Warnings: obstructive bureaucrats, bad decorating skills
After going out to lunch, Lillian had then accompanied Ms. Clarke as she ran a few errands. Then she had sat on an old couch for three hours while the woman made calls and tried to get permission from the investigators to go into Lillian's house and retrieve some clothes. Everyone Ms. Clarke had talked to said no, so eventually she had sighed and given up. On the way to the group home that Lillian would live in until Ms. Clarke found her a foster family, they had stopped at a store and grabbed two six-packs of cheap panties, as well as some camisoles. Lillian would have to see if she could borrow clothes from someone.
The shabbiness of her new room made Lillian feel lonely and just the smallest bit unwelcome. The drab wallpaper was peeling. The crumbling bed looked like it could break at any moment, although the unmade sheets looked clean enough. The only bit of decoration was a single painting that had been hung between the two beds.
"I know it looks bad," Ms. Clarke said, "but the owners are really nice. They really care about the kids here, and the food is good."
"How am I going to get to school tomorrow?" Lillian asked. "What about soccer practice?" She knew that she probably looked stupid -- or, more accurately, like a total geek -- when she always brought the topic back to her schooling, but Kennedy Middle School suddenly looked like an anchor to her. She might not have any clothes of her own, and she might be living on the other side of town, but she was still going to go to the same school. At school were friends and distractions.
"Most of the kids go to Kennedy, so Mrs. Ethan will give you all a ride," Ms. Clarke said. "It'll all work out, don't worry."
Simply hearing those words didn't make Lillian feel any better.
"I was actually in a group home like this," Ms. Clarke added. "I know not all of them are the same, obviously, but I think I ended up okay."
Lillian thought about all of the stuffed animals she had seen in Ms. Clarke's office and remembered wondering if they were for kids who came through Ms. Clarke's office or if she collected them. Either way, it did seem like she turned out okay.
Unexpectedly, Ms. Clarke hugged her. "I'm sorry you've had such a shitty day," she said. "It'll get better eventually."
Lillian almost smiled as Ms. Clarke left. Even if she and her friends were frequently affectionate with one another, that wasn't the same as being hugged by an adult that cared about you.
Sighing, Lillian turned to the dresser and rooted through its contents. There were a few dresses and shirts that looked like they would fit, but none of the pants looked like they would fit right.
The pajamas fit well enough, even if they consisted of boring sweatpants and a top with sleeves that were too short and that made her look fat. Lillian wasn't trying to impress anybody, though.
She did some math in her head and set the alarm clock for six fifteen. School didn't start until nine, and it didn't take long at all to drive there from this end of town, but she wanted to give herself time in the morning. For what, she couldn't quite say, but she suspected that there might be a crying jag involved. So far, she felt okay, but once the shock wore off, she might be inconsolable.
Lillian made the bed and sat down. She tried to amuse herself by thinking of ways to decorate the place, starting with stripping the wallpaper and painting the walls blue, but that only depressed her. For one, getting a chance to decorate the room would imply that her stay in the group home would be a long one.
Finally, she began yawning, so she took out her scrunchie, brushed out her hair with her fingers, and went to bed.
Lillian wasn't particularly religious, but she found herself thinking up a proper prayer for a toothbrush and toothpaste while trying to find a comfortable position.
Finally, she slept.
School the next morning was mostly uneventful. Despite her mother's arrest making the front page, nobody seemed to give Lillian any strange looks. Lillian's Language Arts teacher had quietly pulled her aside before class and asked if she wanted to sit in the hall for the first fifteen minutes of class, when the students discussed newspaper articles they had found, but Lillian had said no. It turned out that she had nothing to be afraid of, anyway: her name hadn't been mentioned in any of the articles, and very few people were able to connect her with Anne Marie.
Her friends figured it out, of course, but they didn't make her feel bad about it. Instead, they offered support -- and to let her borrow their cosmetics and clothes, as Lillian didn't have very many of her own anymore.
Before U.S. History, Lillian tracked Shelby Burns down. Shelby was on the soccer team with Lillian and Nina.
"Have you seen Nina today?" Lillian asked. "I was looking for her at lunch, but I couldn't find her."
"Oh, she got a concussion during the scrimmage yesterday. She won't be at school for a week," Shelby said. "Some bitch from Roosevelt literally picked her up and threw her on the ground."
"Oh my God," Lillian said. "Why would she do that?" Nina wasn't a particularly aggressive player, not like Alyssa or Alexis were.
"I have no idea, but I think she's going to get expelled. She was the girl that kicked you in the face last month, remember?"
Of course Lillian remembered. She had been centimeters away from a smashed nose.
"Wow, well tell Nina I'm sorry and that I wish I could do something," Lillian said. "I'd come over or call, but I don't have a cell phone anymore, and I..."
"Yeah, right," Shelby said. "I'll tell her. Uh, are you staying after school for a while?"
"Um, yeah. I can't come to practice, though. I don't have my gear." Yesterday, she had forgotten it at home. Originally, she had planned to skip seventh period to get it, but that really wasn't an option anymore. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, I have some clothes that I've outgrown, but I think they'll fit you really well. Remember that blue top my aunt gave me for Christmas?"
"Thanks," Lillian said. "You guys are all really nice."
"I hate to ruin the sappy moment and be a bitch, but I do have a new boyfriend waiting for me..."
Lillian laughed and waved Shelby away. "Have fun."
When Lillian came back to the group home after school, entering the house from the back like all of the other kids, Ms. Clarke was chatting with a couple in the front hall. Herb Oldie, one half of the couple that ran the group home, was watching them from the kitchen.
"Who are they?" Lillian asked.
"Sounds to me like they're a potential foster family," Mr. Oldie said. "Can't have kids themselves, apparently."
"And Ms. Clarke talking to them means...?"
"That they probably want to foster you. Go sit in the living room."
Lillian's stomach did a back-flip as Ms. Clarke led the couple to where she was sitting. She didn't get any weird vibes off of the couple, but the thought of living with them -- complete strangers who made a good first impression -- gave her the wig.
"Lillian, this is Betty and John Goodman," Ms. Clarke said. "Mr. and Mrs. Goodman, this is Lillian Grey."
Lillian stood up so she could shake hands with the couple.
"It's wonderful to meet you," Mrs. Goodman said.
"Does anyone want refreshments?" Ms. Clarke asked after the introductions were made. Mr. and Mrs. Goodman refused, so Lillian followed suit with a polite shake of her head. When it came to adults, she could never seem to speak her mind.
The Goodmans stayed for almost an hour, just chatting with Lillian and Ms. Clarke. They asked her about her favorite classes, her grades, how long she'd been at the group home. They asked about her hobbies and interests, about her friends, about what she wanted to be when she grew up.
In turn, Mrs. Goodman talked about how she had met her husband, how long they had been married, and what their house looked like. She mentioned a few things about their inability to conceive, none of them crossing the line to indecent, like mentioning how she'd actually gone to a fortune teller's because she was so fed up with what her doctor was saying.
"Nothing she said had any truth to it, either," Mrs. Goodman said, "so the whole thing was really silly."
After exhausting every possible topic, the couple said their goodbyes and left. Lillian sighed in relief. They seemed like nice people, but they had been talking for what seemed like forever. If she had been hungry before, she was starved now.
"So?" Ms. Clarke asked. "What do you think?"
"They seem like nice people," Lillian shrugged.
"I know what you mean," Ms. Clarke said. "They've been looking for someone they could foster for ages, but something always happens -- we contact family and the child goes there, or a teacher steps up and takes them, or the child runs away... I feel sorry for them."
"Have you been looking for my dad?" Lillian asked.
"Well, I did get a name," Ms. Clarke said, "but I'm still looking for more information. It'll take a few weeks at the rate I'm going."
"What's his name?" Lillian asked. "Or can you not tell me?"
"I'm probably not supposed to, but I'll tell you anyway," Ms. Clarke said, looking toward the kitchen to make sure Mr. Oldie wasn't listening in.
"His name is Julius Keller."
- Writing this felt like it took a long time because I kept going back and getting more pictures. I like how it turned out, though.
- Yes, the extra students are all wearing the same clothes as yesterday. I got lazy when I went back to take extra pictures -- Ms. Clarke's office is just the Oldie's redecorated bedroom. Also, the lot that the school is on (American High School II) is enormous, so I wanted to make it quick.
- I feel bad for not giving Anne Marie any screen-time, but she'll be back later.