"Ara! We've had enough," shouted a gruff man in his 30s. His wife was crouched on the floor picking up the shattered glass of the vase I'd just thrown. "We take you into our home," he started and took a step forward, grabbing me by the hem of my shirt, "Feed you, clothe you." His fist was shaking and I stared him in the eyes, his fury reflected fully in mine.
"I never asked you to do that," I said, my voice controlled through my anger. I glared at him, ignoring the sound of clinking glass being dropped into the trash.
"Get out." He said, his voice low. The woman let out a sigh.
"And where will she go, David?" she said tiredly. My fists clenched, as I stared up at the man. His grip on my shirt loosened and I pushed against him to tear it away completely. With that, I grabbed my backpack from the sofa, swung it over my shoulder, and headed outside into the New York summer rain. Before the door closed I could hear the woman say, "You can't throw a foster child back on the street. Do something."
I intended to get far away before they could.
It wasn't long before the yelp of a Police vehicle arose me from my sleep that night. I was curled up in a little nook and cranny under the Manhattan Bridge. I wasn't the only one. There were many homeless that used the spaces in the Manhattan Bridge to sleep. Especially on a day like this. Through the pouring rain I could see an officer making his way to me.
His hair was quickly beginning to soak, and most of his other features were difficult to see in the darkness. The lights of the city barely shown through the relentless rain. He stepped underneath the threshold of the bridge and out of the rain.
"What are you doing out here?" he asked kindly. I didn't answer him at first. I expected him to ask me to come with him, to handcuff me when I refused, but instead he sat down next to me. A beam meant to support the bridge becoming his makeshift bench. "I was like you once, you know," he said. I didn't care for his sob story, but I guess he didn't know that. "I was a foster kid, moved from home to home when I lived up to no one's expectations." I scoffed at that.
"Expectation? No one expects us of anything." Except thievery, dishonesty- He cut off my thoughts.
"Then why are they surprised?" He asked. It didn't matter. "When we act out, when we run away." His words meant nothing to me. The gust of wind blew speckles of rain towards us. I shivered. "Come with me. I'll take you some place warm."
"I'm not going anywhere with you." I said harshly. I could make out his face briefly, he was young. Still, the lack of light in the rain made it difficult.
"Fine. Wait here a second." He went back into the rain, stepped into his car. The lights turned on in the vehicle when he opened the door. A few minutes later he returned under the bridge and settled himself back on the support beam. I stared at him confused.
"What are you doing?" I asked. He brought his feet up and laid back on the slanted metal beam.
"Camping. You won't come with me, I'll stay with you." The rain seemed to slow then and I annoyedly sat back down in my space, realizing the warmth I had left in it had all but seeped away.
"My name is Tim," he said then through the darkness. Several minutes passed before I responded.
"Nice to meet you, Ara."
When morning came, I was surprised to find two things: the police officer was still there, and the rain had stopped. I could see Manhattan across the East River, the streets already packed with bustling workers. The sun was just rising. Tim rose from his slumber and looked at me through tired eyes. He really was a young police officer. Probably in his 20s. And probably in trouble for pulling a stunt like this. I couldn't believe he had stayed the entire night.
"Ready to come with me to find you a new home?" He asked. The night made me feel docile, lacking the drive to resist. I nodded and he heaved himself off the beam and gave a long stretch. A yawn or two later and we were heading across that very same bridge into the city of Manhattan.
I was being relocated. Apparently there was a family in Minnesota willing to give me a more permanent home. I didn't like the sound of that. Making it harder for them to get rid of me was only going to make things more complicated.
I handed my airline ticket to the stewardess as I passed through the terminal gates. I'd never been on a plane before, and already I was regretting this assignment. But New York wasn't the best place to be homeless. I suppose Minnesota won't be either.
At the police station they told me what to expect. I would be picked up at the airport, a man with a sign with my name. He would take me to my new home. I was given a picture of my new foster parents. They had given me paperwork for school, an Identification Card and an airline ticket. I just had to follow directions.
I looked down at the ID card. The face of a pale girl stared back at me. My dark hair was messy, having dried strangely from the rain and sleeping under the bridge. My eyes seemed duller in the photo, closer to grey than the usual turquoise. My expression was apathetic at best, ill-mannered at worst. Maybe I should have cared more for the picture.
The flight was three hours long. The seat was horribly uncomfortable and I must have annoyed the lady next to me with all my shifting. I let out another annoyed sigh.
Minneapolis Airport was much like NYC's. Plenty of high end shops, and people in business attire. After retrieving my duffel bag and heading with the crowd of people from my flight, I found myself in a large room filled with those waiting for their loved ones. It wasn't hard to spot the man holding the sheet of paper reading, "Ara Heely." The man guided me to a taxi, giving the taxi driver instructions to take me to presumably my new home. I sat in the back and the taxi driver drove off into the city.
It was humid. That was my first impression of Minnesota. New York had rainy days, but with clear blue skies here, the humidity was unexpected. We left the city and the tall skyscrapers behind, and into the rural countryside of Minnesota. Flat farmlands soon turned to scattered trees, and then to thick forests. I wondered how far we were heading as we passed a sign reading, "Pine City." It was close to three hours from the airport when we arrived at the small town of Sandstone, Minnesota. A little ways down County Road 30, appearing through the trees, was a small mansion of sorts. It was the largest home I had ever seen, with white paneled wood and a metal roof.
As we pulled into the driveway, the man and the woman from the photos stepped out onto the porch. The man, I recalled named James, was tall and lean with shaggy brown hair. His wife, petite, wore a blue sun dress that was cinched in the middle. Her hair was cut short at the ears. Her skin was close to my complexion, but her face was beautiful. Slim and angled, with a pointed nose and blue eyes. She was far more attractive than any other foster mother I'd had.
"Welcome to our home, Ara." The woman greeted. "This is James, and I'm Cassidy Willis." I nodded in acknowledgment and went for my bag, but James had already grabbed it before I could. Their home was more manor than house. As I entered, there was a large open room with tall ceilings. There was so much space. They had a winding staircase, and what seemed to be three floors. They led me to what would be my room on the second floor, right at the top of the stairs. I counted at least four other doors on the floor in addition to mine. The room was already furnished, as expected I supposed, with a bed covered in a green blanket, a desk with a lamp, and what appeared to be sliding doors. I stepped over to the sliding doors as James set my backpack on the bed. I slid the door to the side. Behind it was a closet. It was empty for the most part, just a basket on the floor and an unopened package of hangers. I stared down at the empty basket.
"We do laundry on Saturdays." James said. I didn't respond. He stood there for a few moments looking awkward and left me to my room as Cassidy stepped in with a smile across her face. I unzipped my bag as she took a seat at the desk.
"We're really excited to have you here, you know." She said. I pulled out my clothes that had been balled up and started piling them at the end of my bed. I noticed how Cassidy's eyes lingered on them. "Is that all the clothes you have?" she asked. The pile wasn't too small I thought. I had several t-shirts and jeans along with some other necessary clothes all crumpled together. I nodded once and started to pull the clothes apart.
"Should I show you where the bathroom is?" she asked, sounding unsure. I realized with a house like this, the bathroom's location wasn't immediately obvious. I had never lived in a place where I needed to be shown where the bathroom was.
"Sure." I said quietly. Cassidy's face brightened and she stood to her feet.
"There. That was the first word you've said to me." She quickly bounced out of the room and I followed. It turned out the bathroom was just down the hall, two doors from mine. Everything was starting to feel surreal and fatigue started to set in. I yawned. "Dinner will be in about an hour. Why don't you shower before hand and come downstairs?" Cassidy added as I fell backwards onto the bed. "I'll send Willow to come get you when dinner's ready."
"Willow?" I asked confused.
"Yes, Willow. Our other daughter." She responded. 'Their other daughter,' I thought to myself sarcastically. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. "Well anyways, I'll go get you a towel. Feel free to use anything in the shower." She said and disappeared into the hallway.
I was drying my hair messily with the towel Cassidy had given me when a petite teen girl with bright red hip-length hair knocked on my opened door.
"Dinner's ready," she said. I nodded and shook my hair with my hands to loosen the dampened strands.
"Willow, I suppose?" I asked. She nodded and shifted her weight to the other foot.
"And you're Ara," she said. I said nothing more, and continued to run my fingers through my hair, pulling apart as many tangles as I could with my fingers. Willow turned on a heel and left my room. I could hear her footsteps as she descended the stairs. I took a deep breath and followed after.
I could hear more than three voices coming from what was probably the kitchen.
At the end of the stairs and around the corner was an empty kitchen. Through another hallways I had eventually found a large dining room with James, Cassidy, Willow and another girl, and three boys. It seems I had found myself in one large foster family. I could have read my relocation papers, but before now I didn't want to know about the family I was temporarily joining. The girl sitting next to Willow was Asian, with shoulder length black hair. Her defining feature in my eyes were her full lips, and crescent shaped eyes. The boys, one with ebony black hair and copper skin, one California styled blond hair blue eyed boy, and lastly a brunette. The brunette was staring at me with wide brown eyes that made me uncomfortable. Each were built slim, and awfully good looking. I wondered again briefly where I'd found myself before sitting at the table.
"Were you able to put your things away, Ara?" Cassidy asked. The table had several dishes of food. I nodded to her. There was a pasta of some sort, peas, mashed potatoes and gravy, and some kind of meat on a platter. Cassidy stood and grabbed my plate from in front of me and began adding portions of each dish to my plate. "Do you eat peas?" she asked. I nodded. Food was food.
The blond boy sitting in front of me was staring at the brunette, his eyebrows furrowed together. The brunette was still staring at me relentlessly. There was something going on here.
Cassidy placed my food in front of me. It looked and smelled delicious, but before I could grab my fork and help myself, Cassidy held out a hand to me on my left and Willow to my right. What were they expecting I do right now? I glanced at both of them and noticed the boys in front of me all clasp hands and lower their heads.
"Just take my hand, you'll see." Cassidy said. I took her and Willows hand and they lowered their heads.
"Lord, we thank you for this wonderful meal and this family you have brought together," Cassidy began. 'What is this nonsense?' I thought to myself. Each head was lowered except one; the brunette. I glared in his direction, my way of saying 'knock it off.' He quirked an eyebrow and then lowered his head. "We thank you for each of our children and our new addition to the family, Ara. In Jesus's name we pray, Amen."
Each member of the table echoed the "Amen" before beginning to eat. I picked around my food, eating slowly, nervous around this group of people.
"We should introduce everyone," James said as he scooped himself a second serving of potatoes.
"That is a wonderful idea," Cassidy stated. "Why don't you start, Marilee?"
The Asian girl smiled and set down her fork. "My name is Marilee. The Willis's took me in when I was 13 after my parents died. I'm 15 and I love all types of art mediums. It's nice to meet you, Ara." I nodded.
"Nice to meet you," I returned. I shifted my eyes to the blonde boy next to her.
"I'm Joseph," he said. "I'm the biological son." He offered me a half smile, seemingly insincere.
The copper skinned black haired boy offered a much fuller smile. "I'm Downing! I actually grew up in town, but the Willis's are letting me stay here for a while just until my parents get back!" Classic faithful abandonment case.
The last boy's stare made me uncomfortable. The brunette kept an even tone. "I'm Jack," he said. I waited for him to add his own quirk, but he said nothing more.
"And you already met me. I'm Willow. I moved in 8 years ago, adopted 7 years ago," Willow said. "What about you, Ara. What's your story?" I bit the inside of my cheek indignantly.
"Nothing much. Grew up in New York." I nodded awkwardly. Not knowing what to say, I added a quick, "Nice to meet you all." It seemed to be the right answer as Willow and Marilee both returned the gesture.
Feeling overwhelmed I stood from my seat, intent on returning to my new room.
"Do you wish to be excused, Ara?" James asked from across the table. My cheeks flushed. I ignored him, and left the room and up the stairs. I immediately closed my door and leaned against it. Sliding to the floor, I placed my head in my hands.
A/N: So um, that was chapter one. I'll update faster with comments. Maybe just a short comment just so I know someone made it to the end of the chapter.