If you haven't already, please go back first and read Behind Closed Doors Part 1 and Behind Closed Doors Part 2
Behind Closed Doors
by Lisa McCourt Hollar
It had been a tough week for Alex and her sisters. For the first several days the police talked to them, showing pictures of men that had been photographed leaving their mother’s home, asking them if they could identify them. Emma wasn’t able to identify anyone, since she was only 3, but it was obvious she knew who the men were. She would look at certain pictures, start to cry, and then bury her face in Alex’s shoulder. Abby knew the men, but refused to answer, shaking, scared of what John would do to them if they talked to the police. Alex was scared too. John had threatened to bury them alive if they ever told anyone what he did to her. So she just looked at the pictures and didn’t say a word.
At one point they tried to separate the girls, saying it would be better to talk to them alone, but Emma had clung to Alex, refusing to let go. A woman that was there said that it would be better to keep them together.
“They’ll feel safer if they’re together,” she had said. She talked to Alex, telling her that her name was Nicole and she was there to help them.
“You’re safe here,” she said. “John can’t hurt you anymore.
This made Alex remember her dream about Gabe. He had promised her she would never go back to John and Misty again. She told Nicole about the dream.
“Gabe is right, if you tell the police about what happened to you, they can make sure you don’t go back there, but they can’t do that if you don’t help them.”
Alex was scared of what John would do to her if she spoke, remembering the time he’d put her in a box and told her she’d be in there forever. She was more scared of going back though and what he would do to her if she didn’t tell the police everything.
A few days later another man came by. He said his name was Mr. Rogers and that he was their lawyer. He was a gruff looking man, nothing like the Mr. Rogers she used to watch on TV. She and her sisters hid behind George while Rose talked to the man. He told Rose that the judge had granted them temporary custody and that something more permanent would be decided later.
That night, after dinner was over, the dishes washed and they were all in front of the television with a bowl of popcorn, Alex asked Rose what he had meant.
“Well,” Rose said thoughtfully, “George and I are just a stopping place for children while the courts decide where they should live. You know, kind of like when you get off a train and then get onto another.”
“Where will we go?” Alex’s voice was shaking. She was just getting used to being here and was making friends with Sydney.
“There might be someone in your family that wants to have the three of you come live with them, maybe a grandma or an aunt? Did your mom have any brothers or sisters?”
“Alex didn’t think so. She had never known a grandmother and the only person she knew that came close to an Aunt was Faith, but she wasn’t really related. On the nights that Misty would let them spend the night with Faith she liked to pretend she was her mother, but that was only a dream. One time they had been with their neighbor for three months while Misty went away. She told Faith she was going somewhere to get clean, but when she showed up again, she smelled of alcohol and didn’t look too clean. Her hair was greasy and she was yelling at Faith.
“You bitch! You called welfare and told them the girls were living with you! I lost my food stamps.”
“You were supposed to be in rehab, not stumbling out of a bar at 2 in the morning.”
“It’s none of your business you old crone,” Misty said, her words slurring. “They’re my kids and I’m taking them back.” She’d dragged the girls out of the house, Emma and Abby crying.
Faith was crying to and she yelled at Misty as she was shoving the girls into the car that she was going to call Children’s Services.
“You do that bitch, and you’ll never see them again!”
Alex didn’t know if Faith had called anyone or not, but a month later Misty let them go back over there for a few days. When they came home at the end of their stay, John was there and Misty told them he was their new dad.
“Would they let me go stay with Faith?” Alex asked.
“They might,” Rose said. “She would have to petition the courts and get inspected, but they could allow her to be a foster parent, or they could decide to leave you with us for a while. Sydney has been with us for a year now.”
Alex liked that idea. She and Sydney were becoming best friends, the only friend she had that wasn’t her sister. She was ten, like Alex, but small. Rose had told them early on that Sydney had been born early and malnourished; a big word that Rose explained meant she’d been half starved.
“Sometimes they send you back to live with your mom,” Sydney said, so quietly that Alex wasn’t sure she’d heard her right.
“What?” Alex asked.
“Sometimes they send you back to your mom.” Alex motioned to her leg, which was deformed, the foot pointing in the opposite direction. “After my mom did this, they took me away, but after she stopped drinking and got a job, they sent me back to her.”
“But they took you away again?” Alex was confused. Nicole had told her that if she told them what John had done, she would never have to go back, but now Sydney was telling her that might happen.
“She was nice for a while, but then she started drinking again. She’s mean when she drinks. She went out one night and left me alone. She locked me in a closet so I’d be safe if anyone broke in.”
Sydney remembered that night all too well.
“PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME!” Sydney was hanging onto her mom, trying to keep her from going out the door. “PLEASE,” she screamed, “I’M SCARED!”
“Quit your whining! You act like you’re a baby.” Sydney’s mother picked her up, carrying her into the house. “Do you think I want to be around a crying brat all day? I want to go out and have fun too.”
“What if someone breaks in?” Sydney pleaded.
“Then keep quiet, so they don’t know you’re here,” her mother had said, shoving her into a closet. Then, despite Sydney’s pleas to not leave her there, she closed the door and locked it.
Sometime later Sydney heard yelling and someone banging on the front door, but she kept quiet, afraid of what might happen. Then she smelled smoke. She woke up in the hospital. The fire fighter that had found her said he’d only known she was there when she started coughing.
“That’s when I came here.” Sydney said.
“Well, I’m sure they won’t send you back again.” Alex said. George snorted and Rose shushed him.
Sydney was quiet a minute as a tear rolled down her cheek. “My mom has asked them to let me live with her again. She hasn’t drank for five months and she has a job again. She’s done everything they told her to do, just like the last time.”
Alex looked shocked, then scared. She knew Sydney’s mom had been coming for visits, but she hadn’t realized this might happen.
“They wouldn’t!” Alex insisted.
“They already told her I can!” Then Sydney stood up and ran out of the room.
Continued in Behind Closed Doors, Part IV.
copyright 2011 Lisa McCourt Hollar All rights reserved.