BY MIKI MARKOVICH
I was nervous when Officer Terry took me to meet my foster family. As soon as his knock landed on the door, it swung open. Without making any move to cross the threshold, my gaze bypassed my “new mother” and rested squarely on the junior high boy lying on the floor in front of the television. He was the spirited young student I tutored in drumming each week. I didn’t know whether to be excited to know someone at the house or be mortified that the darkness I’d been living would now be known.
Within a couple of weeks of living at the home, this same policeman introduced me to my father and his family in a neighboring town. Although it was an awkward meeting, complete with handshake and business card, he soon asked me to move in with him and his newest family. I was elated nothing has meant more to me than family. However, two weeks later I was once again sent packing. Picking me up from school, his sister told me the news. She informed me my things were all ready at her house in a town I’d never heard of. Although I was devastated to be thrown away again, I rolled with it. What choice did I have? I was underage and a ward of the state. Things were OK for a while, until my newfound cousin tried to rape me at gunpoint. My uncle arrived in time to save me from another rape, but not in time to make things work. When my aunt returned home that evening, my meager belongings were thrown into the yard and the foster family called.
As soon as I turned 17, I found myself in front of a judge asking for emancipation. He told me my life would be more difficult on my own, but held my ground. I rented a small, single wide trailer with a roommate, worked the midnight shift at a local fast food place, attended school during the day and prepared for band contests sometime in between. It was totally doable until the place burned down during one of my shifts.
I stayed with friends for a few days, then made the official move into my car. Sure, it was a little inconvenient, but I was still thrilled to have a roof and doors that locked.
I was startled when Roxie came to me. I had only met my father briefly, so to have one of his ex-wives offer me a place to live was out of my realm of possibility. I asked her if she was aware my mother was her ex-husband’s first wife and that she owed me absolutely nothing. She didn’t know me and she wasn’t even currently married to the stranger who was my father. Her persistence made me apprehensive. I’d rather live in my car until I graduated high school than to believe things were going to be all right only to get tossed out of another home.
Before long, that vivacious wonder had me unloading my meager belongings at her house. She told me I’d be bunking with Heather my sister. “Sister” was a completely foreign concept to me as was raised as an only child with very few outside connections, much less those of family. I thought this young teen would feel I was taking up space and infringing on her family, but she didn’t. She was nothing short of ALWAYS excited about my being there.
We spent our evenings playing pop music and sing loudly into hairbrushes. I taught her how to make prank calls and she taught me what being big sister was really about. Our younger brother had a room in the back of the house and caused all kinds of wonderful, brotherly ruckuses. He pretended to be a hood ornament on my car and teased us both mercilessly about being afraid of mice. It was all so made-for-TV normal.
As Christmas neared, I was well aware that I was just some girl off the street and not “real” family to Roxie and her fiance. It was because of that that I was moved to tears Christmas morning to find that not only was I included, but also I was treated equally. The gifts were perfect and extravagant. With twinkling lights, food and festivities, I had never before felt so much a part of a family. It was warm and wonderful.
We had spent the day in St. Louis picking out a dress for my upcoming senior prom. Running late, I was stressed about making it back to the house and on time for my 11pm shift. Rushing in through the front door, I headed straight to the bedroom to change into my uniform as Roxie hit the play button on the answering machine. As it kicked on, a man’s voice filled the space with haunting, gory images; he graphically spoke about shooting me in the face and watching my brains and blood spill down the wall. Hearing the threat of this stranger my mother must have convinced to call the house chilled me to the core. More than the being shot, I feared I would now be asked to leave this humble house that had somehow become my home. In my experience, no one wanted a house guest who came with drama or trauma. I looked at Roxie’s face waiting for her to tell me I was just going to have to go.
What I saw in her eyes was indeed rage, not at me but at the caller. She immediately ran outside, quickly spotting a man in a car staring at the small house. She started shouting at him as she ran in his direction. When he turned on the car to pull forward, Roxie made chase. I was flabbergasted.
Sometimes things can seem really bad and they are. But beauty can be born from this darkness. I simply ask that you don’t lose hope. Keep your heart open to unexpected possibilities because you never know where love is going to show up next.
Miki Markovich is a seeker of beauty and truth, traveler of interesting roads, saver of furry souls, typer of words, iPhone lover and mac head. You can find her on Twitter at @mikimarkovich and @fiveminutezen. If you’re looking to go from pissed to blissed in five minutes flat, find balance or improve the quality of your life through self care, check out her website at fiveminutezen.com.