I paced the living room, worrying my lower lip between my teeth. The clock on the wall showed ten o’clock; they were supposed to arrive at around one. Just three hours. Oh, God.
I didn’t have butterflies in my stomach; I had giant, writhing, twisting snakes all tangled up in a knot. I’d never been so nervous in my entire life.
What if this is a mistake? What if she doesn’t like me? What if I don’t like her? What if I’m a terrible foster-mom?
The same anxious “what if’s” ran through my head like a carousel of worry. When another of those thoughts cropped up, I directed my pacing into the former guest bedroom. Now the room would belong to Hailey. Our ten-year-old foster daughter.
Looking at the room, I couldn’t imagine a little girl living in it. Aside from the bedspread, it still looked like a plain, non-descript guest room. We should’ve gotten more décor –
Luc’s voice pulled me out of my thoughts. “I can hear you overthinking from the office.”
I turned to look at him, unsurprised to find him just inside the door even though I hadn’t heard him come in. “I don’t think she’s going to like it. It’s too impersonal.”
He came over, sliding his arms around me. “She’ll make it personal. Tomorrow or the next day, we’ll all go to the mall so Hailey can get some stuff for her room.”
He was making perfect sense, of course, but I was too busy freaking out to bother conceding his point. “Okay, but what if she’s horrible and angry and doesn’t respect us?” Hailey’s mom had been in jail for over a year for drug possession. There was no telling what Hailey’s life had been like before she’d been sent to her first foster home. She could be one of those deeply troubled kids people heard stories about.
“Honey,” Luc said with a gentle laugh. “She’s ten; calm down.” He took my hand, leading me out of the room. “They wouldn’t send us a really tough case for our first kid. Just breathe and relax.”
I let myself be ushered to a seat at the dining table and tried to take deep, calming breaths. “You’re right. I know I’m being crazy.” Ever since April, the social worker, had called and told us we’d been assigned a kid, I’d been a nervous wreck. I had thought I was ready and willing to be a foster parent, but I’d never felt so unsure about anything.
“I’m nervous, too,” Luc admitted. He put a skillet on the stove and it started letting off tendrils of heat. After it heated up, he ladled out a scoop of pancake batter. “It’s going to be really weird at first, but we just have to power through these first few days until we settle into a routine. And if it stays weird – then we’ll deal with that then.”
“You’re making too much sense,” I grumbled. “Obviously you’re not nervous enough.”
“One of us has to be sane.” He smiled over his shoulder at me before returning his attention to the pancake brunch he was making.
I snorted softly. “If you’re sane…”
“Hey, now, or I’ll burn your pancake.” Luc pointed his spatula my way. “Don’t mess with the man who controls your food.”
I laughed softly. “I yield, I yield.”
I breathed a little easier while Luc cooked. He kept up the stream of conversation as he took up pancakes and started frying bacon. Undoubtedly, he knew I’d go back down the rabbit hole if he didn’t keep me distracted with chatter.
“Oh,” I started after he’d sat our plates down and taken a seat, “I talked to Josh the other day. He said he’ll be happy to get us tickets if Hailey wants to go to a game.”
“I thought he would, but I’m glad to know for sure.”
When Luc and I had started this whole process, Josh was one thing I’d been worried about. The subject of kids had been the primary factor in the deterioration of our relationship. Our friendship had improved so much since his wedding – it would never be exactly what it was, but we were actually friends again – but I’d still been unsure of how he’d react. I’d been really pleasantly surprised by his reaction, though; he’d been so supportive and positive though the whole thing. He’d even written us a glowing recommendation.
There had been just a moment – a brief flicker of a moment – when we’d experienced a mutual touch of sadness and “what if.” How different might our lives be if I’d known then that, one day, I’d want to foster? Would that have been enough for Josh? Would we be different? As quickly as they’d come, those thoughts had fled. Both of us were exactly where we were supposed to be.
“Was it weird?” Luc asked quietly.
“You know, not as much as I thought it would be.” I laughed a little. “It helps that he can hardly stop talking about Sofia. Did you know he and Krys are already talking about a second?”
Luc snorted. “Of course they are. Well, power to them.”
“Really. And I’ll keep being glad it’s not me popping out babies.” I got to my feet and gathered up the dishes. When they were clean, Luc and I went into the living room.
I flipped through the channels until I found something mildly attention-grabbing. And that was how we passed the rest of the time until the doorbell rang. Then the nerves returned full-force.
I looked over and met Luc’s eyes. The happiness I found there helped to calm the twisting snakes in my stomach.
Together, we got up and went to the door. On the other side stood April and little Hailey.
With a hand that only trembled a little, I reached out and opened the door.
“Hi. You must be Hailey,” I said with a smile. “I’m Alison, and this is my husband, Luc. It’s so good to meet you.”