The next morning, I walked into the dining room with a bowl of cereal.
“Miss Katrina?” She looked up from her book.
“Hey, how’re you doing?”
“Good. Did you fall back asleep fine?”
“Eh, it took me a little while, but I did eventually.”
“Okay. Buck, I think we might want to go back to counseling with Pastor Juan.”
“Well, your nightmares have gotten more frequent.”
“But my anxiety’s better.”
“Hm. So is your depression.”
“Okay, we’ll hold off for a few weeks.” I let out a sigh of relief. Pastor Juan was great, but I hated talking about my problems, and my past.
“Good. Um, you said you and Eugene wanted to tell me something?” I said, spooning a mouthful of Rice Krispies. Before I finished my question, Eugene walked in and handed out homemade smoothies.
“Ah, what is the topic of conversation this morning?”
“Katrina said you had something to tell me.” Eugene’s eyes bolted and locked with Katrina’s.
“We’re telling him now?” She laughed.
“I thought so. We don’t have much time.”
“I suppose that’s true.” He sighed anxiously.
“So, we can tell him?”
“Tell me what?” I asked.
“Well, a couple weeks ago, Eugene and I went to visit a group home in Connellsville.”
“Pastor Juan wanted us to come, and meet one of the girls there.”
“Her name is Elizabeth, and She’s five.” Eugene answered.
“Wait- why did he want you to meet her?”
“He wanted us to see if we wanted to take her on as another foster child.” Katrina smiled.
“And? Are you?”
“Yes. But we wanted your opinion as well.”
“Oh, I’m all for it.”
“Really?” Eugene seemed pleased, and that made me oddly proud.
“Of course. I’ve always thought it’d be cool to have a sibling. Do I get to meet her before she moves in?”
“Well, you could, but she’s coming today.” Katrina said, pushing up her glasses.
“Tonight, to be exact.”
“But that’s so soon!”
Katrina sighed, “There were paper work complications. As of last night, she can’t legally stay at the group home anymore. So, we have a lot of planning to do before we pick her up.”
“What can I do to help?”
We spent the rest of the day getting the upstairs guest room ready for Elizabeth, or Eliza as most people called her. We went to Janken’s new department store and bought new room accessories, clothes, and toiletries. Before we picked her up, we headed to Hall’s Diner for dinner.
“They’ll be four of us now,” I said, realizing the change that was about to invade our home.
“Mhm,” Katrina laughed, glancing at her menu.
“Can I ask a few questions? About Elizabeth?”
“Well first, what’s her background like?”
“Hm. She came from an abusive home. Her mother kept her until a neighbor reported the abuse.”
“You said she was five?”
“Yeah, she really needs a sturdy family,” Eugene said.
“And a sturdy big brother,” Katrina added. I smiled.
We left the restaurant, and drove into Connellsville, anticipation building. By the time we got there, my heart was racing. My stomach turned as Eugene stopped the car. “Nervous?” Katrina asked, getting out. I did the same.
“Eh, maybe a little.” She smiled.
“Well, let’s go.” Eugene said, locking the car. We walked up to the three-story brick building and knocked on the door. A kindly-looking gentleman answered. I didn’t recognize him, but Eugene and Katrina did immediately.
“Hey you two.” Hugs were exchanged, as the two marveled at his appearance.
“We- haven’t seen you in- what? Two years?” Eugene said, shocked.
“Has it really been that long?”
“Are you volunteering here?” Katrina asked, after we were invited in.
“Actually, we’ve taken it over.”
“But how’d we not know you were so close?”
“We wanted to stay out of the spot light. Have a little quiet.”
“Hm. That’s understandable.”
“Oh! Buck! Jack, this is our foster son, Buck.”
“It’s an honor to meet you, Buck. You’ve been placed with a fantastic family.”
“Yeah. I know.” I said, briefly making eye contact with Katrina.
“Well, come sit down and I’ll go get Eliza.” He led us into a sitting area that seemed to double as a living room.
“Alright, just make yourselves comfortable, and I’ll be right back.” We sat down and waited for about five minutes. When Mr. Allen came back he came in with Elizabeth. She was adorable. She had the biggest eyes of any little girl I’d ever seen. They were tinted red. She’d been crying. I understood. I’d been crying not half an hour before I was released to my new parents. The emotion of being put into a new environment- the overwhelming realization of sudden change was too much for even me to handle.
Elizabeth wore a thin jacket over a warn tank top, and shorts. A pair of flipflops were the only other thing she had on.
“Eliza, you remember Eugene and Katrina.” She nodded shyly.
“Hey, are you ready to come home with us?” Katrina asked, smiling. Eliza’s face lit up at that question. She smiled and nodded again. She had such a cute smile.
“And guess what! We brought Buck with us! He’s gonna be your big brother while you’re staying with us.” I could tell she liked that idea, and I had to admit that I did as well.
“Hi Eliza. I have a present for you.” She laughed at my accent.
“You talk like Toby.” I was sure my heart skipped a couple beats. She had an English accent. I looked at Katrina.
“Surprise.” She laughed. I did too, then handed Eliza the present I’d picked out earlier that day. She pulled out the tissue paper and then the gift. A stuffed bear.
“A bear! Look! A bear!” She showed Mr. Allen giggling.
“That’s just the start of the presents we have for you.”
“Yeah you should see your room!”
“Okay, well we have some paper work to take care of.”
“Oh, yes.” Eugene said, standing up. After the paper work was finished we headed home. Elizabeth was an interesting child. The whole way home she just sat there, stroking that bear on the head, and staring out the window. She was quiet. I knew that wouldn’t last long. I knew it was an act. But I’d make sure she wouldn’t take as long as I did to put away the façade.