The day had finally arrived; Nicole was going to be reunited with Arielle. The single mother and freedom activist sat nervously in the foyer of Frank Carragher’s enormous home. Over the past couple of weeks, Nicole had been kept busy filing paperwork as well as writing press releases that were pure propaganda. Although Carragher had not been overly aggressive in his advances-at least not yet-Nicole felt quite uncomfortable being alone with him.
It would only be a matter of time before he expected-make that demanded-her to tend to his needs, so to speak. Nicole, going through the motions to ensure her own survival and, most importantly, that of her daughter’s, continued to cling to the faint hope that somehow, somewhere, her knight in shining armor would arrive back in town, eliminate all of the villains and sweep her up in his arms. Most real-life stories did not have such a glamorous fairy tale ending.
Nicole sat still as she heard the sound of a vehicle pulling up in front of the house. She tried to keep her emotions in check. Outside, two officials from the federal corrections department opened the backseat of an unmarked car they were driving. Arielle, a bit bewildered, stepped out of the back of the car. Carragher was standing on the doorstep.
“Take her inside,” the district administrator ordered.
The federal agents escorted Arielle into the foyer. Nicole’s knees buckled. Her little girl-her one and only child-appeared much more grown up since the last time she’d seen her.
That wasn’t the only thing different about Arielle. Gone was the happy-go-lucky sparkle in the child’s eyes as well as her million-dollar smile. Arielle appeared distant, as if she’d been brainwashed.
The correctional officials turned and left. Overwhelmed by a combination of exuberance and tearful joy, Nicole embraced Arielle in her arms. Immediately she noticed that the bond they’d once had wasn’t there.
“So here you are.” Nicole smiled through the river of tears that ran down her face. “You have no idea how much I missed you. At least you’re being well fed in there. What do you and the other children do all day?”
“We attend citizenship classes. The instructors teach us about the Fatherland and how President Asher loves and cares for each and every citizen of his great republic. They once told me that you were a dangerous enemy of the state who deserved no mercy.”
Oh, had she ever been brainwashed. Nicole had been given back a completely different little girl. She only hoped that it wouldn’t be too late to save her.
“Don’t worry honey. I have changed a lot. And because of that, we are going to be a family again. Let’s sit down, shall we?”
Nicole pointed to the large chesterfield. Mother and daughter sat down.
“Arielle, do you know Mr. Carragher?”
“Our illustrious administrator,” Arielle said respectfully. “We have learned so much about you in our classes.”
“It warms my heart to hear that,” the pompous, domineering bureaucrat said. “Your mother has been serving me well. In the not-too-distant future, you too will be chosen to serve your country.”
“But you don’t have to worry about that now,” Nicole said with a smile as she put her arms around Arielle. She could sense that Arielle was not comfortable with it.
“I have a little present for you.”
Nicole reached inside of a fancy shopping bag and retrieved a gorgeous porcelain doll.
“I know how much you love dolls. At least you used to.”
Arielle looked over the doll, which had alluring eyes and auburn hair. It was encased inside of a plastic and cardboard package.
“Do they give you toys to play with?”
“No,” Arielle answered.
“We are going to be living here with Mr. Carragher. It’s amazing that you and I are together once more. That must make you happy.”
“Just as long as you’ve changed your ways.”
“Believe me dear, I have,” Nicole bluffed. “And I did it for you.”