The sizzling bacon acts as a sensory alarm clock for my fallen angles. The sounds pierce every corner of the quiet house, the smell permeating their senses to bring them back from the dream world. It’s my favorite time of the day, those few moments when I know peace. I’m content with my kids all in their beds safe and sound, lost in dreams filled with all the possibilities their lives may become. That peace soon turns into an Earthquake as all six of them manage to stir and begin the epic morning battle for the upstairs bathroom.
I laugh to myself in the kitchen as I hear the girls screaming at each other upstairs over which one needs the bathroom more. The sounds that drive most parent’s crazy are my favorite songs. A loud boom shakes the walls—of the two story brownstone style— house and I wait to hear the cries of the loser of the bathroom battle make their way down the stairs.
“Libby.” I hear Ally’s voice whine from the bottom of the stairs as she enters the kitchen. I smile at her over my coffee cup as I prepare to hear about all the injustice of the world.
“What happened baby?” I ask trying to sound sympathetic to my nine-year-old girl. She huffs exasperated.
“I don’t understand why Kira needs so much time to get ready every morning? She’s such a bathroom hog, other people need it too.” Ally complains about her fourteen-year-old sister Shakira every single morning. Even if Ally wins the bathroom battle. I can’t wait for her to become a teenager so I no longer have to explain it to her.
“Baby, you know Kira just likes to look good for school. Apparently that takes longer now that she’s a teenager.” I tell her calmly. I hear a scoffing noise from the kitchen entrance.
“Yeah right, she just likes to look good for her new boyfriend.” Liam teases as he pulls his sleepy face up to the table. I smile sweetly at him.
“Good morning captain trouble.” I greet him dutifully as I put a plate of breakfast down in front of him. “Ally baby, just go and use my bathroom.” I tell Ally who is still whining like an injured animal in the middle of the kitchen. She beams brightly as she darts out of the kitchen.
“I don’t understand girls.” Liam admonishes looking worn like an old man despite him being eleven years old. I laugh at him.
“I don’t either baby, that’s why I have so many boys.” I say laughing and he laughs as I scruff his messed up hair affectionately. I currently have six foster children in my care. Liam aka captain trouble is like a mini hall monitor, he keeps me well informed about the going’s on of his foster brothers and sisters. He does a better job of keeping track of them than I do most days, but he is definitely a little trouble maker when in a group. Yet as we sit here alone in the kitchen, he’s a little sweetheart.
The next to seek my attention is Lucas as he comes flying into the kitchen arms out and almost tripping over his superman pajamas as he leaps up into my arms for a morning hug. His beautiful green eyes stand out underneath his black mop of hair. Lucas came from a terrible home environment, and he has only recently trusted me enough to talk to me. I found my way into his fragile little heart with my stories. All of my kids have come from the most terrible situations and some bear deeper scars than the others.
I drop Lucas into his chair as I plate him up some breakfast. The next set of heavy footsteps entering the kitchen belong to Trey, my resident vampire. His pale complexion from never going into the sunlight sits beneath his dirty brown hair and is set off by the lightest blue eyes I’ve ever seen. The kind of eyes that see right through you, he has the most contagious smile but sadly I hardly see it. I’m working on that though, he’s far too worrisome for a thirteen-year-old boy.
“Good morning little vampire.” I smile at Trey as I put his vegetarian omelet down in front of him. He gives me a small smile in return and the slight bags under his eyes tell me that he was up late reading again, instead of sleeping. I scruff his hair lightly, I’m so desperate for this kid to not look like he carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. Of all my kids, I have to say that Trey’s life before he came to me was probably the hardest. I can barely think about the file they showed me before I agreed to take him without tearing up.
I never let him see my tears, all this kid has ever known is cruelty or pity. I want to show him life can be anything but. I turned him onto to reading, but Lord I wish I’d turned him onto to baseball or something else. He has a brilliant mind and reads everything he can get his hands on. As an English major and a writer it gives us as special bond that he is starting to believe may be longer lasting than his previous circumstances.
Sometimes he’ll find me in the middle of the night because he’s come across a word in his book that he doesn’t understand. He loves learning new things and he always gets so excited when I explain things to him that he doesn’t understand. I get a glimpse of the kid that has such as thirst for knowledge when he gets excited like that, then as if he seems to realize that he might be happy he shuts himself down and recoils from it.
I scream as a pair of strong arms pick me up off the floor and spin me around the kitchen before the boys at the table start laughing at Jackson’s antics. Jackson, my oldest foster kid is seventeen and has been with me since he was ten. He plants a big dramatic kiss on my cheek.
“Morning mom.” He says laughing after scaring me. He scruffs the heads of his younger brothers and they all fist bump in their private boy’s club. I shake my head laughing at him. Jackson makes up his own plate of breakfast and pours himself some coffee as well. He takes a seat before narrowing his eyes at me. “Did you have breakfast?” Jackson demands seriously. I laugh at him.
“Of course, I eat before you boys get up or I’d never get any food.” I tell him laughing and the younger ones laugh along. Liam has just finished up with his breakfast as Ally finds her way back into the kitchen dressed and ready for school. Liam darts off towards the basement bathroom to use Jackson’s shower to get himself ready for school. Ally takes a seat next to Trey and makes a gagging face as she sees his breakfast.
“You’re so weird. Why don’t you eat meat?” My outspoken princess demands of him. He glares at her like he wants to set her on fire with the power of his mind.
“Ally.” I caution as I put her plate down in front of her. She tries to feign innocence.
“Do you know how they make bacon?” Trey asks her coldly. I hold my hand up in front of him.
“Trey honey I love your curios mind, but nobody needs to know that process at breakfast time.” I tell him seriously and he looks at me curiously. Trey had only become a vegetarian recently after watching a documentary on animal processing plants on late night TV. I have since banned late night TV for him, instead he now gets all his information from the internet. Brilliant kid, but far too worrisome. His worries in turn make me worry. I’m trying to think about how to break the news to them about this weekend when my most challenging child saunters into the kitchen.
“Hey freaks.” Shakira greets everyone. Fourteen and fabulous. Her beautiful dark skin hidden beneath far too much make up for school and her long legs hanging out of a far too short skirt. I raise an eyebrow at her and she shrugs at me with all the attitude of a teenage girl who has a chip on her shoulder.
“Princess Kira, what have I told you about using that word in this house?” I ask her seriously as she struts to her seat like she owns the place. She shrugs again.
“Chillax Libby, it was just a joke.” She enunciates my name like it’s a curse word. I glare at her, this girl has been with me for over a year and knows that I don’t take her crap.
“After you’ve finished your breakfast you can change that skirt. You’re out of your mind if you think I’m letting you leave the house wearing a head band around your ass.” I tell her seriously. She glares daggers at me and I smile at Ally and Lucas who are laughing at me using the word ass. Even my little vampire has a smirk on his face at her being put in her place.
“You can’t tell me what to do Libby, you’re not even my real mom. You’re just some lady the state pays to let me live here.” Shakira spits and her head goes all ghetto at the action. Jackson slams his fist into the table shocking everyone.
“Don’t speak to her like that.” Jackson’s voice booms. Shakira just glares at him silently as she eats her breakfast. My knight in shining armor and my number one defender rides in on his valiant steed once again. His loyalty has been earned after seven years, but Jackson has always been my little knight since he first came to me. He’s on a fast track for a football scholarship at a good college next year. The school year has just started, but it already looks promising.
“So what’s on everyone’s agenda today?” I ask trying to diffuse the tension as Liam finds his way back into the kitchen.
“I’m hanging out with you.” Lucas tells me proudly and I smile at him.
“Well thank goodness for that. I’m going to be so lonely when you have to start school next year.” I tell him pouting my lip. My little vampire is about to skulk away from family time until I stop him. “Actually before we all disperse for the day I do have to let you know that there are some people coming by on Saturday.” I tell them seriously. Then general mood of the table drops and I feel terrible. I hate subjecting them to this, but it is one of the conditions of being a foster mother to allow potential adopting parents to come by and visit with them occasionally.
Trey’s sad eyes find mine and my heart almost breaks. “Man they must be desperate to come to the bottom of the barrel looking at us.” Shakira spits out venomously I glare at her.
“What are you talking about, everyone knows I have the best bunch of kids. That’s why they’re coming to meet you all.” I tell them. There is a collective eye roll from the kids.
“Yeah right. We’re not little kids Libby you don’t have to make up stories to make us feel better about being the adoption rejects.” Kira huffs as she gets up from the table and dumps her plate into the sink before storming out of the kitchen shoulder checking Trey on her way out. I’m about to call to her but I decide that she and I are overdue for a one on one chat.
“Look guys, I know it’s a sucky situation but we still have to meet these people and be on our best behavior.” I say sympathetically. “Then I was thinking we could have a beach day on Sunday.” I add trying to bribe them. They all look at me like I just told them Santa is coming early. We live in East L.A but we don’t get to the beach as often as we should. There is a collective buzz of excitement about the beach from everyone as they start talking about what they’re going to do there.
“Alright platoon, let’s move out. We’re on a schedule here.” I announce and like a herd of cattle everyone leaves the kitchen to prepare for school. Even Lucas runs away with the crowd in excitement. Jackson makes his way to my side and puts an arm around my shoulder for a quick hug.
“Well at least you know you’re stuck with me mom.” He says sweetly. I smile at him and try to stay my tears. These meetings may be hard on the kids but they’re no picnic for me either. “You think they’ll take Lucas?” Jackson asks quietly. I shrug. I never know who they might fall in love with.
“They might want you, you never know.” I tease him. He laughs and shakes his head.
“Not a chance. If anyone tries to take me from you again, I’ll just do what I did to the last ones. You’re my mother, you’ll never get rid of me whether it’s official or not.” He tells me and I lose a tear down my cheek as he plants a kiss on the top of my head.
“When did you get so tall?” I joke trying to lighten the mood. He laughs at me.
“You just looked after me too well so I grew into a strong man.” He laughs flexing his muscles as he makes his way into his basement apartment to collect his things for school. I notice a small movement on the other side of the wall to the kitchen entrance and I can hear all the commotion going on upstairs. I round the corner to find Trey standing against the wall at the base of the stairs.
“Are you okay honey? Are you ready for school?” I ask him and he looks like he’s a million miles away. His piercing eyes look up into mine.
“Why do people have to come? Why can we just stay with you?” He asks sadly and I’m about to explain things to him before a herd of cattle comes storming back down the stairs between us. He uses the distraction to disappear up the stairs before I can answer him. I desperately want to ease his troubles but right now I have a bigger problem strutting its way towards the front door.
“Shakira you can wait, I’ll drive you to school today.” I tell her sternly and the others look at her like she’s about to be executed. She knows it too as she drops her bag by the door and sits in the living room. Jackson comes back up from the basement with his keys.
“I can take her if you want mom.” Jackson tells me loud enough for her to hear the threat in his voice. I shake my head at him and pat his cheek.
“No thank you my knight she and I have some girl talk to discuss.” I tell him seriously shooting her a dark glare. He smiles at me in conspiracy with his back to her as he shoots me a wink.
“It was nice knowing you Kira.” Jackson calls on his way out the door. I pick up Lucas as Trey finds his way back downstairs with his bag. Liam and Ally are already outside on the stoop. I walk Trey, Ally, and Liam to the bus stop on the end of the block with Lucas on my hip. The bus arrives and they all jump on excited about the school day and the planned beach trip on the weekend. Lucas and I wave them off as the bus pulls away then we make our way back to deal with Shakira.