I sit, bored as hell, on a chair that would appear comfortable but is one of those terribly deceiving ones that make your butt go numb after 5 minutes. I’ve been forced out of bed, out of my safe blanket haven of introverted hermitting at the ungodly hour of 6 in the morning only because “I need time to get ready.” The old, no-nonsense group home lady who’s name I never remember and is honestly too old to be dealing with children, especially teenagers, woke me up before the sun was even thinking of shining, so why the heck am I awake? She made me breakfast earlier and grumbled about my allergy to peanuts, as pb+j sandwiches are clearly the only thing she knows how to make. So she settled for mere bread, not toast, just bread. Not like I was gonna eat it anyway, but man am I bored as hell. I wish I had stalled a little longer with “getting ready” as it is my personal duty to hold up the sexist stereotype that girls take forever to get ready. If my depression weren’t so strong maybe I’d have energy to use Ellie’s makeup to appear even more tragic, plus she’d cry over the germs. I’d love to go all goth for a bit, dressed for the occasion that is my personal pity party. Ugh, come on, it's not like I actually want to be here, I wanna just leave. Maybe I’ll run away like the typical foster kids. I need to be more stereotypical, honestly add that to my list of “things I’ll do when I give a crap.”
I’ve sat in this horrendous waiting room a total of six times. First when the cops brought me, then when they moved me out of my emergency placement home to the group home, then to “check in” because I was depressed and nonverbal, once again when I was being placed in a “family”, then I messed that up and was brought back in to be sent to the group home, and finally today.
Today I’m here because they found some distant relative who willingly wants to take custody of me, or so they claim, they haven’t met me yet. My sarcasm, and stubbornness are full blow because it's too fucking early. I don’t know why I haven’t been placed with them before but then again the lovely American foster care system is overworked and overcrowded. I wonder which relative they’ve pulled out of thin air, maybe this’ll be an episode of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Anything to get me out of here.
“Mia? They’re ready for ya, you remember where to go, I’m sure?”
I nod with a smile, then roll my eyes. Walking down the stupid yellow/beige hallway. Why must every hospital and office use the same color? It's as though they used beige because it's cheap but then thought, “Oh wait add some yellow to make it happy.” Disgusting and unoriginal. Plus it's making me the opposite of “happy,” or is that just living? Maybe living makes me unhappy, but I won’t tell Amanda that, she’ll have my head for “falling into unhealthy habits.” I knock and open Amanda’s office door without hesitation, no reason to work myself into anxiety over someone who’ll be irrelevant and forgotten by tomorrow. What I find is shocking. What the hell is happening? Johan freaking Twist is seated on the sofa. Joey. Freaking. Twist.
“Am I early?”
“No,” she smiles, “please have a seat.”
I go for my usual chair with the perfect rotation from hers, so I can dramatically stare out the window and avoid eye contact. Snatching one of the stress balls from the bucket, I swing my legs over the armrest and lean back on the opposite side. Trying with all my strength not to look at the beautiful greek god of a man beside me. I hoped that by putting my back directly to his beautiful face I could avoid this, however, it's impossible not to be tempted to stare at such eye candy. I’ve only made it more obvious now because I have to actually turn round to see him. Crap.
“Mia,” she clears her voice, “I’m sure you’re aware of why you’re here today?”
“Nah, there’s no sensible reason to try and place me and absolutely no reason to wake me before 7pm,” I sass.
I hear the male creature, chuckle to himself, annoying me.
“Is there something I can help you with, Sir?” I ask turning to face him directly and attempt to show he makes no impact on my totally feministic, independent self.
“S’ nothing, you’re snarky is all, it’s entertaining, love.”
“Well sir I’m very glad my annoyance is amusing to you, but this is not a zoo or a carnival, you can’t just waltz in and say, “That kid is the one I want to fulfill my lonely empty void.””
“Mia,” Amanda states in that disapproving “you’re making me look bad” tone.
I turn to look at her, now fully upright and properly irritated, “Why am I here? It seems I’ve interrupted your morning hookup session.”
Did I believe the Joey Twist was a womanizer? No. Definitely not. However my walls were too high and he was a threat. He was a threat so I had to alienate myself from the situation. I had to make any foreseeable human who could love me, run. If I scare them or annoy them or just act like a little bitch they’ll leave. They all leave. Many claim they won’t but even the best of them leave. I’m just too damaged. I can’t let anyone in because then I give them the ability to hurt me and that's not a risk I take anymore. Not now at least.
She ignores the last remark and answers my question, “You’re here because it’s my job to seek out any and all relatives or beneficiaries that can legally steward you, Mia.”
“And this relates to him because…?” I question, nodding in his direction.
“I’m your brother,” he speaks, “well half-brother.”
I turn to see his face, fervently looking for any sign of comic or sarcasm. I blink.
I laugh cathartically. Hysterically. Humorlessly. I get up, tossing the stress ball into the bucket, and walk towards the door.
“Mandy, next time come up with a better backstory for your fuck buddies.”
He looks at me with hurt then frantically glances at Amanda for assistance. That’s when I slam the door, loudly. He might’ve had a small shot, before that. If I believed him. If he was lucky. When he looked to Amanda for help, I knew it wasn’t gonna work. I’m not a small child where you talk in simple words and ask their mother for assistance. I’m sixteen. If you wanna earn a spot in my life, the least you have to do is talk to me. Talk directly to me and treat me like a person, not a wounded foster freak who can’t speak for herself. I have a voice and I use it. If you’re important enough to me I’ll speak to you, if not I’ll ignore you. I speed walk towards the back exit, just needing to get out of here. The whole situation had my head spinning. Do I believe him? Do I have a brother? What's the point of this sick game of lies? No, I can’t believe him, that’s absurd and I don’t have any siblings. Well there was that one baby from the 90’s, my dad’s, but it was aborted. That’s the story and so no, I don’t have any siblings and I’m definitely not related to that glorious human being. Not like I care. Or maybe I do care but it's too painful to admit? Maybe I am-
“Uh uh, you’re not running again,” said Alex, breaking my invaluable overthinking time. He was like a therapist dude I think, he had many sessions with me back at the group home. He knew I was stubborn and ran from everything. Heck most times I was running from his sessions and if I got caught I’d just say nothing for all 60 agonizing minutes. Not a single word, just to piss him off.
“M’ not running. Just casually walking at a swift pace in the opposite direction of Amanda and her special friend, to inform you... that she is doing the deed at work. That has to be a clear violation of some policy right?”
“Come on, we both know that Amanda doesn’t get anything from anyone because she’s far too busy wrangling in your chaotic tornados,” he emphasizes leading me back to my doom.
“Please can’t you say that I had a panic attack or fainted or-or had a spiritual revelation that needed my immediate attention?”
“Nope, sorry kiddo,” he says with a sympathetic look, pausing in front of Amanda’s office.
I bite my already bleeding lip and stare him down, first with anger then with my best puppy-dog eyes. The bastard opens the door. Well screw you, Alex the therapist “I care about your feelings.”
“Found your lost sheep, Cozac”
He nudges me in the room and quietly closes the door while I glare angrily at the two idiots my fate may or may not be in the hands of. I scowl and curse the world, not moving from my place.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in Europe somewhere?”
“Who said I’m supposed to be anywhere? Aren’t you supposed to be in school?”
“You avoided my question,” I state, crossing my arms.
He just grins. Cheeky bastard. King of avoiding questions with his blinding megawatt smile.
“Right, well are you prepared to join us, Mia?”
“No, actually I’m not,” I say walking towards the bookshelf with the cubbies of games. I look for something loud and annoying. If he’s gonna treat me like a kid, I’ll act like one. Ah, hungry hippos, perfect. The “grownups” continue their conversation wherever they left off when I was rudely forced into the office and I pretend to be fascinated by the vibrant plastic hippopotamuses. Amanda is used to this, she knows that I’ll feign disinterest until I’m forced to speak. She knows I hate letting other people control me and so she’ll start making decisions and I’ll eventually have to speak up and let her know that ain’t happening.
I vaguely pay attention but am far too tired to listen. Participating and giving a crap is really draining. I need a nap. Or a vacation. Or a nap on vacation. Jeez please get me out of here so I can go to another undesirable yet slightly less irritating place. Wait hold up, if he is my brother, where’s his lawyer? All the lucky ones who get out of this hellhole have lawyer people.
“Where’s your lawyer? And your manager? And your publicist?” I blurt out.
Their conversation halts and they turn to look at me. Hello insecurities and social anxiety, so kind of you guys to step in and visit me this morning. At that moment I realize I’m sitting cross-legged on the floor, like a weirdo. So I abruptly stand and walk to my favorite chair, oh-so-conveniently across the room. I have to walk all the way over to it and draw more attention to myself as they stare into my strange soul.
“My family has no business being discussed by my colleagues, what I do with my family is my business. And my legal team has already approved the custody papers.”
“Custody papers? Already? Doesn’t it take months of family court and-”
“Immediate family gets the first rights to guardianship, barring any legal issues,” Amanda explains, noting my father's loss of guardianship.
I sit, uncomfortable, and anxious. Without family court, I don’t get a say. If he takes me in his care, he takes me. It's a done deal.
“There’s nothing to stop you then? You’ve both already signed me away and just told me after-the-fact, like I wouldn’t care. You’ve both already decided.” I conclude, more speaking for myself than them.
“This time is meant for you to be introduced, for you two to get to know each other,” Amanda adds with little acknowledgement to my panic.
“I don’t want to be introduced and I don’t want to get to know him. I don’t want anything to do with him. I don’t-”
“This is a good thing, Mia. Try to calm down and see how many opportunities this offers you. You have a sibling, now and you thought you were an only child. You get to-”
“My mother never spoke of him, she was an incredible woman and if he was any good, she’d have told me. She knew how much I wanted a sibling. She-”
“We can’t change the past, sweetie. Mr. Twist is here now, he wants to take you in. You should be-”
“I should be what? Grateful? Overjoyed? Excited? Planning my shopping sprees to Chanel? No. I don’t want this and I won’t go with him.”
“If you just listen, you don’t even know how you are related,” Amanda remarks, not wanting to deal with my tantrums.
“I don’t care. I don’t want to know and I don’t believe you. My mama told me I had no siblings, so I have no siblings.”
There’s a pause, I think I’ve finally made them speechless. I think I’ve actually scared them with my demons. My demons are fantastic at making people leave me alone but alas all hope is gone when the boy speaks,
“My mum didn’t tell me about you either.”
“Oh is this what we’re doing? You say “I’m pathetic too” and expect that to be relatable so I might shut up. No. Listen buddy, I don’t know who you think you are but you aren’t my brother and you don’t get to play family with me. You-”
“I-I’m sorry. I-I”
“You’re sorry. Great. That’s great, I’m glad this is a growth experience for you but I’m not a weekend experiment for when you feel bored and wanna play pretend. This is my real life and you don’t have the right to come in and start ordering me around when you weren’t here. You show up when it's convenient for you, I’m sure fostering the pitiful sad story sister will make a wonderful headline. You get to play hero and everyone will praise you for saving me. I don’t need a hero, I’m not helpless and I don’t want to be used as a publicity stunt.”
“I would never- that wasn’t my intention. I-I’m here to become your legal guardian. You don’t get to pick your family, I want to earn a part in your life. I’m here now and I’m here to be your brother. This isn’t just a game to me, I’m here to stay, I’m here for it all. You’re clearly worried about the media and I’ll do everything I can to keep them away from you.”
I frown with distaste, just utterly upset by the whole situation. Why did this have to happen? I was comfortable with the familiar pattern of the exhilarating life as a foster teen. I wasn’t happy but I was managing. It was okayish. I was finally able to breathe after all of the events this year. I didn’t think I’d survive but here I am. Then Joey Twist shows up and decides to fuck up my peaceful little bliss. How atrociously rude. Hmph. He doesn’t get to have everything he wants just because he’s a popstar. I’ll show him a fight. See how hard he’ll work. If he actually wants me then he’ll take the hits and deal, if not he’ll leave. It’s a test, I want to see how he handles me when I’m at war with myself.
“Was it your mums?”
“Your necklace?” I hadn’t even realized I was fiddling with it, He couldn’t know about the necklace. No, I wasn’t ready.
“What’s the other half say?”
“Uh together it says: partners in crime,” I mumble feeling shy. Hopefully, he didn’t question it too much, my unease. Mothers and daughters can be partners in crime too, right?
“Alright,” Amanda starts, interrupting my thoughts, “you two seem to be getting on just fine.” She signs a paper I didn’t even know she had brought out, tucking it away in my thick file. “Congratulations, Mia. You have a new family.”
“Wait-t no, I-I, this can’t happen. I don’t want to go with him. Please, pick any other girl. Any other girl would be happy to live with him. I-I’ll take the worst group home, I’ll go to anyone but him, please Amanda!”
“Sweetie, this is a good thing, you have to keep an open mind. Don’t be so scared of new things, change can be good.” She promises, walking to the door and holding it open. She shakes Johan’s hand as he walks to her and I stare helpless from my seat. I watch my world crash around me, mama always said I was a drama queen but to me this was a big catastrophe. I had no safety net, with the group homes and other foster homes I could bullshit my way around, with Joey… I was terrified. Anything could happen and I had little to no control. I was losing my mind, what was left of it.
“What if he’s a serial killer or a rapist at home because everyone has an outlet to let out their anger? He could be dangerous and violent. He could manipulate me into silence. He could-”
“Sweetheart, Mr. Twist has passed all the background checks and is more than capable of giving you space. I’m sure you can live on the complete opposite side of the house and avoid him all together with the size of his homes,” she jokes walking over to me. “If there are any concerns or problems which are highly unlikely, you can call my cell, okay?” She asks, handing me her business card.
I sit dumbfounded. Not taking the proffered card. Not agreeing to any part of this clearly prearranged agreement. Amanda sighs.
“I’ll check up on you in a week, I’ll call you, you’ll be fine,” she promises.
“Well now you’ve told him, he could move me halfway round the world and kill me the day after you call. You know how foster parents prepare for you social workers, they make everything seamlessly perfect so you can’t see how terrible they treat the kids.”
“As you implied before, Mr. Twist has a strong media presence, if there's any danger for you, it’ll be obvious,” she claims as she stands me up and leads me to the door like a child. Of course she twists my words to her benefit. Amanda would do that, give me to a serial killer just to get rid of me. I’m gonna die. Yeah I was depressed but no one wants to die in a scary way. Okay maybe I’m overreacting a little bit but let me have my moment of panic. It's all too much too soon.