The door creaked and groaned as Lori pushed her head into the master bedroom. On the side was a dresser long past its glory; gold leaf flaking and the lacquer had lost its sheen. It barely reflected the light that shone on it from the large windows, framed in dusty white curtains, pinned back to allow the sun in. She tutted and supposed she would have to wash them as well soon.
The house seemed empty when there weren't children running around, yelling and carrying on. She missed the raucous minutes when there weren't things to be done. She wondered where Marty had gone. When she was having her lunch he seemed to be right outside, but his wagon had kept going.
The boy with the startling eyes seemed to be burned into the inside of her eyelids. She went about the house, completely distracted. She, Marty, her parents, her sisters, the children in the village, George the butcher, everyone in her life looked the same, variations on a theme; black hair, olive skin. Sometimes there would be a lady from one of the larger cities would pass through, with blonde hair or fair skin, but both on the same person captivated her.
Marty was due back with the new fosters hours ago. Lori had whiled away the hours finishing her house work, and now she was sitting of the steps of the big wooden house, watching the sun roll out of the sky slowly. She had considered beginning to prepare dinner, but Marty wasn't home and there was no way to figure the number that would be there when he did return. She was anxiously pulling at her pleated skirt as she watched the dusty trail disappear into the blood coloured sky, the wheat glowing in the dying light.
When night finally fell she retreated into the kitchen of the empty house, a warm shine coming from the large fireplace in the cluttered room. Pots, pans, pokers, toasting forks, and other things hanging from the walls, surrounding a large round table with seats enough for 12. It felt cavernous to Lori, the wooden walls and cast iron utensils resembled stalactites, drooping in the stark firelight
Being alone made her nervous, remembering the stories George would tell her when she went into the village. Snakes and spiders, wolves and thieves, prowling and stalking through the country side. They seemed like fairy tales when she was in his shop front, the sharp coppery tang filling her nostrils as she snorted and giggled. Now, sitting around the big, empty table, she wasn't so sure.
The wind began to rattle the old windows, the dying old olive tree branches scratching at the sides of the house. She started spasmodically, leaping from her chair, pulling the shutters closed, shutting off the scene from outside. She breathed heavily and sat down, trying to distract herself. They didn't have any books or things that she hadn't read, but she found a dusty old atlas in the sitting room. She dashed in and out quickly, the moon full casting frightening shadows on the rug and stone.
She returned to her seat and began pouring over the maps of the world beyond her farm. Perhaps he was from the north, the cold mountains and non-existent sunlight. She wondered how long he would have had to travel to come to Trabia. She thought of the other boys on the wagon, and tried to figure out why Marty had kept going. Maybe he had decided to go and see her parents, or drop some of the extra children off for the Franklins just over the way.
Just as she was preparing to go to bed, a tremendous howling thundered through the house, sounding like a gutted boar, squealing. Lori screamed and dove under the heavy table, covering her head in her hands, the atlas dropping from the table with a thud.
"Lori!" came a voice from outside. "Lori, are you alright?"
She opened one eye, and standing in the doorway was Marty, and behind him, standing in an awkward semi-circle were 6 children, one of them was the boy with blue eyes and blonde hair. Lori crawled out from under the table, face flushing red and hot, completely embarrassed with her behaviour. Marty bent down and helped her up, feeling her hand shake in his.
"Sorry we're so late, we went up to see your parents for a bit. Are you alright? That storm came in fast, only just beat it here."
Lori smiled weakly at him, "I'm fine, I just wish you'd said something when you'd driven past earlier."
"I'm very sorry," he said gently. "Anyway, these kids are the new fosters we'll be looking after." He stood back and beckoned them all forwards. "This is Anita, Tim, Kate, Johnathan, Daniel and Andrew." The girls curtsied and the boys waved when he said their names, all except Andrew, who was the strange looking boy. He bowed at the waist and held his hand on his chest. Lori said hello to them all, staring at Andrew the entire time.
"We've eaten at your parents place, so show this lot to their room," Marty said with a sigh, "I'm going to have a bath."
The smallest of the children, Anita, ran up to Lori and hugged her around the waist.
"Are you my new mummy?" she asked sweetly.
"I'm your big sister," Lori replied.
When Lori looked back up at the other children, Andrew had disappeared.
"Where did Andrew go, boys?" she asked them.
"He said he was going outside," Daniel replied.
Lori ran out of the kitchen and through the front doors. "Andrew!" she looked frantically out across the yard and fields, rain falling steadily, but couldn't see him.