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Chapter 4

  • Merilee met Maria and Ann at the last group home she was placed in. She was ten then and had been in four different group homes already. She was a loner, never bothered to make friends because she wasn’t sure how long she would stay. Ann and Maria were best friends then, complete opposites of each other.
  • Ann was a sarcastic, cynical, twelve year old. Her druggie mother abandoned her when she was six. She never depended on anyone, got what she wanted through her own efforts. She never cried because she knew it would never solve anything. She was cold and straightforward, if she didn’t like you she made sure you knew it. Her attitude had made it difficult for adoption, but she didn’t care. She had survived in the worst of situations and had learned to be independent. She wasn’t into making friends, but Maria had tugged at her heart.
  • Maria was eleven when she came to Ann’s group home. Her parents had died in a car crash when she was nine. For a whole year, her relatives had passed her around. She never stayed for too long with any of them before they off-loaded her onto another relative. None of her relatives wanted her because they considered her to be extra luggage, so they took her to social services. The children’s department tried to get her a family to adopt her, but nobody wanted a grown child. If she had been five years younger she might have been able to get adopted. Since she arrived, she cried every day, which annoyed Ann a lot. When Ann grew tired of it she finally spoke to her.
  • “Nobody wants me!” Maria repeated between sobs.
  • Ann out of desperation to get her quiet, and a little pity, told her, “I want you. From now on, we are sisters. Now will you please stop crying?”
  • From that day on Maria was always under Ann’s wing. Ann watched over her, took care of her and made sure she made the best out of their bad situation. Maria grew up a happy child, always on Ann’s tail. She followed her everywhere, Ann didn’t mind, she had someone to take care of and that made her feel useful. Maria, Ann’s shadow, was optimistic, kind, polite, and always ready to apologize for Ann’s rudeness. Even now she had that cheer in her all because Ann took care of her.
  • When Merilee arrived at the home, she stayed alone, kept everyone at arm’s length. She was withdrawn and didn’t talk much. She was disturbed, always woke up crying after a nightmare. Ann became interested in her when she found out about her frequent visits to a therapist; another weirdo to add to the group. She tried on numerous occasions to get close to Merilee but always got pushed away. Then one night, when Merilee woke up screaming and crying, Ann was beside her, holding her tight in her arms, stroking and soothing her. Of course Maria wasn’t too far; she sang Merilee a lullaby her parents used to sing to her. The song comforted her when she missed her parents, so she hoped it would do the same for Merilee.
  • It became a routine. Every nightmare was chased with a hug and a song. After a while Merilee began to open up to her new friends. She began to talk and laugh often but only around Ann and Maria. After a few weeks the three of them became inseparable. They were so different from each other but found common ground under the lead of Ann.
  • Ann left the orphanage first after she finished high school and turned eighteen; found a job and a home. Six months later, when Maria turned eighteen, she and Lee left and joined Ann in her tiny one roomed cubical. They wanted to stay together, separation to them wasn’t a choice they considered, and it was more like a punishment.
  • They worked part time while Lee finished high school. The fact that they weren’t in the care of the state anymore meant they had to fend for themselves. Lee wanted to stop therapy but the others wouldn’t let her. She was still having those nightmares. They weren’t that often but she still needed help. Doctor Warren was gracious enough to cut down his charge, but they still had other bills they had to pay with money they did not have. Things were getting tough, and they were getting desperate.
  • Then everything changed.
  • After a few months, a man dressed in an expensive suit came knocking at their door.
  • “I’m looking for Merilee Jackson, does she live here?”
  • “Who wants to know?” Ann was rude as always. She blocked the entrance with her body, she had no intention of letting him in, in case he was a social worker. Maria however, was appalled by Ann’s behavior. Playing her usual role as Ann’s conscious, she pulled her back and whispered in her ear.
  • “He is dressed in an expensive suit. Does that scream social worker to you?”
  • Ann looked him over. Her gaze was making the man uncomfortable; he was shifting his weight from one leg to another.
  • “I guess you’re right.”
  • With that Maria rushed to the door, with an apologetic smile, and welcomed their guest in.
  • “I’m sorry, don’t mind her. I’m sorry the place is such a mess, we weren’t expecting company.”
  • “Maria, he didn’t come here to inspect how neat we are.” Ann stood in front of their guest, her arms crossed over her chest, her unwelcoming eyes fixed on him.
  • Maria gave Ann a slit look before she turned back to their guest. “Would you please sit? I hope you don’t mind my asking, but why are you looking for Lee?”
  • “I’m her trustee. He father left her a huge amount of money and some investments. I want to give her the first payment, now that she is no longer under the care of the state.”
  • “What!” Lee walked into the small living room, shocked by this. Everyone was intrigued now. They stared at their visitor with such disbelief one would think he’d beamed down from Mars.
  • “Hello Merilee...or Lee…which do you prefer?”
  • “Yeah, yeah keep talking,” Ann prompted him impatiently. Maria didn’t offer any apology this time.
  • “Your father left you a lot of money. I will be managing your investments but you can have this for now.” He rose from the ragged couch and handed Lee a check.
  • Lee was surprised, unable to talk. She stood there fixed, her eyes glued to the check not blinking. Ann and Maria moved behind her.
  • “Holy cow!” Ann shouted.
  • “Those are a lot of zeroes,” Maria whispered, unable to shift her gaze.
  • The visitor continued, amused by their reaction. “For some reason, your father instructed me to make sure that all three of you benefit from that check.”
  • Ann turned to the lawyer, wagging a fist at him. “Is this a joke, because if it is…”
  • The man put his hands up in surrender and took three steps back. “I assure you it’s not. He said it is for his daughter and her close friends. He said he was sure you would make friends that you would have for life! I’m just a messenger!”
  • He picked up his briefcase and took an envelope out. He mumbled a few words before he opened the door, “Here are the papers for your new apartment on Orlando Street, and a car. I’ll keep in touch.” He dashed out and closed the door behind him.
  • “Two million dollars…is he sure he got the right person…I mean…wow!” Lee couldn’t think straight, the words were jumbled up and only a few came out.
  • That same afternoon, Ann drove them to the bank. The check was legit! They did a little victory dance before they opened an account and deposited it.
  • This was their ticket to a new life, a comfortable life.