The First Time
“Mark.” Josephine whispered to her friend as they sat in the sandbox, filling a bucket to build a sand castle.
“What?” he He asked, not looking up as he turned over the bucket with the packed sand. He carefully pulled the bucket off, and said proudly, “We now have four towers.”
“Do you see the man by the gate?” she whispered. Mark didn’t turn around to look at the man. He trusted her.
“What about him?” he asked, [CW4] now looking at her with a flash
of concern on his young face.
“He’s here to hurt me.”
“Stay here; I’ll go get more water from the fountain.” He got up and took the little red bucket over to the fountain. He filled it with water, before he walked over to the teacher.
“Mrs. Pratt? Josie said that man over there is here to hurt her.”
“OK, Mark. Thank you. I’ll take care of it,” Mrs. Pratt promised. Mark took the bucket of water back to Josephine.
“Let’s build the rest of the castle. I think it needs a moat.” He drew his finger around the four towers. Then he pushed and pulled the sand away. Once there was a place for the water, he poured it in. Most of the water got soaked up by the sand, so he poured more water. Josephine was busy making windows on the towers and packing the sand in the middle to make the palace.
“Wow, look at Mark and Josie’s castle. It even has a moat.” Soon they had a crowd admiring their little castle.
“Very nice castle, you two.” Mrs. Pratt said. “I’ll go get my camera so you can have a picture of it.”
“Josie, your dress is all dirty,” Mark said.
“It’s only sand,[CW12] .” Josephine said, standing up to brush the sand off her dress. Her long blond braid hung down her back.
“OK, you two, pose with your castle,” Mrs. Pratt said, returning with her camera. Mark put his arm around Josephine, and they both grinned with pride as their teacher took their picture. “Very nice! All right, class, time to go in!”
“Well, should we leave it or smash it so no one else can steal it?” Mark asked, studying their castle.
“Smash it,” Josephine decided. They stomped down the towers and then grabbed hands and ran to get in line with the rest of their classmates.
“You know what, Josie?”
“You’re my best friend.”
“You’re mine too, Mark.” She kissed him on the cheek.
“Eww!” He wiped at his cheek and they both laughed.
The beeping from the machine shook young Mark from his memory. ”You OK, buddy?” his dad asked.
“When is she going to wake up?”
“I don’t know.”
“She will, won’t she, Dad?” Chief Bob didn’t know what to say to his young son. Mark’s best friend was in the hospital bed beside them; she had been beaten and God knew what else. He closed his eyes, squeezed his son’s hand, and sent up a silent prayer. The door opened, and the girl’s father came in. Chief Bob stood and shook the father’s hand.
“If you need anything. Anything at all.”
“Thank you, Bob!” Walter said.
“If you’re interested, Shelia made dinner. We’d love to have you over, or she can bring it here.”
“Oh, Bob, that was so thoughtful. We’d be delighted to join you for dinner,” Walter said.
“I’m not hungry.” A voice spoke from the other side of the bed. “Can I just stay here?”
“I’ll be back at nine to get you. If they kick you out of the room, wait . Wait for me in the emergency waiting room. I’ll find you.”
“Can I stay too?” Mark asked.
“I don’t see why not, son,” Bob said. “Stay with Makayla.”
“Are you sure we should let them stay here? They’re only kids.”
“There is a guard at the door. We’ll tip him so he’ll keep an eye on them,” Bob said.
“All right. Can you pay? I got tapped out paying the cops to keep searching.”
“Don’t worry; I got it.”
“We’ll be back soon, kids.” The men left the room. Mark looked over at Makayla. He wanted to say something, but he didn’t know what to say.
“Want to see if the TV works?” he finally asked.
“You can,” Makayla said.
“Well, I don’t want to bother you with it.”
“No, it’s OK,” Makayla said, turning the TV on for him.
“Oh, I didn’t know you had the remote.”
“Um . . . yeah, it’s attached to her bed.”
“So what did you do this summer, Mark?”
“My dad got me a dog to cheer me up. I named her Pepper. She’s a two-year-old Dalmatian.”
“I can’t wait to show her to Josie.”
“I bet she will like her. She likes all animals.”
“Makayla, can I ask you something?”
“Why did this happen to her?”
“It’s a long story, and you’d never believe me. I don’t even think Joanne will believe me when I tell her.”
“Who is Joanne?” Makayla pointed at the bed.
“I thought her name was Josephine.”
“It is. Josephine Anne.”
"Lucille and Walter just call her Josephine, but Joanne has been her name since our first home.”
“I could start calling her Joanne. If that’s what she prefers.”
“You can’t call her Joanne; that’s what I call her. I call her Joanne, and she calls me Kayla. I don’t allow anyone else to call me Kayla, and she doesn’t allow anyone else to call her Joanne.”
“Hey, can you change the channel? This show is boring.”
“What do you want to watch?”
“Fairy Tales.” Makayla looked at his weird. “Yeah, I know: but I love them. I’m not ashamed of it.”
“I love Fairy Tales too.” Makayla made the channel change to the fairy tale channel. “Oh, look, this is Joanne’s favorite episode.”
“You are a strange little boy, Mark.”
“Good. I strive to be strange.” Mark winked at her.
“We better go meet our parents. It’s almost nine o’clock,” Makayla said when the show ended.
“What if she wakes up, and no one is here?”
“She won’t,” Makayla said.
“How do you know?” Mark asked.
“I just know.” Makayla turned to the bed. “We’ll be back, Joanne. Sleep well, sis.”
“Wake up soon. . . . We all miss you,” Mark said. Makayla opened the door.
“Hey there, kids; , you need to stay in the room.” The guard said.
“Our parents told us to meet them in the emergency waiting room,” Makayla said, taking charge.
“Well, I can’t leave at the moment, but I’m off my shift in half an hour, and I can walk you down there.” the guard said. “Go back in the room and wait.”
“OK.” The kids went back into the room. They didn’t bother turning on the TV again.
“Mark?” Makayla asked after a few minutes of silence.
“Hmm?” Mark asked.
“Can I ask you a question?” Makayla asked uneasily.
“Uh huh.” Mark said, nodding.
“Did you see him? The man…who took Joanne?” Makayla asked after another awkward moment of silence.
“Uh-huh.” Mark nodded
“What did he look like?”
“He was tall, he had red facial hair, and he wore a flannel shirt, a baseball cap, and jeans. His jeans were dirty. I remember that. His boots were muddy too,” Mark said, remembering the man he saw.
“Wow, you really got a good look at him,” Makayla said, impressed.
“Yeah. So…” Mark paused for a second before he asked, “Who was he?”
“Our brother, Joey. He probably sent him to get her. No one ever sees him,” Makayla said.
“Who?” Mark asked, suddenly curious.
“Joanne’s father,” Makayla said. She made a face as if she regretted saying it. She hoped Mark would drop the conversation, but he didn’t.
"No, it wasn't," Mark said, confused.
"No, I didn't mean Walter; I meant her bio father," Makayla said. She bit her lip, realizing she was saying too much. Mark refused to let it go.
"What is a bio father?" Mark asked, wanting to know more.
"Well, see, Joanne and I are adopted," Makayla said, hoping the answer was enough to satisfy Mark, but it wasn’t.
"What does that mean?" he asked.
Makayla thought for a moment before she said, "It's like what you do when you go to a shelter and you pick out a kitty or a puppy. Except they didn't pick a kitty or a puppy; they picked me and Joanne."
"Oh!" Mark seemed satisfied and went quiet for a moment. Makayla felt she had to explain what a bio dad was, so she continued, "A bio dad is like the dog or cat that made the kitty or puppy you pick out."
"I think I understand,” Mark said. Makayla was certain the conversation was finally over, but then Mark asked, “So what does your bio daddy want?"
"He isn't my bio dad,” Makayla said, horrified at the idea. “Joanne and I have different bio dads."
"Now I'm confused," Mark said, scratching his head.
"We have the same bio mom though."
"Why do you have different bio dads? Why
did you get adopted? Where is your bio mom?"
"I don't know where she is. I don't know where my bio daddy is either. I never knew either of them. My first mommy and daddy were strangers." Makayla sighed. "It's a long compicated story."
“Someday I will find my bio mommy and my bio daddy,” Makayla said, hopeful.
“Do you think your bio daddy is evil like her bio daddy?” Mark wondered.
“No! My bio daddy is a good man,” Makayla insisted.
“If he was a good man, why did he abandon you?” Mark asked.
“I don’t know,” Makayla said sadly. It was something she had wondered for a long time herself.
“Seems like that is something a bad man would do.”
“Maybe he had to,” Makayla said. “Maybe he had to abandon me to protect me.”
“From what?” Mark asked, his curiosity peaking again.
“From her bio dad,” Makayla said.
“Why would her bio dad want to hurt you?”
“I don’t know.” Makayla shrugged.
“You don’t seem to know a lot about it, do you?” Mark asked.
“No! But I will learn all the answers someday, and when I do, I will help Jo-Anne become all that she is supposed to be.”
“What does that mean?” Mark asked.
“It’s a secret. I can’t tell you.” Makayla zipped her lips and threw the key.
“Oh!” Mark stopped with his questions as he stared at the bed. The door opened, and the guard poked his head in.
“All right, kids, let’s go find your parents.” They followed the guard to the elevator and then through the hospital to the emergency waiting room. “I’ll wait with you till they come.”
“Thank you, officer,” Walter said when he arrived with Chief Bob. The guard nodded and walked off.
“Can I come back tomorrow?” Mark asked his dad.
“Of course. Visiting hours start at nine. I’m sure your mom can bring you.”
“We could always pick him up on our way,” Walter offered.
“Cool! See you tomorrow, Makayla.”
“You hungry? We can stop on our way home and grab something.”
“Makayla! You need to eat.”
“I’ll eat when my sister wakes up.”
“Makayla, I don’t like the fact that you’re starving yourself. Do you want to go back to the hospital?—and I don’t mean to visit Josephine.”
“Then can you please eat something?”
“This is for your own good.” Walter pulled into a parking lot and turned around. He returned to the hospital. “I’m not going to let you starve to death; if you won’t eat, then you’re going in the hospital and getting an IV. Josephine has an IV. So you can’t use that as an excuse.” Walter parked in the emergency room parking lot. “Come on!” Makayla crossed her arms. “All right!” Walter got out, unbuckled her, and threw her over his shoulder. Then he carried her into the emergency room.
“What is the emergency?” a nurse jumped up from behind a counter when she saw him carrying Makayla into the room.
“My daughter is starving herself. It’s been a week since I last brought her in here, and she hasn’t eaten.” Walter said worried as he lowered her into a seat near the front desk.
“Is she showing any signs of starvation?” The nurse asked with concern.
“No, but I won’t let her get to that point.”
“I’ll get an IV. The beds are all full, so I’ll bring it out here. She can sit in the waiting room with it. I’ll check up on her.”
“She needs a psychologist to come evaluate her.”
“She’s not suicidal.”
“She’s starving herself on purpose. She could die from that, so in a way, she is. I suggest she go to the psych ward. They can do an evaluation. But first, we’ll get her the IV. Maybe she needs some happy pills. They can prescribe her something.”
“She doesn’t need happy pills. Her sister is in the hospital. She has a reason to be upset. I don’t want her to go to the psych ward. She just needs the IV. As soon as her sister wakes up and can come home, she’ll be fine.”
“I’ll go get the IV.” The nurse walked away.
“I don’t need the IV.”
“Yes, you do. Don’t you know that if you don’t eat or drink water for a week you could die?”
“Then how come I’m not dead yet?”
“Don’t be sassy,” Walter said, annoyed, though he did wonder. Neither of his girls seemed to ever get seriously hurt, and they could survive things that most people would quickly die from. He shook his head. He was being silly. There was no such thing as magic or anything that could explain it. They were just lucky, and he had to be careful, because luck can run out. The nurse came back with the IV. She cleaned the back of Makayla’s hand and then jabbed her with the needle. She taped it down.
“You can leave when the bag empties.”
“Thank you!” Walter said.
“How long is this supposed to take?” Makayla whined.
“It’ll probably take an hour. I need to go call your mom so she doesn’t worry. The pay phone is right over there. I’ll be right back.”
“I won’t go anywhere. I promise,” Makayla said. “But Dad, for the record. This is not necessary. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, but trust me, I’d be fine without it.”
“Just sit there and let it do its job.” He kissed her on the top of the head and headed off to the pay phone.
“Why do you think the bad men came and hurt you?” Makayla asked one morning while sitting alone beside Josephine in the hospital room. Josephine had opened her eyes. She was still weak and had a high fever, so the doctors were keeping her a few more days for observation. “Did they tell you why?” Josephine looked away and shook her head. “I know why.” Josephine looked at her sister.
“Why?” she asked.
“Because of who you are,” Makayla said.
“What do you mean?” Josephine asked confused.
“I’m going to tell you a story. But it’s not really a story. I’m going to tell you about our parents, and the magical world they are from.”
“But Kayla, magic is not real,” Josephine said.
“Yes, it is,” she insisted. “Just promise me one thing, Joanne—promise me, you’ll never forget the story I tell you.”
“I promise, Kayla. I’ll never forget.”
“There is an island, a secret island that no one in this world knows about,” Makayla began. “No one but me and now you. You have to promise me, Joanne, you’ll never tell anyone. Not even Mark or Mom and Dad. They’d never believe you.”
“But Kayla, it’s just a story.”
“No, it’s not. You of all people should know it’s not just a story. If it was just a story, then why did those bad men hurt you?”
“Because they’re bad men.” Makayla shook her head.
“They’re not bad, Joanne, they’re evil.”
“They are. Especially him. He’s the most evil of them all.”
“You mean . . . .”
“Don’t say it. He doesn’t deserve that title.”
“What’s the story, Kayla?”
“Our mom’s name is
Althia. She’s a queen.”
“A queen? Kayla!”
“Will you stop interrupting me? I don’t have a lot of time to tell you this. It’s important.”
“I’m tired. I’m going to close my eyes now.”
“You can keep
talking.” Just then, the door opened. Josephine opened her eyes.
“Hi, honey! How you feeling?”
“Something wrong, Makayla?”
“No!” Makayla said, crossing her arms.
“Why don’t you go get some fresh air? Or here, want some money to get something to eat?”
“Kayla, go eat.”
“Not till you do.”
“You can get me . . . a slice of pie.”
“That’s not very healthy.”
“Dad, can I have a slice of pie?”
“Pie sounds like a great idea. Why don’t you go get three coconut cream pies from the cafeteria? I’ll sit with Josephine.” Walter handed her a twenty-dollar bill. “You can keep the change.”
“OK!” Makayla brightened up a little bit. “I’ll be right back,” she told Josephine as she ran out of the room.
“Mark is here, if you feel like company.”
“Mark is here?” Josephine sat up.
“Were you about to take a nap?” Walter asked.
“I was, but I can nap later,” she said enthusiastically.
“All right, I’ll let him come in.”
“Hi, Josie!” Mark said, coming into the room. “Look what I got. It’s a guitar. I learned a song on it. Want to hear it?”
“Don’t laugh; it’s the only song I learned so far.” He sat on the edge of the bed and began to play. “Happy Birthday. . . .” Josephine tried not to laugh, and she covered her mouth with both her hands to stifle the giggle as he sang and played the whole song. “I promise, next time I’ll have a better song.”
“You can sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me anytime you want. Thank you, Mark!”
“Sure! I’m so glad to see you awake. It’s kind of weird talking to you, and you don’t answer back.”
“I can’t wait to meet your dog.”
“Did Kayla . . . I mean, Makayla tell you?”
“No, I heard you. I heard everything.”
“Oh! So when do you get to leave?”
“I don’t know.”
“Have you seen your new baby sister?”
“Not yet, but I saw pictures. She’s so cute. Mommy can’t bring her in because of my fever.”
“When do you get to go home?”
“In a few days, when my fever breaks.”
“You don’t look like someone with a fever. Usually people with fevers like yours—they’re all sweaty, and they can’t talk or nothing; they just toss their head back and forth. At least . . . that’s how it is in movies.”
“I don’t feel like I have a fever, but when the nurse took my temperature, she said it was 105. Then she mumbled something about I should be dead . . . but when I asked her about it, she smiled and said I was OK. I don’t know. I feel OK. Do I look OK?”
“Yeah! You look OK.”
“Kayla went to get pie. I didn’t know you were coming or she could have gotten you one too.”
“That’s OK. I don’t need pie. What kind?”
“Ooh! Hmm. . . . Well, when she gets back I’ll go grab me one.” Josephine smiled and nodded. Makayla came back with three pies.
“Here, Mark—you can have mine.” Walter said. “I’ll go grab one and a cup of coffee and give you kids some time together.”
“Thanks, Mr. O’Brian.”
“You’re welcome!” As Walter left the room, the nurse came in.
“Hi, Josephine. I want to check your temperature again. Oh, you shouldn’t eat that.” The nurse took the pie away from Josephine. “Trust me, honey: when you’re all better, you can enjoy all the pie you want, but unless you want to spend the afternoon puking, I wouldn’t recommend eating that.”
“Is it poisoned?” Makayla asked, dropping hers on the ground.
“No, it’s just bad for her right now. Thanks for the mess I have to clean up.”
“What mess? It didn’t make a mess,” Makayla said picking her pie back up. Mark was certain he had seen the pie jump out of its container when she dropped it, but when she picked it up, it looked as if it hadn’t moved an inch, and there was no pie mess on the floor, so he shook his head and forgot about it.
“What does her temperature say now?”
“I think this thing is broken. It is still saying 105, but that’s impossible. You’re not even breaking a sweat. I’m going to go find another thermometer. I’ll be right back.”
“Maybe you should check it one more time,” Makayla said.
“I will, but on another thermometer.” The nurse left.
“Well, if you can’t eat yours, I’m not going to eat mine,” Makayla said, dumping it in the trash.
“Yeah, I don’t feel right eating it either,” Mark said, tossing his away.
“You two are the best.” The nurse came back.
“OK, let’s try again.” She put the thermometer in Josephine’s mouth. “Much better. 98.7. Good news, young lady: you don’t have a fever.”
“Does that mean I can go home?”
“That means you can go home. I’ll go speak with the doctor and get your discharge papers ready. Is your dad still around?”
“He went to get pie and coffee,” Makayla said.
When the nurse left, Josephine turned to Makayla. “Tell me the story now.”
“Not with Mark in the room.”
“It’s a private story. Sisters only.”
“Oh. . . . OK! I’ll see you later, Josie! Call me when you get home.”
“Thanks for coming by, Mark. I’ll call you; I promise.”
“Bye, Mark!”“You didn’t have to send him away."
“I told you: no one can know.”
“Well, I don’t know if I want to hear it now.”
“Just shut up and listen,” Makayla said, losing her patience. “Our mom’s name is Althia. She’s a queen.”
“Kayla, stop saying that. We’re not lost princesses of some magical island.”
“But we are, Joanne.”
“Where do you get that idea?”
“The Faye told me.”
“The Faye. She came to me in a dream.”
“A dream! It was a dream, Kayla, nothing more.”
“If it was a dream, then how did I know?”
“What they did to you.”
“What do you mean?”
“I know how they. . . .” The door opened again.
“Good news, young lady!” her doctor said. “Since you don’t have a fever, I have agreed to let you go home. How about that?”
“Home? Really? When?”
“How about as soon as you are dressed and ready?” Walter said, coming into the room. “Your mom is in the waiting room with David and your new baby sister. They went to the mall and got you some new clothes. So why don’t you go into the bathroom and get changed?—and we’ll get out of here.”
“You always interrupt when I get to the important part,” Makayla said, not able unable to contain her frustration.
“What are you talking about, sweetheart?”
“I’m not your sweetheart,” Makayla said. “I hate it when you call me that.”
“Makayla! What has gotten into you?”
“Nothing! She won’t listen anyway!” She got up and stormed out of the room.
“Josephine, what was that about?”
“Kayla was trying to tell me a story. That’s all.”
“I’m sorry we interrupted,” the doctor said.
“She can tell it to you later.”
“Since I’m not sick
anymore, can I have pie?”
“I don’t see why not. How , how does your stomach feel?”
“It feels fine.”
“Then yes, Josephine, I think you can have pie. What’s your favorite kind?”
“Josephine, why are all the pies I bought in the trash?”
“Cause the nurse took mine away and said I couldn’t have it, and so Kayla and Mark threw theirs away because they didn’t want to eat theirs if I couldn’t eat mine.”
“I’m sorry the nurse did that. Here, three pies on me. You can keep the change.” The doctor pulled a twenty-dollar bill from his pocket and handed it to her dad.
“Thank you, Doctor.”
“I will see you in a week for your follow-up, young lady.” He winked at her, shook Walter’s hand, and then walked out.“Go get dressed. I’ll go remedy this situation. Did Mark leave?"
“Kayla kicked him out.”
“That wasn’t very nice of her.”
“I’ll call him when I get home.”
“OK! Your mom misses you.”
“I can’t wait to meet the baby. What’s her name?”
“Sarah! That’s so pretty!” Josephine threw the covers off, and for the first time, she caught sight of her legs. “Daddy?”
“I’m right here.”
“What if I can’t walk?”
“Then I’ll carry you.” Walter got ready to catch her if she fell as she slowly lowered her skinny, battered legs to the ground.
“Here we go!” She pushed herself up and wobbled a bit. Walter moved closer.
“I’m right here. I won’t let you fall.” Josephine let go of the bed and stood on her wobbly legs. Then she took her first step. Then her second, and soon, she made it ten steps to the bathroom. “Good job, sweetheart! I’m so proud of you.” Walter waited till Josephine came out in a pink dress her mom had bought her. “It might be a little fancy, but it’s pretty. Come sit down. I’ll wheel you into the waiting room.
“I can walk.”
“I know you can, but ten steps to the bathroom is different than across the hall and walking through the hospital. Now you can use the chair, or I’ll carry you. Whichever you want.”
“I’ll use the chair.”
“OK!” Walter held it steady as Josephine wobbled to it. He helped her get settled in. “Comfortable?”
“Uh-huh!” she lied. Walter pushed her through the door and out to the waiting room. All the nurses cheered.
“Oh!” Lucille exclaimed when she saw her daughter. “Oh, my baby!” She handed the baby to Walter so she could lean down and hug Josephine. Her eyes filled with tears. “I missed you so much!”
“I missed you too, Mom!”
“Josephine, this is Sarah.” Walter said, kneeling beside the chair so Josephine could get a good look at her sister.
“Oh! Hi, Sarah!
You’re so beautiful!”
“So is this it? We can take her home?” Lucille asked Walter.
“Yeah, I was given her discharge papers.”
“When was Sarah born?”
“She’s three months old.”
“Can I hold her?”
“Of course.” Walter laid the baby gently into Josephine’s frail arms. “Let me know if she’s too heavy.”
“Come on, David! Come say hi to your sister.
“Hi, David! You’re getting so big!”
“Josie!” David said excitedly. “Josie! Josie! Josie!”
“Yes, David, Josephine is finally coming home,” Lucille said.
“And we’re never losing her again,” Walter said. “Never again!”
“Never again,” Lucille agreed as she dabbed at the corner of her eyes with a tissue. “Never again!”