Chapter 17: Trenton, North Carolina - December 20, 2004
The pounding on the backdoor was loud as I made my way up the hall from my bedroom. Momma and Dad were in the living room, poking their heads out. I waved that I would get it, Dad standing from his chair. Pulling open the door, I saw someone was standing in the darkness of the back porch. Reaching over, I flicked on the porch light. The small light fixture turned on, sending a pale-yellow glow down. Rain was falling from the sky, dripping from the gutters onto the back porch. The person standing there was dressed in a black hoodie and a pair of blue jeans. I knew it was Cory from the shine of his glasses. I could see the tape holding them together. I looked at him confused.
It had been almost a full year since he had come to my house. Ever since CPS has ruled Vicky wasn’t harming him last December. He had been so angry with me for telling my parents that he didn’t speak to me for almost an entire week. Finally, he apologized to me for giving me the cold shoulder. He told me we could still be friends but we would only be able to see each other at school. It had been a year since then, our friendship limited to the walls of the school. As much as I hated it, I knew there was nothing I could do about it. We did meet at our spot a few times when he could get out. He took to leaving notes on my bedroom window then, letting me know when to go there.
“Cory? What are you doing here?” I asked, stepping aside so he could come in. He did, water dripping off of him as he stood in the kitchen. Reaching up, he pulled his hoodie off and I gasped. His left eye was red and puffy, black already forming around the edge of it. There was blood under his nose and his bottom lip was cut open. The worse was his neck. He had red marks all around it, making what I assumed was a visible hand mark near his throat.
“I didn’t know where else to go.” He whispered, tears brimming his eyes. Taking off his glasses, he buried his face into his hands and let out a muffled cry. Stepping forward, I wrapped my arms around him. I could feel the cold rain that had soaked his hoodie through my long-sleeved shirt as I pulled him close. He tucked his arms around me as well, squeezing me as tight as he could while he cried. From the corner of my eye, I saw Dad appear in the door way of the kitchen. Turning, I saw he was looking at us with a sense of surprise. It changed though when he saw Cory’s face. Dad disappeared, returning a few minutes later with Momma.
“Abby, what’s going on?” She asked, stepping into the kitchen. I let go of Cory, letting him wipe his face off. Blood was now smeared on the front of my shirt where he had buried his face to cry. Reaching over, I grabbed his hand.
“Vicky beat him up.” I replied, giving his hand a reassuring squeeze. Cory glanced at me before facing my parents. Momma gave him a sympathetic smile when she saw his injuries.
“I’ll get him some dry clothes.” Dad said, heading towards the laundry room in the basement.
“Cory, would it be okay with you if I called the police?” Momma asked, placing a hand on his shoulder. He shrunk back a bit, flinching at her touch. “The sooner we call them, the sooner they can have her taken into custody for what she did to you.”
“But won’t they send me away to live with a different foster family then?” He asked, gripping my hand tightly.
“Mr. Green and I won’t let them do that. You can live here first before we would let that happen, okay?”
“Really?” Momma smiled.
“Yes. So, is it okay?” Cory looked at me for an answer. I gave him a small nod. Looking back at my mother, he nodded.
“Alright.” Momma turned to look at me. “Abby, why don’t you make Cory a sandwich while I call the police? I’m sure he’s hungry.”
“Okay.” She headed towards the living room, leaving the two of us alone. He sighed, leaning against the counter.
“Are you hungry?” I asked, grabbing a small plate from the cupboard.
“Not really.” Nodding, I put the plate back and shifted so I was facing him. “I’m scared, Abby.”
“I know. Me too. But my parents won’t let anything happen to you. When they say they are going to do something, they do it. The police can prove that she’s hurting you now with the marks she left. What happened?”
“Vicky came home from work and she was in a bad mood. I was in my room doing homework and she came in, asking me why I hadn’t done the dishes yet. I told her I would do it when I was done. She started yelling and screaming at me about how useless I am. That I was never going to amount to anything. The usual. Something she said made me mad though so I snapped back at her. It only made matters worse. She grabbed ahold of me and was choking me. I almost passed out. Then she punched me a bunch of times. I only managed to get out of there when I shoved her on her ass.”
“What did she say that made you fight back?” I asked.
“She said you were a good for nothing whore. I saw red. All I wanted to do was make her pay for what she said about you. Everything she said about you. It pissed me off that the worst part of my life was ruining the best thing.”
“Cory, that was so dangerous for you to do. She could have killed you. I’m not worth your life.” He stepped forward, grabbing my hand in his again.
“To me, you are.” I felt a blush fill my cheeks as we locked eyes. Just like that day in Newburg when we went to find his biological father, I felt Cory’s face lean in towards mine. My stomach felt like elephants were flying around in there and my heart started racing in my chest. Our lips were about to touch when someone cleared their throat behind us. Jumping, I saw Momma was standing in the doorway again. She was holding a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt for Cory. A small smile tugged at her lips as she walked in.
“Here, Cory. You can change into this. They are sending a police officer over right now. Make sure you keep your clothes together so they can take it with them.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Green.” Cory said, letting go of my hand so he could take the clean clothes. He walked up the hallway from the kitchen towards the bathroom. When the door shut, Momma turned and looked at me.
“What?” I asked, looking away from her. I pretended to be interested in putting dishes away.
“Oh nothing. Remind me to have a mother and daughter talk with you when this is all over with tomorrow.” I groaned, rolling my eyes so she couldn’t see it.
“Momma, please don’t.” She giggled, stepping towards me.
“Don’t worry. I get it. Believe me.” There was a hard knock on the front door and I could tell it was a police officer. I heard Daddy answer it and another man’s voice followed. Looking up the hall, I saw a North Carolina state trooper standing in our living room. I followed Momma as she headed up the hallway towards the living room. I stopped by the bathroom though, waiting for Cory to come out. He did a few moments later, carrying his wet clothes. He glanced at the police officer and his color paled slightly. I put my hand on his shoulder and gave him a small smile. Together, we walked into the living room where the adults were talking.
“You must be Cory. I’m Officer Parks. I came to talk to you for a little bit, Cory. Is that okay?” The police officer asked. He was a younger guy, more than likely no older than 25. His black hair was cut short to his scalp and he had blue eyes that seemed to shimmer when he looked at you. His black uniform was very clean looking as well as the gun at his hip. I imagined him pulling it out and shooting Vicky. My mother would have scolded me for such a thought but at the moment, I could care less if that horrible woman lived or died.
“Sure.” Cory replied. Him and I were told to sit on the couch with my mother while the police officer sat in Dad’s chair. Daddy propped himself against the wall across from all of us, watching in silence.
“Can you tell me how you go hurt?” Officer Parks asked, pulling out a small notebook.
“My foster mother, Vicky Henderson, attacked me.” Cory answered. He explained what happened and how she struck him again and again. Momma made noises under her breath as she listened, trying her best to not swear out loud in front of us. Even though I was fourteen, she still hated to swear in front of me. Officer Parks wrote everything down while Cory spoke, asking questions about their relationship and if Cory was afraid to go back in case it happened again.
“I think it might be best for you to get checked out at the hospital, bud.” Officer Parks said, standing. “Just in case you have a concussion or anything like that. The nurses there will take pictures for me too. A CPS worker will probably be there as well. Can you tell them what you told me?”
“Yes, sir.” Cory said.
“Good. Do you want me to call an ambulance?”
“I can take him.” Daddy said, stepping forward. “He’ll be staying here anyway until this is all figured out.”
“Right. I’ll meet you at the hospital then.”
“What’s going to happen to Vicky?” I asked, feeling a bit nervous to speak.
“Well, once they take pictures and check him out, I can take my findings to my supervisor. From there, they will probably issue a warrant for her arrest. Me or one of my fellow officer will arrest her. Our county doesn’t take child abuse lightly.”
“Could have fooled me.” Momma muttered under her breath. I was the only one who heard it though. Officer Parks shook my father’s hand before exiting out the front door.
“I’m gonna get my coat and stuff on. You ready, Cory?” Dad asked. Cory nodded, standing from the couch. Dad jogged up the stairs to my parents’ bedroom. Momma grabbed a spare sweater off the coat rack near the door and handed it to Cory.
“It’s the closest thing to a coat I have. Tomorrow, I can run and get you one.”
“It’s okay, Mrs. Green. This works.” He replied, pulling on the grey wool jacket. Dad came back down the stairs, his boots and his blue flannel coat on. He pulled his baseball cap down on his head and opened the front door.
“We’ll be back, girls. Amelia, if that woman shows up here, I want you to call the police right away. Don’t even answer the door.” Dad spoke, leaning in to give Momma a kiss. She nodded, cupping his cheeks in her hands.
“I will. Be safe.” They talked to each other some more as I glanced over at Cory. Fresh tears looked like they were threatening to fall.
“Everything will be okay.” I said, giving him a small smile. He nodded, sniffing.
“Make sure you don’t answer the door is it’s Vicky.” He responded, looking at me.
“I mean it, Abz. She’s crazy and she’s super pissed right now. And she’s gonna know I came here.”
“Well, let her show up. She’ll get arrested that much faster then.” I grinned at him, giving him a wink as Dad motioned for him to follow him out to the truck.
Dad and Cory were gone until about 1 am at the hospital. Momma and I were still awake, watching movies in the living room. Grams had come home while we were waiting and Momma filled her in on everything that happened. She offered to stay up with us but Momma reassured her we would be okay. I waited for Vicky to show up, beating our door down. She never came though. I think Momma was waiting for the same thing because she kept the house phone with her for most of the night. All I could do was stare at the Christmas tree in the corner of the living room and wonder what was going to happen next. We both sighed in relief when Daddy and Cory walked in the front door. Momma jumped off the couch and hugged my father who looked exhausted. They both did. I stood, stepping closer to Cory.
“What happened?” Momma asked.
“Well, they checked him out. No concussion but he will have quite the shiner tomorrow morning. They took pictures of everything and sent it to the police station. Officer Parks said that they are issuing a warrant for her arrest now and she should be locked up before morning.” Dad said, rubbing his eyes.
“What about you, though?” I asked softly, looking at Cory.
“The CPS worker said I could stay here until my family court date as long as it’s alright with your parents. That’s when they’ll decide where I’ll go next.” He replied.
“Cory, you are welcomed to stay here as long as you’d like.” Momma said, smiling at him. “I’ll make up the couch for you. Abby, it’s way passed your bedtime.”
“Can’t Cory sleep in my room like he used to?” I asked, confused by the couch comment. Whenever he slept here before, it was always in my room. He even had his own sleeping bag in my closet.
“Umm…I’m thinking not to night, sweetie. We’ll talk more about in the morning, okay?” She replied, casting a look at my father who whispered something under his breath. Shrugging, I gave Cory one last look before heading to my bedroom.
Sleep did not come to me. I listened as I heard my parents climb the stairs for their bedroom and climbed into their bed. Soon, the sound of my father’s snores rippled through the house. Other than that, everything was quiet except my mind. It was buzzing like a bee with everything that had happened tonight. It was hard to believe that after all this time, Cory was finally safe and away from Vicky. No longer would he be in danger from her or her fists. Worry still lingered in the pit of my stomach though. What if the judge ruled for him to live in a foster family far away from here? Would I ever see him again? I don’t know what I would do without him here. I didn’t want to picture it at all.
Unable to sleep, I climbed out of bed and turned my bedroom light on. Walking over to my desk, I opened one of my notebooks and started to write. I don’t know what I was writing but it was something that just felt the need to be written. It was a story of a boy and a girl who were kept a part by an evil queen. The girl managed to save the day and they lived happily ever after. It felt nice knowing that Cory could finally live happily ever after like the couple in my story. I smiled to myself as I read through it one last time before sliding it into a binder. I closed it as a soft knock rattled on my bedroom door. Standing, I walked over and opened it a crack. Cory’s face appeared in the sliver of light that came from my room.
“Hey.” He whispered. “I couldn’t sleep and saw your light on. Can I come in?”
“Yeah.” I opened the door the rest of the way and he slipped in. “I couldn’t sleep either. Are you okay?”
“I think so. Your dad said that him and your mom might try to get custody of me. That would be really cool. I wouldn’t mind living with you.” He smirked at me as he sat on my bed.
“You’ve never had to get ready in the morning the same time as my Dad and me though. He takes forever.” I replied, sitting on the bed next to him.
“Hey, Abby?” He asked, glancing at me from the corner of his eye.
“I want to try something. Don’t freak out, okay?”
“Okay.” Suddenly, he leaned in and pressed his lips against mine in a quick kiss. I looked at him surprised as he pulled away, a blush forming on both of our cheeks.
“Umm...thank you?” I said after a few minutes. He let out a nervous soft chuckle, rubbing the back of his head like he does all the time when he’s nervous.
“It’s something I wanted to do for a while now I guess. Sorry if you didn’t like it.”
“No. I liked it. It’s just that...it was my first kiss.” I said, trying my best to not sound lame. It was true though. Cory was the only boy I talked to and I never really looked at other guys in my grade. They were either immature or they just didn’t seem to notice me at all. I did have a crush on one of the football players but no one knew about that. I kept that hidden as much as I could. Not even Angie or Marie knew about that.
“It was?” He asked. I nodded, turning away from him. My hair fell down over my face, blocking my red cheeks from him. I felt him move and he tucked my hair behind my ear. Leaning in, he kissed me on the cheek softly. “I’m glad it was with me.”