What's Love? Ch 4
10 Years Ago
It’s a week away from Christmas, and Mom hadn’t been home since she attempted to smack me. I quickly started to make sure everything was in order, to prove that I could be emancipated. It wasn’t looking good, though. I technically couldn’t hold a job, couldn't get my license. I needed to get Renee to understand that without me, she had no money, no home. All she had to do was at least pretend to take care of me. I was just a few weeks shy of an early graduation. Since I had been on lockdown, I focused all my energy on school, coding, and applying to colleges.
“Bella,” Renee’s voice rang through the house. It didn’t sound right.
I peeked around the corner from the computer room I set up downstairs. Renee stood there with a guy; he had to be around 30, dark hair, very ragged looking. He was tweaking, everything I was seeing told me that nothing good was about to happen.
“Yeah,” I replied, my voice thick with confusion.
“Sweetie, I’ve missed you. I was thinking could you get the emergency cash quick, and me and you could go out. I know you must have cabin fever. We could go to the mall shopping for some new clothes, what do you think?” She plastered on a smile, but her body language was saying something else.
I flickered my eyes over to the dude clutching my mom’s arm. He had something in his hands that he was hiding behind Renee.
“What about him?”
“Please, Bella get the money.” Her eyes closed. She was pleading with me.
I nodded my head and went into the kitchen to grab the money. Using my new voice recognition computer program, I quietly said, “Charlie. Call 911, be quiet, and start recording.”
Usually it would answer, but with the order of being quiet it just gave me a low beep to let me know it understood.
I walked back out to the front door and handed Mom the money. She quickly gave it to the man standing with her.
“That’s it?” His voice was like oil on my skin, making me feel gross, and I just wanted to wash myself in hot water.
“Yes,” Renee’s eyes are narrowing at him, like she's trying to get him to understand something.
“Bitch.” He hit my mom with the butt of the gun he'd been hiding, knocking her out and then looking at me. His eyes were predatory. He didn’t have time to act on anything else before Billy showed up, busting the door open.
“Drop your weapon, now!” his voice rang out with authority.
The guy quickly dropped the gun and got on the ground. Everything was happening in a blur. I found out that the man was named Phil, and he and my mom had been getting high together. It was her turn to buy, but instead, she tried to skimp out and it went down from there.
Phil was arrested, but my mom was sent to the hospital.
“Bella.” Billy sat next to me on the porch.
“I graduate in May, I have good monetary investments. I have two computer programs that I am almost ready to patent and sell. Please, Billy, don’t call child services.” I closed my eyes, pleading with anyone who would listen.
“It’s out of my hands, sweetie. A caseworker is already on their way. You better pack a bag.”
“Please, Billy, I won’t survive in foster care.” I could feel the tears increasing. I was incredibly smart, intellectually speaking, but common sense or street smarts, neither of those are me. I have no idea how to interact with other people very well.
“I’m sorry, Bella.” He patted my shoulder and walked away. I did the only thing I could think of and packed some stuff, including my laptop, pictures of me and my dad, some clothes and some notebooks.
I sat on the porch steps of my dad’s house waiting for the caseworker named Paul to show up to take me somewhere, with no clue where or if I’d ever be back.
I grabbed my laptop and opened it up, typing a couple of things before speaking a command. “Charlie, please lock down the house until further notice. Have all bills directly paid from the account listed. Taxes are to be included. If no one comes back, begin to shut the electric off.”
“Of course, Bella,” the warm, computerized voice answered.
“Good bye, Charlie,” I sniffled.
I shut my laptop off and stuffed it back into my messenger bag, just in time to hear the car pull up. I didn’t move and I didn’t make eye contact. The teenager in me was starting to come out.
“Hello, Isabella.” The coarse, manly voice tried to get my attention. “My name is Paul. I am here to take you to a new place to stay for a while.”
I sighed, closing my eyes. “I need to see your identification and I will need to have a cop confirm also. ID’s can be faked.” My voice was harsher than I really intended, but I was just too close to exploding from the emotional turmoil that was happening in my life.
He quickly showed me his identification, and Billy confirmed who he was.
I got into the backseat of the car, but I felt so empty. Everything I had ever known in the 14 years I had been on this planet was gone.
“The only place with space is in Port Angles, with a nice couple that has a girl about your age and a boy about 16.”
“Do they know anything about me? And if so, have you let them know about my schooling and intellectual needs?” I huffed from the backseat.
“I told them everything. The girl who’s living there, she also does online schooling but I know she won’t be up to the level you are. They are very understanding and I am sure you will get along just fine there.” He didn’t convince me. I don’t think he entirely understood exactly how smart I was.
About 45 min later we arrived at a two story dingy-looking house. “Here we are.”
I drug my feet when it came to getting to the door. I didn’t want to be there, I just wanted to go home.
A man with a thick coat and smoking a cigarette was on the steps to the house.
“Hey, Paul.” His voice gave me the creeps right off.
“John, how’s Samantha?”
“Sleeping, first shift means she has to be up at 4:30 in the am.” He threw his cigarette to the side into the snow.
“Well, this is Isabella Swan, she’s the girl I called you about.” He put his hand on my shoulder, pushing me forward a little bit. I felt on display.
“Hi, Isabella. I know it’s been a long night, I’m sure you’re tired. You come on in and we’ll get you settled.”
“I would like to know how it’s possible that you got any fostering rights. And also, Paul, how is it that there is a teen boy here with a teen girl isn’t that against the law. I studied this and know this is against procedure because of sexual discrepancy. If that's allowed, why can’t I just go home? I’m fine taking care of myself. I’m graduating in May, I can make money and there are car services I can use to transport myself.” I felt the anger in my words, and I knew I didn’t make any sense. It was a futile argument anyway, well everything but the boy and girl part. I knew there was something against that.
I heard Paul sigh, “Actually, if there are enough bedrooms to accommodate, then it’s okay. I will do weekly check-ins. This is also an emergency placement for you because of the circumstances. I’ll be back in a few days to discuss more permanent placing, whether it be here or somewhere else.”
I begrudgingly went up to John and followed him inside.
First thing I noticed was a horrible smell, of feet maybe. I crinkled my nose in disgust. Second was the horrible lighting, maybe because it’s night and he did say his wife was sleeping. Third, the two teens didn’t look up when we entered the room, most likely being given a head’s up about the company.
The boy had the blondest hair, a towhead, really, and it was shaggy in appearance. He was lanky, with some good arm muscles as he strummed on a guitar. His eyes flickered to mine just enough for me to catch that they were deep blue.
The girl had black hair up in a bun, working on a computer. She didn’t give me any kind of glance.
“This is Isabella,” John introduced me. They finally looked up long enough to scope me out.
“Isabella, this is Jasper, and the girl there on the computer is Irina. Irina, show her to your room, give her the rules and the password. I expect all of you in bed within the hour. Now, I’m going to bed.” He didn’t even look at me as he climbed the steps to wherever his room was.
“Come on.” The girl begrudgingly got up, grabbed her laptop and walked past the steps to a hallway. I followed her and tried not to freak out when I heard the boy behind us.
She opened the door; the room had two twin beds, very plain. A room made for outsiders that won’t be staying long.
“This is it, the internet password is leeches. This is my side, stay out of my stuff, don’t talk to me.” She grabbed headphones, blocking out the world.
“She’s had it rough, it sucks here.” Jasper spoke with a southern accent.
“Haven’t we all, or we wouldn’t be here, we would be at home,” I replied, my voice cold.
“Yeah, lock the door, alright, the guy's a creep.” He walked into what I assumed was his room.
Is that what my life was going to consist of?