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” The voice that spoke her name ever so gently traced the edge of her thoughts like someone blowing very softly upon her face. It tickled at her mind. She felt fingertips also tracing her cheeks and jaw-line. It was nice. There was a tenderness to the touch that she had never experienced before. As an added bonus, she felt like she was floating, not realizing that this sensation was a side-effect of the pain medications they had given her. She sighed blissfully. “Addy, love, can you hear me? You scared me. I thought I had lost you.” Her confused mind, clouded by the drugs, tried to make sense of that voice. It didn’t belong to her mother. She hadn’t spoken to Addy with that level of kindness in years, and the tone was too masculine. She opened her eyes, and while the world was blurry, she could easily see that no one was there. The fingers on her face had been some sort of phantom touch. Her brain eventually registered who it was that must be speaking to her. “Javan?” His name came out as more of a croak, her throat hoarse and the inside of her mouth dry. Her tongue felt like a thick slab of meat, swollen and numb. She tried to sit up, but he couldn’t. There was a large plaster cast surrounding her right shoulder and her entire arm as well. As some of the fog lifted from her mind, and she finally took note of where she was, she realized that she was in a hospital bed. She hated hospitals; even under the tranquilizing effect of the drugs, she remembered that much. What had happened? How had she gotten there? Where was Felicia? Although her throat was raw, Addy began screaming her sister’s name. It wasn’t long before her ragged, distressed cries attracted the attention of one of the nurses in the paediatric ward. A mature woman on the older side of middle-aged, with her greying brown hair pulled tightly away from her face, came into the room. “Hush, sweetie, hush. You’re okay. It’s safe here, I’m glad to see that you’re finally awake, but there’s no need to scream. You’re scaring the other children,” she said in a warm but somewhat patronizing voice. “You just relax and tell me if there’s anything you need. My name is Caroline. Are you in pain? Hungry? Thirsty?” Addy completely dismissed the fact that the woman was trying to be helpful and to make her more comfortable. She had only one thing on her mind. “Where’s my little sister?”
“Oh, she’s fine, darling. You don’t need to worry about her. You need to concentrate on getting better yourself. There’s no need to fret over those kinds of things. People here are going to take good care of you, but you’ll heal much faster if you think positive thoughts.” Addy shook her head. Even through the numbing effect of the drugs, she could feel a terrible throbbing in her shoulder and arm that worsened with any sudden movement. She wondered how much it would hurt if the medication were to wear off. “I need to know. Where is she?” Caroline sat on the foot of her bed with a relenting sigh. “She’s in the care of Children’s Services and they are in the process of finding her a place in a foster home. They don’t think that it’s appropriate to allow her to stay in your home – neither of your parents are fit to take care of her. They’ll make sure that she’s in good hands. Now that you’re awake, you’ll probably have guests this afternoon who will explain everything to you, hon’, and they’ll be able to answer your questions much better than I can. You may as well get as much rest as you can until then. They’ll want you to be alert when they talk to you. In the meantime, I can get you anything you need, within reason...” That wasn’t enough to satisfy Addy. From the sunshine spilling in through the window, she was guessing it was mid-morning. How long had she been out? She couldn’t wait until the afternoon for answers. “What about my mother?” Despite everything that had happened, she still cared about the woman. Her mother had let her children down in many ways, but Addy still loved her. She wasn’t the type of person who could hate people for their weaknesses. “She’s being kept under observation in another section of the hospital. They don’t feel that she’s in the necessary state of mind right now to take care of herself properly, let alone her children. I’m gathering that things haven’t been very good at home for you, for quite some time. I’m sorry. Things will get better.” Addy relaxed a little. Caroline’s words certainly sounded sincere, and from what the nurse had told her, everyone was safe for the moment. Addy couldn’t bring herself to ask about her father. Not that she hated the man – even after all that he had done, all of the abuse and the cruelty, Addy was not capable of wishing him dead; it wasn’t in her nature. She pitied him, but she wanted nothing more to do with him. She suddenly wanted to be alone, the seriousness of the situation weighing in on her heavily. She might never see Felicia again. “Juice,” she said in a whisper, to avoid irritating her throat anew. “Pardon?” Caroline responded with a smile, leaning over to fluff Addy’s pillows.
“Juice. I want juice,” Addy claimed, speaking a little louder despite the fact that doing so was unpleasant. “Please.” “Of course. You’re probably parched, poor thing.” Caroline rose to her feet and started towards the door. “I’ll fetch you some right away. Is apple juice okay?” The woman’s words were cheery but some of that was forced. Addy had a feeling that keeping up a chipper demeanour probably wore on the woman, especially with all the pain, illness and even death that she must see. Experiencing those things involving children would make it even worse. Addy nodded. “Lie back then, dear, and I’ll be right back. You can let me know if you need anything else then.” When Caroline was out of sight, the tears began to flow. “I told you,” Addy murmured with a sniffle. “I told you they would split us up. They’ve taken her away already.” The curtains shifted even though there weren’t any drafts in the room and Addy thought she detected the occasional flicker in the sunlight that splashed on the floor. After all that had happened lately, she truly believed in Javan now, whatever he was, and that was perhaps why he seemed that much more real than he had in the past. His tone was subdued when he spoke, but not condescending the way the nurse’s had been. He was offering Addy empathy, something she couldn’t seem to find anywhere else. “You told me what mattered most was that she was safe, and she is right now. You can’t shield her when you’re in this condition. You need to heal. You need to recover. What you did back at your house was crazy, Addy. He could have killed you.” She could tell that he was trying to guard her from his own anguish but a bit of it would trickle past his defences from time to time. Even though it had been her choice and he had tried to stop her, unsuccessfully, he still felt responsible for what had happened to her. He saw himself as her mentor – her guardian – and anything bad that happened to her was a result of his failure. Addy had never meant to make him feel bad, but just as Javan had a compulsion to watch over her, Addy was governed by a similar sense of duty to watch over Felicia. “I know you think I had a choice, but I didn’t,” she whispered apologetically. “Felicia’s important to me. She needs me.” A faint breeze brushed her skin and rustled her hair. He wanted her to be fully aware of his presence. “You have more choice than you realize, Addy – certainly more choice than I do. And you’re important to me.”
“Why?” The question was little more than an exhalation. She had asked it dozens of times before, and he had always found a way to redirect the conversation. She wasn’t expecting an answer this time either. There was a pause, however, rather than an attempt at diversion. “Because you’re my purpose, my reason for being. You’re my heart. Without you, I am nothing.” Addy held her breath, unsure how she should respond to this confession. She had pried for some explanation since the day he had first started whispering to her at the water reservoir, but she had always met with resistance. She wasn’t sure why this had changed, but he had finally given her a clue, something more to consider. Perhaps it was because of her close encounter with death. Addy was stunned. Before she could ask any more questions, there was a quiet knock at her door and a strange man stepped into the room. He was dressed in a plain brown suit and looked clean, but not excessively primped. His smile was friendly and more relaxed than that of her nurse. “You are awake. Caroline came to let me know.” Addy noticed at that point that he was holding a single-serving can of apple juice and a straw. He placed them on the table by the side of her bed and then he took a seat in the chair that was there as well. “My name is Foster. I was hoping you and I could talk a little before your other visitor, Ms. Brooks, arrives. She’s going to be asking you some pretty serious questions and I just want to make sure that you’re up to answering them. You’re not too tired to talk, are you?” Addy bit her lip and shook her head. This Foster had a very approachable demeanour, and his way of speaking was as receptive as it was inviting. She almost felt secure enough around him that she would consider telling him about Javan, partially because he didn’t seem like the type who would dismiss her offhand. She still wondered who exactly Foster was, and why he was there. Once his slightly intrusive questions began, however, she wasn’t sure that she wanted him there anymore. . “Caroline said that when you woke up you were very upset – that you were screaming for your sister. Do you remember why you were screaming?” Addy pulled her knees in a little closer to her chest, trying not to jostle her arm and shoulder. It didn’t make her feel any more comfortable. “I was worried about her. I wanted to make sure that she wasn’t hurt.” Her voice cracked. Thoughts of Felicia just reminded her of what had happened and that her little sister wasn’t somewhere where Addy could reach her. Addy didn’t really have the strength or clarity of mind at that moment to fight off the desperate sadness threatening to overwhelm her. Hearing the girl’s rasping, Foster cracked open the can of juice, popped the straw
in it, and handed it to her. The gesture was intentionally relaxed, an effort to keep things light even though they weren’t. “And you wanted to check on her because your father had hurt her before? Some of the officials at your school reported that you told them your father had hit you before the incident two days ago. This had happened before, to you and Felicia?” he asked. Addy restrained a gasp. Two days – she had been out for two days. “You can see why I was worried about you, Addy,” Javan whispered. “But I think you’ll be fine, now. Things are going to change for you because of this. You won’t be able to stop it. If you go along with the transition, it won’t be as difficult to deal with as if you fight it. This man for example. You need to answer him truthfully. It’s his job to analyze your situation, to make sure that you’re protected and prevent more damage – of various sorts. It’s better for you and Felicia if you cooperate with him on this. I know you don’t like to trust people, but his kindness is legitimate and his intent good. You don’t need to be afraid of him.” Addy sipped on her juice as an excuse not to answer Foster at first, while Javan spoke to her uninterrupted. She stared at the man before her warily, enjoying the cool wet, sensation of the juice trickling through her raw throat. When Javan had said his peace, after a few more sips of juice, Addy finally responded. She was willing to trust Foster if Javan wanted her to. “It happened before to me and my mother, but I never let him hurt Felicia. She was too little.” Foster raised his eyebrows. Addy could see he was assessing her physically, and she guessed he was thinking that she wasn’t exactly big herself, and was wondering how she could have possibly stopped her father if he were hell-bent on abusing his younger daughter. Addy was small for her age, but she was still considerably larger than her three-year-old sister. The man leaned in towards her, softening his voice. “You never let him? You were the one to defend her? What about your mother?” “Sometimes,” Addy admitted. “She tried. My mother wasn’t very strong and she was scared of him – even more than I was. I don’t really blame her.” In a way she did, but Addy didn’t want to reveal that. She still loved her mother. If the people who were trying to help her mother to care again succeeded, the woman would be feeling enough guilt over what had happened, without anyone pointing fingers her way. Addy’s father had broken her mother years ago, so there were reasons why the woman was so dysfunctional. Addy might have ended up just like her, if the man had succeeded in breaking his daughters as well. Not that it was out of the realm of possibility, just because he had been removed from their lives. He was gone, but the scars on their bodies and etched into their psyches were permanent and might continue to disrupt things.
“Addy, I have to ask this and I realize you’re probably still traumatized by recent happenings, but it’s very important that you answer me truthfully. Did your father ever do anything other than hit you that made you feel bad? Did he ever touch you in a way that bothered you – that seemed ...wrong?” Addy noticed a change come over Foster as he asked her this. His smile faded and his posture grew tense. These questions were no doubt standard procedure for a child in her situation, and he obviously didn’t like having to dig this way, possibly reluctant to hear what she might have to say. Even though she didn’t fully understand the implications of what he was suggesting, it still made her uncomfortable, sensing his awkwardness. Her cheeks flushed red and hot. Her father was a heartless brute with no control over his temper, but he was not a pedophile. She frowned and shook her head, but she didn’t drop her gaze or do anything else that hinted she might be lying to avoid further humiliation. “Steady, Addy. He’s just looking for ammunition – he doesn’t mean you any harm. There has been plenty of suspicion cast upon your father, but the more that they can pin on him the greater the punishment. They won’t make you go back. I can’t guarantee things will be perfect, but they’ll at least be better than they were with him.” Addy was grateful to have Javan’s soothing words to keep her settled and focussed. Her brain was still fuzzy from the pain-killers and her thoughts kept trying to return to Felicia and what she must be going through. Addy was old enough to cope. She had a reasonable understanding of what was going on. Felicia, on the other hand, would be utterly lost. “I’m not trying to embarrass you, Addy,” Foster told her. “There are just a few things we need to know in order to decide what it is that we can do to help you best. You’ve been through some rough times, more than someone your age should have seen. You’ll probably need to talk through some of the harshest memories, until you can learn to let go of them a little. Sometimes people who have been subjected to negative treatment have the tendency to blame themselves. You do recognize that what happened with your family is in no way your fault?” Addy pulled her blankets up closer to her chin, wishing she was free to hoist them right over her head. She wanted to be able to hide and make it all disappear, even if just for a few minutes. She longed to be up by the water reservoir, her and Javan alone - her and freedom. She suddenly realized that she probably would never get to climb up into the hills again. That notion made her shiver, and the movement caused her shoulder to ache, so she tensed and grimaced reflexively. Foster immediately looked concerned. “Are you okay? Should I call Caroline back in?” “No – don’t call her back,” Addy stated quietly, trying to burrow a little deeper into her blankets.
Foster sat back in his chair, folding his hands together in his lap. “So, evidence suggests that this was going on for some time. Was there a reason why you waited to tell someone you trusted about this? I’d like to know for future reference. What motivated you to finally seek out help? Your teachers believe that you may have been intimidated by your father – that he threatened you to keep your silence. Is there something else that prompted you to act?” What could she say? Could she admit that there was an odd presence that spoke to her, but nobody else could hear him, and that some time he appeared to her through phantom touches and misty visions? Addy didn’t want to do that. They would brand her as crazy. If there was a chance that they might let her see Felicia again, she didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that. Instead, she just shrugged and chose to remain silent. Her reluctance to answer appeared to be enough to bring an end to Foster’s questions. He put a hand gently on her good shoulder. “I think that’s enough questions for now. You rest and I’ll talk to you again later. I’ll be back once Ms. Brooks has arrived to check in on you.” Addy could see that he was observing her reaction to his touch, but she did not cringe or recoil away in any manner. Why would she? – Javan had told her that this Foster was safe and after her intangible friend had been right about what had been happening with her family when she wasn’t there to see it for herself, she had stop questioning what he had to say. Foster appeared to be relieved at her reaction, and giving her another of his casual smiles, he left the room. Still groggy from the drugs, Addy drifted in and out of sleep after Foster departed, waking occasionally to Caroline bustling around the room and the encouraging whispers of Javan. Eventually she roused to the clicking of heels upon hard tile and opened her eyes to find a conservatively dressed blond-haired woman standing at the foot of her bed. She was much stiffer than Foster in her stance and gestures and Addy guessed that this must be the Ms. Brooks that he had mentioned. “Hello, Adelaide. I’m sorry to disturb your rest, but I won’t bother you for long. I just need you to tell me a few things about yourself so that we can have a place arranged for you to go to once they discharge you from the hospital. We’d like to make the transition as easy as possible. Your mother hasn’t been very forthcoming and if you have any special needs we’d like to make sure that they’re addressed. Is there anything we should know about when selecting your foster home? Allergies? Special dietary needs?” Addy was as single-minded as ever. “I want to be with my sister.” The woman cracked a thin smile, but Addy could see much more emotion in her pale blue eyes. Her social worker was trying to distance herself from the situation, something necessary for
the sake of remaining objective, especially considering the number of children in her caseload, but Addy could tell that this was a challenge for Ms. Brooks. This made Addy feel better about her current circumstances. She wanted to believe that someone somewhere cared what became of her and Felicia. “We do our best to keep siblings together, Adelaide, contrary to popular belief. I expect we’ll be able to place you in the same home. She’ll probably go in ahead of you. The doctors tell me that they need to keep you in here a couple of weeks to make sure everything is mending properly and that they didn’t miss any damage caused by your fall. You’re a very lucky girl to still be alive.” Addy suspected she meant that in more ways than one; Ms. Brooks wasn’t just referring to the incident that had damaged her shoulder and arm. She meant every time she had survived her father losing control of his temper, and every risk she had taken when not properly supervised by her mother. Addy had a very negative reaction to what she had just been told, but it wasn’t because she took issue with Ms. Brooks criticizing her parents or that she believed that the woman was chastising her for leaving herself and her sister in a dangerous predicament when she could have spared them some of their suffering sooner. The shaken girl started to shiver uncontrollably at the notion that she would be stuck in the hospital for at least two whole weeks, a place that always made her skin crawl and made her think of death. Worse than that, Addy likely wouldn’t get to see Felicia until they released her to the foster home, and she would probably worry herself sick over her sister the entire time that they would be apart. “Are you cold?” Ms. Brooks asked, not grasping the nature of Addy’s response. “I’ll go fetch you an extra blanket. Then I’ll try to answer whatever questions you have about what things will be like when you leave here. It won’t be so bad, really. I’ve seen many girls just like you adapt well to the changes and live a very happy life – happier than the one that they left behind, by far. I know it will take a little time to get used to the differences and recover from some of the bad experiences that you’ve been subjected to, but everyone you’ll be dealing with will be aware of that, and they’ll be very understanding.” She left the room with a hurried stride. “It’s okay, Addy.” Javan whispered, trying to lend her some comfort. “Whenever you’re asleep I’ll look in on Felicia, just like I used to when you were attending your classes. If there’s any need for concern, I’ll let you know. I promise. Since you can’t watch over her, I will. You need to focus on getting better. You need to heal. The sooner you get better, the sooner you’ll be back with her again.” Addy nodded and exhaled loudly. Javan’s willingness to keep vigil over Felicia did help to settle her frazzled nerves but was only a partial cure to what ailed her. It wouldn’t change the fact that she would be stuck in that horrible hospital room, staring at those bland sterile walls and
breathing in that terrible smell for longer than she thought it would be humanly possible to tolerate. She couldn’t bear the thought and hid her face under her covers. “Addy, please - I’ll tell you stories and we can pretend we’re somewhere completely different. Two weeks will go by faster than you realize. Just think of it: no more fear, no more shouting, no more insults, and no more bruises. This will be much nicer than what you’re leaving behind, even if you don’t like it here. You can start fresh, somewhere new. Being here for two weeks is a small price to pay, compared to what you’ve endured to this point. “I don’t care. I still hate it here. Only bad things happen in hospitals,” Addy grumbled, remaining sheltered beneath the blanket. “That’s not true. People are cured of disease and healed of wounds here all the time. Babies are born in the hospital. You brought Felicia home from the hospital. That was good right?” “For me, yes,” Addy murmured, her words laced with sadness, “For her, not so much.” Addy was expecting some sort of response, another attempt at rallying her spirits, but Javan went silent. Instead, Addy found herself startled as Ms. Brooks peeled back the covers and peered into the shadows underneath. The woman, wearing a curious expression held out another blanket to Addy. “Here’s your blanket – are you hiding friends in here? I thought I heard you talking to someone. “ Addy, wide-eyed, shook her head. “Well you might want to come out then. I have friends out here. Look who I ran into in the hall.” Addy carefully threw off the blankets, trying not to jostle her shoulder and arm that were starting to ache again. At first she was a little disappointed, finding only Foster, whom she did not actually consider a friend just yet. Then a cherubic little face peered out at her from behind him. He had brought Felicia to her. Foster grinned. “Addy!” the little girl squealed and made a dash for her bed. It took some fast scrambling on Foster’s part to keep her from leaping up onto her sister who was in no physical state to receive such rough treatment. Felicia couldn’t help the fact that she was not able to contain her enthusiasm. After Foster managed to get her to calm down a little, he lifted her and set her gently next to Addy on the blankets. Addy gave her younger sister a one armed hug, and Felicia looped her arms around her neck, holding onto her like someone might immediately yank her away again. “I missed you,” Felicia told her. Addy felt really good for the first time since she had awoken in the hospital. Her pain seemed insignificant now that she had Felicia with her, and could see for herself that her sister was
safe and well. “I missed you too,” Addy murmured, mussing Felicia’s hair. She glanced at Foster and gave him a sincere thank you. “So can we go home now?” Felicia asked, lifting her head to look Addy square in the face. “I miss Mommy.” Addy stroked her hair and wondered if this moment would be something her sister would always remember in a negative. Felicia was no doubt tiring of strange people and strange places. It was a lot for a little girl to absorb. “We can’t go home, Felicia. Mommy needs lots of rest, and she won’t be able to take care of us, so we have to go live somewhere else. There will be nice people there, and we’ll be going together. We’ll be alright, okay? We’ll be alright.” Addy expected her to cry and fuss and try to force the issue, but to her surprise Felicia just went silent and curled up against her. Sitting with her little sister and holding her as tightly as she could with one arm, Addy hoped that what she had just told her was true.,