An extract from YA novel - Crossing the Line
© Dianne Bates
I am drawing in my mind's eye a scene of my childhood. Perspective doesn't matter; everything is distorted and oblique as it is when one is very young and Arlene and Dutch's faces loom large and clearly-defined; next, they are diminished and pale, like ghosts wafting into sight. Sometimes they float close by and reach out and touch me. Mostly this is when I am tucked between crisp white sheets that smell faintly of lavender, and Arlene is leaning over me, her ginger-ale coloured hair lapping against my cheek. Her face is a mask, eyes hooded, skin mottled in shadow. She whispers to me in her sing-song voice, a children's rhyme from The Netherlands. And Dutch is here, too, huge and gentle like the Big Friendly Giant in the wondrous book that he used to read to me before bedtime. And then, just as suddenly as they came to me, they are gone, and I am alone, stretching out my hand and crying, begging them to come back, to take me with them.
A suitcase, my laptop computer and a backpack: this is what I bring with me. I've waited for this day for what seems like forever, counting down the hours, keeping my cool as much as I can. The house is a small bungalow no different from other red-brick houses in the suburb, a short walking distance to the railway station and the shops.
Marie briskly rings the front doorbell then steps back, surveying the un-cut front garden and tongue-clicking at the avalanche of garbage from a split plastic bag on the porch.
"Yep?" The door is opened by a tall skinny girl with a faceful of metal and a towel wrapped around her, her molasses-coloured hair stringy and damp from the shower.
"I understood you were expecting us. Marie pulls out a business card. Her manner, as usual, is prickly.
The girl rolls her eyes, her nostrils flare. "We knew you were coming. Didn't think you'd want a frigging red carpet." My heart thumps with applause. Anyone who can tick Marie off as obviously as she's ticked at the moment is an instant buddy.
Suddenly there's a guy behind the girl. He's dressed. And cute, grinning with the whitest set of teeth you'd see on any TV commercial. "Come on in," he says.
His hand touches mine as he takes my bags. "Here, let me," he says. Our eyes meet. His are green, flecked with little dots of translucent colours, gemstones of amber and opal. Very nice.
In the living-room Marie's sniff of disapproval is almost palpable as she stares openly and rudely around her, noting, I'm sure, the furniture covered in junk, the odour of cat poo, even the carpet fluff and wine stains.
Cute boy shoves a jumble of clothes onto the floor to clear a chair. Then he pushes aside magazines from the sofa. "Sorry about that." Again with the toothpaste-white smile.
The girl has disappeared.
"I'm Sophie," I say. "I love your place."
"Matt." He reaches out and shakes my hand, looks directly into my eyes again. He's so gorgeous!
"Welcome. I hope you like it here with Amy and me."
Mrs Rules and Regulations takes over then. I've heard it all before and can't wait for her to buzz off. Thank goodness she doesn't stick around for long.
The moment she's gone, Amy appears. "What a bitch! Is she your case worker?"
I nod, and suddenly it's as though someone has doused the three of us in laughing powder because we all crack up. Oh, I'm so happy! This is what I've wanted for so long; my first taste of Freedom.