had just listened to the funny feeling that I was experiencing in my gut, I could have yelled out widow. I could have prevented murder, but I did not look out. Instead, I played a board game with my brother and sister. Instead, I did nothing.
Now, I am an orphan. I don't know how I am going to explain this to my little brother and sister. How do you tell a ten-year -old and a six-year-old that mommy and daddy are never going to come home? How do you do that? How can I even convince myself that they are not coming back?
Now Annie, David, and I are supposed to live with our aunt. Our aunt, Heather, lives in the deserts of Arizona. Heather and her husband, Daniel, are schoolteachers at the local high school. Heather teaches English; Daniel teaches music. I loathe both English and music. They have a daughter, Cheyenne. She is the same age as me, sixteen. I never have met her and I don't like her. The name Cheyenne reminded me of girl in elementary school who used to bully me on the playground. Since then, every Cheyenne that I had meant have been complete and udder snobs.
I don't think that I will like Arizona. I don't like any other place, but New York City. Of course, I really couldn't give an honest opinion as I have never been outside of New England.
My whole life is changing and I do not like it. In addition, the worst part is it is not even my fault. It certainly felt like my fault. I guess I was experiencing survivors guilt.
I looked over Central Park for the final time. The trees were just starting to bloom. The ducks were just coming back from their winter in the nice hot south. The little children were just starting to run in the soft green grass; their mothers were chasing after them. This was my last look at the amazing, my last spring in New York City.
The social worker walked over and stood next to me. "Ready to go, Jessica?"
I looked up at the social worker's smiling face. Her fake smile was so familiar. It took me a few seconds to recognize it; it was the smile of a liar. I looked back out the window. "No," I said coldly.
The social worker placed her hand on my shoulder. "Now, Jessica you have to be strong for you brother and sister." She acted like she knew what she was talking about. I knew she was just saying those things so she could dump us at the airport and go collect her big, fat paycheck. I also knew that she had probably practiced the speech on her way over to the apartment. She probably even had our names inked on the palm of her hand so she could remember our names.
I looked over the social worker at Annie and David. They were playing with the new board game that she had brought for us. She had probably used the social services' money to buy it. They looked so happy and so calm. They did not need me to be strong for them; they didn't need me at all. The world of a child was so safe and sound. It was a place that I wished that I could return to.
"I don't have to be strong for them or anyone," I muttered under my breath. "I refuse to put on an act for anyone. I will not be like you, a fake."
However, the social worker did not hear my comments. She wasn't even listening to me; she was too busy talking on her cell phone. She saw me looking at her, smiled warmly, and closed her phone. We were just another business dealing to her. I looked down at my sneakers. I didn't want her to see my face.
"Well, time to go children," she said pleasantly. I knew that she was faking being perky. No one was that perky at eight o'clock in the morning. It was probably a job requirement to be perky at all hours of the day.
Annie, my six-year-old sister, looked up at the social worker confused. "Go where?"
The social worker knelt down next to Annie. "To Arizona."
"Why?" Annie asked. She held her teddy bear by one arm.
"To live with your aunt and uncle."
"Why?" Annie asked. The poor little girl was so confused. She really didn't understand what was going on. I don't think that any of us did.
The social worker picked Annie up. "Because they want you to live with them."
David came over and stood next to me. "She doesn't understand, does she, Jessie?" he whispered to me. His voice was solemn.
"Understand what?" I whispered back to him.
"That Mom and Dad are never coming back." He looked at the floor.
I sighed. "No she doesn't." I was not sure if I even understood. The truth hadn't fully sunk in yet and I was not sure if it was. I did not think that I wanted the truth to set in.
"Time to go," the social worker called to David and I. Annie was still asking questions, but the social worker was ignoring her. I thought that was mean to ignore a child who had just lost her parents.
I picked my backpack and suitcase off the floor and took one final look at our apartment. David, Annie, and the social worker were already out the door and waiting for me in the hallway. I reached into my purse, pulled out a pair of sunglasses, and put them on. I didn't want them to see the tears rolling down my face.
Many people said that change was good, but I did not think so. They always say that you will learn to adjust to change. I had a feeling that I would not be so lucky. This change was horrible and it was only the beginning.
I sighed and closed the apartment door for the final time. My life in New York City was over; I now belonged to Arizona. At least until I turned eighteen...
We took a taxi to the airport. The city streets crammed with the rush hour traffic on their morning commute to work; it was like a maze as our taxi waved in and out of the extreme traffic. I watched with my nose pressed against the filthy window as we passed the yellow sea of taxis. I knew that it was probably not the healthiest thing for me, but I really didn't care.
David tapped my shoulder. "Jessie, why are we leaving?" he whispered to me. We had just been through this with Annie and now he was asking.
I did not take my nose off the window. "Because Heather and Daniel want use to live with them."
"Because they are the only family we have left," I whispered. I could feel the hot tears forming and my throat closing up. "They are all we have."
Mom and Dad were gone. My grandparents had been dead for five years. My dad didn't have any brothers or sisters. Heather was my mother's only sister. Heather and Daniel was the only thing we had, we would be placed in foster care if they do not like us. If that happened we would be separated, and we could not let that happen.
Beside David, Annie was holding her teddy bear close to her chest. She looked so small and helpless. She did not ask for this; she barely knew our parents. It was a shame that she had to lose Mom and Dad at the age of six. It was a shame for anyone to lose the ones they loved.
"Your aunt and uncle have a lovely place by a lake," the social worker was telling Annie and David.
"What is the lake called?" David inquired curiously. He loved water.
"Umm, Weeping Lake, I think."
"Can we go swimming in it?" Annie piped up. I was glad that she seemed to be perking up.
The social worker shrugged. "Maybe, you will have to ask your aunt and uncle."
David crossed his arms over his chest. "It would make me feel a lot better if I knew that I could go swimming," he muttered under his breath.
I smiled at him and ruffled his hair. "We will go swimming no matter what they say," I whispered smoothly to him.
David looked up at me with hope in his eyes. "Really?"
I nodded. "I promise."
I went back to staring out the window. The huge buildings were a blur as we passed them at the speed of lightening. People scurried along the sidewalk like ants that had lost their way back to their ant farm.
"Only twenty more blocks until we reach the airport," the social worker said after a few minutes of silence. "You guys must be so excited."
"You bet we are," I said with a hint of sarcasm in my voice.
If the social worker had caught my sarcasm, she did not say anything to me. Nevertheless, I wish that she did.
"Jessica, Annie and David tell me that you are a wonderful poet," the social said to me. She sounded like she was talking to a five year old instead of a sixteen year old.
I shrugged my shoulders. "I guess."
"Can you share some poems with us?"
"No," I said coldly. "They are not very good."
In my spare time, I write poems. They reflect my mood; on days were I am happy, my poems are bright and cheerful; on days were I am sad they are dark and gloomy. Over the last month, most of my poems have been dark, gloomy, and depressing. They have been like that ever since my parents were killed, murdered and ever since my boyfriend broke up with me. I cannot believe they are gone, gone forever.
"How much further?" Annie asked abruptly.
I jumped; I had forgotten that they were here.
"About two blocks," the social worker replied.
"Are you going with us on the plane?" Annie asked. She looked hopeful.
The social worker shook her head. "The flight attendant will look after you." She turned away for Annie.
"Oh." She sounded disappointed.
I, on the other hand, was happy that the social worker wasn't coming. We didn't need her to make this trip anymore depressing that it already was.
I flipped to the front of my poem book. Writing awful poems was something I did to take my mind off of things. On the first page was the first poem that I had ever written. I wrote it back when I thought that the last word in every poem had to rhyme. Smiling I read it to myself.
By Jessie Block, age nine
There once was a cat,
The cat slept on a mat,
The cat caught a rat,
The cat wore a hat,
The cat caught a bat,
The cat has a mat, a rat, a bat, and a rat.
I wrote that poem for my fourth grade English class. My parents thought that it was my best poem. Tears filled my eyes as I remembered how much they had loved that poem.
"Okay, kids, you need to start gathering your things up," the social worker said in her kindergarten teacher voice. "The airport is at the next red light."
"Cept we don't have anything to gather up," David said in an undertone.
I fought back the laugh that was forming; instead, I ended up coughing and nearly choking.
"Jessica, are you all right?" the social worker asked concerned.
David slapped my back. "S... Su... Sure," I said still choking.
"Are you sure?"
"Good," the social worker said cheerfully. "Because we are here."
I looked up just as we pulled into the largest airport that I had ever seen. All around us, people were walking around; some had lots of suitcases and bags; others had only one bag. There were travelers of all ages, ranging for two months to eighty years old. Across the pavement, there was a large white building where people were entering. On the other side of the building was the runway; with a large jet on the runway waiting for passengers to board. Beyond that, there was a tall, white control tower. Behind the control tower there was several other jets parked.
"Wow," Annie said in utter amazement. "It's huge."
I had to agree with her.
The social worker led us up to the large white building. Windows lined the ground floor. I looked inside of the windows and could see people wondering around as if their head had been cut off. A row of orange, paste chairs were lined up against the windows. Little kids were running in and out of their parents' legs; teenagers lined the walls looking bored.
"This place is so cool," Annie gusted.
David and I exchanged looks and rolled our eyes. The oddest things fascinated Annie. I mean, come on, it is an airport for crying aloud; but when your six everything is fascinating, I guess.
"Now, your flight leaves in twenty minutes," the social worker told us. She handed me the tickets. "Now, have a good flight. Jessica whatever you do, do not lose the tickets. Good luck. And be good."
She took a step back from us. "Now, remember this is a new beginning. It's not the end." With that, she disappeared.
If only I could make myself believe that.