“I won’t go, no matter what,” I said. “If they take me by force…” I didn’t want to finish my sentence. I knew what I would do. I would either hurt someone and opt for prison over foster care or hurt myself, and simply opt out of life. I didn’t consider myself suicidal. Just tired.

“Can’t you just get emancipated or something?”

It was a question I actually didn’t have to look up the answer for. “No. You have to have parental permission, and you have to prove that you can support yourself. I can’t do either. And it takes a long time. I’d be eighteen and an adult before it was granted, anyway.”

“Sounds like you’ve looked into it.” I hadn’t needed to. I’d been in the foster care system. I didn’t look into it. I just knew it.

I changed the subject.

“So, you work at the junkyard?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Jake said. “I’m not here long-term or anything. Dad’s manager Reggie called me and said he needed some help straightening everything. Their secretary quit, their purchase orders are all wrong, and their ancient computer system crashed and took all their information with it. It’s a mess.”

“Why doesn’t your dad fix it?”

“He’s…sick,” Jake said. Everyone in town knew that Frank Dunn was a hermit. He rarely came out of his house, and when he did, it was just to buy booze.

“Oh. I’m sorry.” I knew what it was like to have a “sick” parent... or parents. Mine were the sickest of them all.

The comfortable silence returned and we sat side by side, watching the pelicans dive into the water for fish. It amazed me how they could see from that far up in the sky. They never seemed to miss and always emerged chomping on their catch, fins flopping between their beaks.

The sun had been up in the sky for way longer than could be called a sunrise, so we walked in silence back to the bike. I told him where Nan’s house was. He said he didn’t need directions. Of course, he didn’t.

I kept forgetting he was from here.

I thought once we got to Nan’s, if I didn’t acknowledge the giant blue tarp in the driveway then he wouldn’t either. “Thanks for the ride,” I said. I handed him his helmet.

“What’s all that?” he asked, gesturing to the very thing I’d hoped he would ignore.

“Garage sale stuff.” He had to go, and go now. I needed to come up with a plan. So far, it only consisted of squatting around Nan’s house until further notice. I’d forgotten about the boards on the windows. Shit. My situation was more obvious than I thought it would be.

I walked up the old steps of the porch, waiting to hear Jake’s bike take off. Instead, I heard nothing but the idling engine. I stood facing the door and pretended to rummage through my bag for my keys. Even if I’d had them, they wouldn’t have worked. There was a big gold padlock over the board on the door. I hoped he couldn’t see it from the road.

“You forget your key?” he called out.

“Yeah,” I lied. “I’m just going to go around back where the spare is.” I waved again and hoped that when I rounded the side of the house and reached the lanai he would take the hint and leave.

The screen door was locked. I bashed the flimsily latch with my wrist and it popped open instantly. I guess I wasn’t going to have to cut the screen after all.

The sliding glass door had another eviction notice taped to it, a duplicate of the one on the front door. I pulled it off and crumpled it in my hands. Then I sank down onto my ass, my back up against the door, and I rested my head in between my knees.

I was fucked.

I had nowhere else to go, and even if I did I had no money to get there. I would have to try to find some tools and break in, but that would only buy me a little bit of time. Nan’s house would probably be sold soon and occupied by seasonal renters or blue haired snowbirds in no time.

I pulled my hood over my head. It was ninety degrees out, but I didn’t give a shit. I just wanted to curl up and die.

“Abby?” a voice asked.

I knew exactly who it was without having to lift my head.

It was the foster care devil coming to drag me off to hell.

She was right on time, too. The pattern of my life seemed to be rolling right along on schedule. Something bad happens. Something worse happens. Something really bad happens. The cards I was being dealt were all the Fool.

“Dan,” I replied.

“Dan?” She questioned my use of her nickname, which only I knew the meaning of. I looked up at her. She looked down at me like I had three heads, and all three of them saw the pity in her eyes. “What are you doing back here on the lanai?”