Every foster child who arrived at Mrs. White’s home thought they’d won the lottery. Niki was no exception. She climbed out of the taxi behind Miss Karen, her social worker, and gaped at the elegant brick building in front of them. She shifted the paper sack containing the few clothes and books she owned from one arm to the other and scanned the street.
The neighborhood was quiet and clean. Sunlight trickled through the leaves of the maple trees that stood sentry along the sidewalk. The cars parked under them had clear, uncracked windshields and matching tires. This placement was quite different from her previous ones.
“Come along, Niki,” Miss Karen said as she clacked up the tidy stairs and rang the bell. Niki followed. She expected an old lady. Something about the name Mrs. White brought to mind images of hand-knit doilies and tea sandwiches. The woman who opened the heavy oak door wasn’t old at all. She looked even younger than Niki’s own mother, who was barely into her thirties. Although, given her mother’s lifestyle choices this wasn’t as surprising as it could have been.
Mrs. White smiled first at Miss Karen and then at Niki with a soft, wide mouth. Loose tendrils of golden hair escaped a mess of curls piled atop her head and framed her face with cheerful abandon. Eyes like blue topaz sparkled joyfully. “You must be Niki!” she said after greeting Miss Karen warmly. “Let me take your things.”
“That’s okay, miss,” Niki said, clutching her bag tightly. She’d been through too many homes and shelters to entrust her minimal belongings to a stranger. Mrs. White seemed to understand. At least, she didn’t press the issue.
“Come in, come in!” She stepped aside to allow them access to the hallway.