“Welcome to your new home,” Andrew Marks said as he swept open the front door to Corey’s new home.
Corey gave him a timid smile and followed Andrew and his wife Helen through the front door. Her small feet met soft carpeting as soon as she entered and she looked around at soft blue walls. There were vases of pussy willow in the front hall, flanking a long dark brown table filled with pictures and a basket of keys.
Three months after her parents’ untimely deaths, Andrew and Helen Marks had come to adopt her. She had been curious about the blond woman and dark haired man. They had apparently liked her and now she had gone home with them. She hadn’t wanted another family, but her new parents thought she should have a family. Helen had taken to her, smiling and wanting to join in with Corey’s games. It was something her parents had never done, something she hadn’t welcomed. But she had played with the woman and, two days later, found herself getting into their car. She was going to miss the chaos of the foster home she had been able to get lost in. Being an only child again was not what she wanted.
Corey stood in the hall now, staring around at the walls and pictures, clutching her teddy bear close to her chest. Andrew and Helen had been married for five years, but couldn’t have children. That was why they had adopted Corey. She wasn’t sure if she was going to like her new parents, but at least the house was pretty. The blue was kind of calming.
“Well?” Helen said, drawing Corey’s attention. But the woman was looking at her husband. “Aren’t you going to get her bags out of the car?”
Andrew shrugged. “Okay. You going to show her to her room, then?”
Helen nodded and Andrew shrugged and walked back out the door. Helen turned to Corey and smiled brightly. She leaned down, putting her hands just above her knees so she was almost on eye level with her new daughter.
“I think we’re all going to have a great time together, don’t you?”
Corey gave her a blank look and Helen’s face immediately fell. She walked over to the girl and put a hand on her shoulder. She gently squeezed Corey’s shoulder, but the girl flinched and took a step back, casting a distrustful gaze at her new mother. The look only made Helen purse her lips.
“I’m sorry, dear. Maybe peppy isn’t what you want right now. You know, we’re very sorry you had to find your parents the way you did. But we’ll make sure you’re okay. Come on. I’ll show you your room.”
Corey didn’t have any choice in the matter; Helen firmly grasped her shoulder and guided her down a carpeted hallway. They stopped at an open door painted white.
“That’s where Andy and I sleep,” Helen said, pointing a little ways down the hall at a closed door painted the same shade of white. “You’re welcome in there anytime you want. Okay?”
Corey nodded, wondering what she would ever want with them.
“You’re not much of a talker, are you?” Helen asked, keeping her voice light and a smile on her face. “That’s okay. Once you warm up to us, I’m sure we’ll have a great time.”
“Okay,” was Corey’s light reply. “Is this my room?”
“Absolutely. Go on in.”
Corey didn’t wait for any further encouragement. She stepped into the room, the floor covered with a pale pink carpet just to get away from the chipper woman. It was a spacious room with a large bay window overlooking a large backyard with trees and rose bushes. There were white cushions on the window seat with a pile of picture books on top. A canopy bed sat in the middle with pink and white covers and pillows. Stuffed animals were lined up in three rows just in front of the pillows. A small white desk with a matching child’s chair sat in a corner, along with a variety of art supplies. Shelves lined the opposite side of the room, filled with toys and more books. There was an open closet with a few dresses and shirts, but it was mostly empty. There was also a white dresser with two drawers and an oval mirror that reflected Corey’s image back to her.
“Go on in,” Helen said encouragingly.
Corey stepped further inside, followed by Helen. She walked over to the bed and put her teddy bear down on top of the white and pink comforter. She turned in a slow circle, taking in all the pink and white and bright spring sunlight. It was all a little too much.
“We didn’t know what kinds of toys and books you liked, so we got a little of everything. There are some art supplies, too, if you like to draw. We hope you like the stuffed animals. They’re all yours.”
“It’s pretty,” was all Corey said. She just didn’t know how to tell her new mother how much she didn’t like the pink. For some reasons, darker colors made her feel more at ease.
“Here we go, darling,” Andy said as he brought in a duffle bag and small backpack. He stepped into the bedroom and put the bags down near the bed. “You like your new home?”
Corey nodded solemnly. “I’m tired. Can I take a nap?”
Helen stepped up next to her husband and linked arms with him.
“Of course, my dear,” she said soothingly. “Sleep all you want. We usually have dinner at six-thirty. It’s two now. If you want, we can wake you up or you can have dinner anytime you want.”
“Helen,” Andy said softly. “Do you really want to start spoiling her right off the bat?”
“Honey, this is all new to her. We need to be accommodating to get her used to us. We’ll settle into a routine soon enough.”
Andy scratched his chin and sighed. “I suppose. Okay. We’ll start with that. But I really don’t want to spoil her. We’re going to do this parenting thing right.”
Helen nodded. “Of course we are.” She turned to Corey, who had been closely watching their exchange, and smiled. “Go ahead and sleep all you want, dear. Come out whenever you’re ready. Do you want us to show you where the kitchen is before you climb into bed?”
Corey shook her head. “I can find it.”
“All right, then. Do you want us to tuck you in?”
“No, thank you.”
Helen exchanged a nervous smile with her husband. “Okay, than. Have a good nap, dear.”
Andy guided his unwilling wife from Corey’s room. She walked out first, leaving Andy to close the door. He smiled at Corey as he gently closed the door. She replied with a polite, if a little cold, smile.
Corey walked around the room as soon as the door was closed. Sighing with pleasure at finally being out of her new parents’ overbearing presence, she climbed up onto the window seat and looked out at the backyard. She’d never been allowed outside with her parents. Maybe Helen and Andy would let her out. Maybe now she could go to school and make friends. She wanted friends more than anything else, people to play with. Maybe Helen and Andy would play with her. She would like that.
Smiling to herself, she made her way over to her bed and climbed up on top. Delight lit up her eyes as she saw just how many stuffed animals were piled on the bed. Giggling softly to herself, she situated her teddy bear with them and then climbed under the covers. She snuggled against her teddy bear, a white mouse falling against her shoulder on her other side. She felt comforted and hoped she would like this new home.
Helen paced around the living room while her husband twisted and turned his neck, craning it this way and that, to see the TV beyond her pacing figure. Helen was chewing on a nail, oblivious to her husband’s frustration.
“Do you mind sitting down, Helen?” Andy asked, irritation creeping into his voice.
Startled, she looked up at him and gave him an apologetic smile. “Sorry, honey. I’m just distracted, I guess.”
But she sat anyways. At least, she perched on the edge on the couch next to Andy, smoothing her skirt over her knees over and over again.
“Calm down, Helen. She’s napping.”
“Do you think she likes it here? She seems so aloof. I just want to be a good mother.”
“You will be,” Andy said soothingly. “This is just new to her. She lost her parents a few months ago and now she has new parents and a new home. This can’t be easy for her. Her parents’ murders are still an open case, too, and she’ll be checked on periodically.”
“I know, I know. I’m okay with all of that. I just want her to love me so much, Andy.”
“She will. In time. Give it time, Helen.”
Andy leaned towards her and gently kissed her cheek. Then he wrapped his hands around her shoulders and gently pulled her back with him so her back met the back of the couch. “Now relax. Corey’s napping. She’ll be okay. Sit back and relax a bit, okay?”
Helen nodded and scooted back so she could more comfortably lean back. But she didn’t stop chewing on her thumb nail.
“Do you really think Corey will like it here?” Helen asked a few minutes later.
Andy sighed. “I don’t know. But we’ll hope for the best, okay? Now, relax. You can’t do anything right now.”
“I could make her cookies for when she wakes up. She likes cookies and banana nut muffins. If I had bananas, I would make the muffins. Make her feel at home, you know. Oh! I could go to the market now.”
Helen was just about to jump up, but her husband grabbed her wrist. “Calm down, Helen. Why don’t you just make some chocolate chip cookies if you really need to do something? Every kid likes chocolate chip cookies.”
Helen nodded eagerly. “I’ll do that. Then I’ll get started on dinner.”
Before Andy could grab her, Helen had managed to bounce up and hurried off into the kitchen. Andy sighed and shook his head, but he was glad he could finally sit back and watch some TV in peace.