I had never been to Texas before. From what people said, it should have been all farmland and cows, and for a few long hours, it was. But then just as Megan, my social worker and chauffeur, finally stopped trying to make small talk, the pastures turned into hills, the hills became more highway than grass, and the city unfolded before my eyes.
San Antonio, home of the Alamo (or its ruins, at least) and Six Flags Fiesta Texas. It was going to be my home now too. Until my father found me.
As if by instinct, my hand flew up the purple and black bruise decorating my cheek. Whenever I thought about him, I felt small and weak and alone. I cowered in the front seat.
Megan glanced away from the road, looking at me sideways. I almost dropped my hand. Everyone had already seen the bruise. It was why they had taken me away, why my father was in jail, why they were putting me in foster care. I was a child of the State now.
It was a funny feeling. Being taken away from everything you had ever known. No matter how bad my life was, it was still my life. I wanted to be the one to change that, not a bunch of complete strangers who asked too many question and felt the need to over-complicate everything.
“Don’t you worry, darling,” Meg said, patting my knee in a motherly way. “He can’t hurt you anymore. This new family, they’re good people. They won’t hurt you either. You’re safe now.”
She put both hands back on the steering wheel and sighed contentedly at the road, though we were in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Still, it was better than Corpus beaches during spring break. Madhouse.
My limbs slowly relaxed. I knew that Megan was just trying to make me feel safe and welcome, but physical contact still made me uncomfortable. Extremely so. There had never been one time that I had been hugged by someone without an ulterior motive. A pinch, whispered profanity, hands going where they had no right to be. Really, could anyone blame me for my trust issues? I had every right to be cautious.
I hoped that this new family wasn’t affectionate. I hoped they wouldn’t hug me or love me or make me love them.
Because when my father came for me-and he would come-it would be so much easier to let go if I didn’t love anyone in this new home. It wouldn’t be home for very long.