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.”

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