Authors: Addison Jane
Lena led us to a private room where she sat with Helen and I as we discussed our options. They made me go over the details of my childhood, what it had been like, how long these things had been going on, and eventually why I decided to run. It wasn’t hard for me to explain even though every word still left a horrid taste in my mouth. They recorded everything that was said, planning on handing the recording over to CPS when we were done.
Lena stopped the recording, and I took a deep breath, sliding down in my chair and hanging my head. “What now?” I asked, exhaustion taking over my body.
“These things can take time, Fable,” Helen explained with a gentle smile. “We need to give this information to CPS so they can investigate.”
“Does that mean I can go home?” Considering the look they gave each other at my request, I was going to take that as a no.
“Fable…” Helen addressed me softly, “…I’m going to make a suggestion. I want you to think very carefully about this, because once we put it into a judge and get a court order, you’re going to have to stick by it.”
Swallowing tightly, I nodded for her to continue.
“While CPS is investigating, they aren’t going to let you return to the streets and just wait. The court will place you in a temporary care home until they can decide whether it’s safe or not for you to return to your parents.” Her explanation was slow and deliberate like she wanted me to hear every single word she was saying. “I want to offer to be your temporary carer.”
My eyes grew wider, and I slowly pulled myself up, my back as straight as a rod. “W-what does that mean?”
“It means if a judge agrees, that you would go and stay with the Carsons until a court date is set and a decision can be made,” Lena explained with an encouraging smile. “It could take months before it’s put before a judge.”
Overwhelmed and shocked, I couldn’t find any words.
Helen stood up and walked around the table, she turned my chair and crouched down in front of me with her hands on my legs. “Fable, I
keep you safe, and do whatever it is in my power to make sure that you have everything you need. You can go back to school, you can be a regular teenager, who doesn’t have to fight for her life every single day. Do you want that?”
Tears trickled down my cheeks.
Was that what I wanted?
To finally have someone who was willing to fight for me?
To finally have the opportunities to better myself and have a future that didn’t involve a nine to five job stacking shelves because I never got a high school diploma?
The faces of my friends flashed through my mind, and my heart stopped for a moment, as I thought about the idea of leaving them to fend for themselves while I lived a life that most of us had only dreamed of.
“You have to help them, too.” My voice broke on a whisper and Helen tilted her head curiously.
“My friends… they need help, too. I can’t just walk away and leave them without knowing that they’ll be okay.” Helen nodded in understanding as I sniffed away the tears.
“We will find a way to help them, I promise.” Honesty filled her eyes, and I knew that she would indeed do whatever she could to make sure that they would be okay.
Her face brightened, and she pushed herself to her feet, offering me her hand. I took it, and she pulled me from my chair and folded her arms around my body. My body stiffened for a second, but I finally relaxed into her, basking in her warmth and compassion.
I felt safe with her.
I trusted her.
“I’m going to get this written up, and hopefully, we can get a judge to sign it off within a few hours,” Lena said cheerfully as she watched us. She pulled together all the folders and papers that contained all my information and snatched the tape recorder off the table. “Come on, I can’t let you leave just yet, but there’s a quiet family living room upstairs where you can wait until then.”
Heath and Braydon were already waiting for us upstairs. Lena guided us in before excusing herself, and they rushed forward.
“What’s going on?” Heath asked his mother.
The room was small but comfortable. There were two sofas, a water machine, and a small table filled with magazines.
I walked past them and collapsed onto one of the sofas, overwhelmed by what was happening.
“Mom,” he prompted again.
“We are waiting to see a judge,” she answered. “But we’re hopeful that the judge will agree to let us take Fable home with us.”
Both Heath and Braydon swung around, staring at me with wide eyes.
It wasn’t long though before a grin grew on Braydon’s face. “Like a new puppy!”
“Shut up, Bray,” Heath scolded his brother.
I scoffed. But Braydon wasn’t far from the truth. I was like a discarded puppy, and they had come to rescue me from being put down. The thought caused me to shudder.
“Sorry, Fable,” Braydon offered, seeing my reaction. “So what does that mean?”
“We can’t really know until the judge sees the plan,” she hedged.
“But…” Heath encouraged as he comes to sit beside me. I slump in the chair and hang my head back.
“But, we are hoping to gain custody until Fable is eighteen. When she’s eighteen, she will have the right to choose her own path.” I lowered my head, and my eyes met with Helen’s.
I didn’t answer, but I knew she wasn’t expecting one. She just smiled and moved over to the water cooler to fill a glass of water.
I tried not to let her words get inside my head, but over the next few hours, they were all I could think of. She and Braydon disappeared at some point to buy some food and left Heath and me alone.
I knew he wasn’t going to sit quietly.
“How are you feeling?”
I sighed dramatically. “Like I’m facing the firing squad.”
He reached across the sofa, his hand wrapping around the back of my neck. I leaned into his touch, seeking comfort that only he seemed to be able to give. Helen had hugged me, so had Bray at some point in his excitement to possibly take me home with them, but nothing felt as good as being like this with him.
“Mom is the best lawyer out there. If there’s a way to get you home with us, she’ll find it.”
I nodded. “I keep thinking about my friends. I need to help them. I don’t want to leave them out in the cold.”
“Did Mom say she would help?”
“Then you need to trust that she will stand behind her word.”
That word again.
So simple, yet so meaningful.
One simple word could save you, yet at the same time, it had the power to bring you to your knees if it came from the wrong person. But Heath wasn’t the wrong person. He didn’t say much, but his words were purposeful and had strength behind them.
The door to the small room swung open. Bray carried a plastic bag, but Helen stood at the door. “Come on, honey. We have to get down to see the judge.”
Helen led all of us through a maze of hallways. Lena stood outside waiting for us. When she pushed the door open and gestured for us to go through I was surprised. I was expecting a courtroom, but inside was a large office. A lady sat behind the desk, and a man sat in one of the chairs opposite. There were two more chairs, and with a smile the woman gestured to them.
“Please, take a seat.”
I did as asked, and Helen sat down next to me. The boys hanging back against the wall with Lena.
“Keira, my name is Judge Baker. It’s nice to meet you.”
I held my tongue and didn’t correct her with regards to my name. I’ve lived so long now as Fable, I’d forgotten what my actual name sounded like. “Nice to meet you.”
“Matthew Pearson…” she gestured to the man who gave me a smile, “…he’s from Child Protective Services. It’s standard that they are present during meetings regarding a minor.”
“I’ve been over your case…” she started, and my stomach began to churn. “I do believe that your particular situation needs looking into further. And I believe there’s already a proposal for a home for you while we investigate.”
Helen took over then. “Yes ma’am, after discussing this with my husband, we feel as though we can give Keira what she needs. She’s still young, she’s still developing and figuring out who she is.” Helen looked at me, and I saw a small shimmer in her eyes. “She needs care… and love… and people who can support her without her having to worry about stealing to make it through the day or week. We want to help her find her feet. Give her the opportunities to grow.”
The judge listened intently. “That’s very gracious of you Mrs. Carson.”
“What I’m offering is more than just a part-time home or a part time parent, I’m offering her a lifetime of being loved and cherished.”
I felt tears tickling at the back of my throat. Her words burned through me like nothing ever had. My father had abused me and called me every name under the sun. My mother had not only stood by and watched him but taken his side when things finally came to a head. In all that time, never had I heard my parents say they loved me. Never in my seventeen years had anyone ever told me that they would love me and cherish me for a lifetime.
“Keira?” I heard the judge’s voice in the distance and shook off the cloud of emotions that was swarming around me.
“Yes?” I could hear my voice shake.
“How do you feel about this?”
I swallowed against the lump in my throat and thought for a minute.
How did I feel about this?
Doing this would mean living in a seriously up class neighborhood, and most likely attending some prim and proper school. Being a person I never thought I’d be, and being given opportunities I never thought I would have. I could run, go back to my street family and live day by day, hoping for something better, risking my life just to live. But at the end of the day, what would I have? No job and no realistic vision for my future. These things had never played on my mind much before because it was what I knew, what I lived, and what I accepted as my life. But now, being offered something more, I wasn’t sure if I could go back without at least a taste of what it was like.
Someone wanted to fight for me, and they had agreed that this fight would mean fighting for my friends too.
It wasn’t just my life it might change.
It was theirs.
So I needed to at least try.
I nodded. “I want a future. I want something better.” I looked at the judge. “And I don’t want to go back to my dad.”
Judge Baker gave me a sad but understanding smile before scribbling a few notes down on a piece of paper. “This is approved. But I’m going to need you to show me that you want to make the most of what this loving family is ready to offer you.”
My head bobbed in agreement.
She wrote as she listed down what she was expecting of me. “You’re going to need to stay out of trouble.” She looked up and her eyes found mine. “Whether what happened in the past was a way of protecting yourself as you claim, you still have violence on your record.”
“Yes ma’am,” I answered, my voice croaky with emotion.
“I also understand that you have friends out there. But there will be no coming back to see them or visit them.” This tightened my throat and I wanted to object. Helen grabbed my hand and squeezed it tightly. I looked to her and she mouthed the words,
‘It will be okay.’
“If there’s word that you’ve returned, I will remove you from the home, and you’ll be placed somewhere else. This is a very rare gift you’ve been given, Keira. Going back to the streets will only prove to me that you aren’t willing to help yourself and fight for a better future.”
I forced the words out of my mouth even though everything in me screamed no. “I understand.”
Agreeing to this meant, I couldn’t even go back and let them know I was okay. I couldn’t tell them that I’d be back to help them too.
I just had to hope that Helen held true to her word.
Because I couldn’t leave them to suffer.
I wouldn’t leave my family to break down, even if it meant giving away everything that I was being offered.