Evelyn sat up straight in her chair, determined to state her case. "I told you, it wasn't me! It was..." The defiance in Evelyn's voice melted away to a baby's quiver as Tina held up a single shaking hand, emphasizing her warning with a piercing stare. There would be no more arguing, and Evelyn knew it. That look made it crystal clear Evelyn had crossed the line.

"I swear," Tina said, her voice shaking with rage, "if you even think about saying that name... if you even hint... I swear to God l will send you to a group home until you age out! I will turn your case over to the state once and for all and wash my hands of you! Do you understand me?"

Tears formed in Evelyn's green eyes as her face went pale. The realization of what could happen to her weighed down on her young mind, crushing her will to fight back. She still had six years before she would turn eighteen, and six years in a group home was an unthinkable nightmare. To Evelyn's twelve year old mind, Tina's words may as well have been the threat of eternal damnation.

Evelyn quickly shut her quivering mouth and nodded, not even daring to unclench her hands from the chair long enough to wipe away tears. "What happens to me now?" she managed to ask in a tiny voice.

At the sound of Evelyn's terrified voice Tina's rage subsided in a long, drawn out sigh. She dropped heavily into her chair, her expression sympathetic for the first time. Evelyn allowed herself to relax slightly as the lines on Tina's face softened.

"For now," Tina said with a sigh, "you'll be placed in a group home and receive psychiatric evaluation. At least until the state feels you're ready to be placed back with a foster family. In the meantime, I'll have the difficult job of finding a home willing to take you in. Especially considering all that has happened. Be thankful you're only twelve and the boy's family won't press charges. Assault is a very serious crime. But mark my words, if he had died, you'd find yourself going to a much worse place than a group home. And for a much, much longer time."

Evelyn could only nod in response as she sat back heavily in the chair. She was no stranger to psychiatric evaluation, having gone through it a several times over the years. And all because she had been covering for him. While Tina looked over some paperwork, Evelyn made a decision. This had to end. What had happened to Dale was the last straw, and no matter how much it hurt her, it was time to leave him behind. Evelyn knew she would never find a forever family as long as Puck was around causing trouble.

"Um, Tina?" Evelyn said timidly.

Tina raised her eyebrows but remained silent. Evelyn knew her well enough to know that was all the response she would get at the moment. Evelyn opened her mouth, but for the moment found it difficult to speak. She was honestly afraid to ask any favors for fear of setting off another bout of anger. After an uncomfortable moment of silence, Evelyn forced herself to speak, her voice little more than a whisper. "Can I go to the courtyard? Just for a couple minutes? To think?"

Tina's jaw clenched, and for a moment Evelyn was certain the answer would be no. Finally, after a moment's tension, Tina nodded. Just a tiny movement of her chin, but it was enough for Evelyn to know she could go.

She slid off the chair and slowly approached the door, afraid looking too eager would cause Tina to change her mind. Evelyn knew if she could get out to the courtyard he would come. Puck was always around trying to cheer Evelyn up after he got her in trouble. Usually with a handful of wildflowers. Evelyn crept out of the door silently, and although she didn't want to, she knew what had to be done, both for her own sake, and his. She had to tell him goodbye

...

The courtyard was a tiny, neatly landscaped opening in the center of the main building. Only a single door in the central hallway allowed access to the yard, unless of course someone was ambitious enough to scale the building and jump down from the roof. Evelyn spent a lot of time there, often waiting to meet potential foster parents or other social workers for various reasons she didn't understand. It afforded Evelyn rare and precious privacy in a life that was usually under careful and constant scrutiny.

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