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Chapter 44

Mikala didn’t know which way to turn. She was sitting on the edge of her bed in a group home in Clearwater which she hated, but it seemed a better choice over the foster home she’d visited. Her mother was dead, buried with funds raised by a charity, with only Mikayla, a few of her friends and the case manager attending the funeral. I miss you so much, Momma.

She had been transferred to Bayview High School, a small high school for troubled students located right across from the courthouse. She had missed so much school during the short time she lived with her Momma that technically she was still in eighth grade. But the school had an Eight Plus program to give her a head start back into high school. They thought she could handle it. Funny, they had more confidence in her than she did.

And, the only adult who seemed to really care about her was Germaine. Yes, Germaine, but she didn’t know what to think about him either.

On one hand, Germaine was like a step- father or much older boyfriend. Telling her she was pretty or smart, buying her cell phones, nice clothes and manicures. He knew about her group home. He told her he couldn’t get too close to it, so she had to meet him at a convenience store a few blocks away. That was the good Germaine. Sex with Germaine was good too. He did things to her all over her body and rubbed her hands all over his.

On the other hand, Germaine got her momma hooked again on those little white pills. Once Momma started taking them, she was either hilariously happy, treating Mikayla like a best girlfriend and sharing secrets, or passed out and not saying a thing. She didn’t act like she cared what Mikayla was doing, where she was or who she was with anymore. Thanksgiving, she was passed out. Christmas, she was dressed like Santa and laughing hysterically and treating Mikayla like a two-year-old. By New Year’s, she was dead. Dead from those pills that Germaine gave her.

She was lucky that she hid the pills in her bra just before her case manager searched her purse at the group home after they left court. In a way, they reminded her of Momma. She wanted to keep them. She was going to use them to get revenge—she just hadn’t figured out how. Maybe she could tell Germaine about it, tell him she wouldn’t turn him in if he would stop making her have sex with his friends. She was tired of it, tired of closing her eyes and wishing she was somewhere else–-someone else—tired of feeling sore down there and smelling of sex. Lying on her group home bed, she thought of the motel rooms where Germaine took her to his friends. They were all brightly lit. She wouldn’t be surprised if someone was taking pictures. Who would want to look at that sickening stuff? She could take Germaine. She loved him. But not the others.

What about the needle marks on his arms? He was so jittery. Yesterday, when she skipped school and waited for him, she nearly ran into the police. She ducked around the magazine rack just in time to see the cops pull him out of his car and cuff him. One of them rolled up his sleeves real high and the other took photographs of his arms, probably the needle marks. Then they pushed him into the cop car. Whatever it was he was using, it didn’t knock him out like it did momma. He said it made him feel more like loving her. Didn’t she watch all those ads on television about four-hour erections?

With Germaine in jail again, she felt lonely. Her case manager said that now that she was legally an “orphan”–shit, wasn’t that a nice word–she would be getting a guardian ad litem to look after her a little. She would have to stay put in the group home and attend school, or it would be a violation of her probation. God, when would that ever end?? She’d been on probation for threatening her momma with a knife right before school started in August. Now it was January. A new year. Still on probation and a violation would get her locked up in a juvenile program. A prison for kids, that’s what they were.

She didn’t have any real girlfriends. Girls in a group home were always stealing clothes, getting into fights. She was far away from the neighborhood kids. She wasn’t even supposed to be at Bayview High, but here she was. She didn’t have a say in it. It was a smaller school with plenty of counselors. The new semester had just started in January. And Germaine never stayed in jail very long.

Yesterday, a new boy came into her homeroom, on a trial basis, the teacher said, from some sort of program he’d lived at for a few months. She didn’t know why they had to say that about him. Maybe it was to encourage the other kids to be nice to him.

His name was Robby and he looked familiar to Mikayla. Did I see him in the detention center? When the bell rang to end homeroom, he looked at her kind of funny, too.

“I know you,” they both said at the same time and laughed.

That felt good.

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