Miss Karen left after she finished her tea, and Mrs. White took Niki upstairs to meet the other children and see her room.
Ada, the girl with the braids who had served the tea, shared a room with Melissa, a pixie of a girl with bright blue eyes and very straight, bluntly cut blonde hair. Ada was sixteen and Melissa was twelve.
There were two chubby boys, both seven years old, named Rex and Todd. They could have been twins except that Rex had a smooth, umber complexion and tight black curls, while Todd had pale skin under a shock of freckles and rust-colored hair. They held hands, standing next to a glowering boy of ten, the same age as Niki. The other children stared at her with carefully neutral expressions but this boy, Everett, narrowed his eyes and scowled at her as he was introduced.
“Everett is a little put out,” Mrs. White said. “He used to sleep in your room, and now he’s sharing with the little boys. He understands that it would be inappropriate for you to share a room with two boys, though.” She tousled his thick black hair. “Don’t you, Everett?”
Niki might not have noticed the barely-there edge in Mrs. White’s voice if not for the way Everett’s face snapped back to neutral.
“Yes, ma’am,” he said. But when Mrs. White turned to lead Niki to her room, Everett’s face pinched with anger again.
Niki had never in her whole life seen such a wonderful bedroom. It was much bigger than any she’d slept in before, even at the French’s house where she’d shared a room with three other girls. Tiny pink roses scattered across the wallpaper. A large white dresser with pink accents stood on one wall. A matching side table stood next to a big bed covered with a frothy white and pink comforter on the opposite wall. A mountain of pillows cascaded across the head of the bed and an antique steamer trunk stood at the foot.
“I had the room redone for you,” Mrs. White said. “I thought you’d like this more than the outer space theme Everett had.” She gestured for Niki to come in and Niki did so, running her fingertips along the soft length of the bed.
“Thank you, miss. It’s just lovely,” she said. She saw the others peering around the edge of the doorframe. She made eye contact with Ada, who gave her an oddly sad look and then turned to herd the group away. Niki shoved a rising bubble of concern down into the depths of her mind and focused instead on the crisp, clean drawer Mrs. White had opened for her to store her things.