Yesterday was the last day at the Flower house. Believe it or not, I am going to miss it.
I am trying to dwell on the good things about moving, but I don’t think it is quite working.
Because it is the last day.
The last day in the shelter so full of kids there were nights I had to share my bunk, that the floor was full of more children than there were toys. The shelter where the staff say they are there to help you but would rather get drunk in the break room than break up the fights. The shelter that was home for nine years, in between the old couple and the debutant who only wanted to show me off, and the cute ladies in their high rise apartment and the suburban mom who was too frazzled to try… and all the others.
In all honesty, I think I would rather be back at the crowded group home than at the tiny apartment Reeves has dropped me off at a few hours ago.
She had pulled up to the tall, white building with a sigh, me safely tucked into the backseat of her old, beat up Toyota. I had looked out the grimy window that was covered with snot and tears of the child she had transported last to see what would be my home for the next few months. I almost begged her to take me back. In fact, I probably should have.
The building is tall and wide, like a brownstone but different somehow, as if it has been warped over the years, the neglect leaving it gross and forgotten. Some of the windows are covered with ply board, some thrown open wide so the stained and ripped curtains peek through as if the limp fabric is trying to escape from the confines of the building.
I already wanted to escape, just like the neglected curtain that was trying so hard to let the wind carry it away. I wasn’t even in the building yet.
I knew at once this is not the place for me.
I have always kept my room clean. Spotless. Even when the rest of the home was filthy, my room was clean. This place is the exact opposite of that.
I couldn’t pull my focus away from the building as Reeves walked around the car, the passenger door creaking as she released me from the child locked backseat the law required I be transported in.
“Come on, Lydia,” she whispered. I didn’t even bother to correct her. She knew as well as I did that I didn’t go by the ugly name that graced every state record about me. But according to her, for the next few months, I had to—as if keeping my real name hidden was of the utmost importance all of a sudden.
I said nothing as I stepped out of the car, following her up the crumbling steps and into the building.
I knew I didn’t have to go in. I knew that I could just turn around and run like so many other foster kids did. But I couldn’t stop the way my soul seemed to pull me into the house, the burn under my skin growing as if it was anticipating what might be inside. I would trust it, if I didn’t fear the burn under my skin so much.
I had seen the filth from the outside of the tall building, but it was nothing compared to what lived inside. Nothing to compare against the piles of trash and the smell that tried so hard to knock me over it was all I could do to keep myself vertical.
My eyes watered as it hit me, as I followed Reeves up the stairs and into the tiny, one bedroom apartment that was thankfully empty. If only the smell hadn’t followed us inside the tiny apartment.
If anything it is stronger here.
“Looks like we are the first ones,” Reeves sighed as she dropped the trash bag full of my clothes by the couch.
I could tell at once she wouldn’t say much more than that. She had already given me the ‘warnings’ in her office the day before, and she’d also told me I still had to see her once a week. Besides, Reeves isn’t one for ‘long-winded emotional banter’ as she calls it, which is probably for the better; I wasn’t much in the mood for talking. So when she said good luck and walked out the door, I wasn’t surprised. Lonely, but not surprised.
I turned up the sound on my headphones as I looked around, my heart beating a bruise against my rib cage as it tried to fall apart inside of me, but I wouldn’t let it. Not yet.
Now was not the time to cry. I hadn’t bottled up ten years worth of tears to let them out in this filthy place for no good reason.
I would rather be anywhere in the world other than stuck in this old, filthy building that has a smell seeping into everything, sticking to you, creeping into you in such a way you feel like you can never be clean. Like the smell is trying to become part of you.
I cleaned the whole place from top to bottom while I waited for the others to show up, but the smell stayed, almost like it has grown into the walls. Maybe it has.
The other three girls showed up a few hours later, an entourage following them into the tiny space. Caseworkers, law officers, and what I could have sworn was a parent taking up much of the floor.
I sat silently in the corner as I watched them shuffle through the space, giving instructions and laying down rules I already knew no one would follow. Then they were gone, leaving only four girls in a place that felt no bigger than a restaurant bathroom.
At least it has a decent sized kitchen, but it doesn’t have a microwave, and according to the three other girls that are moving in with me, ‘you can’t cook without one.’ I don’t know where that leaves them, but I think I am going to make a steak tonight, just to piss them off.
At least that’s what I would do, if the fridge had more than eggs and milk in it. In some ways, I was surprised it had food in it at all. And judging by the looks of these girls, they haven’t been saving any money for life after care.
They stunk of designer knockoffs and cheap gold-plated jewelry. While I stood still in my usual jean jacket, layered over a hoodie and thrift store denim, they gleamed in bright, flashy colors and slick, black hair.
“I’m Lydia,” I had told them, my voice shaking much more than it should given the situation.
They had said their names quick and emotionless, their eyes boring into mine. I knew at once they had been warned about me. I could tell by the way their eyes kept darting to me in differing levels of disgust and fear, in the way their backs were tense and straight as they already tried to establish their dominance over me. It’s a look I am used to.
Reeves had warned me that this might happen, that people would know who I was, what I was. It was why she insisted on me using the fake name, the name the state had put on my ‘birth certificate,’ not like you could really call it that when you don’t even know when or where your ‘birth’ occurred. For all I knew, I was twenty-one not eighteen and was born in December.
Even with all that, I had no idea how bad it really was, how much my past would start to affect me being in this place.
I was used to the kids in my group home, used to the workers who could care less. Sometimes I forgot how much of an oddity I was, how much my story intrigued while simultaneously terrified people.
Kids don’t just appear out of nowhere.
I only knew one of the girls, Neveah, from a placement a few years ago. They had put us together with an elderly couple who ‘wanted to help troubled youths,’ but in reality, all they wanted was a couple of teenage girls to keep their house clean.
It wasn’t too bad. The old lady was a decent chef, and I actually managed to put on a few pounds, so I wasn’t going to complain, even after Neveah stopped doing her share a few days in. At least it had been quiet and there.
But things went down hill fast and the labels started to come out when some of the couples more expensive relics began to disappear. Runaway, thief, destructive—I had been labeled with those before, but never like this, never with things that I pride myself on refusing to become.
I would never be a thief.
I handled it in stride, determined to make the placement work. That was until something of my own disappeared, and then windows started to break and the destructive label came out again.
I could tell by the look on the girls’ faces when they met me that Neveah had already warned them. They had looked at me as if I was the one who smelled, as if I would steal their blankets and boil them with dead rats. They stared at me with the contempt lined heavily in fear before they turned away and locked themselves in the bedroom, shoving my sacks of trash into the living room. I stared at the lumpy plastic as my skin began to burn, only barely hearing them tell me I could sleep on the couch.
I had continued to stare at the bags as I tried to control the burn, control the pain that moved through me as the heat tried to escape. I knew I needed to control it. Needed to stop it.
I quickly changed the music on my player to classical and dragged the bags over to the couch. I guess it was good I hadn’t told them I preferred to go by Raynn.
Reeves was right, unfortunately; I would just have to deal with being called Lydia for a few months, keep my past hidden for a little bit longer.
I looked at that door after they had shut me out, just like so many others. My eyes blinked as I sat on what was now my bed, surrounded by a smell and a terrible name.
That’s where I’m sitting now, on the lumpy couch, listening to “The Dance of the Sugarplums,” wishing I could go back to the group home where there is a bed instead of a couch and places to hide instead of a kitchen full of rats and adults who could stop these girls from killing me in my sleep.
It’s probably too dramatic I know, but you didn’t see the look in Neveah’s eyes, like I had done something more than shatter glass without touching it.
DOWNLOAD THE MOBILE APP
FOLLOW RAYNN ON...
Rebecca Ethington has blended the line between reality and fiction with her groundbreaking project - Of River and Raynn.
Follow the characters online and watch the story unfold with live action video and journals entries that take the characters off the page and make it real. #RiverandRaynn
Follow River and Raynn on their journey!
Author Rebecca Ethington is giving away an Of River and Raynn Prize Pack, which includes an advanced copy of the book, t-shirt, and an all expense meet & greet paid trip with the cast.
How awesome? All you have to do is join the fun!
This giveaway is open international. Yes, we said international. :0)
Must be 18 or older.
Make sure to check back all summer long for new ways to enter and win!
a Rafflecopter giveaway