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comprehension: part II
Skye awoke, the woman’s face looming over her.
“Hey, can you hear me?” She asked softly
Skye blinked, trying to clear away the fuzziness. She worked her mouth open and close.
“Yea,” she mumbled.
The woman, probably in her late twenties, with black hair and a supermodel looking face let out a long breath of relief.
Skye struggled to sit up. “Where am I?” she said groggily, realizing she was lying on a couch in a living room.
The woman smiled. “At my house. I forgot my cellphone so I carried you back here. It was just down the street. By the way, my name is Allie. ” She reached for her phone and started dialing.
“Who-who are you calling?” Skye asked warily.
“A doctor.” Allie replied.
“No!” Skye practically screeched, leaping up off of the couch, ignoring the bout of dizziness that overtook her.
Allie looked up in surprise, her finger poised above the talk button. “What’s wrong?”
Skye sat back down. “I just-I just don’t want to. I feel much better now.”
Allie gave her a look. “You fainted. At least tell me your parent’s number.”
Skye picked at a loose thread in her jeans, not meeting Allie’s inquisitive eyes.
“I don’t have any,” she finally answered.
A look of understanding dawned on Allie’s face. “Where do you live?” she questioned quietly.
“Different places,” Skye said vaguely. “my “home base” you could say, is a supposed foster agency on the road i ran into you on.”
Allie slowly replaced the phone. “Do you have any idea what cause you to faint?”
Skye’s stomach gave a low rumble. She realized she hadn’t eaten since breakfast the day before.
“Hunger,” she decided. “I haven’t eaten in a while.”
“How long ago is a while?” Asked Allie, raising one eyebrow
Allie’s other eyebrow shot up. “No wonder.” She stood up quickly. “How about I fix you something while you tell me why you were out at 6 in the morning looking like you’d seen a ghost. Is scrambled eggs okay?”
Skye nodded. Allie went into the adjoining kitchen and started pulling stuff out of cupboards. She turned around to face Skye, setting down a bowl. “I’m waiting.” she reminded her.
“I was just--confused,” Skye began slowly. “I woke up and needed a drink, and I was walking down the hallway when the-when it happened.”
“What happened,” Allie called, her back turned.
Skye picked at the thread again. “Numbers. Facts.”
Allie stopped and looked at Skye. “What do you mean?”
But Skye was done. She set her mouth in a thin line and refused to say more. This was as far as she’d trust a stranger. The silence stretched out for several minutes while a delicious aroma wafted under Skye’s nose, making her mouth water. By now she knew that Allie ran every morning, she had just bought new running shoes, she made scrambled eggs a lot, she had stayed up late the night before, and she was learning to play the guitar. Also, she worked all day. All of this and much more was crystal clear in her genius brain which picked up on every single detail. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Allie walked walked into the living room, carrying two heaping plates of scrambled eggs, sausage, and toast. Skye started cramming food into her mouth.
“Whoa, slow down!” Allie said with a smile. “You’re only going to make yourself sicker!”
Reluctantly Skye forced herself to eat at a slower pace.
Allie began to consume her own plate of food, watching Skye, who was suddenly very interested in a piece of sausage.
“I took you to my house. I didn't call anybody. I gave you something to eat. The least you could do is explain.” Allie remarked, setting down her fork.
When she put it that way, Skye knew it was only fair to give her some explanation. Already her brain had cooked up a story that would fool any lie detector. But as she opened her mouth, Allie stopped her with, “And I want the truth.”
Skye snapped her mouth shut. Normally that wouldn't deter her from spinning her tale, but something in Allie’s eyes, the way they bore right into her like they knew what she was thinking-- but there was something else there too. A mixture of concern, sympathy, and something else Skye couldn't put her finger on. Whatever the case, it made the new 10 year old want to pour out her deepest secrets.
“You have to promise not to tell a soul.” Skye stared hard at Allie.
Allie nodded. “You have my word.” She said simply, and Skye knew she had made the right decision.
“I’m smart.” She began.
Allie leaned back in her seat. “Oh yeah?” she asked. “What’s 279 x 392?”
“116,424,” Skye responded automatically.
Allie started with surprise but only made a gesture like, “go on”
“I was smart enough to realize the foster agency they placed me in wasn't all it was cracked up to be...” Skye told Allie everything, from when she was first thrown into this system, to each home and bully that had mistreated, used, and beaten her, although she tried to bypass those situations as much as she could; and downplaying them when they were unavoidable. But what she didn't say was what happened to her parents. She didn't tell Allie about the nights she spent, trying to piece together why they left, what she had done to drive them away. Those long empty nights where the ache inside of her grew and grew until it consumed her, pulsating through her small body. Allie was a good listener, never interrupting her once. The clock ticked...5 minutes...10 minutes...15...minutes. Neither of them noticed. When Skye had finished, she sat back on the couch and avoided her gaze. Allie was quiet for a moment. Skye never knew silence could be so loud.
“What now?” Allie spoke at last.
Skye was surprised. “W-what do you mean?” she stammered
“I mean, what are you going to do?” Allie repeated carefully.
Skye shrugged. “What can I do? I’m just a nine-hey wait a second. I’m ten today!”
“Happy birthday!” Allie smiled wryly.
“Thanks,” Skye murmured.
“You know,” said Allie, tapping her chin with her fork, “there are laws against child abuse. I should know,” she added almost as an afterthought, but Skye didn’t have time to think about it. Allie sprang off of her chair. “There are things we can do,” She said firmly. “There are things you can do.”
“Like what?” asked Skye dismally.
“Well, for starters, show what this agency really is. It’s time the law found out!”
“Like they’re going to believe me,” Skye grumbled.
“They already have,” Allie grinned
“Huh?” Skye didn't get it. What was she talking about?
but Allie had already grabbed both plates and whisked them away to the kitchen where she ran them under hot water. When she came back to where Skye was sitting, confused, she started talking.
"I have an idea. Well, first, I'm assuming you don't want to live like this."
Skye gave her a look like 'no duh'
“That’s what I thought. So how about this. I will work on uncovering this foster home, with your help of course.”
“But why would you do that? You've only known me for like half an hour!” Skye cried, not sure how to respond to such an offer. Allie just gave her a smile. “Does it matter? Now that I’ve met you, how could I just drop you off and pretend our paths had never crossed? Besides, if there’s a phony foster agency that causes kids to be--it just needs to be taken down.” she finished smoothly.
Skye scratched her head. “I-I guess.”
“Have you ever taken an I,Q test?” Allie asked, changing the subject.
Skye shook her head, suddenly very tired.
“hmm.” Allie’s brow furrowed as she thought. Then she seemed to notice Skye’s drooping eyelids for the first time, and she looked at her running watch.
“Oh man!” She breathed. “I’m going to be late for work.”
“That’s what you get for running fifteen minutes later than usual,” Skye’s voice was muffled from her prone position.
“How did you-nevermind, I need to get you back before somebody gets worried.
Skye snorted. “Yea, right,” the muttered under her breath. But she got up and slipped her sneakers on, stretching. As she did so, she glanced at a clock. 7:30 it read. Had she really been here that long? She edged toward the door, hoping to get back in time for breakfast. They may not be worried, but they would be mad. And she didn't like to get them mad. Ever.
“So I guess I’ll just be going now,” Skye hinted, hand on doorknob.
“Right. Where I bumped into you is just down the street.”
Skye nodded and opened the door.
“Wait,” Allie’s stopped her, hand on Skye’s arm. It was warm. Skye wasn't used to warm. She wasn't used to gentle touches either. She stared at the hand, almost in wonder.
“I’m going to look into this, Skye.” Allie said, staring deep into her eyes, with that look that made Skye feel the ache of loneliness grow sharper.
“We’re going to figure this out. And anytime you need me, you know where I live. I’ll probably come by the building where this system is located. If we see each other, it may be best to pretend we don’t know each other. Okay?”
Skye nodded again, still focused on the hand that grasped her. Not tight, not painful, but more...loving. A word Skye was not used to thinking. Then it was gone. For as long as Skye lived, she would remember that warm grip, and the eyes that gently pried into her, searching, leaving behind sympathy and kindness. Slowly Skye walked back to her ‘home-base’ as she had called it, her mind trying to keep that moment alive.