• Kelly A Nix

Home Sweet Home, Part 1

Updated: Sep 26, 2021

A woman living alone in Boston during the pandemic brings home a new family member. Read it here or download the ebook.

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I don’t remember my birth mother. I remember a short time with my brothers and sisters in a place with others like us. We were the lost and forgotten souls, looking for someone to love us. One by one, my siblings were taken away to new homes and families. Each time I met a new family looking to adopt, I smiled and put on a show to prove my cuteness until I was finally chosen.

When I was placed with my first foster parents, I danced with excitement because I couldn’t wait to meet my new mom. I wanted to impress her and prove that she’d chosen well when selecting me over my remaining siblings. I bounced from wall to wall in the hallway so she could appreciate my ninja skills. I belted a song of my own design to move my mom with my creative ingenuity. I even pounced on my foster siblings and made sure they understood that I was mom’s favorite and that I deserved all of her attention. I tried so hard to impress my new mommy, but nothing I did made her happy. Instead of smiles and giggles at my adorable antics, she huffed at me and swatted my behind.

A few weeks later, she returned me. By then, all of my siblings were gone, and I was alone. For several nights, I curled into a ball and hummed myself to sleep. That’s the only thing I remembered about my birth mother. She’d cuddled with my siblings and me and hummed to us, making us feel safe and loved. It was a long time before I felt that way again.

When I first met Jeanie, I was the oldest of my age group, and I’d grown accustomed to my home among the lost and unwanted. The compassion in her bright green eyes surprised me, and I tilted my head at the heavy make-up covering her puffy eyelids and nose. Her carefully-crafted, blonde curls bounced above her shoulders with a lively excitement while she grinned at me from across the room. She waved, and I offered a loud greeting that made my playmates cringe.

“She’s perfect,” Jeanie said to one of my caretakers, who responded with a raised eyebrow.

“Her name’s Tina,” he said and handed my new mommy a clipboard of papers to sign.

When Jeanie brought me to her small apartment in Boston, she carried me into the living room and sat me down on the couch. I watched her toss her things onto the coffee table, then she paused as her fingers grazed a framed photograph of her with a handsome man. The young couple in the photo held each other close and beamed at the camera, but Jeanie’s eyes filled with tears as she looked away from the image, laying the frame face down with one hand. Closing her eyes, she shook her head and took a deep breath. When she opened them again, Jeanie offered a grin that was too wide and too stiff.

“Tina, I’m glad that you’re here. You’re exactly what I need right now.”

I didn’t respond. I sat on the couch and stared at her. She tried to give me a tour of my new home, but I wasn’t interested. I knew it was only a matter of time before she returned me, just like my first foster mother, so why bother making nice. Instead, I waited for Jeanie to leave the room for something, then I jumped down from the couch to sit against the corner of the living room. With my back to the wall, I watched Jeanie shuffle around the house.

“Would you like some toys? Look at this fuzzy toy on wheels.” She held up a small ball of fuzz, but I snubbed my nose at it. “What about this one? My niece loved this when she visited a few months ago with my sister. Apparently, two-year-olds and cats love feathers tied to a stick. Go figure.”

My eyes darted after the swinging toy in her hand. I couldn’t fight its mesmerizing hold on me, and I stepped forward. I wanted to touch it, squeeze it, and taste it. It wiggled in the air so much, would it keep wiggling if I put it in my mouth? It wasn’t making any noise; would it squeal if I smashed it? When I reached for the feathery toy, Jeanie tugged it just out of reach, so I stretched and hopped for it. She giggled and crouched on the ground next to me, releasing the toy to me. I hugged it to my chest and rolled around on the carpet, enjoying the crazy texture and over stimulation of my senses.

“Would you like a snack, Tina?”

Jeanie pulled a small pouch from her pocket, and I jumped to my feet at the sound of the wrapper. She smiled at me and offered a few snack pieces. I devoured them and climbed into her lap to demand more. She laughed and took the opportunity to hug me. I stiffened under her embrace, but Jeanie rubbed her hand across my back and whispered calming words. As I settled into her arms, she offered me another snack.

“My, you’re hungry. Why don’t I fix you a proper meal?” Jeanie said after I finished the pouch of snacks. I hopped back down to the carpeted floor and voiced my agreement. She stood and moseyed into the kitchen while I watched from the doorway. When she glanced at me over her shoulder, I realized that my first foster mother never smiled at me like that.

The tell-tale chime of a video call woke me from my short nap, and I stretched across my bed with a big yawn.

“Hi, Anna. It’s good to hear from you. What’s going on?” Mommy said from her makeshift office on the kitchen table.

“I just wanted to check in on my baby sister,” Anna answered. “Are you still working remote?”

I climbed from bed and peered around my open door to find that my toys were not where I’d left them.

“Yeah,” Mommy said. “We’re a small marketing firm, so they’re letting everyone work from home for now. I don’t know how long this pandemic is going to have everything else shut down, but at least I still have a job.”

Before my nap, I’d placed my toys in very particular spots along the hallway. Mommy must have moved them again. I yelled at her from my room and plopped down on the carpet in protest.

“Is that Tina that I hear?”

“Ugh, yes,” Mommy said. I practically heard her eyes rolling. “I’m in the kitchen, Tina!”

“I can’t believe you adopted...”

“I know, I know,” Mommy threw her hands into the air. “But I’m in love with her.”

I snuck around the corner and spotted the shadows stretching across the hallway. My ninja skills far outmatched the dark figures, so I knew that I could outmaneuver them. My eyes darted over the long space as I hunkered into the carpet and belly-crawled down the stairs.

“She sounds worse than most toddlers that I know.”

“Oh, she’s absolutely crazy. She almost killed me last night on the stairs when I stepped on one of her toys. I slipped and fell flat on my face. For a moment, I thought ‘this is how I die.’”