..."A Charming Endeavor" book tour has returned home. And for those who've followed along, (but don't sweat it if you haven't ;) I promised a final story. A fitting tale meant for capping off a month long trek covering far away lands...and a few spots just around the bend.
Some of you may remember my earlier posts featuring a young lady that I've named The Girl. A foster child who'd been paying my family routine visits over the past year and a half. Several have asked whatever happened to her, this lonesome child in search of a place to nestle upon.
And so my tour ends...as her journey begins...(Enjoy ;)
...a few months ago, a young man of seventeen, having just inhaled a final draw from a smoldering joint, dropped the flaring nub to the dust and followed it with the toe of a faded Nike. He tilted his head back, grinning at the stars, how they shivered and danced under his current state, and decided then and there to share his good cheer with a buddy of his. And what more fun than to invite his pal for a spin in Mom and Dad's car.
The drive through a wooded hillside lasted no more than thirty minutes. They passed no other vehicles, swerved to avoid a crossing deer, and rolled safely into the family driveway no worse for the wear.
The young man of seventeen stumbled out of the car, his mouth churning away about fast rides, easy girls, ditching school during final exams, and how those stars up there may in fact be aliens, their ships fleeting about like insects, just out of reach.
He left his buddy in the driveway, tiptoeing around the house to the back deck. His senses on high alert. After all, you never knew when Mom or Dad may be lingering.
The teenager's friend, who'd accompanied him on the joyride, and had quickly realized the dilemma he'd been lured into, exhaled a breath, watched it dissipate into the frosty air like fleeting spirits, considered his options, then walked into the house.
For the boy who'd been sitting in the passenger seat of the car, was a foster child of the same age. He didn't particularly care for the family he was living with. Had in fact grown weary of his "step brother's" antics of late. And there were other foster kids in the house to consider...all of them sick and tired, of being sick and tired.
Listening to the heavy breathing coming from his foster parent's bedroom, the boy quietly scooped up a nearby cell phone, and dialed his social worker's number. She'd once promised him that he could call her anytime, day or night.
...despite the hour, she answered on the third ring.
I was in my office the following afternoon, glaring at the overhead clock, when my phone started ringing. I recognized my home number, picked up the receiver.
"What's up, Hon?"
...breathing hard, "We got a call about taking in another kid," my wife said.
"What?" I huffed. "Are you outta your mind? Have you counted how many kids we already have? We're already going through eight gallons of milk a week. We'll be causing a shortage soon! We can't...Hon, no. Tell 'em to find someone else. I mean, I can't believe you'd even consider..."
"Okay, chill out. But before I turn her down, I thought maybe you'd like to know who it is. But I guess not, so..."
"Wait a minute."
My breath caught in my throat. There was something she wasn't telling me. Something in her tone. Hopeful. A bit ornery, perhaps. Something. And a thought crossed my mind.
A chill danced and jittered like a centipede along my spine, leaving a trail of goose pimples and anticipation. And when at last I spoke, my voice came out in a whisper. "It's her, isn't it?"
For a moment, only the sounds of our breathing could be heard over the phone line. Hers now slowing a bit, as mine drowned out the buzzing silence. But that was enough. No words were needed.
Then I asked, "What happened?"
"Her foster family ran into some trouble, got their license suspended. Sounds permanent."
"We'll have to rearrange the bedrooms to make room."
"You do realize she's a teenager now...lotta baggage. She's been getting into trouble at school."
"They told me if we can't handle her, they'll put her in the D.H."
"She'll be fine...she'll be home."
"Good, because I already told them to bring her home."
"Atta girl." I giggled like a ten year old, hung up the phone.
She was in the garage when I came home. Sitting Indian-style on a plastic tarp, sorting through her things. Her life's belongings piled into a half dozen garbage bags and an ancient blue chest, one side caved in from an angry boot. I knelt by her side. Watched as she thumbed through the pages of a dusty photo album, pictures of her mom.
A steady rain formed a veil across the open garage, the spatter of water on pavement like a steady applause.
When at last she spoke, the voice belonged to a stranger, for I hadn't heard from her in months. During that time she'd become a teenager. And yet, when she looked up, I saw The Girl who's wounded childhood had so captured our hearts. The Girl who could never return home. The Girl who's mother suffered from a severe case of schizophrenia, as did Danny Kaufman's from my book. As did mine...
"I'm tired of my things always getting thrown into garbage bags," she said.
"I'm tired of that too," I answered. "There's an empty dresser upstairs."
"I'm tired of bouncing all over the place. House after house. New schools, new rules, on and on."
"Our rules aren't so bad."
She hesitated, then, "So I'm staying here this time? For good?"
"If you'd like."
"Do I get my own room?"
"How about a TV?"
"Don't push your luck."
She grinned. I spotted a tear dangling from an eyelid. Then, "So I hear that you're a writer now. What's up with that?"
A chuckle rose from my throat, bounding out like an errant belch. "Yeah, something like that..."
We listened to the rain. Vehicles rolling by, each one carrying a unique drama all its own. Tires whining on wet pavement.
From inside the house, the sounds of Jason Castro's "Traveler" made quick work of lifting our spirits. My son the musician. His timing couldn't have been better if he'd planned the moment beforehand.
"So I'm home how?" she finally asked.
I swallowed. "Come on, let's unpack your things..."
Thanks for reading ;)
***Contest winners for those who followed along and supported my tour will be forthcoming!***