The Best Goodbye(5)By: Abbi Glines
I didn’t want to regret this decision, although the more I saw of River, the more I wished we had stayed in Oklahoma.
Fourteen years ago
Another foster home. I didn’t get attached to any of them. I’d stopped wishing for a family years ago. Now I just hoped that no one would hurt me and that I’d get fed every day. Because I knew what being hurt and not getting fed felt like.
Cora stood beside me, with her hard frown and tense stance. She didn’t expect me to last here, either. We had been through this before. I’d been moved from home to home over the past eight years, ever since my mother had left me in a grocery-store parking lot. Cora Harper was my social worker and had been in charge of placing me in each new home.
“You be good here, Addison. Don’t argue with them. Don’t complain. When you’re told to do something, then do it. Get good grades, and no fighting in school. This home could be the one for you. They want a daughter. You just have to be good.”
I was always good. At least, I tried to be. I didn’t argue. I asked for food when my stomach hurt because I was hungry, and I only got into a fight that one time at school because the other girl had pushed me down and called me names. I tried my best to be good. I just realized that my best wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t hope it would be different here.
“Yes, ma’am,” I replied politely.
Cora glanced down at me and let out a small sigh. “You’re a beautiful child. If you’d just act right, you’d find a home you could stay in.”
I had the urge to tell her that I did act right. It was on the tip of my tongue, but I bit it back and only nodded. “Yes, ma’am,” I replied again.
I followed Cora up the steps to the pretty yellow house with a big white porch wrapped around it. I liked the look of this place. The other houses I had lived in didn’t look anything like this. They were usually old and smelled funny.
Before Cora could knock on the door, it opened slowly. A tall boy stood there. He had blond hair that was a little too long and shaggy. His green eyes went from Cora to me. Then he frowned. I had never really seen a boy I thought was beautiful until now, and he was frowning at me. I hadn’t even messed up yet.
“You’re little. Thought you were my age,” he said, staring at me.
I hated being called short. Everyone talked about me being small for my age. I got teased about it at school enough. Straightening my shoulders, I tried to stand taller. “Maybe you’re just too tall,” I snapped in response.
Cora’s hand wrapped around my shoulder, and she squeezed so hard I winced. Her long nails bit into my skin, reminding me that I had to make this work. If I didn’t, I would be taken to a girls’ home next, and I knew the nightmares that happened there. I’d heard stories.
“Sorry,” I murmured through the pain in my shoulder, where Cora hadn’t let go of me.
“Let her go. You’re hurting her,” the boy said angrily, jerking my attention back up to his handsome face. He was glaring at Cora like he was ready to remove her hand himself. “Jesus, she’s tiny. You don’t have to squeeze the hell out of her,” he said, scowling.
“River Kipling! Watch your language,” a voice called out, just before the figure of the woman who would become my worst enemy filled the doorway.
My eyes flew open, and I threw off the blanket, bolting up and sliding to the edge of the bed before taking a deep breath. I was covered in cold sweat, and my heart was still pounding. This dream was one I knew well, but it had been a while since I’d had it. From the time I was sixteen, I’d been fighting one demon—the one that tore my heart out and never gave it back again.