I was up early the next day. Picking up dirty clothes and straightening my bed, I made sure my side of the bedroom was spotless. The couple coming in today would take a tour of the house, and would spend some time in each child’s bedroom to see how we were currently living. Being on my best behavior also meant that my room was clean, and that I looked presentable.
I headed into the bathroom we all shared, it was the only one upstairs. It was a narrow room, with two sinks, one toilet, and a bath/shower combo. It wasn’t crowded, if you were the only one in the room.
After slathering on some makeup and straightening my dark locks, I felt that I looked as good as I was going to get. My split lip was less noticeable with some lipstick, and other than that, I had no other blemishes on my face. For my clothes, I had a basic t-shirt and jeans, so I fit the role of a simple teenager. I didn’t need to wear a dress or a skirt, not that I owned either, but even if I did, I didn’t need to try that hard to please this couple.
I bumped into Heather on my way out of the bathroom, of all people.
“Watch it, Arab.” She hissed, smoothing down her shirt. “I don’t need you wrinkling my outfit.” I glanced at her appearance, where she supported a bruised nose and a couple of small marks on her cheeks and chin. Saying nothing to her, I stepped out of her way, where she trudged into the bathroom, leaving the door open.
I headed into my bedroom just as I heard her shout “Derrick!” before there was the soft padding of his footsteps running into the bathroom.
Alla was awake now and she was sitting up in her bed, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes.
“Morning, sunshine,” I smiled at her, ruffling her hair with my hand as I sat across from her on my own bed. “How’d you sleep?”
“Awful,” She yawned. “I dreamed you got adopted by that family and left me all alone here.”
“Alla -” I began, but she suddenly launched herself into my lap, wrapping her arms around my neck.
“I’m only joking, Leo,” Alla said into my hair. Her head was tucked into my shoulder, her entire body on top of mine. “I want you to be happy, but in all honesty,” She changed her tone into that of a whisper, but kept her volume the same. “You’re the only one I like here.”
“You want to know something, Alls?” I copied her whisper tone, keeping my voice at the same volume of hers - loud. She nodded her head eagerly on my shoulder, and I think she had closed her eyes. “You’re the only one that I like here, too.”
“Everyone, this is Mr. and Mrs. Elison.” Mrs. Donna gestured to the two people standing before us in the living room. They were definitely older with the clothes to match. Mrs. Elison was graying in her hair, as was her husband, though he had far less hair than I bet when he was younger. Both supported wrinkles on their face, some of their skin was sagging. Their age was apparent with their looks, but besides that, they looked like the sweetest people in the world. They each smiled, making eye contact with each of us as Mrs. Donna introduced every foster child as we sat on the two sofas in the living room.
“This is Alla, our youngest at age five.” Alla gave the Elisons her brightest smile, and with her blonde hair pulled into high pigtails, she looked absolutely adorable. She wouldn’t be here long, even with the Elisons not interested in her age group. Mrs. Donna passed over two kids next, who were seven and nine, before introducing Dustin. “This is Dustin, who is thirteen. He’s quite grown for his age.” He was very tall for being only thirteen, and decently mature, since he had enough sense to pull me off of Heather last night. “Then there is Derrick, who is fourteen, and Heather is his older sister at seventeen.” She paused, possibly to catch her breath, when Mrs. Elison spoke up.
“And who is this?” She questioned, motioning to me. I gave a small smile, clutching my sweating palms together at the base of my lap.
“That,” Mrs. Donna started. “That is Cleo.” Before she could say my age, Mrs. Elison was at it again, taking initiative.
“How old are you?” Her question was directed at me, yet I still spared a glance at Mrs. Donna to see if she’d answer, but her mouth was closed in a soft smile.
“I turned sixteen last month,” I declared, sitting up straighter on the sofa. I was between Derrick and Heather, since we were forced to sit in chronological order of our ages, so that the Elisons had an easier time figuring out how old we all were. And right now, between the siblings from h*ll, I felt like I was in the hot chair.
Heather was itching to make me look bad, I could just feel it.
Mrs. Elison clapped her hands together. “Well, I’d love to see all of your rooms.”
Usually, to make us appear better, we’d lead the adopting parents to our rooms ourselves, without Mrs. Donna taking control, so Alla wasted no time to jump to her feet.
“Me and Cleo’s room is the first on the right upstairs. I’ll show you.”
I followed behind the trio, and once we were in our room, I went to sit on my bed. “So, this is my bed, you can probably tell since everything is pink!” Alla gushed, exposing her pink obsession to the Elisons.
“This other side is mine, where everything is more neutral.” I smiled, forcing it to go to my eyes. My bed was a navy blue, with grey sheets, a complete opposite to Alla’s bright pink, well, everything.
“This is a lovely room, girls.” Mr. Elison said, glancing about the tight room. “And, if you don’t mind me asking, Cleo,” I looked up to him when I realized he had said my name. Alla had dragged Mrs. Elison into her own conversation, and I thought I had heard my name there, too. “What genetic background do you have?”
“My mother was part Egyptian Arabic, so I can thank my hair color and my tanner skin for that.” I chuckled a bit, and he did as well. “And I believe she may have had a few other Middle Eastern heritage in her that transferred down to me.”
Mr. Elison nodded. “What about your father?”
I froze, the smile slipping off of my face for a split second, before I slapped it back on again. “I, uh, never met him. My mother gave me up for adoption right after I was born, so I could never ask her.”
He awkwardly scratched the back of his neck, realizing that he had struck a nerve.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I should’ve known -”
I cut him off. “ -it’s fine. Don’t sweat it.” Then I smiled again, encouraging him that it was really fine and he didn’t need to feel bad about asking.
Mr. Elison turned to his wife, who was still having her ear talked off by Alla. I now caught part of their conversation, and apparently I was the subject they were discussing.
“ . . . and she really is the greatest person ever! Last week she walked me to school when Mrs. Donna’s car broke down and even waited until my friends showed up to leave!” Alla then turned to her whispery tone again, but never lowered her volume. “Heather and Derrick left the minute we got to my school. They’re such meanies.”
“Okay, Alla,” Mrs. Donna was suddenly standing in our doorway. “I think you and Cleo have taken up enough of the Elisons’ time. Let’s move onto the next room, Heather and Derricks’.”
Behind Mrs. Donna, I could see Heather standing there, where she fluffed her hair and adjusted her skirt. She wanted to be adopted by them, regardless of her turning eighteen soon, and she didn’t even realize that they only wanted one.
Mrs. Elison slowly turned to Mrs. Donna, speaking in a hushed tone that I was able to pick up.
“Um, my husband and I, we’re not interested in multiple children, so as to not get their hopes up, I think it’d be best if we concluded the tour here.”
Nodding, Mrs. Donna agreed.
“Let’s go talk downstairs.”
The Elisons and Mrs. Donna left our bedroom, heading past Heather, who was now fuming.
She must’ve heard everything - and realized exactly who the Elisons were considering adopting. Me.
“You bitch,” She seethed, not even waiting for the trio to be out of ear shot before hounding me. I stood to my feet, keeping my face neutral. I keep my anger at bay, not quit giving into it just yet.
Mr. Elison paused at the top of the stairs, turning around to hear the commotion.
“You think you’re worthy of being adopted? You think they want someone like you? Sure, you play the innocent and sweet act now, but what would they think about you starting the fight last night?”
“I didn’t -”
Heather was right in my face now, and shoved a finger into my chest. “What about how you got kicked out of school last week for fighting the new kid?”
I couldn’t keep the glare off of my face.
“Shut. Up.” I hissed through clenched teeth, my fingers turned tightly into fists.
Mrs. Donna was attempting to usher the Elisons down the stairs and away from all of this, but they were intently listening to every single word we spoke.
Heather turned her words low, quiet enough that only the both of us could here, and maybe Alla, if she was trying to listen in.
“If they won’t adopt me and my brother, then I’m sure as hell making sure no one else is. You think you’ll get a home before I do? Good fucking luck.”
She then sharply turned around, her brown hair whipping me in the face.
I closed my eyes, breathing in and out deeply. Maybe a minute or so passed, but by the time I blinked them open, Mr and Mrs. Elison were gone, Mrs. Donna had led them downstairs.