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The Elisons had left a few hours later, but I stayed in my bedroom the entire time. Alla stayed with me, talking to me about whatever was on her mind. Right now it was dogs. Or, more specifically, puppies.

“Last week, someone walked a puppy right by the playground during recess! It was yellow and had a pink tongue . . .”

Her voice drained out of my ears, and she continued talking, even without a single response from me.

Heather may’ve just ruined my last chance for an actual home. I may be stuck here until I’m eighteen, or I could get shipped off to another foster home. Alla, Dustin, and everyone else would get adopted while I just sit here, watching everyone else’s lives go by. I don’t want to be known as that ‘poor girl’ who never got adopted and will be screwed over for the rest of my life.

“ . . . and then my friend Maisy has this puppy that’s black and white!”

“That’s really cool, Alls, but I think I need to talk with Mrs. Donna for a bit, if you don’t mind.” Since that the couple had left, Mrs. Donna has to have an answer by now. She’d know whether or not the Elisons wanted me.

“Okie, Leo. I’ll go see if Dustin will take me to the park.”

I nodded to her, and then left our room. She came bounding in after me, but headed towards Dustin’s room. Skipping down the stairs rapidly, I headed towards the kitchen, where we had a small round table with four chairs placed around it. Mrs. Donna was perched in one of them, with her hand rapidly writing words onto multiple sheets of paper.

She looked up when I entered, and all movements immediately ceased. Her face was neutral, some unknown emotion swirling in her eyes.

“Cleo -” She began, but I cut her off.

“Did Heather ruin it for me? Did they come to their senses and realize that I’m just a trouble child? Did they -”

“- Cleo.” She said my name so seriously that I closed my mouth instantly. She sucked in a quick breath, a grin etched onto her dry lips. “They want to adopt you.”

“They want to adopt me?” Urging her to confirm, I repeated her words. My eyes welled with tears, and her reply would determine whether or not they were happy or sad tears.

Multiple times, she nodded, as if she was trying to convince herself. “They want to adopt you.” I let the tears fall, only they slid down my cheeks to meet my smiling lips. Mrs. Donna was suddenly crying also, and she sprung up from her chair, pulling me into a tight hug. And I held her back just as tightly.

“Cleo?” Came Alla’s sweet voice from behind us. Mrs. Donna and I separated, and I wiped my cheeks dry. “Are you leaving us?”

I walked over to her, bobbing my head up and down a few times. Her face was neutral, and even though she reassured me yesterday, I feared she’d be mad at me for leaving.

But suddenly her face sprung into a smile. “That’s awesome! I’m happy for you!” She flung herself around my lower torso, since it was all she could reach with her height. I hugged her little self back, patting her head a few times. “Leo, could you possibly take me to the park? Dustin is busy and I really want to go . . .”

I spared a glance at Mrs. Donna, confirming that it was okay for us to go. She nodded, using a handkerchief to wipe her cheeks dry.

“Sure thing, Alls.”

“Go to the one down the street, and be back before it gets dark.” Mrs. Donna ordered. She locked eyes with me, smiling softly. “We can continue this conversation when you get back.”

I nodded, yet again.

She was probably going to go over when I’d move out, and if Mr. and Mrs. Elison wanted to meet with me one last time. My adoption wasn’t a for sure thing, but it was the closest thing I’ve had my entire life. The Elisons still had to have a final meeting with a CPS worker to ensure that their home was suitable for me, ie, it had a bedroom and a bathroom that I can use.

I turned back to Alla, and her gleaming face brought back happiness that I’d buried years ago.

“Let’s go to the park.”

And for the first time in my life, I was homebound.

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