Jill comes home.

Life was being a real pain. Just when I thought I was gonna get out of it, I got pulled back in and everything changed on me. I really didnít know what to do.

My real mom and dad were drunks and druggies since as far back as I could remember. Dad left when mom got rundown outside a bar one night. Guess he didnít want to sleep with a cripple. She stuck with me though, and she did her best. When I got old enough I started helping out with the money. Things got a little better, but I had to start watching my back all the time. If it wasnít the hoods it was the cops. I couldnít win.

Then I thought I was gonna die. This energy drink turned out it was poisoned. It was really kind of a relief. I didnít want to kill myself, but if I accidentally died cause I got poisoned, well at least it was over.

That didnít work out though. Three months later, I woke up in a hospital with tubes all in me and while I was there I found out mom had died. Great, now no one cared about me. Why save me? † Why not just let me go? Anyways, things got really all bright and sun-shiny (NOT) when I found out the state was gonna put me in the foster-care system. Like anyone wants a 16 year old with a history like mine. But hey, I got food and a bed that I didnít have to hide from the cops to sleep in. Still I was just another kid in a huge bunch of kids treated like cattle. Figured it was gonna be the same old, ummmm,Ö stuff in a different bag. Yea.

So anyways, I was really ready to just bag that whole deal and cut-out when they said I had someone that wanted me to stay with them. Great, I figured. Shuffled off again. Well, at least getting out of someoneís house would be easier than getting out of this place. Actually I could do that too, but, well, yeah. Anyway.

So this couple of millionaires came to see me. No kidding! And they acted like they really wanted me. At least they werenít trying to get a kid to get the state to give them money. You hear about it all the time, you know? People take in foster kids cause they donít have enough money and the state pays them pretty good to keep you. But these people, the Somebodys, didnít figure like that. Nothing they had was cheap, and they had a Cadillac they drove up in. People lease Mercedesí and BMWís because they canít afford them. People donít lease Caddys because they arenít cool. ; People who have Cadillacs actually own them. Money. Money is cool. I could go with them and rip them off. Then Iíd have some bank, 'til someone robbed me. I could go with them and stay. Iíd have it good 'til they left me, I could just stick it out 'til then!

So after some interviews and all they signed all the papers. I knew they were loaded cause the state lady wanted them to adopt her! I figured it was probably cool and all but Iíd have to see. So me and my stuff got in their car and went to their house.

Oh my God! Their house! Their House! Holy get outta town! This place was gigantic! Bigger than the whole state foster care center I was in. It was just their house! This maid came out and started fussing about me like I was the queen or something. She and Jacque took me in the house and showed me to my room. It was as big as momís whole house was! And I didnít have to share it with anyone! And it was all done up like I told them my room was at home! My room at momís wasnít really anything like I told them. I wish! But here it was! All of it. Then Jim came in carrying my stuff. He asked me where I wanted it, too! Everyone else has always been like, ďOk, hereís your stuff,Ē and they just dump it. He waited Ďtil I made up my mind and then when I changed my mind, and he moved it! Weird!

But it got weirder! After Jim left, Jacque told me told me that I should get dressed, that we would make Jim take us out someplace nice. The maid steered me at one of the closets and it had all these dresses and stuff in it. She said they were my size. I never wear dresses, and I said so. The maid just said that it was because I never had any. True. So then she showed me my bathroom. My bathroom. You could only get to it through my bedroom. My bedroom! I lost it. I started crying. The maid acted like her only reason to live was to comfort me. Jacque came in and sat next to me and held me. Jim came in and stayed a while and talked to me. I couldnít take it. It was too much. I had to get everything sorted out. I hid in the bathroom and shut the door and cried and cried.

What was I gonna do when they got tired of me and made me leave? Cause this was NOT gonna last. Good stuff never does, there is always ďthe rest of the story.Ē Just once, I wanted to catch a break and have something like this actually happen and it be for real. Just once!

But the weirdness continued, cause Jim started talking to me through the bathroom door, and he told me this was for real, and this was my room and it was gonna stay that way. He told me no one was gonna make me move out, no one was gonna wake me up and ruin the dream. Like he was reading my mind or something. Then he asked if I was decent. I was crying too hard to answer, so Jacque opened the door and looked in. ; I tried to say, ďGo away,Ē but I couldnít say it. Then Jim came in, sat on the chair (there was chair in my bathroom besides just the toilet) and just sat there. He took my hand and I kept crying. Then after a while I let him hold me, I just buried my face in his shirt and cried. He just sat there, holding me. No one ever did that before. I ruined his shirt, and he didnít even care. He said I was more important.

How could things change so much? How could a man hold me in front of his wife, without hiding or being ashamed? How come he wasnít trying anything? Why did I suddenly feel safe? Jacque was happy. Maetta (the maid) was happy. No one wanted anything from me. No one was making me do anything. It was like everyone was interested in me. They werenít trying to make me stop crying, they werenít trying to fix everything, they werenít trying to make me tell them what was wrong, they were just there. I was crying and it was ok. Jim held me and let me cry. I must have cried for an hour.

We stayed in that night. We ordered pizza and I had one made just for me with heavy pepperoni, my favorite! We sat around in my room and ate pizza with the maid. Too weird! We talked. Well ok, I asked lots of questions, and they answered.

They told me how long I was gonna stay. Actually what they said was they were prepared to adopt me, if I wanted. OH YEAH! I wanted, but I didnít say so yet, cause I was still scared.

They told me how they got so rich. They teach others how to make money. They travel around doing seminars and stuff teaching other people how to make money. If the people at the seminars actually make money, they turn around and teach seminars to even more people. No way, I thought, thatís too easy. It canít be that simple, and I said so. They didnít even argue with me, they just said that they got started when they heard a seminar too. This was too weird.

They told me where I was gonna go to school. Ok, not exactly. I asked and they said that first they wanted to know if I had anyplace in mind. What? They said that it was up to me, that we would look at the local high school, a couple private schools, and then think about home school. Since when do I get a choice? Jim said that when you have money, you get to have choices. Since I was now their daughter, I had money and therefore choices. I quietly cried and ate pizza for a little while.

Pretty soon we broke up the party and went to bed. I got up several times that night. I looked at my bathroom. I took a bath. I tried on dresses. I looked around the hallway. It was 10 feet wide. The hallway was bigger than any room I had ever seen in a house before. It was so big it had furniture in it. I discovered my bedroom had a balcony. Finally I managed to pass out after having more pizza (they left the rest on what they called my bureau).

I woke up the next morning thinking I was dreaming. I was on a huge, soft bed in a huge bedroom with all kinds of beautiful furniture in it. And my suitcase. And pizza boxes on this roll-top desk thing. My suitcase and the pizza boxes were the only things that were not all nice and tidy. There was a canopy over the top of the bed like the one I imagined when I talked to that Jim and Jacque couple that said they wanted to foster me. Except they were supposed to come and get me yesterday,Ö And they donít let you have pizza in your room at the foster group home,Ö And there isnít a maid named Maetta who opens the door and says, ďGood Morning! You are cordially invited to join us for breakfast! What would you like to have for breakfast this morning, Miss Jill?Ē

I could smell pancakes and sausage. I knew I couldnít be dreaming, no dream was ever this good. I asked, ďMaetta, is this for real?Ē

She told me, ďHoney, I donít know if its for real or not, but I been working here for 6 months and it ainít faded yet!Ē I went over and hugged her. Thatís when I noticed I was still wearing one of the dresses I tried on last night. I started to change, but Maetta said I should just keep it on. She fussed with my hair for a minute after she told me to put my arms down. Then she told me I looked Ďradiantí and I should go to breakfast and show myself.

I was wrong. It wasnít pancakes and sausage, it was biscuits and sausage. And eggs, and gravy, and bacon, and stuff. If this was for real I was staying. If not, I did not want to wake up. Jim said I looked great, Jacque said beautiful. She was wearing a big fluffy pink robe, Jim was in one of those golf shirts and jeans.

The table was all decked out really nice with plates and silverware and cups and glasses and everything set up exactly where it was supposed to be. I realized I didnít know this stuff, I didnít know what to do or how to do it. I was afraid to do anything. Jacque said, ďhave a seat!Ē

I sat down,†but I didnít know what to do next. Maetta asked, ďWhatís the matter? Donít you see nothiní you want?Ē I said, ďYes, but,ÖĒ I didnít know what to say. I was embarrassed. I had no idea how to act.

Jim and Jacque didnít seem to have that problem. They started loading their plates, Jim just reached for stuff. Jacque asked him to pass stuff, and he did. He just did what he wanted, Jacque did what she wanted, only she did it differently from what Jim did. He kept asking me if I wanted whatever he had in his hands before he put it down. I kept saying, ďyes,Ē and heíd hand it to me. Jim carefully arranged his carefully cut in half biscuits, carefully put one sausage patty on top of each one, carefully put some scrambled eggs on top of that, and then just dumped gravy all over everything. Jacque ripped open a biscuit and put butter and jelly on one half and ate civilly. Jim dug in. Jacque ate more slowly but with her hands, Jim used his knife and fork.

I finally gave up and asked, ďis there any special way Iím supposed to do this?Ē

Everyone answered at once, but they all said the same thing. Basically anything I did was okay as long as I ate and didnít throw stuff. Jim asked for a napkin. Maetta threw it to him. Jacque laughed. Everyone was having fun. Weird.

Jim finally said something that made sense, ďWhen youíre broke, you donít have any options so it doesnít matter what you do. When you are getting by, you have to be careful what you do because you canít afford mistakes. When you are well off, you try to impress everyone by always doing things just so because you want everyone to know youíve arrived. When you are rich, you have options, so it doesnít matter what you do.Ē Okay, it didnít make sense at the time, but I understand it now. You go from helpless to struggling to image-conscious to free. Jim is kinda wordy sometimes.

That day, they showed me the house. We played. They showed me my new stuff. We played. They explained how they had to read and study everyday. We played. They explained that they didnít have regular jobs, they were self-employed. We played. Basically, I decided I liked it here a lot. Even if it was weird.

I had to tell them stuff. †I told them about my real Father and Mother. They listened. I told them things I used to do to get money. They listened. I told them I had used drugs, lots of drugs. They listened. I told them how I was gonna run away from the foster center. They listened. I told them how I thought about coming here so I could rob them and run away again. They listened.

They didnít get nuts, they didnít get all tough and break bad on me, they listened. I asked if they were gonna get mad at me. They said they didnít see why they should. I told them I was thinking about stealing their stuff. They asked how much I could carry. I didnít get it. Jacque said I couldnít carry enough to hurt them, and I couldnít carry enough to make my life better. She was right, what would I take? Jewels? Iíd be broke in a month. Nothing else was that valuable, so it would do even less good. Why was this so easy? How was it possible for my life to so not suck any more?

Jacque and I kept talking about stuff. After a little while, Jim walked in wearing a suit and kissed Jaqcue. He was decked out! While I was staring he kissed me on the forehead and said not to wait up. Then he was out the front door. Jacque explained that he was off to make some more money. He looked too happy to being going to work, and I said so. Jacque explained that it is different when no one is telling you that you have to, which seemed weird.

Thatís when I realized just what was eating me inside. All my life I had to do things. I had to worry about if dad was gonna hit mom. Then mom got run down and I had to worry if dad was gonna come home drunk. Then I had to worry if dad was gonna come home at all. Next I had to worry about mom. Then I had to worry about how we were gonna eat. I had to worry about if we were gonna get evicted. That was when I started to learn about how to get stuff the wrong way. Then I had to worry about other stuff. About me. And about the cops. And I learned that there wasnít any way out. Yet here I was. I was free. I didnít have to worry about what I had to do anymore. I didnít have any pressure from dad, from the landlord, from the cops, from hunger, from the welfare people, from the foster center, from drug dealers, from anyone. I had no pressure. What was weird was not having anyone leaning on me. I had Jacque who was not depending on me to support her. And Jim was gonna come home, not drunk, not hitting Jacque, just come home. And if I wanted, he would push me in the swing. I knew once I quit crying (again) that this was gonna be one nice life.

I would have to figure out that I didnít have to deserve it later. That took a few months to figure out. Jim was the one to help me with that, he has more patience with me than anyone Iíve ever known. The answer had to do with God and grace and being accountable. It had to do with not worrying about myself first. It had to do with using what you had for the benefit of others. It had to do with accountability to something bigger than yourself, that you voluntarily submitted to without having to. And none of that had anything to do with deserving. The more I understood, the less it depended on me, the easier it got and the less it made sense.

Jim answered that too. He said manís reason was not Godís reason. It didnít have to seem reasonable to us for God to be okay with it, and if God was okay with it, it was all good. He said since God was the source of all blessing, that he was the only one who had to be okay with it for everyone to be blessed. It was making sense and it wasnít. But it was okay. Because it was all fitting together, and my new life was proving that it all worked. So I asked why he had to worry about helping other people all the time. That, Jim said, was the key. He said that that was how he pleased God. Which was why God was okay with everything. I asked how he knew all this. He said he didnít, that he had to be taught, and that I could learn too.

I could learn too. I could be like Jim and Jacque. I could have and do an be everything they were and that meant I could turn around and help others, too! WHOA! Where did that come from? I never looked out for anyone before. Except mom. But that was because I couldnít.

I was dizzy. I had to learn how to learn all this stuff they knew. I had to know how they created all this peace and safety and happiness. I wanted to do what they were doing too. Then I realized that what I wanted was to be part of what they were part of. I wanted to belong, I wanted this to be my home.

ďNow youíve got it,Ē Jacque said.

ďSo whatís all this ĎGodí stuff about?Ē I asked.

Jacque started crying, and not from hurt, either.

It wasnít weird. It was for real.