Melodies of a Tattered Shadow

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Chapter18 PAUL and SARAH

It was a sunny Sunday morning in Ashville, North Carolina. The blue sky showed no signs of surrender from the beautiful radiant sunny day. The clouds, although few were fluffy and white as cotton and incredibly in some other parts seemed luminescent. As usual, just like in any American town, the day was colored vividly festive with different banners, flags and confetti. This is the American way, sports and games were a congruent to their life and society. A parenting couple seated on the bench, they could not hold their excitement and they had been the subject of envy for many parents seated in the ballpark. Their kid was walking through the field, carrying in his shoulder a wooden bat. He was always been the star to whom the people waited there to see, he always gets the win for his team. Many of the home team parents stood up and loudly cheered his name; the boy was destined for greatness. He was very athletic, although he was youngest in the team, since he was only eight years old from a team of mostly ten years old. The team depended on him, most notably for his swing of a bat.

That day the game was a crucial game for the town, this qualifies them for the playoffs for Southeast Minor League Baseball Championship for Pitch Division. The kid was at ease unmindful at the burden that was on his shoulder. It was the last inning and the opposing team led them by two, but two of his teammates were in the second base and third base respectively. He looked at the crowd and was somehow surprised, but couldn’t understand the adulation. For him, it’s just a kid’s game and he loved it, even without the fanfare.

On the other side of Ashville, North Carolina, near the edge of the city, a lone green wooded house was situated, near the forested area of Lakeshore Drive and Pine Tree road. The place was a mixture of low hills and prairie like, the grass swayed like dancing swans to the beat of the wind; it was both peaceful and joyful at the same time. The white picket fences were magnificently hoisted around a property, not big enough to be a ranch, but sizable enough for a small family, it was a place where an angelic girl grew and roamed around, she had been a fixed fixture of the almost magical green house. Distant neighbors couldn’t help themselves looking over the picket fences in envy whenever they passed by, they always looked for the blond curly young girl that ran around the yard, they were always amused by her, her curly hair was beguiling and her giggles were addictive. She was the gem of her parents, the couple was not materially rich, but their daughter gave them more than what heaven could possibly give to mere mortals like them. The girl sings like an angel, and her blue eyes were divine like her mom’s.

The little girl’s father was a paint salesman at the other town, he couldn’t wait to go home whenever he’s away. When he’s finally home, he was always delighted to see her. She was always at his side wherever he went, even when he tinkers on the machine of his newly purchased second hand car. The kid was beside him kissing his greasy cheek whenever she had a chance. He muses this might how God felt whenever He was with his Angel. He could never ask for more, although he labored heavily and would sometimes faces immeasurable obstacles in his work, one gazed in his child’s eyes would pay off all the sweats he endured.

On the baseball field everyone at the bleacher was at their toe. The visiting fans, although smaller in number, were never short of cheers and screams for their team, they shouted against the young boy boorishly, trying to scare him, since he’s inconceivably good for his age. His posture was about a twelve year old, even his stare was magnificently confident, surprisingly with ease in his nerves.

“God damn! This kid again?” the coach of the visiting team murmured by himself, he was almost tearing up his own gum despite of the bubble gum in his mouth.

When the boy finally reached the Home plate, everyone in the crowd went crazy. The home fans were delirious, it tried to dwarf the scream of the visiting fans, but the visitors were no pushover, they screamed and chanted back at the top of their lungs. It was noisy, but lively. Americans and their sport, it was like the arena in the Gladiator time of the Romans. Each parent willing to scream out their innards for their team and their children. If you’re not a party to any team, you’ll envy their loyalty, ’this is war!’ as what some spectators shout. The kid’s parents just seated nervously, they were amused at how big the fans their kid had, they were shy and modest they could not even proudly shout, he was their kid they’re shouting about, no haughtiness could be traced from the couple. That’s the reason the child didn’t understand the adulation, it’s just a game, his father taught him, ’just enjoy it, if you love it, you’ll be great at it’. Never did his father have told him the importance of adulation, for he knew nothing about it. His father even told him, ’winning is something, but if you don’t enjoy it, it won’t mean a thing’. This was probably the reason the kid play without the facility for nervousness, purely confident, for he just wanted to enjoy it.

The pitcher threw a fastball, but when he finally swings his bat everyone was silent, especially the visiting crowd, it’s as if they could tell the future, they already knew their demised. Despite of the taste of it being a close game, they were still annihilated, not shamelessly, but well fought, they could only surmise.

“That kid… if not for him, we could have gotten it… we played our best and we’ve done pretty well, we should be happy, the better team wins today.” the visiting coach told his team.

“Better team or just the best kid?” the visiting team captain retorted.

The coach just smiled at the team captain’s remarked and said, “Let’s go home…”

The home team carried with them their hero on their shoulders, jubilantly. The kid had been their hero again or for all of their games, frankly, now he had sent them finally to the playoffs. It was a sweet victory, unbelievably spearheaded by an eight year old, from the group of ten. He was smiling and waving to the crowd grateful for their presence in the game, somehow it was starting to grow on him, having supporters in the game, was not bad; actually, it was awesome to share your triumph with your friends and perhaps the whole town.

When they went home, he was tired, but joyful; his mom assisted him to cleaning him up. Somehow his mom was laughing and said, “Son you might be the hero of the game… but you sure smell skunkky terrible, hurry up and take a shower, people might have a change of heart once they got a smell of you… hah... ha… ha.”

“Mom… I don’t smell that bad… do I? The kid eyed her mom sweetly with a wrinkled lip.

“I was just teasing…” said the mom, “but wait… what is this? You are bruised…” she noticed fearfully.

The kid looked into his limbs and rib cage, there were some bruising, “people keeps grabbing me… it’s nothing new mom, it will go away.”

“Does it happen a lot… son?” still worried.

“Not a lot… but sometimes, but it goes away.” the son answered.

“You’ll probably need some vitamins, like iron… finish your shower, afterwards eat and maybe go to sleep, so you can have a full rest.”

*****

The following week they were in the field again, this time it was play-off game, the whole town was excited way beyond the normal excitement, it seemed the town had been dressed for the occasion not just the field for the games, but all the street and public places were adorned with flags and banners, including inside sell shops, restaurants and department stores. The festivity was inviting, they dressed up the town to totally intimidate the visiting team, it was a healthy fight, because the next game the home team would be the one to visit the enemy and surely they would suffer the same reception. Just like the other time, the sky was perfectly blue as if saying to the home team that the game was theirs again.

When the visiting team started to slugs on their pitchers throw, they were in for a surprised, suddenly everybody thought, ’this is going to be a long day’, the visitors batters were at par with their homeboy. The first swing of their visitor was a home run to which their bring-in crowd responded positively. The home crowd was astounded, now they see their match; the first inning was score perfect for the visiting team and for a while the home crowd went quiet. Then it’s their team turn to slug, their first batter slugs and it was a strike and two more he was struck out. Not a good showing for a home team, after a while one of their guys was in the second base and it’s their heroes turn to bat. The crowd stood in optimism, they always knew they could count on this kid, another fast ball was thrown, the hero swing his bat… and it was a strike. The crowd turned silent, somewhat puzzled. The boy still confident in his stand he just smiled to the pitcher as if acknowledging that he’d done well with his throw. But the catcher noticed some red spot on the base, and the droplets increases, when he looked at the batter he saw that his nose was bleeding. He asked the kid if he’s alright, and pointed the blood in the grounds. The kid saw this, but just shrugged his shoulder down as if it meant nothing.

The pitcher threw the ball again, and the kid said, “Not this time,” and the ball flew out of the field, another home run for the kid. The crowd went crazy again; they knew they could not be beaten, not when they have this kid with them. The pitcher looked into the homeboy and smiled at him, the kid smiled back at him, as if to say to each other, ’this is a war between us’. When the kid reached their dug-out some of his team mates noticed the trickles of blood in his jersey. Just like a while ago, he just brushed it off, as if there’s nothing wrong, and told his teammates that he was fine. Everyone resumed their game. The game continued on and it was really close, the teams fought back and forth.

In the last inning, the crucial last half of it, the home team was again besieged by two point lead by the visitor, but no fear had enveloped the crowd and the team, they had their hero and he always delivers. Two of their men were in second and third base respectively, the kid walked to the batting base. The whole field was shouting, and it’s deafening, you’d feel that somehow the bleachers were moving, all because of the roars from the crowd. The kid was not even distracted by this, but somehow his vision was a little blurs, he contended maybe because he was just being blinded by the sunlight. When he reached the home plate and his batting box, the pitcher and catcher instantly exchanged head nods and hand signals. The pitcher heads sway in disagreement and the catcher send hand signals again, to which the pitcher responded with a sway of the head again, showing disagreement in the crowd. The crowd booed in reaction and disappointment. The kid looked upward, sensing if he was actually blur by the sunlight, the catcher could see the trickles of blood in his nose, and said to him with concerned, “hey kid your nose is really bleeding… you should call for a timeout”.

“No, I’m fine…” he answered and looks at the pitcher, but his vision was beginning to dim. With bat in the hands on his right shoulder, he nodded his head to the pitcher, signaling that he was ready for the pitch.

The pitcher leaned back from the pitcher’s mound, lifting his left leg and nodded to the catcher, and with his right hand, threw another fast one, really fast one, when it reached the kid, the batter fell down towards the catcher and the umpire. The catcher grabbed him on the way down. The best had fallen down, and the crowd had gone berserk; and a teammate shouted, “He was hit… he was hit… intentionally hit!”

All the teammates ran out of the dugout after the pitcher, and everything breaks loose, fist fight ensued between the team. The catcher was unable to stand from the fall of the kid to him, some of the home team members pulled and dragged him and he was attacked, he was trying to say something but was ignored. The umpire got hold of the kid on the ground; he was bleeding profusely from the face. By the time the fight broke off, they didn’t realize that the kid was lying still in the hands of the umpire, soaked in blood in his face. The ambulance rushed to the place and picked the kid up. Arriving in the hospital doctors promptly searched for trauma, especially on the head and was quickly sent for an X-ray, but fortunately or sadly, they couldn’t find any trauma. They wondered why he was bleeding from the nose.

As a result of the incident the game that day was stopped, the visitors had to be escorted by the local police in order for them to get out of town safely on their bus. The visitors insisted that they didn’t hit the home team’s star player, Paul Andrews; they added that they had nothing to do with what happened to him. The catcher explained that his nose was bleeding prior to the fall, but the people in the town didn’t listen to them. The allegation and confusion were only settled, when that night, the doctor in the hospital declared that Paul Andrews’ fall was not caused by any trauma, specifically being hit by a baseball on the head, and his cause of injury or fall was still being studied. That same night, the home team sent their apologies to the opposing team, they were greatly embarrassed for jumping into conclusion, even the town folks were embarrassed for overreacting and somehow, some felt, although not directly, that if not for Paul’s fall, their town wouldn’t be embarrassed like that as a whole.

Although at the start there were crowds flocking in the hospital in support of their injured player, but upon learning that their player was not actually hit by the opposing team, many of them felt embarrassed and left the hospital. They were in support aiming for a fight to an injured comrade, only to be told that it wasn’t so. Only close family friend remained in the hospital. James and Jackie Andrews stayed vigil to their son, in the hospital not knowing what caused his collapsed. The doctors had found out that besides the nosebleed, Paul’s body was bruised in several places, and due to that finding, the doctors immediately performed a complete blood work testing for the patient. Initially, they were able to confirm that his red blood count was low and that his white blood cell count was high. The doctors recommended to the Andrews that Paul be tested further for repeated complete blood counts and a bone marrow examination, the couple was somehow confused.

Mr. Jackie Andrews asked, “Doctor… what’s happening… is this life threatening?”

“I can’t tell you yet… not until we are done with all the tests.” the doctor replied.

The couple couldn’t do anything, but to stay vigil with their loving son. After several days, all the tests had been performed and the doctors had concluded and said to the anxious couple with sympathy that, “We’re sorry to inform you… but your son is suffering from Leukemia.”

Mrs. Andrews breaks down and kneeled on the floor, her husband holds her, “Doctor… leukemia, our son is suffering from leukemia?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so… he has A.L.L., Acute Lymphoblastic leukemia.” the doctor replied sadly.

“Doc… what should we do? Is it life threatening?” Mr. Andrews frightfully inquired.

The doctor paused and didn’t replied quickly, looked into the lowly couple with sympathy and said instead, “there are treatments that we can perform,”

“What do you mean Doc?” Mr. Andrews further inquired.

“There are treatments… but I don’t want to give you an impression that it’s not a dangerous ailment, there are some who survive this, in fact many, but there are a few that didn’t.” the doctor carefully stated.

*****

From the prairie, the father and daughter were again juggling in their garage; expectedly, it’s their troubled second hand car. The father, although was frustrated with the car couldn’t help but continuously laughed and giggled at the sight of his daughter’s antics. Her laugh was intoxicating, she kept on teasing him, and so, no work could be done in the car, besides he didn’t know anything about engine trouble.

“Oh my angel Sarah… you are trouble. I can’t finish a thing with you.” He smilingly joked at his daughter.

“You always say that… but you never want me to leave.” the child answered.

“Would you leave if I’ve told you?” the father asked amused.

“No… mom told me to assist you.” the child stubbornly answered.

“Assist me, huh Really…?”

And the child jump at his father and embraced him kissing his cheeks repeatedly, the father just said, “oh my dear… we cannot really finish anything together.”

“Yeah… dad, you don’t know how to fix a car.” the child chided, teasing.

“My angel is wise… like the poet that you should be…” and added, “yeah, we should ask someone to fix this for us.”

“Yes… now you can continue teaching me piano all day long.” the child excitedly answered.

“Now I know why…”

A neighborhood mechanic dropped by that morning; he was one of the same neighbors that keep on looking over at their fence, looking at the curly blond girl. She amused him; her playful ways have been always a desire for him to see. The man was exceptionally excited to be at the place of his neighbor, for some reason, as if he waited for this chance for a long time. The man was actually good looking, in his late twenties, with handsome boyish charms, he was someone that was easy to get along with, and every word he said was refined and calculated; could be trusted easily. When he got hold of Michael Payne’s car, incredibly he fixed it no time, not even close to an hour, where Michael had labored for days and numerous hours.

“Thanks Gilbert, you just don’t know how much joy you give me, for arresting my troubled car.” Michael said in satisfaction.

“Not a thing my friend, it’s an easy fix.” Gilbert gladly answered.

“I’m actually thinking of selling it, and just take the bus to work, because it always bugs down.” Michael added.

“That will be trouble, commuting by bus to work won’t be pleasant, as hard as it is right now, might as well buy a new one.” Gilbert seriously suggested.

“My friend… we all know I can’t afford that.”

“Don’t worry my friend… from here on your car will not trouble you… I’ll take care of him.” Gilbert answered with suspicious grinned.

From then on, true to Gilbert’s word, Michael’s car trouble ended, it’s not to say that it didn’t break down, but Gilbert was always there to fix the problem. Gilbert had become a permanent fixture in the life of the Payne’s family; he just not fixed Michael’s car, but even the household problems like plumbing, electrical and carpentry. The family had been accustomed to his presence; that even the vice-less Michael now had indulged in drinking with Gilbert from time to time. Michael was a timid type person who was satisfied with just the enjoyment of being with his family, but Gilbert presence had somewhat liven up his satisfaction, now he had a friend, he could brag about his satisfaction or frustration from work, but most of all, his happiness with his family, especially with his daughter Sarah, to which Gilbert agreed in envy. They delight whenever Sarah sings to them in their drinks, with Michael playing the piano while Elizabeth watching proudly. The song Somewhere over the rainbow was really special because, it’s one of the songs that Sarah could sing while playing the piano herself, her father taught her that, and it brought tears to Elizabeth because she was so proud. She was really happy; that she wished that time would just freeze in that moment. Sarah’s singing and her and Michael’s dance in her soft voice melody, where likened to the cloud of heaven softness, you couldn’t help but rest your head and wished it never ends.

That was their every weekend life, the whole week Sarah restlessly waited for the weekend to enjoy her father’s teaching of piano, and shared with her mom the fruit with dancing and singing all weekend. This event unfolded in Gilbert’s eyes, he positively showed his envy with the family, to which Michael just commented that, “My friend, as handsome and bright as you are, I’m sure you could have a girl of your choosing, and surely have a family like mine.”

“Yeah… like yours.” Gilberts seriously responded.

It was Monday again, the day that not only Sarah dreaded; the whole family didn’t want to be away from each other. Sarah couldn’t let go of her father, her embrace was tight as ever.

“Dad, don’t go to work… I will not go to school… I’ll just sing to you the whole day, all the things you taught me, I’ll sing and play it for you, please… please…” pleading with her wrinkly nose.

“Sweetheart… I’ll be back tonight, just like every night,” Michael responded to his daughter while Elizabeth just looked on.

“By the time your back… I’m already asleep.” Sarah snapped.

“I’ll try to be early… I promised you… you’ll sing for me as promised.” Michael’s responded to his daughter, who himself, was equally having a hard time leaving for work.

But still Sarah wouldn’t let go of her father, her mother intervened and catches her embrace. He just walked-on to the car not letting his eyes off his beloved daughter and wife, until he hopped into his car, which was fixed by Gilbert the previous day as usual. He waved his hands, and sent flying kisses to his daughter and drove away, Sarah cried in her mom’s embrace.

That afternoon, when Sarah came back from school, she excitedly ran to her piano to practice with her songs she’s going to sing for her father. She didn’t see her mom in the dark corner seating; whose head was tilted dropped on her two arms on the tea table, trying to be silent, trying to conceal her cry in her child’s presence. Sarah just continues on practicing with her piano playing and singing, until a big black car entered their yard. Her mom stood up and looked into the window, it was the only time Sarah noticed her mom, her face was smudged and her eyes was bulging from crying.

“Mom… what’s wrong? Why are you crying?” Sarah asked innocently.

Elizabeth looks into her child, feeling guilty, as if she betrayed her, she had anguished, because she loves her child so much, she wouldn’t want to hurt her, she wanted to shelter her from pain, she wanted to endure everything for her, but she wouldn’t know how to protect her, it breaks her heart that her child innocence would be shattered by something so painful, she tried to ignore her pain for her, trying to hold on.

“Mom, mom… why are you crying… why are they here?” Sarah asked in confusion, pointing at the big black car.

She looked into her daughter again, she wished she could protect her from the truth, but she was doubtful if she could handle her own. Her eyes stared at her beloved daughter, trying to convey to her that it would be alright, ’I will take care of you, we can do this’, but her tears betray her. Her knees buckled, but she tried to remain standing.

Their door opened, and the men carried with them a large shining wooded box, a coffin, it was a hearse that entered their yard. Sarah couldn’t understand it at the beginning, she froze staring at her mom, who just stood there quietly looking at her saying again in her eyes that, ‘it’s going to be fine, everything is going to be alright, I’ll take care of you, don’t worry’, but with the same betrayal, her tears streamed. Sarah wished she didn’t understand this, but she did, at her young age the pain was unfamiliar, no tears could come out of her eyes, she felt betrayed for some reason, she looked at her mom with anger, not even knowing if she’s mad at her, she’s just mad, and ran out of the house. Elizabeth was still frozen, wanting to run and hold her daughter tight, but she also needed holding, she could barely stand, and as her knees buckled, she kneeled, in her daughter’s absence she cried out sobbing.

Sarah ran to the woods, like running away from someone or something, but no matter how she turned she could never seemed to get away from it, she didn’t want to be angry, but she was mad, she had never cusses in her life, but her young heart screams of it, she searched for something in the woods, wishing that she’ll get lost inside the woods, but she knew it by heart, she and her father were always there looking for singing birds, but still reality beckoned on her young mind, someone dear had left her, and he was not coming back. She was in self-denial, and just continually walked and ran in the woods, but still the pain was there… at last she stopped and sat beneath a tree on top of the hill. She could see their green house from there, she saw for the first time the unfamiliar glowing lights emerging from their house; it was strange, the illumination of the light was inviting, but the invitation was a farce, because it was a party for a demised. People were starting to crowd in their house; she had never seen so many people at the same time in their house. She knew that the neighbor loved her mom and her… she could not even seemed to mention him, not even within herself, she tried to cry, but she couldn’t, she was still mad… mad at him for leaving her. “I told you not go to work… I told you… I’ll sing to you…” she said in angered whisper.

*****

The Andrews now, were a regular visitor of the hospital, there were times that Paul would be confined in the hospital for a week, but there were times that he would be there for more than a month. Paul that used to be an image of a healthy, athletic boy then had turned into a frail, skinny, pale, ugly hair loosing of a child. In a short time, nobody seemed to remember a kid who had been a consistent hero in the town’s baseball field. The Andrews struggled to make their child survived, the agonizing trials in their life. They tried their best to make Paul live as normal as possible, he continued his studies, but no longer his passion of playing baseball, he no longer had the strength for it. But it’s up and down; there were times that it seemed that his cancer was thought to be in remission, only to be blown up that it wasn’t so, it was a see saw experience for them. They were beginning to get accustomed to it, accepting as long as their child was with them. All their savings were already exhausted on hospital billings, but they gladly took it, as long as Paul was still with them, everything they could take it.

When Sarah finally went back home, she was alarmed to see her mom on Mr. Gilbert Robbins’ shoulder, crying. She felt the anger that no one could be beside her mom, except her Dad, but now she saw her in another man’s shoulder, she’s uncomfortable or just felt jealous for her dad, or seemed to foretell an awry nightmare with it.

Sarah’s father died from an unexplained car accident, his car turned to a ravine for unknown reason. Sarah didn’t look at her father in the coffin, she denied herself that it was him, she fantasizes that he is just there, somewhere, and he is going to be back someday, she was eight, other children believed in Santa Clause, she believed her dad was still alive, and the one in the coffin was not him.

After the burial of his father, her mother tried very hard to be strong for her, but every night the moment her mother’s bedroom door closes, she could hear her sobbing. This made her even angrier at her father’s leaving.

On the following days, Mr. Gilbert Robbins was in their house, far too often, consoling her mom. She’s still mad and blamed her dad for letting this happen, she had a bad feeling about Mr. Robbins; she didn’t like him at all. Although Mr. Robbins frequent visits accompanied gifts for her, from delicious candies to attractive dolls, but somehow she refused it all, for her he’s still a stranger. To which sometimes, her mother scolded her, not that she liked him, but she just didn’t want her to be disrespectful of older people.

For some reason, Mr. Robbins seemed to give special attention to Sarah, besides the gift, he always seemed to want her company, and most time would readily TOUCHED her curly blond hair and complement on it.

“You have the most beautiful hair Sarah… I wish my daughter would have the same hair as you.”

Sarah would just walk away every time, especially when they’re alone, or at times when Mr. Robbins would attempt to TOUCH her or her hair. She always felt uncomfortable in his presence.

She didn’t know how it happened, but one day she realized that Mr. Robbins was already living in their house, she could not understand it, but she sees Mr. Robbins coming out of her mother and father’s bedroom every day. It becomes a ritual every day, on her breakfast, she sees Mr. Robbins across the table, watching her suspiciously and whenever her mom was not looking, the man would repeat his usual comments, on her beautiful hair and how it complemented her and her round blue eyes. After a while, Mr. Robbins was no longer satisfied with just complementing on her hair, but would readily TOUCH it whenever her mom was not there.

“I really love your hair… its curls are cute, and it’s… so soft.” Mr. Robbins always says.

Sarah would just readily walk away whenever this happened, to which Mr. Robbins would just smirk and smiled, still glancing at her while she walked away. As a young girl, Sarah didn’t know how to handle it, but she sensed danger from this man. Every night, she closes her door shut and locked, she didn’t understand why, but she always does, starting from the day Mr. Gilbert Robbins lived in their house. Many nights, she felt that the man was hovering outside her room, she would hear her door being tried to be open, and she would readily shout, “is that you, mom?” and the person attempting to open her door would leave. From then on, she never left her door unlocked, and whenever Gilbert was in her presence, she would make sure that she’s beside her mother. Many times, Gilbert in Elizabeth’s presence would often request for Sarah to sing, but she would not indulge, apart from Michael’s demised, Sarah’s interest with music had died also, she wouldn’t want to sing or play the piano anymore.

Her actions and ritual had gone for years and she was no longer conscious if there’s any danger since her protective instinct had somewhat diverted her mind. She still longed for her dad and fantasized about him getting back. One day, while looking at her dad’s belongings, she chanced upon on one of her dad’s book collections, The Catcher in the Rye. She had heard of it from a higher level in school, some like it and some commented that it was just a rubbish teenaged nuisance. Somehow, she was intrigued by it, although at eleven she was young for that book, she read it with full interest since it was her dad’s. She found the main character Holden Caulfield interesting, she somewhat felt for him, she could picture her young dad to be like Holden; smart, playful and sometimes rebellious, she had not really talked to her dad about his youth and with the book, somewhat she was able to gaze on his youth. From then on, the book was her constant companion; her loneliness for her dad is eased when she turned to its pages. She felt that her dad was talking to her through the pages.

It was also the start of her love of reading books and poetry, she read all her dad’s book from then on: from Gone with the Wind which she adored despite of her ages (11) appreciation, to Great Gatsby, The Grapes Wrath, and so on, and other poetry collections from Elizabeth Barrette Browning, to Shakespeare, to Paul Laurence Dunbar and Sara Teasdale, from which she learned from her mother her name was taken from. Her father’s wish was for her to be a good poet like her. But her constant companion was The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, where she thought her youthful dad speaks to her. It’s been a while since anyone could hear her laughing, but reading Salinger’s book had somewhat relieved her of her loneliness from her dad, many times Gilbert would catch her laughing while reading the book and would just stare at her suspiciously. Every time it happened, she would readily go to her room and locked the door shut, and immersed herself in the book again.

One afternoon, unmindful of anything, coming from school still clutching her dad’s book with her, she quickly entered her room and locked it shut.

“That’s good… you lock it so no one can disturb us.”

She knew that voice, her back’s hair raised in fright, and chills run down her spine, she hastily tried to open the door to escape, but instantly Gilbert Robbins grabbed her back violently.

“Mommy… Mommy… Mommy!” she shouted, in fear, but hastily a slap streaked onto her face, and quickly, blood trickled from her lips. She was stunned and angered.

“You can scream to your delight… but nobody will hear you. Your mom is not home… actually I love that you scream. I can remember your beautiful soft voice,” And immediately was pulled down to her bed and was smothered, she could hardly breathe, the man was heavy on her chest, she tried to move, but she was completely overwhelmed, his weight was bearing on her tiny child frame.

“Now, will you allow me to touch your hair? I really love your hair,” he touched it and smelled it, “oh that was so good… your hair is so soft and it smells fantastic… I will enjoy this,” continuously touching and kissing her hair.

*****

At the same time, the Andrews were rushing again to the hospital in an ambulance. It’s been three years, nobody even remembered in the town that Paul was their baseball hero kid; his games were forgotten and long gone. The ambulance was in full speed and its mobile sound was deafening outside the van. Paul was really weak he could barely speak, but still manage to smile, to his parents and said, “Mom, Dad… you are the greatest, I enjoy my life because of your love.”

“Son, you’re not going yet… your mom is not yet ready.” James Andrews said, to his son trying to be strong.

Paul looked to his Dad and feigned a smile, he was in pain, but wouldn’t want to show it, but his mom was also feeling the pain of her son, and said, “I’m ready son… anytime you want to go, I’m here for you.” she said strongly not showing any emotion.

“Mom…” Paul having hard time breathing, and her mom just put a finger on her lips, but Paul still insisted on talking, her mom smiled at him.

“Mom… Dad, don’t worry… don’t be lonely… I love you, I will always be with you.” and he paused staring blankly at his mom.

James Andrews stroked and touched his son’s cheek softly, and finally closes his eyes.

Sarah was digging in their yard. In her hand was the white dress and underwear she wore when she was attacked by Gilbert Robbins. The dress and the undergarments were soiled by her blood, from the rape that was done to her. She intended to bury it so that her mom would not discover the incidence. She was still not crying despite of what had happened, but she was fearful, not of her own life but of her mom. Gilbert threatened her, “Tell this to your mom and I’ll kill you.” but she just keeps herself defiant looking at the man in anger. All through the process of rape it never made her cry or feel fear, Gilbert had sense, that the young girl didn’t fear about losing her own life, so instead, he said, “If your mom knows about this, I will Kill her… and I swear I will kill her.”

Although her mom had seen some bruising on her body, she kept everything in secret for fear of her mother’s life. From then on, every time she went home she would make it sure that her mother was there before she entered their house again. Gilbert was not satisfied with just one rape; she would grope her in her chest or genitals whenever her mom was not looking, and when she was not aware of his presence.

“You are mine… there’s nothing you can do about it.” Gilbert always whispered in her ears whenever she groped or TOUCHED her hair.

*****

Although it’s been a year, and she had eluded Gilbert preying hands, she knew it’s just a matter of time before Gilbert would rape her again, she felt worried more about her mom, she already suspected that Gilbert had something to do with her dad’s car accident, and she knew he would kill her mom, if he couldn’t get what he wanted. One night, fearing for the worse, her door was break opened, it was Gilbert and he had a duplicate key. She just stared at the opposite wall, and imagines that she was not there.

Gilbert reeks from the smell of alcohol, approached her bed smoking a cigarette, and sat beside her, he touched and stroked her hair again slowly and said, “I really adore your hair… its lovely.”

She just stared blankly at the wall, not even looking at him as if remote of what was happening.

“Aren’t you going to shout for your mom… ha ha ha… but it’s going to be useless, she’s dead asleep from sleeping pills, now, we can enjoy ourselves whenever we wanted to. I should have thought of it, sooner, we could have been doing this for years now.”

But still Sarah remained quiet; she just stared blankly at the wall.

“Oh, you’re quiet now… let’s see once I fuck you… if you’ll remain quiet,” he said angrily and slapped her face again. Her cheek was instantly reddened, but she didn’t react. He proceeded angrily, undresses her and raped her. While she was being raped, she just remained mute, she fought hard not to react and give his satisfaction that she was being violated and overpowered. She remained quiet and still. After her rape, Gilbert for his part, was furious, he expected cries and begging for mercy from her, instead she was in silence, not showing that she was defiled and overpowered. He picked-up his cigarette and grabbed her by her hair and said, “You slut… I want to hear you scream and begged me for me to stop…”

But Sarah remained quiet, still looking the other way. Gilbert was frustrated and quickly pulled her by her hair outside her room, dragging her to the living room. She fell down naked on the floor. “I’ve been asking you to sing for me for quite some time… now it’s the best time for you to entertain me, sing to me… there’s the piano… play for me,” while looking shamelessly at her young naked helpless body.

But she remained on the floor and didn’t react; Gilbert pulled her again by the hair and sat her on the piano stool forcefully, “Now… sing for me…”

She still didn’t react, “You slut, you are really making me mad!” Gilbert shouted in her ears and pushed the cigarette lit on her left breast. It burned her small breast’s fragile skin; her face contorted and in her lips sipped out, “ah…”

“Yes… now I know how to get your attention… sing or I’ll burn your sorry ass tits,” and puts out a lighter to light his cigarette again

But she remained mum and defiant, “So you’re really testing me.” Gilbert said, and pushed the cigarette again in her chest, this time on her nipple.

Her faces contorted in pain, but no voice went out of her lips. She bit her lips and agonized inside, still showing defiance. Seeing this Gilbert proceeded to burn her other nipple which she still reacted in defiance. Gilbert proceeded to burn her some more on her chest, and when he saw that she was not reacting to his pleasure he stopped.

“Now, look at your sorry ass tits… it’s your fault.”

Still biting her lips, she remained quiet and still looked the other way.

“How are you going to keep that from your mom? … She’s definitely going to see that, and the truth… I really don’t care if you told her… I’m going to kill her anyway… so we can be together for good,” and left her and proceeded to her mom’s room.

Sarah remained seated naked on the piano, nursing numerous burns on her chest, she could not imagine the idea of her mom being killed. If her suspicion was right about her dad’s death, it’s truly possible that Gilbert would kill her mom, so that he could have her finally for his own, she could not definitely hide her injuries to her mom.

*****

Morning, James and Jackie Andrews were on their way to Riverside cemetery, this had been their repeated journey every week to their son at The Riverside Cemetery. The weather forecast had not been favorable to venture out, but rather than staying at home safely, the Andrews were adamant to go to their son, as if worried that something bad might happen to their son because of the impending storm. It was still early morning when they arrived at the cemetery; as usual, they were the first one there, except for the cemetery keeper. Despite the threat of a storm, they find it leisurely to be with their son, they even had food and drinks with them for the whole day. By noon, very few people arrived at the cemetery, except for some scheduled burials, and others like them that had lost someone dear, just recently.

That same morning, Sarah was taking her breakfast. Across the table was Gilbert, who kept looking at her, trying to intimidate and bully her, but still, she just remained quiet. When she left for school, she made sure to bring her treasured book of her father. But on the way to school, she started to get worried for her mom and can’t let go of her worries, so, she decided not to go to school, instead she went downtown. She strolled the street mindlessly, unmindful of the storm that was coming. She saw some boys and girls in the park; these were street boys and girls, children who were living off the street. She contemplated of being one with the street kids, but not there, far from there, she believes, if she’s gone, her mom would not know about her injury, and eventually her rape also, and Gilbert would have no reason to kill her mom. She sat idly on one of the benches in the park. The place that was supposed to be pleasant was not, instead it was gloomy, no families playing with, but only littered of falling dried leaves that was blown by occasional wind.

She stayed in the park, seated on one of the benches. The wind blew again and her book was tossed up to the ground. When she picked it up, it was turned to the page where Holden was thinking about running away, the same pages that she keeps on reading repeatedly for unknown reason, even before her first rape. Now, she understands, it was her dad talking to her, she sat still and immediately read the book again, when she reached for the page about the character escape from a perceived sexual assault, her eyes reddened, she promptly stood up and walked, not wanting to get attention from anyone, she walked away and took a bus ride. Nearing her destination, she went down in one of the stops, she knew that it’s still far from where she wanted to go, but the place she wanted to go to was not part of the bus route.

She didn’t want to take a cab to be noticed, and for good reason she was afraid of being with any man alone in any circumstances. She continuously just walked, not even looking at other people she crosses by. Unknown to her, tears were already flowing in her eyes, she hadn’t cried since the time of her dad’s death, but then it pours like a falls. When she reached the place, she started searching; she knew that it was there in Rose Alley. She continuously looked for it but was not able to find it. Many names out there were covered in dirt and vines of weeds, for no one had visited it. Frustrated, she wiped the dirt and the weeds out vigorously with her hand, looking for a name, if it’s not the name she was looking for, she just moved on, continued on, and wiped another with both her hands, looking for the name. Her dress was already soiled by dirt, when she reached her 19th attempt of finding the name, and until finally, she finds it:

Michael Payne

Born Died

November 29, 1940 August 26, 1968

Survived by his loving Daughter and Wife

Sarah and Elizabeth

She kneeled, and for the first and quite some time she sobbed. Clutching the book with her in her kneels she cried, “I’m sorry Dad, I didn’t listen to you,” referring to the book about running away “…but what about mom? I could not just leave her.” she cried continuously to her dad, until, she’s passed out of tiredness. The threatening rain, then raged to downpour. Sarah was oblivious of it, she was drenched and she was unaware of it. Mr. James and Mrs. Jackie Andrews found her, and took her to their rented car, afraid for her health and safety.

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