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

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19. Hi

Maia finished her meal and especially took her time with the carton of milk and the chocolate chip cookie. It took her a little bit longer with her hands but she opened the carton all the way and broke the large cookies in half to dip inside and then savored them as they broke apart in her mouth.

“Those look good. They’re huge,” said Joey coming into the room.

“Want some?”

He broke a small piece off the cookie and ate it. “That’s not bad.”

“I know, for hospital food. It was okay.”

“What’s going on here?” he asked seeing the bags on his chair.

“I’m moving down to peds. They need the room.”

“Gotcha. Okay, let me check and make sure they got everything.”

He opened the locker and about gagged.

“Sorry about that.”

“Like you could help it?”

“Well...no.”

“Okay, so I got everything out of your coat. Can we throw it away?”

“I got to check it out first,” she said, after sipping the rest of the milk through a straw.

“Are you done here?” He asked, about the decimated tray.

“Yes, but I’m still hungry.”

“It’s a good thing,” said Alex, coming through the door with her large chocolate shake with whipped cream and a cherry on top.

“Thank you, Uncle Alex,” she said as he handed it to her. Saverio entered the room with a new periwinkle backpack and a white teddy bear.

Maia put on a fake smile that made Joey raise an eyebrow when he saw it. Jimmy had demanded years ago that she would always be gracious for gifts no matter the condition or giver. Maia put on a smile when Saverio handed her the teddy bear and put the backpack in her lap.

“That’s so sweet of you, thank you,” she said to Saverio. Maia reached for a hug and the old man beamed and kissed her temple. “He’s got such a cute face,” she said about the teddy bear.

“Like your papa?”

Maia giggled. “He’s now named Papa Bear,” she said, making him laugh and kiss her again.

“Did you finish searching that coat yet?” asked Joey.

“Not yet,” she said, “May I please have my old backpack?”

“Sure,” he said, handing it to her. Maia had Joey help her open the zippers and put the bags into it and then she had him pull back all the places where duct tape lined the interior of the bag.

“What is all of this?” he asked, pulling out a zip bag of small dollar store notebooks. Each had a rubber band about it to hold it shut.

“Evidence,” she said as he saw the calendar book. More of those little notebooks, like the one found in her coat, was flattened in a zip bag and duct taped to the back of the bag. He took them out and Alex looked at them wide-eyed.

“What are, we looking at, Maia?”

“There’s almost a year here. Each of these entries is what he makes off each kid.”

“Wait, where did you get these?”

“His room. He has a shoebox of them. I only took the ones on top. There’s like 50 of them in there.”

She removed the false bottom of the old bag and showed it to Joey.

“What is that?”

“Simpson’s fake ring.”

“Fake?” asked Alex.

“I tried to pawn it.”

“Jesus, child,” said Joey.

“What is that book?” asked Joey, about the same kind of book wrapped in a sandwich baggie.

“This one has the kids he sold.”

“What?” asked Alex.

“There were two that Aiden knew of. The others are from another foster home.”

“Wait until Paulie hears this shit,” said Alex.

“What’s this?” asked Maia, seeing a baggie of receipts and random stuff.

“That was from your coat. If it was written on, I saved it. Tissues went in the trash.”

Maia finished transferring the rest into the new backpack and checked the old backpack again to be certain she had it all.

“Okay, now for the coat,’ she said. Joey put it on her lap and they all gagged.

She ripped at the zipper band and a Velcro closure came open.

“Wow, I’m glad I didn’t throw your coat away after all,” said Joey, as she pulled out a Ziploc bag with photos in it. Cat, Jimmy, Jonny, her. Her ID’s from school, her bus pass from school and her medical alert bracelet that was broken. She pulled out a second Ziploc bag, this one had check stubs in it from the county for Simpson as a foster parent. Fraudulently, he was being paid for 11 children and only 3 of them lived in the house. After all this time, the state had no idea that these children weren’t even in his care. She pointed out the names of the two children missing that no one knew about. The two he sold. “These ones are in his books. They are all employees of Pimp Simpson.”

“And you pieced this all together in how long?” asked Alex.

“I was there 17 days. Let’s talk about the pink elephant in the room that you all are avoiding.”

Maia stared at Joey.

“What?” asked Joey, incredulous.

“What’s happening? Why has no one come to take my statement? Why wasn’t I asked for one?”

Joey sighed as Alex nodded at him. He had hoped that Alex would answer, but Alex just nodded at him.

“She asked you,” said Alex.

Joey bent down to her. “She never should have ever laid a finger on you. And now she’s going to regret it.”

“Huh. Yeah—that’s a given. I mean, legal wise,” said Maia.

“We don’t know yet, how the hospital is going to handle it. She’s banned from the hospital,” murmured Joey.

“Fuck, so that’s it? She’s banned from the hospital?” replied Maia loudly.

“My sentiments exactly,” he said, standing upright.

“Maia Catrina,” said Saverio in a disapproving tone.

“This guy,” murmured Maia, shaking her head.

“It is not proper for you to curse like that, Maia Catrina,” said Saverio.

Maia snorted and tried to hold her tongue, but decided against it at the last minute. After all, he said he was going home soon. Why not end this with a bang?

“Mr. Lenci, you do not get to say shit about me. Twice now, twice, you signed me away. You can say whatever the hell you want because I don’t care.”

Alex’s mouth fell open. Joey was flabbergasted. “Maia, apologize to your father right now!”

“For what? He abandoned me!”

“You disrespected him as your father and elder. Apologize right now, young lady!” demanded Joey.

“No, I will not!”


Saverio stormed out of the room, grumbling under this breath as Alex followed him.

“Mr. Lenci,” he said, as the old man sat in a chair in the empty waiting room. Alex sat next to him.

“Alexander, she shows no respect.”

“I know sir, she’s angry and hurt. Hell, I would be too, if I had to start my day fighting for my life against a stranger.”

“Her mouth, it’s bad upbringing.”

“Everyone parents differently. She’s mad. I think its best if we let her alone.”

Joey entered the waiting room, incensed at Maia. He carried his bag of belongings.

“Saverio, did you eat?” asked Joey, concerned about the old man’s diabetes.

“Yes, I took him for food,” said Alex.

“Have you heard from Paulie?” asked Saverio.

“Yes, he’s taking you both home in a couple hours,” said Joey. “He just texted me. He will be here soon to collect you and see Maia briefly before he goes.”

“What about Maia?” Alex asked.

“I’m going to set her up and then I’m going to the suite at the Four Seasons to sleep in a real bed for a change.”

“You’re not going to stay with Maia anymore?” asked Saverio.

“No, they are putting her in a guarded room that has security cameras 24/7. She’ll be in isolation.”

“Why isolation?” asked Alex.

“They don’t want anyone else around her due to her trauma and the publicity around her. There is a separate entrance for that side of the ward that is locked, so you have to buzz in for entry.”

“Poor Maia,” said Alex. “Solitary confinement is hard. I don’t see why she can’t be with the other children.”

“It’s the sensationalism of Maia’s case. Not to mention that she’s completely willing to tell anyone what Rosa did to her and we need this kept quiet,” replied Joey. “If it gets out, it will be bad for the hospital and Paul for working this deal.”

“This is a dangerous scenario. I’m sorry, Mr. Lenci, but Mrs. Lenci was wrong to do what she did to Maia. She should have to face the same music that anyone else would who isn’t the mother of a pop star.”

Maia’s hot with resentment too,” said Joey. “I need to calm her down, but I’m exhausted. They will sedate her tonight and the psychiatrist will be around tomorrow to get her started on some anti-depressants.”

“Wow,” said Alex. “Is that why you were down there so long?”

“Yeah, basically. Trust me, I want nothing more than for Rosa to pay for what she did to Maia. That girl stopped breathing!” whispered Joey, watching to see who else was around.

“So how are you going to keep her from going stir crazy?”

“Hell if I know. Probably books as she doesn’t like TV. I got to figure that out before I leave too. She can’t have a keyboard until those fingers improve.”

“I had to cut up her meat for her,” said Alex. “She can’t even hold or manage a knife.”

Saverio took his handkerchief from his pocket and blew his nose and wiped his face. He was visibly upset.

“Hey, Saverio,” said Joey, bending down to him.

“Joey, I’m sorry,” said Saverio.

“Why? You did nothing wrong.”

“No, Rosa, letting her come. I should’ve said no to her.”

“There was no saying no to her this morning. I even tried--”

“We all did,” said Paul entering the waiting room, surprising them.

Joey stood and hugged him. Paul held onto him and melted into his form for a moment, then to signal release he kissed the side of his neck. “Hey, Babe.”

Paul sat down next to his dad and put his arm around him and patted his dad’s forearm.

“How’s your Mama?”

“Fuming. Mack took her to pack at the Four Seasons, then they will be back for us. I’m flying you guys home tonight and she’s going to St. Frank’s psych ward for a minimum of 2 weeks. Maybe longer, depending on her ability to become a rational person again.”

“How long are you staying there?”

“Until Penny gets the stick out of her ass and agrees to take over,” replied Paul.

“What about your luggage?” asked Alex.

“I called Meg to ask Anna to pack up my things. We are stopping to pick up my bag and say goodbye to my baby girl. Tom will bring Joey’s bag to the Four Seasons this evening.”

“Speaking of godparents,” said Alex. “We told her.”

“And?” asked Paul.

“She’s not pleased. She’s a professed agnostic and not pleased that she was baptized without her permission,” replied Alex.

“Well, she’s going to love parochial school,” said Paul. “I’m sending her to St. Nicks when she’s well.”

“She says she’s done with high school and was doing college coursework,” chimed in Joey.

“Well, if she’s completely serious about being a classical pianist, then she’ll go to Winston,” he said. “Regardless, she’s going back to school and getting her life back in order,” said Paul. “She’s missed enough school this year as it is.”

“We have to get her well first,” said Joey.

“And control that mouth of hers,” said Saverio.

“Ohmygod, did she say it?” asked Paul, trying not to smirk.

“No, surprisingly,” replied Joey about the ’sperm donor’ reference Maia made about Saverio.

Alex looked at Paul for a response. “How are you?”

Paul shook his head. “Beyond pissed. How did Maia seem to you?”

Alex shook his head. “Traumatized and more than pissed off about being attacked. The idea of your mama getting away with it has her incensed.”

“Fuck.”

“We need to talk to her, Paulie. You and me.”

“I hate this being the first conversation I have with her.”

“It cannot be avoided. It will only fester,” said Alex. “You guys go, I’m going to get Mr. Lenci a cup of coffee.”


Paul took a deep breath and got a pat on the shoulder by Alex before following Joey into Maia’s room. As much as he would have liked to avoid this conversation altogether, he knew he had no choice but to confront Maia. Regardless of what his mother did to her that morning, there was never an excuse for disrespect.

As they entered the room, Paul held back, watching her as Joey approached the crying girl first.

“Hey,” said Joey, “what’s going on?”

“I shouldn’t have been so mean to him.”

Joey nodded and handed her the tissue box. “You need to apologize to him before he leaves tonight. He’s going home to Florida soon.”

Maia blew her nose and Joey held up the can for the spent tissues. She reached for the hand sanitizer.

“Where did you get that?”

“Carma. I’ve never been this dirty in my life. Being homeless fucked with my OCD. Now it will be in overdrive until I can recalibrate.”

Paul popped up next to Joey making her smile.

Look who I brought with me.”

“Hi,” said Paul to Maia.

Maia’s eyes brightened. “Hi,” she replied.

“Did they finally feed you?”

“Yes, a little bit.”

“It looked like a full meal to me,” said Joey.

“I wanted more.”

“Did you finish your shake?”

“Yes.”

“How are you feeling?” asked Paul.

“I never woke to a nightmare before,” she replied. “I get here and almost died 3 times in 3 days. I think I need to go home to Chicago.”

“What do you think, Joey?” asked Paul. “Do we send her back there to Chi-town to go to jail for felonious vandalism or on the loose with a warrant be homeless again?”

“Not happening, kiddo, sorry. But this crap of you dying on the daily, is going to end today, you feel me?”

“I won’t be homeless. I’ll go home with Jimmy and Jonny when they get here. Where is my evil stepmother?”

“She’s not here. My mother is going home to Florida and will not be around you again.”

“Why is she not going to jail? She tried to kill me!”

“My mother is going to a psych ward at a hospital there for a minimum of 2 weeks.”

“So that bitch gets a vacay at the funny farm instead of being behind bars awaiting trial for what she did to me?”

“Look, Maia, I don’t care how mad you are at my parents. You need to watch your mouth. Don’t ever call her a derogatory name in my presence, do you understand me? My mom has a lot of issues. You get what that’s like, right?”

"What do you mean by that?"

"Your mother was not the picture of sanity either."

“Don’t go using Cat against me. She never tried to kill anyone. She just got mad and broke glass things. Do you even care what your Mommy did to me?”

“Of course, I care, Maia.”

“If you really cared, you wouldn’t let her get off that way.”

“It has already been determined by mental health professionals that she lapsed into temporary insanity. They would admit her here but they don’t want the liability if she escaped and got up here to you again.”

“So instead she’s going to the Sunshine State and a funny farm.”

“It was a joint decision between the chief of staff, the chief of psychiatry and me.”

“What about the police?”

“They were never brought into this situation.”

“So that’s why no one came for my statement. That way it could be refuted later! Make the kid out to be a liar. After all, she’s a vandal, runaway and a stowaway, so who would believe her?” she asked, raising her voice.

“Maia, calm down,” said Joey, as he left her bedside to shut the door.

“I will not calm down! As soon as I’m able, I am out of here.”

“Wait, what?” asked Paul.

“I’m fucking done, okay?”

A knock came to the door. Joey turned to see who it was, seeing the man in scrubs holding a piece of paper and doublechecking the room number. “It’s the orderly. To move her to peds.”

“Go out with him. Tell him it’s going to be a minute. I need to have a come to Jesus with my baby sister.”

Joey did as Paul said, and Maia sat there with her arms crossed and her eyebrows furrowed.

“Maia, chill.”

“No fuck you, I will not chill. She tried to fucking off me.”

“You need to watch yourself, missy. I am not tolerating disrespect out of you. I get that you are pissed but this hot-tempered bullshit needs to end right now.”

“You are not the boss of me!”

“According to a judge at Queens Superior Court, I am. Besides, contrary to your belief, you are too young to be the boss of yourself.”

“I’m leaving as soon as Jimmy and Jonny get here. I don’t care if I’m dying, and they unhook me from all this shit and I can die on the fucking sidewalk. I’m done. I never should have come in the first place.”

Tears streamed down her face, and Paul stepped forward.

“Hey,” he said. “Listen to me, okay?”

“What?” she asked.

“You’re not going anywhere. I’m your guardian now. Your guys lost that right when they abandoned you. Face it, Maia, they found a better life wherever they were.”

“Were?”

“Are, whatever.”

“You said were. Do you know where they are? Did you find them?”

“No. I did not find them. I tracked them to a Buddhist monastery that they left. I don’t know when they left, but they aren’t there anymore.”

Maia said in French, “tu parles assez bien français pour trouver tout ça? ... You speak French well enough to find all that out?”

Paul laughed and responded in English, refusing to play with this child. “No, Joey does. Look, Maia, this is for your best interest. All I’m trying to do right now is keep you safe. The cops and the district attorney in Chicago are going to pounce on you before my mamma has a second go at you. It’s no secret that there’s a warrant for your arrest.”

“What I did has no bearing in the fact that my evil stepmother tried to kill me.”

“Okay, that too,” he said. “I’m sorry. If I even thought that she would attempt that stunt, I wouldn’t have let her up here.”

“I don’t care what you say, I will leave, legally or not. I’ve gotten out of worse binds.”

“Maia, I get that you are freaked out,” he said.

“No, you don’t. Did you wake up to your evil stepmother suffocating you? And now she won’t be held accountable for what she did to me?”

“Oh, she will, I have ways.”

“The whole time you’ve been here, you defended her and her right not to go to jail or be charged for her crime. Don’t fucking act like you care, Paul Lenci. You never asked me for my side of the story. You are going on hearsay. Maybe if you knew what she did to me you wouldn’t be so quick to fly her off to the funny farm.”

“Tell me all about it. If it will make you feel better.”

“Feel better? Feel better? Do not patronize me as if I am a child.”

Paul pulled the stool over and sat down. “Tell me what she did to you.”

Maia lowered her brow. She pointed to the call remote and how it was wrapped about the bedrail. “You see this? I always wrap it around the bed rail. Your mother took my call button away so I couldn’t call for help. It was on the floor far away from me. She cut all my lines, including the BiPAP machine that I was on at night because I’m not getting enough oxygen when I am sleeping. She held the hose shut so I couldn’t breathe. Then she said, “vai a unirti a tua madre all’inferno...go join your mother in hell.”

Paul’s nostrils flared. “Of course, you would know Italian,” he said, rubbing his eyes with his finger and thumb just like his father. “Then what?“

“I pulled the I.V. stand over on her. It was my last chance to cause a commotion. I didn’t expect it to hit her. I didn’t know if I had succeeded because I was blacking out but I heard Joey yell at her to drop the scissors.”

“How many languages do you know?” asked Paul.

“English, French and Italian fluently. I have a working knowledge of German and Spanish, and I taught myself Latin.”

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.”

“Speaking of them, how dare you baptize me? Who in the hell did you think you were authorizing that?”

“You were dying. In my faith, that’s what you do when someone you care about is unbaptized and dying.”

Joey returned to the room with Carma and the orderly.

“Hey, we need to get going,” said Carma.

“Hey Carma, sorry to hold it up, said Paul. “thanks for everything, I really appreciated all that you did for Maia.”

“You’re welcome, I’m going to miss her.”

“Will you come to see me?” she asked.

“Maybe, if they let me.” Carma and the orderly prepared the bed for transport.

“I’m going,” said Paul. “I’ll see you in a few days.”

“Okay, bye,” she said.

Now that they were in mixed company, he chose to speak to her in Italian. “Guarda, Maia, mi dispiace...Look, Maia, I’m sorry.”

“So che lo sei, ma non scusa quello che ha fatto...I know you are, but it does not excuse what she did.”

“Mi dispiace così tanto, mi occuperò di lei... I’m so sorry, I will deal with her.”

Maia hardly believed him but she knew they were being polite when they needed to push her out of the room as another orderly had already brought up the next patient. “You do that. I will see you when I see you.”

“Get better. I’m awaiting a concert.”

She laughed. “Then I better practice.”

Paul bent over and kissed her forehead.

“Get well, okay? I want to take you home when I get back.”

“Okay, bye.”

As they entered the hallway, Joey beamed.

“Why are you so happy? she asked him.

“Because I now have an interpreter.”

“Fuck that, learn it yourself. Let your own ears and mind decipher the code. That way, whatever is lost in translation is on you.”

Joey’s face fell. Maia rolled her eyes.

“If I don’t go home to Chicago, I will help you learn it by conversing with you. It’s the best way.”

Joey half-heartedly smiled again.

“I’m sorry I was so rude. This is so not me. Where is Mr. Lenci?”

“Paul, Maia needs to apologize to her father.

Carma sighed and motioned to the orderly to push the gurney down towards the waiting room.

Paul escorted his dad to Maia.

“Mr. Lenci, I apologize for disrespecting you and swearing at you. I’m not typically this rough around the edges. You didn’t deserve me going off on you.”

“Fine, then, I go home. Goodbye Maia Catrina. Get well.”

He turned and toddled towards the elevator door.

“Ciao Papa,” she said, as the gurney rolled down the hallway.”

“Now she called Papa,” he said to Paulie in Italian.

“She speaks Italian and French.”

“Joey, you have a spy,” said Saverio, as Joey hugged him.

“She just refused to translate. Says she will teach me instead.”

“Questo è peggio...That’s worse,” chuckled Saverio.

“Bye babe,” said Joey, hugging Paul again.

“Bribery, no holds barred. Whatever she wants, get it for her.”

“You want to spoil her?”

“If it will shut her up, I don’t care. I don’t need any more drama, Joey.”

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