The moment Carrie Wells stepped into my office five months, six days and four hours ago, I knew she was one beautiful package of trouble.
She dropped herself into the seat opposite, sitting just as she is right now, with the same world-hating scowl on her pretty face, the same hunch of her perfectly sloping shoulders, and the same nervous tap of her right foot. She told me back then, just as she will today, that she doesn’t give a fuck about anything.
She doesn’t give a fuck about claiming assistance and applying for college.
She doesn’t give a fuck about the fact she’s less than a week away from being homeless.
She doesn’t give a fuck about the latest foster family she’s run ragged these past few months.
Carrie Wells has a chip on her shoulder bigger than the file of case notes with her name on the cover. She has a wildness about her, and if those feral looks of hers could kill, I’d be a dead man right now, along with half of my colleagues in this building.
Her long black hair is glossy and thick, even though I’m sure it rarely sees a brush. The sprinkling of freckles over her nose give her a softness at odds with the rest of her appearance. Her teeth are surprisingly perfect given the generally dishevelled state of her.
They say she’s from Romany descent, although little is known about her actual lineage. She offered to read my palm once, then cackled when I handed it over.
I don’t know why she comes here. Half of me wishes she wouldn’t.
Half of me.
The other half is in the pits at the knowledge that this is our last official session. In four days’ time she will turn eighteen and her funding here will cease. I will refer her to other agencies, of course, but I doubt she’ll turn up.
For all my efforts over the past few months, I’ve failed her. My words have been for nothing, my time has been fruitless. Carrie Wells will leave my office today in a far worse position than she was when she first stepped foot in here. Eighteen and soon to be on the streets. A failure of the system.
Who knows where she’s going to end up.
I’ve got twenty minutes to make the last five months count, but she’s barely even looking at me.
“How was your week?” I ask, as though I think she’ll grace me with an answer.
A shrug. That’s all she gives.
“How are things with Rosie and Bill? Did you apologise for the carpet?”
I take a breath. “You tried? Good. And what did they say?”
“Rosie gave me that prissy smile of hers. Bill said nothing.”
She’s wearing the same filthy boots she soiled their new cream carpet with. She tugs at the laces absentmindedly. There’s a trail of mud through my office showing just how well she learned her lesson, but I don’t care about that. Cleaning the floor isn’t my job.
Carrie Wells is.
I’m a community support assistant for a non-profit organisation handling disadvantaged youths, and this gem of a girl is my client. One of twenty I’ve currently got on my books, and the only one that makes my heart race.
On paper she’s still technically a minor with a history of substance abuse and behavioural issues. On paper she’s a bad kid who doesn’t want help from anyone.
But that’s not true. If it was, she wouldn’t be here. At least that’s what I like to tell myself.
“They’re gonna throw me out on my birthday,” she says. “The minute I turn eighteen I’ll be out of there.”
“Maybe if you tried again… offered another apology…”
She sneers at me like I’m a total fucking imbecile. Like I have no idea how the world works.
She’s right. I have no idea how her world works. I have no idea how it would feel to grow up in a world where no one gives a shit about you. Without a family.
“They’re dicks,” she snaps. “I hate them.”
“You don’t hate them,” I begin.
“I do hate them,” she insists.
“Rosie and Bill are good people, Carrie. They care about you.”
“They don’t give a fuck about me.” She stares me right in the eye and I feel it in my gut. “They hate me. They’ve always hated me.”
She strikes like a snake, launching her skinny little body at my desk in a heartbeat. I have to fight to keep my composure as she learns right over, my stance easy and non-threatened even though my heart is pounding.
She tugs up the sleeve on her grubby bomber jacket and shoves her wrist in my face.
“They did this to me.”
They didn’t. I know they didn’t.
Someone was definitely responsible for the yellowing bruises on her pale skin, but it won’t have been Bill and Rosie. Those bruises on her wrist have been a constant throughout her file.