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A World Away

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Chapter 3

Soon after Bill leaves, Ali finds herself sitting on the sofa with Stef beside her. Feels more like home than that last place, Ali thinks and then immediately regrets it as she feels another lump forming in her throat.

Stef looks down at this little girl, only eight years of age, who has lost everything she ever owned and more importantly everyone she ever loved. Stef can see the pool of tears forming in Ali’s eyes and without thinking starts to rub her back in an effort to comfort her.

Lena comes downstairs to find Ali snuggled into Stef who holds her little body as it shakes heavily from her sobs. Lena runs to Ali’s side and sits down next to her, “Shhhhhh…sweetie, shhhh…you have to calm down okay?”

Lena can see that Stef herself is visibly upset and looks to Lena for help. Lena is the one to console the kids especially if they are panicking, using skills she has picked up from her training as a vice-principal.

Lena slowly pulls Ali from Stef’s arms and sits her up straight. She takes in the fear and stress in those big green eyes and takes a deep breath in and out. Soon Ali copies her and slowly comes around.

Lena and Stef smile to one another as they watch Ali become visibly less tense. Stef looks to the woman she married and adores, who is able to comfort someone simply with her presence alone.

“Do you want to see your room?” Lena asks Ali who looks up to her in surprise but nods slowly in response.

Lena stands up and holds out her hand for Ali who slowly places her unburned right hand in Lena’s and follows her up the stairs and into Mariana’s bedroom.

“You’ll be sharing with our daughter Mariana. That’s your bed over there.” Lena points to the bed in the corner opposite the door.

“She won’t mind if you borrow some pyjamas for tonight.” Lena tells Ali with a smile. Lena walks over to a large chest of drawers and picks out a blue pair which makes Ali smile a little when she hands her them.

“Blue’s my favourite colour,” Ali responds to the confused look on Lena’s face, “umm…Lena?”

“What is it sweetie?” Lena asks while pulling the curtains shut.

“I don’t have anything to wear under these.” Ali blushes and looks at her feet. It takes Lena a moment to work out what she means and then it hits her. This poor girl doesn’t even have underwear.

“That’s okay I’ll get you some.” Lena pulls out some underwear and gives them to her, “What would you say to a bath so we can get you nice and clean?”

“Okay.” Ali replies shyly, her cheeks slightly red from her previous embarrassment and her eyes now swollen due to all of the crying.

Lena leads Ali into the adjoining bathroom, pulling out towels and running the bath while pointing to a stool for Ali to sit on while she waits. Once the bath is ready, Lena adds some bubbles that makes Ali giggle a little behind her. Lena turns around, sits down on the ground beside the bath and turns to face Ali.

“Sweetie, why don’t you give me your dirty clothes and I can wash them for you?” Lena quietly asks Ali who has gone very quiet.

Ali nods as she takes off the jeans, “But they’re not really my clothes, my clothes are…” Ali stops, suddenly recalling what has happened to not just her clothes but her home. Tears start to flow down her cheeks in steady streams.

Lena instinctively pulls Ali onto her lap and cradles her just like she does with the other kids when they are upset. Stef, hearing the noise, runs up to find Lena on the bathroom floor with Ali. She sits down beside her and reaches out to rub her little legs when she gasps at the sight of the bruising, finding it impossible to imagine what was going through this eight year olds mind as she jumped from her bedroom window.

“Please sweetie shhhhh…I need you to calm down for me,” Lena pleas to Ali who isn’t responding but continuing to leave a damp patch on Lena’s shoulder.

Lena, close to tears, hands her to Stef and steps out onto the landing for some air. Stef starts to hum quietly in her ear, rocking her back and forth just like she did for the others when they were little. Soon she can feel Ali becoming less tense in her arms, her jerking now replaced by the occasional quiet whimper.

“How about we have that bubble bath now?” Stef asks quietly with a smile. She pulls Ali back from her so that they are now face to face, “I think we should add more bubbles.” Stef winks to Ali as she pours more bath soother into the water. Ali giggles as she sees the bubbles grow in front of her very eyes.

“Can I get in now, Stef?” Ali asks politely.

“Well it’s your bath, so I suppose so…” Stef jokes, helping Ali in, “Now remember you can’t get your left hand wet so why don’t you set it here?” Stef points to the towel draped over the side of the bath.

After Ali’s bath, Lena walks back into the bedroom to find a freshly washed Ali sitting on her bed in her blue pyjama top. Lena smiles but then notices that her legs are still wet.

Stef pulls Lena to one side, “She’s scared to touch her legs. She keeps saying that they hurt too much.” Stef whispers to Lena with a shake in her voice.

Lena pulls Stef into her arms and kisses her gently on the side of her head. Letting go, she walks over to Ali and sits down beside her.

“How about I try to dry your legs? I’ll be very soft and gentle.” Lena asks Ali who looks at her intently for a few seconds until she nods slowly. Lena picks up her towel and slowly dabs her legs without causing Ali any pain.

“And we need to put a clean dressing on your hand too, sweetie.” Stef walks over to the chest of drawers to find the medical things Bill had given them as both women turn their focus to putting Ali to bed.

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