I'm not really sure how I feel about posting this, but I'm going to do it anyway. This is an excerpt from a story I began after reading its synopsis in the Adopt a Plot section of the NaNoWriMo boards. I never really had any big plans for it, which was good since shortly after I expressed interest in it, I was basically handed a cease-and-desist order in way of NaNo mail. Someone had gotten it before me.
As it turns out, what I wrote as a result of the plot suggestion wasn't really that great (as you'll see), but it was a cool idea anyway. So here ya go.
“I just don’t know what to do,” Elizabeth says, and closes the folder with a sigh. I sit in the straight – backed chair on the other side of her desk and say nothing. The silence stretches between us until finally I have to break it.
“I’m sorry,” I say, staring hard at the folder – my file – on the desk. “I didn’t mean – it just wasn’t working out.”
Elizabeth rubs a hand over her face. “But Claire, this is the sixth time it hasn’t ‘worked out’. I just don’t get how none of these families were a good fit for you.”
“I’m trying, Elizabeth,” I say as earnestly as I can. I haven’t actually been trying all that hard, but I really hate to disappoint Elizabeth. She’s my social worker and the closest thing to family I have these days.
“I’d like to think you are, Claire, but your file shows otherwise. I understand that it isn’t easy, being in your position, but there are thousands of children in the same exact place and somehow they’re able to make it work. The Ambersons were a good family – what happened?”
“They just...” I begin, but I have to stop because I don’t have anything to say. Elizabeth’s right- the Ambersons were a good family. But they weren’t my family, and by that, I mean the family I can see myself living with until I graduate. I look up at my social worker and my best friend. “I’m not doing this on purpose. I know you try really hard to find me good homes and I really want to like them. But no matter where I go, I just – I don’t fit in.” I look down at my hands resting in my lap. “They’re all nice, but I can tell that they would be happier without me there.”
“Claire Medina! That is not true!” Elizabeth sounds shocked at what I’ve said.
“Isn’t there some way I can just live on my own?” I ask. “I’m almost eighteen, and you know I can take care of myself.”
Elizabeth gives me a long – suffering look. “You’re not almost eighteen, Claire. You just turned sixteen in March, which was only a month ago. We’ve had this discussion before – you have to live with a family at least until you’ve graduated, and then we can talk about the options available.” She takes in the look on my face. “Believe me, Claire, I know you could look after yourself, but my hands are tied. I’m going to try to find you another family as quickly as possible, but for tonight, you can stay at my place.”
At this news, my heart immediately leaps. When things went downhill with the Hollidays three years ago, Elizabeth had let me bunk at her house until another family was found for me and after that, whenever things didn’t work out, I always stayed there. It was almost worth failing again and again to get to spend time there.
Elizabeth tells me to gather my things and wait in the lobby until she’s finished. I leave her office and flop into a chair next to my suitcase and purse, which are taking up another seat. I take a magazine from the table beside me and flip through it without reading a word. Finally, Elizabeth comes out of her office and locks the door behind her.
“Let’s go,” she says, and we leave the building and cross the parking lot to her car. We’ve driven about ten minutes in silence when Elizabeth suddenly speaks. “Claire, there’s nothing wrong with you.”
I jerk my eyes from the window and turned to stare at her. “What?”
Elizabeth keeps her eyes on the road, but I don’t miss a single word. “I know you’ve had trouble working with the families you’ve been placed with, but don’t start thinking that it’s because of you. It’s true that you have to work to make a life with anyone, but it’s a team effort, and sometimes, people just don’t mesh.” She takes her eyes from the road for a second and smiles at me. “You’re a good kid. You’re smart, and your instincts are usually dead – on. Don’t forget that.”