A few weeks from that day, as I was returning home from school, I opened the door and stepped into the dark, dank, living room through the front door. It was 7 at night and I was at band, orchestra, and track practice along with other stuffs that I joined a coupla days before. I had neglected my chores so my fear of being punished was especially prominent. Just as I was about to sneak upstairs to my room, a stern voice called, "Hold it right there!" I was petrified and froze for a moment before turning slowly around to see that it was Mrs. Parker, who was every bit as cruel to me as Mrs. Pearson.
"What were you doing out late?" she demanded. "Didn't I tell you to be straight home after school until all your chores are completed? The dishes had been unwashed and the floor's not vacuumed."
Irate at being ordered around, I said fiercely, "I never saw you, your husband, or your children do anything around here!" She then walked over and slapped me.
"I will not have you back talk me, girl!" she yelled. "You are a disrespectful child. That's probably why you got sent here in the first place. For that, you forfeit your chance of having breakfast, lunch, or dinner tomorrow!" I felt a sudden pang of hunger upon hearing these words. I had neither lunch nor dinner that day as I wasn't given lunch money. In fact, ever since Gina broke one of the dishes she was supposed to wash, the Parkers took liberty of denying us adequete meals. Ever since then, all I, or anyone else for that matter, could think about was food.
Dejected, I joined Carrie, who had dark circles under her eyes, upstairs in our bedroom. I noticed that she wasn't her usual, talkative self. Adele, with dried tear stains on her thin face, was with her. "What happened?" I asked.
It turned out that she was out partying late last night and woke up in another the hostess' bed. She had only intended to have some punch and the last thing she remembered was taking a few sips before blackness engulfed her. "If Mrs. Parker found out," she said as calmly as she could, "I would be sent packing."
At first, I didn't know what to think of this. I didn't know whether I should be jealous that she finally had a social life and I didn't or just feel sorry for her that she never really had much of a life at all. I decided, in the end, to do neither. All I did was assure her that no one will know about this. Her secret was safe with me. From then on, she and I became friends.
As the months went by, Adele and I grew closer. We talked most nights, shared secrets that I couldn't with anyone else, and gave each other encouragements when everything seemed to be falling apart. She ended up sharing the room with Carrie and I after a few weeks. For instance, during a fairly rainy April, in the honors class I got transferred into a coupla months before, my soda exploded in the classroom I managed to sneak it into.
"Allison," chided Mrs. Fowler for that day. "I knew when I first saw you that you would be trouble. Go to the principal's office." Waves of humiliation rushed over me and the interminable amount of time that seemed to have passed till I reached the classroom door didn't help. The principal suspended me that day and it was then I went straight to Adele, who was home with a cold.
"You have no idea how awful it was," I said after I sobbed out my story. "And that's an understatement. Yesterday, she made it clear how 'stupid' Liz was when she couldn't answer who the first woman executed in America was. Still, I bet everyone hates me now."
"They don't hate you. In fact, I think they felt sorry for you."
"Why would they? I made an idiot of myself in front of everyone."
"My classmate used to have her," she replied. "And from what I heard, Fowler doesn't like anyone. She was mean, demanding, and quick to put others down. Nobody likes her very much either."
"I wonder why," I scoffed, with a note of sarcasm in my voice.
"You know," she went on. "If she had treated you as an especial favorite, I think everyone would abhor you."
I kept that in mind as my friends that I haven't been able to make in Mrs. Klein's room and I passed notes around making fun of "Fouler" for the rest of the year. Despite dire situations at home, things started lifting up towards graduation. Even the kids picked on me before gradually stopped.
During the weekend before grad, Gina, who cold shouldered me despite going to the same school and sharing the same house, shared the room with Carrie and I for the night.
"It really sucks that you have to leave, Allison," said Gina. "I almost wished that you could be held back a year and then we'd be in the same class. Next year, I'll be the only one left. But all the same, I'm happy for you."
A moment of silence lingered as I had been surprised. "I thought you didn't care to associate with me!" I exclaimed.
"I always liked you and I really wanted to hang out sometimes. It's just my friends would kill me if they saw me with the 'loser.'" A half smile passed over her delicate features as she continued, "I wish you the best." She then turned off the light, leaving the stunned me to process the most unlikely words she said.
During the ceremony, Gina confided in me that she'll be placed in another f-home in the distant part of the city and we promised to email often. Then there's something else. Adele, during her own graduation, collasped unconscious on the grass. Or so I heard from Diana Parker who happened to be there and ran here to tell us. I was overcome with worry as I received my diploma. Will she be okay?
At the hospital, I told the receptionist that I must see Adele. She told me the room number and motioned for me to wait in the waiting room after I told her I'm the "sister."
"No!" I insisted. "I must see her now. Don't make me go crazy for the next several minutes!" I ran down the long corridor towards her room, ignoring the protests of the receptionist. Once I found her, I sighed with relief that she was alive and conscious, but she seemed a little lethargic with IV and all sorts of tubes running through her arm. Still, she smiled and motioned me over.
"What happened?" I asked breathlessly. "I was so worried about you I couldn't think straight."
"I been waiting for the right time to tell you this. I had leukemia since I was 5. It was on remission since 5 years ago but..."
By then, I already knew how she would've finished her sentence and I felt like a knife went through my heart. "Tell me I'm dreaming..." I said sotto voce before I could stop myself. "Tell me it isn't true!" I practically shouted. "You aren't going to die!"
"Allison," she said wearily. "I know this is hard to go through, but we all have to die."
"But why you?" I whispered. "Why so soon?" Then, the tears I fought valiantly to keep back released in a floodgate. "We all need you."
"To tell you the truth, I won't get very far in this world if I lived. There's just not much I could do." She sighed, clearly exhausted from the short conversation.
"Please don't talk like that!" I pleaded frantically. "When are you going home?" By then, I already knew that she couldn't possibly hold on much longer, but I couldn't bring myself to settle for the worst.
A dreamy look passed over her face. "Soon," she said with a faraway expression in her eyes. "To my last home, my long home... Come under the covers. It's really freezing in the hospital room." All I wanted right then was to spend what little time Adele had left time with her, so I crawled under the covers.
As night approached, I fell into a deep sleep and Adele fell into an eternal sleep, closing her eyes for the last time.
I woke to a hushed voice and for a dazed moment, struggled to know where I was. Then I realized I was in Adele's hospital bed and it was a nurse waking me. I sat bolt upright and in the same hushed voice, asked, "She's gone now, isn't she?"
"I'm afraid so, Allison."
I received a good news the same day, not that it would counter-balance the tragedy that just happened. Now that Mrs. Parker is no longer "burdened" with Adele and is presented an opportunity to send another packing, I was the one to leave. I was headed to another f-home in Buffalo, not far off from Niagara Falls. I was glad of it, for dreadful to me was having to stand the desolation of the Parkers household right after the death of a dear friend.
As I crammed my clothes into my suitcase, I bid good bye to the other f-kids who wished me well and looked forward to the potential good days ahead.