The car pulls up into a long driveway. I look out the rain splattered-window at the grey flower beds. A large Victorian house looms into view. Mr. Barns, my social worker, is prattling on and on about how this was the best foster home for me and that even though this was my seventh one in the past year that everything would turn out fine. He always said the same thing at every foster home. And every foster home ended the same way, a young couple who hated me for no reason. I hated them because they hated me. This new foster home was supposed to be a haven with an older woman who didn’t have any children or grandchildren. Mr. Barns gets out of the car and walked to the trunk to get out my suitcases. I stay in the car and watch the house. Mr. Barns walks to my door and opens it, meaning for me to get out. I do so grudgingly and slowly walk up the steps. They creak under my feet and I begin to wonder if the entire house is like this. I hope not. Mr. Barns knocks on the door and is greeted by an old woman with white hair. She turns her gaze to me.
“Which one are you?”
Not even five seconds and I didn’t like her already.
“Sharon Smith.” She crosses her arms and steps aside, allowing us to pass.
“The boy is here already. I ask for three children, and they give me three teenagers.” I make a quick sweep of the room, seeing that everything looks new, but I doubt she’ll let us even so much as breathe on it.
“Your room is the first one on the left. Don’t go in any other rooms.”
I nod and climb the spiral stairs. My door is right next to a small teak door without a handle. I turn the silver handle to my door and walk in. the room doesn’t look that bad. It’s a bit large with soft lamps glowing, setting off the turquoise walls. The bedcover and curtains are the same shade of light green. Well, at least it isn’t pink. I know that most fifteen year old girls who grew up in a grey world would love any color, but I hate pink. It might have something to do with the fact that the first family I lived with had made my room so pink; it looked like a Pepto Bismal factory had exploded in it. I walked to what I thought was a closet and opened it. Instead, it led to another room. And judging from the colors and things on the wall, I guessed it was the boy’s room. I closed that door and tried the one by the window. It opened to reveal a rather large walk-in closet. I closed the door and sat down on the bed. It wasn’t too hard or too soft. This place might not be so bad after all. I grabbed the angel wing shaped pendent on my necklace. It was one of the things I had left to remember my mother by. I wished hard on it for good luck, then walked back downstairs. Mr. Barns is still talking to the woman. I turn left and walk into another room. It turns out to be the kitchen. There is a boy sitting at the table, playing around on a laptop. I sit across from him at the table to get a better look at him. He is tall, with pale skin, dark hair, and gold eyes. He actually doesn’t look that bad. He looks up and sees me for the first time.
“So I guess you’re one of the girls that are going to live here too.” I nod.
“Jake.” He clicks something on his computer, and then looks back at me. “Nice blue hair. Did you die it, or is it an extension?” My hand automatically flies up to my highlights.
“I colored my hair. It was one of the things the other family didn’t like about me. The woman was a hippie and didn’t like anything unnatural.” Jake nodded. Footsteps interrupt our conversation. I look up to see Mr. Barns.
“Sharon, I’m going to leave now. If you need anything, you have my number. Don’t worry this home will turn out fine. You’ll fall in love with the place and you’ll finally get adopted.” I smile. I see Jake smirk out of the corner of my eye.
“You say that at every house. And I’ll do my best not to terrorize anyone. As long as I don’t have reason to, I won’t hurt anyone.” Mr. Barns smiles and gives me a hug before walking out. Jake looks back up at me.
“Why is it that every social worker says the same thing whenever they leave us here?” I smiled and shrugged.
Cassie came later that afternoon. I was sitting in the kitchen working on drawing when the woman walks in again. Behind her is a blonde girl, about medium height.
“This is Cassie. She’s the other girl who will be staying here. She’ll be sleeping on the room across from Sharon’s.” I look up at Cassie. She looks to be around sixteen or seventeen, meaning she’s only about a year or two older than me. The woman walks out again, leaving all three of us alone. Cassie walks to the table and sits down between me and Jake.
“You must be Sharon, and you must be Jake.” I look at her. She’s too happy.
“How do you know that Jake is short for Jacqueline and his name is Sharon but he hates is so he wants to be called Shar?” Jake looked at me and smiled. Cassie sat back in her chair. I continued speaking.
“Well, I like to be called Shar and I’d prefer that’s what you call me.” Cassie nods. So does Jake. The woman walks in again, and Cassie brightens up immediately. I can tell she’s optimistic and thinks this will be her future home.
“Mrs. Whittingham, thank you so much for the room. I love the way it’s decorated.” I gag. Cassie is definitely too happy. I look at Jake to see he agrees. Mrs. Whittingham smiles at Cassie like she’s seeing her best friend after a long journey.
“You’re absolutely welcome, Cassie. Now I came in here to tell you that dinner will be ready at six. If you are not there at that time, you will not eat until after we are done.” I roll my eyes. She does realize that if she doesn’t start cooking now, she’ll be late, right? I duck my head and continue on my drawing. Cassie follows Mrs. Whittingham to the kitchen. No doubt to try and earn good favor. My hand seems to move of its own accord while I’m drawing. I don’t even realize what it is until I draw the final line. I look over it and see that it is a wolf-like creature with wings. It actually looks like a dog one of the other families had. I smile as I remember playing with that husky and how much I cried when I had to leave. I look up, startled as a hand touches my shoulder. It’s just Jake.
“Shar, it’s time to go to the dining room. I’d hate to miss dinner.” I grin and follow him.
The dining room is large with a stone fireplace at one end. The walls are painted a dark brown-red. The windows are covered in a white lace that matches the tablecloth. The only place left is between Jake and Cassie. I sit down and look more around the room. Large paintings hand on the walls. They’re given an eerie quality with the dim lighting and the fire. Rain still falls outside; I can see it trickle down the window panes. From what I’ve seen so far, this house looks like it would be terrifying at night. I make a mental note not to talk to any floating people I see tonight. I take my eyes off the walls to look at the meal. Spaghetti. Well, that’s easy and not too hard to make for a few people, so I understand. I take one bite and reconsider. It tastes like it’s been drenched in garlic, then coated with garlic salt for good measure.
“What do you think of the food?”
I look up at Cassie.
“Well, it will keep the vampires away for tonight.”
I look at Jake and smile. That’s exactly what I was going to say. Cassie frowns and goes back to her food.
Mrs. Whittingham opens her mouth and begins speaking again. “Sharon, whatever have you done to your hair? I can’t imagine you would like those blue stripes in it. It makes your head look like a zebra.”
I frown. I only have two, one on each side of my face. “Actually, I like it. Besides, if I had wanted the zebra look, I would have died my hair black and then given myself white highlights all the way around.” Jake smirks again. The rest of the meal continues in nearly complete silence.
After dinner, I grab my drawing and pencils from the kitchen and walk to my room. I find a picture on the dresser and replace the photo with my drawing. I think it looks better that way. I walk back out and find myself staring at the handle-less door again. Something about it just captures my attention. It looks like something in a movie, but I remind myself it’s not. That’s when I hear a voice in my head.Look at the door, but please don’t touch. You are the new guardian, don’t let anything pass through, nor should you pass through it yourself.
The words echo in my head for a moment before a silver handle appears on the door. My hand reaches towards it, and then I feel a slap on my arm. I look up to see Mrs. Whittingham.
“You don’t need to touch everything. At fifteen you should know that.” She walks away, muttering to herself. I look back to the door. The handle is gone, but I have a feeling that something big will happen tonight. I turn around to find myself staring into Jake’s gold eyes.
“Just don’t touch anything, talk about anything, walk too fast, walk too slow, breathe too loud, and you might make it here.”
“Did you figure that out on your first day?”
He smirks at me and walks to his room. I walk to mine and lean against the door. I take one more look at the door before turning into my room.
Around three in the morning, I heard soft chuckling outside my door. I looked at the door, half expecting it to open. I hear a bump, and then everything goes silent for a moment. I look at the door that connects my room to Jake’s, thinking he’s trying to scare me. Another bump comes from the hallway. No, it’s not Jake, not unless he hangs around doorways early in the morning. I hear another bump and more chuckling. This doesn’t sound good. I turn off my large lamp and feel my way across the wall to the lamp and turn on the smaller lamp. I look at my art supplies lying on the floor. They seem to glow eerily in the dim light. I hear another sound and my head whips around to face my door. I quietly walk to Jake’s door and softly turn the handle. As I thought, he’s still up too. Guess I’m not the only one who’s nocturnal.
“Is there something you wanted? Or is it normal for you to barge in to guy’s rooms at this time of morning?”
I grin unexpectedly at him. “No, it’s just there’s something out in the hallway, just making sure it wasn’t you.” Jake smirked at me.
“Poor Shar. Did you read something scary before bed?”
I smirk back. “No. if I’m going to have nightmares at this house, it will be because the lady wants to adopt me.”
Jake smiles. “Come sit here.” He pulls another chair from under his desk and waits for me to sit. I cross the room and sit down. He looks at me closely. “Why would it scare you if she adopted you?”
I shrug and he pulls up my chin so I’m forced to look at him. “Because, all the families I’ve stayed at are the same. This one’s no different. She’ll be gruff at first, get to know you, and then talk about adopting you. Then, when you think that you’re not going to be passed around anymore like a pair of shoes that don’t fit, they find one thing they can’t stand about you and they send you somewhere else. It happens before. There’s no such thing as a ‘real’ family. It’s all an illusion they want you to think. They don’t really care for you, they just want to appear to be saints to their friends and make you look like the bad guy. It always happens the same way.” Jake looked into my eyes and sighed.
“How many times did that happen to you?”
“Seven, every home since my mom died.”
Jake nodded. “That happened to me a lot, so they made me stay at an orphanage for a while.” He looked back up at me. “How did your mom die?”
I looked down at my lap, suddenly wishing I wasn’t wearing really short shorts. “We were at the mall one day. It was a sunny day, and I was happy. My mom had just published three new books, and we were celebrating. Our way of celebrating was going back to all our favorite stores and buying anything we wanted. It was fun. After we had hit nearly all of the stores, we were resting at the food court. She had been talking about how her publisher wanted her to continue her series, when a siren started going off. A gunman came walking through the food court, demanding all phones and valuables. My mom saw an escape route just before he approached us. I screamed for her to stop as she got up and ran. Everything seemed like it was happening in slow motion. I saw the gunman pull the trigger, and I saw my mom hit the ground. I saw the crimson stain quickly spread from her chest to the floor. Tears rolled down my face as I cried out for her over and over. The gunman turned to me. He threatened me, and I screamed. I threw myself forwards at him out of anger. He threw me to the ground and aimed the gun at my head. A SWAT member had snuck up behind him. I watched in fear as the gunman pulled the trigger. I quickly rolled to one side. It saved my life; the bullet went through the floor next to me. After the gunman had been captured, a paramedic came up to me and said what I already knew, my mom was dead. The police took me to an orphanage and I stayed there for a week until the first foster family came. I tried to please them, but no matter what I did, it wasn’t good enough. I gave up after the third family. I just knew that I wouldn’t find another family that loved me.” Jake looked at me as I looked up. He put his hand over mine and I smiled. It was enough to know that he cared. I hadn’t told anyone how my mom had died, and it felt good to tell someone. Jake began to speak, but I silenced him. Another noise came again, a loud definite bump. Jake and I both stood at the same time.
He puts his hand on my shoulder. “Shar, stay here.”
I laugh. “Like that’s going to happen.” He shrugs and walks to my room. I rip open my door and Jake looks into the hallway. There is nothing, or so we think.
Small figures swarmed towards the light from my room. I leap back out of the way. They pour through the door and stood in the light. They are ugly little goblins, about three feet tall.