Throw Away Teen
Stewart Falls Cheerleaders Book 1 by Shannon Kennedy Genre: YA Teen Drama
She’s disposable… and she knows it.
A survivor of too many foster homes, B.J. Larson is content living in a youth center where your status is determined by how long your arrest record is. And hers is lengthy. Then she’s placed in her 13th foster home in the small town of Stewart Falls, Washington - with foster parents who will “love” her, not just the money the state pays for her care. B.J. knows kids like her never get “real homes,” much less “real families.”
She's not stone stupid. She knows a scam when she sees one but if these new foster parents want to pay her for grades and trying new things, she'll get the A's... Ah heck, she'll even be a cheerleader!
Friday, April 6th, 2018, ~ 1:15 PM
Who cares if it’s a beautiful April day? The glare of the sun on the windshield killed my eyes. I wish Carol would hurry up and get her butt out of the youth center already. When I kept hassling her about this weekend, she sent me out here to wait in her Ford Escort that’s older than me. Whenever I bitched about the decrepit rust-bucket, my caseworker, Carol Peters just shrugged and said the would-be wreck was paid for.
I’d already checked out the collection of CDs in the shoebox at my feet. Gross. Carol’s taste in music seriously stinks. It’s nothing but country and something called blue-grass.
Gawd, I really want a cigarette. But I quit smoking at the last foster home. It wasn’t my idea. The baldheaded Nazi who ran the place like a boot camp washed my mouth out with soap and made me smoke a pack of Marlboros at the same time. It was supposed to make me sick, and it did. I puked for three days straight.
The jerk told me if he caught me with cigarettes again, he’d break two of my fingers and still shove soap in my mouth. He didn’t get the chance. I booked it out of there as soon as everyone crashed for the night. That was eleven months ago, and I still gagged whenever I smelled tobacco or Ivory.
Of course, it wasn’t the first time I’d had my mouth washed out with soap. That honor went to the old bat I stayed with ten years ago. She decided a five-year-old shouldn’t swear. I learned real quick to consider the location and audience before cussing, but I still hurled insults with the best of them. And yes, I still had what the old biddy called my ‘potty mouth’. No point in changing that!
I’d made up my mind when I arrived at Evergreen Youth Center last year. No more living with weirdoes. Sooner or later, one of them would kill me. I just hoped Carol came to see things my way, instead of yapping that this is a “transitional facility,” and I’d more than overstayed my welcome. What else is new?
I’d been in twelve homes since I was two and that was only counting the ones where I stayed more than a week. No point counting the one-or-two-day places. I wasn’t there long enough to even remember their names. And since they spent most of their time hollering “Bertha Juniper” at me, I ignored them. I went by B.J. and if somebody tried to tell me the initials stood for “blow job,” it only happened once.
Which is another reason why I’ve been in so many homes—foster parents get excited when a girl starts kicking butts and busting heads every time someone makes fun of her name. It didn’t happen as often anymore because I didn’t share my “real” name with anyone. Being a fighter was one reason I got along so well in the center. My roommate, Irene Hancock and I were tight. We’d lived together this time for the past eleven months and we always helped each other out. Of course, we’d known each other since we were little and ended up in some of the same foster homes over the years.
I stared at the hole in the toe of my Nike. Irene suggested spike heels, but those were impossible to run in, so I kept my regular shoes. I was wearing my worst outfit today, a skimpy bright red crop top that was so tight, it showed every inch of my boobs and the fact I wasn’t wearing a bra. My black shorts were tight, barely covering my butt. Irene and I talked about a belly ring, but I wasn’t stupid enough to let her do the needle and ice trick she’d used on my ears. So, I went for three earrings in each ear and one in my eyebrow.
I also slathered makeup around my green eyes and darkened my long lashes with extra thick black mascara. I put on tons of blush and lots of bright red lipstick. I have on enough make-up that I could work alongside my real mother, the whore from Aurora Avenue in Seattle. Not that I ever would, of course. I only dressed like a skank to get what I wanted. And that was freedom. The sluttier I acted and the more fights I got into, the faster I’d be sent back to the youth center.
My red hair was a tangled, nasty mess since I hadn’t washed or brushed it for three days. Between the hair, the cosmetics, and the skimpy clothes, my new foster mom should take one look and send me straight back to Seattle.
My legs were sticking to the car seat. I lifted one, and it peeled away from the vinyl. What is taking Carol so damn long? She probably felt the need to brag to the other do-gooders about this home visit. I didn’t even want to go. I was only sitting here baking in her car ’cause she beat me at our weekly game of poker. We opened on guts and played for truth.
When I won, I didn’t have to answer Carol’s sappy, dumb questions or do what she told me to do. Her favorite question had to be one she stole from a counselor—the old “And how does that make you feel?” It was nearly as bad as the one from Doctor Phil, “And how’s that working for you?”
Our last bet was about spending a weekend with two senior citizens who claimed they wanted to adopt me. Am I supposed to believe that crap? I never reneged on my bets, so now I was on my way to Stewart Falls, a small town in podunk Washington State. I was pretty sure Carol cheated this time, though. She’d hardly ever beaten me before and I had a full house.
It was hot today, unusual for spring in Seattle, even with climate change and global warming. I eased my arms away from the back of the seat. I’m melting out here. The only good part about this visit is no school today. I won’t even have to go on Monday. Carol had promised me a long weekend in the country. Not my idea of a vacation, but what can you do?
I looked back at the red brick building again and finally spotted her sauntering toward me. Even though I knew the truth about caseworkers, I occasionally liked her. I never shared that. Carol was my fifth social worker, and she might act like a rebel, but it was a scam, or she wouldn’t have lasted at Evergreen this long. She wore loose jeans and sloppy T-shirts, despite what her bosses said. Her long brown hair always swings free, the same way she does.
Most important, she talked to us kids like we were real people who actually knew stuff. Definitely a scam. My last social worker spent all her time talking loudly and calling me “dearie,” as if I was half deaf and stone stupid. She was majorly irritating, but not as bad as the one I had when I was little, who constantly lied to me.
Carol even spoke to Gabe Abbot like he was human. All the kids knew about Gabe. He was super good with a knife and ran with a gang downtown. When summer arrived, he’d head back to the streets. He always said the group home was just a nice, warm place for the winter and staying there kept him out of Juvie.
Granted, Gabe didn’t care much for Carol. He’d warned me more than once she had her own agenda. Getting rid of me, my roommate Irene, and him were at the top of Carol’s list. And yeah, I knew he was right. Then again, I didn’t have “stupid” tattooed on my forehead. I didn’t have to get into a big pissing contest with Carol, so she showed me that she was the boss and wrecked my life even more. I learned a long time ago that caseworkers always pushed us around like pawns on a chessboard, but Gabe had to fight the system and authority figures. It was why he’d been arrested so many times.
* * * *
“Ready for your new home, B.J.?” Carol smiled as she climbed into the car. She wore cut-off jeans today and let out a yelp as her bare legs hit the seat. “Ow! How can you stand this?”
“It’s not that bad.”
“Yeah, it is.” Carol stuck the key in the ignition and ground the motor. “As soon as I can, I’m turning on the air conditioning.”
“Does the AC even still work in this heap?” I shrugged. “Whatever. Either way’s fine. I can handle it.”
“You’ve been telling me that for the past eleven months.” Carol kept grinding the motor. “I’m never sure whether to believe you or not.”
“You’re still making hamburger. Want me to drive?”
“How about you wait until you have your license next year?” Carol tried again, and this time the car started.
“I already know how to drive, though.”
She frowned and drove out of the parking lot in the direction of the freeway. “When are you planning to tell me about that stolen car incident, B.J.?”
“Never.” I shut up. The car thing got me out of my last foster home with the control freak, aka Soap Nazi. I hadn’t stolen the car. I just took a ride with the kids who did. I knew better than to rat on them. Snitching got a girl hurt. I was fifteen and I’d bounced from foster home to foster home forever. It hadn’t taken me long to learn to keep my mouth shut about what my “sisters and brothers” did. I didn’t know what happened to my actual siblings who I’d heard about, but hadn’t met. All I knew were the other kids who rotated through homes as often as I did.
The old bat I’d stayed with when I was five made sure to remind me that my real mom was a whore whenever possible. And my mom didn’t just sleep around. She sold herself to whoever had the bucks, which she spent on drugs.
My second caseworker told me my biological father was just one of her customers. Now he was in prison for murder. It happened when he tried to rob some guy and the guy fought back. It wasn’t my old man’s first robbery, but this was the one that went south. Murder meant “game over” and he was going to be in jail forever. As far as I knew, my mother was still a prostitute, unless she’d died of an overdose, or STD. Nobody talked about her, and I didn’t ask. Both of my parents lost any rights they had to me when I was a short shot, about two years old. I was pretty sure the same thing happened to any other kids my mother had.
I was still short, five-feet-two. Like Gabe always said, “Dynamite comes in small packages.” He was the one who taught me to kick butt. The cops took me away from my mother when they busted her for drug use. If she’d cleaned up her act and told a good sob story, she could’ve gotten me back. Judges always wanted to reunite families, but apparently that was too much trouble.
I was dumped on the system. Thrown away. It used to be easy to get a home when I was a cute, little kid. Not anymore. It didn’t take me long to learn kids were taken for the money. The foster parents would rather keep the state’s money, not me. Whenever it seemed as if I liked a place, I got moved extra quick. And every time my first caseworker would say, “It’s better if you don’t get attached, sweetie.” The kids who survived were the ones who didn’t feel anything. After my first six homes, I got to where I no longer cared, and I’d tell anyone who asked that in a heartbeat.
The best place I ever lived was the youth center. We had three meals a day with snacks. Nobody beat us. Hardly anyone bothered to yell at us, except for the director, Dr. Herbert Murphy, not that we called him that. We referred to the old buzzard as Herphy Murphy and pretty much ignored him.
I did great at the center until Carol was assigned to my case. I had the worst record for any of the girls. And it gave me status. I’d been arrested for lots of different things, occasionally for stuff I’d actually done. I wasn’t leaving the center without a fight.
We headed north on the interstate toward Stewart Falls, so it wasn’t too late. If Carol took the next exit, we could return to the center and civilization in no time.
“This won’t work, Carol. You know they won’t keep me.”
“Settle down, B.J. You met Liz and Ted Driscoll last month. They’ve visited every week since. They’re great people. They even took you out one night.”
“Right,” I said. “Who wouldn’t want to go for burgers and a movie? That doesn’t mean I want to spend the weekend in the country with a couple of old geezers.”
Carol sighed and kept driving. “You’ll get used to it.”
The Driscolls were a paradox. Liz was short and fat while her husband, Ted, was tall, and lean with golden-brown skin, part African-American. He had white hair. She had long black hair with silver streaks. They both laughed a lot, and you could actually see the laughter in their eyes. They were older than any of the other foster parents I’d ever had, almost like what I thought grandparents would be like. Only they were nice.
I already knew it would hurt when they told Carol they wouldn’t keep me. Who needed the rejection? Not me. Not again.
I had plans for a good life and a real future. As soon as Irene and I turned eighteen and aged out of the system, we’d head south to Vegas. We’d deal cards in a casino and make major bucks. We’d share a place and live great, with a fully stocked fridge, new furniture from a top-of-the-line store and designer clothes.
For now, I had to do whatever it took to get back to Irene, Terry, and Gabe. When Gabe had found out about my home visit, he’d loaned me his black leather jacket. And if the makeup and clothes didn’t do the trick, he planned to call tomorrow night. Nothing like an offensive phone call to scare off some old geezers.
Oh yeah, I was so winning this round.
But there wasn’t any point in dragging it out that long. I tried again to make Carol see reason. “You know I’m right. This isn’t going to work. Besides, Doc Murphy told me I’ve got ‘Alphabet Soup’. Attention Deficit Disorder, Attachment Disorder, Anger Management issues and that’s only the A’s. I’m a complete mess. There’s no way I’ll ever fit in with a normal family and you know it. If they want a pet, get them a freakin’ puppy.”
Shannon Kennedy lives and works at her family business, a riding stable in Washington State. Teaching kids to ride and know about horses since 1967, she finds in many cases, she's taught three generations of families. Her life experiences span adventures from dealing cards in a casino, attending graduate school to get her master's in teaching degree, being a middle and high school teacher, and serving in the Army Reserve - all leading to her second career as a published author. She recently retired from teaching school and plans to write more books for Fire & Ice YA, the Stewart Falls Cheerleaders realistic fiction series and the Shamrock Stable series about teen girls and their horses. Visit her at her website, www.shannonkennedybooks.com to learn about her books.