Richard. That’s what his parents had named him before handing him over to the state. He was a little five-year-old boy with dirty blonde hair and beautiful amber eyes that had tiny flecks of brown in them. He stood patiently by, his little backpack hanging from his shoulders, as I signed the necessary paperwork to bring him home with me. His sixth home.
I was thinking about how well-behaved he was an hour later when we pulled into my driveway and drove up the dirt path, past my solar motion lights, until the trees opened to reveal my, no, our, little white house with the red roof. Two bedrooms are all we needed.
“What do you think?” I asked, looking up in the rearview as we approached. “Are you excited?”
He just looked up and gave a weak smile.
“I know. Your case worker said you had been in six homes already and none of them worked out.” I said, “You don’t have to worry about that here. This is our home.”
“Okay,” he muttered. Returning his attention out the window as I stopped the car next to the house.
“Do you have any questions for me?” I said.
“Do you have wind chimes?” he asked.
“No, but we can get some if you like them.” I smiled.
He shook his head, looking at me with the most serious expression I had ever seen on a child, “It’s good that you don’t have them. I don’t like them. I hear them when he comes…”
“When who comes?” I asked, the smile faltering for a moment.
“The taker. He takes my family.” he replied, looking back out the window. “He’ll come soon…”
I wrote it off as an over-active imagination. The excuse that he created for being returned to the state so many times. My heart broke a little for him.
“Let’s get you inside. Do you want pizza for dinner, or chicken? I stocked up the fridge with all kinds of food. I didn’t know what you liked…” I said.
“Pizza, please,” he muttered as climbed out of the car.
The night went smoothly. He enjoyed some cartoons while we ate some pizza. He was very quiet and didn’t like running too much. I thought about all the things he must have been through at his previous homes. I swore I would make it better for him this time.
At eight o’clock I put him to bed and went outside for some fresh air. Standing there in the light from my porch, over the sound of the crickets and birds bedding down, I thought I heard a faint tinkling and it was gone. I turned around to go to bed, but found Richard standing in the doorway. My heart skipped in my chest from the shock.
“He’s coming! We have to run!” he said. Pure panic was in his eyes.
The tinkling became louder as a light clicked on at the far end of the driveway.