Saturday, June 25, 2016

News at Eleven - A Novel (Copyright 2015 Doris Gaines Rapp - 9th Serialized Segment)

“How do you want to set this up, Becca?” Clisty asked as she studied the room. “It’s my apartment, but you’re the director.”
“First of all, do you think Faith will drink coffee? I’ll put some on before she and her parents get here. That could settle things down and make her feel at home. The taping of this first segment will probably be the hardest.”
“Coffee? Sure. If she doesn’t want any, I know I will,” she flicked a little nothing fuzz off the table.
“Do you want to place those two blue Edwardian wingback chairs in front of the fireplace, facing each other?” Becca asked as she looked around and studied the room.
“Maybe,” Clisty thought as she started moving the one nearest to her. “I don’t know Becca,” she said as she thought about the placement.
“What’s wrong?” Becca paused. “I know we moved the chairs from their assigned spots. You probably measured the distance from the couch and positioned them at a precise angle.”
“Don’t laugh,” Clisty said sheepishly.
“On, no, Clisty, you didn’t?” She threw her hands to her hips and laughed. “I knew you like minimal décor but I didn’t know you took it to a compulsive level.”
“Becca, don’t be silly. I ...” Clisty protested as she pushed the chair in front of her at an odd angle. “There, is that better?”
“It doesn’t bother me,” Becca threw up both hands. “The question is does it bother you?”
“I’m not going to worry about it. You put the chairs wherever who want them,” she laughed. The coffee table was a huge square tufted leather piece in dark blue. “I know the usual setup for a TV interview is face-to-face with nothing between you.” Clisty stood beside the table/footrest and studied it for a moment. “I’m afraid Faith is going to want to hide, to protect herself.” Her eyes darted back and forth as she checked the possibilities. “What if we put the coffee table between us, but just a little off center? It will give her a place to put her coffee cup and provide some separation between us.”
“That is brilliant.” Becca started to pull the leather piece toward the chairs. “Wait,” she pointed to ottoman coffee table, “I don’t want to scratch the floors. You pick up one end.”
“I’m sure it won’t hurt anything,” Clisty shrugged as she picked up the end of the ottoman. “I’ll get out some nice cups and saucers and a tray so the whole thing will balance on the footstool, while you set the stage, so to speak.”
The doorbell rang as Becca started the coffee. “They’re early,” Becca gasped.
“No, I’ll bet that’s Clint with the camera. Let’s hope. Faith may become anxious if things are still being set up,” Clisty agreed.
Clint carried the TV camera in one hand and an equipment bag in the other and plopped them on the floor behind the couch. “That’s an interesting set up,” he nodded toward the chairs and coffee table. “Open and closed at the same time. That should make her feel more uncomfortable.”
Everyone connected with Faith’s story knew her background. Long tall Clint would be the one to film the entire process, from Fort Wayne and west into Illinois, maybe Chicago.
The doorbell rang again and the show was on. From the moment Faith walked into the house, the focus had to be on putting her at ease while dragging the most horrid memories out of her fragile memory.
“It’s good to see you again,” Roma said as she gave Clisty a hug.
“Clisty,” Ralph nodded in her direction.”
“Thank you for coming Mr. and Mrs. Sterling,” Becca began. “I’m sure Faith will feel more comfortable with you two here.”
“We had to bring her. She can’t drive,” Ralph explained as he shook his head. “There are so many things she can’t comprehend. Not because she isn’t intelligent,” he whispered. “She is.” He kept shaking his head in disbelief. “Like, she hadn’t seen a traffic light before her trip home. She said she had figured that drivers stop on red and go on green.” His eyes glazed over with tears. “What has she been through?”
“We’re going to find out, I hope,” Clisty looked over at Faith and smiled sympathetically. “How do you feel, Faith?” Clisty asked as she hugged her old friend and took her jacket.
“It seemed like spring was late when we first got here, but now the trees are blooming and the tulips are up. It’s only been a week since ... Pooky and I went into the hospital.”
“Speaking of Pooky, my mom was thrilled to watch her today. You have quite a daughter. You are a good mother,” Clisty kept talking as she ushered Faith over to the two facing chairs. “She took to my mom like a second grandma.”
When the doorbell rang a third time, Becca went to the door so as not to break the rapport Clisty was beginning to build. “Hi Jake,” Becca grabbed his sleeve and pulled him into the apartment. “We’re already setting the mood in here. Go slow with Faith.”
“Don’t worry, I’m here only to observe.” He walked over toward the facing chairs and stopped near the couch. “Hi Faith, it’s good to see you again.”
“Again?” Faith’s body recoiled from Jake’s presence.
“I came to the hospital several times,” he said slowly. “Is it okay if I stay here on the sofa?”
“Okay? I guess,” Faith stammered.
“Do you remember my friend, Detective Jake Davis of the Fort Wayne police department?” Clisty asked.
“Maybe,” she smiled faintly then looked around the apartment. “You have a lovely home, Clisty.” Her eyes searched every inch of her surroundings, “It’s so clean.” When her eyes came to rest on the fireplace mantle, her eyes sparkled. “Your prayer angel,” she sighed with a smile.
“You remember my angel?” Clisty asked with joy in her voice. “Faith,” she paused not wanting to rush her, “we would like to film these conversations. Do you remember what we talked about the other day?”
“About what?” She began twisting a tissue she pulled from her pocket until it began to fall in tiny shreds to the floor.
“Would you like a cup of coffee, Faith?” Becca asked as she poured a cup. “Maybe a cookie to go with it?”
Faith’s eyes shifted from Becca to her mother. “Mama brought cookies to the hospital. I’m not allowed to have sweets.”
“Really?” Clisty asked, and then looked at Clint to see if he was ready to film. He gave a thumbs-up and Clisty continued. “Who told you not to eat sweets?” Then to Becca she added, “Coffee would be great for both of us, and, I know I’d enjoy a cookie.”
Becca brought the hot brew and a small platter of shortbread cookies she had brought in. “Here you are Faith and the pot is full. Roma, Ralph, would you two like some.”
“No thank you,” Roma waved her hand away.
“Yes, please. Maybe it will clear my head,” Ralph agreed.
During a quick break of coffee and cookies, Clisty tried again to make a connection. “You said you liked the flowers. There were always beautiful, large flower beds in Swinney Park. The blossoms were so fragrant; it smelled like perfume was always in the air.”
“Yes ...” Faith closed her eyes as a soft, sweet smile crossed her face. “I can smell them.” Quickly, her eyes popped open, large and frightened. “I’m not supposed to day dream.”
“You’re not allowed to eat sweets, or pause and remember? Faith, who gave you those rules?”
“They did, of course, the guardians.”
Clisty looked at Jake and the Sterlings. “The guardians? Who are the guardians?”
“My family.”
Roma Sterling’s eyes flashed open wide. Ralph scooted to the edge on the couch cushion.
“Their name was Guardian?” Clisty asked and wondered if it all had been too easy.
“No. That’s what they were, not who they were.” Her coffee cup rattled in her hand so she placed it on the ottoman. With her eyes cast down, she explained. “He said, since my parents sold me to them, I was their slave. But, if I was good, he would treat me like a daughter. He said he was my guardian. So, I tried to be really good, no sweets so they didn’t have to spend money on dentists, no day dreaming because that would make me a lazy worker.”
“Is that the way they treated you, the way your life went the whole time you were with them?” Clisty asked as the camera kept rolling.
“With him, yes. I could never call him by name. But, I called her, Lady. Lady would come into my room and read to me. She taught me all the subjects of school. She would brush my hair. Their son, Steven went to school. When I married their Steven, I was seventeen and he was twenty. He showed me love and gentleness.”
“Where did you and Steven live, Faith?” Clisty paused and waited patiently. She hoped she was not pushing her friend.
“In our rooms, of course. We used Steven’s old room as our bedroom and my room as a sitting room. There was a bathroom off my room. The Guardian helped Steven put a door between the bedroom and sitting rooms so it was like a little apartment. Sometimes, we ate our meals with Lady and The Guardian, but not very often.” There was a softening in Faith’s words.
“Did ... the man ever hurt you?” Clisty again waited. She didn’t want to lead her friend or coach her in any way. There could be no contamination, no recovery of repressed memories due to guided suggestions.
“Hurt me?” Faith’s eye lids fluttered and her voice faded. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Did he touch you in ways that made you feel uncomfortable?” Clisty’s tone was empathetic. She didn’t want to embarrass her or cause her to pull away emotionally.
“After he grabbed me in your living room and then drug me in the house once we were at home, he never touched me again, except to hit me. The only time he talked to me was to yell out rules and bawl me out.” Faith’s expression seemed to wilt, like a beautiful flower that hadn’t had enough life-giving water.
“Did ... the lady, ever hurt you?”
“Lady? No, not like hitting me or anything. She just left me all alone so much. Not ‘cause she wanted to. She treated me like her daughter when she was allowed to spend time with me.” Tears started to flow down her cheeks. “I was so utterly alone most of the time.”
“What about Steven? Did you two talk or play games or anything? Did he spend time with you?”
“The Guardian wouldn’t let him be alone with me.” Faith looked into the fireplace that burned with a soft glow.
“Then how ... ?” Clisty started then stopped and let Faith fill in the rest of it.
“The Guardian locked my bedroom door every night. As I got older, and he saw that I didn’t leave my room, he stopped locking it. With no locked door between us, Steven would creep into my room at night and we’d just talk.”
Clisty wondered if Faith was ready for the next question but she had to ask. “Did you and Steven get sexually involved? Is that why you were allowed to marry?”
“No ... no!” Faith shrunk back as she denied sexual encounters. “Finally, when I was seventeen, Steven asked his father if we could be married.” She closed her eyes again. Her shoulders relaxed and she smiled.
“Do you see those sweet memories, Faith ...” Clisty asked as she watched her friend’s face fill with joy. “Memories of your marriage and the love Steven had for you?”
“Yes” she whispered.
Clisty leaned forward and tried to breathe trust and love into the space that remained between them. “If you never went outside, and you never saw anyone, who married you and Steven?”

“The Guardian, of course. He’s the Head Master of the Freedom Temple. All the slaves obey The Guardian, even when he is mean and abusive.” Faith’s sweet expression changed back to the flat, marionette face of one who never thought for herself, she only obeyed. From somewhere deep within her, she began to repeat in rapid fire delivery, a pledge of allegiance by rote memory. “The Head Master is kind and good, full of wisdom and love. He is all knowing. He is the voice of God.”

Friday, June 17, 2016

News at Eleven - A Novel (Copyright 2015 Doris Gaines Rapp - 8th Serialized Segment)

“I am so glad you and Daddy are home,” Clisty exhaled in relief. There, in her parents’ living room, with the comfortable deep, down pillows of the couch supporting her, she was at home and felt safe. Her apartment, stripped clean of color and memories, except for the Prayer Angel that sat on her spotless mantel, was far different from her parents’ home. Nearly every inch of the tables and bookshelves held memories displayed in pictures, a multitude of books, her mother’s pottery collection, and the little clay self-statue Johnny Swanson had given his favorite elementary school teacher.
“Usually, I just pick up my phone and call you,” Clisty admitted, “but ... now I can see how fragile life can be. I want you close by; then God is in his heaven and all’s right with the world.”
“Well, I know God can make all things right, Honey. But, speaking of your phone, you do use it a lot. I’m more concerned about that thing. I bet you sleep with it.” Concern for her daughter was just part of who Carol was. Her smile was so like Clisty’s anyone could easily see that the daughter was part of the mother as well.
“I don’t sleep with it,” she protested reluctantly. “Actually, it’s on the bedside table.”
“See, I told you.” Carol Sinclair threw both hands up in surrender. “I read an article about how all this technology is actually making people feel less attached rather than more.”
“Mother, I’m not playing games on the thing. Rebecca, or the station manager, has to be able to reach me when there’s breaking news.” She felt her cell vibrate in her cell phone pouch, pulled it out and checked the message.
“Putting that thing in a pretty Bradley cell phone cross-body does make it easier to keep it close-by, but it makes it harder to get away from it too.”
“Mom, I can’t get away from it.” She shook her head as if to correct what she had said. “I don’t want to get away from it.” Clisty didn’t want to argue, and the truth was they rarely did. Still, she often had a sense that her mother didn’t think her job was “real work” because she did it in front of a camera. “The station depends on me to deliver the news, not just about the birth of baby lion cubs, but about a standoff between police and a bank robber, with a dear friend caught in the middle.”
“You certainly experienced all of that, didn’t you?” her mother agreed. “Clisty,” her voice grew soft, “I don’t say it often enough, but I am so proud of you. The part you played in Faith’s story yesterday was amazing.” Then she added, “And the cute little lion cub named Scruffy was great too.”
Clisty laughed. “You were watching in your hotel room, Friday light, weren’t you?”  She glanced at her text message again. “It’s not over,” Clisty sighed with mixed emotions and a tinge of giddy joy. “I’ve just been given permission to follow this story to the end. Becca just texted me.” Her fingers flew over the touch pad and she typed in out loud, “Yes, Becca. Wow, yes!”
“What’s the end gonna’ be?” Albert Sinclair asked as he came into the living room from the back of the house. He carried a bundle of sundresses and shorts over his arm.
“Hi Daddy,” Clisty paused and gave him a welcome home hug. “The ‘end’ to Faith’s story is as far as we can get, in our efforts at finding where she has been held captive all these years ... and, hopefully, why she was taken?”
“That’s quite a task. How long will it take to find the answers do you suppose?” He brushed some stray hair from her eyes as he had always done.
“I think we can do it—Becca and the team and I. We hope to get more location information from Faith, if she can remember.”
“Does she have amnesia?” her dad asked.
“Maybe. I’m no doctor, but, it might be something else, if we could really talk to her. Now, she just answers, ‘I don’t know,’” Clisty said and then thought for a moment. “When we do get a lead, Jake will go with Becca and I and the camera man to see if we can track them down.”
“Jake?” Carol and Al looked at each other with raised eyebrows.
“Okay, okay,” she blushed.
“Who’s Jake?” her mom asked.
“Detective Jake Davis, Mom. He’s with the police department. Laws have been broken.”
“You called or texted us almost every day we were in Florida. Why haven’t we heard about your detective before this?” Al asked with a stifled grin.
“He’s not my Detective,” Clisty’s protested, but inside, she remembered she had denied their closeness just yesterday when Becca teased her.
“Why don’t you invite him over for dinner later, here with us? You two can strategize on the progress of the story.” Carol slapped her knees with both hands like she always did when she had made up her mind about something.
“Mom, you and Daddy just got home. Dad’s still cleaning out the car. I will take you two out for dinner.” Clisty smiled to herself. She had finally turned the corner from being a receiver to becoming a giver, and she liked it.
“We do appreciate it, Honey, truly. But, we’d like to visit with you and I really don’t want to go back out on the road, not even down to George’s Diner.” She sighed as she stood up and took the hanging clothes that Al had brought in from the car.
“Here, Mom, I’ll help you with those. You take the ones on hangers and I take the folded pieces.”
As they walked toward the hall that led to the bedrooms, Al called after them. “It makes me no never mind. You two decide and let me know. I’ll get the car-vac going.”
As Clisty passed the bathroom door, she slowed and grabbed the door jamb. Her heart began to pound and her breath caught in her throat. “Oh ...” she closed her eyes as she felt her head spin.
“Honey, are you all right?” Carol hurried and dropped the clothes on her bed inside the bedroom and turned back to Clisty. “You don’t look so good. Let me help you.” She took the clothes that Clisty carried, put her other hand around her daughter’s waist and tried to help steady her balance.
“I feel ... so funny,” she leaning on the wall just outside her parents’ room. She didn’t move, hoping the hall would stop swaying like a swinging bridge.
“What happened?” Her mother asked as she helped her into the bedroom and onto the bed. “Lay down a minute, until you feel a little better.” After Clisty sat down on the bed, Carol reached down and pulled her daughter’s legs onto the bed.
“The bathroom ...” Clisty began but could not finish her thoughts. “I don’t know ... something. It felt like I couldn’t breathe, like I couldn’t take in anymore air.”
“Oh, Clisty, I am so sorry. I had forgotten how you reacted when they took Faith. It was a terrifying experience for you. They nearly grabbed you right along with her. You fought off that horrible man. Now, with Faith’s return, along with the memories of the home invasion, your reaction to that fearful day has invaded your thoughts again too.” She sat down on the side of the bed beside her daughter and pulled the down-filled duvet across her arms.
“How I reacted when it happened? I don’t remember much afterward, just the kidnapping itself. That is burned in my mind.” She pulled the cover more tightly around her forearms and closed her eyes. “I remember how his rough, dirty hand felt when he grabbed my arm. It was like a vise that nearly cut off my circulation. And, his foul breathe,” she almost gagged as her senses filled with the memory of his odor. “I slipped on the Monopoly game and fell,” she began to wring her hands and her lips were so dry, the words stuck in her mouth. “I’m so sorry I didn’t put it away, Mom.” She reached up and threw her arms around her mother’s neck. “It was my fault. If I hadn’t fallen, I could have rescued her.”
“Honey, if you hadn’t slipped on those cards and fell out of his reach, you would have been taken too.” She patted Clisty’s shoulder as she had done for so long. “Try to rest.” Her mother let go so Clisty could lay back, touched her hand and held it in her own.
“I can’t rest, Mom. I can’t remember anything after Faith was gone.” Clisty thought out loud. “What happened?”
Carol swallowed hard. She too had tried to forget the tragic events in her own safe home during the few moments she had been gone. “I found you in the bathroom when I got home from the store. You had curled up into a ball and you were hiding behind the door. When I asked you where Faith was, you said, ‘I don’t know.’”
“She was here when I left,” I reminded you. “Did she go home?” Carol patted Clisty’s hand. “Again, you said, ‘I don’t know.’ I didn’t know how you could forget such a thing.”
“When the police came, you told them about the treasures you and Faith had found when you two were out exploring. You said Faith had a little trouble with her bike chain, but nothing else.”
Al came in and placed Carol’s hotel go-bag on the floor in the corner. “Faith’s bicycle was still in the yard when I got home. When I checked it, there was nothin’ wrong with the chain or any of it.” He sat down on one of the bedroom chairs and listened.
“Oh Mama, I didn’t help the police at all?” Clisty was devastated. “I thought I remembered that I gave them valuable information.”
“You did,” her mother assured her as she smiled. “They said you were repressing the memory of the kidnapping, so they called in a psychologist to talk to you.”
“Dr. Phillips,” her dad added.
“Did the psychologist help me remember?” Her eyes blinked and she squinted as if she were trying to see into a past long forgotten.
“Yes, the repression was there but she helped you anyway. Since you were a minor, your dad and I sat in the corner of the room when she interviewed you. We had our lawyer with us. They treated the interview like a deposition, recorded it and then they transcribed the recording.”
Al reached into the dresser drawer beside him, sorted through the gold covered, jewelry gift boxes and pulled some papers from the bottom. He handed the few sheets of paper to his wife.
Carol took the legal size type written papers and smoothed out the fold lines with her hands. “This is the transcript of the interview. We saved it all of these years. That was such a difficult time for all of us.”
“Read what it says, Mom. I have to know.”
Carol lifted her reading glasses that hung from the necklace around her neck and put them to her eyes. At first she hesitated and then began to read the dialog printed by the court.
Transcript of the eye witness account of Clisty Sinclair, age 9:
Dr. Yvonne Phillips: “Hi Clisty. What can you tell us about the man who kidnapped your friend, Faith? It was a man, wasn’t it?”
Clisty Sinclair: “I don’t know what you mean.”
Carol placed the paper in her lap for a moment. “Dr. Phillips tried to reach your memory using a normal interview method. She quickly saw that wouldn’t work, so she began in a different way.”
Dr. Yvonne Phillips: Someone stopped by your house to pick up a package, didn’t they? Was the person a stranger?”
Clisty Sinclair: “What did you say? There was no package.”
Dr. Yvonne Phillips: “The package was wrapped in pink ribbon,      Honey. It was a sweet package.”
Clisty Sinclair: “I didn’t like him.”
Dr. Yvonne Phillips: “Why didn’t you like him? Was he mean?”
Clisty Sinclair: “He nearly broke the package he was supposed to pick up.”
Dr. Yvonne Phillips: “Did he put the package in the basket of his bicycle, like you and Faith do when you ride?”
Clisty Sinclair: “No, he had an old truck.”
Dr. Yvonne Phillips: “Oh, a truck. How do you know it was a truck if you were hiding?”
Clisty Sinclair: “’Cause it sounded like Grandpa’s truck and grandpa said his truck made such a racket because it was as old as he was.”
Dr. Yvonne Phillips: “That’s good, Clisty. I’ll bet the man said nothing about where he was taking the package.”
Clisty Sinclair: “He said if the package didn’t stop making so much noise, he’s drop it in the lake, ‘cause he’d drive right down Michigan Avenue.”
Dr. Yvonne Phillips: “So you know where Faith was taken?”
Clisty Sinclair: “What? I don’t know what you mean. I just heard him yelling about driving a hundred-sixty miles away, no one would look for the pink package in another state.”
Carol looked up from the paper and added, “Then you began to cry. When she started to walk out of the room, you whispered to her, ‘He’ll come back for me. I have to hide again.’ She told me that you gave them a lot of information that they needed, information they didn’t already have. Before she left the room, she told us that you were repressing all the bad memories because they were too frightening for you to remember.”
“But, I did remember a little when she didn’t ask me directly?”
“That’s right. She asked in such a way that you corrected her seeming misperceptions, which gave them a little information. After she talked to you, they realized that the man took Faith into Illinois, maybe to the Chicago area. They would never have found that out any other way.”
Albert had been listening, shook his head and then changed the subject. “So, what’s the plan about food, you two? I’d like to eat early, so I can go to bed equally early.”
“We’ll think about dinner in a minute, Al,” Carol got him back on track and stood up. Tears gathered in her eyes as she turned to Clisty. “You had nightmares for months after Faith disappeared. Actually, as frightening as those terrible dreams were, they helped you remember what you had protected yourself from. That’s why the memories are so vivid to you now and that’s why you healed after a time. Faith has lived through it every day. She has never started healing because she has never stopped living it.”
“Then, I know how Faith feels, Mom.” Clisty swung her legs to the side of the bed and stood up. “I feel better now. I’ll call Jake and he can come over after his shift.” She thought for a moment and added, “Faith doesn’t have amnesia, Mom. She’s suffering from the same crippling fear I felt on that terrible day when he stole her. And, we know where she was taken.”


The doorbell rang around 4:30 at the Sinclair home. Clisty hurried to the door and looked through the beveled glass. Although the prisms distorted the image with a rainbow of colors, Clisty recognized Jake Davis’s face as he waited on the porch.
“Wow,” she swooned, “that smells wonderful.” He carried a bucket of original crust chicken with potato wedges, green beans and yummy smelling biscuits into the house. In the other hand was a small pie; and a package of soft drinks was tucked under his arm. “Jake, how wonderful!” She gasped as she inhaled the perfume of the Colonel.
“Jake?” both Al and Carol perked up at the same time.
“Mom, Dad,” Clisty began as she took the chicken and placed the bucket on the table. “This is Detective Jake Davis and we have solved our dinner dilemma. Jake is treating and we don’t have to go out. And ... just for you, Dad, we can eat early. We’ll be out of your hair by 6 pm for sure.”
Albert Sinclair’s smile nearly spilled off his face as he jumped up and offered his hand. “Detective,” he squared his shoulders, “I am so happy to meet you. We have heard absolutely nothing about you.”
“Dad!” Clisty blushed and everyone laughed. They all shared great pats on the back and robust handshakes.
Jake looked at Clisty and shrugged. “All I’ve heard about you two is that you were smart enough to get out of our weather and spend your winter in Florida. What I want to know is how did a young man like up manage to retire so early?”
“Retire?” Al questioned.
“If you’re not retired, how were you able to spend two months in Florida?” Jake questioned as he removed the cardboard lid from the bucket.
“I had a month’s vacation; that was March. Then, winter decided to stick around up here. I’m the purchasing agent for Bontrager Manufacturing. Walt Bontrager told me to stay where it was warm and work from my laptop down there.”
“Maybe you can convince the boss of that next year too,” Jake suggested as he slipped his arm around Clisty’s waste.
Carol smiled as she watched the new couple together. “We hoped that Clisty would finally get away from her work and sterile apartment, come down and stick her toes in the sand, but, it didn’t happen.”

“Okay, okay,” Clisty halted the jabs as she raised her hands in a time-out signal. As the laughter settle like warm gravy dripping over the potatoes, she added. “I am glad my three favorite people have finally met, especially when another long lost friend has found her way home.”

Friday, June 10, 2016

News at Eleven - A Novel (Copyright 2015 Doris Gaines Rapp - 7th Serialized Segment)

Clisty settled into the chair in the corner of Faith’s hospital room. “I’m glad it’s Saturday. I won’t have to be at the studio this afternoon.” The aroma of freshly baked sugar cookies filled the room. Roma had artfully arranged them on a small platter and placed them on the over-the-bed table.
“Your parents will be home from Florida this afternoon, won’t they, Clisty?” Roma asked as she fluffed Faith’s bed pillow.
“Yes, and I’m glad.” Then she smiled sheepishly. “I’m an adult with serious adult responsibilities, but with everything that happened yesterday, it feels good that they will be home.”
“When life becomes complicated, it’s nice for us to pull our family and friends closer around us, isn‘t it?”
Clisty smiled the smile of sweet memories. Outside, the April day was glorious. There was a fresh dusting of snow, but the white was in competition with the pale green tree leaves that refused to wait for consistent spring temperatures.
“Yes, it’s always nice to have family around, but especially when the world seems to have tipped a little and things are listing to starboard. I’m glad it’s such a beautiful day. Everything about it is glorious, from the blue sky to the fact that Faith is home.”
Roma started to respond, and then her eyes grew large in pleasant anticipation. “Well, Pooky, I wondered when you would wake up.” She walked over to the bed, reached out and gave her granddaughter a long hug. “It’s nice that the hospital allowed you to curl up and nap with your mama this morning.” She smiled as she watched her new granddaughter yawn and stretch. When Pooky spied the platter of cookies, Roma added, “I don’t usually serve children cookies for breakfast, but this is a special occasion.”
“Hi, Miss Sinclair,” Pooky collected the biggest cookie on the plate, bounced down off the bed, went over and planted her feet in front of Clisty. She was so close, the toe of her shoes touched Clisty’s brown, lace up Saturday shoes. “Grandma said you’re a friend of Mama’s.” She bit into the sweet smelling, iced cookie as crumbs fell into Clisty’s lap.
“That’s right. I hadn’t seen her in a long time and I really missed her.” She brushed the cookie specks from her jeans and smiled.
Pooky pressed herself against the side of Clisty’s leg and silently slipped up onto her lap. “Mama talks funny, but I could understand her, a little. She said I could trust you.” The girl snuggled back on Clisty’s arm and rested her head on her shoulder.
“Disinhibited Reactive Detachment Disorder,” Roma whispered without looking at Pooky. “This whole thing must have set her back. She seems to let anyone get close to her.”
“Maybe she always did. Who knows what her life was like?”
“Who Grandma?”
“Someone Miss Sinclair and I know, Honey.” Roma brushed off the question as she perked up and listened. “It sounds like your mama may be finished with her shower. I heard the water turn off.”
“She’s taking a shower?” she asked as she picked up the locket Clisty wore around her neck.
“Yep. Do you want to shower when she finished? I’m sure it will be okay with the nurse. She’s kinda kept her eye on you too this morning.”
“Maybe.” She turned the locket over to see the engraved flowers on the back. “I want to stay with Mama.”
“Do you want to see the picture?” Clisty watched Pooky’s eyes and curious fingers inspect the necklace.
Pooky nodded and tried to force her chewed fingernails down into the place where the front clasped to the back. “I ain’t got no fingernails.” She hung her head in resignation, her bottom lip protruded like a perch outside a bird house.
“So I see,” Clisty tried to ignore the pads at the ends of Pooky’s fingers that stood proud of the nails, gnarled down to nothing. She looked up at Roma. “Maybe Grandma has some pretty pink fingernail polish. Would you like that?” Pooky nodded vigorously. “You might have to stop biting your nails if you want to keep them pretty.”
“Can we Grandma?” Pooky jump down, ran to her grandmother and grabbed her hand.
“Can you what?” Faith shuffled a little as she came into the room in clean shirt and jeans. She had gained enough energy to wrap her arms around her daughter as she eased onto the side of the bed. “What are you planning to do?”
“We were talking about painting Pooky’s fingernails a pretty, Petal Pink. Is that okay?” Roma agreed as she sat a cup of coffee on the bedtable she had brought in a thermos from her own coffee pot at home. “I assume you drink coffee. I can find you some tea if you prefer.”
“No, coffee is wonderful. Steven and I drank coffee each morning.”
“Steven?” Clisty asked as Roma handed her a cup from the basket she had brought in.
“Who?” Faith asked as Pooky hopped over and tried to help her lean back on the raised back of the hospital bed.
“Steven. You said you and Steven drank coffee each morning. Was that before he went to work?”
“Steven, where did he work, Faith?”
“He …,” Pooky began.
“No, Pooky,” Faith whispered in frightening gasps. “Nothing.” She sipped silently from her cup and glimpsed out the window with darting eyes.
“Can you tell us about the man who brought you to Fort Wayne?” Clisty asked.
“I don’t remember,” Faith stated flatly. Suddenly, the coffee began to slosh a little in the cup she held in trembling hands.
“I was asleep,” Pooky said as Faith pulled her onto the bed beside her.
“Let’s rest a little, Honey,” Faith gently patted her daughter’s forehead. She leaned back on the bed and closed her eyes.
“I’d better leave and let you sleep.” Clisty started to place her cup on the windowsill. “I can come back after you have rested.”
“No, please,” Faith reached out her hand. “I ... I think I know you.” Her eyes, rimmed in red, shed fresh tears that flowed down her cheeks. “I’m sorry.” From her pocket she pulled a tissue and blotted the corners. “No, no ... I do know you, Clisty. But ... I was told that you were killed the day I was taken.” With her hand held flat on her chest, she began patting herself as a mother would calm a child. “I ... don’t know what’s true anymore.”
With eyes still closed, Pooky reached up and stroked her mother’s cheek. “It’s okay, Mama.”
Faith patted her daughter’s hand. “I know only what they told me. I lived in one room.”
“Not all the time, I’ll bet,” Clisty cautiously coaxed. “You said Pooky went to school for a few weeks.”
“But, I never went out of the house,” Faith sighed. “Just Pooky.”
“That was when Grandpa was gone,” Pooky’s eyes snapped open. “I don’t know where he was.”
“Jail ... I think,” her mother said softly, with little expression or concern, as if she were talking about a stranger.
“Did Mama teach you to read and write and work numbers?” Roma asked. “You know I was a teacher for a long time.”
“Yes,” Pooky’s eyes flew open in amazement. “How did you know?”
“Because I taught her when she was little.”
Clisty’s heart jumped as she thought of a question that demanded an answer, but didn’t know how to ask it. “You know I have to ask you, Faith,” she began with a smile and compassionate tone. “Where did you go to school?”
“School?” her eyes blinked and stared into apparent nothingness. “I don’t remember,” she stammered.
Clisty’s heart hurt for her friend and she choked on the next question. “You don’t remember school?”
“I don’t remember leaving the house, ever. I saw children from my upstairs window. They played in some yards down the block, but I could see them down there. I could hear them too. I saw some of them play tennis in the street once. Our house was on a road that made a circle a few houses down.”
“A cul-de-sac?” she asked.
“I don’t know what that is,” Faith’s voice drifted off. “He caught me standing near the window one time and beat me.”
“Who did, Faith? Was it that man who kidnapped you?” Clisty thought of the smelly man with rotting teeth.
“Kidnapped? What do you mean ... kidnapped?”
Clisty searched for words that clearly were not in Faith’s vocabulary, to explain what had happened. “Do you remember, a long time ago, when we were watching television at my house? A man burst in the door and tried to take both of us, to steal us. I got away.”
Great moans of grief heaved up from deep inside Faith as her face twisted and distorted. “Why didn’t you come with me, Pooky?” A flood of tears angrily raced down her cheeks. “Why did you abandon me?”
“What?” Clisty gasped.
“You ran away and let him take me,” Faith sobbed.
“We were nine years old, Faith,” Clisty cried.
“Honey,” Roma quickly interrupted, “a child can’t fight off a full grown man.”
“I know ... I know,” Faith sobbed, “but ... I was so lonely,” she whispered as she closed her eyes. “He told me that Momma and Daddy sold me to them.”
“Oh, Sweetheart, you didn’t believe them did you?” her mother threw her hand to her mouth in shock.
“No ... they told me every day ... but I didn’t believe it one time.” A faint smile crossed her lips. “I won every day that I didn’t believe their lies.”
Clisty cleared her throat and tried to not sound hurt by what her friend had said. “Then, I bet it became hard to know how to tell the lies from the truth.”
“It was hard, I guess,” Faith swallowed hard. “Clisty, I never really blamed you. I just couldn’t stand not having any friends. I did my studies in my room, read, everything in the one space. I could come to the table in the kitchen for dinner sometimes. My mother,” she stopped and looked up at Roma, “my other mother came to my room to teach me. Once in a while, we’d play games.”
“It sounds like she cared for you,” Roma offered softly.
“I guess.”
Clisty knew she had to gather more information if they were ever going to find those who took her friend. “What was her name?”
“Name?” Again, Faith stared with a blank expression. “I ... don’t know.”
Clisty tried another approach. “Did you have a TV or radio in your room?” The questions continued but Faith’s response was always an empty gaze.
“Television,” Faith remembered with a smile. “I could watch Mr. Rogers when I was little. It was an old TV set. I couldn’t watch very often. They would come in and take a tube out of the back when they didn’t want me to watch anymore.”
Clisty fished for words when all the ones she had used were all the ones she could think of. “What did you do the rest of the time?”
“I slept a lot ... I guess. I don’t know,” she closed her eyes again. “Oh,” she opened her eyes and, for a moment, they sparkled. “I wrote letters to you, almost every day, for about a year. I couldn’t mail them, so I found a hole in the wall of my closet and put them in there. I pretended it was my mailbox.” With Pooky in her arms, she snuggled and kissed the top of her head.
“I wish I had gotten them,” Clisty whispered.
“You did ... in my dreams,” Faith said as her voice danced in the space between awake and asleep. “We would play and laugh and ...” she drifted off and her breathing seemed to become normal again.

“You were in my dreams too,” Clisty added. But, what she didn’t say was, her dreams were actually nightmares.

Monday, June 6, 2016

News at Eleven - A Novel (Copyright 2015 Doris Gaines Rapp - 6th Serialized Segment)

Everything looked white and colorless when Clisty walked into Faith’s hospital room. Life and color, nearly sterilized out of the entire building, lay barely breathing in front of her. It was true, Clisty did like simple, monochromatic décor in her own home, but in this room it was different. The crisp white cover on the hospital bed hardly moved. Clisty studied the body of the stranger, yet friend, who didn’t appear to have enough energy to breathe. Stranger—yes—but oh how Faith looked like her mother. Clisty’s blue-green eyes filled with tears.
“If you study her closely, you’ll see she’s still with us,” a familiar voice spoke softly from the corner of the room.
“Jake!” Clisty gasped in a hoarse whisper and jumped. “You startled me.” She didn’t take her eyes off her friend. “Do you think she’s asleep or in a comma?”
“I talked to the nurse when I got here. She said that Faith is lost inside herself right now, trying to heal by sleeping. The staffs come in every hour, rouse her and direct her to breathe more deeply.”
“Imagine, being so exhausted you forget to breathe,” she shook her head.
“Come and sit here beside me.” He patted the empty chair beside him and then rested his hand on the back. “It’s about eleven-thirty. You should be at home but I know you want to be here. They should come back in a little while to talk to her.”
Clisty removed her coat and placed it over the arm of the chair and, with one motion, sank onto the cushion. “What are you doing here?” But, she didn’t look at him. She fixed her gaze on Faith.
“I watched your newscast here in Faith’s hospital room,” he gestured toward the television that glowed from its mounted brackets on the wall. “I turned it down so it wouldn’t bother her. But, I can still hear it.”
When Clisty adjusted her senses to the lower volume, she could also hear Faith’s shallow respiration. The room was like a quiet cocoon waiting for her to awaken and begin a new life. “Then you heard my pledge to follow the story into the past,” she whispered.
“I did. That’s why I’m here, too. If she tells you anything, it might help us apprehend her captor.” He reached above the chair back and rubbed Clisty’s shoulder.
His closeness felt warm and inviting, but she couldn’t relax yet. “Then, we can work together on this?”
“Absolutely.” He sipped from the coffee vendor cup he held and looked inside as he swished it around the rim. “Besides, I wanted to see how you’re doing. It’s been a long day for you. I knew you would come here before going home.”
“I’m okay.” She brushed off Jake’s concern. While she liked his interest, she would not give into her exhaustion. Then she turned and saw his skeptical expression and changed the subject. “Where did you get the coffee?”
“From the machine in the lounge; I’ll get some for you, but it’s not very good,” he offered as he studied the cup in his hand. “How about come cocoa?”
“That would be even better,” she agreed and then added, “I admit ... I am very tired but I really am fine.”
As he stood up, he smiled and slowly removed his arm from around her. “I’ll be right back.”
“Thanks, Jake.” She leaned her head back and closed her eyes.
“You’ll be asleep by the time I get here with your hot chocolate,” he said as he paused at the door.
“I hope not. I want to be awake when they rouse her again.” She didn’t open her eyes but smiled as he closed the door.
It felt so good to finally relax, she fought her body’s need to let go and sleep. Her muscles twitched as mental pictures of two happy girls danced in her head, riding their bikes to the park and skating on Miller’s Pond in the winter. One day, she and Faith rode in her dad’s truck with him as he drove out onto the thick ice to where his friend, Ed, had set up a small fishing shack. All four of them sat on small wooden stools around the hole in the ice through which he fished. The images warmed her like the camp stove that stood in the corner of the shack, where Ed made gooey marshmallow s’mores over the heat.
Ring! The room phone dissolved the precious images and rattled Clisty’s rest. She may have nodded off a little she admitted to herself. She jumped up and paused first to steady her sleepy legs before she moved then darted across the room to answer it before Faith awakened. “Hello?” she said softly.
The caller said nothing at first. All Clisty could hear was the dead air of an open line and ... just perhaps, some breathing on the other end. “Hello?” she said again.
“Let me talk to Jocelyn,” a rough male voice demanded.
“Jocelyn? You must have the wrong room,” she started to replace the receiver when she heard a female Voice on the line.
“Please, Ma’am, put ... Faith on the phone,” the person asked with a tremor in her voice.
“Who is this?” Clisty nearly dropped the receiver as her heart pounded.
“Never mind that,” a scuffle was heard on the line. “Gimme that phone,” the man shouted at the woman.
Just then Jake came back into the room carrying a cup of hot chocolate. Clisty motioned for him to come to her side. She had to be strong, to keep her wits about her, so she held the receiver away from her ear allowing Jake to listen in. She pointed to the receiver and grabbed his shirt in her fist to draw him closer.
“You listen to me, girly,” the gruff man barked. “You put Jocelyn on this phone right now.”
“I’m sorry there is no Jocelyn here.” She thought quickly and asked, “Where are you calling from?”  Hoping to get some information, she waited frantically for the answer.
“That ain’t got nothin’ to do with nothin’, Missy,” he growled. “You don’t need to know where I am. You just need to put Jocelyn on this phone, now!”
“Well, if you’re calling long distance ...” she thought fast, “I wouldn’t want to keep you on the line very long and run up your phone bill.” She looked at Jake for assurance.
“Please,” the woman begged again.
“There is no Jocelyn here,” Clisty repeated. When she saw Faith stir a little, she hurried the conversation. “Sorry. Have a good evening.” With the receiver replaced on the phone cradle, she buried her head in Jake’s chest. “He asked for Jocelyn, Jake. But, the woman asked for Faith. She knew her real name.”
“Try to remember all they said, Clisty,” Jake coached her. “I’ll write it all down.” He pulled a small notebook from his inside jacket pocket.
“They really didn’t say anything,” she tried to clear her tired head so she could think. “The man asked to speak to Jocelyn and when that didn’t work, the woman asked for Faith. That was him! I’m sure of it. I will never forget his meanness.” Her eyes darted from Jake to the hospital bed. “They’ve found her,” she gasped.
“But, it didn’t sound like they were here, not in Fort Wayne,” Jake assured her. “Since he took her so many years ago, he may suspect that she would have tried to come home.” He put his arms around her and rocked her back and forth. “Was there anything else?”
“No information really but ... flavor, a sickening taste in my mouth, bitter, awful.” She pulled back and stared out the window into the night. “He was gruff in manner, demanding, cold. He used poor English, ‘ain’t’ and ‘girly.’” She rubbed her forehead and tried to force herself to think. “The lady was gentler. She caved in to the man’s demands. She sounded a little more educated, maybe ... oh, I don’t know. They were on the line for such a short time.”
“You did great, Honey. You learned a lot in a matter of a few sentences.” Jake gathered her in his arms again and pulled her close.
“No,” Faith gasped with a frail voice. With closed eyes, she kicked and flailed her arms like she was fighting someone off.
“Faith, Honey,” Clisty soothed her by trying to stroke her forehead.
“No,” Faith fought her off and slapped her hand away.
“Faith, it’s me, Pooky,” she tried again but was careful not to touch her this time.
“Pooky? Where is she? Where’s Pooky?” She rose up slightly on her elbow and looked around the room with eyes that didn’t seem to see.
“It is a very long story, Faith. But, your daughter, Pooky is safe. She’s with your parents.” How much she wanted to hold her friend but did not make another attempt for fear of frightening her.
“Mama and Daddy?” she asked with a strained expression, her eyes large with fear. “No, no!” She looked around the room, searching every corner.
“You’re in the hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Honey,” Clisty assured her.
The lost child-woman nodded, like the words sounded familiar but her surroundings were foreign to her. “Where?” She nodded again. “Where am I? Where is Pooky?”
“Who is Faith?” she questioned as she drew her fists up to her temples and massaged them frantically. “I don’t know Faith anymore. I don’t know what you’re saying,” she cried.
A nurse in a blue uniform came crisply into the room. “Oh good, you’re awake. I’m Kim and I’m your nurse tonight.”
“But, she’s so—,“ Clisty whispered through her tears.
“I know ... confused. She’s been through a lot.” Kim came over to the bedside and grabbed Faith’s wrist but she immediately jerked away. “I’m sorry,” she spoke gently. “I was just so happy to see your big beautiful eyes, I moved too quickly.” Kim patted Faith’s arm.
“Try ... calling her Jocelyn,” Jake offered.
Faith’s expression softened a little. “Jocelyn,” she agreed.
“All right then.” Kim placed her hand slowly on Faith’s forearm. “I would like to pick up your hand, Jocelyn, and take your pulse. Is that okay with you?”
Faith said nothing at first. “Pulse? I ... I don’t understand.”
“I’ll hold your hand just above the palm,” Kim began slowly, “then touch your wrist gently. Okay?”
Faith nodded as she laid her head back in an attempt to catch her breath. Suddenly, she threw her hand to her chest as a look of panic crossed her face.
“Nurse ...?” Clisty covered her mouth with her hand as she tried to gain composure. Frightened by what she saw, she feared for Faith’s ability to come back to her mentally.
“She’s hyperventilating,” Kim explained. “She has been breathing very shallow since she came in and now she’s panicking.” To Faith she explained, “I’m going to put my hand on your diaphragm. I want you to breath by pushing on my hand.” Slowly, Faith began to calm and breathe normally. “Good. Now, see there. Your respirations are much better.”
With her patient stabilized, she spoke to Clisty and Jake in hushed tones on the other side of the room. “Except for the episode just now, she is doing as good as can be expected. Before she can remember who she is, she has to have more energy. Her crushed spirit is very fragile. Our first goal: we want her to be able to inhale and exhale.”
Then she turned to her patient. “Jocelyn, I’m going to put an oxygen cannula on your nose. You don’t need to be frightened. It will help you breathe.”
Faith watched the cannula come close to her face and nodded. “Lady too,” she said as she began to breath more naturally. She looked up at Clisty and gasped in a moment of recognition. “Pooky?” she asked.
“Yes,” Clisty nodded as tears streamed down her cheeks.

Her childhood friend reached out her hand and hesitantly took hold of Clisty’s. She pulled her close to her. “Pooky ...” she begged as she looked at her with her first expression of recognition, “keep Pooky safe. He’ll be coming for us. He always said he would.” She closed her eyes while tears ran down her face. “He’s coming again you know.”