Balloon Man

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Chapter 4

Leesville, Louisiana 1990

The gray, ominous sky added a sinister overtone to the already bleak day.

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. We lay to rest Monsieur Paul DeValle. He was a good man with a generous, big heart. A man like no other.”

The priest made the sign of the cross as he finished speaking. The black umbrella he held covered his head, but his feet stood in a muddy trench formed where the rain streamed down off the umbrella.

The social worker named Gloria approached Giselle. “C’mon little lady, I have to get you to your new home. I hope you like it. I will be bringing you to your new foster parents; Mr. DeValle’s half-brother; Mr. Foret LeBlanc, and his wife Ada.”

Gloria held her umbrella out for Giselle to duck underneath, but Giselle chose to hold her prayer book over her head instead. Gloria took the umbrella, pulling it back to herself, and walked ahead of Giselle.

Gloria had been called the moment Paul DeValle passed away. She was in charge of seeing that Giselle attended the funeral and then processed through the system before being placed with Foret LeBlanc.

Giselle was in shock. Too much had happened in such a short time. Now she was being moved again to live somewhere else and sat in a car with a woman who only days ago had been a complete stranger. Giselle was frightened by the woman, who had no problem letting Giselle know life as she knew it was over.

While driving in the car, Gloria chatted about making sure Giselle maintained good habits. “And don’t show off with your singing all the time. Mrs. LeBlanc will not like it. Mr. DeValle was very good to you and you need to show respect to his family by doing your share of the work. Free rides are over little lady!”

The car turned onto the main road. Giselle watched out the window as rain poured down like long, gray streamers coming down from the sky. Soon, the houses and building they passed became more dilapidated.

Gloria sensed the uneasiness from Giselle and tried to make conversation. “Mr. and Mrs. LeBlanc have a decent home, Giselle. At one time it was considered premium property. You will be expected to help keep the house clean. Don’t think your easy life will be tolerated here.”

Giselle, confused and frightened by this comment, kept touching the lace on her pinafore and shrank into the backseat.

When they arrived at Mr. Foret LeBlanc’s, Foret was standing on the front step with a red balloon. He handed to Giselle. “Here you go little lady.”

Giselle was not quick enough and the balloon took off in the sky. She watched it fly away, tears rolling down her cheeks.

“What a shame. Well, you should have grabbed it faster,” Gloria remarked. Then she pulled Foret aside. Whispering something in his ear while handing him an envelope “…now I’ll leave her with you. That should be enough to get you through for a while, and then we will think of something.”

Gloria got back into the car and drove off, spinning the wheels in the mud, narrowly missing spraying muck all over Giselle and Foret.

Giselle followed Foret into his house where Foret’s wife waited. As soon as they walked in, Ada grabbed Giselle’s arm and pulled her up the stairs. “You come with me kid.”

“Ouch! You’re hurting my arm!” Giselle yelped as she tried pulling away from Ada.

“You think you are so pretty, huh? Well, you sure won’t be thinking about how pretty you are when you’re scrubbing the toilets and the kitchen floor!”

“I said let go of my arm! You’re hurting me!”

“What, are you one of those brat kind of kids?” said Ada. “I don’t know why they brought you here. I don’t need any more people living in my house, so you better do your share or I’ll make your life miserable.”

Ada pushed Giselle into a poorly lit bedroom no bigger than a large closet and slammed the door shut.

Giselle had surprised herself at her own temper and her loud protest when Ada yanked her arm. Prior to today, she never had any reason for showing this side of her personality. She had always been treated with respect, as if she were one of the adults.

Giselle knew her new world would be very different than the old one and to survive, she had to figure out how to stay quiet. She fell asleep with the heartbreaking thoughts as silent tears stained her dress.

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