“What is it?” dark haired Loki asked, nudging the half sandwich with his finger. Blonde Thor picked up a peanut butter celery stick and sniffed at it suspiciously.
“Ants on a log and BLTs,” Laura replied, watching the boys poke at what might very well be their first brush with fresh veggies. She’d once met a little girl in foster care that had no idea what an apple was or how to eat one. These boys had the same air of casual neglect that child’d had.
Thor looked up at her, beaming. “The raisins are supposed to be ants?” He grabbed a stick and bit into it gleefully. Thor had been very annoyed when she wouldn't let him eat the spider he’d killed with his taser. Apparently her offering of “ants” in exchange of barbecued arachnids had been accepted. “Yum! I like your style, nice lady! This is lots better than real bugs!”
Loki eyed his brother dryly, then picked up the sandwich he’d been poking at. He took a cautious sniff, said, “Bacon?” He took a small bite. Laura found herself holding her breath. “Mm, bacon salad sandwich! I don't like it when mother makes salad sandwiches with tuna, but it's pretty good the way you make it!”
“That’s cuz mother don't use real salad,” Thor said around a mouthful of peanut butter. “She just uses mayo and yucky onions. Who knew real salad and fake bugs were better than fake salad and real bugs?!”
Most people, Laura reflected, not sure if she should be so amused by that statement. Fake bugs, indeed!
Chuckling to herself, she dug out her phone book. The joy of a small town was that she knew most of the older adults, so finding the correct “Mrs. Cunningham” wasn't a challenge.
“Good afternoon, Sue. This is Laura Sanchez.”
“Oh, hi, Laura!” Mrs. Cunningham replied warmly but confused sounding. “How is retirement suiting you?”
Laura cringed. Retirement didn't suit her at all and the other woman knew it. She’d been forced into it by age and budget cuts. And perhaps a bit for her reputation for being somewhat disagreeable when people didn't follow her recommendations when it came to child welfare. She’d clashed a time or two with the long time educator over the years.
“The reason I'm calling is because I have two little boys sitting at my kitchen table. They showed up on my front porch, asking to use the phone to call their dad because they were hungers. Apparently, their mother left them unattended while she went to work…”
A weary sigh cut her off. “Coby and Brett. I doubt they were actually left alone. Their mother, Charity, probably left them with her boyfriend. She’s one of those women who thinks her obligation to her kids ended when she gave birth.”
“Do they sneak away a lot, then?”
“They didn't when Charity’s boyfriend was also their father. Unfortunately, she kicked him out about six months ago and wouldn't let him take the boys with him.”
“Wouldn't let him have custody, huh?” Laura eyed the boys slyly. They were eating very industriously. A little too industriously. They had clearly been listening in. “I may not be a social worker anymore but I still know a few tricks. By the time I'm done with her, she’ll be begging him to take his kids in.”
Two sets of startled eyes focused on her. Thor looked like he wanted to smile but was afraid to. Loki looked… thoughtful.
“Do you really think you can get mother to let us live with Dad?”
“Oh, yes, sweetie. I most certainly can,” she said seriously.
“Count me in,” Mrs. Cunningham said over the phone. “Those boys deserve to have a loving home.”