The secret ingredient
YOU South Africa|1 October 2020
The secret ingredient
Adam had never tasted hot chocolate like this before, nor had he ever dared get too used to one foster home

SIT yourself down, Adam,” Maria says, putting a steaming cup on the table. “ Hot chocolate. Liam and I always have one on a Friday night, while we watch television.”

I snort. “I’d rather have a coffee. Or a vodka.”

Maria laughs. “No coffee after lunch in this house – and definitely no vodka.” Then she turns away and calls for Liam. Not what I was expecting.

I take a sip. The drink is thick and sweet – delicious. The only hot chocolate I’ve ever had before was like muddy water.

Maria’s looking at me. “Good?” I shrug. “It’s all right. Tastes different. What d’you put in it?”

She taps the side of her nose – secret.

I’m about to take another sip when a whirlwind crashes through the door straight into the table. The cup wobbles and I splash hot chocolate down me.

“Hey! Watch it!” I’m on my feet. “Slowly, Liam,” Maria says, scooping up

the whirlwind. “Say ‘hello’ to Adam.” A little boy looks back at me. “I’m Liam,” he says. “I’m nearly five and

I can swim without armbands and I got a sticker at school today.”

He pokes his hand out at me.

I start to grin at him, see Maria watching me and bite it back. But I take his hand. “Hello, Liam. I’m Adam and I’m nearly 12.”

MARIA puts him down and he scoots into the chair opposite me as I sit down again. He stares straight at me like little kids do.

I stare back.

“Will you watch Spider-Man with us?” he says.

I shake my head. “I think I’ll just go to my room.”

He looks away, disappointed. But there’s no point getting friendly – I won’t be here long enough for that.

Maria ruffles Liam’s hair. “I expect Adam’s tired,” she says. “He’s had a busy day moving in. Perhaps he’ll watch it with us next week. And perhaps we can watch something other than Spider-Man.”

She rolls her eyes at me, taking me into her confidence, but I know all their tricks.

Make you feel like you belong before the excuses start – it’s not quite working; needs a firmer hand; clashes with the other children. I gulp down the rest of my drink and head upstairs.

The room’s okay. Some posters up – boy bands. There must’ve been a girl here before me.

There’s a knock on the door. Normally they just barge in like you’ve no right to any privacy.

“Come in,” I say.


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1 October 2020