“Krista, this is Karen, my foster mom. Mom, this is Krista.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Krista, thanks for keeping our girl company this past week. My husband and I have been up to our eyeballs in the case we’re handling. I can’t wait until the trial is over. Once it is, we can return the favor and you can stay overnight. Sam has talked about you non-stop and we’re so happy you moved here.”
“I am too,” I said as I settled into the plush leather seats of the BMW. Boy, their car made ours look like a matchbox car, I thought as I inhaled the rich smell of the leather seats. “Otherwise, Sam and I would have never met,” I continued on.
“She’s a special girl and we’re glad you’re friends.”
Sam flushed at Karen’s words. I couldn’t help wondering if compliments about her had been few and far between growing up. Were these foster parents the first to ever show any interest in her?
I felt an unfamiliar feeling of anger well up inside me. Why did parents abandon their children? Did they not care about the life they were condemning their children to? Sure, I had lucked out, but what about poor Sam.
Karen pulled her car up in front of my house. Sam and I piled out while Karen popped the trunk open so Sam could grab her overnight bag. She handed Sam some money and told her to have a good time.
We stowed Sam’s bags on the floor in my room before we headed back to the sitting room to listen to music. I turned the volume down so I could fill Sam in on what she had missed.
“So, what’s the Dean going to do?” Sam asked after she heard all the details.
“Mark’s not sure, he’s on some kind of probation and if word gets out about what he did to Matt, I’m sure the Dean would discontinue his study. We need to be careful over the next few months. I don’t want to ruin his whole career.”
“That Matt’s a snake,” Sam muttered. “I wish I could have seen the look on his face when Mark grabbed his hand.”
For the first time since it had happened, I could smile and appreciate the fact that Matt had gotten a taste of his own medicine for once.
“You’ve got a point. You should have seen the look on his face. I thought he was going to wet his pants.”
Both of us burst out laughing at the thought of Matt walking through the hall with wet pants. The Lush Trio wouldn’t think he was so hot then.
“I don’t see Matt letting this slide,” Sam said, sobering both of us up.
“I know. He can’t be trusted.”
“So, your foster mom seems nice.” I said, changing the subject.
“Yeah, they’re both nice; I lucked out when they placed me with them. They act like they like me or something.”
“They do like you, you’re easy to like. All your other foster parents were just too stupid to realize it,” I stated.
Embarrassed by the compliment, Sam stood up and started browsing through the books that lined the shelves. I turned up the music and picked up my current book, giving Sam privacy to digest the compliment. Sam selected a book and settled into the chair next to me.
I peeked over at Sam whose cheeks were still slightly flushed; I looked down and began to read my own book. We sat in compatible silence. After a while, Sam looked up. “I’m glad we’re friends,” she said simply.
“I am too.”
We smiled at each other, in what I’m sure others would have called a cheesy kind of way. The time passed swiftly and before we knew it, Mark and Shawn were there with dinner.
Sam and I bounded downstairs to open the front door for them with the same cheesy smiles on our faces from before. It should be sin to be as happy as we were.
“Hi!” we said, greeting them in unison as they stepped over the threshold. I smiled brilliantly at Mark as he closed the door behind him.
“Boy, you seem to be feeling better,” he observed.
“I do! Sam and I have been vegging out all afternoon.”
“I’m glad. I picked up burgers and fries for dinner. I hope that’s okay?” He asked holding up a beautifully greasy brown bag.
“That’s perfect, I love fast food,” I said, acting like he didn’t already know.
“You and Sam can go upstairs. I’ll grab some plates and some sodas,” I said to Shawn. Shawn and I hadn’t done a whole lot of talking, and I still felt a little self conscious around him. Usually, Sam monopolized the conversation, or the guys would converse amongst themselves. They had spent hours philosophizing how we all managed to wind up together here. They had theories that ranged from mystical to science fiction, but it was hard to think of any reason that didn’t sound completely ridiculous to me.
Mark and I headed to the kitchen and grabbed some paper plates, napkins, and sodas. We could hear the easy bantering between Shawn and Sam as we carried everything up to my loft. It seemed so strange to have so many people over. Growing up, my parents had lots of friends, but they usually hung out at their houses so I wouldn’t be uncomfortable around them. For the most part, it had always been us three, and then when my dad passed it away, it was just the two of us.
The four of us chatted while we filled up on junk food. We never seemed to run out of topics. We all have IQ’s that are higher than average, and we discovered that we have read many of the same books. Although, Shawn’s taste ran a little more toward sci-fi and Mark’s seemed more mystical, (which is how we wound up with the wide spectrum of theories). Sam and I were both diehard romantics, and loved many of the same classics.
After we were done eating, I grabbed my laptop and booted it up. While the computer was warming up, Mark pulled out the small notebook we were using to write down the connections we all shared.
I read over his shoulder as he added all the same books we had all read to the list. Sam and I named off others he had forgotten.
“I made a list of more websites for us to check out,” he said. “I think we should Google the name ‘Franklin,’ and see what comes up. All this time I thought Franklin was the guy’s name, but now I’m wondering if that’s a cover. It bothers me that Krista mentioned ‘Franklin’ to the authorities, but couldn’t remember her mom or dads name,” he said.
“Well, she was only two,” Sam piped in.
“Yeah, but I think most two-year-olds can say their own name. We all know we’re smarter than average. So, how come most two-year-olds can tell you their parent’s names, but Krista couldn’t? Doesn’t that strike you as weird?” he asked. “I can’t help wondering if she was separated from her parents a long time before this ‘Franklin’ person dropped her off.”
“I thought we already decided that this whole thing is weird,” Sam piped in once again.
I settled on the floor with Sam and Mark on each side of me, while Shawn settled into the lazy-boy across from us. I clicked on the Internet icon and soon we were surfing the web. Technology is a wonderful thing.
I typed in the name ‘Franklin’ on the Google screen. We could see that the list that popped up was endless and had multiple pages. I used the mouse to scroll down the list. Mark wrote down some that might be helpful. The first one on his list was for a trucking company named ‘Franklin and Sons.’ We all decided it made sense. Maybe a trucker dropped me off and used the name on the side of the truck. We all mulled it over, it seemed plausible.
I clicked onto the ‘Franklin and Sons’ website. It opened to a full page ad that had a big semi-truck on it. I clicked the icon that showed the history of the company. We were all disappointed when we read that the company was founded only five years ago by a man and his two sons.
“Well there goes that idea,” Sam commented.
I exited out of that page and went back to the listings for Franklin. The next one on the list was for a pharmaceutical company. We discarded that one and moved on down the list. We searched for over an hour, but no other websites panned out. Finally giving up, I switched off the computer.
“I need another soda,” Sam said, rising from her spot on the floor. “Does anyone else need anything?”
“I do,” Mark and I both said in unison.
“I’ll go with you,” Shawn said as we all laughed.
Shawn grabbed Sam’s hand and gave her a quick but searing kiss before he led her down the stairs. I couldn’t help the shot of envy that sliced through me. I envied the ease they had. They seemed to know exactly what the other wanted and they were so attuned to each other, it was like watching an old couple waltz on the dance floor for the millionth time. They seemed aware of every move the other was going to make. I couldn’t help thinking despairingly that maybe Mark and I were not as good a fit as they were.
I set the computer off to the side and turned to face Mark and saw that he was staring at me intently. My pulse sped up when he reached over and twirled a lock of my hair around his finger.
“You are so beautiful. I’ve seen you hundreds of times in my dreams over the years, but they never did you justice,” he said, as if he sensed my insecurities.
My breath came out in small shallow gasps as we stared intently at each other. Was this the moment I had waited for, was he finally going to kiss me? My palms began to sweat.
I closed my eyes as he slowly leaned toward me.
My eyes sprung open at the sound of Sam and Shawn bounding up the stairs.
“Oops sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt,” Sam said flushing a dull pink.
Swallowing my disappointment, I heard Mark let out a small groan of frustration. I felt my heart lighten. Well, at least it seems like he wanted to kiss me this time, I thought to myself.
Mark stood up. “We better head out,” he said to Shawn. “We’ll meet you guys tomorrow at the Boardwalk.”
I stood up also. “That sounds perfect. My mom said I could borrow the car all day. She’s finally going to start painting tomorrow, so she’s looking forward to having the house to herself.”
Sam and I walked the guys down the stairs. Sam followed Shawn out the front door and walked him to the car probably trying to give us privacy for interrupting us upstairs. Mark missed the hint though and only paused briefly; he used his palm to cup my face, but instead of kissing me, he gently rubbed his thumb over my bottom lip. I shivered from the contact and felt goose bumps pop up along my arms. Holy cow, if kissing him felt half as good as this, I knew I was a goner.
“I’ll see you later,” he said.
I smiled a little sadly. We both knew in just a few short hours we would be with each other in our dream world, and even though the dreams had taken a painful twist, neither one of us would give them up for anything.
My mom arrived home just minutes after Mark and Shawn left. I couldn’t help breathing a sigh of relief that the timing had worked out. I just wasn’t ready to cross that bridge and introduce Mark to her yet.
“Hey girls, how was your evening?” My mom inquired, setting her overflowing bags on the settee that was against the wall just past the front door.
“It was fun.” Sam and I burst out laughing as we answered at the same time again. We were like two halves that had been put back together.
My mom smiled at our light hearted mood. “Do you girls have any interest in playing games with an old lady for a little while?”
“Mom, you’re not an old lady,” I protested, standing up to get some games.
“Ugh.” I groaned dismayed, as I began the search for a deck of cards that was buried somewhere within a cluster of games spilling off the overflowing shelves. How the closet had gotten this bad when we only had been in the new house for a few short weeks was beyond me. I lifted the Monopoly and Pictionary games out of the way and caught the Scrabble board as it slid out of its torn box. Finally, I spied the cards shoved all the way in the back. Juggling the games with one hand, I plunged my free hand toward the back of the shelf and groped around for the cards, praying silently that my hand wouldn’t encounter any creepy crawlies. I detested bugs and usually strayed away from placing my hand into dark corners.
We decided to play rummy since Sam had never played it before. Mom briefly explained the rules to Sam while I forged into the kitchen to make all of us hot fudge sundaes.
Sam kept us in stitches while we played the game; she had a hard time remembering the rules, so she made up her own. We laughed at her outrageous rules and soon we were all making up our own rules. We played cards late into the night, laughing and joking around.
Finally, my mom yawned and announced it was way past her bedtime. Sam and I were still hyped up from the ice cream, so we continued our game upstairs. We sat on my bed for another hour gossiping, while we played.
By 1:00 a.m. our sugar rush had disappeared and we were ready to turn in. I put the cards away and pulled out my trundle bed for Sam while she used the bathroom. When Sam was done, I shuffled to the bathroom; I washed my face and brushed my teeth. As I reached over to switch off the light, I caught a glimpse of my reflection and was amazed at the differences. I barely recognized the smiling girl who looked back at me. Mark and Sam had changed my life. The seriousness that had always circled my eyes was now replaced by laugh lines.
I crawled in bed and switched off the lamp, mumbling a goodnight to Sam and within minutes we were out.
My sobs woke both of us up an hour later.
Sam got up and sat beside me. I felt comfort flow through me just by her presence.
“Was it the same?” she asked quietly.
I nodded my head. “Yeah, it hasn’t changed. It just seems that with each passing night the pain from the separation has gotten more intense. I don’t understand why we’re going through this and you and Shawn never have.”
“I don’t know,” Sam said with sympathy, but I could tell she was relieved she had never experienced it. Shawn and Sam’s relationship was not as complicated as Mark and mine. They had known who the other was almost instantly when Sam had run into him while he was working at the Boardwalk. She of course had never seen his features, but she had embraced her lighting moment, and believed Shawn the instant he told her who he was. Their dreams had never taken the turn that Mark and mine were on, so Mark’s theory that ours had changed because of the move didn’t seem feasible now.
I was interrupted from my thoughts by the buzzing of my cell phone. I glanced at the caller I.D. already knowing who it was.
“Are you okay?” he asked as soon as I answered the phone.
“Yeah, it’s just getting harder each time.”
“For me too.”
“I’m glad you called, Sam and I were just going over it.”READ MORE >>