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One Click To The Album Of Forgotten Families  

I could hear my case worker speaking to the couple, I put my ear up against the door to listen. Caroline, my caseworker, suggested we stay with them for the weekend. They said it would be a great idea to get to know us. I heard a chair screech backwards, I scurried down the hallway back into the room my sisters were in. Sophie, my 6 year old sister, was playing with those wooden beads you move across a stick while Emma, Sophie’s twin, was watching people going in and out of the building through the small window at the back of the room.

Zoe, my 11 year old sister, was watching the loop of ads that were on the television.

Caroline led the man and woman into the room. All of us looked up and stared at them for a few moments before the woman exclaimed, ‘Hi, I’m Julie and this is my husband Mark’, Mark smiled and said, ‘we’re going to be taking you to our house for the weekend to get to know you’. There was an awkward silence before Sophie got up and walked over to them, gave Julie a big hug and said ‘hi I’m Sophie nice to meet you’ I hated when she hugged all of the people who took us in as soon as she met them. The twins shyly answered when asked what their names were. They also asked Zoe but she didn’t respond. ‘I’m Izzy, I’m 14,’I mumbled.

We walked out to the carpark. The car ride was very awkward, with silence most of the time.

Their house was an average sized two story house on the outskirts of the town. They showed us around. They showed us where our rooms were. I had a room with Zoe and the twins had a room. Both rooms had two single twin sized beds with cream sheets. They left us to unpack our stuff while they made dinner. I offered to help but they refused. Dinner was roast beef with potatoes and gravy and lots of  vegetables. 

It was nice to have a proper cooked meal for a change. After dinner we played monopoly and had a great time, but this was nothing new. I was used to families being very nice to us until it actually came to them keeping us any longer.

I lay awake that night, wondering what they worked as, what their extended family was like, if I’d even get to meet them. I was just dozing off when I heard a door creak open and the sound of feet on the wooden floor I tiptoed over to my door and peeked out, it was Sophie, ‘what are you doing up?’. ‘Emma’s asleep and I heard a noise and got scared’, she whispered. I brought her back to the room and lay down with her.

I must have fallen asleep after that because the next thing I knew I was being shaken awake. ‘Wake up, Izzy wake up!’ I opened my eyes a fraction to Emma and Sophie practically jumping up and down. ‘Julie made pancakes!’. I got dressed and went downstairs. As soon as I stepped off the last step of the stairs a waft of freshly made pancakes hit me, ‘Just the honeymoon period Izzy, just the honeymoon period,’ I recited in my head over and over.

The rest of the weekend went just as smoothly, and to my surprise when we went back to the office Mark and Julie said they wanted to foster us to see how it would work out.

We were walking distance to my old school which was great because I didn’t have to make new friends again.

A week had passed. Then the strange stuff started.

One day when I had just said goodbye to head off to school, I realised I had forgotten my phone. As I went back upstairs to get it from my room I heard Mark on the phone. ‘You have to do it tonight or we’ll miss our chance!’ He growled. I ran back down the stairs as quietly as I could, leaving my phone.

Another day as I walked out of the bathroom I saw Mark coming down from the attic. When he noticed me there he swiftly closed it back up and put the lock back on. I acted like I didn’t take much notice of him and went back to my room, but really, I urgently wanted to see what was up there and why he locked it so quickly but either Mark or Julie were always around so I didn’t want to risk it.

One day Mark and Julie announced they were both going to a work dinner that night. They were both lawyers. They gave me instructions about taking care of things while they were gone, not that I needed any advice, I was very used to taking care of my sisters from a young age.

As soon as I put the girls to bed I started looking for the key to the padlock on the attic all the while I was thinking I was crazy and that Mark probably just wanted to sound intimidating to the person on the phone for work, still I kept looking. After an hour and a half of searching, there was no sign of a key or anything out of the ordinary. They said they wouldn’t stay long so I knew I was running out of time. I was just about to give up on the search when I spotted a bag behind the bookcase. Inside was an old photo album. I dusted it off before opening it. It was their wedding album. I flipped through the pages. A small photograph fell out of the book. I was shocked to see a young Mark and Julie with two babies in their arms. I flipped all the way to the back of the book and to my surprise I found a key taped to it. I heard the front door open and slammed the album shut. I hurried out to greet them. I said goodnight and went to bed.

‘We have no children of our own yet but we’ll get used to it’, Julie had said in the office. But why wouldn’t she tell us. And the key, could it be for the attic?

The next time Mark and Julie were both out I pulled the album out again. I went upstairs and stood on a chair to reach the padlock, the key opened it. I opened the latch, and carefully climbed up the ladder. Low and behold……..nothing.

Bin bags with clothes, a Christmas tree and Christmas decorations. I decided to look through the other things.

Under an old curtain there was a bag of baby clothes. There were also some baby toys in a box. Amongst the clothes I found another album when I opened it, I flicked through the pages in horror as I saw Mark and Julie with different children in each of the photographs. The twins from the other photograph. A baby girl in the next, a toddler, two tween boys and many more. All smiling as if they were a happy family.

‘You girls are our first placement’, Mark had said when trying to start a conversation in the car that day. Who were these children and why did Mark and Julie have pictures with all of them?

And most importantly where are they?

The stairs of the attic creaked,

I heard the familiar Click of the latch.

Recommended1 Simily SnapPublished in All Stories, Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, Young Adult (YA)