‘They’re secrets and I’ll get shouted at if I tell.’

‘Who will shout at you?’ I asked.

‘No one,’ Aimee said, clamming up.

‘All right. But sometimes it helps to tell a secret. Bad secrets can be very worrying, not like the surprises we have on our birthdays. When you feel ready to tell me I will listen carefully and try to help,’ I said, although I knew it could be months, possibly years.

‘What? He did that?’ I asked, confused and disturbed. The referral had stated that Aimee had committed that shocking act of cruelty.

‘Yes. There were six kittens,’ Aimee said.

‘They were only a few days old and their eyes were closed. They were in the shed at the bottom of his garden. He said he wanted to show me something nice and he took me into the shed. I stroked the kittens and then he picked them up and pulled back their necks. I heard a click and they went all floppy. He said they were all dead and he threw them into the dustbin. I cried. It was horrible.’

Aimee’s reply was simple and plausible: ‘I feel safe with you,’ she said. ‘Last night I thought Craig might come to your house and hurt me. But at contact Mum said she didn’t know where you live, and the social worker won’t be telling her. So I thought if she doesn’t know then she can’t tell Craig.’

‘I understand, love.’ I smiled. ‘And yes, you are safe with me.’

Perhaps it was because Aimee had been remembering her last Christmas before she went to bed that she had a nightmare that night. Going in, I turned on the light. Aimee was sitting upright in bed, her eyes screwed tightly shut and her hands pressed over her ears, as though trying to shut out the horror of what she’d seen and heard.

‘I’m never doing drugs,’ Aimee said, as her mom turned the corner and was out of view. ‘Never. Ever.’

‘I know you won’t. You’ve seen the damage they can do. You’ll be happy without them.’ ‘Like you.’

Aimee gave my hand a little squeeze before she said, ‘I’m lucky. Two families want me now as their daughter. Before no one did.’

Aimee sighed and gave a little shrug. ‘Oh, well, I guess that’s life,’ she said. ‘You win some and lose some. But I’m a winner now, aren’t I, Cathy?’ ‘You certainly are, love.’

Aimee gave a small shy smile and slipped her hand into mine. I gave reassuring squeeze. ‘Good girl.’

As we closed the front door I said to Aimee: ‘Well? What do you think?’

‘Hmmm,’ she said, and placed her fingers to her chin as though deep in thought. Then: ‘I think they are nice. Just like you!’ And she rushed into my arms and gave me the biggest hug ever.

~~~

Eight-year-old Aimee & Foster carer Cathy ^^

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