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The thing about family is, they’re always there for you. No matter the circumstances. They don’t care if you’re ugly, or dress right, they just care that you are you. They love you.

I am searching for my family. I have lived in different houses, with different mothers and fathers, uncles and aunts, but I still haven’t found my family; but I know, one day, I will find them.

*          *          *

As I look out the window at the passing fields with blue skies hanging above them like blankets to keep them safe from the fiery red sun, I think of my new home. I wonder if it will be like the last, happy and cheerful on the outside but dark and secretive on the inside. Maybe it will be like the one before that, crusted and falling apart, with small children crunched tightly in every crook of the house. Or the one before that, my mind cringes at the thought of it… no, it can’t be like that house.

Maybe this house will be my dream house, with my perfect family inside. I just don’t know what my dream house is, but I know that I’ve never come close to it before. Maybe this time…

My thoughts are interrupted as I hear a sputtering coming from the back of the silver minivan as we slowly drive to the side of the highway. My driver mutters something under his breath and gets out of the car, slamming the door behind him. Tentatively, I follow him out. He sees me but, other than a glance, does not acknowledge that I’m there.

Family talking on the phone
“Hi,” he briskly speaks in the phone. “Is this AAA?”

“Excuse me, sir,” I ask, slowly at first, “what is wrong with the car?” He gives me a condescending look.

“If I knew, we would be on the road right now,” he answers, as he pops open the hood. He walks over to the front seat of the car and rummages around for about five minutes. Finally he comes out with something in his hand. “Aha!” he says, as he pulls out his phone and begins dialing. He puts the phone to his ear and paces back and forth in front of me several times.

“Hi,” he briskly speaks in the phone. “Is this AAA?”

I decide not to listen any longer and to go into the van to sleep. I’ve had a long day anyway, I guess it’s just like any other day…

*          *          *

I wake up to the sound of the front door slamming. I look up at my driver expectantly. He takes a deep breath and begins speaking.

“Well, we’re gonna be here for a long time, Angela.” He takes another deep breath, as if he’s tired from this short sentence; then he continues, but I’m not sure if he is talking to me or himself. “AAA can’t come for hours, and foster care can’t come for longer, so we’re stuck here for who knows how long!” He hits his head with his small fist and sinks into his seat. I bring my knees to my chest and try to fall asleep again, but I’m already thinking.

“Ummm… mister?” I say, not knowing his name.

“Yes?” he says, looking up. “And it’s Chris, by the way.”

“Chris?!” My heart leaps at the name. “I know a Chris!”

Chris’s eyebrows rise. “You do?” He seems surprised, like he’s never met anyone with the same name as him.

“Well… I did.” As I say this my heart falls deeper than before, into the darkest of oceans. “Not anymore.” I look at my feet. Chris was a friend I had met at my first foster home, when I was just five. He showed me around the house and told me everything there was to know about foster care. He was there for me when I became an orphan, and I trusted him with my biggest secrets. He was my best friend. Then, one morning, I woke up and he was gone. No goodbye hugs, not even a note. He was just… gone. For more than a year after that, I couldn’t sleep without him wandering my dreams, and waking up crying with no friends to comfort me. I was alone. Now, eight years later, it still hurts to think of him. My only friend.

I bury my head in my knees but don’t cry; Chris silently stares ahead at the tall grasses, swaying in the wind.

“Wanna sit up front?” He pats the seat next to him. “There’s no point in having you back there anymore, it’s not like we’re moving or anything. Plus, you’re thirteen!”

I am shocked. No one has ever asked me to sit in the front seat in my entire life! But he does have a point, I am thirteen.

I slowly climb into the passenger seat and am surprised by how much more comfortable the front seats are. Now that I am next to Chris, I take this silent moment to study him.

He wears a red-and-gray-plaid shirt, with blue jeans and a pair of sneakers. His dark brown hair is parted to the side, and his eyes remind me of the bright blue sky outside; his skin is creamy white, like freshly whipped cream, and he has freckles dotted around his face. He looks young, around eighteen, but I’m not sure…

“Do you want to listen to music?” Chris asks, reaching for the radio in the car.

“Sure,” I agree politely, although I never seem to like the same music as my drivers do.

Chris presses the power button but quickly puts his hands up and turns to me. “You have complete control over the radio, Angela,” he smiles, and I smile back.

“You can call me Angie,” I say, as I begin scrolling stations.

I watch Chris’s face cringe for every disconnected station we pass, and I try to find a good one soon. Finally, after about five minutes of hopelessly scrolling, I find a clear channel, an oldies station, and it’s playing a song that I recognize from my last home. There was an older kid who was always listening to music and blasting it from his room upstairs. He never spoke to anyone, but his music did; I guess it was his way of expressing himself.

Chris starts bobbing his head in sync with the music, and I sit back to watch him joyfully. He looks up at me, laughing.

“Come on, Angie,” he says. “Dance!”

Hesitantly, I bob my head like he is, and I start to enjoy the music.

We sit in the car for I don’t know how much longer, listening to music and occasionally talking. After a while, a yellow Volkswagen drives up to us.

“Well, that’s our ride!” Chris says with a sigh.

I take a look at the people inside, there is a woman driving with tightly pulled-back hair and cake batter splattered on her dark skin. She looks about fifty. Sitting next to her is a pile of treats and presents with a pair of hands wrapped around them. A person, I figure, is sitting underneath the pile.

The car stops and the woman gets out. She hurries over to our van where Chris is now getting out of the car as well. She gives him a quick hug and then walks over to me.

Family sitting on the grass
For the next half an hour, we talk about everything

“Hello, Angela! My name is Yolanda!” She holds out her hand to me and I take it gratefully. I look at her face closer. She has big brown eyes like chestnuts and high cheekbones. Her forehead is big and wrinkled, like she raises her eyebrows a lot. Her hair is pulled back in a tight bun that holds dark brown and gray curls. She wears a yellow-flowered dress with a stained white apron and peach-colored flats. Her perfume smells of peaches as well.

“I’m gonna be seeing you a lot, I guess!” Yolanda says happily. This comment puzzles me. I see Chris walk up behind her slowly.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“Well,” she says with a grin on her face, “you’re gonna come stay with me, my husband, Walter, and my son, Chris, for a little while!” I am so surprised by this that I nearly fall over. I am going to be seeing them a lot!

For the next half an hour, we talk about everything. Yolanda introduces me to her husband, Walter, and Chris tells me about how he was a foster child until they found him. They give me presents and cookies that are so delicious I want to walk up to heaven with them. They tell me of their home, stories, and all of their pets. But the whole time, I can’t stop smiling because I know,

I’ve found my family.

Family Stella Keaveny Haapala
Stella Keaveny Haapala, 12
Portland, Oregon

Family Phoebe Wagoner
Phoebe Wagoner, 13
Carlisle, Kentucky