She had just turned seventeen years old. She had been a ward of the court for five years and was now legally declared an adult. She was to move out of the current foster home and learn to take care of herself. Without a car, a job, or a roof over her head, she was unable to begin the self care phase.
Her mother was living 1000 miles away and sounded stable and calm the last time they spoke on the phone. With no other choices available, she called her mother and asked if she could try to live with her. If she moved in with her mother, she would finish the last semester of high school in the city near her mother's job. An agreement was reached and the mother drove south to pick up the newly declared adult woman and her few possessions.
She had no problem registering in school. She didn't need to take many classes for her final semester in order to graduate, so she spent time working in the school office when she wasn't in a class. This school was larger and the buildings were older and three stories compared to the newer single level sprawling southern school.
With ambivalent feelings, she familiarized herself with the class locations and mentally mapped a strategy for stops at the locker to exchange books and supplies.
Her third day of school she followed the now familiar trek from the top floor classroom to the crowded stairway. Down she trudged, holding tightly to the books and watching the faces of students ascending as they pushed and jostled each other. She didn't know anyone but she didn't feel lonely.
Then into her vision a boy made his way past her and their eyes met briefly. When she reached the last step she raised her head and looked up through the opening to the very top of the stairs. He had reached the top and turned to look down at the exact same moment. Two Mona Lisa smiles.