Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: HOME (02/07/19)
TITLE: Falling through the Net
By Corinne Smelker
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Layla sighed, threw the black garbage bag onto the bottom bunk of the room, and plopped down next to it. She rifled through its contents, noting without surprise that even fewer of her meager possessions made it this time. Every time she was moved, something of hers got left behind. It was no use complaining either – her social worker just stared blankly and told her to be grateful she had a roof over her head in the first place. Like they were doing her a huge favor by moving her from one dump to the next.
Layla contemplated her surroundings and came to the realization that actually this room was larger than she was used to, the furniture not battered or broken and the walls well-painted with some honest-to-goodness artwork on the walls.
“Hi.” Layla looked up and saw a girl about her own age, 14 or so, standing in the doorway, brushing her hair, obviously fresh from a shower. “I’m Amy.”
“Layla. Hey, the bottom bunk is not taken is it?”
“No. I like the top,” Amy replied, as she pulled her long, black hair into a pony tail.
Layla opened her garbage bag again and sighed. This time she had lost her favorite graphic t-shirt. The time before it had been a pair of True Religion jeans that she had scored from the resale store for $10. She couldn’t believe that the employees didn’t know what they were worth. She had been a little upset when she ‘lost’ them (she was pretty sure the social worker took them) but over the years, seven now, Layla had learnt it was easy come, easy go.
“What’s it like here? How long you been here?” she asked Amy casually. Finding out how long the other kids had lived in the home was an indication of how good it was.
“Actually, I’ve been here a year.”
“A year? You’re kidding right?” Layla couldn’t keep the surprise out of her voice. “The longest I’ve been in a place was two months! Even if I have wanted to stay, and I haven’t, not really, my social worker scoops me up and moves me along. Most often it’s because the family wants a baby.”
“Yeah. Been there. Done that.” Amy said as she sauntered over to the mirror and dresser. “But these people, Rob and Jen, are really nice. They have been super good to me. They told me today that you were coming. Up until now I have been here by myself.”
That was another surprise. In most of the other homes Layla had been one of five or six other kids – it was so obvious to them all that they only reason they were in the house to begin with was so that foster parents could make a quick buck.
“So, this Rob and Jen, what’s their story?” Layla enquired, settling back against the bunk bed pillows.
“They’re decent. They seem to genuinely like me. Rob is an architect, and Jen stays home. She volunteers at the high school I will be attending next year. They discovered I like swimming so I am on the local team here. They really seem to care.”
Layla had not heard any of the other foster parents described as ‘decent’, let alone that they liked the foster kid they were making some money off. She lay back on the bed, looking at the rails above her. Who knew? Maybe this place would be different. Maybe, just maybe this room could become home. Maybe Rob and Jen would become the ‘parents’ she had been hoping for since her own were declared unfit several years before.
In the meantime, she’d hold onto her garbage bag, just in case. Home was a big word, and not one she’d ever experienced before.
Psalm 68:5 (MSG) Father of orphans, champion of widows, is God in his holy house. God makes homes for the homeless…
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