Tap. Tap. Tap. Goes the click of the cane Matt no longer needs, as he walks down the familiar hallway of St. Agnes. How he wished he'd never come back here. When Stick left him, he would have almost preferred making his own way on the streets, but being a blind twelve year old orphan left him with little say in the matter. Tap. Tap. Matt hears the rattle of a doorknob and the squeak of never oiled hinges, and stops abruptly so he does't walk directly into an opening door. Sure enough, Sister Mary Elizabeth is ushering another child out of the orphanage's small office. "Why don't you sit down and wait here Mary?"
"Okay." Matt can tell she's quite young, no more than 5 or 6, due to the high-pitch, slightly lisping voice, and the sound of her struggling to pull herself up onto the bench in the hallway. Without a second thought, Sister Mary Elizabeth walks back into the office and shuts the door. Matt pauses, listening to Sister Mary Elizabeth talking to someone inside the office. "Mr. and Mrs. Connelly, we're so glad to hear that you're willing take in Mary Sue for the time being…" Ah. Foster parents. Tuning her out, he continues down the hallway. Tap. Tap. Thunk. He's reached the bench. Matt tilts his head in the direction of the girl. "Can I sit here?"
She shrugs. Matt can hear the rustle of fabric as it bunches up in her shoulders. "Uh-huh."
He sits and collapses his cane. Matt can feel her staring at him, when finally she asks, "Why are you wearing sunglasses inside?"
He gives a not quite humored, not quite humorless laugh. "They're not sunglasses. I'm blind."
"Oh." She's silent for a moment, then says "Is that why you have a walking stick?"
"So you can't see...anything?"
"I see-" A world on fire. "Yeah. I can't see anything."
Silence falls again, and Matt wonders why he chose to sit down in the first place. He's about to get up and leave when she speaks again. "What's your name?"
"Matt." He replies. "You're Mary right?"
To his surprise, she gives an annoyed little huff. "Mary Sue's just what the nuns call me. I don't like it."
"Is there a name you like better?"
Her heart speeds up anxiously, hopefully. "Can you… Can y'call me Skye?"
He shrugs. "Sure. Skye."
Skye's heart flutters happily. Matt knows without seeing that she's smiling at him. "Nobody's ever actually called me that before. It's much prettier than Mary Sue though, don't you think?"
Not discouraged by his lack of enthusiasm, she chatters for the next minute about names. Matt nods in the right places, but he's turned his attention back to the closed office door. Sister Mary Elizabeth's voice obligingly comes into focus. "…Now if you could sign here, you should be pretty much set."
"Is she well behaved?" A deep baritone voice, who Matt assumes is Mr. Connelly, asks.
There is a slight, pregnant pause. Sister Mary Elizabeth then tries to recover by saying, "Mary Sue is…unique, but I'm sure you'll find that she has many wonderful qualities." Matt cringes. He's sure that any attempts in the future to describe him would paint him as equally…unique.
Beside him, Skye has gone quiet, also focusing on the closed door. "I'm getting a new family today." She explains, having no idea that Matt already knows that. She's excited, but there's also a tension in her that screams of uncertainty. Matt understands. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that she's been bounced around the system for most, if not all of her short life. She's old enough now to start wondering why.
Another snippet of conversation in the office floats by him. Mrs. Connelly, with a tinny and grating voice asks, "And what if we decide we don't want her anymore?"
There's another pause. Then, "If you should find that the fostering arrangement is not working out, there are several options for…"
Matt turns his attention back to Skye. "Yeah?"
"Do you think… If I'm good-er than I was before, will they love me?"
'I expected too much of you.'
Matt feels a sudden flash of anger, white hot. Anger at the Connelly's, who were already discussing how to return Skye, as if she were a broken appliance, not a person who just wanted to be loved. Anger at Skye, for bringing up a question he had been asking himself for the past couple of days. If he had been a better fighter, not so sentimental and weak, would Stick have kept training him? Finally, Matt was angry with himself. He knew it was his fault that Stick left. If only he had kept his big fat mouth shut… Stick might have been mean, and hurt him more than once, but he was there. He was someone. Now he was gone, and Matt had no one.
Matt reluctantly swallows his anger. It would do him no good to snap at Skye. Instead, he sighs heavily, feeling much older than he should. "I think you're good as you are now Skye."
It doesn't really answer the question. Matt doesn't want to lie, but he doesn't think Skye is going to be with her new "family" for long, regardless of what she does. Nevertheless, Skye seems comforted by his answer.
"Matt-" Whatever Skye was going to say, Matt would never know, because in that moment, the office door opened. "Mary Sue, it's time for you to go home with your new family!" Sister Mary Elizabeth's sticky sweet tone makes Matt's skin crawl. But he can also hear the undertones of guilt. Matt suspects she too is uncertain about the longevity of this "family."
Skye jumps down off of the bench. Matt hears and feels the soft thump of her feet hitting the floor. "Bye Matt!"
Matt feels a slight wind blowing in his direction, and wonders at it until Skye says. "Oh! I just waved by the way."
Matt gives her a smile that is mostly not a grimace. He raises his hand to wave back. "Goodbye Skye."
As Skye engages herself with introductions, "How do you do Mr. and Mrs. Connelly?" Matt unfolds his cane and continues his walk down the hallway. Tap. Tap. Tap. Maybe someday Skye will find a family. She deserves one. Tap. Maybe someday he will. He's less deserving. Tap. Maybe they'll meet again. He doubts it. Tap. Matt has a feeling that their lives will take on different paths. He gives her a silent prayer. Good luck Skye. Good luck.