I find the boy in the kitchen.
For the last few months it’s been only Catherine and I in the house, and it’s a good few hours before she’s back from work. I’m expecting some one-on-one quality time with my laptop before I leave for my baseball practice. I throw my bag in the corner, kick off my shoes and head to the stairs. I pass the kitchen with only a brief glance—but then I stop and do a double take.
The kid sitting on a stool in the middle of the kitchen looks lazily up at me. There’s no curiosity in his blue gaze—only calm evaluation and lots of eyeliner. He’s dressed in a black tee shirt and black jeans, and his overgrown hair—also black—falls on his shoulders and forehead. He looks as out of place in our yellow sun lit kitchen as Marilyn Manson at a children’s party. For a moment I think I’ve run into a robber or something, but he’s too calm and unmoving, as if he’s supposed to be here. Then I notice the puffy worn out sports bag by his feet, and I realize he’s not leaving.
My heart sinks. No way this is happening. Catherine said she wouldn’t take any more foster kids until I finished high school. We’ve talked about it. She agreed. Even before that, when she had taken anyone in, she’d always discussed it with me. How is this --
I hear the back door open and close, followed by the sound of light footsteps. Catherine appears in the corridor, carrying some books under one hand and a shoe box in another. She looks fussed, as if she’s been running around for a while, her skin glistening with sweat. She slows down upon seeing me, but then beams and walks over to peck me on the cheek.
“Hi Mom,” I say, escaping the kiss. She gives me an understanding look, steps back and glances at the boy.
“I see you’ve met Raven already?”
“Raven?” I look at him again. Given his obvious preference for everything black, the name is so fitting it borders on a bad joke.
“Yes, this is Raven.” She squeezes past me into the kitchen and places her things onto the table. “Raven, this is my son James.”
“Nice to meet you,” says the boy, lowering his head in a slow, thoughtful nod.
“Nice,” says Catherine, turning to me, and it’s only now that I notice how nervous she is. The sweat, the blush, the way she fumbles with her fingers—so unlike her usual calm, composed self. I wonder if she’s just feeling guilty about breaking our agreement or if there’s something else.
“Raven will be living with us for a while,” she tells me. “Sorry to break it to you like this, but it was a kind of a...last minute arrangement. He’s fifteen, so you guys are pretty close in age, so I’m sure you’ll be...” Her eyes dart from me to the boy and back, and it’s clear she’s meant to say ‘friends’, but she finishes with: “...fine. I’m sure you’ll get along.”
I look at the boy again. He meets my gaze, unperturbed. I admittedly know nothing about him yet, and the only thing I have heard from him was ‘nice to meet you’, and it’s wrong to judge people based on their choice of clothes or, in this case, exaggerated use of makeup. Despite all that, I instantly doubt that the two of us could possibly get along.
“Raven, let me show you your room.” Catherine makes an inviting gesture.
“Yes, ma’am.” He gets up, picking up his bag.
I step back, allowing them to exit the kitchen. As the boy walks past me, I catch a smell of something sweet—perfume? Shampoo? He passes me without looking, but at the bottom of the staircase, he stops and looks back, giving me that same calm, evaluating stare from before.
“What?” I say.
He shrugs, and then, to my surprise, a corner of his mouth goes up in a wry half smile. Then, he winks at me. Before I can ask him what the hell was that supposed to mean, he turns away and follows Catherine up the stairs, while I remain standing alone, feeling more uneasy than I have any reasons to be.
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