(4/5) “I spent eighteen months in that home. Then one morning a social worker showed up, put my stuff in a trash bag, and took me to the next place. Before the age of eleven I would live in six different foster homes. They kinda blend together. The sexual abuse only happened in one of them. But I was physically abused in three or four. There wasn’t anyone to talk to. Nobody ever asked: ‘Are you doing well? Do you feel safe?’ Not the caseworkers, or social workers, or anyone. But even if someone had asked, even if someone had cared—I’m not sure I’d have spoken up. Because I didn’t know what would come next. There were always worse places; so I didn’t want to risk it. Books were an escape for me. If I could get my hands on a book, I could sit in the corner, and shrink myself, and not be in the way. It was a way to keep people from bothering me or hitting me or making me feel bad. It gave me a little bit of control. Another thing I could control was my clothes. I loved to wear dresses. Especially colorful ones. When I was in care I wore a lot of hand-me-downs, and donated clothes, but I’d always ask to wear dresses. Even in the winter. Because I felt pretty in a dress. I know it’s cliché. But for me it’s always been so true. My time in each foster home would end the same way. One morning I’d wake up and all my stuff would be in a trash bag. I never knew when that was going to happen. They don’t tell you. Maybe they think that if they’d told you—you’d freak out, and run away. But it’s so much worse. Not knowing is so much worse. Just waking up and seeing your stuff in a trash bag. And feeling like trash. Feeling unwanted. It’s an awful, awful feeling. I think that’s why I loved school so much. It was the one place I felt praised. I had teachers saying: ‘Good job, you’re doing great.’ I’d read all the textbooks. I’d do all my homework. I signed up for all the after-school stuff. My teachers loved me. They took an interest. And at the end of middle school, one of them encouraged me to apply for a scholarship at a boarding school in Arizona. I was so excited when my application got accepted, but I had no idea what to expect. I’d never even been on a plane before.”