The house was huge and immaculately groomed. I could imagine English royalty living there if they had resided in modern California. I stepped out of the car and onto a soft lawn, greener than any I’d seen before, and immediately felt small.
“Mom, this place is enormous,” I said as I turned to her. “Tell me again why I’m staying here instead of the dorms.”
My mother rolled her eyes, visibly miffed. “I’ve already told you, the program requires every student to stay with a host family. Families who live nearby volunteer, and then a student is assigned to them.” She paused to do a onceover of the house. “Their house looks very nice. You should feel lucky that you were assigned to them.”
“I have nothing against them,” I muttered. “I just ….” But I didn’t complete my sentence, not wanting to give Mom another reason to harp on about the dangers of getting distracted.
“There’s no need to decide already about whether you’ll like it here,” she said, walking over to rub my shoulders. “You haven’t even met them yet.”
“Well, there’s a remedy for that.” I disconnected myself from my mother’s hands and marched up to the door. I pressed down hard on the doorbell button, to show this family that I had purpose.
A tall woman answered the door, and I knew that she must be the mother. Her hair was shoulder length and brown, and I smelled sugar wafting from her skin. Definitely a baker.
“Hello,” I said crisply. “I’m–”
“You must be Cassidy!” she cried, pulling me into a hug. Her immense height and my petite frame did not mesh well geometrically, making the hug uncomfortable.
“Yes,” I responded as clearly as possible in my current position. “And you must be Mrs. Harper.”
“Call me Mallory,” she said, smiling widely. Everything about the woman seemed magnified. Just her presence was enough to make me feel like I was being pushed downwards. And, as nice as her offer was, I wasn’t sure I’d ever be comfortable with calling her by her first name.
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