The Dominator

By: DD Prince

Tia

In a few weeks it’ll be my nineteenth birthday. Some say it should be my ninetieth as I’m what they call an old soul. A few weeks after my birthday I’ll be striking out on my own. Well, sort of. I’ll be transitioning out of the foster care system and into my first apartment.

My foster parents, Rose and Cal, who have been wonderful to me for the past 5 and a half years have arranged for me to rent the apartment above the garage at Rose’s parents’ home. So it’ll be my place but I’ll still be close to people who are like family; the only family I’ve had for a very long time.

Because I’ve been a ward of the court for the past few years, the “system” will supplement my income through college and pay for tuition, too. The foster grandparents’ home would be the perfect blend of being on my own and having someone around in case I need help.

Nona and Nonno Caruso have been like I’d expect real grandparents would be to me and the half a dozen girls that live with Rose and Cal Crenshaw at the moment. I’ll be the 5th girl to move into the garage apartment; the family has been fostering for years and they’ve helped over 100 teen girls have a home and a stable family for at least a little while.

I could’ve opted to move out and finish my victory lap of high school from my own place on my 18th birthday but they invited me to stay and being an only child who embraced this busy, hectic, and crazy house full of laughter and love and great food, I was happy they invited me to stay the extra year.

I’ve been in care since I was 9 and was moved around quite a bit before finding home here with the Crenshaws. My Mom committed suicide and that led to my already troubled father falling completely off the rails, landing me into the foster care system.

His partying and gambling got progressively worse and he’d always had trouble holding a job which was amplified without my Mom around. My Dad tried to move me in with his sister, my Aunt Carol, one night after he got beat up pretty bad right in front of me by loan sharks, but she’d said Not a chance. She actually said that right in front of me. Shame on her. And shame on Dad for asking her in front of me.

Not only did she refuse but she then called social services after coming to the apartment to argue with him because of seeing the way Dad and I were living. They took custody of me so that he could get his life together but he never actually did manage to do that for long enough to get me back. I was better off in care anyway. I thrived in it, especially once I got to the Crenshaw home.

Dad seemed like he wanted to try a few times --- he’d go long periods of time without seeing me and then he’d turn up for a visit, tell me he was doing better, then he’d sometimes even do a monthly visit two months in a row but inevitably over the past 9+ years, the more common pattern was for him to get my hopes up and then let me down and disappear for many months at a time. I stopped having expectations of him a long time ago. Becoming a ward of the court made it simpler. They stopped trying to make him try.

I’ve been through a few different foster homes but Rose and Cal’s has been, by far, the most nurturing of all. I moved here when I was 13 and not only do they go out of their way to make their home a real home but whatever isn’t provided that me or the other girls need through the “system” they take out of their own pockets. Three years ago they bought all us girls bicycles out of their own pockets for Christmas. The year after we got to go to Disney World together, on their dime. They’re amazing people and they’ve helped so many girls get their lives together. I hope to repay them someday.

Rose, a sweet round woman with a heart of gold, tells me all the payment she wants is my happiness and success. And for me to continue to be a part of their family. Come for Christmas, come for special dinners on my birthday whenever I don’t have other plans, have them at my wedding someday, think of them as my family. I’ve been so lucky with them.

Cal is an architect and Rose is a homemaker. They have one son and one daughter. Their son is autistic and one of my favorite people in the world. Their daughter Ruby is amazing too, with all the foster girls and with her little brother. Ruby has become my closest friend, like a sister, really. She’s a year younger than me otherwise we’d just get a place together.

I’m lucky to be moving to the Carusos’. It’s a cute bachelorette apartment above the garage in a great neighborhood and the grandparents go to Florida for the winter so a few months after I arrive, I’ll have the place totally to myself. Ruby says she’ll stay over on the weekends.

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