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The Mask I Hide Behind
Author's note: I wasn't really inspired by anything just came to me one day
“Well this is it,” Rene says, pushing open the door. “Your new room.”
I was braced for grey. Maybe an old comforter, lumpy pillow, tweed mattress, a small short desk with a stool to go with, and one dresser. That’s usually about all you get when you’re going through strangers houses. Foster home after foster home.
To my surprise the room was nothing I could have ever imagined. Two perfectly framed windows showing the neighborhood below. It was too much to take in all at once. Wherever I moved it would always be a confined space, sharing a room with 2 or more people at a time. Sleeping in the same bed as them, sharing plates and small portions of food when there wasn’t enough to go around. This Place was distinctly unlike anywhere else I had been.
My caretakers, Rene and Nate, are one in the same. They had everything I didn’t in addition to topping it all off they were big on everything. All the way from the house to the so-called neighbor; more like city. That isn’t common for most foster parents.
I then realized that they were waiting on me to advance in the room. Both stood watching me curiously holding their breaths.
“I hope you like it. Nate and I put a lot of thought into making it just right for you.” Rene motioned towards the door.
I treaded into the room slowly examining ever little detail. One twin sized bed lay in the corner made up nicely with dozens of pillows, a narrow desk and chair sat propped up on the other side, papers sticking out from the top of the desk pencils scattered this way and that. The ceiling slanted to the right as if it were drooping down.
“So, heh you have your own bathroom, and walk in closet. Weird right? Ours is the same way.” Nate added finally joining the conversation.
Both of them smiling at me making me squirm under my skin. I saw a glimmer of hope in their eyes.
“Thanks.” I murmur dragging my small possessions over towards the bed.
That afternoon before twelve thirty the Parr’s had been up at the poplar house waiting to bring me home with them. I had no clue who these people were or why I was leaving just as always. I haven’t always been a foster child. I had a family, Mother, father and brother, just like any normal family was made up of.
But that was once upon a time. Before the police came to retrieve me along with Austin, Brother, from school like we were juveniles.
They would continually send social workers out to the house just to make sure we weren’t being abused and misguided. I still have one memory indented into my mind.
“Isabella, has anything out of the ordinary been going on?” The stout social worker asked from the driveway.
“Nothing.” I whimpered trying to hide the fearful tone in my voice.
“There’s no reason to be afraid. You can tell me anything that’s on your mind.” The worker cooed.
“Well when I got home I heard mom and dad arguing again so I went to go see what had happened. Dad was slapping mom and pushing her against the wall and when I walked in all hell broke loose. My father grabbed a pan and started to beat me over the head with it.” I sob rubbing the tender spots.
“May I examine it?” the social worker steps closer cautiously.
I nod not knowing if I should trust this strange man or keep to myself.
Shortly after he examined the soft spots he left writing a note before taking his leave. When I returned inside I got another beating while my father yells telling me off about blabbing to the worker.
I notice Rene with Nate anxiously waiting for me to complement them on there hard work.
“The rooms very big.”
“Oh this,” Rene laughs. “This is nothing, just making you feel comfortable even if it is temporary.”
“Your always welcome to stay here.” Nate chimes in.
“Thank you.” I knew I had to be polite to these people, opening up their house to a total delinquent. Some humans are just plain crazy wackos, letting unwanted homeless kids into there homes.
“One more thing before we forget.” Rene walks over to a pair of curtains pulling them back to reveal a balcony with a beautiful view of a neighboring forest.
“Takes my breath away every time.” Nate mentions pushing open the double doors.
One house caught my attention. The one that loomed closely, almost too close, to the house. It had a couple of lawn chairs, a pool, trampoline, and a freshly painted fence. The lights inside that house were turned on, shadows moving within it.
Rene shuts the door just as a swift breeze blows thru. Both foster parents made sure I was calm and had all the things I needed before making there way down the stairs. I waited a couple of moments before I couldn’t hear their footsteps anymore to pull out my cellphone. I planned to take off that night not looking back. I always did whenever the second the foster parents left me alone. I’d been to five different houses in the past three years.
Dialing Jack’s number, listening intently to the rings.
Jack was one of my and always will be a long time friend. He out of a few were one of the first people I actually liked and met in a foster home. It’s not very unusual but we shared a room. When I first arrived I refused to eat or sleep. I would not do anything going on strike. They pushed me on the ground force-feeding me some measly peas. One night though Jack was in the room with me as I was crying my eyes out.
“Bella, you ok?” He asked plopping down on the bed next to me.
That was the first time anyone other than my brother had called me that. I sat there like an idiot crying my eyes out. I looked at him through my tear stricken eyes.
“Go away.” I mumbled.
Instead of listening to me he leaned down our lips inches apart and planted one on me. He was sixteen while I was fifteen.
Now listening to the rings of his phone I heard repeated stomping down the hall. I stuffed the phone my bag.
“Dinners ready.” Nate motioned sticking his head through the door.
“Be down in a minute.”
Making sure Nate goes back down the stairs I quickly pick the phone back up.
Ever since entering foster care I have built a wall between anyone who’s come in contact with me, never letting anyone in. Jack was the first one to break thru crumbling it all the way. When someone got the urge to try to reach out to me I pushed them back hard.
Dialing his number again an annoyed Jack picked up after the third ring.
“So at last the mysterious disappearing woman decides to call.” Jack breathes into the phone.
“Yes, yes now can you come and pick me up?” I asked anxiously.
“You already know the answer. What time shall I arrive?” He answers with a question.
“Twelveish at the latest.”
“Cool. I’ll make sure to call if I have a problem.” The line goes dead shortly afterwards.
I trudged down the stairs making my feet move since they wouldn’t on their own.
“Well its nice to see your face for dinner.” Rene smiled at me passing to make her way to the kitchen.
I continued walking on following her until I felt something warm and wet touch my foot.
“Nate.” I murmur not wanting to know what this unrevealed liquid is. “There’s something wet and sticky on the carpet.”
“Crap. Could you clean it up please before she says.” Nate tosses me a roll of paper towels quickly.
“Nate dear I think we should––.” Rene stops abruptly seeing the mess. “Is that what I think it is?”
Nate looks up apologetically trying to calm her.
“Get it up now!” She’s very serious at this point nothing joking about her.
I handed the roll to him, now looking at the mess in despair.
“He’s so much trouble, I just don’t get why you wont take him to the shelter where they can care for him and he wont pee on my floor.” Rene declared making her way towards the dining room.
I was confused thinking that they were talking about a person. I heard a loud yapping coming from somewhere behind me. Nate stands up and walks to the sound opening up a small door to the right of me. A small brown terrier looked up at Nate trying to escape the clutches of what looked like a broom closet.
“This is Rilo,” Nate announces proudly as if the dog was his own baby.
“He can be more trouble than you think.” Rene calls from the room.
“He just hasn’t gotten used to the doggie door, you know it takes a while.” Nate picks Rilo up patting while kissing his head.
“If my carpet is an option to learn to use he better start taking lessons on the door.” Rene walks into the room with a pitcher of water.
Rilo jumps from Nate’s arms shooting thru the air just to land at my feet. Sniffing my leg he raises his.
“Oh no you don’t,” Nate says grabbing Rilo just in time to throw him out the doggie door. “He’s not potty trained.”
“Yet.” Rene add’s.
I walk into their dining room again everything is gigantically huge. The table was set with three dishes of spaghetti and cups filled to the brim with water. Rene and Nate made their way over to the table with me following behind.
I suddenly realize how hungry I am by the time they bring me a fork. I dug into the food like tomorrow was the end of the world not caring what I look like.
“Someone’s feeling ravenous”. Nate mentions while sitting down to his own food.
“What do you expect? In the past houses we’ve heard about she had to share and barley got enough for herself.
My face turns beet red as I continue to eat but slow down so I don’t look like a wild animal. In a matter of seconds the heap of spaghetti that was on my plate disappeared. Getting up to lay my plate in the sink.
“If you’ll excuse me may I go back to my room?” I question hoping I can make it in time.
They both nod looking like robots
I barley make it up in time to be alone. I hoped they were the type of people who go to bed early so far it was only 9:30. I heard Rene’s soft footsteps head up the stairs and down the hall towards her own room. By the time it hits 11:30 Nate shows no sign of tiredness. The silent ringing of my phone startled me from my concentration on the time. I saw Jack’s number and immediately picked up.
“Hey.” I murmur into the phone.
“Change of plans, I can’t come get you tonight you’ll have to wait until Tuesday.” He breathes into the phone.
“That’s like 4 days away.” I count on my fingers.
“It’s the only time I’m free enough to travel across the state since Mark wont let me go any earlier.” Jack mumbles into the phone.
“Hey get off the phone with your girlfriend and come on the car’s not gona drive itself.” A distant voice in the background called.
“Shes not my girlfriend just a friend.” Jack said to the voice.
This bothered me a lot. I yearned to be Jacks girlfriend but I guess he didn’t want to be anything more than friends.
“Jack I have to go.” I shut the phone instantly stuffing it deep down into the bag. I staggered over to the balcony needing to get some air into me. Taking deep breaths as I opened the doors letting the fresh breeze hit me. I missed Jack so much. He was really the only person I ever trusted. He would kiss me and tell me I was special. He wouldn’t go any farther than that. Sometimes I wish he would have. I decided stupidly if Jack wouldn’t come to me I would go to him.
Making sure both Rene and Nate were sleeping I eased down the hallway to the stairs. I gently closed the back door as I made my way across the large lawn. Halfway through to freedom I heard a familiar barking and the house lights going on.
“Rilo shut up.” I heard Nate utter from inside. I rushed the rest of the way anxiety hitting me hard. I threw my bag over the side then hoisted myself up trying to keep my balance. The stupid dog was gona blow my cover. I tried my hardest to go faster but my jeans got stuck on one of the nails.
“Hello?” Someone called from the other side of the fence. I glanced quickly, too busy trying to escape to focus on whoever was swimming laps in the pool. Whoever this person was, seemed friendly from their tone and definitely male. Damn it my cover had been blown.
“Rilo what is it?” Nate wondered as the dog came bursting up towards me.
“Hey.” I said under my breath.
“Rilo come here.” Nate called entering the yard.
“Do you––” The guy raised his voice to be heard over the constant barking.
“No.” I tighten my grip on the fence. Making a quick decision I slid down my side of the fence and watched the guy’s disappear. I could hear Nate’s footsteps gaining speed and coming closer.
“Isabella, is that you?” He asked, “What are you doing out here?”
“Nothing.” I reply too quickly and I can tell when he gives me a suspicious look he thinks I’m up to something.
“Is there something bothering you?” He looks from me to the fence and back to me again, while Rilo finally shut up.
“No,” I was trying to make my breath shallow and at an even pace trying but failing. “It’s just…” I trail on letting my mind blank out hoping for some sort of distraction.
Hearing a thud from the fence I quickly look up instincts on the edge and see the guy from the pool, his features coming out more clearly: Shaggy black hair, Dark green eyes, Crooked nose, and pink rose lips.
“Hey Nate.” He smiles with a friendly gesture.
“So you’ve met Luke.” He nods his head in the guy’s direction.
“Isabella was just telling me to stop making such a racket you know how noisy I get back here.” Luke motions to me and as if on cue winks as if It’s some sort of joke I’m in on and were playing on Nate.
“Head back to the house in a few Isabella.” Nate nods then returns back to the house leaving me and Luke alone.