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?”
“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.
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.