Free to a Good Home, Book 2 of the Heartbeat Series

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10. Court

Perched on a bar stool in Alex’s kitchen, Paul finished the remnants of his Eggs Benedict, swiping the rest of Anna’s homemade Hollandaise sauce with the last bite of his English muffin. She always made it for him when he visited. Today, here alone, with the weight of the world on his shoulders, he must have warranted a little extra love from the elderly housekeeper. He polished off the rest of the lemony English Breakfast tea as Anna, poured the rest into the travel mug she had set out. She placed it before Paul as he wiped his mouth on the cloth napkin. His eyes briefly met those of the wise grandmother who grounded every celebrity who sat in what they all knew to be Anna’s kitchen in Alex’s house, reminding them of their personhood, not their celebrity status.

Paul’s eyes were tired. Circles abound, red veins in his whites, he did not have enough sleep or was well rested enough to do the important work of today. Anna’s sweet smile attempted to bolster his resolve. The good Catholic housekeeper reminded him what his own good Catholic housekeeper had said about the situation. Maia was just one more to love. He kept that in the forefront of his mind while being battered by the words of his mother, the actions of his father, the diagnosis of the doctors, the legal trouble of ACR, and the press that wouldn’t stop hassling him.

Even Father Tim had woke him at seven that morning, replying to the SOS text from Paul only hours before as the birds chirped at dawn’s light creeping beyond the guest room blinds. Father Tim said that he and the rest of the rectory would hold Maia in prayer and remember her at Holy Rosary that morning. As the St. Nick’s school principal, Father Tim had duties beyond the parish, and he couldn’t leave the Poconos for Queens to perform the anointing of the sick--the last rite.

Father Tim questioned the unconscious girl’s status as a Roman Catholic. Really? Her status as a Catholic? His sister is dying and her status as a Catholic mattered more? Sometimes he hated his faith. Was she this or that? Did it really matter? Why can’t we just love all not some? He battled this with the padre over many sessions for absolution in his own life. Still, Paul took her religious upbringing for granted when considering the next step for her if she continued to deteriorate. Was there a slight chance that she was even a Catholic to perform the last rite for? He pushed the thought from his mind. Sure, where she ended up in the afterlife was important but he could not think of that. All he could think about was the little girl in the bed, the little girl in the crate, the little girl homeless, the little girl covered in frostbite, the little girl that cried for help when no one responded to her.

Father Tim, Anna and Elly all said the same thing: Maia was just one more to love. Sure, he could see her as a troublemaker, another bill, another one to confide his secret life with, but deep down, Paul realized that the person of faith that he was, agreed with them. Maia was one more to love. He didn’t know how she would feel about an emergency baptism and the last rite. Was she even a Christian? Was she even christened as a baby? Maybe as a Protestant, she was baptized. Was Maia raised a non-Christian all these years and had Catrina really breached the contract between her and Dad? Uncle Dom had told his dad of their falling out and Catrina reneged on the baptism end of the agreement. She kept the trust but omitted the vow to raise Maia in the church and reject all forces of sin and evil through baptism when it came to the girl. Once again, money mattered over Maia.

He wished he knew of Maia then. She would never have ended up on the street and his father would have had a relationship with the girl. If only she would wake up. What would he say when she opened her eyes? Please, Mother Mary, let it be today she wakes and the doctor says she will make it. An unknowing tear dripped from his eye as Anna reached for his hand on the bar and laid her wrinkled one over it alerting him of her presence. In her other hand, she had a glass of water for him to take his pills now that he had eaten his breakfast.

Quickly he wiped his cheek with his hand, rubbing his fatigued face and putting the heels of his hands to his eyes with his elbows on the bar. Any more tears would just make them worse. He had to stop this. He had to be strong for the cameras, and for the courthouse. The last thing Paul needed was to cry in front of mama. He could not let his mother see his tears. To her that was weakness and nobody has time for tears, especially for that bastard. Shoving his mother out of his head was so hard for Paul.

He cleared his throat and sipped the water before shaking out the pills from the bottles. One by one he slipped the pills onto the back of his tongue to swallow, grimacing at the horrible taste of the one and the enormous size of the other. He finished the water as Anna took his empty plate to the sink and rinsed it off, then put it and the silverware in the dishwasher.

“Anna, what do I say to her?”

“Hi, I’m Paul?” she asked.

He laughed. “I mean after that.”

“What do you think you should say?”

Paul paused and didn’t answer right away, then said the only words he thought of since he left Maia the night before. “I got you.”

Anna smiled at him. “I think that sums it up. Sounds to me as if she hadn’t had anyone there for her in a while.”

“I want to tell her to work on getting well. Let me manage the rest.”

Anna smiled. “Say all of that. Keep it simple and keep your mother away from her.”

I’m so afraid she’s going to die, Anna.”

“Do you have your rosary?”

“Yes Ma’am,” he said, holding up his right hand with the matching rosary ring that Joey wore. Both wore it on their right hands, their commitment rings on their left that Paul hid in his pocket when he was in public.

She walked over and slid onto her nose the reading glasses that bumped her breasts when she waddled as they hung from the beaded chain about her neck. She held out her palm to inspect it.

“How does that work?”

He laid his hand down on hers and she moved it.

“Father Kelly called this morning offering to visit and do the prayers of the sick and a Holy Rosary with you all.”

Paul tried to lift his voice and speak softer instead of whispering which hurt his voice more. “I’m leaving that up to Joey. That ward has very strict visiting policies,” his voice wavered and finally croaked.

Her fingertip stroked the cross then turned it to see the ten raised gold studs about its perimeter as it rotated on the lower ring. “That is very clever,” she said. Anna enclosed his hand with her two and her eyes met his. “Whatever you say, saying it with love matters most.”

Paul smiled and nodded. “I just hope I have the chance to say it.”

His hand caught the tear before it fell. Wiping his weary eyes only made him more tired and wish to go back upstairs to bed and call Daniel Stockton and tell him to take care of it for him. But he can’t. Maia would lose. This wasn’t about him or the pissing contest with his parents. It was about her. He had to follow through. Paul stood and hugged Anna, then reached for the inhaler and the bottles of pills and shoved them into the leather coat pocket as Mick entered the kitchen in a black turtleneck and dress slacks.

“Mr. Lenci, Mr. Stockton is here.”

Anna handed Mick his travel mug of coffee to go as well and he thanked her. She handed Paul his tea as well and he thanked her for breakfast. As he left the kitchen, he turned back and met her eyes. She opened her arms to him and in two steps he was there, bending down to her and soaking in her energy. How he wanted his mother to be like her. He asked God many times why his mother was never loving to him, why she was so harsh, and why empathy was not in her wheelhouse.

“Save your voice. You’ll be fine,” she said, rubbing his upper back. “You’re in good hands with Mr. Stockton.”

Paul smiled and nodded and left the portly housekeeper in the kitchen as Molly scurried to him, her little brown curls bounced. Paul handed Mick his tea so as not to burn the baby with the hot liquid then scooped up his little goddaughter and carried her to Megan’s office. So not to infect her, Paul and kissed Molly on the crown of her head, wishing he could smell the baby wash’s scent. She wrapped her little arms around his neck and raised herself up and tightened her grip on him.

“I will be back later tonight, okay?”

No, stay!”

“I’ll be back, I promise,” he croaked again.

Paul stood in the doorway of Megan’s office as she finished a phone call, then set the phone in the cradle as Paul stepped forward.

Megan reached to peel Molly from him.

“Thank you, Uncle Paulie,” said Megan with a laugh as he released a fussy Molly over to her. Paul left the office, hearing Molly’s protests, trying to hurry so not to be late for court. Mick held the front door for Paul as they exited the house.

Through his horn-rimmed Versace eyeglasses, Daniel Stockton’s smiling blue eyes met Paul’s as he greeted him in the Corwynn’s driveway. With a cell phone in one hand, he extended the other and invited Paul into the back of the car as Mick opened the back door for Paul to enter and Daniel to follow. Once settled, Mick closed it behind them. On so little sleep, Paul could barely keep his eyes open let alone think clearly, so he kept steadily sipping the tea, wishing it was a triple shot of Sumatra coffee for the jolt of caffeine he needed before he could even comprehend any legalese that Daniel was about to spew at him.

As Daniel chattered into his cell with his legal assistant, Paul stared out of the limo’s window as it waited in line at the onramp, hoping for a quick ride in the HOV lane this morning, but expecting the typical parking lot crawl as usual. This was why he lived in rural Pennsylvania. He didn’t have to do this on the daily. While he owned a house in LA, he sold his apartment in New York and bought his home in Pennsylvania ten years ago, never regretting the decision to do so. He texted Joey.

Paul: How is she

Joey: Not good

Paul: Did you sleep

Joey: Only out of exhaustion

Paul: I feel you

Joey: hru

Paul: Worse

Joey: ??

Paul: tired stressed can’t deal with mama’s shit.

Joey: Get through this and send them home.

Paul: He has to stay.

Joey: They wished her dead. He hardly cares.

Paul did not answer as Daniel ended his call.

“How are you today, Paul?” asked Daniel.

“Here, that’s about it. How bad is this mess?”

Daniel smirked. “This is a simple hearing. It’s a small ex parte courtroom. Just because we’re going to the Queens Supreme Courthouse does not make this a federal case. No press is allowed inside. You and your dad will stand before the judge, in a small courtroom, and I’m going to speak for you. Just let me talk,” said Daniel. “No emotion, Paul, poker face.”

Paul cleared his throat and set the empty cup in the cup holder across from him. “I don’t want this any uglier than what it is. Could you say like in the papers, that they live in a senior living community and can’t have her and they are both in their 80’s?”

“Absolutely. If your father brings up last night, I will deal with it then.”

“Alex said there’s legal trouble over this.”

“The DA was out ruffling feathers. I don’t think he has grounds to do anything to ACR as Maia was at fault and took her own life into her own hands when she climbed into that truck. She could’ve taken that note to security and Joey would have seen her and checked her out.”

“I keep hearing about this note—”

Daniel smiled and opened the plastic pendaflex and pulled out the original note in clear notebook protector page.

Paul read the note and examined the birth certificate.

“Why didn’t she go to ACR’s studios in Chicago?”

“She did.”

“What?”

She was a mess. They thought she was a homeless kid on the street tripping...”

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

They get all kinds in there, Paul. Everything from little kids trying to be the next Kanye to sexed up barely legals wanting some sugar.

They could’ve called—”

“You were on tour and no one knew of her—”

“Still—”

“If I had called you up and said hey Paul, you got a little sister looking for you, what would you have said?”

Paul nodded and knew Daniel was right. “Fuck man—”

“We all got to own this one. We all fucked up when it came to her. I take that back. All but you. Hell, you did nothing wrong.”

“I did plenty. I got sick. Maia would’ve been out in Cleveland. One more day Daniel—” Paul whispered as he handed it the note back to Daniel.

Did you read the back?”

Puzzled, Paul flipped it over.

“What the fuck—” he said, laughing. “is this what the bitches on The View were roasting me about?”

“Probably.”

Paul chuckled. “Look at her, using my own words against me.” He read through it again. “Was this the Rolling Stone interview with Gill?”

Yes, he recognized it and contacted PR. Gill will be at the press conference. He called for a pass.”

Paul sighed. “At least one friendly face out of how many?”

“20 something.”

Paul snorted and pressed his head against the back of the seat. Regardless of what the rest said, he felt responsible. If he wasn’t a celebrity, if he was an average lounge lizard, she would have found him. He would have known about her—her father would have told him about her—but the old man wanted more. He wanted his gay son to pay for his aging years--their home, their cars, their bills, their vacations, their expenses. It just proved the hundred times Joey had said it to be true. When it came to his parents, money and how he used it upon them was all that Paul was really good for. Money. The reason Maia was a secret. Paul’s celebrity status was an excuse to the old man. His convenient excuse.

As the limo stopped at the curb of the courthouse, Paul was shocked by the lack of reporters. Horns blared behind them for holding up traffic as Mick held the door for them and escorted Paul and Daniel inside the outer doors of the courthouse. They snaked through the line of anxious people waiting to go through security, Paul tried not to look about but was peering around for his parents but saw more with juror badges and others anxious to get through the metal detectors.

“Ohmygod, you’re Paul Lenci,” said a lady ahead of them in line. She turned to face them as Mick leaned back to avoid the briefcase purse slung on her shoulder and bursting with file folders. Her blonde curls bounced with her bob and her pink blouse had an extra button opened at the breast as her glossy red lips grinned at him.

“Hi there,” he whispered.

“Hows your little sister?”

Paul shook his head. “Not well. Please pray for her.

“I will. Seems as if you need some yourself.

He nodded.

“I’m glad I met you.

“Me too. What’s your name?” unexpectedly asked Paul.

“Adeline Barnes, I’m a defense lawyer,” She took out her card. “From the recent report out of Chicago, you might need a lawyer like me.”

At that point, Daniel stepped forward and took a defensive stance between her and Paul, making Mick raise his eyebrow at her but saying nothing.

“I’m Daniel Stockton, lead counsel of his label. What do you know?

Addie handed him her copy of the New York Post with a vandalized Cadillac on the front of it.

“No way…” squeaked Paul, taking it.

“I have to tell you both, what I read yesterday in her and her mother’s journals is not the girl they are portraying. She’s brilliant, classical piano medals for regional and state competitions. If she did that—”

Something must have pushed her to that point, filled in Addy. We should talk.She handed Daniel a card as well. Are you here for guardianship?

Yes, said Daniel. Collins is presiding.

He’s cool, she said, short and sweet--say it and let him sign it. He’s a man of few words until you piss him off. Then he rarely shuts up.”

“Where are you licensed?” asked Daniel.

New York and Illinois. I’m from Chicago.”

“We will be in touch,” said Daniel with a smile.

Mick got them in an empty elevator and blocked others from getting inside.

Addy pressed the 3. We are all on 3. I’m across the hall. As the elevator doors opened she pointed to the right and walked to her hearing.

Paul texted Mick with ??? as Mick was always a good judge of character.

Mick nodded with a smile. True grit,” was his reply.

Paul spotted Mack with his parents and approached them. He bent and kissed his mother’s cheek then hugged his father. He texted Daniel.

“Paul wants me to explain why this hearing is necessary. This must be done for you, ACR, and most importantly Maia. If you retain custody of her, you would have to move from your retirement community and being that you are in your eighties, managing a teenager would be too much.”

“We do not want her,” said Rosa. “Let’s get this over with. Had my son just let them shut her off last night, you would not be wasting our time today.”

Paul frowned and his face went a deep red of seething anger. Where was Joey when he needed him to intervene?

Daniel tried to referee and chill out both of them before Paul lost his cool there in public. Brandon had warned him of Mama Mussolini’s power over Paul and after 47 years she still ran right over him as if he was a dirt road.

“Look, Paul loves you both very much, and he’s sorry for all of this court business. ACR likewise needs Maia to wake up and answer for her part in this matter. In the end, she was going to end up with Paul anyway. So, you might as well deal with this now instead of flying up here twice in the next couple months to handle it.

“That does not excuse your disrespect of your mama, Paul Anthony Michael.”

“I’m sorry, Mama,” he croaked again.

Look, you got to give him some slack here. This isn’t his kid. She’s your kid and your secret that he gets to take care of. Don’t you owe him an apology? Some gratitude?

Rosa said nothing and walked to the courtroom with Saverio behind her as the clerk opened the door for them to enter.

“Mama please,” said Paul as they entered.

Her crossed brows and pursed lips that showed the 60 years of smoking met him as her deep chocolate eyes stared him down like she was about to smack him with her handbag, that hung from the crook of her elbow. While Paul appreciated Daniel defending him, his mama was madder at him then she was before. She didn’t forgive anything he did since he came out to them 10 years ago. She just became tolerable until the next blow up.

The small courtroom door opened and Daniel ushered them into a wooden pew. Saverio wanted to separate Paul from Rosa and had her go before him to sit. Paul sat on the end with Mack and Mick standing behind them. and Paul sat next to his dad while Daniel checked in with the clerk.

The once empty waiting area was now filled with onlookers, who had put their cell phones up to the plate glass windows to catch a picture or view of Paul. The clerk called the judge on her phone and he stomped out of chambers with his unzipped robe. People flocked to the plate glass windows of the courtroom taking pictures of Paul as Mack and Mick moved to block Paul from them as the bolder fans burst into the courtroom to get closer to him.

Paul motioned to Mack whose deep bass voice bellowed, “Mr. Lenci is still sick and worried that he is still contagious. He’s here on an important family matter and cannot visit with you right now.”

The white hair of the judge’s comb-over flopped as the judge reached for his gavel and pounded the wooden block below.

“If you are not a party to the Lenci proceeding, you need to leave NOW! Security is on its way!

The fans cleared out.

Bailiff shut the door and close the blinds. Where’s the opposing counsel?”

“There is none, your honor,” said Daniel.

“Was there sufficient time for the Lenci’s to retain an attorney?”

“No, Sir, this was of an urgent nature.”

“No matter, they should have counsel.”

Rosa muttered something to Saverio in Italian. Saverio stood.

“Judge, we no need one. Maia needs Paulie. We are too old. He is good for her. She’s very sick. We need to go to the hospital soon to see the baby.”

Daniel smirked at “the baby.”

“Well, the baby is all over the news. I will not have my court turned into a three-ring circus by gregarious fans or film crews. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, Sir,” said Paul as well as he could muster.

Judge Collins shot Paul a look and then barked at his clerk. “Brenda, get me the paperwork on my desk, please,said Judge Collins, zipping up his robe and sitting at the bench. “Counsel, approach.”

Daniel moved forward, leaving them where they were seated. Daniel moved in as the judge covered the microphone and said something inaudible to the rest. Brenda brought him the order and the working papers that were filed the day before.

“Paul Lenci, can you speak?”

“Yes, sir,” croaked Paul.

“All of you approach,” he ordered, sitting down. The clerk called the case and the recorder was now on for the court record.

“Counsel, I want to know right now why I shouldn’t assign guardian ad litem for Maia Catrina Lenci, being that she was homeless and now in critical condition because this family had abandoned her. I do not believe any of you should be entrusted with the care of her.

Daniel spoke up. “Your honor, until yesterday afternoon, Paul Lenci had no knowledge of this child’s existence.

“Mr. Lenci, why didn’t you tell your son of your daughter Maia?” asked the judge.

“I didn’t feel it was his business to know. His sisters, they did not know either.”

“Did you pay child support for this child?”

“I had a trust for her.”

“Did this trust account for inflation?”

Saverio did not understand and looked to Paulie who sighed and repeated it for his father in Italian. Judge Collins threw up his hands.

“I cannot have you translating for your father, Paul Lenci. You are on the other side.”

Saverio spoke up. “It was a set amount, your honor. $650 a month.”

Paul was aghast at how little his father provided for Maia all those years. Daniel elbowed him.

The Judge nodded. “It could have been nothing, Paul Lenci. At least he provided some for the child. What happened to the trust when her mother died?”

“The checks went uncashed,” said Rosa.

So Maia then had no income.”

“Correct, your honor.”

“And she had no way to contact you?”

“No Judge,” said Saverio.

“And you, her celebrity brother, she could not contact you?”

“Your honor,” said Daniel, “she had made attempts to reach Paul Lenci via his record label but our reception staff took it as a prank and put her into a voicemail box that is just dumped and not recorded or passed on to the intended.”

“I didn’t ask you, counsel. I’m asking them.

Paul nodded. “I only know what I’ve been told, what Daniel Stockton just said. Your honor, I had no knowledge of her until yesterday. Since then I’ve done all in my power to get her the best care. I even have a private duty registered nurse with her 24/7 to assist the nursing staff.”

And when she gets out of the hospital?”

“I’m going to file papers to adopt her so nothing like this ever happens to her again.”

His mother’s face burned bright red.

“You have a problem with that, Mrs. Lenci?” asked Judge Collins.

“Why he need to do that? Adopt her?”

“Because it’s the right thing to do,” said Paul. “She has no one and my mother has made it perfectly clear that Maia Catrina Lenci is not welcome under her roof.”

“You see the trouble she’s in now? Do you want all that trouble?”

Judge Collins banged his gavel once. “Mrs. Lenci, please address me, not Paul Lenci.’

Paul cleared his throat.

“Do to put need some water, Mr. Lenci?

“No sir, but thank you. This girl is a good girl—” he began to cough and pointed to Daniel who continued for Paul.

Daniel took from his pendaflex what they found in her mother’s journals. Her IEP for gifted learning, he acceptance letter to the University of Chicago and a certificate for the scholarship for college from a piano competition.

Judge Collins handed it all back to Daniel. “I don’t need proof of this child’s character. All I needed was that birth certificate. I happen to agree with Ms. Lenci. Paul Lenci, you don’t know her. It may be in her best interest to have someone not connected to the family to be objective in her care and day-to-day decisions.”

Paul stood there dumbfounded. How could he have someone else nosing through his life? 

“Sir, if I may--” croaked Paul. 

Daniel held up a hand to him. “Paul, tell me. Your voice is so bad--” 

The judge agreed.  Paul whispered in Daniel’s ear. 

Daniel nodded. “Your Honor, Mr. Lenci’s concern is that she may not make it. Is there any way you could grant him temporary guardianship for a month until we get Maia more stabilized.” 

The judge sat back in his chair. ”So now we are talking end of life decision making? I don’t think any of you know what’s in Maia’s best interest. Apparently, her father and stepmother are not or you wouldn’t be before me right now.” 

Daniel nodded. “That is why Paul volunteered to take over for him.” 

“Understood, but what of the question of the end of life decisions?” 

“I feel that Paul Lenci could make those decisions objectively, more than Mr. Saverio Lenci.” 

“Why is that, Counsel? What aren’t you telling me?” 

Paul leaned into Daniel and whispered. 

“Mr. Saverio Lenci wanted them to turn off Maia’s life support last night after they arrived. Because we had the guardianship hearing today, Paul Lenci stopped it from happening.” 

“Mr. Saverio Lenci, why did you want to shut off her life support?” 

“She’s a sick little girl, judge. She is a shell of a child. Will she be okay if she wakes up?” 

“Shouldn’t she be given the chance to try?” asked Paul to Judge Collins, croaking and cracking his voice. 

"Paulie, if God wills to take her, he takes her. Why you stand in his way?” asked his father. 

Judge Collins stopped their argument with an interruption. ”So you stopped it from happening with a summons?” 

Paul nodded. “Yes.” 

Judge Collins smiled. He signed the order. “Congratulations, Mr. Lenci, this is your lucky day. I’m awarding you temporary guardianship of your half-sister Maia Catrina Lenci for 90 days. I hope its Maia’s lucky day too.” 

“Thank you, your Honor,” said Paul. 

“If you wait a moment I will call for the courthouse security.” 

“Thank you,” said Daniel as Paul smiled. 

Paulie and Daniel rode to the hospital as Mack hailed a cab for his parents and rode with them as well. He called Joey who was anxious to hear from him.

You got yourself a puppy,” he said as Daniel laughed.

“Maybe not. She coded.”

“Coded?”

“Another heart attack.”

“What? How?”

Her system is shutting down.

“How is she now?”

“They resuscitated her. They removed the ventilator.”

Why did they do that?”

“It’s up to her if she pulls through this. The ventilator will not help if her heart gives out. It will still breathe for a dead body. When are you getting here?”

“Mick, how far out are we?”

“20 boss.”

“I will be there in a half hour. Will she make it?”

I don’t know, Paulie. Jesus, she’s so small. Frail. My heart is broken. If only we knew—”

Shh, I know,” said Paulie.

Daniel called Alex. He handed the phone to Paul. “She had another heart attack, Ace. They removed her from the ventilator,” cried Paul breaking down. “I’m going back—no fuck them. You handle them. She’s dying. I just got guardianship and promised the old bastard judge that I’d adopt her if she made it.”

“Can I say that?”

“All but the old bastard part.”

Call me when you get there. I’m going to talk to PR about this.

Hey…

Yeah?

“Send Gill from Rolling Stone over after it’s done.”

“Are you sure?”

Yeah. He’s always been good to us.

Except Mitch.

Who deserved it.

Ok. I will ask. Let me know if you change your mind.

I will.

Daniel took Maia’s journal from the pendaflex and opened the pages of her plan to get into the truck.

“Whoa…” said Paul, astounded at the intricate drawing, mathematical equations, and the timetables. “This is crazy.”

That girl is brilliant, said Daniel.

That was a stupid thing to do.

Agreed. But she did it.

Daniel turned the pages back and handed it to Paul. “She wrote this for you. Before we get to the hospital, I want you to read this.”

Dear Paul,

If you are reading this then something went wrong and I’m not here to meet you. I’m going to apologize for any trouble I caused, but I tried so many times and ways to reach you, and I was out of options.

My mom died on Halloween of breast cancer. She was in remission for 2 years and it came back far worse.

My guardians went to France on a sabbatical. Their names are Jim Wilkins and Jon Reardon. Jonny is a professor at the University of Chicago. Jimmy is a theatrical actor who specializes in Shakespeare. They raised me with my mom. I haven’t heard from them in months, but I couldn’t get ahold of them before my landlord had CPS remove me from our apartment. They wouldn’t let me have my mom’s ashes. I was able to take only our journals, my competition medals, and my pictures. They are in my backpack which hasn’t left my back since I ran away from foster care.

My foster parents, the Simpsons, are pimping girls out to be prostitutes and the boys are drug pushers. I am worth more than that so I ran away. I couldn’t go to shelters because I was afraid of becoming a victim of human trafficking as two other children like me had become in the last year under his care.

“Ohmygod, Daniel…” said Paul as tears streamed down Paul’s face.

But I found a way to you. If you find this, promise me you will keep helping homeless children and you will sue the fuck out of Chicago DHS for what they did to me. All the evidence you need is in this journal and duct-taped to the false bottom of my backpack.

I will always be sad that I didn’t get to meet you or play the piano for you or get to sit in the wings and listen to you perform learn from you in the studio. I had a backstage pass to your show but it was stolen from my bag when I took a shower at Aiden’s boyfriend’s apartment. He’s a tweaker so I know it went towards meth.

This didn’t play out how I wanted. I promise to be your guardian angel and sit on your piano when you are on stage.

Love,

Maia
Your baby sister and #1 fan

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