Published on June 10th, 2018 | by Keith McClellan0
The Witch by Sarah Blaney
Foster kids have a superpower, we’re mostly invisible! Not always, because you notice if we break things or spill, but when we’re ‘being good’ you talk as though we’re not there.
We know so much more than you think, like you get paid £168.00 per week, per kid to foster us. This money is your wages though and you don’t want to spend it on us, you get taxed on this money which is disgraceful, whatever taxed means! We know about ‘fostering to adopt’ meaning you can choose to keep us as your own, but we know that if fostering is your job this will never happen. We know we’re hard-work as we hear you complain to other foster carers about your own children suffering from our bad behaviour, we know it’s annoying when we turn-up with only a carrier-bag of stuff, so you have to ask for hand-outs, but you’re clever at getting second-hand stuff and finding the cheapest shoes. We know you go on holiday to get a break from us, you take your own kids with you, but we go to Respite, so you can get away from us. We also know that if we’re not adopted by the age of six we’ve missed our chance and will live in the system until we’re grown.
I’m now Eight.
Because we’re mostly invisible, we get attention by being naughty and the naughtier we are the more attention we get. But, we also act-up to let you know we don’t like you or your silly home before you decide you don’t want us, that way we feel less rubbish. It’s horrible when we try to make you love us and you can’t.
My last foster parents put me back in the children’s home after I drove their automatic car through their wooden garage doors. CRASH.
So, now me and my social-worker are in a taxi, my carrier-bag next to me, which is almost empty as all the hand-outs were kept back for the other four foster kids.
From the taxi, I’m staring at a house that looks like it was built to tempt kids inside. I’d heard the story of Hansel and Gretel at school and this is the cottage. The walls are painted stones that look like squashy marshmallows, the roof is made of liquorish shoe-laces and there are coloured flowers everywhere like sweeties.
I knew it’d be the wicked witch who opened the door, and it was. She tried smiling and her teeth were crooked, she had long, straggly black hair and a mole by her nose. The child-eating witch for sure.
She poured tea and talked about being a teacher on spring-break claiming she planned to spend the holidays with me. Yeah, right I thought, she’ll ignore me or eat me. She asked me questions, but I just shrugged. She asked my social worker if I could attend the village primary because it had an after-school club that she’d collect me from. The social worker said it was customary to attend our regular schools and be taken by taxi as it gave continuity. I spoke then.
‘I don’t want to go back to the town school, I hate it there’! Nobody liked me, they called me nitty-head.
‘Well’, my social-worker hesitated, ‘Maybe she could try the village school, if you think it’ll be a long-term plan’?
I turned away, I didn’t want to see a response, it doesn’t feel nice.
The three of us went to see my bedroom, which was so lovely I knew the witch must have bad intentions, nobody gave foster kids something this nice – there was a double-bed with a patch-work quilt, a window seat with cushions and a cat sat on the bed, of course there was a cat!
‘How many foster kids do you have’? I asked in curiosity about who would share the bed.
‘None’, she replied, ‘you’re my first little friend’!
Am I though, or did the others all go in the oven? I wondered.
After my social worker left it was such a strange evening. I’d never had so much attention, it made me feel weird. The witch said she’d been told I had lice, so she stirred-up a potion and poured me bubbles in a deep corner-bath and gave me bath toys while her potion worked. She was very patient when she brushed my tummy-length hair. She gave me a dinner without chips which really surprised me – foster kids always get chips! She dressed me in cloud soft pajamas, tucked me into the huge bed and read four stories. She’s going to kill me tonight I thought.
But the whole next week was just the same, we went to the park, the zoo, the fair and the cinema. The witch took me to buy uniform for the new school and for the first time in my life everything was brand-new with labels and she made sure that it all fit just right, she bought me shiny shoes with lights and trainers for PE and slippers too. I felt a bit like a cat; I wanted to purr and be loving but that made me cross, so then I wanted to scratch so she’d know I didn’t like her.
It was difficult to be naughty with the witch because unlike other foster Mum’s she was always with me and we were so busy that I was too tired to get up in the night to scribble on her spell-books… so instead of naughty I had to be mean, so in town when she asked if I wanted piano or ballet classes I said…
‘Your hair is really straggly you know’!
But, she just laughed, grabbed my hand and pulled me towards a hair salon.
The lady asked if we would like mother and daughter hair-cuts and the witch said, ‘Yes please!’ I wanted to say she’s not my Mum, but the words got stuck behind a big, strange lump in my throat.
I’d never had a real hair-cut before and I felt like a princess. My new bob was silky and swishy; the witch looked so much prettier with hers, but I didn’t say – instead I said her mole was ugly.
‘I know,’ she said, ‘The doctor said he’d get rid of it, but I had nobody to hold my hand’!
That shocked me, I’d never thought about adults not having anyone, I thought that was just foster kids.
The witch didn’t mind spending her fostering wages on me, she had me choose a picture lunch-box like other kids had, a coloured ruck-sack and a pencil case full of treasure! I was so proud to own lovely things; now I’d need lots of bin-bags to move on! Then I thought how hard it’d be to go back to tatty clothes and borrowed shoes and I sulked.
My first day of school I was someone new, the witch took me to my classroom by the hand, she already knew all the parents and my teacher, everyone smiled – not minding if she was a witch and I was a foster-kid.
I felt amazing with my shiny, styled hair, my special shoes and my smart uniform, even my socks were bright white! At break the kids wanted to play with me instead of running away, I was happy, and sad too, because this wasn’t my real life.
When I opened my lunch-box there was a box of cut-up strawberries, grapes and pineapple just for me! Foster kids don’t get posh fruit, nobody cares if we grow or if we shrink. Under the sandwich was a note that said,
‘Hope you’re having a lovely day, I’m excited to come pick-you-up!’ And the witch was there, waiting with all the real mum’s, she took my hand as we walked. ‘I hope it won’t make you cross,’ she said, ‘But I got you a little bike, so you can ride around the park with your new friends – all the kids go’.
After the park, she sat me on the kitchen side while she chopped green stuff for dinner. She was chatting, but I was thinking hard.
‘Are you the one’? I blurted out.
She looked-up slowly, ‘I want to adopt you,’ she said, ‘If you’ll have me?’
The throat lump came.
‘I’ll hold your hand at the doctors, if you need someone’? I told her. But I no longer minded her mole.
‘Now that we know we’re a team,’ she said, ‘Shall we be nice to each other?’
But she meant me, she’d always been a good witch I realised.