The exercise was: "Write a sketch of a pivotal memory from your childhood as you remember it. Then, write the scene from another person's point of view who was there."
I turn off the television. Looking at the clock, I jump from my reclining position on the couch. I swear sharply, heading for the kitchen. It's four o'clock; I only have an hour to finish my chores.
Reaching under the kitchen sink, I grab a dusting rag and a can of furniture polish. I slam the cupboard door shut and hurry back to the living room.
Half an hour later, I hear a car pull into the driveway. My heart begins to pound. A sick feeling forms in the pit of my stomach. Becky's home.
My foster mother opens the door, letting a short, sharp blast of frigid January air in with her. She stops in her tracks and glares at me. I tighten my grip on the vacuum cleaner and continue with my work.
"Why aren't you finished?" she snaps. I shrug my shoulders and stare at the carpet. I think I missed a spot.
"Well?" Her voice is high-pitched. "I thought I told you to have your chores done before I got home!" She stalks into the kitchen. "What's this?" she asks, her voice easily heard over the whine of the vacuum. She comes back into the living room. "I thought I told you to wash the fingerprints off the walls! Why didn't you?"
I shrug my shoulders and mumble, "I don't know."
"Is it because you're lazy? Is that it?" I do not reply; I merely continue to run the vacuum over the carpet, not really paying attention to what I'm doing.
Becky shoves her way past me and rups the vacuum cleaner plug out of the wall socket. "Look at me when I'm talking to you, damn it!"
I glance up quickly. Although Becky stands at a whopping 5'2", she seems inflated with rage and frustration.
Looking back down, I let go of the vacuum. I wring my hands together, focusing on the bite of my fingernails into the sensitive skin of my wrist in order to distract myself from Becky's ranting.
Suddenly, I feel a hand gripping my upper arm. I flinch, then silently berate myself for showing weakness. Becky drags me into my room and shoves me so that I'm sitting on my bed. Grabbing my face, she forces my chin up so that I'm looking into her watery gray eyes.
"What is the matter with you?" she hisses. I look away, and she tilts my head up further. "Do you want to leave? Is that it?"
Silence reigns for a full minute. Finally, Becky says, tightening her grip, "Answer me!"
I take a ragged breath. I open my mouth, planning to apologize. What comes out shocks even me.
Becky drops her hand. She stands there, gaping at me. 'She looks like a fish,' I think sardonically. Finally, she regains her powers of speech.
"Fine. I'll call your social worker right now," she says flatly. She rushes out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
I blink, trying to process what has just happened. Groaning, I drop my head into my hands.
What have I done?
I pull into the driveway and turn off the car engine. I swiftly hurry up the walkway.
Upon opening the door, I hear the high-pitched whine of the vacuum cleaner. I thought I told be done before I got home! "Why aren't you finished?"
Shannon just shrugs her shoulders and stares at the floor. Why doesn't she ever look at me?
"Well?" I continue when I get no other response. "I thought I told you to have your chores done before I got home!" I walk into the kitchen to see how much Shannon has actually done. "What's this?" I call out to her. Patrick's fingerprints are still visible on my nice white walls.
I walk back into the living room. "I thought I told you to wash the fingerprints off the walls! Why didn't you?"
Shannon mumbles something incoherent. I assume it's that catch-all phrase, "I don't know."
"Is it because you're lazy? Is that it?" I know I'm being slightly unreasonable, but I don't think it's too much to ask that I have a clean house to come home to after a hard day at work.
Shannon, yet again, does not reply. She continues to vacuum the carpet. The only indication she that she gives of even hearing me is the way her head is sinking into her shoulders, like a turtle would retreat into her shell.
That's it. She is going to listen to me. I push my way past her and yank the plug out of the wall. "Look at me when I'm talking to you, damn it!"
She glances up quickly, then lowers her head again. At least Robin had the tenacity to fight back. Shannon just acts like a frightened rabbit.
I try to talk to Shannon, but she just stands there, gripping one hand in the other. Exasperated, I grab her right arm and lead her into her bedroom. Pushing her onto the bed, I lift Shannon's head up, making her look at me.
"What is the matter with you?" I ask. She looks away, but I move her head until she's looking into my eyes. Utterly frustrated, I ask rhetorically, "Do you want to leave? Is that it?"
She doesn't answer for an entire minute. I get tired of the silence. "Answer me!" I demand, tightening my grip unconsciously.
Shannon breathes in deeply. "Yes," she replies in a firm voice.
My hand drops away from her face. What? I don't know what to say. I can feel the tears beginning to well in my eyes.
"Fine. I'll call your social worker right now," I snap. I hurry out of the room, slamming the door behind me. I pause to catch my breath, which suddenly seems quite short.
What have I done?