(1) Toy chest
The year 1997:
“Hansel! Clara!” Dad was yelling angrily, I could tell he was drunk.
“Hansel, Hansel wake up. Daddy is angry again.” I tell my 5-year-old twin brother on the verge of tears. Just yesterday dad punched me in the face because he thought I had said a bad word, but I didn’t.
“Get in bed, and stay there. I’ll tell him you don’t feel good.” He says with a sigh as he stands up from his bottom bunk. We’re wearing matching Star Wars onesies that our neighbor, a sweet old lady named Betsy gave us.
“No, Hansel. Daddy will hurt you. Do go, please!” He climbs up to my bunk and places a kiss to my forehead.
“Don’t leave this room, Clara.” Then he walks out and locks the door on his way.
I’m jittering in my bunk, and I put headphones on and listen to pop music as I color in my Disney princess book. I flip the page to Bell with the beast when out of nowhere my bedroom door brakes open and my father stands there looking angry at me, with a belt in his right hand.
I crawl backwards to the corner of the bed and he stalks towards me.
“Daddy please, I did nothing wrong!”
“You did nothing wrong?!” My mother Elisabeth asks while holding a broken vase.
“Do you realize how expensive this vase is Clara? That you fucking broke!” She yells at me and the tears start coming.
“I... I didn’t... didn’t brake that mommy.” I say with a stammer.
“Then who did?!”
“You did!” Hansel yells at her and I gasp in surprise.
“Remember when you and dad came home drunk, and you tripped over that same vase? Mommy, you’re a liar.” He says as he runs towards me on my bunk and sits next to me with his back to my window.
“Oh... well it seems like they both what a fucking beat down,” Mom says as she pulls off her own belt. I notice Hansel discretely unlocking the window and pushing it open while looking at our parents. As our parents get closer to us. He whispers.
“Get out now.” I didn’t want to leave my brother, but the sternness in his voice warned me not to argue with him. I slipped out of the window and suddenly my mother charges for us I fall out and land in blow up pool that Hansel insisted our parents put there. And now I know why.
“Clara!” Dad yells, and shortly after my brother jumps from the two-story window into the pool as well.
“Let’s run to Betsy’s house! Come on!” He says as he grabs my hand and we run as fast as we can to our neighbor’s house.
Hansel frantically knocks on her door while looking around paranoid. Then Betsy opens the door alarmed.
“Betsy, please let us in, our parents keep hurting is, and I can’t let my sister get punched again, please!”
“Come in, hurry.” She says as we rush into her house.
“Go to the bathroom and lock the door! I’m going to call the police.” She says as she runs to her landline phone and dial 911. Hansel pulls me to the bathroom and we sit and wait in there.
“Did we make the right decision Hansel? I ask him unsure as we hide in the bathtub.
“Yes, we did sis.”
“But if mommy and daddy go to jail, then who’s going to be our mommy and daddy?”
“I don’t know Clara. But don’t worry. I’ll keep you safe.” He whispers.
“Shhh,” He says holding a finger to his lips.
10 minutes later and I hear the sounds of heavy footsteps in the house.
“Boots,” I say out loud and Hansel nods.
“Yeah its probably the police.”
Then as if on cue someone knocks on the door. “The is the police, are you kids in there?”
“Are we going to jail for running away?” I ask Hansel and he shakes his head.
“Come on sis. We’re finally free.” He holds his hand out and pulls me out of the tub, before opening the door.
One week later:
Hansel and I arrive at a big house that they call Hopeline foster care. A woman named Tara was taking care of us for the time being, but now she drops us off here and I’m feeling incredibly nervous.
Tara told us all about this place. She said that there are other kids hear from different ages, and different places, and that they all needed a new mommy and daddy, like us.
“How are you two feeling?” Tara asks as she unbuckles us from the back seat.
“Scared,” I admit and she nods.
“Its a drastic change, but I will assure you, it’s a good one sweetheart.”
Hansel unbuckled himself and slides out the door behind me.
“Thank you, Tara, for taking care of us,” Hansel tells her, and she holds her heart.
“How are you so mature for your age Hansel? Good lord, most kids would just run off, but you have some great manners. Take good care of your sister okay?” He nods with a slight smile, and we both walk up to Tara and give her a hug.
“Aww, you two are the sweetest. I’ll miss y’all dearly.
Then the woman from the foster care meets us outside. Tara introduces us and soon she is leading us inside I wave goodbye to tara as she drives away.
“You two are our only twins, I’m sure y’all will be very popular.” The lady says as she opens the second set of doors. Then we see the biggest play pin ever. The whole living room is a play pin with kids running around with different toys and they all look happy.
“Hey everyone, can I have your attention please?” All the kids stop playing to look at the lady who’s name I’ve already forgotten because of how nervous I am.
“This is Hansel and Clara, our newest members, and I would love it if you all made them feel welcome.”
“Yes, Ms. Branks.” They all say at once but then continue to play with their toys ignoring us.
“Just give them some time.” Ms. Branks says as she waves goodbye to us and talks to the other adults.
“Hey you two, I’m Cameron.” A boy who is about Hansel hight says with a smile on his face. I usually think all boys are yucky but he’s kinda cute. He has dark blond hair that looks really soft, and wavy, and it reaches his shoulders. His eyes are multi-colored, and his skin is fair.
“Hey Cameron, I’m Hansel, and this is my twin sister Clara.”
Cameron runs up to both of us and pulls us in for a strong hug. I gasp surprised and Hansel gives me a ‘what’s going on kind of look.’ I giggle and we pull away from Cameron.
“Sorry, I’m a hugger,” Cameron says as he steps back, and looks between the both of us.
“My old mommy hated the hugs, so now that I’m away, I can hug all I want.” He says as he plays with a yoyo that looks like a car wheel and rim.
“Nice yoyo,” Hansel says, and Cameron nods proudly.
“Thanks. I got it as a prize for being the kid who complains the least.” He says with a shrug.
“How old are you?” Hansel asks Cameron.
“Five, and you two?”
“We’re five and a half, but I’m a few minutes older than my sister.” He always likes to brag about that.
“Cool, you two wanna play with my toys? I have the coolest ones.” Cameron offers and we both nod as we follow him to a corner of the room. Where a toy chest lays.
“This is my chest, and every kid gets their own toy chest.” He explains, before explaining the rules and who everyone is. Boy, he talks a lot, but at least he’s really nice to us. Everyone else won’t even look at us.
I notice a princess Leia action figure in his toy chest.
“Oh, princess Leia.” I say pointing to it exited. Cameron smiles at me and pulls her out.
“So the other twin does speak.” He says and Hansel shrugs.
“She’s just nervous, but once she’s relaxed she will talk your ears off. I promise.” Hansel tells him and I squint my eyes at my brother, annoyed.
“Would you like to play with princess Leia?” Cameron asks me kindly and I nod as he hands her over.
“Thank you,” I say at I look at the very detailed action figure.
“You like StarWars?” He asks me and I nod shyly.
“Cool, me too, I have other star wars characters in here, I even have the whole scooby do gang.” He says proudly and he pulls them all out.
I laugh when I see Velma look a bit out of wack.
“Poor Velma,” I say picking up the toy that looks like it has seen better days.
“Oh yeah, our bulldog Zooey chewed on it thinking it was her toy.”
“You guys have a dog here?” Hansel asks him and he nods.
“Yeah, but Zooey is an old dog, she doesn’t play as much as she used to. She just sleeps mostly.” Cameron says with a shrug.
“Alright everybody, lunchtime!” Ms. Branks says and all the kids stand up excited.
“No, no, no. Clean up first then you can eat.” She says in a warning tone and all the kids start cleaning up their mess of toys.
I think I already love it here.