Dominion House for Girls
I’m standing in the middle of my new room and can’t help but wonder for the millionth time how I ended up here. The walls are constructed out of cinderblocks, coated with glossy white paint, waiting for its new occupants to mar them up with tacky celebrity posters and bulletin boards. A pair of twin beds line up against two of the walls that lie parallel to each other. With a set of desks and an adjoining bathroom connecting to the suite next door, this place isn’t too shabby as far as dorm rooms go. Only, it isn’t really a dorm. That’s just what the administrators prefer to call the small twelve by twelve rooms. Still, my last foster home was with the Johnson’s, so this is a definite improvement.
Dominion House for Girls is considered the last resort when it comes to foster kids that nobody wants to deal with. The institution-like structure is meant to give the impression of a boarding school, when in fact it’s more akin to a correctional facility for troublemakers. My only concern is my new roommate. I just hope I don’t get stuck with someone with a worse temperament than me.
When I was about ten, I’d been dumped with the Clark family. Their daughter Maxine was thirteen and she had taken a special interest in me. And not in a sisterly way either; the girl couldn’t stop bullying me. If there was anyone spoiled and screwed up in that house, it was Maxine.
Once a month, the Clarks met with several of the neighbors for a potluck dinner. Normally, they hired a sitter to watch over me and Maxine, but on that particular night they decided Maxine was old enough to babysit. This was the opportunity she’d been waiting for and the moment I dreaded. When I stubbornly decided not to go to bed—a decision I now regret—she began to chase me around the living room and had me cornered up against the wall.
“I’m not going to hurt you. I swear.” Her eyes twinkled. “I just want to play.”
“Leave me alone.” I’d already had the pleasure of playing with her before and the only one it was ever fun for was Maxine.
“Come on Etta. If you don’t, I’ll tell mom and dad,” she said. Any time I refused to play one of her little games, she would vandalize something in the house and blame it on me.
“If you come near me, I’ll tell them that you were the one that cut my hair!” The week prior, she’d snuck into my room when I was sleeping and cut a big chunk of my hair off. I knew Mrs. Clark wouldn’t believe that her precious daughter was the one responsible, so I lied and told her I got gum stuck in hair and decided to cut it out myself.
“Yeah right dork, like they’re really gonna believe you over me,” she said.
Maxine had a point.
She had me backed up against the corner, leaving me without a means to escape. That’s when I realized I had been holding my breath and I let it all out in one big whoosh. Just leave me alone!
Maxine slowly crept her way towards me as I kept chanting in my head, just go away, leave me alone!
With every step she took, I increased my chant. Over and over I wished for her to stop. And as quickly as she began her hunt, she suddenly stopped in her tracks. Her legs gave out and she tripped over the living room rug, hitting her head on the corner of the coffee table.
As hurt as she was, she didn’t waste any time running next door to snitch on me, leaving behind a bloody trail that ran from the coffee table in the living room out the front door. According to Maxine’s version of events, I had pushed her up against the coffee table for not allowing me to stay up past bedtime. The following day, the social worker had been contacted and I had been farmed out to yet another foster home.
At ten years old, I didn’t know if I was lucky or cursed.
Unlike a lot of foster kids, I’m not what most people would consider a head case. With Alexandria located only a couple of minutes away from Washington, D.C., the sins of the city overflow into the Commonwealth of Virginia, resulting in a ton of neglected children due to crackhead moms, parents slain in drive-by shootings, or dads taking up residence at the county jail. Sometimes, they end up in foster care simply because they’re too much for their folks to handle. Things like that can really screw-up a kid.