The Saga of Jenna

This is Part II of my novel, Jenna, about an eight-year-old girl from a dysfunctional home who is placed in foster care.

In Foster Focus Volume 7 Issue 3, we published the first nine pages of Jenna. Here is a quick synopsis of Part I and II:

Jenna is old before her time. From an early age she has had to fend for herself. She is the “adult” in her house. Her parents fluctuate between staying up for days and “crashing” for twenty-four hours or more at a time. One night Mom and Dad leave her alone and robbers break in the house. Jenna hides under the kitchen sink while they ransack the house. She attends school sporadically. Teachers and neighbors quiz her about her parents, but she has been coached and knows how to lie. When police arrive at the house, her parents make a scene. Her father blames Jenna.

The policeman shone the light down the hole and said, “Well, what do we have here?” He muttered something about, “Code 11377,” turned around, pointed a finger at her parents and said, “You two are going to jail.”

The officer put handcuffs on her Father’s wrists. Dad stared at Jenna, eyes blazing with anger. “This is all your fault!” he snarled.

Jenna trudged outside on the wet grass. She tripped a little in the darkness.

“Get in the car,” the policeman said. She started to reach for the handle of the police car, but the man snapped, “Not that one. Her car.” He nodded toward the woman who had come to ruin everything.

Miss Ortiz bent down and tried to smile, but it looked like she was more worried than anything else. “You are coming with me,” she said.

Jenna glanced over at the squad car. Her Mom and Dad were huddled in the back, still handcuffed. They bent forward in their seats. Dad glared at her, still angry. Maybe he would always be angry. He’s going to hate me forever!

“You are coming with me,” repeated the awful woman.

Jenna turned to her. She thought she was going to jail with Mom and Dad. Instead she was going with this awful woman. I’m going to have to live with her, thought Jenna.

She shuddered when the woman tried to take her hand. “I’ll go,” snapped Jenna. “Just don’t touch me. Where’s your car?”

“We have to get your things. Where are your clothes?”

“In the bedroom closet. The room with the poster of the horse.”

Miss Ortiz waved at the police officer. “Watch her.” The policeman folded his arms and glared at Jenna. Miss Ortiz unlocked her trunk and came out with a half dozen white plastic bags. She hurried in the house, and Jenna looked over at Mom and Dad.

It’s all my fault, thought Jenna. If the cops hadn’t seen me staring at Dad’s hiding place, they wouldn’t have looked there. They found something, and it’s all my fault.

When she came back all the bags were full. What did she steal, wondered Jenna. The police officer got in his car and sped away with her parents.

Let’s go,” said Miss Ortiz as she unlocked her car. My new Mom, thought Jenna angrily.

That’s not what happened. Instead they drove on the almost empty late night streets to a huge office building. They went inside and Miss Ortiz introduced Jenna to a skinny man with a rumpled tie and a wrinkled jacket.

“This is Mr. Harvey,” said Miss Ortiz. “He will take care of you,” and Miss Ortiz dropped the white plastic bags, turned and walked down the hall.

Harvey was moving a mile a minute, grabbing important looking papers and glancing around to see if he had forgotten anything. Somehow he managed to grasp all six bags in one hand. “Let’s go, sweetheart,” he said. He didn’t sound as phony as Miss Ortiz had.

Is he going to be my new dad, wondered Jenna.

She followed Mr. Harvey as best she could. He was taking long grown-up sized steps, and she practically had to run. They walked into the dungeon—that’s how Jenna saw it. A dungeon for cars. A huge parking lot only it was underground. It was dark and quiet. The only sound she heard was the clackclack their shoes made as they hurried along with cement. Mr. Harvey opened the back door and tossed the bags inside. “Get in, sweetheart,” he whispered.

They drove along the dark street. Jenna was totally confused now. Was she going to go from person to person over and over again? How were Mom and Dad? They must be in prison. Dad had been in jail before, but he never talked about it.

They pulled up in a driveway. Jenna glanced around frantically. This must be Mr. Harvey’s house, she thought. I’m going to live here. When will I get to see my Mom and Dad again? When can I get some sleep?

Mr. Harvey practically bounded out of the car. He opened Jenna’s door, reached over her and grabbed the white bags. She started to ask if this was his house, but he said, “Here we are,” and started for the porch. Jenna followed. They must have been expecting them. Someone inside was peeking out the window and they opened the door as Jenna reached the porch. “Here are her clothes,” said Mr. Harvey. He handed the bags to a tired looking woman with silvery blonde hair. “This is Miss Laurie,’ he said to Jenna. “Miss Laurie, this is Jenna.” Miss Laurie held out a hand and withdrew it when Jenna did not shake it. She looked at Mr. Harvey and motioned them inside with a nod of her head.

Jenna stumbled inside the dark house. Miss Laurie tried to talk to her, saying a lot of things Jenna could barely understand. “I know this must be hard on you. I’m not trying to take the place of your Mom and Dad. This is a safe place for you to stay.” Jenna walked past the woman and sat down on the couch.

The woman watched Jenna for a moment and turned to Mr. Harvey. In a whisper she told Mr. Harvey, “I have got to wash those clothes now.”

“And give her a bath,” added Mr. Harvey.

“How does she live with the smell?” whispered Miss Laurie.

“She probably doesn’t notice it.”

They dragged the bags to the washing machine, in the next room. Mr. Harvey helped her load the washer. “Relax,” he told Miss Laurie. “I do this all the time. Just fill those out.” He motioned toward the clipboard and the papers he brought with him and placed on a coffee table in front of Jenna. She noticed her name was typed at the top of the first page. That was all she could read.

Miss Laurie wrote something on some of the papers and dropped them on the table where the clipboard clattered for a second. Harvey finished loading the wash and picked up the clipboard, scanning the pages while Miss Laurie turned on something in a nearby room. Jenna got up so she could spy on Miss Laurie. She was running a bath. Steam was rising from the tub. “That looks hot,” said Jenna, but nobody heard her. Miss Laurie was too busy talking to Mr. Harvey.

“Just take care of that little girl,” said Mr. Harvey as he rushed out to his car. Miss Laurie shut the door, and Jenna heard the sound of his car tires squealing as he sped away.

Miss Laurie took a deep breath, she did not say anything for a moment; she just left the room. Jenna got ready for the bath. She put her toes in the steaming water, expecting to blister and burn her feet. She slipped and tumbled into the tub. She screamed but stopped yelling when she realized the water was warm, not boiling.