Read In Between Online

Authors: Jenny B. Jones

Tags: #drama, #foster care, #friendship, #YA, #Christian fiction, #Texas, #theater

In Between (6 page)

BOOK: In Between
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M
illie Scott’s mother
is the definition of evil.

Maxine Simmons is a gum-smacking, energy-drink-guzzling, wheelie-popping demon.

And we arrive just in time to see her trying on bathing suits for the cruise. Ew. I know when I close my eyes tonight, I will still see her parading around in various styles of spandex one pieces. She was going to show us her bikini possibilities, but Mrs. Scott stopped her.

“Mother, when we went shopping last week, we bought you a few cover-ups. Where are those?”

Mrs. Scott and I are both staring at the black number her mother is modeling. The suit is all black, except for a huge orange tropical flower on the front. It looks like an orchid is getting ready to swallow Mrs. Scott’s mom at any moment.

“Hah! Cover-ups are for old people. I got good legs. No need to deprive the world of these gams.” The woman does some sort of Rockettes kick, then looks at her audience for affirmation and realizes for the first time during this fifteen-minute glamour show that I am in the room.

“Who are you again?”

“Mother, this is Katie. Katie Parker. She’s the girl we’ve been telling you about.”

Mrs. Simmons, or Mad Maxine, as I think I will refer to her, plants her bathing-suit-clad body right in front of me and looks me in the eyes for a full minute. One uncomfortably long minute. A weaker girl would be crying at this point. She’s that intimidating.

Or crazy.

“Like I told you, Katie arrived yesterday, and we got her all settled in. Then today we went shopping. We’ve had a great time, haven’t we Katie?”

Mrs. Scott tries to make casual conversation, but her mother ignores her. Mrs. Simmons’s eyes pin me in place.

“I got these legs from dancing. I was a Vegas showgirl back in the day. I’ve danced with Sinatra, Ol’ Blue Eyes himself. When I was not much older than you, I could dance the tango with a forty-pound headdress on my head.”

Mrs. Simmons looks at me like
top that
, and I honestly have no response. Um, one time in the third grade I ate glue? I mean, seriously, what do you say to this?

“That’s great, Mrs. Simmons.”

“Later I’d go on USO tours, and I’d dance on stage for the soldiers from dawn ’til dusk, with no rest in between.”

Her face is now even closer to mine. I can smell her spearmint gum. I nod a few times then look over at Mrs. Scott for help. I see my foster mom is now on the other side of the room, taking things out of Mad Maxine’s suitcase and replacing them with other clothing choices. I try to will Mrs. Scott to look my way and make eye contact. I send her telepathic messages.
Save me. Save me from your crazy mother.

“And I met a soldier and married him. Davis Simmons knew a good thing when he saw it.” Mad Maxine backs up just enough to pop her gum. “And I had three children, Millie being my third, and you know what, little girl?”

“Um . . .” I gulp. “No.”

“I still got it. That’s right. The body is a temple, and I have got myself a tem-
ple
. And until I am wearing adult diapers and being spoon fed, I will clothe myself in whatever I want. Are we clear?”

And before I can respond, Mad Maxine snaps her head toward her daughter. Millie’s eyes bug out. She shuts her mother’s suitcase and wisely takes a step back.

Smart woman, my foster mother.

“Do I look like I need help picking out what to wear for my cruise, Millie?”

Oh, no. Please don’t fight. Not in front of the child.

“What about you, little missy? Do you think I look like I don’t have enough sense to dress myself?”

Oh, if I could only click my heels together and be home. Before I know it, Mad Maxine has my chin in her claw.

“Well, do you?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Ha!” With a satisfied cackle, she releases me to take a swig of her nearby energy drink. The label reads:
Super-Charged Cola
. This woman shouldn’t even be allowed to be within sniffing distance of caffeine.

“Mother, I just think you should pack more of a variety of clothing. You never know what the weather will do. Remember that time you went to Jamaica, and there was a hurricane?”

Yeah, and she probably jumped on her broomstick and rode right out of it.

“I am sixty years old. Don’t you think I know how to pack by now?” Patting her crayon yellow hair, Mad Maxine walks over to inspect her modified suitcase.

“You are not sixty.” Mrs. Scott’s index finger flies out to point at her mother. “Don’t let her fool you, Katie. She’s seventy-four, and that’s being generous.”

I don’t know why Millie and James Scott wanted a foster daughter. It looks like they have their hands full with psycho granny here.

“Mom, we’re not here to talk about
you
. I wanted you to meet Katie, and all you’ve done is show her how you can throw a tantrum.”

“I am sixty-two years old. If I want to throw a tantrum, then that’s what I’ll do.” And with a
humph
, the woman turns back to me. Great.

“Where did you come from, Katie Parker?”

Is this a trick question? I’m so intimidated by this woman, I don’t want to get the answer wrong. Does she mean what town? Does she mean on a deep, emotional level, like
I come from heartache, Mrs. Simmons, heartache.
Or does she mean where do I think I originated from in terms of my beliefs on creation?

“Sunny Haven Home for Girls,” I squeak out.

Mad Maxine stares at me for a long while, like I’m supposed to add more to it. As she keeps her piercing gaze on me, I notice her hands. Her nails are perfectly manicured and painted a shiny, scarlet red. She has rings on nearly every finger, giant, sparkling things that shimmer and dance on her hand. She probably stole them from a pirate.

No, she probably
was
a pirate.

“I know something about homes,” Mad Maxine says finally and looks at me like we are two kindred souls.

Cue the violins. This woman knows drama.

“I know what it’s like to be thrown in with a bunch of people you don’t even know. I understand what it’s like to not see your family, and to have to depend on others.”

“Now, just a minute.” Mrs. Scott steps in between us. “Katie, before you go feeling sorry for her, my mother sold her home in Las Vegas to come and live with her children. She lived with my sister first, then my brother, and then landed on my doorstep. Even though we waited on her hand and foot, she left my home and bought this little apartment at Shady Acres Retirement Village. Live with a bunch of people you don’t know? She’s the
president
of the social committee! And as for her not seeing her family, I’ll have you know she makes James and me schedule our visits with her so we won’t interfere with
her
activities.”

“That’s right. And I see you’re not penciled in for today, so don’t let the door hit you on the way out. If you want to talk to me anymore, I won’t have an opening until four o’clock this afternoon. I have a Pilates class.” Mad Maxine waves her hand toward the door, clearly dismissing us, and we move on cue.

Just a few more steps and this will all be over.

“Oh, did you get the nose plugs and Floaties I asked for?”

“Yes, Mother, they’re in your suitcase.” Mrs. Scott kisses her mom on the cheek. “Have a good time. And remember, unless the captain asks you to, you are not allowed to steer the boat.”

“Bah! That’s my daughter! Always the spoil sport.”

And in the midst of more cackling, Mad Maxine grabs me and pins me against her tropical disaster of a bathing suit in a hug. I think of a praying mantis, and hope she doesn’t try to suffocate me while Millie’s not looking.

“You come back and see me, little girl. You and I have a lot of catching up to do. I can tell you need family, and I’ve decided you may think of me as your grandmother.” She leans in closer to my ear and whispers, “You just remember I know people. If you steal the silver, we will track you down.” And with a pat to my flaming cheek, Mad Maxine shoves me and Mrs. Scott out the door.

Safely outside, Mrs. Scott and I both take a few deep, cleansing breaths.

I try to think of something to say. “Well . . . she seems nice.”

We look at each other, simultaneously sigh, and share out first real laugh together.

Chapter 9

Dear Mrs. Smartly,

It’s me, Katie. I’m tied up in the Scott’s basement. I haven’t eaten for days, and there has been talk of feeding my withering carcass to the mammoth dog. Please don’t blame yourself.

Okay, O Wise One, things are fine here. As fine as could be expected for being in a strange town, in the home of people you’ve known for only three days.

Today I had to go to church with the Scotts. It turns out someone “forgot” to tell me Mr. Scott is a pastor and the Mrs. is his secretary. The last time I was in a church was for some Bible school thing that a neighbor dragged me to. I was five. The Kool-Aid was watery, the cookies stale, and the teacher snapped at me for finger painting a mustache on Jesus.

Yeah, so church. Hmm. Interesting place. I like how it’s acceptable in their religion to stare at me. All heads turned my way when I walked in with Mr. and Mrs. Scott. Their eyes stayed on me when we sat down together. And you better believe those churchies were watching me like eagles when the collection plate came my way. What do they think I’m gonna do, grab a handful of checks and make a break for the door?

We know I couldn’t do that.

No one is gonna cash a two-party check to a sixteen-year old girl with no ID.

We sang some songs that were kind of lame. And then Mr. Scott got up at the podium and preached. (Why couldn’t he be something normal, Mrs. Smartly, why? Like a doctor, a lawyer, or even one of those plumbers who show way too much backside?) Everyone seemed to really get into Mr. Scott’s sermon. There were amens firing off all over the place. Then there was a time called an invitation, according to Mrs. Scott. That took forever. Come join the church! Come give your life to Jesus! Come pray at the altar! I think they should’ve passed out snacks during this portion of the service because I got a little hungry sitting there all that time. Maybe have a hotdog salesman come through the pews, like at baseball games.

But it gets worse. At the end of the service, Mr. Scott introduced me to the whole church and makes me stand up there in front with him and Mrs. Scott.

To add to the fun, everyone came up and shook my hand or hugged me. (Hugged me! Are you writing all of these things down in that file of yours?) I’ve never been so squished and shaken in all my life. I’d rather be yelled at for giving Jesus facial hair.

You and I will be discussing this church business soon, Mrs. Smartly. Isn’t this infringing on my rights? My First Amendment rights? My Constitutional rights? My rights as a Texan? Didn’t they fight over the Alamo to secure my right to choose? I choose to not go to church! Remember the Alamo! Okay, so maybe I have the wrong battle in mind, but there has got to be some historical event or law that backs me up. This was never part of the deal. But of course, neither was a drooling, two-hundred-pound dog, but we will address him another day.

So tomorrow is school. Can’t wait. You have got to know I’m eaten up with excitement over Monday morning. You can’t contain this kind of enthusiasm. This kind of spirit belongs on the Chihuahua cheerleading squad.

What if everyone hates me? What if someone shoves my head in a toilet and gives me a swirly?

Mrs. Smartly, I think I just want to come back. I don’t think I can do this. Maybe tomorrow will be such a catastrophe they will send me back. You know deep in your heart you want us to be reunited.

Okay, maybe you don’t, but I still would like to get out of here.

Did I mention Millie Scott has been pretty cool? You would like her. And frankly, she could teach you a thing or two about fashion. She knows it all. She has my wardrobe completely trendy. But I did find out for sure those cushy-soled lace up shoes you wear are definitely not in this year. Thought you should know in case you’d like to update. I say that because I look out for you, Mrs. Smartly.

Just like you should look out for me and get me out of here.

So Millie Scott is okay so far and has been sticking pretty close. But Mr. Scott (you know, the preacher), he doesn’t really have too much to say to me. I guess he’s just really busy, but we women know when we’re getting the brush-off.

Well, I’m getting tired. This is more writing than I did all last year in school. I thought I should update you on everything though. I figured you’d probably had some sleepless nights, being worried about me and all, so I wanted to let you know how it was, and also let you know I can be packed and at the end of the driveway in two minutes and seven seconds. I’ve timed it.

I will let you know how my first day of school goes. If I survive it. I do have something special picked out to wear to school tomorrow. I want to make quite an impression.

BOOK: In Between
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