By JordanDrake 5 Comments
Jordan was elbows deep in his second stack of pancakes when his former case worker, Rhonda Banks, coughed and fidgeted uncomfortably and shifted a stack of files to avoid a drizzle of syrup as it overflowed Jordan’s plate. The cautious reminder that Rhonda sat across from him seemed to startle Jordan fearing that this had somehow been a set up and that the invisible threat he had been running from for months had caught up with him and were ready to close in. With the jerky, frightened motions of someone suffering from intense paranoia, Jordan glanced around quickly, his eyes wide and frightened and his nostrils flared. When no threat presented itself, he turned back to his pancakes and shoveled more frantically into his mouth.
“Its been awhile since your last meal, Jordy?” Rhonda asked from her vantage point. Her voice was shaky and her own eyes seemed to mirror his own, full of anxiety riddled fear. Except that her gaze wasn’t focused on anything but him.
Jordan closed his eyes and breathed deeply through his nose as a wave of bitter memories washed over him from his time in the foster system. It spoiled the appetite that came from days of not eating properly, a symptom of his current homelessness. “Don’t call me that Rhonda,” Jordan responded, aches and pains accompanying the words. “I’m not a kid anymore. I’m out of the system. I’m not your problem anymore,” he pushed the unfinished pancakes aside. The promise of an all you can eat dinner at the local diner was the only thing that had brought him here tonight and now that his hunger had been sated, he was eager to get back out in the streets and into the comfortable cover of night’s shadows. But the surge of emotions that Rhonda’s old nickname had brought back made him curious as to why his old case worker had come looking for him in the Dallas gutters. “What is it you wanted from me? Checking up on failed projects?”
Rhonda winced. That comment had been harsh and unfair. It wasn’t her fault he had never been taken in by a family and it hadn’t been her fault that some of the homes he had been placed in were cesspools of violence, drugs, and corruption using kids for running drugs or picking up a quick paycheck or worse. The foster care system was poorly funded and sparsely staffed. They tried to keep the system clean of lowlifes that sought to take advantage of it, but they weren’t the police and the system was mired in bureaucratic bullshit. Rhonda had done her best. Jordan knew it, but right now he didn’t care. She had reminded him of a time in his life better left forgotten and he wanted to punish her for it.
Realizing that she wasn’t going to get an apology from Jordan, Rhonda blinked the tears from her eyes and continued. “Its about the Miller’s,” she started and Jordan’s head whipped around to face her.
“Are they in some kind of trouble?” Jordan asked.
“I-I don’t know,” Rhonda stammered trying to find the words that would allow her to voice her concerns. “Something seems wrong…”
Jordan’s eyes narrowed. “What does that even mean? Are they hurting kids?” Jordan said in disbelief. His brief time with the Millers had been one of the only bright spots in a childhood that was filled with torment and the thought that they had set off some kind of red flags for Rhonda seemed impossible to him.
“N-no. At least I d-don’t think so,” she said, though the doubt in her face was unmistakable. “They just seem off. They only have one boy with them now and he doesn’t seem quite right either.”
“You’re not making any sense and I don’t have time for this,” Jordan said in exasperation, sliding across his booth as he got ready to walk out.
Rhonda’s hand shot across the table and grabbed his wrist. Her eyes were wide with panic again and her grip was vice-like and immediately cut off the circulation to his hand. “The boy’s like you Jordan, he’s special, and something is wrong. It’s in their eyes Jordan, please, you have to help them!”
Jordan wrenched his hand free of Rhonda’s grip, his breath came rapidly and his eyes widened again in panic. Somehow, Rhonda had known about his abilities. That had been a shock to him of his own, but to find out that he hadn’t been her only mutant foster case had been another shock. The paranoia welled up in him again and the whites of his eyes showed clearly all the way around his irises as his eyes widened. Suddenly he wanted nothing more than to be gone. “I don’t know what you talking about,” he almost shouted. Patrons gasped and waitresses dropped trays of plates that shattered against the floor as they were startled by the outburst. Everyone was watching them now. “Just leave me alone Rhonda,” Jordan said as he fled the restaurant and its bewildered guests.
Jordan didn’t stop running until he was miles away from the eatery and panting breathlessly, his stomach complaining about the sudden exertion so quickly after being stuffed full. With the distance and exhaustion came a certain mental clarity he had lacked in the moment. His paranoia had been set aflame by the very real and very sudden panic he saw in Rhonda as she relayed her concerns to him. Looking back he was filled with trepidation and concern for the Millers, the last family he had stayed with before he legally became an adult and was discharged from the foster system. The memories of the Millers were stark in contrast to the memories of life before them and they basked him in sudden feelings of warmth, safety, happiness, and regret that he only had a meager few years to spend with a pair of people that seemed to care for him when no one else did. Maybe the situation was in fact worth looking in on, but it would have to wait until the next morning. For now, Jordan was content to collapse into the tent that had become his current home and was asleep in seconds, dreams haunted by pancake fueled paranoia.
To Be Continued! Stay tuned for more!