Bethany Ruzicka

Black Hills High School

2020 Scholarship Winner
First Place

She asked me when she came if I liked my new house. A kind old woman in a brown suit,  holding a large clipboard and a leather satchel bursting with hundreds of other case files just like mine. She offered me a lollipop, the kind a dentist would hand out. She offered me a lollipop, and asked me if I liked my new house, and treated me like a child even though I was half way through being 16.

I did like my new house, and my small little room. I liked the sun through the window, and I would have told her that, but with the efficiency of a kind old woman holding a large clipboard she checked off a few boxes and told me she was glad I was doing so well with my new home.

I wish I could call her, and tell her now, that I really do like my new house, with my small room and my wonderful aunt and the sun shining through the window, but could she please uncheck one of those boxes?  The one that said this was my home? Because this house is not my home. I don’t remember her name, but I remember her words, and I think if I called I would tell her the words I could not find then.

I would tell her about the taste of summer rain, and impromptu dance parties with your best friends in the back of a dirty pick-up. About laughing so hard you cry, and about the way red Arizona clay sticks to your toes. I would tell her about your little sister saving you the last piece of pizza, and the smell of popsicles melting on the concrete. About the moments in between; a sunset like a bruise, a content sigh, a silent tear as your mother reads a card you wrote. I would tell her that I appreciated the lollipop, but could she please make a note?

I think I will call her, hopefully she won’t  mind. With her brown suit and satchel, she will pick up on the third ring, and I will let her in on the secret I have kept since the day she first came. Her job was to make sure my new house was safe, but my duty is to tell her that a house is not a home. For every other girl she meets along the way, who has to leave and never go back. Who has to sleep in a small little room with the sun shining in, and remember the smell of popsicles as they cry themselves to sleep.

The third ring will sound. A click for connection. A professional hello. I will take a deep breath, and say what I have always meant to say:

“Excuse me, Miss? Home is really what you miss the most when it goes away.”