I was not going to call Andrew and Mary mom and dad. I did not care how much they wished this. I kept on saying to myself that my parents were in jail. Mary and Andrew would not get that far if they forced me to love them. They could get all the hugs that they wanted, but that did not mean that I considered them as parents. It did not mean that I loved them.
The rest of the day was quiet. We did not speak to each other. It was like we were shocked by the attention we got at the mall. I never asked for the attention. In fact, I had anxiety when people flocked around me. As I said before, I was never around people. The questions at the mall also hurt me. They kept on asking if I was abused or hurt. It was like that they already assumed that this happened, and they thought I was too shy to admit it. They did not understand that it never happened. I was not even spanked. I spent the rest of the day wondering if I could ever start school or would I be hounded for the rest of my life.
That night when I was getting ready for bed, Mary came in with a package. I asked her if she could not give her privacy, only to be reminded that she is my mother. She put a bag of good night pull-ups on my bed and told me that I was to wear them. This was so humiliating. She said it as it was a punishment and nothing about to save my dignity when I slept. I shouted at her that I was not a baby and It was not my fault that I wet the bed. Mary did not say a word and just pointed her finger at the bag. I knew this was not a fight I would win. I told her that I would change when she went out. I still wanted privacy!
As I laid in bed, I wondered how things could be worse. I was living with strangers and now I was wearing a diaper. I missed Mr. Teddy so much. Maybe he disappeared like the rest of my life
Flashback: One day the doorbell rang. I was told never to answer the door. However, this time, I thought it was Dad that forgot his keys. I stood standing at the door looking at a girl my age. She was a girl scout and selling cookies. I just stared at her while she was asking us if we wanted cookies. Mom came and said she would find the money for them. In the meantime, I chatted with the girl. It was the first time I ever spoke to someone my age. She asked me why I was not in her class. I said I get homeschooled. She continued smiling and telling me that she lived on the same street, so we could play sometime. I could even be a girl scout.
Later that evening while we were eating the cookies, I told mom and dad about this girl, and she invited me to play. Mom said that she would think about it. We never spoke about it after. However, It made me think that she was nice and the public school could not be all that bad.
A few weeks went and things were the same at home. The good thing is that we were not hounded when we went out of the house. It was like my 5 minutes of fame was over. This was something I was happy about. At home, Andrew was nice, and we had some nice talks. He never forced me to think that he was my father and reminded me to take things at my own pace. Mary was the same as usual, and this could be annoying. She most likely thought I was stubborn. I still hoped that my parents would not be convicted. I asked Mary if I could send them a letter, only to be told no. It was best to forget them. I would not forget them. In fact, I still planned to move back to them as soon as they came home.
The best news was that I could now start at school. Andrew dropped me off at this large school. There were so many children that I started getting anxiety. Andrew told me to be brave and told me it was common to feel excited on the first day at school. I walked slowly to the building.
I smiled when I saw Gabriel sitting on a bench and I sat next to him. He was still wearing the white robe.
" A lot of children,” he said
" So many! To be honest, I am not used to so many”
" This will be exciting for you. However, some children could be mean and you are not used to this. I have a present for you to remind you that you are not alone and that God is at your side all the time.”
I opened a box that Gabriel gave me and it was a necklace with a cross on it. I was delighted as it was the first gift I had from a boy before. I quickly put it on around my neck and turned to thank Gabriel. It did not surprise me that he was gone. I was a bit more confused now though, as I always thought he was an invisible friend. But invisible friends do not give necklaces that everyone could see.
I walked in the school as everyone was walking this way and that way. I wished that Dad would come in with me so he could help me find the classroom. Suddenly a group of girls came up to me and said I must be the new girl. I was lucky as they said they would show me where the class was. On the way, they were telling me that they saw me on the news, and they felt sorry for me that I was kidnapped. It didn’t take long to ask me if I was locked in the basement and sexually abused or hurt. I kept on telling them, no, but it was like they did not believe me!
In the classroom, I quietly sat down at a desk while l looked around. Everyone was looking at me, pointing at me and whispering. I could guess what they were talking about. It was most likely how they thought I experienced when I was kidnapped. I lowered my head on the desk. I did not want to be seen as a victim. I wanted to scream to the world that I was not a victim. I had a great life with my parents. They were not my kidnappers or tormentors. They were not evil!
Flashback: Mom thought that music was the answer to the hatred in the world, and where people did not understand each other. She thought it was important that I learn how to sing, dance and play the piano. We would practice the piano when we had a chance. I loved it when mom and I would play together. I was not the best player. I was not as good as mom was, but it sounded good when we played together. Singing duets with mom was one of the times that made me smile and laugh the most. We were serious when she told me the meaning of some songs... heartbreak, loss, being judged, peace and so many things. I believed in mom when she said music was a way we can let our emotions out. It was not important that we had a great voice, but it was important that we opened our hearts.
The teacher was an old woman. She told the class to be quiet.
" We have a new pupil,” she said, “Her name is Ariel. We all seen her in the media, and we all know that she was kidnapped. Ariel is lucky though. Her kidnappers treated her like a daughter, and she was never harmed. Now you all know her past. Ariel is to be treated like any other classmate. You are not to hound her with questions of what it was like or you are not to judge her. Treat her like the normal 11-year old she is. Be a constructive part of her life!”
There was hope. I thought they would listen to the teacher, but this did not happen. On my way out of school, the girl came up to me and pushed me telling me not to think I was anything special. She thought I was treated badly when I was kidnapped. She did not believe me when I said they treated me well. She pushed me again, and this time I fell to the ground. Other children gathered around, but they did nothing. They just stared while the bully girl was assuming what was done to me. Everyone laughed, especially when she said she bet that I liked it, and I was a bimbo.
I did not even wait to hear what bimbo meant. I got up and ran out of the school as fast as I could. Andrew was waiting in the car. He was smiling and asking how was my first day. He must have seen me shaking and pale, as he asked me then what happened. I whimpered that I did not want to talk about it. Andrew could respect this and told me that we could talk about it when I was ready. So the drive home was quiet. All I could think ago is how mean the other children were. Mom was right, public schools were not good. The children that went there were evil!
When I came home, Mary was waiting and wanted to know how school was. Andrew did his best to tell her that I needed time for myself. Mary would not accept this and kept on asking me about the day. I was in no mood. I ran up to my bedroom and crawled under the bed and just cried.
Was there no hope? Would I always feel unhappy?
I was crying my head off and cursing everyone. There was no light at the end of the tunnel. I closed my eyes and thought about mom and dad in a jail cell. Then I dreamed that they were released and the first thing they did was to come and get me. These thoughts stopped me from crying and I took a nap.
It was a short nap, as I could feel the mattress sink down as someone sat n the bed. It was Andrew.
“When I was a child.” he said, “I was teased a lot. In fact, I was beaten up. Children can be so mean. It is a sad fact that so many children get bullied. I was bullied because they thought I looked like a girl. They would call me names like sissy and princess, and at times beat me up. The worse thing was being ignored and thinking I was strange. It made me feel so sad and that there was no hope. I was afraid I would never get a friend!”
As I laid there, I started thinking it was not just me. Others get bullied as well!
“Then the greatest thing happened in my life,” Andrew continued, “I met Mary at school and the rest you can guess. I think what I am trying to say is that you were bullied, and this does not mean you are strange or different. It’s the bullies that have a problem. In time people will like you for who you are.”
I decided he was right. The worse thing I could do is feel sorry for myself. That would not help anyone.
After dinner, I was in my room. I was looking at the newspaper with my parents. I tried talking to them but of course, got no answer. Still, it was nice seeing some faces that I knew.
I quickly hid the newspaper as I hear steps coming. It was Mary. She told me that I was too quiet that day, and I was hard to communicate with. Then she reminded me to put on the pull-ups when I went to bed. This made me sigh. Imagine if that mean girl at school knew that I wet the bed? My life would be over and everyone would think that I was a baby! I told Mary that I would remember it.
Then Mary gave me a new teddy and said it was to replace Mr. Teddy that vanished. This confused me as she told me once that I was too old for a teddy bear. Now she was giving me one. She must have seen I was reluctant and confused, as she explained that she was trying her best. This made me think about how hard it was for her. So I smiled and gave her a hug while I took the new teddy bear.
I got ready for bed, and yes... I did feel like a baby wearing pull-ups. I got on my knees and started praying. I prayed for mom and dad, and Mary and Andrew and even the bullies. As I was praying, Gabriel was on his knees beside me and praying with me.
“It’s nice that you pray for those that are mean to you,” he said
“Why are you here? To tell me my life is a mess, but God is on my side. Well, I do not see him. I feel alone and I have to suffer alone”
Andrew started reciting something,
"One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”
(I did not write this, there are many claimants to authorship)
After he recited this poem, he disappeared. The poem did cheer me up and I knew then that there was hope.
The next day, I was of course teased as I walked in the school. I just kept my head high and walked into the classroom. There was a newspaper on my desk. I sat down and started reading it. There was an article about my parents. They had their trial and was sentenced to 6 years in jail! I could feel my eyes get wet as I thought they were being punished 6 years for loving me! The teacher came and I put the newspaper in my bag.
At lunch, I sat in the corner of the playground. I was just thinking about my parents. I was thinking if I would have to wait 6 years until I saw them. A girl sat beside me. Her name was Wendy. She started by saying she does not like it when people are mean to me. She would not ask about my past. She just thought we could be friends. We started talking and I found that she was so nice. By the time lunch was over, I was so happy. Wendy was the first friend that I ever had. She even sat next to me in the classroom.
When I got home, I told Andrew about Wendy. I was so excited that I had a new friend!
Flashback: I was watching TV and there was a documentary on about a toddler that was kidnapped. I felt so lucky with my life, but it was sad for the little girl. Mom came in, and she panicked when she saw what was on TV. She quickly turned it off. I complained and told her I was watching it. Mom was just mumbling and told me that it was time for bed. When we prayed that night, I asked if we can pray for the toddler. Mom was reluctant, but we ended up praying for her.
While I was hiding the newspaper article about my parent’s verdict, I walked back down to Mary and Andrew. They would see me in a good mood today!
I was at the top of the stairs when I heard them argue.
“She does not love me,” Mary shouted, “She is quiet and will not talk to me. She tells you everything! She blames me for losing her! She does not want me to her mom. She loves you but not me!”
I was going to ask them if I could see my parents in jail, but something told me that this was not the right time. I sat down next to Mary and leaned against her while I told her about Wendy. Mary stopped being mad and started to smile.
Did this mean my problems were over?