The rest of the week, my former BFFs continued to ignore me both at school and at home. At breaks and lunch I went to the library and caught up on my reading. At home I was in charge of setting the table every evening, and sweeping the kitchen after dinner. I also had to vacuum all the common rooms plus the two flights of stairs, which I thought was quite unfair after I'd only bunked off from two lessons. When I complained to Raqib about the excessive workload, he said he hoped it would put me off doing such silly things in the future. I told him that child labour was illegal, but he just ignored me. I had to keep doing the extra chores until Friday night.
On Saturday morning the fostering couple came to meet me. We went to the small sitting room, and they had tea and biscuits. I didn't eat any because I'd just had 13 pancakes for breakfast and was feeling a bit sick. They said their names were Michael and Phillipa.
"But you can call us Mike and Pippa, if you'd like," said Phillipa.
I was most certainly not going to call her Pippa. She was too old to be called Pippa. She looked kind of posh, with a skirt that matched her top, which looked like a suit, except for women. She also had a tiny scarf and silver dangly earrings. I wasn't sure if it was real silver, though. Mike was wearing a brownish jumper, brownish trousers, and brown shoes. His hair was brownish.. and grey. He looked a bit boring. They both smiled at me, waiting for me to say something. After a few minutes, they were smiling less, and Phillipa smoothed her skirt at least three or four times, even though it had no creases at all. Mike poured himself a third cup of tea.
"Why don't you tell them about your hobbies, Morgana?" said Katherine after a while.
"I like to read," I said.
"Oh, how nice!" said Phillipa. "Anything else?"
"Morgana also likes outdoor activities, don't you? Riding your bike, climbing trees.. Very active." said Katherine.
I shrugged again.
The adults all chatted a bit together whilst I fiddled with my hoodie's drawstrings, and then they left. As they were going through the front door, Jackie came downstairs. She was going off to the shopping centre with her crazy friends.
"Who's that?" she asked Katherine. She didn't even say hello to them or ask them to their face.
"They were here to see me, not you," I said. "It's none of your business anyway."
"Shut up, you twerp. Go play with your barbies or something."
"Jackie, that's enough," said Katherine.
"If you're here to foster her, be careful. Her mum was a nutcase, and I'm pretty sure it's genetic."
"That's not true! Shut up!" I shouted.
"Girls, I said that's enough," said Katherine.
"I'm not the one who sleeps with a whole bunch of teddy bears like a primary school kid," said Jackie.
"Well at least I don't still suck my thumb."
I could tell Jackie was shocked that I knew that, because she couldn't find a reply at first.
"You little brat.. How dare you! It's no wonder your parents got rid of you. Who would want such a stupid kid?"
"I'm not stupid!" I ran towards her and punched straight in the stomach, hard. She started screaming. I screamed back and continued hitting her. I couldn't tell what was really happening after that. All I could hear was screaming, which I later realised was coming from me, and all I could think about was hurting Jackie. Katherine tried to pin my arms to my sides, but I was so angry it was making me stronger, and she nearly fell over. Raqib came rushing over and grabbed my by the waist and lifted me in the air. I kicked out and hit Jackie in the face. She screeched and ran away.
Raqib was saying "calm down, calm down", but I couldn't. I tried to headbutt him but it didn't help. He took me into the sitting room, and two seconds later Katherine came too. I heard the front door shut. I stopped kicking and screaming and let my body go floppy. It just happens like that. I get really mad, and then it just stops by itself. Raqib let go of me and I sat on the sofa and hugged my knees to my chest.
"Well, said Katherine, that was quite something."
I shrugged and looked as miserable as possible. If I looked really sorry and sad, I might be in less trouble.
"I'm not happy, Morgana. You're going down a really bad road currently," said Raqib.
"She started it."
"There is absolutely no excuse for hitting someone, no matter what they say to you."
I was starting to feel angry again. I could feel it in my stomach, like a fizzing ball. "She deserved it!"
"We've talked about this before, and I'm going to tell you the same thing I told last time, and the time before: you do not decide whether someone deserves to be not or not. You don't hit them, and you don't kick them. No ifs, no buts. Those are the rules. If someone is bothering you, you get an adult to deal with it. I've told you this time and time again."
"Well you should have told her to stop then," I said. "You can't even do your job properly."
"We have also talked about that. It is not up to you to decide if an adult is doing their job or not. It is not your job to do that. You're going to need to cut down on the attitude unless you want to find yourself grounded for a week. Is that clear?"
I was grounded for a week. That was just for saying "whatever"; for having hit Jackie (she deserved it), I had to write 50 times the sentence "I will not hit, kick or cause harm to other people, no matter what they have said." I wrote it really quickly, and Raqib made me re-write it because it wasn't neat enough. I was so mad, I sneaked into the office whilst he was busy in the garden, and smashed his lamp against the desk. There were bits of light bulb all over the computer's keyboard. He found out it was me (some other kids snitched on me) and I was grounded an extra week, and had to pay for a new light bulb with my own pocket money. Over the weekend, Katherine took everyone to the aquarium, but I had to stay home, since I was grounded. It was just me, Raqib, and Jen, who comes on weekends to clean and do laundry. Since Jen was busy in the laundry room, I decided to go and see what Raqib was up to.
The office door was ajar, and I could hear him talking on the phone. I sat down.
"... yes. I am sure that could be arranged. We can then discuss in further details the type of - yes. Yes. The type of approach that would work best. I am entirely sure that the - that the aggressive behaviours can be managed, especially in a one to one setting. Thank you, Michael. I look forward to seeing you and Phillipa this afternoon."
He hung up the phone. I heard a creak and sat up, but the door opened before I had time to get away.
"Um, no. I was just coming to, um, ask you.. something.
"What is it?"
"It's a bit complicated," I said, to give myself time to think of a question.
"Complicated in the sense that you have to think of a question so I won't know you were eavesdropping?"
The doorbell rang. I went into the office and hid behind the sofa. I wasn't even sure why I had done it, but it was too late to change my mind now. It was Natalia. Natalia is a primary school teacher, and she is also Raqib's girlfriend. He doesn't know that we know, but we saw them together at the park one time, me and Saoirse. This was before Jana came. Then another time, we saw them kissing, which was so disgusting, and that's how we knew for sure they were in love. Sometimes she comes to the home, but you can't tell that she's his girlfriend, because they don't even talk that much. They mostly talk about the twins, who are in her class, and who are very naughty.
I was never in her class, even though I was in the same primary school, but I used to go to her art club. They came into the office.
"It's very quiet," said Natalia.
"Oh, they've all gone to the aquarium. It gives me a couple hours peace to put a dent in this mountain of paperwork I have. Though Morgana stayed behind, so I do still have to keep one eye and ear out for mischief."
"Is she sick?"
"She would probably be a lot less trouble if she was. No, she just an acute form of 'attitude-itis' - that and a new penchant for destruction. I honestly don't know what to do with her."
I hate when adults talk about kids behind their backs. You can't even defend yourself!
"That's strange," said Natalia. "She's not usually like that. Just a little exuberant at times."
"Yes, it's quite unusual. In just a few days, she's shoplifted, truanted, attacked another girl, broken a lamp, and ruined the exercise books of a whole class."
I'd forgotten about that last one. It was in science class. I'd played a little joke on the teacher, and she took it all the wrong way and got way too mad, and asked who had done it, then the whole class snitched on me and the senior teacher yelled at me until I cried. So I sneaked back into the room later, and threw everyone's book out of the window. It was raining hard, and they all fell into a huge puddle. I threw mine too so they would not know it was me, but they found out anyway, because of some dumb kid in another class who saw me at the window. I didn't see him because he was hiding behind a tree. I think he probably lied about the whole thing, but they all believed him, and didn't believe me when I said I hadn't done it, and why would I throw my own book? I got into loads of trouble, and they said I had made it worse for myself by lying, but I know that they would have still been horrible if I had told them it was me.
"Maybe she's being bullied at school?" asked Natalia.
"I hate to think so, but I have a feeling if anyone is doing any bullying at school, it's probably her."
I jumped up from behind the sofa, and they turned to look at me in surprise.
"I am not a bully!" I screamed. "You're horrible to say that, so horrible!"
"Take it easy," said Raqib. "I should have known she was there. I was already suspicious of the fact she disappeared so quickly after you rang... Sit down, Morgana."
I crossed my arms. "No."
"No problem. We can do this standing up. It doesn't bother me. Firstly, you should not have been in my office, listening in on a private conversation. You know coming in here without permission is against the rules, so for that, I'm going to give you some extra chores. Secondly-"
He looked at me. He had his angry face on, and I was a bit scared, but at the same time I was so angry that I didn't care as much as usual.
"I'm not doing any more chores, and I'm not listening to you any more."
"In that case, you can go to your room until you are ready to listen."
"No," I said again. I was feeling tough. Invincible.
"You can go to your room, or I can take you to your room. It's up to you."
"Neither," I said. "You're not my dad and you can't boss me around." I went to the hallway and started putting on my shoes. Raqib and Natalia followed me out. Natalia looked really worried, but Raqib looked furious. I looked at my feet because his face made me feel like I had butterflies in my stomach, but the bad kind like ones you get before a test, not good ones like you get before you go on an exciting trip.
"Take off your shoes, and go to your room. Don't make me do it for you."
"Honey, please.. Don't make this worse for yourself," said Natalia. "You're in enough trouble, don't you think?"
"Don't care," I said, shrugging.
Raqib grabbed my arm and started pulling me.
"Let go of me! You're hurting me!" I shouted, kicking at him.
He ignored me and continued to pull my arm. I was putting all my weight in the opposite direction but he was still too strong. I went to punch him but he caught my fist. I kicked him in the shins.
"Right. Isolation room it is, then," he said, and picked me up like a sack of potatoes.
"No!" I wriggled and kicked but he didn't let go. I hate the isolation room. It's a very small room with a tiny window that has bars in. It used to be a loo, which is why it is small. Now inside it just has a rug, some bean bags, and some squishy balls that are supposed to help you calm down, but they don't work for me. You have to stay in the room until you're completely calm and they decide you are ready to be back with everyone else. I hate going in there, because they always leave me a long time until I've cried so much my throat hurts, and after I come out, I don't want to talk to anyone and it makes me even angrier inside, but more hidden.
"I don't want to go in there! Let go of me!" I was just panicking and crying now. I wasn't feeling tough any more.
"You can't just hit people whenever things don't go your way. You can come back out when you've calmed down."
I screamed all the way. He shut the door, and I threw myself onto the beanbags, still screaming.