I can’t get Twin Elms out of my mind…and the idea that the working students live there. It could be my ticket to escape. Escaping the farm manager’s trailer where Aunt Sophia and I are living under Wade’s watchful eye. The living room walls here are covered with fake paneling, and I think the carpet is held together by mud and dog hair.
Brenda is here again today. Checking on me. She’s sitting on the couch I won’t ever sit on. I drag a wooden kitchen chair into the living room.
Aunt Sophia is in the kitchen fixing coffee, she says, but what she’s really doing is leaving me alone with Brenda. To talk. So far, Brenda’s doing all the talking.
“Your mother’s release date has been set.”
“In three months. A little over. February eleventh.” Brenda flips some pages in a folder.
I nod again. What does she want me to say?
“She wants to see you for Thanksgiving. The correctional facility is hosting a dinner for the families.”
“What?” Brenda looks up from her papers. A cross between annoyed and confused flashes across her face.
I shrug. “She lives in a prison. Can’t you just call it that?”
So now she just looks annoyed. “You’re expected around four that afternoon. Your aunt is invited as well, of course.”
“Why are we talking about Thanksgiving? It’s not even November yet.”
Brenda puts the folder on the coffee table and tosses her reading glasses on top. She looks like she’s going to say something, but Aunt Sophia walks into the room with Girl Scout cookies. Sophia pushes the folder aside and sets the plate of cookies down. “How do you take your coffee?” she asks.
Not sure why but this surprises me. I figured Brenda for a four-sugars-and-heavy-cream type. While Aunt Sophia fusses around with the coffee cups, she mentions having to make arrangements at her farm in order to be away so long.
Brenda slides her folder closer and sets the cup on it. Her eyebrows scrunch together. “The state can help with expenses, if that’s a problem. I had it on authority that you’d be guardian until—”
Sophia waves her hand. “No, no. It’s okay. I will. I mean, I’m all set to stay here until…”
She trails off. Until she hands me back to her sister. Like an abandoned dog nobody wants.
They talk about me like I’m not in the room.
“Regina’s expenses, of course, are fully covered up to the release date.” She picks up her glasses and starts counting weeks. “The Thanksgiving event is in about six weeks.”
Aunt Sophia nods. “Okay.”
No one asked if I wanted to go.
“What if I don’t go?” I say.
Brenda stops looking at her calendar. “Don’t go?”
“Yeah. What if I don’t want to?”
“Regina.” Sophia sighs and collapses in the armchair.
“No one asked. Why should I?” My arms cross over my chest. If I stick my lip out I know I’ll complete the picture of a kid having a tantrum. I uncross my arms and try to sound reasonable. “Look. I don’t want to go see her, I don’t want to have Thanksgiving at a prison, and most of all I don’t want to live with her when she gets out.”
Brenda stares. Sophia looks away.
“She’s a psycho. Doesn’t anyone get that?”
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