When I decided to pay tribute to my late parents, I knew I had to find something that reflected who they were to the core. It was while I was in college that someone suggested Social Work. I looked into it and after some consideration I switched majors. After my bachelors I went on to pursue my masters. While working on my master’s degree I became a supervisor and eventually moved onto overseeing the adoptions department.
If anyone were to ask, I do have a soft spot for kids because they remind me of Charles. I admire their honesty and I’d hope that they remain true to themselves. However, society shuns those who dare to be different. I at least hope that they find a family like mine. One that is aware of who they are and will assist them in navigating life.
“Victoria?” Meghan stood at the doorway of my office. She’s a petite thing with wavy brown hair and deep tanned skin. I don’t mind her much even though she talks a lot. I’ve learned to tune out most of our conversations. I only focus on the key points and repeat them back to her to show that I was listening.
“Come in,” I wave my hand at her. She’s happier than usual. Meghan’s smile is practically blinding me.
“Victoria! I’m getting married!” she exclaimed. The sweetness that oozed from her voice made me want to vomit.
“Is that so? Congratulations!”
“Thank you boss. I have a feeling that you’ll be next.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Well, from the few times that I’ve met Stefan that man seems to love you so much.”
“I know. I’m a lucky girl.”
Meghan’s correct. Stefan loves me more than he loves himself. Sometimes I swear that the man would die for me if I asked him to. Meghan threw her left hand up so I could see the ring. A pretty pink princess cut diamond.
“It suits you,” I smile. “I hope Stefan has good taste too for when the time comes.” I want to gag myself.
“Stefan looks like a man with fine taste,” she laughed.
Unfortunately, to my own surprise, Meghan went on for the next thirty minutes discussing wedding plans. I’m usually so curt around the office that no one bothers to attempt a conversation with me. However, she seems so genuinely happy that I allow her to prattle on about color themes and florals. If Stefan and I are to marry I have no interest in picking dresses or color schemes. It all sounds so boring.
“Meghan,” I interrupt her. “Before this goes any further there’s work to do. Since you’re here, how about we review your cases?”
“Sure,” she smiled.
For the next hour we went over her potential adoptions. We also briefly discussed the hardships of our kids who have yet to be adopted. Then there was our concern over adoptions lessening. People seem less interested in adopting kids let alone having their own. A lot more people want to be more financially sound and do the things they’ve always wanted.
By the time it’s lunch I’m finalizing a few home visits I have to make. There aren’t many to do, they’re easy, and I don’t mind the drive all that much. This is the most preferred task over mounds of paperwork.
After reconfirming my home visits I call Stefan. He puts a lot of stock into any amount of affection displayed. A phone call goes a long way with him and that I’m back to work.
By two I’m packing up my bag and heading out to cover home visits for staff that’s on vacation. I figure that everything should take me about three to four hours. Our reservation is at eight so there should be plenty of time to get things done. Admittedly, I don’t scope nor hold an hour conversation like I should. I can get everything I need in about thirty minutes.
The first home is that of an infant. The second are fraternal twins who live with their aunt. I’ve never particularly cared for her or any of the people I’ve met in this line of work but to lie with no real effort has always bothered me. I enjoy the dramatics: the flailing arms and different vocal pitches. It is always a matter of time before someone messes up. And today is that day.
“Visits are going along well?” I ask as I jot down the date and names. The atmosphere always changes as soon as I start asking about the children’s biological mother.
“Of course,” she says quietly. At least have some confidence Susan. I don’t even need to look up to see her body language. Always sluggish and meek is what she is.
“Is that so? Tell me more in detail?” She never really says anything new and I don’t expect much to have changed.
“It’s the usual. They play and eat their kid’s meals at the park.”
“So no major concerns then?”
“Absolutely not! Karen is doing well.”
“Is that so,” I look up at her. I want it to be obvious that my gaze is swallowing her in. That I’m noticing everything. “Susan, it’s really warm in here. Just looking at you in those long sleeves is making me sweat.”
“I can lower the A.C..” Susan quickly goes to adjust the thermostat. I take the opportunity to notice all the little things around the living room. A pair of shoes that don’t appear to be Susan’s size. The smell of cigarettes and knowing that she isn’t the sort to smoke. A home that is usually so pristine in absolute ruin. Yet these aren’t the most out of place things. It’s Susan’s overall disheveled appearance that is of concern.
The concealer around her lips and eyes are so poorly applied; she must have been in a rush. Her speech appears to be slurred not because of drinking, but as if she were just struck on the mouth. Two daughters brought up in the same household, separated due to divorce, and one abused by their father. Susan was lucky to have been brought up by her mother and Karen was unlucky to have been placed into the arms of her predator. In all honesty their mother had failed them both.
“Would you like something to drink?” Susan asked. She always asks despite me refusing.
“No thank you,” I look away from her and begin to ponder on where Karen could be hiding. I wonder if I should ask her directly. She isn’t a good liar. “Susan, I need to see the kids.”
I leave Susan in the living room to see Mika & Nikki. They’re fast asleep and only two years old so they can’t hold a full conversation.
There’s that smell of cigarette smoke again. How fragrant? I get on my knees carefully pulling at the comforters to smell them. I examine their tiny bodies, check underneath their beds, and the closet. And as I close the closet I hear the sound of footsteps.
“Of course,” I say aloud.
“Susan,” I call. She peeks around the doorway, blond hair escaping her ponytail, encircling her face. “You’ve changed your hair. Layered?” More like butchered.
“Not exactly. I tried following a tutorial online,” she smiled. More like a grimace of a smile due to the pain.
“I know a great stylist.” I walk through the hallways checking the bathrooms, other rooms, and hallway closets. The fact is that I know that I won't find anything in these spaces. I'm looking for something else. I’m a hound tracking the scent of chaos. “There we are.”
Susan has grown accustomed to me looking through every room. However, I’ve never checked the attic. I don’t think an attic was mentioned in Susan’s home study either.
As I could feel Susan’s blue eyes drilling holes into my back I began to wonder. How could we have let someone so weak take in these children? Then again there were no other real options.
I go into the garage to retrieve a broom. Once I make it back into the hallway Susan takes notice and comes to the conclusion of what I am about to do.
“Is there anything you need to tell me Susan?”I ask and add in a soft smile just because.
“I’m sorry,” she says.
“I’m sorry too.” Susan would have made for a kind mother, but she’s barren. So it wasn’t a surprise that she would jump at the chance of adopting her sister’s kids. She’s now ruined the opportunity.