It was raining. It almost always was.

The lawyer looked particularly disagreeable with low, furrowed forehead, beady black eyes, and a skin that seemed to possess some unhealthy gray sheen like she hadn't seen the sun for years. Leslie at the time could care less about the lawyer's appearance and wanted to delight at the weather, which was stormy and gray. Blue skies and shiny suns, blooming flowers and birdsong – everything, in short, that compromised a perfect end-of-summer afternoon was absent, and in its wake was the sobriety of a dark sky and silver shining raindrops, like the weather mourned over what was done.

Mrs. Brown scolded her, though. She said that this was no time for crying, because there were times in life when you had to be strong no matter what and this was one of those times. Her parents and brother would be proud of her, she said. So there she was, dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief repeatedly and casting curious glances at the lawyer who, despite the faked indifference, truly intimidated her.

Leslie remembered that she used her handkerchief so many times that Mrs. Brown affably offered hers.

Eventually, with a long-drawn, suffering sigh, the lawyer looked up with her black eyes as hard as ice. "As it says here, you have no relatives, Leslie?"

Leslie pursued her lips and nodded solemnly.

"Mrs. Brown," the lawyer began, shifting her dark gaze to the grandmotherly plump woman, "as Leslie's music teacher and close acquaintance, is there anything you can add to the situation?"

Mrs. Brown, of course, could not, since everything was stated clearly in the documents.

"It is settled, then." The lawyer folded her small hands and pierced the eleven-year-old blonde with those sharp, beady eyes of hers. "Leslie, as I'm certain you know, by law anyone under the age of eighteen years old needs a parent or a guardian to look after them. When you will turn eighteen, you'll be able to come back here. In the meanwhile, you'll stay in Sea-Side Care; it's an orphanage not far from here."

"I … I can't stay here? This is my home," Leslie said stammeringly. No. No, she couldn't leave this house, those rooms, those corridors where she could still hear the echoes of her parents' merry voices. She couldn't quit dusting her brother's skateboard and the family photo frames. This was hers.

"It will be for the best, dear," Mrs. Brown interjected before the lawyer uttered a syllable. "You need to grow up and be in a place where you can receive proper care and education. Then you'll be really ready to take care of yourself and this house, and in the meantime I'll have this place shining like a copper penny." She smiled, that sweetly compassionate smile of hers that hinted something deeper and more meaningful to the nice music teacher. "Do we have a deal?"

Leslie felt then something snap inside of her, and all the tears and sorrows she pushed into the back of her mind rushed out in a salty waterfall. The lawyer assured her that she wouldn't lose a nickel that belonged to her parents, Mrs. Brown continued to say how proud her parents and brother would be proud of her, and Leslie, after composing herself in the bathroom, went to lonesomely pack her belongings.

She imagined meeting neglected, crumbling buildings surrounded by beds of untamed weeds, unruly scowling children, red-faced maids, and bruises. She cried heavily that night, imagining many of the nights she'll spend in the same manner. What she didn't expect, however, was the sheer accuracy of Mrs. Brown's words: several whitewashed buildings, sky-blue curtains, a neat vegetable garden, daily walks to the beach, and a certain redhead who would change her life.

Then again, Leslie was surprised, some years later, at the sheer inaccuracy of Mrs. Brown's words. Looking back at that fateful evening, she wished that Mrs. Brown wasn't so sure of an orphanage being the best for her and offered the position of a foster mother. She wished she never stepped foot at Sea-Side, never met her, and truly was lonely for the rest of her life.

Because, like her mother Mrs. Jones once said, it is better to be alone than in the company of bad people.