Friends Lost

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12 years later.

Evelyn Ferne stared nervously across the cluttered top of an old and beaten metal desk, looking away at random intervals to study the countless scratches in the dull grey paint, avoiding eye contact with the furious woman sitting on the other side. Within the next few hours it would be that woman's job to determine what the future held for Evelyn, at least as far as the next several years were concerned. A future now jeopardized by an incident beyond Evelyn's control.

The events of the last week replayed in her mind over and over again like a broken movie. It had all happened so fast. The boy, the fight, and Puck. In a matter of minutes the life that had finally become comfortable for Evelyn had been cruelly torn apart, as if a tornado had touched down for the sole purpose of inflicting as much damage to her already fragile life as possible.

The woman cleared her throat loudly, snapping Evelyn out of her thoughts. She didn't dare look up at the sound for fear of what would be said next. Instead Evelyn found herself fixating on a series of scratches in the paint that resembled a hastily drawn swastika. Ugly as those scratches were, they were a still welcome relief to the cold, angry stare Evelyn felt boring into her forehead.

"Evelyn. Evelyn, are you listening?" Tina snapped. "Do you understand the seriousness of this situation?" Evelyn nodded slowly, forcing herself to look up and meet Tina's cold blue eyes head on.

Tina Smith, or Teeny as some of the crueler kids liked to call her, had been Evelyn's case worker and placement coordinator as long as she could remember. A tall, heavyset woman, Tina stood firmly in Evelyn's mind as both authority figure and protector. The deep lines that crisscrossed Tina's stern face showed a mixture of both her fierce determination to care for the children she worked to place and the stresses those same kids brought to her. Lines that could only hint at the heavy burdens that came with the realities of the foster system.

As such Tina often came down like a hammer on her kids when they wronged either her or themselves. She believed as hard as things were for them then, their troubles would manifest tenfold when they were older if they didn't learn how to properly behave in life. Yet, as hard as Tina could come down on those under her supervision, she was equally as hard on the families whom those children were sent to live with. Tina was more often than not the only protector those children would ever have in what was often a very hard life.

This situation, however, was different. This time it was the family that felt they needed protection, from her. "Don't nod your head at me girl, answer my question! With words! Do you understand how serious this is?"

The harshness of Tina's voice made Evelyn wince. "I understand," she answered, her own voice coming out as little more than a whisper. Through Evelyn's watery eyes the navy blue suit Tina wore only further added to Evelyn's intimidation. She felt like she was sitting at the feet of a dark giant, one who at any moment could scoop her up in one hand and crush her with the other.

And although Evelyn knew the thought was ridiculous, the fact remained that at that very moment Tina still stood as a judge and jury, presiding over a crime Evelyn didn't commit. And the consequences were just as terrifying. The reality that Evelyn was innocent didn't change the fact that she still stood accused, and for all intents and purposes convicted. "It wasn't me though, it was..." Evelyn said, voice trembling.

"That's enough!" Tina's voice boomed, cutting off Evelyn's tiny protest like thunder overpowering the soft call of birdsong. "The boy nearly died! Had you pulled that vine any tighter around his neck, his throat would have been crushed!"

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