for the story so far
“What’s it to you,” Roxy snarled.
“Stan and Merry were my last home. I’d been in 22 homes before theirs. Man, I gave them curry. 15 years old and no one wanted me. It took me about seven months to realize that they intended to keep me for the rest of my time. Even then, I packed my bag every night for two years.”
“I’m going back to my Dad’s as soon as they find him.” Roxy insisted in her angry tone.
“You know, until Stan and Merry I thought I was stupid. They got me tutoring, took me to swimming lessons, let me play a team sport. I didn’t really like the team sport crap. I’m just saying, Stan and Merry, they are the real deal. They take kids like us from about the age of 15, put the time into us. They got me to go to uni and now, now I own my own business. I have at least five people who work for me on a casual basis and several more on the books. I just purchased my own house. No one is going to shift me again. I did this, I got this because two people cared enough about a stranger. Shit of all the “parents” I had, Stan and Merry they were my parents. They didn’t throw me out when I turned 18 either. I stayed with them through my first year of uni.”
Roxy tied the bag and lifted into the skip. Amber raked more glass. She was working on the other side of the walk way now. Roxy waited.
“You sure they are going to keep me,” she asked.
“Yep. That’s what they do, and they keep in contact with you. If I don’t call often enough, they call me. This is the closest you are getting to a decent family.”
“I have a family,” Roxy spat.
“You have squat and you know it. You have a father who doesn’t care enough about you to change his address with child services. What did you do, did you push the boundaries so hard, looking to be noticed that you no longer know where a boundary is?”
Roxy looked sullen and Amber nodded. “Merry and Stan will help you find those boundaries again, Roxy.”
“So there is nothing you can do that someone else hasn’t done first. They are not giving up on you.”
Amber and Roxy worked in silence. Another bag was filled. This time when Roxy returned from dumping into the skip, she picked up her own bag and started clearing up the larger pieces of glass near the fence.
Merry brought out some drinks for the girls. Roxy studied the woman and made a threatening, ugly face. Merry smiled at her and winked. When Merry left Roxy turned back to Amber.
“So they are not going to hand me back, say I’m too hard to handle, tell them to put me in Juvie.”
“Nope. Completely the opposite. They are going to work out what you need and give it to you. Not what you want, what you need. There’s a big difference.”
By late afternoon the yard had been cleared.
“You know, Ambs, you’d do well to put a layer of dirt down and resow the grass. That way any pieces of glass that we missed will be buried and not hurt anyone.”
Amber looked at Roxy. There were dirt trails running down both of their faces and sweat marks under their bra lines.
“That’s a great idea,” Amber said. “Perhaps if I get the soil delivered, you can do spread it for me before you go back to school. I am sure I can find someone to deliver me some soil. Tom’ll probably know someone.”
“I’m fucking buggered.” Roxy sighed. “Am I going to have to do this tomorrow?”
Amber laughed. “ Yep. You got no idea. This is punishment for getting suspended.”
“It’s working. I am going to think twice about getting suspended. You know I just thought the two of them would be too old to do much.”
“Let’s go in and see what they’ve done. I swear the two of them have taken six trips to the dump today.”
By 10 pm Amber had another load on the back of her ute ready to go to the dump at 5:30. Stan, Merry, and Roxy had left after a dinner that Merry had prepared saying that they would return in the morning around 8am. Roxy groaned but it hadn’t been a groan of hate, it had been the groan of sore muscles. Stan had responded by saying that if she didn’t do more labor tomorrow, by Sunday, in the car going back to Melbourne, she would be completely unable to move. Merry had added that there was nothing like the sleep of physical exhaustion. Good honest sleep. A very Merry saying because both she and Stan did wonders for their foster kids, teaching them the value of hard work. They didn’t give them time to go any place mentally unless that is what the child needed. The two were angels according to Amber and the other fosters she had met of Merry and Stan’s. Every Christmas the two of them would open their house to all their old foster kids, the ones who wanted to attend.
Amber dumped her dirty clothes in the bathtub and poured in some detergent. Then she stomped on her clothes. Tomorrow she would stomp some more, rinse the clothes and then let them dry on the decrepit old Hills Hoist out the back that had probably seen much better days. Tom had already taken the skip, leaving an empty one for her to use. She would be filling it quite rapidly with anything paper after she had done her washing. She had three changes of clothes and one of business attire, maybe she needed to get a washing machine.
“This is boring,” Roxy announced after she returned from taking her sixth box of newspapers to the skip. They had almost cleaned out the hallway and whilst it seemed slow going, with Stan and Merry loading boxes and Amber and Roxy taking them to the skip, the work was going fairly fast. The entrance to what must be the room beside the kitchen was visible. It was a room full of what appeared to be magazines. How the old owner had managed to fill up each room with a particular type of item had Amber completely befuddled.
“I could start pulling out the garden bed beside the veranda. You know it has to go, but the edging is really cool, you probably want to keep that.”
“Is it,” Amber asked. “Show me what you mean.” Amber and Roxy both shouldered another box and headed outside. When they had emptied their loads Roxy led the way to the front steps. There Roxy bent down and pulled some weeds away from the pathway.
“See, this is sandstone edging you have here. It’s really nice stuff. If this was my garden, I’d actually put that aside. The problem is your veranda. You have to take it all down. I mean the floorboards are pretty rotten, the roof has holes in it and the footings are all over the place.”
“You know a lot about building,”
“Yeh, my first fosters were builders. I had to go out to the building sites when I got suspended. I didn’t help any but you couldn’t help overhear and learn stuff.”
Amber nodded. You picked up a lot as a foster if you allowed yourself to.
“So, you think I need to pull out the garden bed before I can start the veranda.”
“Sure, that way you won’t damage any of the garden edging. The garden bed is full of weeds anyway so if you pulled it all out, you could build your veranda and then replant the space. I’ll happily do that for you. Better than carting endless cartons to the skip.”
“Okay, just make sure the edging is out of the road so I don’t have to shift it more than once.”
“I’ll dump the weeds in the back of your ute so you can take a load of green waste to the tip later.”
“Geez thanks,” Amber replied a little sarcastically. She was good at one task at a time. Green waste and paper waste was hard for her to handle. Still, she breathed deeply, it was possible. This shift was as much about personal growth as it was about starting to develop some roots, versus shifting units and apartments every time a housemate annoyed her or got too close.
“Stan’ll have another box for you. You wouldn’t want to get behind otherwise the old dude will have a fucking heart attack.”
Amber shook her head and grinned, leaving Roxy to clean up the garden.