Mrs. White kept Ada busy with household duties all evening, so Niki and Everett waited until after Mrs. White had locked up and turned out all the lights, retiring to her own suite of rooms. They crept slowly down the hall into Ada’s and Melissa’s room. Ada and Melissa were already arguing when they arrived.
“It won’t work,” Ada insisted. “It’s too dangerous.”
“And it’s not dangerous for those boys to go without food for three days straight?” Melissa snapped back.“You don’t know how bad it can get,” Ada said. “Remember, I’ve been here longer than all of you. I’ve seen kids just like you come and go.” She hugged herself. “The kids that leave aren’t going on to new homes.”
“I’d rather go back to the shelter than stay here,” Niki said.
Ada looked at her with damp eyes. “Pete … Danika … Zack … none of them went back to the shelter either. Kids who become too problematic just … disappear.” She stared at something on the bulletin board above her bed—a picture of flowers.
Niki looked more closely. It wasn’t a picture. It was a collection of dried flowers. Flowers just like the ones she’d found on her desk. Flowers from the abandoned lot behind the house.
“I don’t want to trade any more children for flowers,” Ada whispered as a tear escaped the corner of her eye. Niki looked at Melissa and Everett. The horror on their faces matched what she felt in her chest.
Almost an hour later, they gave up trying to convince her to join them.
“Mrs. White is too strong. She has too much control over our lives. We’ll get caught and she’ll take it out on the little ones.”
“Fine,” Melissa told her, “you don’t have to be part of it, but we’re going to do this.”
Ada nodded, her mouth turned down in a worried frown. After a moment of awkward silence, Melissa got up and moved over to her own bed while Niki and Everett slipped back to their own rooms. Niki fell asleep walking through the plan in her mind.