“Goodbye, Katherine. I may see you in a couple of weeks, to see how you’re doing. I know you persist with not speaking, but if you are having problems, give some sign to your mother. You could try writing. She can call me. Take care now,” Doctor Gilmore said, having discharged her that morning.
Once arriving at the hospital’s entrance Barbara rang JM. “Hi. We will leave shortly. I’m walking to my car now.”
“Is she okay?”
“Yes, she’s appears to be. One of the hospital attendants is caring for her. I’ll see you soon.”
Barbara alighted from her car, but was waiting for Katherine to follow suit. “Come on. Everything’s okay. You don’t want to keep your father and Sophia waiting, do you?”
Katherine, looking uncertain, relented and slid from the seat. Barbara smiled as she held one of her daughter’s hands, while carrying a small bag in the other. “Let’s get out of the cold.”
Standing on the stoop in the chilled air also was not an option, but Barbara could see Katherine’s reluctance to enter. She gave her hand a gentle tug.
As soon as Sophia’s and JM’s hugging and kissing had ceased, Barbara suggested, “JM, why don’t you show Katherine her new room?” This will test her mental resolve.
JM walked slightly ahead of Katherine, to open the bedroom door. “I hope you like it.”
Barbara diligently watched for indications of rejection from her daughter as they stood in the doorway. With none apparent, she thought, this is a good sign! “It’s okay, you’re safe here. We will not leave you alone. I promise.”
The three adults watched their young charge take a tentative single step into the bedroom, but as a lifeline, she still held her mother’s hand. Barbara quickly glanced down at the coupling, and intuitively thought, she will need this kind of support for some time to come.
Katherine rummaged through the drawers of her new dressing table, then her wardrobe, to see if any of her belongings had gone astray. Although her outward appearance was unemotional, inwardly she was not faring well. Her memories refused to fade. The new underwear though, did receive the hint of a smile. After the inspection, she chose to sit on the small-upholstered stool in front of her dressing table, rather than sit on the bed.
“If you don’t mind, sweetheart, I’m going to make a cup of coffee,” JM said.
“I’ll have one, too.” Sophia jumped at the opportunity to leave mother and daughter alone.
As the days passed, Katherine’s tethering was something Barbara had to endure. No matter where she went, daughter followed; eating, sleeping, including the bathroom. Unbeknownst to her elders, she was keeping her mother to her promise. She would not be alone.
Encouraging her to sleep in her new bed had become an ordeal. When she woke, and found her mother not near, panic would begin. Katherine had devised a way of notifying all of her loneliness, creating chaos. The living room would suddenly reverberate from the television’s maximum sound.
Sophia, thankfully, came to everyone’s rescue by substituting Barbara’s position within Katherine’s miniscule secure circle. She was there for almost all of Katherine’s activities: shower, dressing, eating, and painting. Her guilt had become the conduit for her dedication, but regaining their trusts was now an unequivocal belief. The consequences were unknown, but resigned she was to bearing whatever eventuated.
“Could you move my bed into Katherine’s room, and place an armchair near the window. I can watch Katherine paint, and I’ll be comfortable while I’m reading,” Sophia asked JM. We don’t care if the room is a little cramped.
Of her two talents, Barbara and JM had considered Katherine a violinist the more probable, rather than as an artist, but replacing her violin was never discussed. She had returned to painting, and at a frenetic pace. Every waking hour, she could be found bowed over a painting, either on the carpeted floor, or as it lay on her bed. If, or when, she ate it was in the confines of the bedroom, but Sophia needed to be present. Making her parent’s lives difficult had become the norm. When either entered her room, painting would cease. She would remain motionless, until the room’s only occupants were Sophia and herself.
“I was considering buying Katherine a new violin. I can also arrange some tutoring, to bring her up to the same standard she was before . . .” JM’s words came to an abrupt halt. He realised where his impromptu conversation was heading.
“I wouldn’t. If she wants something that badly it may force her to communicate. Right at this moment, her only dedication is to her paintings. My main concern is for her to speak. It would be nice to see her associate with her friends again, but knowing girls as I do, they can be bitchy when they want to be. And some will say things just to be spiteful.”
“Do you think we need to bring in someone for her schooling? I would prefer a female teacher, all things considered. Even though she is refusing to speak, I think she will overcome it. She may begin to speak if a teacher is present. I know it’s premature, but she appears to be progressing with her painting, so it’s worth thinking about.”
“I feel it’s way too early to think about resuming her education, but I can see a distinct difference in her now that Sophia has taken her under her wing. She’s become calmer over the last few weeks.”
Sophia was silently thankful for Barbara’s comments regarding her influence with Katherine, but she thought of her as a young girl trying to live with an ongoing nightmare.
Almost from the moment of waking, Katherine’s obsession centered on one particular artist. Absorbing her energy was Picasso’s cubism period. It soon became apparent to Sophia that Katherine had taken to computer research for anything associated with the master, rather than delving through the multitude of art books lining the shelves.
Katherine had devised a way of communicating with Sophia, without breaking her silence. In need of art materials, she wrote her requirements on a piece of paper, then deposited it into a cup of Sophia’s about-to-be-washed bra.
After the first mishap of wet paper appearing in sudsy water, Sophia always went in search of a note.
For her to communicate with me she must feel a trust now exists between us, she thought, as she looked at the latest request.
JM perused the note. “Could you tell me how you know what Katherine wants?”
As a sign of acknowledgement, he smiled. She has finally breached Katherine’s silent wall. “I’ll get them tomorrow.”
With Katherine having accepted Sophia as her guardian, returning to work for Barbara was now an option. It seems as though a lifetime has passed since I was here last. I love helping others.
As she entered her reception area, its dour colour and drab furniture gave her reason to think of her newly refurbished apartment. This place needs painting, and some new furniture.
As she scanned her coming appointments, one particular client scheduled for the following day attracted her attention.
His case was not within the category considered ‘normal’.
The self-defense fatal shooting of a young drug dealer had caused the former police officer to turn to alcohol as a salvation, but the fourteen-year-old boy was almost the same age as his son. Unfortunately, the boy created the fatal error of pointing a handgun in the direction of the officer while resisting arrest.
Alcohol was his only remedy for suppressing the recurring images, but with treatment, there was a possibility he could accept that the boy had made the error. Without it, he could remain a lost soul. Accentuating his rapid deterioration into being an emotionally unstable person were periods of arguing and yelling.
“Why’s he like that? What’ve we done wrong? I’m sick of him yelling at us all the time,” his teenage son said, to his mother.
“He can’t help it. He’s changed since the shooting.”
When sober he was sullen, depressed, and argumentative, but never violent. Initially he was under the care of a police psychologist, but for reasons never explained, he refused their treatment not long after its implementation. He told Barbara, “You know we’re losing the war on drugs when a boy has to die. Wearing the uniform was getting too hard. I can’t do it anymore.”
He was thankful he had taken his wife’s advice to consult with Barbara. Suicidal thoughts were becoming common.
Bringing restitution to their lives is surmountable, but it will take time, Barbara thought, as she made an additional note beside his appointment.
Early evening, and Bruno was making his way to the apartment he’d rented in Beacon Street, situated just one block up from Katherine’s, an easy stroll. I’ll only be there a month, and then I’m gone.
Sophia gave considerable thought to Katherine’s note writing, before deciding on an experiment. To test her granddaughter’s nonverbal resolve she would attempt to imitate her.
At first Katherine had thought it a game, but soon discovered it not so.
IS THERE ANYTHING WRONG
I THINK IT’S TIME WE SPOKE, NOT WRITE
CAN’T WE CONTINUE WITH WHAT WE’VE BEEN DOING
I’M THE ONLY ONE SPEAKING. I’D LIKE IT IF YOU SPOKE TO ME. WE CAN DO IT IN PRIVATE. YOUR MOTHER AND FATHER DON’T HAVE TO KNOW
Sophia waited for her reply.
There wasn’t one.
The following few days not only saw Katherine ignoring her grandmother’s presence, she’d work on an incomplete painting, stop, study it, and then move on to others. Her bed was the recipient of an oversized canvas, while smaller ones lay strewn across the restricted floor.
As Sophia surveyed the multi-layered artworks decorating the carpet, the reality of her experiment was manifesting itself. Although the paintings were unfinished, none appeared the same.
I should have left things as they were. All the work I have put in with her was for nothing.
On the fourth morning Sophia was showering, which was her usual routine, after Barbara and JM departed for their respective practices. In her absence, and being in a confrontational mood, Katherine deliberately placed an incomplete painting across both arms of the armchair. When Sophia entered, she had two choices. Move it, or vacate the room. She chose the former.
“Don’t touch it! Don’t touch anything, and get out of my room,” Katherine yelled spitefully.
Sophia was taken aback by the velocity of the shrill assailing her ears. Unsure of what to say, she stared at her granddaughter. Katherine, having found her voice, was overjoyed, but her words and tone were insulting.
“Don’t speak to me like that, miss! Show some respect! I’ll be in the living room if you need me.” She wanted to demonstrate her unwillingness to accept the insult. As she walked from the bedroom, the door shut with an authoritative thud.
Barbara was surprised to see Sophia sitting in the living room alone, having returned home late that afternoon. “Is everything alright?”
“Yes,” Sophia said, rather coldly.
Barbara, not convinced by Sophia’s answer, asked, “Come on, out with it. I can tell there’s something wrong. I’d like to know what it is? Does it have anything to do with Katherine?”
Sophia was not willing to divulge Katherine’s spiteful communication, so simply replied, “We needed a break from each other.”
Barbara immediately went to Katherine’s room, but she was instantly aware of two things. Her daughter was frantically painting, and she appeared highly agitated.
“Hi, darling, I’m home.”
Katherine refused to look up.
Although Barbara had become accustomed to her daughter’s persistent silence, there was something concerning about her demeanour.
She re-entered the living room. “Is there anything I need to know?”
“Barbara . . . please, just let it be.” Not wanting to have the discussions drag on, Sophia retired to her bedroom.
Later that evening, at Sophia’s request, JM moved her bed back into her room. ‘Katherine needs more space for her paintings’ was her excuse.
Katherine’s eavesdropping gave her reason to smile. She’s kept our secret.
Sophia chose to stay in the apartment, even though she had contemplated returning to her own. I have to persevere. Katherine will come to realise she cannot persist with her attitude. She will have to communicate with someone eventually, and under the circumstances, it will probably be me.
JM had thought moving the bed unusual, but only gave it careful reflection after Barbara explained the afternoon’s incident.
“They’ve been through a lot in a short space of time, and have been living together in the same room day in and day out. I would wait and see what eventuates, cut them a bit of slack, one could say. Mrs. K knows what she’s doing and she already has Katherine writing notes, which I see as a good thing. Don’t you agree?”
“Yes, I do, but I’m concerned there’s more to this than what’s being said, that’s all.”
“We’ll never know. Not unless Mrs. K wants to tell us.”
Besides saying their usual morning greetings, the three adults ate breakfasts robotic-like, and in almost silence. Barbara and JM were in no doubt their daughter was involved in the previous day’s events, but Sophia’s felt slightly at ease by not having to explain.
Other than greeting her daughter good morning, no other words passed Barbara’s lips when she carried a breakfast tray of muesli and juice into Katherine’s bedroom.
Katherine stood with her back to the hall wall, near her bedroom door, waiting for grandmother to come from the bathroom. Knowing her parents were already driving to their respective businesses she was convinced her next action would be witness free, except for Sophia.
Sophia, who had remained resolute with not communicating, chose to stop near where Katherine stood, rather than pass her by. Slowly she turned and looked at her granddaughter, but as she did a tear fell from the outer corner of Katherine’s left eye. For Sophia it was a sign her granddaughter could be having misgivings.
Katherine reciprocated Sophia’s hug by placing her head on her grandmother’s chest, and almost inaudibly said, “I’m sorry.”
“Me, too,” Sophia said as she smiled. Our relationship is finally heading in the correct direction.