Tobey strains himself against the seatbelt, twisting his head almost backwards to see outside the car window. They speed down the road, past the corner shop where he was allowed to get ice-cream every Friday and over the bridge where he and Jordan always go adventuring. Jordan is there on the side of the bridge now, brandishing his cardboard sword and screaming battle cries.
“Jordie!! Good bye!!! I’ll miss you!!” shouts Tobey from the car window as they pass the little pretend warrior.
Jordan’s head of brown curls jerks up at Tobey’s voice. Instinctively, Jordan knows that something was wrong. Abandoning his make-believe weapon, he sprints after the car.
“But aren’t you coming back? I thought...” he yells back to Tobey, but no matter how hard his short little legs pump, he couldn’t keep up with the car. Panting in the middle of the dusty road, Jordan watched as the silver Toyota pulls away from the town, taking Tobey with it.
Tobey pulls his head in from the window, and winds up the glass. Slumping against the smooth leather of the car seat, he squeezes his beloved rag elephant tight into his chest, a vain effort to stop the salty tears that are already rolling down his plump cheeks. He knew when he came here a year ago that this was only a temporary home. But it was the best home he’s ever had. Ms Shirley is everything that Tobey could want for a mother, and Jordan is the best friend that Tobey has been dreaming of for every single day of his six years. He pulls his legs up onto the car seat and huddles into a tight ball, crying for what he has to leave behind.
Tobey has never cried before. Born to an alcoholic mother with no father to his name, he never knew a single good thing so that he could cry for the lack of it. Until now. As a toddler he already knew that tears will never lead to anything but a beating. As a three-years-old in his first foster home, he learnt the hard way that his foster mother was not at all fond of children, but only fostering them for money. As a four-years-old moving to his third temporary home, the little boy was not surprised to find himself neglected and the money meant for his care pour into his foster father’s gambling craze. Tears were never a necessity, until he has to leave Ms Shirley and Jordan.
The silver car pulls up into the parking lot and Ms Shirley bundles out Tobey’s meagre luggage from the front seat. Tobey gets out slowly, running his fingers over the leather seat, committing the feel of Ms Shirley’s car into the happy corner of his memory. Ms Shirley stands waiting for him patiently, her sad blue eyes betraying her forced smile. Maybe she shouldn’t get married after all, if that means she has to leave this little child alone in the world... Tobey walks over to her side and thrusts his little hand into her warm grasp. Together they walk into the building where Tobey had been three times before.
After the paperwork has been done, Ms Shirley leaves Tobey sitting on a hard wooden bench, waiting for his future. As the clip-clopping sound of heels announces the arrival of his new temporary mum, Tobey sits up straighter and holds Ms Shirley’s rag elephant and the twin of Jordan’s sword to his chest. Armed with Ms Shirley’s love and Jordan’s friendship, he lifts his head, ready to face the long, hard road ahead.
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