I ALWAYS thought my 14-year-old foster niece could be a model. Probably because she told me so at least once a week. And Amber was beautiful, with light freckles on her nose, a cynical smile and an expression roughly translated to “I’m a bitch and proud of it”.
She carried blonde naivety on her skinny shoulders, thinking perhaps she wasn’t innocent but that it was a good thing. Adding to the image was the blue and white Catholic schoolgirl uniform she wore to school each day.
My crush wasn’t fully formed yet. Because she was an older sister to me. But I was jealous for her attention, like a little boy pampered by his cute babysitter.
She used to tell me the facts of life. Later it was to be the birds and the bees talk.
But one of the first confessions was that she started smoking. “You can’t tell anybody,” she said, while we watched Sideshow Bob on her TV threaten to destroy Springfield with a nuclear bomb.
I swore I wouldn’t.
As soon as I went home I walked into my foster mother’s bedroom, which was our unofficial lounge room. I stared at Amber’s grandmother, lying wearily in her bed.
“What?” she said.
“Amber’s smoking now.”