Mrs. Roffen gave her a minute before she spoke. “Callie?” Callie turned to face her. “Are you ready to go back to my office? I’ve already called some people and now we just need to wait for them to call back.” Why was everyone asking her if she was ready? Of course she wasn’t ready! She didn’t think she would ever be ready for what was about to happen, but she nodded any way.
She led Callie through a door that led into a hallway lined with doors. They walked about halfway down the hall before entering one of these doors. In the room, there was a white desk and chair, two other chairs across from the desk, and a filing cabinet in the corner. Besides the furniture, the room was filled with pink decorations: feathery boas, cut-out hearts, and plastic necklaces adorned everything. It looked like Mrs. Roffen had let a kindergarten class decorate her office for Valentines Day and just left it up.
“Please, sit down.” Callie suddenly realized that while she had been looking around the bright room, Mrs. Roffen had taken her seat behind the desk and started sorting through papers. “It’s probably going to be a bit before anyone calls back and I need to get some work done. If you don’t have anything to do, there are some magazines here that you could take a look at.” She gestured to a basket beside her desk that Callie hadn’t noticed before.
“I brought some books. In my bag,” she managed. She opened one of the bags that she had been clinging to so tightly that her knuckles were white. Shirts spilled out. Callie quickly refolded them and put them back in the bag. She tried again, this time pulling out Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian from the other bag. She settled down in a chair to read.
Callie was about a hundred pages through the book a couple of hours later when the pink phone on Mrs. Roffen’s desk rang and Callie jumped. She had been so engrossed in the story that she had forgotten her current situation.
“Hello?” Mrs. Roffen said. “Hello, Sheila! Oh, Thank you. Wonderful. I’ll get back to you soon. Okay, thank you. Good bye.” She hung up. “That was Ms. Sheila,” she told Callie. “She says you can come stay with her if she sounds like the best candidate. We still need to wait for a few more people to call back though.”
So they waited. Over the next hour or so, the phone rang five more times. Mrs. Roffen told Callie that three of the callers couldn’t take her, but the other two could. “It’s time to call some people back. We’ll start with Ms. Sheila.” She dialed a phone number. “Hello, Sheila. This is Aileen. Yes, we’ve heard back from everybody. I think we’re going to go with the Baileys this time. Yes. Well, thank you. Good bye.” The next phone call was extremely similar, but the one after that was the Baileys. “Hello, Sandra. This is Aileen. Yes. When can we come over? Now? That sounds marvelous. We’ll be there in about 15 minutes. Okay then. Good bye.” She hung up the phone and turned to Callie. “Good news! We can go over to the Baileys’ right away. Do you have all of your things?”
Callie wondered what was so good about the situation but nodded any anyway.
“All right then. Let’s go!” They walked back through the building then out into the cold afternoon wind. When they got to the small white Volvo, Callie blinked in surprise. She had figured that Mrs. Roffen’s car would be pink too. She shook her head and climbed into the passenger seat, placing her clothing bag at her feet and holding the other bag in her lap.
The car ride was quiet. Mrs. Roffen made a couple attempts at conversation, but Callie didn’t feel like talking. All the questions she had earlier wondered about her future came flooding back into her tired brain.
The Baileys lived in a large yet cute house in a large yet cute neighborhood. As Mrs. Roffen pulled into the driveway, Callie looked at the neatly trimmed grass and carefully weeded flower bed. Does anyone ever play in this yard? she wondered. I don’t see any good climbing trees. “Do the Baileys have any kids?” she asked aloud, as they got out of the car and began walking up the well cared-for sidewalk.
“Yes,” Mrs. Roffen replied as she rang the doorbell. “They have three children. I think the youngest is about your age.”
Callie heard someone inside the house yell, “Callie’s here!” then heard footsteps thumping around the house all headed closer to the door. When it swung open suddenly and quickly, Callie took an involuntary step back. Standing in the doorway were a mother with chestnut curls and a heavy build, a father with straight dark brown hair and strong green eyes, and a girl about her age and size with her mid-length hair pulled back into a ponytail on the back of her head. They all smiled, but the girl looked a little nervous.
The lady opened the screen door and stepped out on to the small porch. “Please come inside.” She gestured through the door and her family members moved away to let them through. Callie looked back at Mrs. Roffen, who nodded. Callie stepped inside. The man and girl were standing along the wall of the short narrow hallway. They were still smiling at her. Callie gave a small smile that she was sure was even more nervous than the girl’s then lowered her eyes and moved to make room in the entryway for the lady and Mrs. Roffen.
“Why don’t we all go into the living room to sit down?” the lady said. That’s what they did.
When everyone was seated more or less comfortably, Mrs. Roffen began. “Sandra, Gary, and Katherine, this is Callie Holtz. Callie these are the Baileys. You’ll be staying with them for a while, okay?”
Callie nodded. She figured that she probably didn’t look terribly intelligent what with all the nodding and not talking, but if she was going to be staying with them for “a while” as Mrs. Roffen put it, they would get to know her better. If she wanted them to.
They were talking again. Callie decided that she should probably listen.
“Hi Callie! I’m Mrs. Bailey and this is Mr. Bailey and this is one of our daughters, Katherine. Our eldest daughter, Susan, is at tennis practice and our son, Michael, is with his friends right now. They’ll be home later. We’re very sorry for your loss.”
Callie wasn’t entirely certain about how to respond to this. She went with a simple, “Thank you,” as she struggled to hold back a new rise of tears.
“Callie, do you have your bags?” asked Mrs. Roffen. Again, Callie nodded. “Wonderful. Unfortunately, I have to go now. We already did our homestudy, so I won’t need to see where Callie will be sleeping. I’ll get in touch about court dates and visits and whatnot. Goodbye Callie.”
Callie managed a small, “Bye. And thank you.” Mrs. Roffen didn’t catch the last part, but looked at Callie sympathetically. Then she and Mrs. Bailey left the room and Callie could hear them talking in the entryway but couldn’t make out the words. She could, however, make out the sound of the door closing behind Mrs. Roffen. I really am alone now she thought, tearfully. I have absolutely no one. I am alone.