Casualties of Pretty Things -- Chapter Six


Previously: Cybil and her mother ended up at a charity house known as the House of Rahab (operated by Deloris), after it was discovered Cybil's father had been raping her. When Cybil's mother died she ran away, believing her father was responsible and would be coming for her. Deloris went to the police but found no official help. However, off the books someone has given her file to his sister, who has certain expertise in these matters. Now Deloris waits for a very important call.   

Chapter Six

The House of Rahab was a three story charity house located in the inner city, just off a main street with moderate traffic. It was once dilapidated. In the front yard an elderly groundskeeper mowed the lawn. He cut the corners tight at the base of a sign, which read: 

HOUSE OF RAHAB
HOME FOR WOMEN
“A SECOND CHANCE FOR A SECOND LIFE”

In the commons area the sound of the mower was distant. Deloris stared down Tiff, a border in her early twenties, like some of the girls here. Many were younger. She was angry, holding a police arrest report in one hand. 

“Dammit, Tiff! What the hell were you doing out after curfew anyway?” 

Tiff sat uncomfortable, trying to avert Deloris’ hot gaze. A few of the other girls were nearby; Amber and Lucretia. In the adjoining room a phone rang. It went on. The girls wondered if Deloris was going to answer it. She did not. 

Tiff said, “I had to see Eddie.” 

This was not what Deloris needed to hear. “Danny’s father ‘Eddie’? The jackass who made you work the streets in the first place ‘Eddie’?”

“Like you said, he’s Danny’s father. I can’t just cut him out of his life.”

The ringing of the phone stopped. 

Deloris held the arrest report up. She said, “The police think you’re soliciting again. That’s the charge.” 

Amber and Lucretia came to Tiff’s defense. Lucretia said, “She called me before she came back. Didn’t have time to solicit anything.” Amber added: “She wasn’t working.” 

Tiff swore, “I wasn’t.” 

Amber tried an excuse. “She just—” 

Deloris turned on Amber and Lucretia. “Shut up, the both of you. Think I don’t know when you’re covering?” 

The phone rang again. 

Deloris looked hard at Tiff, then turned to leave the room and answer the phone. She called back. “You know the rules of the program, Tiff.” 

It was a shock. “What? No, wait.” 

Tiff followed Deloris into the front office where the sound of the lawnmower out front was louder. Her office was decorated with numerous sentimental items. There were photos of several of the girls she had helped off the streets. On her desk were pictures of Jolene and Cybil. 

The phone stopped ringing when Deloris reached for it. She sat the arrest report near the laptop on her desk. 

Behind her, Tiff asked, “I’m out?” 

“It’s a strict  program,” she said, “and you’ve had three infractions in four months. Four months.” 

“But that’s not even reasonable.” 

Deloris had enough of this. “'Reasonable’ is not subjecting Danny to an abusive father. ‘Reasonable’ is accepting your part as his mother to do everything you can to make sure he grows up in a safe and healthy environment. ‘Reasonable’ is not going back to the same extortionist who only wants to make money off your ass. ‘Reasonable’ is not being an idiot and abusing the program.” 

Deloris sat behind her desk and opened Tiff’s file on the laptop. 

Tiff begged. “Deloris, please. If you kick me out, I’ll lose Danny.”

“Tiff, you should’ve made Danny your priority in every decision you made. Only that would’ve prevented this.”

“I did make him my priority. Every day.” 

Deloris said, “Then why are we here now, Tiff?” 

Tiff lost both balance and emotion. She collapsed into the seat across from Deloris. She cried, “Please, I’m begging you, Deloris.” 

Deloris worked at entering this latest infraction into Tiff’s file. She did not look up at Tiff, who went on. “I’ll stick to the program. I won’t have contact with Eddie, not even online.” 

Deloris kept working.

“I won’t have anywhere to go. The state… they’ll take Danny.” 

Deloris stopped and called into the other room. “Amber?” 

Amber did not answer. 

Tiff said, “If they take Danny I’ll have nothing.” 

“Amber!” 

Amber walked in. Lucretia was behind her. Amber said, “I’m right here. Shit. What?” 

Deloris ordered: “Take Tiff to her room and help her pack.” 

Tiff bawled. Amber helped her out. Deloris said nothing. Lucretia  watched. When Amber and Tiff were out and down the hall, up the stairs, Lucretia sat down in front of Deloris, who went back to her work.

Lucretia said, “Jesus.” 

Deloris sighed. She finished and hung her head. 

Lucretia poked. “That was messed up.” 

“Think it’s not fair? Think I wanted to do that?” 

“Guess not.” 

Deloris raised her head and looked into the face of Cybil in the framed photo on her desk. 

Lucretia asked, “What’s gonna happen now?” 

“It’s not a punishment, Lucretia. She’ll be back. I’ll make sure of  that. But the state probably will take Danny.” 

“You can’t let them do that. We can take care of him right here, ‘til  she gets back.” 

Deloris took the framed photo in hand. She said, “I can try to fight it, but CPS usually wins.” 

Lucretia got out of the chair. She looked down at the photo, back to Deloris, and said, “Don’t guess there’s any word on Cybil?” 

Deloris put the photo back in its place. She wandered aimless on the laptop. She said, “I need you to make sure Amber’s taking care of Tiff.”

Lucretia turned away, quiet. She walked out the door. Deloris called to her again. “And do what you can to assure Tiff this isn’t permanent. Three, four weeks at the most.” 

She said, “Yeah. I’ll do that.” Then: “Deloris?” 

Deloris looked up from the laptop. 

Lucretia said, “You’re gonna find her.” 

“Thanks, Lucretia.” 

Lucretia left the office and Deloris sat alone. She took the photo in hand again and sobbed. The sound of the mower shut off and the phone rang. She answered it after one ring. 

“House of Rahab.” 

She listened to the other end for a moment. Her face lit up with hope. 

__________________________________

A city bus came to a slow stop and unloaded its passengers. The last was  Cybil, carrying what few items she had left in her backpack. She was dirty and disheveled. Looking both ways she crossed the street to a convenient store and entered. Inside, she found a box of pads and stuffed it into her pack. She tried to avoid being seen by anyone for any length of time and found her way to the restroom. She locked the door behind her, ran the water in the sink and removed the box of pads and a few toiletries from her pack. She took off her shirt and tried her best to spot-clean it, careful not to get it too wet. Next were the pants and her underwear. She spent the most time and effort scrubbing her panties, after which she dried by use of the hand-drier. She pulled back her hair and washed her body, placed the pad in her panties where it was needed, and looked herself over in the mirror. 

Cybil opened the restroom door and walked out. She shopped for a few cheap snacks. Pads were more expensive than what she had but she could afford to buy candy, enough to throw off any suspicion. At the checkout, she laid down some loose change to the clerk’s annoyance and counted out what she needed.  

She stopped at the magazine stand to the side of the entrance, pretending to read. When a group of four shoppers entered she mixed herself in with them and made her way back to the restroom. She opened the door and locked it behind her. She leaned against the wall and slid down it to sit in the corner. She waited for the evening to pass, hoping she could spend the night here.

Outside, the evening sky darkened into night. The hours passed. 

The clerk prepped for close, mopping the floors. He looked up at the clock. It read: 11:42. He rolled the mop bucket back to the restroom, and  knocked on the door. 

No answer. He turned the knob. Locked. “Shit.” 
He knocked again, hard. “Someone in there?” 

No answer. 

There was a ding from the front. He walked toward the sound and saw a customer waiting at the checkout. He said, “Hey. Sorry ‘bout that. Here I come.” 

The customer was eager. “Yeah, just need some gas. Pump wouldn’t take my card.” 

“I can get that for you here.”

“Hope there’s nothing wrong with my card.” 

The clerk stood behind the cash register and took the customer’s card. He said, “Shouldn’t be. What can I set you for?” 

“Ten should do it. For now, I guess.” 

The clerk set the pump, ran the card, handed it back, and sent the customer out the door with receipt in hand. 

“There ya go.” 

“Thanks.” 

“Have a good one.” 

The clerk grabbed the store keys and locked the doors. He walked back to the restroom and knocked on the door again. 

“Hey, c’mon,” he said. “We’re closing. I gotta get in there.” 

He knocked and waited again. 

No reply. 

“Look, I’m coming in, so don’t freak out.” 

He turned the handle to find it was no longer locked. He opened the door and walked in. No one was inside. 

BEEP! BEEP!  BEEP! 

The loud obnoxious sound of the store’s alarm sent the clerk out the restroom and into the back, where he saw the rear fire door exit wide open. He shook his head in frustration and closed it.


End of Chapter

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