“Sometimes just thinking about something, is enough to hurt you all over again.” ~Unknown
Casey sat on the hospital bench. She was tired. All she wanted to do was curl up somewhere safe and go to sleep. After she had told Miss Claire about the drugs, the way her parents had treated her, and what her dad had done to Fluffles, she had been brought to the hospital where she had been given a checkup by a really nice lady who wore a set of pajamas with pink hearts and ponies all over them. They had given her a few crackers to eat and some water and put an icepack on her shoulder because it hurt.
She swung her feet, trying not to be bored. She just wished someone would bring Mr. Fluffles. Miss Claire had said they would try.
Just then, Miss Claire entered the room, swinging a keychain around her finger. “Come on Casey. Time to get you to your home for right now.”
“What about Mr. Fluffles?” Casey’s head swam as she stood and took Miss Claire’s hand.
Miss Claire hesitated. “We weren’t able to get him right now, but I’m sure that Mr. and Mrs. Homer, they’re the people you are going to stay with, have some toys you can play with. They have a few children already.” Miss Claire obviously didn’t understand the importance of Fluffles and that no other toy would be the same.
Casey sighed and allowed the good woman to lead her to a car and buckle her into a booster seat in the back. It was dark outside, the sun having gone to bed several hours ago. The street lamps cast an occasional yellow glow into the interior of the car, as they traveled down the road. Casey started to count how many second it would take till they passed another streetlight. It was about three seconds between every light. The low purr of the vehicle made her sleepy and she rested her head against the window.
Someone’s arms wrapping around her woke her and she screamed, fighting against them. The light hurt her eyes, but as she got used to it and looked up, she saw Miss Claire and two other people with her. A man with whiskers was wincing, rubbing his jaw. The other lady had a hoodie on and had her arms folded against the cold.
“Honey, these are the people you are going to be staying with. This is. . .”
The lady stepped forward and held up a hand to Miss Claire who cut off her sentence. She was a pretty lady and she reminded Casey of Miss Mikayla. She had the same light in her eye. She bent down in front of the open door.
“Hi sweetie, my name is Rose and this here is my husband Scott. We’ve got a bed all made up for you. Would you like to come in and sleep? You look real tired.” Rose’s voice was soft, her eyes brown and gentle. She reached out a hand and gently stroked Casey’s leg in a reassuring and comforting way.
Casey thought for a minute. She was tired. “Do you have Mr. Fluffles?” she asked.
Rose looked up at Miss Claire for explanation.
The social worker shrugged. “It’s her bear. Her dad took him from her and it’s all she’s asked about.” She bent her head towards Scott, and covered her mouth with a hand, whispering something Casey couldn’t hear.
Scott nodded, understanding, and reached out a hand to Casey in an offer to help her out of the car. “We have a little bear who needs a girl to take care of him for a little while. His name’s Carl and he’s all alone right now. He’s a Koala bear. Do you think you could be his friend while you stay here?”
Casey shivered against the cold air that blew in from outside the car. These were nice enough people. She might as well get out and let them show her the bear. If it really needed a friend, she could be one. But only until Mr. Fluffles came back.
Jason watched from his vantage point across the street. The police must have had favor because they had gotten a search warrant pretty quickly. But he supposed, when illegal drug dealers were concerned, they probably moved those things along pretty quickly. By asking a few questions of some bystanders at the school, he was able to find out that his guess had been right. Casey’s backpack had had drugs inside. The Police had even caught the man who was the fence. He had been loitering several streets over, matched Casey’s description, and upon being searched had been found in possession of not only drugs, but a good deal of money as well.
He watched now as the police led out both Mike and Joanna Gage, handcuffed. He felt some satisfaction. No one should be allowed to treat a little kid like that. He stuck his hands in his pockets. Time to find a park bench or a corner to call home for the night.
The sounds of suburbia echoed around him. Cars, the flicker of a bad bulb in a street lamp, the occasional horn and wind whistling through the power lines overhead. He shivered and pulled the collar of his coat up higher around his neck. It was going to be a chilly night.
The screech of car tires set his blood racing and he cringed at the sound. He shook his head against the memories. The cries, the sound of rending metal, the heavy jolt and then silence. Silence so heavy it had hurt his ears. He was the only one in the car who didn’t die that night. It was in the moments like these, where the memories and the guilt threatened to overwhelm him, that if he hadn’t given it up, he would wish for a good stiff drink. It didn’t even have to be that Something, anything to dull the pain.
He shook his head at the thought that his mom and dad would say the only way to get rid of the pain would be to give it to God and let him heal it. There was no way. No way God could forgive him for what he had done. No way the wife of his friend could forgive him. So why would God? He was too ashamed to ask.
Levi listened, excited, while Mikayla rambled on about what paperwork the Bellworths would need to complete before she could send it in for them to get Casey back. Levi downed his third cookie and hoped Miz Mariah wasn’t paying attention as he reached for a fourth. Freshly baked cookies with the chocolate chips still warm enough to be somewhat melted and the edges of the cookie crisp but the inside soft. There was no way he could only just eat one, or two. . . or three. He stuck his hand in his glass of milk to fish out the chunk of cookie that had broken off and fallen to the bottom.
He reached for another.
“Levi, not one more.” Miz Mariah didn’t even turn around as she wrote, head bent, over the table.
How does she do that? He groaned. “I’m a growing boy!”
“Good, you’ll have plenty of room for my hearty beef stew that we are having for dinner then.”
His mouth watered at the thought, but his hand closed around the cookie that his fingers had been on. “I already touched it, can’t I please still eat it?” he begged.
He didn’t have to see Miz Mariah’s face to know she was rolling her eyes. The attitude of her head and shoulders said it all. “Fine, but last one!”
He nodded dutifully and savored every last bite of his last cookie.
“So, yeah, this should wrap it up.” Mikayla played with the necklace of peach colored beads at her throat and watched as the Bellworths finished up the paperwork. She looked slightly nervous and Levi just now noticed it. He was surprised that Miz Mariah, the master mind reader, hadn’t picked up on it. But if she felt anything like he did, the excitement of getting Casey back made him forget everything else.
Miz Mariah gathered up her papers and tapped the edges so that the pages would line up. She had a smile as wide as a bus on her face and anticipation set her blue eyes to dancing. “Did you have a cookie Mikayla?”
“No ma’am.” Mikayla swallowed hard and pulled harder at her necklace. Levi kept his eye on her as he rinsed out his milk glass and set it in the dishwasher rack.
“Mikayla? Is something wrong?” It was Mr. Abel who noticed and asked the question.
She bit her lip a moment before replying, effectively getting Miz Mariah’s attention now too. “It was the caller.”
The Bellworths exchanged a confused look, then sent a questioning look back at Mikayla.
“The one who gave SS the tip about Casey’s family? It was a man and he said that he knew there was child abuse, pinpointed where they might notice a particular bruise and also said that he had suspected them of making or fencing illegal drugs, using Casey as a go-between. He said to check in her pack right away, before she distributed it.”
“I don’t understand, why are you telling us all this?” Miz Mariah shook her head and almost looked sick, like she didn’t want to hear all the details.
Mikayla’s eyebrows furroughed and she took a steadying breath. “Well, he was right and they not only found Meth in Casey’s backpack, but they caught the guy who was going to buy it from her as well as “raided”” she used air quotes on the last word. “the house and found a bunch of drugs and also the makings of a lab. Casey’s parents were going to start making it themselves to cut costs.”
“And she was living in that.” Mr. Abel looked pale and shook his head, reaching for Miz Mariah’s hand and holding it tight.
Mikayla’s eyes looked dark and stormy. Levi could sense her anger and he could now understand what had prompted her towards her job. Her fire for protecting kids was obvious and he was thankful that she had used it to help him. He turned away and brushed a fist at his eyes to rid them of the embarrassing, yet stubborn tears.
“But it was the caller. The name he used was Jason.”
Miz Mariah gasped. “You don’t’ think, oh Abel!” she didn’t seem to know what to say and all her earlier joy had disappeared, leaving her appearing frail and heartbroken.
“Shhhh. . .” Mr. Abel made a soothing sound with his mouth and Levi saw the sadness in Mr. Abel, and his strength for his wife.
“It could be nothing and if it is, I am so sorry for mentioning it. But if it is Jason, I have access to the number he used and I know what town he lives in. He used a payphone and he wanted to leave an anonymous tip, but the operator who answered said she needed a name and address for any follow up if the call was going to be taken seriously. The address he listed was a city library, but, if he’s still there, I’m sure we could find him.” The hope built in Mikayla’s voice and she talked faster. Levi wasn’t entirely sure he followed what was going on, but it seemed to be momentous to the adults that surrounded him.
“Oh Abel! Could we? Mikayla, could you?”
Mr. Abel’s finger over her mouth stopped the stream of anxious words that issued from it. “Jason does not want to be found Mariah. I think we need to give him time. And keep praying. The Lord will do his work in Jason in the proper time. I want to give the boy his chance at privacy.” Mr. Abel’s voice broke. “It will be okay.”
Miz Mariah’s shoulders started to shake, but she took a deep breath and stiffened. “Thank you Mikayla.” She nodded to the young woman and quickly exited the room, going to her own bed chamber and shutting the door softly. Levi’s heart hurt for hers. He could understand the longing for a loved one. But now, he could pray. And he did so.
Casey awoke in a cold sweat, tears coursing down her cheeks and an uncomfortable wet feeling in the bed. She climbed out and quickly changed clothes by the light of the small lamp that was always lit on the bedside table. The dark always scared her and made her nightmares worse, especially in a new place. Though it didn’t get much worse than wetting the bed. She pulled the damp sheets off of the mattress and wrapped a comforter around herself after changing pajamas. The bed, so soft and large, never felt very comfortable anyway. She curled up in the corner of the room on the floor, pulling the pink plaid comforter close around her neck. This old farmhouse was roomy, but drafty, and the chill of the late night seemed to seep past the blanket and her borrowed pajamas, into her skin.
The air coming from the vent wasn’t very warm anymore. Mr. Scotts fire must have gone out downstairs. With another shiver; she rolled to her side, back against the wall.
She was awakened the next morning by the sound of footsteps and blinked her bleary eyes up at a lady who was on her knees next to her. Casey pulled away in a panic and gasped until she realized it was Miss Rose. She sighed and relaxed a little.
“Casey honey, why are you on the floor?”
Casey’s nose felt cold from where it had been sticking out of the bundled blanket all night. Ashamed, she shrugged and covered her face. There was no knowing how Rose would react when she found out Casey had wet the bed. Her mother had always yelled, thrown the sheets at Casey and made her wash them. “You’re a baby!” Her mom’s shrill words tore at her heart and memory, sending a shudder through her. It morphed into a shiver. It was cold.
Rose took in the sheet-less bed and the wads of clothes in the hamper. Casey flinched when she raised a hand, but instead of striking her, it smoothed back her hair and helped her to her feet. Casey allowed herself to be led downstairs where Rose sat in a chair and pulled Casey, blanket and all, into her lap. Mr. Scott was feeding the fire he had started and three kids came thundering down the stairs, one after the other. Casey watched from her nest, somewhat frightened of their familiar and rambunctious natures. In the two days she had been here, they had tried to coerce her into scads of games.
The oldest, Jane, had read aloud numerous picture books for hours, whether Casey wanted her to or not. Not that Casey minded. Jane had a pleasant voice and if she wasn’t reading to someone, was usually reading to herself, working on school work or helping her mom. She was fourteen. Levi’s age.
The other two, a boy, David was her age, and Patty, who was seven. Turns out the family did something very weird that they called homeschooling instead of going to a school like Casey had her whole life, they got to stay home and do work in similar looking schoolbooks to what Casey had. But somehow, they always finished hours earlier than she ever did. Rose encouraged her to do some work with them, which Casey did. She was glad she didn’t have to go to her normal school. She had never liked it.
The kids all talked so fast and at once, making Casey’s head swim. David wanted food, like, now. Patty wanted to sit in Mama’s lap for morning snuggles and Jane offered to get her dad firewood. Casey slid from Rose’s lap so Patty could take her place and she walked upstairs to get dressed. She wished she could go back to the Bellworths. She liked this family, but she felt like she didn’t belong like there wasn’t room for her. But on the other hand, the Bellworths had been the ones who had sent her away and back to her parents. Anger flared and she didn’t know she slammed her bedroom door until she heard the loud thud. She jumped, hoping she wouldn’t get in trouble.
Please do not copy this story in any way, shape, or form without permission. Thank you! Copyright 2016 by Victoria Lynn
….To be continued in a week….
If you missed the previous Chapters, you can read them here.
What did you think? I would love to hear your thoughts, comments and critiques in the comments below!
By God’s Grace,