Authors: Olivia Lynde
This book is a work of fiction.
Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's
imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living
or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Product names, brands and other
trademarks referred to within this book are the property of their respective
trademark holders. Unless otherwise specified, no association between the
author and any trademark holder is expressed or implied. Use of a term in this
book should not be regarded as affecting the validity of any trademark,
registered trademark, or service mark.
Copyright © 2013
by Olivia Lynde
Cover photo ©
by Megan van der Elst
This ebook belongs to vzyl at 64 70 67 72 6f 75 70 forum.
edition, March 2013
To you, my
Yesterday, his Mom dropped him like useless
baggage at his Grams' place and bolted for parts unknown. After that incredible
stroke of luck, he should've known that something nasty would soon follow.
Fortune was a bitch that way.
Proof positive: the whiny voice now
filtering from downstairs to grate at his eardrums. Seth paused in the shadows at
the top of the stairs until both the owner of the whiny voice and his Grams passed
into the living room. Then he crept soundlessly down the staircase, avoiding
the creaky spots with consummate skill.
At seven years of age, Seth was a master
of stealth, his instincts honed by a lifetime of tiptoeing around his Mom's
rages—learning when to run, when to hide, when to be perfectly silent... and
paying for each miscalculation in welts and cracked bones. These days, Seth
He easily identified the lowest step
that was still out of sight from the living room below—the ideal spot for
eavesdropping—and there he crouched down. He didn't fear discovery as he was
alert for any approaching footsteps and could disappear lightning fast. Besides,
even if he were found out, he didn't risk all that much. Unlike when living
with his crack whore Mom and her parade of asshole boyfriends, Seth didn't have
to dodge anyone's fists or kicks in
But as he well knew, no good thing ever
lasted. Sooner or later Mommy dear would run out of money or get bored, then
she'd return to town and he would have to go back to the hell of living with
her. Or rather, it wasn't living as much as
, and for that,
Seth needed to keep his skills sharp. Hence the spying exercise that he was
currently engaged in.
"Mrs. Lewis, you
reconsider! We really need your help!" the social worker was saying just
The hell they needed his Grams!
tensed on a surge of hostility. He didn't like this nosy social worker—
was her name, again? Ms. Something-or-other Owens?
—who seemed to have
become a fixture in Grandma's life over the past year.
Most of all, he resented what her visit
today likely meant: that very soon, he'd have yet another interloper to contend
Why the hell did Grams have to go and be a foster parent anyway?
This house was supposed to be his sanctuary. Even when he had to live with his
Mom, he always escaped here as often as he could. Now suddenly, he was expected
to just grin and bear while
safe place was being opened up to strangers?
Seth released a pent-up breath, trying
to push down his aggravation. At least, all of Grandma's foster kids were short-term
placements. They were always gone after a few weeks and they were easy for him to
ignore; beyond their status as unwanted intruders in his territory, those kids were
of no interest to him.
He focused again on the conversation downstairs
as Grandma was asking in a worried tone: "But Anna, why place this child
with me? If she has no living kin left and she's only five years old, wouldn't
it be better for her to be adopted by some nice family?"
The other woman sighed, sounding
frustrated. "That's exactly the problem! Summer was orphaned just six
months ago, and there've already been no less than
wanting to adopt her. She's a very pretty girl. But once the families take her
home on a trial basis... Well, they
want to keep her!"
"Why wouldn't they?" asked Grandma.
"What was amiss with those families?"
"The problem's with the girl, Mrs. Lewis,
not the families. You know how I told you earlier"—here the social worker
lowered her voice—"that Summer witnessed her parents' murder? She almost
shared their fate too! Well, all that left her with some
mental scars. Every night in her sleep, she lets out these...
screams, waking up everyone nearby and frightening them half to death."
"It's terrible, really. The first
family who tried to adopt Summer held up for only one week, the second for
almost a month—they really wanted to help her—then the third family only lasted
for a couple of weeks. But they all gave up in the end; this girl's just
damaged! Worst of all, she was disrupting their lives since they couldn't rest
at night because of her screams!"
"The poor little dear..." said
Grandma. "Shouldn't she see a doctor, to help her with her night
"Oh, she's seen two psychiatrists
already, but what's the use? She doesn't speak; not to the psychiatrists, not
to me... not to
! She's withdrawn into herself and nobody's able
to reach her. And the meds the doctors prescribed didn't help at all with her
"Really, Mrs. Lewis, I'm at my
wit's end with this situation! But I'm thinking if Summer gets at least
stability back in her life, maybe it'll help slightly. After all, it can't be good
for her: being moved all the time between so many different homes."
This last pronouncement trailed off into
an expectant sort of silence, and Grandma rushed to reply. "My heart just
breaks for the little dear, but do you genuinely think that I can help her,
Anna? That is, I don't know what I could do! More to the point, if she's mute,
doesn't she need—"
"No, no, you misunderstand, Mrs.
Lewis! It's not that Summer
speak but that she won't. There's no
physical injury preventing her speech, only the trauma of what she went through
six months ago. The psychiatrists dealing with her case assured me that she'll
start speaking again, eventually. Hopefully."
"But what about her night
"Mrs. Lewis, please, I'm sure
you'll be good for her! You're so kind and patient. Really, if there's anyone
in our foster care system who can help her at all... Well, it has to be you!
Besides, you take out your hearing aid at night," Ms. Owens pointed out
callously, "so at least she won't wake you up with her screams."
This was followed by a long pause in the
"All right, Anna, I'll take her in,"
Grandma agreed at length, her voice still laced with worry. "I just hope there
won't be any strife with my Seth because of this. He's had such a difficult
time of it with his mother, and he's changed a great deal during this past year.
He swears a lot and keeps getting into fights." In a softer tone, she added,
"I pray he'll take as little notice of Summer as with the other foster children
I've had. I couldn't bear for him to make that poor girl's situation
* * *
Three days later, Seth was digging for
worms in Grandma's front garden when he clocked a taxi rounding the corner into
his street and coming to a stop in front of his house. Grandma, who was sitting
in her wicker chair on the veranda, rose to her feet and started for the taxi.
At the same time, the car's door opened and Ms. Owens alighted, followed by the
most beautiful little person that Seth had ever seen.
She looked very small in her white
sundress, clutching some incongruously huge stuffed animal at her chest, and her
white-blond hair fell in waves below her shoulders. Her features were pure,
delicate; her eyes—he couldn't see their color, only that they were dark and
looked far too old for her age.
The mid-July sun stood high and
brilliant in the sky, but looking at the girl, Seth expertly concluded that she
shone brighter than even the sun.
He became aware that she was studying
him just as intently in return, and a rush of embarrassment flooded his cheeks.
He was a grown boy, smart and capable, yet here he stood like a fool, mooning over
some little girl!
Forgetting all about the worms, he whirled
around and strode indoors, slamming the door behind him. Up until the very moment
that he disappeared in the house, he continued to feel her eyes on him.
* * *
For the next few hours, Seth remained
out of sight, covertly watching the new addition to the household.
because he was curious about her, but in order to ah... gather necessary intel.
Yes, of course. Since she was an unknown quantity—maybe even a potential threat
(all 3'3'' of her)—and it was in his nature to be cautious.
Surprisingly, Grandma and the social
worker led the girl to the second floor and stashed her small suitcase in the unoccupied
room beside Seth's. The previous foster kids had all used the bedroom next to Grandma's
own, on the first floor, while the upstairs had remained her grandson's
exclusive territory. Yet now he seemed to have acquired a tiny trespasser on
his personal turf.
Said tiny trespasser didn't talk at all
during this time, but Seth had no doubts that she was listening very carefully
indeed. Her eyes were alert and shone with intelligence, taking everything in. She
seemed wary, like a startled fawn, holding her stuffed toy (which on closer look
had turned out to be a scruffy teddy bear) in a desperate clasp, and Seth felt
an uncharacteristic urge to gather her in his arms and tell her that everything
would be okay.