After the night of the incident, Mrs. Bock became nearly impossible to live with. She had always been unkind, but now she became hell-bent on making Ari’s life miserable. Ari was grounded. For the next two months, he was not allowed to leave the house, except for school. Every moment of his free time was to be spent scrubbing every inch of their small house or caring for Mrs. Bock’s growing family of cats. He was not allowed to read any books that were not required for school assignments.
Finally, Ari couldn’t take another moment of life in Mrs. Bock’s prison. One Saturday morning, before his foster mother was awake, he sneaked out of the house. First, he went to his favorite local spot, the junkyard, where he scrounged around for old computer parts. Ari had never owned his own computer and dreamed of putting together one of his own. Then, he boarded the subway and headed downtown. His very first stop was the huge library, filled with so many great books, that to Ari it seemed almost like Disneyland. After he had checked out a few books to read, Ari wandered across the street to the city park to enjoy some quiet time in the sunshine.
To his great surprise, Marisol Milito appeared in the park a few minutes later. “Hi Ari,” she said. She sounded surprised and pleased to see him there. “Don’t you live way out in the Flats?” The Flats was the nickname for the low-income neighborhood where Ari lived with Mrs. Bock.
“Yeah,” Ari said softly. “Just getting out for a while.” Marisol joined him in the sandbox, and for the next hour, the two of them built sandcastles and talked about school, music, books, and life. Ari found himself telling Marisol about his awful life with Mrs. Bock, which he had never done with anyone before, even Isabelle.
“She sounds like a real bitch.” Marisol pursed her lips. Just then, to Ari’s great horror, Mrs. Bock came stomping over to the sandbox, her face twisted into the usual scowl she wore whenever Ari was around. With a swift kick, she destroyed the sandcastle, then let out a torrent of vicious words aimed at Ari.
“Now wait just a minute!” Marisol leaped to her feet and faced Mrs. Bock, her face twisted into an equally vicious scowl. “I don’t care who you think you are – nothing gives you the right to treat another human being like that! Now back off, or I will call CPS and report you!” She whipped out her cell phone and watched with a smirk as Mrs. Bock shrank away. Ari was dumbfounded. He had never managed to stand up to his foster mother with such confidence.
Marisol turned to Ari and smiled. “Since you’re going to be in trouble anyway,” she said, “want to go out to the movies?”