Lizzie stood looking at the baby lying on the bed. For once he wasn’t crying. Usually Reggie spent all his waking hours crying. Lizzie couldn’t understand why this baby had to live with them. Her mommy said something about fosters care, but she wasn’t sure what that was. All she knew was that ever since Reggie had shown up her mommy spent more time with him than with her. Lizzie stared at the baby, then walked over and pinched him hard on the thigh. Reggie let out a shriek and began to holler.
“What did you do?”
Sara rushed into the room, frantic to comfort the squalling infant.
“You always care about him” Lizzie said in a sulky tone. “I hate that dumb old baby.”
Sara fought the impulse to smack Lizzie.
“Come on, we have to go to Aunt Donna’s. Be quiet on the way out, don’t wake up Chris.”
Chris, another thorn in Lizzie’s side. Yesterday he had come over before Mommy went to work, and when Sara was out of the room, had taken Lizzie’s My Pretty Pony and wouldn’t give it back to her. He held it out of reach and then threw it over the balcony on to the street. He liked to pick on her. As they walked past the living room, Lizzie saw Chris sprawled out on the couch, empty beer cans littering the floor.
“Too much beer again” she mumbled.
Sara cringed. If Chris’s drinking was that obvious to an eight year old, may be it was a problem. Chris and Sara had been together six months, but lately it seemed as if he lived with them. He didn’t contribute financially unless Sara nagged him but nagging always lead to a fight. Sara pushed that thought out of her mind as she walked out of the apartment to her car, letting Lizzie strap her self in while she placed Reggie in his car seat. Sara worked third shift at a hospital, dropping off the kids to spend the night with her sister. She was hoping to get transferred to days soon. She didn’t like leaving the kids with someone else. The added responsibility of caring for a foster child was more than she bargained for; if children’s services found out she was working nights they would take him away from her. The money she got for him each month would disappear as well.
Sara looked over to Lizzie sitting in her car seat. She could feel her pulling further away from her.
“Honey, I know it’s hard having the baby around, but I wish you’d be nicer to him.”
Lizzie sighed and looked out the window.
“He cries a lot.”
“I know, but that’s because he’s not well. He gets upset easily.”
Lizzie continued to look out the window.
“You like him better than me, don’t you,” she whispered.
The question pierced Sara’s heart.
“No, baby, no, that’s not true. I love you. It’s just that Reggie needs a lot of attention.”
Sara struggled to find the right words. An idea came to her.
“Mrs. Evens has to get rid of her cat. Maybe we could give it a home and you could take care of it.”
Lizzie perked up.
“If we get a cat, maybe Chris will go away. I heard him say he hates cats.”
Sara bit her lip.
“I wouldn’t count on that sweetie.”
Lizzie faded again.
“It was nicer before he came around, why’s he got to stay with us all the time? He’s always yelling and being mean and breaking stuff.”
Sara listened sadly to her daughter. Lizzie was right. Chris was short tempered and disruptive to their lives. A few times Sara went to work with bruises. How do you explain to a child that sometimes it’s better to have a not so good man that no man at all? She would tell Chris to help more if he expected to stay with her all the time, and if things didn’t get better, she’d break things off. She meant it this time.
Sara pulled up to her sister’s place. Lizzie got out of the car and waited for her on the sidewalk.
“If we get a cat, I’m gonna name her Baby. Then I’ll have a baby all to myself.”
“That’ll be nice,” she said as the three of them went up to the house.