Monday, January 24, 2011

Behind Closed Doors Part 2

If you haven't already, please read Behind Closed Doors Part 1

Behind Closed Doors
Part 2
by Lisa McCourt Hollar

Alex thought she would stay awake the rest of the night, what little there was left of it. As frightened as she was by everything that had happened, she was also a little excited. She was no longer in her mother’s home, she and her sisters were away from John and the abuse they faced from him and the string of men and women their mother brought into the home.

Alex had placed her sisters on the bed, between herself and the wall. It was a flimsy attempt at protection, but all she had to offer. In the past it had saved the two younger from beatings, when their mother, drunk and angry, had burst into their room in the middle of the night. Often she would grab the first one she laid her hands on and take her anger out on the unlucky recipient. Alex always made sure that was her, even after they’d learned to keep their door locked at night.

At ten, she was the oldest and was fiercely protective of her younger siblings. Ally was six and Emma only four. She’d been more mother to them, ever since Ally was first born and at the age of four had to change diapers, while her mother got high with Glen, Ally’s father. She began her roll of protector then, when Glen had snatched Ally out of her crib, shaking her furiously and yelling at her to stop crying. Alex had started screaming, afraid he was going to kill her sister. Suddenly Glen had a new object to focus his anger on.

Tossing Ally back into the crib, like a discarded rag doll, he’d beaten Alex, breaking one of her arms. At the hospital, she’d followed instructions, telling the nurses and doctors that she’d fallen off her bike. She could tell by the look in one nurse’s eye that she didn’t believe the story, but no one said anything other than to make sure she wore a helmet and knee pads when riding from now on. Although Alex was in pain, she wore her cast proudly, a necessary price to save her sister.

When Glen, bored with Misty and not willing to be a father vanished, their mother moved on to Billy and Emma was born. Billy wasn’t any better than Glen and even worse, because that’s when her first lesson in ‘woman’ hood was taught to her; at least that’s what Billy called it. Alex didn’t know what it was called, but she knew it was wrong and that Billy could go to jail for it. She also knew he would kill her sisters if she ever told. He’d made sure she understood that by holding Ally over a boiling pot of water.

“I mean it Alex,” he had said, “if you tell anyone what happened tonight, I’ll drop her in this, and then Emma. I’ll boil them and make you eat them both for supper.”

Alex believed him and never told anyone, not even their neighbor, Faith, when she asked if Billy ever touched her. Faith was always nice to them. When their mother spent the food stamps on drugs, instead of food, Faith always made sure they had something to eat. Alex wished she were with Faith now.

Hugging her sisters, she cried softly, listening to the soft snoring sounds from the girl in the other bed and the woman who had brought them there, talking to someone in the other room.

Alex stopped crying and listened. She could only hear the lady’s voice, so she thought she must be talking on a phone. She heard the woman say something about ‘those poor dears,’ and ‘sweet angels’, then something about a ‘horrible monster’ and ‘no good mother’. Was she talking about her and her sisters? Did they know what John had done? Her stomach turned to knots, because if they knew what John had done, he’d be angry and he had promised worse than Billy, if anyone ever found out.

The woman stopped talking and Alex heard footsteps move past the room and down the hall, and then it was quiet again, except for the snoring across the room. The sound was soothing and before long Alex drifted off into a restless sleep.

She dreamed about her mother and John. They were trying to hurt her and her sisters. Alex was trying to protect Abby and Emma and in her dream Emma began to scream, and she knew John had hurt her sister the way he had hurt her.

Then there was a bright light and an angel was there between the sisters and John. He told Alex that John and her mother would never hurt them again.

“God has sent me to protect you. He promises He will not allow you to go back there and that John will NEVER touch you again.”

The woman woke the girls in the morning, handed them some clothes and pointed the way to the bathroom.

“I know you’re tired, poor dears,” she said, “but it’s going to be a busy day. I’ve run a bath for you; I think these clothes will fit. Hopefully we’ll have your own clothes brought here by tonight. I know you’ll be more comfortable in your own clothes. If not, we’ll go shopping.”

“So we’ll be here tonight.” Alex mused, as she headed down the hall with Abby and Emma.

The bathtub was larger than the one they had at home and Alex helped her sisters into the water, and then stepped in herself.

“Alex, why are we here?” Abby whispered, a habit from always being afraid to be overheard at home. Saying the wrong thing, even in private, could bring a beating.

“I think mom and John have been arrested,” Alex answered, helping Emma wash her hair.

“Are the three of you okay?” The woman had stuck her head in the door and was looking at the girls, her eyes teary, despite her attempt to look cheerful. “I hope you don’t mind sharing a bath, but I figured after the night you had, you would be difficult to separate.

“We’re okay,” Alex said. “We’ll be out in a minute.”

“Alrighty dear, just put your clothes down the shoot and take care the little one doesn’t fall through.” She pointed to a cupboard in the corner of the room. “When you’re done, follow the hall to the stairs and come down for breakfast. The kitchen is at the bottom, to the right.” Then she closed the door and left.

“John is going to be angry when we come home,” Abby said. Emma started crying.

“We’re not going back to them,” Alex said. “Ever.”

The kitchen wasn’t hard to find, they only needed to follow the smell. There was a small table in the middle of the room, with six chairs crowded around it. The girl from the other bed was in one of the seats and a man that reminded Alex of Santa Claus, minus the beard, in another. Despite the clean shaven chin, the man had a twinkle in his eyes and his belly was fat, and Alex half expected for him to say ‘ho, ho, ho,” when he opened his mouth. Instead he said, “Well, will you look at what little angels God has sent our way!” He smiled at the girls, indicating that they should feel welcome.

“Oh, they look positively petrified,” the woman said, setting three more plates at the table. “You and your booming voice, Santa Claus you are not, it’s amazing how someone so gentle can sound so gruff. Girls, there is no reason to be afraid of Mr. George. Now come sit down and eat.”

Alex’s tummy rumbled, smelling the eggs and bacon. Emma and Abby rushed to the table, eager to eat something hot for a change.

“Now that we’re all here, let’s get introductions out of the way. Things were so hectic last night; I doubt you even remember my name.”

“Alex chewed her toast, too embarrassed to admit that she didn’t remember.

“Well,” the woman went on, “I’m Mrs. Stemen, but you can call me Rose, we don’t stand on formalities around here. As I told you last night, I work for the state, making sure that children in bad situations get put into good ones. You’ll be staying here until someone with enough brains enough in his head decides where you will go. This is my husband, George and the little imp across from you is Sydney.”

“Hi,” Sydney said, smiling shyly from across the table. Sydney looked to be Alex’s age, but petit, like Ally and her voice was tiny. Alex had to strain to hear her.

“I’m Alex,” she mumbled, “these are my sisters, Abby and Emma.”

“Do Abby and Emma talk?” Rose asked.

“They’re shy around strangers,” Alex said.

“Well, hopefully we won’t be strangers for long,” Rose said. “I hope we can all become great friends.”

Sydney had finished her plate and pushed herself back from the table. Standing, she walked across the room to rinse her plate at the sink. Alex gasped, surprised tom see the girl’s leg was twisted, so that her foot was turned in the wrong direction. She walked with a limp and Alex winced as she moved across the room.

“Sydney’s leg was broken when she was just four years old,” Rose said. “She wasn’t taken to a doctor right away and it mended that way.”

“That’s the nice way to put it,” George said, rinsing his plate. “I could put it another way.”

“George, don’t frighten them!” Rose scolded.

“These little angels have seen a lot,” George said. “I can tell this one is strong, a fighter,” he tweaked Alex’s chin as he said this, “there’s not much she can’t handle. But I’ll be nice…as long as your bosses do the right thing.” Then he gave Rose a kiss on the cheek and headed for the door, waving goodbye to the girls and explaining he was late for work. “I should have left twenty minutes ago, but I wanted to meet the three of you.” Then he was gone.

“Okay,” Rose said, “Sydney, why don’t you show the girls into the living room, I’m going to do some dishes before our guests arrive.”

“We’re getting company? Sydney asked.

“Just some people that want to talk to the girls. Oh, and your mother has her visitation today as well.” Rose said the last part a little too cheerfully, almost as though she were trying to make something bad sound good. They followed Sydney into the living room to wait for whoever it was that wanted to talk to them.

To Be Continued in Behind Closed Doors Part 3

copyright 2011 Lisa McCourt Hollar All rights reserved.

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