The joyful melody rang out loudly, reaching into the corners of the wide room and even under the covers where a girl lay. Her hand moved slowly, then sprang like a viper and hit the off button on her alarm clock. Violet Burns sat up sleepily, still lost in her world of dreams. Her black hair hung down low over her shoulders, creating a barrier between her and the rest of the world. Violet shook off her sleep and pushed her hair out of the way, revealing brown eyes and tanned skin. Violet rubbed her eyes, then looked up at the opposite wall of her room. There was the familiar mural of two pandas, one eating bamboo, while the other looked on interestedly. The mural had been painted when Violet had moved to this house, because pandas were her favorite animals. The sight of the lifelike mural almost made her smile. Almost.
Violet slunk out of bed and headed to her closet, averting her eyes from the giant pandas. She slowly opened the doors, still half asleep, not eager to face the day.
What do we have here? Violet thought to herself. A rainbow of colors met her eyes, but Violet pushed them aside and instead pulled out a suitcase, worn out because of constant use. Violet traveled a lot. She only stayed in one place for about a month or two before moving on to another family, always being turned away…
No! Don’t think about it! Violet shouted inside her head. She opened the suitcase forlornly and pulled out netted tights, with a black miniskirt and a black shirt, frayed with age. All black. Perfect. Vivian hated it when Violet wore black, instead of the hand-picked colorful array of clothes. Vivian was Violet’s foster mom. After finding out that she and her husband, Rick, couldn’t have children of their own, the couple had started to take in foster children, who were either abandoned, or ran away, or, in Violet’s case, were abused at a very young age.
Violet walked downstairs, making as much noise as possible. She entered the kitchen.
“Morning, honey!” greeted Vivian warmly. Violet said nothing. She walked over to the counter and poured a bowl of cereal.
“How’s my pumpkin?” asked Rick, coming into the kitchen.
“Don’t call me that,” answered Violet. She moved to the table and sat down, far away from Vivian. Her foster mother scooted closer around the circular table.
“Got any plans for today?” Vivian asked sweetly.
“No,” replied Violet flatly. She picked up her half-full cereal bowl and dumped it in the sink. Vivian grimaced. She hated food to be wasted. A tiny smile played at Violet’s lips.
“I’m just going to the park,” said Violet, turning abruptly.
“All right, but be back by five. Rick and I… er… we, um, need to tell you something,” said Vivian nervously.
“OK,” said Violet faintly. As though she were possessed, Violet flew from the room and out the front door, banging it shut.
No, no! Violet screamed inside her head. Tears streamed down her cheeks,and Violet didn’t bother to wipe them away. No matter how many times this happened, she could never get over the feeling of a missed opportunity. Of love. She was being sent back to her social worker, Karen, and Violet knew it. It had happened five times before, and each time the excuse was different. The worst time had been when Mrs. Peterson had told her they were “going out for ice cream,” then dumped Violet back at Karen’s office, saying she wanted to return her. Return her. Like a jacket that didn’t fit. Violet picked up her speed and ran. Soon, without knowing it, she was at the park. Violet sniffled, then sat under what she thought was an apple tree. Not having bothered to bring a coat, Violet hugged herself and wiped her nose with her arm. Violet hugged her knees to her chest and just sat there, slowly drifting off into a daydream. A daydream where she belonged.
“Hey, could you move? Hey, hey!” said a voice. Violet looked up. There was a boy with sandy hair and freckles dotting his face, looking down at her with an ugly look.
“We’re trying to play here. Could you move?” he asked coolly. Violet looked up and slowly stood. She looked down at her watch. It had only been half an hour. She wiped her nose again.
“Ewww,” said a girl behind the boy.
“Quiet, Natalie,” the boy said to the girl behind him.
“You’re not the boss of me, Drake,” retorted Natalie.
“Yeah I am. Mom said,” argued Drake. A few kids came up to the pair.
“Has she moved yet?”
“She’s standing up…”
“Yeah, but she hasn’t moved aside yet.”
“What a weirdo.”
“Hey, isn’t she that foster kid or something at the McCoys’?” Voices mingled around Violet, who was close to tears again. That foster kid? Weirdo? Who were these kids? Violet took a step back and fell against the apple tree.
“Move!” yelled a voice behind Natalie and Drake. Violet obliged. She bolted. Through the crowd of kids, down the soccer field, and into the woods. There she fell, this time because of some thorns in the path. This had been a horrible day so far. Violet got up and pulled a thorn from her skirt. This was not the way she wanted to spend her Saturday. Violet jumped over the pricker bush and headed farther into the forest. She could still hear the kids’ voices ringing in her head. She didn’t know anyone in the neighborhood, yet everyone knew her! Violet started to pant. She could feel the tears coming. Violet ran. She passed under trees, not feeling the autumn wind on her skin, penetrating her every bone. She didn’t feel it when she slipped and fell in the mud. Or when she stumbled to the ground and fell against a rock. Pain sliced through her body, but Violet didn’t feel it. She was muddy and sore, and her heart felt ripped in two. Violet sat down on a lichen-covered rock and began to sob hysterically. She couldn’t even see her watch through her thick tears. Suddenly, Violet was mad. Angry at herself for crying. She wiped away her tears, creating a fresh streak of mud. Violet stood and looked at her purple watch. It had been one hour since she had seen the group of kids. Only an hour and a half, and she wanted to go home. Violet held her breath, willing herself not to cry.
Violet waited a moment to assure herself she wouldn’t cry, then looked around her. Violet gasped as she realized she had no idea where she was. Violet looked up. The pale rays of sun through the trees seemed to be almost taunting. The path through the woods was nowhere in sight. Violet’s breathing became heavy and panicked. She couldn’t be lost! Not after all that happened today! Violet looked around bewildered. She ran forward, then returned to her rock, frightened. Violet ran uphill but couldn’t see any familiar landmarks. All she knew was the lichen-covered rock. Violet turned around in shock, tearing her shirtsleeve on a low tree branch in the process.
As if on cue, her ears picked up a sound in the distance. Like rushing water. Violet’s heart lifted as she ran downhill, certain that she was saved. Violet’s assumption was correct. The creek that ran through the woods was there. Violet had only been to the woods three times, but from this she had learned that the McCoys’ house was upstream, right in front of a little waterfall. In the mornings you could hear the water dancing over rocks and sticks. Violet set off at a trot.
Soon, she reached the little waterfall, and Violet scrambled up the bank. There was the house! Never had its little white shingles and yellow complexion looked more welcoming. Violet ran up to it and burst through the door.
“Vivian! Vivian!” Violet yelled. Vivian came into the room from the kitchen. Violet collapsed in her arms.
“What happened?” cried Vivian in shock. Violet relayed the whole story.
“Oh you poor thing! Go up and run a bath! Then come back down, Rick and I have a surprise for you,” crooned Vivian. Violet ran upstairs, too tired to think about the fact that she was about to be returned to Karen. After a warm bath, Violet was ready to face the world again. She walked slowly downstairs to the kitchen where she could hear Vivian bustling about, only now realizing her fate.
You had it coming. Don’t blame Vivian, Violet told herself. As much as she wanted to, Violet couldn’t bring herself to blame Vivian. Vivian had been the sweetest foster mother yet. Violet lingered outside the kitchen door, wanting a few moments more, before she packed up her things.
You can’t avoid it forever, a little voice said inside her head. Violet couldn’t ignore it. She knew she had to. Violet held her breath and forced her feet to move, shuffling ever closer to her doom.
Violet stepped into the room, prepared for the worst, then stopped short in surprise. In front of her was a collection of toys and presents so big that she was sure it could cover her easily with room to spare. It covered the kitchen table, the counter, and part of the floor.
“What’s all this?” Violet cried.
“Why don’t you sit down, Violet?” suggested Rick, pointing to a dining-room chair. Violet sat.
“Violet,” began Vivian, “Rick and I have always taken in foster children, but none of them seemed to suit us.”
“Like a jacket that never quite fits,” Violet choked out. “Exactly!” Vivian smiled.
“But then we found you. You’re the jacket that fits,” Vivian covered her mouth, tears brimming her eyes, with a look full of hope. “And we’d like to keep you,” added Rick.
“These presents are yours, if you decide to stay with us,” finished Vivian. She looked at Violet with pleading eyes.
Violet looked at the presents in front of her, then at Vivian and Rick who were standing beside her. Vivian was on two knees holding Violet’s hand. Slowly Violet nodded. Then she nodded more vigorously.
“Yes. Yes I’ll stay,” nodded Violet. The tears came and she nodded while she cried on Vivian’s shoulder. Rick clapped his hands. He smiled widely, then he and Vivian hugged Violet together. Violet smiled and cried happily. She belonged. She finally belonged.