So, my friends, it has happened again. There has been yet another death in my family. I think I’m at the age now where I just can’t avoid it. We’re all getting older—even though he was younger than my husband and this was very sudden—but although the details are a little gray, I think it’s safe to say that the virus has claimed another victim.
I’m still waiting for arrangements and, as such, I will be flying back to that place that Christian and I hate so much. It’s looking like it may be close to this coming weekend, so I may not get another chapter up for a couple of weeks. Knowing that, I just wanted to make sure I got something posted before this weekend was over so that there’s not another complete MIA from me. Love you all and please, keep me and my family in your prayers.
This is a work of creativity. As such, you may see words, concepts, scenes, actions, behaviors, pictures, implements, and people that may or may not be socially acceptable and/or offensive. If you are sensitive to adverse and alternative subject matter of any kind, please do not proceed, because I guarantee you’ll find it here. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.
I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…
Season 5 Episode 36—Word of Mouth
After that sex fest left us both heaving mounds of sweat on the bed, I realize that slipping into Dom mode means aftercare. So, I fill the jacuzzi tub with water and carry her tired ass into the bathroom.
“Mmmm,” she says as the jets soothe her body.
“You like?” I say, squeezing water from one of her freshwater sponges onto her body.
“Very much,” she says, snuggling into me. “It was a perfect night, Christian. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, Butterfly,” I reply. We didn’t do anything for her first Mother’s Day last year with Valerie and Pops and everything. I couldn’t let another year go by without celebrating the mother of my children. Speaking of which…
“I’m remiss to bring this up after the wonderful night that we had, but with it being Mother’s Day, I can’t get it out of my head. Do you remember that couple at the inn on the Sonoma Coast—our babymoon?” She thinks for a moment.
“Sheila and CJ?” she asks. I shake my head.
“No, the Daniels,” I reply, “Kiley and Arthur.” She rolls her eyes.
“How can I forget them?” she says, and I’m sure that she means him. He was pretty fucking unforgettable.
“Yeah, well, for shits and giggles, Jason felt the need to keep up with them,” I reply. “Guess what we found out?”
“What?” she says in a tone that I can’t quite place. That tone that says she knows something, and she wants to know if I know what she knows.
“He’s about to do a bid for murder,” I reply. Her eyes sharpen.
“What?” she gasps. “What the hell?” My sentiments exactly.
“The baby was born biracial, a boy,” I tell her. “Daniels took one look at the boy and thrust him to the ground, still attached to his umbilical cord. The baby died of blunt force trauma before he was even two minutes old.” Butterfly gasps a long, horrified breath.
“Oh, dear God, no!” she exclaims in a harsh whisper. I sigh heavily and shrug.
“That guy really is a piece of shit, and he deserves to burn,” I reply.
“I guess Kiley got more than she bargained for,” Butterfly says, shaking her head.
“They could have talked about this,” I say. I know this means that she was unfaithful, of course, and that Arthur fuck is a real fucking piece of work, but he couldn’t hold anything against her. He was fucking around, too. “I don’t excuse infidelity of any kind, but this guy was a true asshole and I could truly understand why she wouldn’t lay next to him to save her life. But if she thought that there was a possibility that this baby wasn’t his—especially a totally different race, they should’ve talked about that before the baby was born.”
“Mmm,” Butterfly says as if she’s contemplating something. Yeah, she knows something.
“What is it?” I ask.
“I had thought many times to call Kiley and ask how things were going,” she says. “I agree that Arthur’s an asshole, but I should’ve known that this was going to end in disaster.” I frown.
“How could you possibly know?” I ask. She’s silent for a moment and then it hits me.
“Wait a minute. Are you telling me she already knew this wasn’t his baby?” Butterfly twists her lips and nods.
“She knew everything,” she says. “She’s pretty well-off and he was spending her money on other women. She put a chunk of it in another account, got a financial advisor and began investing. The advisor was black. She had pretty much replenished the money that Arthur spent plus some by the time they went to the babymoon, and her pot was still growing. She was going to go on and let him spend all the money that he thought she had because she had another stockpile… and because she had started seeing the financial advisor.
“She and Arthur weren’t even sleeping together. When she found out that she was pregnant, she got him drunk and made him think they had had sex, but they never did. She was sure that he was just going to leave once the money ran out, and her ultimate revenge was for him to be standing in the delivery room while she delivered a black baby. I know she had no idea that this was going to be the outcome.”
I’m completely appalled by this entire story. What kind of demon was inside this man to make him decide that he would kill a newborn baby? I totally get rage, but a newborn baby? And Kiley—I want to feel some kind of sympathy for her, losing her baby and the sheer fact that she had to deal with this asshole… but to plan this whole thing, to bring an innocent life into the middle of this mess—that’s unthinkable.
“What happened to Kiley?” she asks.
“She checked out for a few months. When she came back to herself, she didn’t remember anything—not her baby, not her husband, not her lover, nothing. She moved back with her family and filed for divorce from her loser husband since he was a stranger to her.” My wife twists her lips.
“So, she pretty much got a clean slate out of this,” she says.
“Yeah, pretty much,” I reply while gently scrubbing her back.
“It’s more than she deserves,” she says, and I stop scrubbing. “I know what you’re thinking. He’s an asshole, but she planned this whole thing and an innocent child died because her plan backfired. I wouldn’t want to be on that jury.” I twist my lips.
“I agree,” I say, “with all of it. And now, we’re going to change the subject. How is the decorating coming along?”
“The villa?” she asks and I nod. “Swimmingly. Sophie is really going at it with both hands now that she knows she’ll be able to see the finished product. She was always involved and eager to help, but now, she’s enthusiastic about it. She’s so excited about the styles and the textures. It’s like doing one of those home-improvement shows, and then being able to see the result in the big reveal.”
“I’m so glad she’s going to get to see Italy,” I say. “There’s so much for her to learn in that two weeks, even in Lake Como. I think Rome might be a bit much for her at her age.”
“Why?” she asks. “What’s wrong with Rome?”
“Nothing, it’s just a lot of history. There’s so much to absorb—the churches, the museums, the ruins, they’re all beautiful, but it’s a big meal to swallow.”
“Are you saying that I’m going to be overwhelmed when we get to Rome?” she asks.
“You could be,” I tell her, “but I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen. I’m making sure that the learning has fun mixed in it so that you don’t feel like you’re in a college class every moment of the trip.” She lays her head on my chest.
“Well, I know you can’t expect to go to Rome and not be slammed with history. It’s Rome, for God’s sake,” she says.
“Yes, but it’s also a very beautiful city with a lot of excellent sights and very good food… very good food!” I emphasize.
“So, I’m hoping that the hotel where we’ll be staying will have a gym,” she chuckles.
“I thought they all had gyms,” I say, “but that is my intention.”
“Good,” she says, sinking into the comfort of the water.
The sun is rising over the sound and the orange sky looks beautiful bouncing off the water. I look over at my wife snuggled under the covers, naked, and purring like a kitten. Except for the small mishap with Wexton, our night was perfect. Even that discussion about the Daniels didn’t ruin our evening, although it did make me think.
How can you justify planning an act that can so hugely devastate another person without thinking about the consequences? All the possible outcomes? Arthur cheated on his wife mindlessly, obviously not caring what she thought because if he had been more careful, she never would have known. And her plan—knowing that he would be present while she birthed the baby and there he was, standing there in the delivery room full of doctors and nurses holding a black baby that’s obviously not his. He was an asshole and she knew it, and she let him hold her baby, a baby that they both would know wasn’t his…
The thought causes my mind to drift to nearly all of the horrible people I’ve met in my life who have done horrible things to others, including myself, without a thought or care for their feelings. I’ve been callous in my life, especially to businesses that I’ve taken over and submissives I’ve dismissed, but have I ever been intentionally cruel?
Of course, I have.
I’ve destroyed so many lives—blacklisted people for pissing me off or crossing me—and how quickly we forget Dodd and the hackers, and Ellison. Yet, I don’t feel badly about what happened to any of those people. So, what’s different now?
The baby. It’s the baby.
The baby is the one who paid for the sins of the father… and the mother… even though the father wasn’t his. My only consolation in this situation is that the baby seemingly didn’t suffer. Even though his death was cruel, he died quickly, and there’s no telling what his life would have been like being born into the turmoil in which he was conceived.
“Dear God, don’t let my children have to pay for any of my mistakes,” I say aloud.
“What would make you think something like that?”
Her soft voice startles me from my thoughts, and I look over to see her still in the same position with sleepy eyes looking at me. God, she’s beautiful. She changed me. She changed my whole life and everything that I was and will be. I can’t wait to show her Rome.
“I didn’t mean to wake you,” I say gazing at her.
“You didn’t,” she says. “I was admiring your naked silhouette against the sunrise.” I raise a brow at her.
“You trying to start something, Mrs. Grey?” I taunt, walking over to the bed. She chuckles.
“I beg your pardon, but I’m not the one standing naked in front of a picture window with the sun behind me,” she points out. “I bet the sailors on Elliot Bay are getting a real eyeful.” I sit on the bed and lean over to her.
“Luckily, there’s no one out there,” I tell her. “This view is for your eyes only.” I lean over and kiss her passionately. She wraps her arms around my neck and gently plays with my hair. It comforts me immediately and soothes my raging thoughts. I gently break the kiss and touch her nose with mine.
“You’ve changed me,” I confess as if she didn’t already know. “You’ve changed everything I ever though I was and everything I ever thought I knew… everything I could be. A father? Five years ago, that would have been unheard of. No place in my life for children with the subs and the BDSM clubs and the taking over of businesses and ruining lives. No, not a chance… but now? My life without you and the twins? It’s unthinkable. I could never go back to the man that I was.” She gently strokes my hair.
“You take such good care of us,” she says, her ocean blue eyes looking deeply into mine, “and it’s not the money—although, let’s be realistic, the money helps…” I chuckle at her attempt to add levity to the situation. “But I mean how you care for us, protect us, and provide for us how I know you would whether you had $2 or two million. You love us and I’m certain there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for us. We’re so lucky to have you.”
If she only knew how wrong she is. They’re not lucky to have me. I’m lucky to have them, and I’ll do anything to keep them… and to keep them happy and safe.
“This conversation has gotten so serious,” I tell her. “Let’s get dressed and have breakfast, my dear… and Happy Mother’s Day to the most beautiful mother in the world.”
We get dressed and head down to the hotel restaurant, Six Seven. They have quite the menu for Mother’s Day brunch, and I and my wife take full advantage—stuffed French toast, a crab omelet, marionberry pancakes, brûléed goat cheese salad, and we split the fresh seafood variety platter and the Roquefort crusted filet mignon. Butterfly enjoys three prosecco mimosas with her meal and I have one Corpse Reviver #2, which is Bombay Sapphire gin, Lillet Blanc, Cointreau, lemon, and Pernod.
We enjoy the meal tremendously, talking about the opera and laughing at Wexton’s idea that he even had the slightest chance with my wife. We’re uninterrupted, but I notice that we’re getting more than one odd stare and whisper. I don’t bring it to my wife’s attention, though. She’s nice and mellowed by the mimosas during her Mother’s Day brunch and if the peasants want to gawk at her beauty, so be it.
A couple of hours later, we check out of the hotel and take our bags to the valet. One attendant heads off to get my car while the other does a double-take at us and then at something on the valet podium.
“Excuse me,” he says, humbly, walking over to us, “but do you mind signing this for me?”
Since when do I have to sign something to get my car from the valet?
I look down at what he’s holding, and it’s the local news section of this morning’s newspaper. Butterfly giggles when she sees the front headline.
The Paps have gotten a picture of us standing in front of the Opera House, sharing a kiss.
I remained happily cocooned in my Mother’s Day bliss for the entire day—delicious meals prepared for me, good company with Sarah, Luma, and Grace and the family joining us for dinner, and endless snuggles with my babies—but alas, we couldn’t hold Monday off or all of the problems it usually brings with it.
The day begins smooth enough, but just before lunch, Courtney comes to me to tell me that one of the children staying in the dorm is a horrible bully. He’s mean to the other children, taking their food at lunch, and a list of other things. They’ve tried to talk to him and even some of the parents have complained to his mother, I’m told, but to no avail.
This is one of the parts of the job that I don’t like. The child may be completely traumatized by the situation that he’s come from, and now, I have to talk to his most-likely traumatized mother to bring the situation under control.
“Susan, I want to talk to you about Ferrell’s behavior…”
“Oh, God, here we go with this again,” she laments. I frown.
“With what again?” I ask.
“What has he done now?” she asks impatiently. Oh, dear God. Is this what we’re dealing with?
“He’s bullying the other children in the program,” I reply. “He’s taking the smaller kids’ food at lunch, he doesn’t play well with others, and he’s downright rude to the staff. Something has to be done about his behavior.” She sighs.
“I’ve tried to talk to him I don’t know what to do,” she says all in one exasperated breath, and she doesn’t sound like she’s frustrated. She sounds like she’s irritated.
“Well, then, we need to come up with a solution, because his behavior is unacceptable,” I reply firmly, trying to keep my cool.
“Well, what do you want me to do?” she says, rolling her neck. Okay… stop… breathe… let’s try to approach this another way.
“Susan, families come here for sanctuary. It’s supposed to be a safe place. If the bigger kids bully the smaller kids, it’s not a safe place anymore. So, we definitely can’t have that. A lot of these parents are very protective of their children, and justifiably so, because a lot of you have come out of very bad, very violent situations. If the bigger kids bully the smaller kids, they’re back in that violent situation. He can’t take food from the other children and he has to obey the staff.”
“He’s a growing boy,” she defends. What the fuck? That boy is grown! He’s 12 years old and he weighs as much as I do if not more.
“Susan, is that your response to your son taking food from other children in the program?” I ask, nonplused.
“There should be more for the bigger kids,” she continues. “They barely give him enough. He’s obviously still hungry.” He’s still hungry because he looks like a 12-year-old linebacker!
“First of all, there’s plenty of food for everyone. If he wants more, all he has to do is ask for seconds. And secondly, how can you sit here and explain away your son taking food out of other children’s mouths because he’s not getting enough? What if someone does that to him?” She scoffs.
“I’d like to see ‘em try,” she says snottily.
“Do you hear yourself?” I ask incredulously. “I’m trying to tell you that your son’s behavior is unacceptable. He can’t keep behaving like this. It’s contradictory to our mission here and counterproductive to what we’re trying to accomplish. You need to handle this situation because his behavior is affecting a lot of people.”
“I have a lot on my plate right now!” she shoots. “I’m trying to keep him away from his no-good father who likes to use us as punching bags. I don’t have time to deal with Ferrell taking an extra cookie from a kid. Isn’t that why you’re here… to help guide troubled children? Why don’t you do something about it since he’s so unacceptable?”
Oh, I can do something about it, you contemptable shrew, but you definitely wouldn’t like it.
“We’re here to help you; we’re not here to raise your child,” I retort.
“Then, help me, dammit!” she snaps. That’s when I lose it.
“Hold it!” I counter, my eyes piercing. “I don’t know who you’re accustomed to speaking to in that tone, but you won’t speak to me that way!”
“Ana!” I turn around to see Grace marching into my office. “I won’t walk into this room and take sides, but we can hear you two down the hall. What seems to be the problem?”
“Somebody needs to remind Dr. Moneybags here that she needs a better bedside manner!” Susan barks. My mouth and eyes fly open in surprise. I’m utterly appalled. “You call this place a help center, but she doesn’t want to seem to help!”
I turn a horrified gaze to Grace. I don’t have words for this situation at the moment. If she came from a violent husband and her attitude is this bad, it’s no wonder the kid is so fucked up.
“Mrs. Yardley, can you tell me what happened?” Grace says after a deep sigh.
“Yeah! She’s trying to tell me how to raise my kid!” she retorts. I did no fucking such thing. I’m only trying to tell her to keep that little monster on a leash!
“Ana?” Grace says, waiting for an explanation. I cross my arms and face her.
“This is Ferrell’s mother,” I say, and pause for a moment. Realization passes over Grace’s face for a moment, but she quickly recovers. “I was telling her about his behavior, and that he’s making the staff’s job impossible by refusing to listen to instruction. I told her that he’s taking food from the younger children and her response was that he’s a growing boy.”
Once again, Grace tries to maintain her expression, not very well, though.
“That’s not all I said,” she interrupts haughtily.
“And I’m still talking,” I say, looking over my shoulder in her direction but not directly at her, “but you can feel to take over if you want.”
“No, you go right ahead, Dr. Moneybags,” she says sarcastically, and now I turn to look at her.
“I haven’t called you out of your name,” I tell her. “Now, unless you want me to give you an unattractive nickname, you call me Dr. Grey, or nothing at all.”
“Okay, Nothing At All,” she replies matter-of-factly. I turn back to Grace with raised eyebrows and twisted lips, gesturing at the disrespectful cow standing next to me like, “What the fuck do you expect me to do with this?” Grace gets that look in her eye like “somebody’s in trouble.”
“Mrs. Yardley, we are definitely here to help you, but that’s only if you want it, and there are conditions,” Grace says. “On more than one occasion, the staff and residents have come to us complaining about Ferrell’s behavior. This is why we’re coming to you—as his mother—to let you know that his behavior is not acceptable. It’s counterproductive to everything we’re trying to accomplish here with a facility full of at-risk families. We are more than happy to assist you with whatever counseling he may need and to help you in any way that is within our means, but we have guidelines—guidelines that we must follow, and guidelines that we expect our families to follow. If anyone in the Center is unable to follow those guidelines, we’re going to ask them to leave.” Oh, that was the wrong thing to say to this sow.
“You’re kickin’ me out?” she says, affronted.
“I repeat,” Grace says firmly, “if… anyone in the Center is unable to follow those guidelines, we’re going to ask them to leave. Are you saying that you’re unable to follow our guidelines?”
“I can follow ‘em just fine!” she barks at Grace.
“Good then one of the guidelines is that you’re not going to raise your voice at me or my staff anymore!” Grace retorts firmly all in one breath. “We can all hear just fine, and we’re going to speak to you with respect and you’re going to do the same thing to us!”
Yardley pauses for a moment as if she’s shocked, which she probably is.
“Next, we’re not in high school here,” Grace continues. “We’re all adults. We can address each other that way. Snazzy comebacks and unattractive nicknames will get us nowhere, and we might as well end this interaction now and go our separate ways. This is Dr. Grey; this is Mrs. Yardley. Those are the names you need to be using.”
Now, Yardley crosses her arms and shifts her weight to one leg. She’s clearly defensive, but I have no problem telling this woman to shape the fuck up or ship the fuck out.
“Now, we have a problem here. We have a child in the facility that’s making it difficult for other children to heal and move on with their own troubled lives. He’s also making it impossible for my staff to do their job. That child is your son. Now, we can address this problem like adults and see what solutions we can come up with, or we can call it a wash and part ways. The decision is yours, Mrs. Yardley.”
Grace doesn’t want to turn away anyone who needs help any more than I do, but we’re not going to put up with this shit. We’re here to help, and we’re not going to be antagonized by someone we’re trying to help in the process.
“I’ll talk to him,” she says after a pause. Grace nods once.
“Remember,” Grace says, “we’re here to help.” She looks at Grace, cuts her eyes at me, and then petulantly leaves the room. I roll my eyes and shake my head.
“You can’t yell at them, Ana,” she says calmly.
“They can’t yell at me, Grace,” I say pointedly. She gazes at me for a moment and then nods.
“Take a break,” she says, putting her arm around my shoulders. “We were blessed that we’ve only had one like her in several years, but that one is enough.”
I think she’s conveniently forgetting Monster Bitch, but she wasn’t a resident, so there’s that.
“I’m going to go and spend some time with my babies,” I say. Grace nods and gives my shoulders a squeeze.
Minnie is playing with alphabet blocks when I get to the day care room and Mikey is behind a child-sized car, pushing it around the room. There aren’t as many small children in day care, only a handful as most of the families lately have school-aged children. Keri is nearby my twins and Ebony is feeding one of the infants. The other girl employed in here is at the table reading a magazine as the rest of the children are asleep. I go over and give Keri a break while I sit on the floor and play with the blocks with Minnie. Mikey abandons his car and decides that the blocks are more interesting since Mommy’s watching. They play well together and then Mikey has a conversation with his sister that I swear she understands, because she replies to him in like gobbledygook and they continue playing with their blocks. I smile and shake my head.
Maxie has “Mommy and Me” classes with her friend Jade. Mindy is learning to interact and play with other children. There have never been many children in the Center that were the same age as Minnie and Mikey except when they were babies. Should I introduce them to something like “Mommy and Me?” I don’t want them to be those spoiled, entitled rich kids I’ve seen only too often. I don’t want them to feel sheltered or shut in, either. Their only interactions for the most part are Mindy and Harry…
I’m probably reading too much into this. Dr. Nahabedian has given them a clean bill of health, including their developing personalities and social skills. It’s just that, as a mom, I can’t help but wonder if I’m doing everything I need—giving them everything they need—for their developmental success.
I take out my phone and snap some pictures of them building whatever edifice they’re building with the blocks. After a few pictures, I start the video and record my two little architects negotiating the plans for their construction project. After a while, Minnie tires of the blocks and decides that she wants Mommy time. While Mikey continues to work on their architectural masterpiece, Minnie walks over and crawls into my lap.
Her little eyes look heavy and either she has gotten extremely comfortable in her happy place or someone skipped a nap. I begin to sing their lullaby to her and watch her little lids begin to droop…
“Anah! Anah!” Keri comes rushing back into the day care and takes Minnie from my arms. I see black suits run past her and I’m immediately alarmed.
“Choonks ahn ‘is wey upstehs! Des a fight in da dome!”
The dome? What the…? Oh, the dorm!
“Oh, shit!” I say, finally letting go of Minnie. I’m running behind my security and as we bend the wall to the stairwell, Grace meets us at the door.
“Yardley?” I ask.
“I don’t know, but that’s where my money is,” she says.
We’re all lunging up the stairs following security, and the minute we open the door to the second floor, you can hear the rabblerousing in the hall. We follow the noise and sure enough, there are two women rolling on the floor like wrestling bears, and yes—one of them is Yardley.
“Break it up!” Grace screams at the two women. “I said break it up!”
When there’s no reaction from the women on the floor, Grace nods to security, and Chuck and his cohort separate the women.
“Get your hands off me!” Yardley demands, trying to swing at Chuck. “Let me go, you…” She looks up and sees me and Grace standing there.
“I want her arrested!” she demands pointing at the other resident. “She hit my son!”
“He hit my Mark!” the other resident says. “He’s twice his size! He’s been terrorizing my child ever since he’s been here—pushing him around and eating his lunch, and she doesn’t do anything about it!”
“They’re just being boys!” Yardley retorts. “You shouldn’t have hit him!” I’m so pissed off right now.
“Mrs. Handon, why didn’t you just tell Mrs. Yardley that Ferrell was antagonizing your son?” Grace asks.
“I told her plenty!” Mrs. Handon says. “The first time I told her, she apologized. The second and third time I told her, she just waved me off. The next time I tried to tell her, she put her hand up and told me that she didn’t want to hear it. That’s when I decided that if she couldn’t discipline her little monster, the next time he put his hands on my kid, he was gonna get it. He put his hands on my kid, so he got it! He slapped my Mark, so I slapped him!”
I look over at Ferrell, standing by the wall and crying like somebody beat the hell outta him. He’s easily between 110 and 120 pounds—at 12! Mark’s 10, and he’s lucky if he’s 70 pounds. Here’s this big ass boy bullying a smaller boy, and when he gets a taste of his own medicine, he turns into a sobbing little bitch. He’s going to grow up to be the perfect little narcissist!
Mark, on the other hand, is curled up and hiding in the corner, his arms wrapped around his legs and his face hiding behind his knees.
“Mrs. Yardley, I’ll be glad to call the police if that’s what you would like,” Grace says, “but know that if they come, they’re going to take both of you into custody and your boys will go to Family Services.”
Yardley suddenly calms down. I don’t know which bothers her more—going to jail or little Feral going to Family Services.
“Well, I want something done about this,” Yardley says indignantly. “She hit my son!”
“And what should we do about Feral hitting Mark?” I say. She glares at me.
“His name is Ferrell!” she shoots. Oh, shit, did I say that out loud? My face exhibits honest horror. I didn’t mean to say that.
“Oh!” I exclaim. “I’m sorry,” I say honestly, not sorry that I called the boy Feral, just sorry that I said it out loud.
“I’ll just bet you are!” she seethes. Grace sighs heavily, obviously exacerbated.
“I need to see you all in my office… now. Oscar, Chuck, please?” Grace turns around and marches away. Oh, shit, this is not going to end well.
“Ladies,” Chuck says as he and Oscar release Mrs. Yardley and Mrs. Handon. “If you please.” He gestures towards the stairs and the women both walk in that direction.
“What about my son?” Mrs. Handon says. “I don’t want him left up here with that creature!”
“I’ll bring the boys,” I say calmly. That seems to suffice for both parents and they all head to the stairwell. When they’re out of sight, I go over to Mark. This kid is terrified. I know their stories and he’s already been traumatized. I kneel down to him.
“Come on, Mark,” I tell him. “It’s okay.” He looks up and sees me and even though he didn’t make a show of it for everybody, he’s been crying. He stands without a word and never raises his head. I put my hand on his shoulder and lead him out of the corner.
“Ferrell,” I say, gesturing for him to come with us. When he gets within arm’s reach of Mark, he reaches to hit him. I catch his wrist and squeeze, just hard enough to show him how strong I am. He looks at me like he can’t believe I’m touching him and I glare at him like Satan.
“You behave yourself,” I say between my teeth, still squeezing his wrist. Kid, I’ll make what his mom did look like a walk in the park.
“You… you hit me!” he says, bringing attention to us. His mother has already cleared the floor, so I’ll make an example out of him.
“I did no such thing,” I say calmly still holding his wrist for everyone to see. “You were about to hit Mark again, and I stopped you. Now, if you like, I can call the police, your mom can go to jail, and you can go to juvie, because that is assault. Nobody’s just called you on it yet. Now, are you going to behave, or should I pull out my cell? Choice is yours.”
He stares at me a bit horrified but says nothing. I release his arm and he pretends to snatch it away, but he couldn’t get loose and he knows it. He walks ahead of me and Mark to the stairs. I look down at Mark who still hasn’t raised his head. He’s been bullied all his life by his father and now he has to deal with this. If we don’t break this cycle soon, he’s going to become a statistic—suicide, homicide, or both. I sigh and lead him towards the stairs.
“This is a very unfortunate situation,” Grace says once we’re all in her office. “You’ve both come to us because you need help. As much as we want to help you, this cannot be tolerated.”
“I should say not!” Yardley says indignantly.
“Mrs. Yardley!” Grace snaps. “Not two hours ago, we spoke to you about Ferrell’s behavior, and you said that you would talk to him. Is this the result of that discussion?”
Grace awaits Yardley’s response and when there is none, she continues.
“The families in this facility are already here because they’ve suffered some kind of traumatic experience. You should know better than anybody that these children have seen and been through some horrific things. They don’t come here to be exposed to more of it. I told you that this afternoon and it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. That’s unfortunate, because as much as we would like to help you both, we have a zero-tolerance policy here with fighting, and we’re going to have to ask you both to leave.” Yardley looks horrified.
“I was just protecting my son!” Yardley defends.
“And I was protecting mine,” Mrs. Handon retorts calmly. She’s resigned to her fate. If the situation repeated itself, she’d do the exact same thing. Yardley, on the other hand, wants to play the victim.
“With all due respect, Mrs. Yardley,” Grace interjects, “if you had followed instructions and gotten this situation under control like you promised you would, we wouldn’t be here. I’m not going to debate this issue with either of you. Security will escort you back to the dorm and you’ll have to leave.”
“This is bullshit,” Yardley says lowly, but just loud enough for us to hear her.
“Mrs. Handon,” I say, “I’ll get on the phone and see if I can find alternative placement for you this evening.” She nods and says nothing. She’s reserved, and probably tired and scared just like Mark.
“What about me?” Yardley hisses.
“I wish you luck,” I say, “but I’m going to give you a little advice before you leave.”
“I don’t need your advice!” she barks and stands.
“Well, you’re going to get it!” I tell her. “Because if you don’t, I’m going to call the police and have you both arrested just out of spite.” Mrs. Handon now raises her head, her eyes piercing.
“Sit your ass down,” she says, her voice low and satanic, “or I’m going to get up outta this seat and make sure that ride to jail is worth every motherfucking second!”
Yardley looks at her with narrowed eyes. Chuck and Oscar prepare themselves to detain the ladies and probably for another girlfight. Yardley assesses the situation quickly. Eventually, she decides that she doesn’t want to take the wrath of a woman who not only has to leave a safe haven because Yardley wouldn’t control her damn son, but now she’ll go to jail because you didn’t sit your ass down and listen. The possibility of Yardley herself going to jail as well probably doesn’t appeal to her, so she takes a seat.
“Your son,” I say, “will probably try to tell you that I hit him, too. I didn’t. He tried to hit Mark again on our way down here, and I caught his wrist and told him to stop. Luckily, he made a huge scene, and I have witnesses. He has a future ahead of him. Right now, that future is dotted with juvenile detention and prison, and quite possibly any other imaginable thing that can happen to a selfish little bully who has never been properly taught or disciplined.
“This is not news to you. You know he’s a problem. You knew he was a problem when I confronted you about him before I even had a chance to speak. You even had other parents tell you that he’s a problem, and you still didn’t do anything. He is incorrigible and you’re condoning his behavior. He’s a fire-starter, Mrs. Yardley, and I can guarantee you that if you don’t get him under control, one day he’s going to get burned and he might just take you with him.” She purses her lips.
“Are we done now?” she says.
“Yeah,” I say, “we’re done.”
“Come on, Ferrell,” she says and stands and marches to the door, facing off with Omar. He steps aside to let her and Ferrell pass and falls in step behind them. I turn to Mrs. Handon.
“You and Mark come to my office,” I tell her. “We’ll find somewhere for you to go.”
“Who’s going to take us and they know I got kicked out of here for fighting?” she laments.
“They don’t have to know that,” I say. “I’ll tell them we’re at capacity. I’m really sorry about this.”
“I understand,” she says. “I couldn’t let him keep hitting my son, though. Do you see how big that kid is? Mark didn’t stand a chance.” I nod and lead her down to my office. Chuck stands outside and waits while I go about the business of trying to find somewhere for the Handons to go. Unfortunately, the emergency shelters are full to capacity, and the intake departments are closed for the non-emergency shelters as it’s later than I thought.
“Dr. Grey,” she says, “if you can’t find someplace for us, call Family Services for Mark. I don’t want him to have to be on the street.” I’m getting more and more angry at Yardley by the second.
“That won’t happen,” I tell her. Not only will they take her son, but they’ll probably call his father, and he’ll be right back where he started from. I’ll put her up in a motel and post security at the door before I let that happen.
“If I could just get back to Palouse,” she laments. “My mom and dad don’t have much, but they have the house and the land in Palouse. If I could get to them, they would protect us. Dad would blow a hole in Carter’s ass so fast if he came out there…” she laughs tragically.
“All you need is to get to Palouse?” I ask. She raises her head.
“Dr. Grey, I didn’t… I wasn’t trying to…” I raise my hand to silence her.
“I know,” I say, “but are you telling me that you have a safe haven in Palouse?”
“I think so,” she says, dropping her head. “I’ve been ashamed to call… to tell them that…” She starts to cry. Mark rises from his perch and walks over to his mother. He puts his arm around her shoulders as she weeps and she turns to embrace him. I quickly get online and Google plane tickets to Palouse… $84 one way.
Two hundred measly dollars is standing between them and peace and freedom?
“Do you have Mark’s birth certificate?” I ask. Usually, when women run, they don’t leave with much, and I know she didn’t take much with her when she left. She nods.
“I always knew I would leave. I just didn’t have the guts and I never had the money,” she says. I turn the phone around to her.
“Call your parents,” I say to her. “Tell them you’re coming home.”
“Tough case?” Christian says when I fall down on the sofa in the family room. It’s nearly 9pm when I get home. I had Keri and Gail leave the children in the family room with us as I need a little more bonding time tonight.
“The worse,” I lament. “One kid was bullying another kid. We talked to his mother and she didn’t do anything. We ended up having to kick both families out because the mothers got into a physical altercation.”
“That hardly seems fair,” he says, sitting next to me and gathering Mikey up for snuggles. “Hey, little prince,” he says, tickling Mikey’s ribs as Mikey giggles feverishly.
“We have a zero-tolerance policy,” I tell him. “No fighting under any circumstances.” My head falls back on the sofa.
“Top! Top!” Mikey giggles and Christian ceases with the tickling.
“Okay, little man,” he says and Mikey continues to laugh in his arms. “Give Daddy a kiss.”
Mikey plants a slobbery kiss on his father’s cheek, and Christian puts him down to greet his daughter.
“How’s Daddy’s little princess?” he says, now scooping Minnie into his arms. She pats his cheeks like always. I don’t know what that means, but she always does that when you pick her up.
“Oh, shit!” Minnie exclaims as soon as she’s in her father’s arms. His eyes furrow.
“What the he… heck?” he demands. “Who’s been talking like that around her?” I sigh heavily.
“That would be me, I think,” I say without raising my head. “When the situation erupted at the Center, I reacted with her still in my arms. I only hope Mikey didn’t hear it because I can’t deal with two sailors today.” Christian shakes his head and turns to Minnie.
“Bad word,” he says, shaking his head. “Bad word, Minnie Mouse.” I don’t think she cares one bit what he’s saying. She’s just happy to be in Daddy’s arms.
Happy to be in Daddy’s arms…
What the hell turns these men from loving and caring fathers into monsters, I’ll never understand. Maybe they were never loving and caring fathers. Maybe it was an act to begin with. I don’t know… Carla was once a loving and caring mother and she turned into a raging bitch, so what’s her excuse?
I put one mother and son safely on a plane to Palouse this evening while effectively putting another mother and son out on the street to fend for themselves. In and of itself, it sounds horrible. It makes me a bad person… but I tried to help them all. I tried to give them a chance, but the Yardleys—Jesus. I wonder if anyone will help them with her behaving that way.
Sophie and I are in our favorite place as of late—in my office combing through emails, pictures, and ideas for the villa, vetoing some of Aaron’s outlandish ideas while giving him the go-ahead on some others. It’s Thursday evening, and Christian has informed me that we’ll be taking the boat to his parents’ place this weekend, at which time, all parties involved in the trip to Italy will be meeting to discuss final plans.
To be honest, it is that time. We’ll be leaving for our private portion of the trip in about three weeks. Everyone else will be on their way out the following month. It’s more than time to tie up loose ends.
Sophie and I are busy discussing some of the pieces for the living rooms and sitting rooms when my phone vibrates. It’s Grace. Oh, hell, what’s going on at the Center?
“Hey, Grace, what’s up?” I answer.
“Hello, dear. I hate to have to call you with this, but have you seen the news?” Grace asks me.
“No,” I reply. “What?”
“Are you anywhere that you can turn it on?”
“No, I’m in my office. There’s no television in here,” I reply. She sighs and then she’s silent for a while.
“What is it, Grace?” I ask.
“We’re famous,” she replies, “and not in a good way.” My brow furrows as I try to figure out what she’s talking about. Just as I’m about to ask her to elaborate, Marilyn comes walking—quickly—into my office with twisted lips.
“Do I want to know what this is about?” I ask them both, and they both start talking at the same time. Marilyn hands me her tablet, already open to one of the local news channels with a video paused, and hands it to me. I press play to see what the commotion is about.
“We’re here in front of the Helping Hands Community Center and Shelter with one of their former residents. And what’s your name, ma’am?”
“Oh, shit,” I say as I sink into my seat.
“I… think I’ll… go to bed, now,” Sophie says, standing and heading towards the door.
“Thanks, Sophie… I’m sorry…” I mutter, trying to pay attention to what’s happening on the screen.
I watch the entire interview, which isn’t more than five minutes, as Susan Yardley and her very large son talk to the reporter about being “thrown out” of Helping Hands after they were assaulted by another resident. Of course, there’s no mention that Feral was antagonizing other children and stealing their lunches, or that the alleged assault came after he attacked a child nearly half his age and size. And they’re standing right in front of the damn Center!
“Are they down there now?” I lament.
“No,” she says, “I have no idea when this was taken.” I thrust my hand into my hair—my scar is beginning to hurt. This bitch even managed to muster up some tears as the reporter vows to find her and her “poor son” somewhere safe to go. If she’s so damn scared, why is she on television letting her supposedly psycho and violent husband know her plans? I wonder if what she’s saying is even true…
“Baby,” Christian is marching into my office. “Excuse me, Marilyn, I’m sorry to interrupt, but… that situation at Helping Hands is on the news? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I’m just now finding out. How did you find out?” He waves his phone at me.
“Mac is on the phone, and she’s not happy,” he says.
“I’m not happy, either,” I say, “but why is she not happy?”
“Somebody should have told me what was going on,” Mac says on speaker phone.
“There was an altercation between two residents at a homeless shelter. That’s hardly newsworthy,” I declare.
“Well, somebody thought it was because it’s on the news!” Mac declares. “It’s too late to get ahead of this, so we’ve got to come out with a statement.”
“No, we won’t!” Grace says at the same time that I declare, “The hell we will.”
“What the hell?” Christian says looking around the room for the phantom voice.
“That’s your mother,” I say, pointing to my phone on the desk, “and we will do no such thing.”
“Ana, anything that has to do with you can affect GEH…” Vee begins.
“This is not GEH!” I state emphatically. “This has nothing to do with GEH and I will not have you making a statement and feeding into this woman’s lies.”
“No!” I nearly shout. “These are people’s lives we’re talking about here. The safety of every resident we have has been threatened simply by those assholes doing that interview in front of the damn Center! No goddamn statement, and I mean it! If you want to do something useful, find out everything you can on that lying, spiteful bitch and see if she’s really ‘hiding’ from a violent husband or if she’s just taking advantage of the system. I know if I were afraid for my life and the life of my son, I wouldn’t be plastering him in front of a television camera!”
Everyone in the room falls silent.
“Shit,” Grace says, “I hadn’t even considered that.”
“Why would you?” I say. “We’re here to help people in need. We trust them to be honest about their situations. If we were doing background checks on everybody, we wouldn’t help anybody… and that’s the truth.” I turn to Christian and speak loud enough for Vee to hear me. “You have your orders, but you have to use the information you saw on television. I can’t give you anything else.” Christian looks incredulously at me.
“After all this, you’re still going to protect her?” he asks, appalled.
“I have to, Christian!” I snap angrily, more angry that I have to protect this sneaky, conniving, lying bitch’s identity than anything. “I took an oath and I have to stick to it. Not only could giving you any information cost my license, but it could cost our accreditation—or did you forget all the trauma involved in that endeavor?”
Christian’s face falls, and I immediately regret bringing it up. God, my scar is hurting.
“Besides,” I say, holding my head down and trying to massage the pain away, “nobody will ever trust us again if we do something like that. You’ll have to use what you got from the interview. I can’t help you… And get some more security down to Helping Hands as soon as possible. After this dumbass stunt, somebody’s estranged husband is going to come down there looking for his wife and kids.”
I see Christian turn away from me. He takes Vee off the speaker and begins to give her instructions.
“I’m sorry, Ana,” Grace says.
“There’s nothing for you to apologize for,” I reply. “None of us saw this coming and there’s no way that she could stay there.” Grace sighs.
“I know,” she replies, “I just feel like there has to be a better way to handle this.”
“We’ll talk about it tomorrow,” I say, “see if we can come up with some plan of action. We’ll have to make an announcement to the residents. They’re going to see more security and they’ll want to know why. They’ll need to know about the exposure this woman has brought to us and they’ll need to be careful when leaving the Center.”
This damn thing has so many far-reaching implications, this bitch has no idea what she’s done. I’m certain she doesn’t even care.
“Yes, I suppose you’re right,” Grace says with a sigh. “We’ll talk tomorrow, dear.”
We end the call and I swear my scalp feels like it’s going to crawl off my head and run out of the room screaming… and I want to cry.
“Marilyn, can you excuse us for a moment?” I hear Christian say. I hand Marilyn her tablet without raising my head. I don’t have strength or will to fight, so if he wants to argue he’s going to have to do it himself.
I hear Marilyn leave the room and then silence. I’m trying to muster every bit of my strength just to sit here and not lash out at him if he tries to convince me that we need to release a statement and not to crumble onto the floor from the implications of everything going on here. Helping Hands is supposed to be a safe haven, and this woman has jeopardized that all for personal gain. I’m certain of it. The more I think about it, the angrier I get… and the more helpless I feel.
I hear him move next to me. He turns my chair to face him and I can see that he’s crouching down to me. He gently clasps my wrists, causing me to raise my gaze to him as he moves my hands away from my face and head. He puts his hands on either side of my head, steadying my head with one hand and searching through my hair with his fingertips with the other. Without breaking our gaze, his fingertips find my scar, and he slowly begins to massage with just a little firmness…
And the pressure begins to cease.
As the pain starts to subside, I can get a clearer picture of him through my angry, helpless haze. His expression is one of helpless concern and sympathy. It destroys my resolve, and I begin to weep. He says nothing. He just continues to massage my scar. The more he massages, the better I feel and the heavier my heart feels. He’s never done this before. No one besides the doctors have ever touched my scar that I can remember except me. I don’t think he avoided it; I just don’t remember him ever touching it. Maybe he did, I don’t know, my mind is swirling… and my thoughts… and my emotions… and it really feels good.
“People are horrible!” I weep. “I do the best I can what else can I do!”
“That’s all you can do, baby,” he says, his voice soothing.
“These women come from horrible situations!” I sob. “I can’t imagine surviving through some of the things they’ve had to endure… and this selfish bitch…”
My body shakes with sobs and with anger.
“I know,” he says softly. “I know.”
He’s still massaging the pressure and pain out of my scar and my heart just crumbles at the kindness as well as in anguish for these women, some of whom are literally running for their lives, having their safety and what little peace of mind Helping Hands affords them ripped from their fingertips. It’s like when Daddy brought me to Montesano and that devil bitch Carla ripped me from my peace and dragged me back to Nevada.
That doesn’t help my mood at all.
I tip over onto my husband’s shoulder and continue to weep. One hand now gently strokes my back while the other continues to massage my pain and resolve away. The dam is flowing freely now and I couldn’t stop it if I tried. I see a figure come into my doorway, but my eyes are too watery to make out who it is. I’m too busy crying anyway to care or to entertain anybody’s company right now.
“We’ve got four more guys on the way to Helping Hands,” I hear Jason say. “Four more will replace them tomorrow, and we’ll have a steady rotation until we hear otherwise. Do you think that’ll be enough?”
I can’t respond. I don’t even know if he’s talking to me or Christian.
“We’ll leave it at that for now,” Christian says. “We’ll revisit in the morning.”
I see Jason’s form leave my office and my heart is so heavy and full at the same time that I think it’s going to explode.
I don’t know how much longer Christian literally allows me to cry on his shoulder, but once I stop, the pain and pressure are gone from my scar, but I’m waterlogged and exhausted. He gets me to our suite and draws me a bath. After a good soak and a cup of chamomile tea, I fall into a heavy slumber.
“Mrs. Grey, would you like to issue a rebuttal to Mrs. Yardley’s accusations?”
I can’t believe that I’m greeted by the fucking Paparazzi when I get to Helping Hands. Don’t these fuckers realize what they’re doing? Nobody’s going to come here for help while the press is camped out!
I stop, take a deep breath, and turn around.
“Yes, I would,” I say, and I can see Chuck stiffen.
“First of all, it’s Dr. Grey. Second, this place is a safe haven. We help remove people from dire circumstances and dangerous living conditions, and I refuse to allow one person—no matter who they are—to jeopardize the safety and well-being of these families in any way. With that in mind, I have absolutely no comment on the personal business or identities of anyone behind these walls—past or present. She wants to defame me, fine, just don’t endanger my residents. And by the way, that’s what you’re doing right now! These people depend on anonymity for their safety and you’re blasting us all over the news trying to get a story! You should be ashamed of yourselves!”
The crowd of reporters is mostly quiet as I walk into the center with the exception of two or three reporters still barking questions at me that I don’t really hear.
When I get inside, the new guards greet me and Oscar informs me that there is now a guard posted at the elevator and at each exit—even the locked ones. One of them will also do rounds every hour with a female guard doing the checks on the resident floors. That makes me feel a lot better.
Grace and I agree that we need to have a meeting to gauge the moods and hear the concerns of the residents. So, we schedule it for just after lunch even though Friday is normally my short day. It won’t be so, today. We’ve got to let these ladies know what’s happening and what steps we’re taking for their safety.
I don’t really know what to do with myself throughout the morning. Most of the press grew a conscience after my short statement and left the premises, but there are a few diehard reporters still out there. No one has left or showed up since I got here. I hope none of the women had job interviews today. I put a call in to Al to see if anything can be done about the press as they’re jeopardizing the safety of these women. He’s seeing if there’s anything he can do.
I make this announcement to the ladies when we begin the meeting, alerting them to the additional security which they had already seen. In general, most of them understand the circumstances and are more pissed at Yardley than they are concerned. They’re also very appreciative of the extra steps that we’re taking for their security.
“Why aren’t we watching television?” one of the residents asks in the middle of the meeting. “It’s going to start any minute.” Television? What the hell?
“Why would we be watching television?” Grace asks. “What’s going to start?”
“Penelope‘s interview,” she replies. “I’m sorry, I thought that’s why we were having the meeting.
“Nooooooohoohoohoohoooooooo,” I lament as I drop my head into my hands. No Christian to rub my scar today. What are these women trying to do, shut us down?
“Um, yeah… KOMO is supposed to be showing it live in just a few minutes,” she says a little timidly. Do I even want to see this shit? Grace makes the decision for me and retrieves the remote, bringing the television to life and turning it to KOMO for the after-lunch affair that is usually filled with soap operas and women’s talk shows. I can’t even find any more words. I just sit there and wait for the ax to fall.
It doesn’t take long.
I watch the screen as the narrator—whomever it is—describes the quiet, small, picturesque town of Palouse with its rolling hills and farmland and general store and two newly transplanted residents… Penelope Handon and her son, Mark.
“I’m the other resident that was asked to leave,” Penelope says, and I drop my head. Et tu, Bruté?
“What do you have to say about all of this?” the reporter says.
“If it weren’t for Dr. Trevelyan-Grey, Dr. Grey, and Helping Hands, I may be dead,” she replies. My head flies up in surprise. What did she just say?
“Elaborate,” the reporter probes.
“I and my son were in a horribly violent and deadly situation. Helping Hands gave me a safe place to stay, food and clothing, and they were helping me to find a job until that night. I did get into a fight with that woman.”
“And they threw you out?”
“It’s not that simple,” she says. “I did what I had to do to protect my son, but the center has a strict, no-fighting policy and they should. These families have been through enough. We broke that.”
“So, how can you now speak so highly of a homeless center that threw you out?”
“They didn’t throw me out,” she corrects. “I broke the rules and I had to leave. Would you suggest they keep me there after I got into a physical altercation with another resident?”
“I wouldn’t suggest that they throw you out,” the reporter retorts.
“You’re stuck on that, aren’t you?” she replies. “You must live in a world without rules. I’d like that. I’d like to live in a world where there were no repercussions for my actions. That’s apparently where you live and where that awful woman thinks she lives, where you can do whatever you want without consequences.”
“Nobody’s saying that, Mrs. Handon…”
“Really?” she retorts. “You’re stuck on they threw you out, but you’re completely ignoring the fact that I and that woman you interviewed got into a physical altercation in a residential section that put other people in danger. She or I, our children, or someone else on that floor could’ve gotten hurt, and you’re still stuck on they threw you out. Let’s not forget that these people are already traumatized and now they have to be subjected to this? Where are your priorities?”
The reporter makes a motion to cut the filming, but the cameras keep rolling since they were live at the time. I can hear someone whisper that the station wants them to keep rolling.
“That woman was awful,” Penelope continues. “You saw her son. You saw how big he was. Look at my Mark—half his size and nearly half his age, and this kid is bullying him and taking his lunch. I thought we were all there for the same reason—to get help. The women and children that are still there, they’re not going to tell you anything about how that woman behaved and how her son terrorized the smaller kids and disobeyed the staff, how we went to that woman numerous times to tell her about it and she did nothing, how Dr. Trevelyan-Grey and Dr. Grey tried to talk to her about it and she still did nothing. They’re in hiding! They’re trying to put their lives back together, but I’m not in hiding anymore. For the time that I was there, Dr. Grey taught me self-defense, and now I’m in a place where if danger comes my way, we will fight it.
“She apologized for having to ask me to leave because she has children of her own and she understood. She tried to nip this in the bud before it even got to this point and the woman who came running to you like a victim was the cause of all of this. She’s gone now—she’s got her money and her moment in the spotlight and in the meantime, you’re going after a philanthropist and humanitarian, a woman who gives of herself and her time to help others so that you can get a story. Where’s the human interest in that? I hope you get what you’re looking for. I hope it makes you famous.” The reporter nervously clears his throat.
“Well… it looks like this interview is over.”
“Not quite,” Penelope says, looking at the camera. “If you’re in danger, if you’re in trouble, if you’re afraid, go to Helping Hands. They will go out of their way to help you. They will protect your privacy and anonymity and they will do everything they can to get you back on your feet… or at least to a place of safety. Just be sure that you behave like a human being and not a zoo animal when you get there and know how to obey the rules.” She turns back to the reporter. “Now, this interview is done.” She stands from her seat and walks out of the camera shot.
And the community room erupts with cheers.
A/N: “Choonks ahn ‘is wey upstehs! Des a fight in da dome!”—”Choonks on his way upstairs. There’s a fight in the dorm.”
It was brought to my attention that English is not a first language for many of my readers. So, when I do venture to write an accent, there will be translations in the author’s notes.
Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-misadventuresseason-v/
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