Angelica woke with a start. She hadn’t had nightmares since the first couple of months she’d lived with Ms Crumble, and that was three years ago. Still, it hit her cold and hard and certainly had a hard impact on the girl who was usually tougher than the two boys in the house.
Josh never had nightmares, not even when he came to stay with Ms Crumble. Then again, his story wasn’t as tragic as hers of Wesleys. His dad had died, and then his mum was in a car crash three weeks later. It had been tough, and tragic in its own way, but that sort of thing happened to quite a lot of people, and Josh was able to accept it (after the first two weeks where all he’d felt was anger and depression, but he wasn’t with Ms Crumble a this point).
However, Angelica’s mum has been lost at sea, and everyone had just assumed she was dead. Never bothered looking, ignoring the possibility that she could be out there somewhere. No, just like Josh, they’d accepted it and moved on. But Angelica hasn’t. Not at the beginning. At the beginning, she had refused any sort of help handed to her, fought against her social workers and then when she had been fostered by Ms Crumble, she had fought against her too.
Wesley’s story was completely different. He was different. Sure, he was black, and sure, he was gay, but he didn’t think that counted him as different. It shouldn’t have, it would be wrong to, but others hadn’t agreed. Horrible slurs and threats placed against his family, his cousin Emmet fighting people to keep them all safe, yet nobody could stop it. So they’d moved. They’d moved to Glendale, where people were different. People like Wesley’s parents, who’d eventually become alcoholics - partially because of the horridness of what had made them move - and been deemed unfit parents. It wasn’t the most tragic backstory ever - his parents were still alive, but he had to live with knowing that right now, he could have been with the family he’d grown up with if only they’d tried harder.
He’d had nightmares, nightmares of the discriminative people from his first home, nightmares of that happening to him here. It hadn’t happened, but he’d still dreamt it.
Angelica’s nightmare, however, was different. It was, once again, about her mother. But this time, she’d been with her. She’d been on that submarine, she was there went it dived into deep, uncharted waters, she was there when the alarm went off.
She let out a scream. Angelica wasn’t one to scream or cry over pretty much anything - she left the emotions to her new mother and brothers. But right now, the dream was the only thing playing in her mind, and she needed to help and the safety that her family provided her.
It was Josh who came running in first, sitting her up in bed and taking a seat beside her, pulling the girl into his arms. Angelica’s breaths were shaky as she tried to control them, tears still sliding.
Wesley came in next and sat at her other side, stroking down her arms and kissing her forehead. They both tried to move her slightly, finding a way to rock her between them before Wesley moved his head closer to Josh’s, just enough distance to whisper in his ear. And as discrete as Wesley was trying to be, Angelica still heard it, and Angelica was enraged.
“What do you mean there’s a social worker at the door?! Why the hell would there be a social worker at the fucking door?!” She screamed, pushing both boys away and jumping off the bed to stand in front of them.
Wesley sighed and clasped his hands together, leaning forward on his legs. “Look, all I heard was Crumble talking to a social worker at the door, and I think there was a child with her.” Josh glanced at Angelica’s reddening face. “WHY WOULD THERE BE A CHILD WITH HER?!”
Wesley stood up and pulling Angelica’s angry, sobbing form against his body, shushing her gently. “I don’t know, that’s all I saw or heard when I came across the your room.” Josh smiled slightly and patted Angelica’s back. “Good thing your room is across the stairs.” He chuckled. Angelica glared at him before pulling away from Wesley.
“I’m going to go downstairs and see what’s going on.” She declared, furiously wiping away at her eyes. “I’m gonna see what’s up with this fucking kid and make Mum guilty for not being up with me and I needed her!” Josh and Wesley shared a glance.
Angelica has been the first to come and live with Ms Crumble. Sure, Josh has known Ms Crumble first - he was her biology teacher, and Wesley’s for three lessons before she took him in - but Angelica had been fostered first and, by extension, adopted first. She’d been adopted when she was eight, and had been fostered a year prior.
Josh had come next, started being fostered about half a year after Angelica’s adoption and, within a year, been adopted himself. Ms Crumble liked the idea of keeping adoption and fostering a year apart - if you were really meant to be a part of the family, you’d certainly know within a year.
And then Wesley had joined a year after Josh’s adoption, adopted - yet again - a year later. So they’d all been together for about a year as of now, all gotten used to one another, and three seemed like enough kids for a single mother with the occupation of being a teacher.
Angelica didn’t like sharing her things. At first, she didn’t like sharing her new mum, even with Josh who had known her already and even babysat her years before her moving in with Ms Crumble, and she certainly didn’t want her share her again. Sharing her with Wesley and Josh was enough.
Eli Cardashyan. Who is he?
Well, he’s the boy whose lived in seven different foster homes in the last two years. He’s the boy whose parents illegally immigrated to the country. He’s the boy whose never had anything of any value or importance. He’s the boy whose always been poor.
He’s the boy that nobody, not even his social worker or foster families care about. He is a lost cause and he fucking knows it. He also knows how to make other people know it. He knows how to push them away, how to irritate them to the point where they’re just begging the social worker to take him back. He knows how to be a dick and he knows how the system works. Those things just happen to correspond.
His new social worker, some lady named Reese Jones, wasn’t very nice. She was strict and pushy, not even her good looks could compensate for her foul mood. Or that hot Australian accent.
Still, she was a bitch, Eli was a bitch, and they didn’t get along. However, she also used to be the social worker for some kid named Angela or something along those lines, and somehow has something on her new family to get them to take Eli in, if only for a week. Except that Reese wants them to keep Eli until a proper foster home is in order, which is unlikely to happen for a while. Not many people like him, he makes sure of that.
“Come on Eli, this is Ms Crumbles house.” Reese explained as she parked up the car. Eli stared up at it through his car window.
The house was quite, painted white and insulated, with a bright red door. The door had a golden knocker in the centre, a matching doorbell on the left hand side of its frame. On it there were two small glazed over windows with icy frost patterns.
It looked like the sort of place to have a cute picket fence with an old lady living in it, which wouldn’t surprise Eli considering her name, but at the late hour of 1am, the lady who opened the door was surely recently into her thirties.
“Hello,” She greeted. Reese nodded towards her and shook her hand before introducing Eli. Though the two women knew each other, it was as if they’d met for the first time. It was slightly awkward for Eli, being ushered into this random women’s house - albeit it wasn’t something he wasn’t used to - and Reese got straight down to business. She laid down files and papers all across the kitchen table (the kitchen was the room in directly from the door) and being talking to who Eli assumed to be Ms Crumble quietly and quickly.
She didn’t even notice the three others at the door.
Angelica glared at the women talking to her mother before clearing her throat and catching all of their attention.
“Angelica, what are you doing out of bed?” Ms Crumble asked, moving closer to her adopted daughter. Soon after, Josh and Wesley came into the light, looking rather sheepish. Ms Crumble frowned. “Guys...? What’s going on?”
“Angelica had a nightmare.” Josh explained quickly before Angelica could go off on a possessive rant. “We just came to look for you, didn’t realise we had people over.” Wesley added, glancing sideways at Eli, who had his eyes trained to the floor.
Ms Crumble sighed and pulled Angelica into her arms. “Kids, this is Reese Jones, Angelica’s old social worker.” Angelica frowned at the aforementioned social worker whereas Josh and Wesley shook her hand, smiling politely.
Ms Crumble turned hers and Angelica’s body’s so that she was facing Eli. “And this is Eli - he’s going to be staying with us for a while.”
“How long?” Angelica interrogated, staring upwards at her mother. “Until we can get him a secured placement somewhere else.” Reese intervened, packing up all her files and papers. She took her coat off the back of one of the kitchen table chairs and grabbed Eli’s arm to pull him forwards.
“Kids, play nice. Have fun, I’ll be back in a couple of days to see how he’s settling in.” Reese said before leaving the house, not even saying goodbye.
“Rude much.” Josh muttered.
Ms Crumble chuckled nervously as the front door slammed shut. Finally, she let go of Angelica and moved round the kitchen table to stand in front of Eli. She bent down to be more his height, bobbing as she crouched a little bit. It was what she used to do with Angelica, make her feel more comfortable and less like she was being talked down to. Sure, Ms Crumble had no idea how Eli was currently feeling, but there was no harm in trying.
“Hey Eli. I’m Ms Crumble, and these are my kids: Angelica, Josh, and Wesley. It’s pretty late, so hows about we grab your bag-” She gave the black bin liner he held behind him a sideways glance. “-and go upstairs to bed.” She gave him a smile, placing a soft palm on his elbow. Eli said nothing, only stared, as if trying to work Ms Crumble out, testing her to see if she was all that bad. Eventually he shrugged, and Ms Crumble indicated to Wesley to grab Eli’s bin liner and had Josh lead him to the spare bedroom whilst she dealt with Angelica.
“It’s a pretty weird home here, dude. Ms Crumble’s a teacher and me and Wes are in the same year. Angelica’s not even in high school yet - she’s ten. Wesley is eighteen, and I’m turning eighteen this school year. What about you?” Josh conversed as he began slotting the duvet into the cover on the bed. They hadn’t been expected guests, so everything inside was a bit of a mess.
Wesley came in soon after, hauling Eli’s bin bag. It wasn’t heavy - it was barely even full. It had clothes in, one other pair of shoes, and weird collection of cards. Surprising really, even for a foster kid.
“I’m turning sixteen.” Was Eli’s short reply, he seemed content with staring at the floor. Wesley leant against the doorframe, cigarette between his two fingers and closing in on his mouth. “What happened with your family?” He asked. It was quite a blunt question, but the way he said it was passive and smooth and quite and Eli felt quite conflicted on whether to answer or not. “You don’t have to say anything.” Josh reassured him. “We’ll tell you ours though.” And he’d finally finished making the bed.
All three boys moved to sit on it, Wesley closing Eli’s door on the way. Wesley began to speak first. “Because of all the horrible discrimination going on in the place where me and my birth family lived, we had to move here. I got over it, and so did my cousin Emmet, but our parents didn’t. All of them, my mum and dad, my Aunt Carrie and Uncle Paul, they never got over it. They got paranoid, and began blaming people, used to shout over the dinner table that everything was horrible and nothing would be ok again. After moving to Glendale, we all had to share a house, and a small one at that. Me and Emmet had to share a room. Anyway, things began to get worse when our parents would start coming home later and later, drinker and drunker, continuously until they finally hit Emmet over the head with a glass bear bottle. That wasn’t even the worst of it. The worst of it was that they were trying to hit me.”
Eli’s eyes opened, and so did Josh’s. He hadn’t head that part of the story before. Wesley gave a weak, broken smile before beginning to continue once more.
“Our windows were open because it was so hot in the summer, and our parents hadn’t paid for air conditioning. The neighbours heard, they heard the shouting and the hitting and the glass shattering. They all began to crowd around our house and they could see what was happening. They called child services, and they took me and Emmet away. Told ours parents to clean up their act. Emmet and I had been split up - he ended up in a family outside of town, and I haven’t seen him since. We still text, but it’s not the same.
“Our parents moved again, everyone in Glendale knew who they were. It wasn’t great, and I miss them a lot of the time. This wasn’t even supposed to be permanent - I was only supposed to be fostered. But they couldn’t me back. They were just unfit parents, and I had really grown to like it here with Josh and Angelica.” Wesley grinned over at Josh, who was sat on Eli’s other side. Josh punched his arm lightly, grinning. “Of course you like me, I’m awesome.” He teased.
Wesley nodded down towards Eli. “You’re turn, Josh.”