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Hooker
Author: J. L. Perry


 


PROLOGUE


The Past …

JADE

I’m cursed. Or so I’ve always thought.

But I think things are finally looking up for me. I can’t believe I’ve finally been adopted after all this time. For the past eleven years of my life, I’ve been shifted from one horrible foster home to the next. Today is the day my life changes for the better. Now I’m going to have everything I’ve ever wished for.

A real home.

A real family.

My adversity started the moment I came into this world. My mother haemorrhaged and died giving birth to me—at least that’s what I’ve been told. That alone can come with catastrophic consequences for a child, but that was only the beginning of what was in store for me. Her death started a chain of events that would devastate me. Losing his wife and being left to care for a newborn turned out to be too much for my father. A few months after I was born, he gave me up. That’s how I became a ward of the state.

Over the years, I’ve been inappropriately touched, mentally and physically abused, and almost sent to the brink of starvation by one incredibly cruel family I was unlucky enough to be placed with. Sure, not all foster homes are bad. I did, on many occasions, get placed with nice families. The trouble with foster care is it’s only temporary. And those nicer homes never lasted. Young as I was, it never took long to distinguish between families who fostered because they cared, and those who did it solely for the money.

The things I’ve been through in my short life would’ve broken even the strongest of characters, but not me. As the years passed and I realised nothing and no one could change my situation, that no one was going to ride in on a beautiful white stallion and save me from the miserable predicament I was in, I began to use my experiences to my advantage. Every hardship only served to strengthen my will to survive. And if my life has taught me anything, it’s that things aren’t always as they seem.

As we pull up to the front gates of my new home, I’m sure my jade green eyes are wide with disbelief. I pinch myself on the arm just to make sure I’m not dreaming. This place is huge—like, a mansion. My gaze traces the large initials moulded into the black wrought iron gates, as they slowly open. I wonder what ‘MM’ stands for?

The long driveway leads towards a large white house. This place looks like something you’d see in the movies. I still can’t believe I’m going to be living here. I can’t contain the excitement that courses through my body as I bounce up and down on my seat. I’ve been told that jade is supposed to be a symbol of luck. It’s even been said to guard against accidents and misfortune. I never believed that. Look at the life I’ve led up to now.

Maybe I’m wrong.

Maybe it’s actually true.

Maybe jade really is lucky.

When the car finally comes to a stop at the entrance to the house, the excitement vanishes as the fear takes over. This always happens when I arrive somewhere new. It’s probably because I never know what lies behind those doors. Some of the terrible places I lived in over the years flash through my mind.

Please let this be one of the good ones.

‘Are you ready to go inside?’ Cheryl, my social worker, asks.

She must see the uncertainty in my eyes because she reaches across the seat, taking my hand in hers.

‘It’s okay to be frightened, Jade,’ she says in a reassuring voice. ‘I understand this’ll be hard for you, but Melody handpicked you out of all the other children in the orphanage. She can see how special you are, just like I can.’

I feel a smile tug at my lips. Cheryl has always been kind to me.

When she lets go of my hand and exits the car, I do the same. After opening the trunk, she passes me my worn brown suitcase. The handle is broken so I tuck it under my arm. It and the few clothes it contains are my only possessions in this world. I treasure them.

After we climb the front steps and stop at the large wooden door, I notice the same initials that were on the front gate carved into the rich wood. When Cheryl raises her hand to knock, I take a large breath and square my shoulders. I’m a big girl now, I can do this.

An elderly man answers a short time later. He’s dressed in a suit. His eyes rake over Cheryl before landing on me. He has a look of disgust on his face. I don’t think I’m going to like him much.

‘My name is Cheryl, I’m with the Department of Community Services. This is Jade.’

He looks down at her outstretched hand, but doesn’t take hold. ‘M is expecting you,’ is all he says, stepping aside so we can enter. He seems mean. It brings all my worries back.

That thought gets pushed to the side when we enter the grand foyer. ‘Wow,’ I breathe as my eyes try to take it all in. I’ve never seen anything like this before. I still can’t believe this is going to be my new home.

‘This way, please,’ the mean man says after clearing his throat. We follow him into a large room to the side of the main entrance. ‘The child is here, ma’am.’

‘Welcome, my dear,’ Melody says, rising from her desk and coming to stand in front of me. She has a pleasant smile on her face, which makes me feel better. She was really nice to me the first time I met her in Cheryl’s office. I hope she’s nice all the time.

‘Thank you,’ I whisper, bowing my head.

Cheryl stays for a short time, but when she finally prepares to leave and says her goodbyes, my stomach churns and the butterflies return. I’m going to miss seeing her. I’m suddenly feeling unsure again about being left on my own in this big house.

Standing by the window, I feel sad as I watch her drive away. A short time later, Melody returns from seeing Cheryl to the door, and offers to escort me to my new bedroom. Scooping my bag off the floor and tucking it under my arm, I trail behind her. Silently, I count the white marble steps on the staircase as I go. When we reach the landing, she leads me down the long hallway until we come to a stop outside one of the doors. I can’t believe my eyes when she opens it to reveal the beauty within. My heart rate picks up the moment I step inside.

‘Wow. Is this really my room? Like, forever?’ I ask in disbelief, because I really can’t believe it.

‘Yes,’ she replies.

It’s so beautiful. Too beautiful for words. I’m so excited; I have to try hard to hold in my squeal. My bed is so big. It has a pretty pink cover and white lace canopy over the top. I have my very own princess bed. I take everything in as I slowly spin in a circle. I’m a princess, and my new home is a castle.

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