Acoustic notes and a rueful melody greeted them as their car rolled into the dirt yard. She could make out the shapes of other vehicles. A sedan there, and round welled truck behind it. The house rose against the darker expanse around them, two stories with a porch that probably stretched all the way around. The heavy-hearted music continued to waft from the kitchen window.
Ms. Avila leaned over the steering wheel and peered at the front door, screened and illuminated from within. The light turned her glasses flat yellow. “Later than we expected, but we’re here.”
The diminutive twelve-year old in the passengers seat gathered scattered candy wrappers, the remains of the bribe she received with every one of these trips, and made no comment on their punctuality. Lane did frown when her caseworker didn’t lock the car door. Then, looking out into the flat blackness around them, Lane thought she might see a light on the very edge of the horizon.
She kicked her door open gently and began to untangle her ear buds.
“No.” Ms. Avila shook her head and shouldered her bag. Lane could see her files peaking out of the fake leather. “We’re having dinner, no headphones. You know how this works.”
The stare between them lasted until Lane shoved the ear buds back into her jacket pocket. Ms. Avila relaxed and motioned for Lane to lead. She followed the girl up the steps, their footfalls causing the wood around them to creak and shift. Inside, the music stopped.
Her caseworker knocked against the front door frame. “You’ll like it here.”
Lane still made no comment, focused now on the approaching footfalls.