We were gathered around the sliding-glass door, watching the snow fall. There was already a foot of the powdery white goodness on the ground, and it showed no signs of letting up anytime soon. Everyone was excited to run outside and romp around in the snow, but Loren advised us to wait until the swirls of wind died down.
That was when the doorbell rang.
No one seemed to noticed it.
Even Caroline, who usually answered the door, was too caught up in the drifting snow.
I sighed, fixed my beige and white scarf, and trudged to the front door. I was hoping that it wouldn’t be some kid asking to shovel the driveway.
When I cracked open the door, I saw a girl standing on the snow-covered mat. She didn’t have a winter coat, just a white T-shirt, and was shivering from the cold. Her lips were almost blue.
“Come in!” I exclaimed out of pity, stepping to the side to let the girl in.
“Th-thank you,” she whispered through chattering teeth.
The girl came inside, stamping her boots on the mat and shaking snowflakes out of her long caramel hair. We stood in an awkward silence for awhile, watching each other.
Finally, I asked, “Pardon me, but, um, why aren’t you wearing a coat? It’s freezing out there.”
The girl shrugged. “The weather in Brazil is really different, and nobody bothered to tell me that there was a snowstorm going on here.”
I reached out and shook her hand. “I’m Nevaeh.”
“Eve Cortez,” she told me.
“Uh, Eve, I think that maybe you should stay here until the wind calms down,” I said. “As long as you think your parents would be OK with that, I mean.”
Eve brushed a snowflake off her cheek. “Thanks for the offer. I’m sure my parents will be fine with that.”
I twisted one of my blonde curls into a tight rope. “Great!” I smiled. “If you’d come with me into the kitchen, I could get you some cocoa and introduce you to my sisters. We’re adopted sisters, by the way, not biological ones.”
Eve jerked off her hiking boots and followed me into the kitchen.
I silently congratulated myself on being so bold. I was painfully shy by nature, and talking to strangers — even friendly ones my own age — was hard for me.
Nevaeh lead me into the kitchen, where a bunch of girls were crowded around a glass door, watching the snow fall.
“Um, this . . . this is Eve Cortez,” Nevaeh announced to the people that I guessed were her sisters. They all waved hello, and Nevaeh told me their names: Tracy, Caroline, Saige, Molly, Emily, Isabelle, Ivy, Savannah, and MJ. Nevaeh was the newest girl in their family, having been adopted in October.
“Eve is staying with us until the wind dies down a little bit,” she explained.
After we’d all gotten acquainted, Nevaeh asked, “What were you doing in Brazil?” She hastily added, “Remember? When I let you in, you told me something about the weather in Brazil being really different, and that’s why you were wearing a T-shirt.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “OK. Well, I went to Brazil with my parents so that I could visit my older brother Zac. He was living in the Amazon with some Brazilians as a part of his college experience or whatever. We visited with Zac, blah blah blah. Then my parents decided to extend their vacation — you know, go on a trip without kids — so they sent me home to Missouri on an airplane, but I kind of boarded the wrong flight. So here I am! I couldn’t figure out how to contact my parents to tell them I wasn’t in St. Louis, so I walked around for awhile looking for someplace to stay until they got back to America.”
I took a deep breath. I’d already repeated that story several times, asking other people on this street to take me in temporarily. They’d all refused.
“So, can I — I mean, well . . . can I stay?”
Nevaeh’s sisters exchanged sympathetic looks. “Of course you can!” promised the one with curly blonde hair and light blue eyes.
“Group hug!” exclaimed someone else.
Everyone came rushing forward, surrounding me on all sides and hugging each other. I was squished in the very center.
But the smothering hug was worth it, if it meant that I could have a home.