Congratulations to Kristi for two victories in a row! And, stay tuned this week for 3 more stories to vote on! And, I promise…there will be some laughs this week. I. Promise. Because nobody wants all downer stories the week of Christmas!
Today’s story idea comes from the lovely Annette Deaton. She also inspired The Farewell (oh, that one…broke my heart to write). Here’s Annette’s second story idea…
Character: Lilly (age 7) is innocent
Setting: Psychologist’s Office
Conflict: 3 months after an accident, she still hasn’t talked. While playing with her toy horse at the psychologist’s office, she describes the accident from which she was miraculously saved.
Lilly played with her small, plastic horse. She moved it, as if in a gallop, across the gray carpet. Before the accident, she would have narrated the scene. The horse jumping over a hedge. The horse eating oats. The horse meeting friends.
But after the accident she played silently.
She hadn’t spoken for 3 months.
Her last sound was a scream right before she died.
Marian, Lilly’s mother, sat on the couch, gripping a pillow to her stomach with one arm, biting the fingernails of the other hand.
“Why won’t she talk?” Marian asked. “It’s been so long. And nothing is wrong with her. The doctor did one of them brain checker things.”
“A scan?” The psychologist asked. She wrote a few notes on a yellow legal pad.
“Yup. One of them. And he said there weren’t nothing wrong with her brain.” Marian looked at the psychologist. “So, she’s just being stubborn?”
“Your daughter experienced some sort of trauma. This is very common.”
“But, you know, I kinda feel like we’re wasting our money coming here. I mean, it’s been 3 months and you ain’t been able to get her to talk.”
“My objective is to find the root cause of her silence. Then we will be able to coax her to speak again.”
“What if she don’t never talk again?”
“Then you learn a different type of life.”
The two women looked at the young girl. She ran her index finger across the back of the toy horse.
“My boyfriend said it’s okay if she don’t talk no more.” Marian tore a piece of nail from her finger. “He said I should just leave her be.”
“How do you feel about your boyfriend saying that?”
“I don’t know.” Marian looked from one end of the room to the other, her eyes moving quickly. “It makes me wonder.”
The psychologist observed Marian’s behavior. She waited, giving space for Marian to keep talking. Almost allowing for Marian to forget that she was talking to a doctor.
“He was home alone with her that day. The day of the accident.” Marian sniffed. “I wonder a little if he didn’t do something to her. If he didn’t hurt her somehow.”
Lilly looked up at her mother.
“I mean,” Marian continued. “She did have a big gash on her head. And a couple bruises on her body.”
“Has your boyfriend been violent before?”
“Sure. You know. He smacks me around sometimes. But I never seen him lay a finger on Lilly before. Seemed to me he didn’t never pay her no mind before.”
“Marian, if you think he did something to your child, then why are you still living with him?”
Marian just shrugged. Shook her head. Kept her eyes still, looking into a corner.
“He told me she fell off the shed,” Marian said. “She was getting her frisbee and fell off.”
“Do you believe him?”
“I ain’t never believed a word that come outta that man’s mouth.”
“Are you afraid to leave him?”
“Of course I am.”
“Where could you go to be safe?”
“I don’t got nowhere else.”
“What if we could get you some help?”
“I ain’t looking for no help.”
“Of course not. But what’s the harm in accepting help when it’s offered?” She looked at Lilly. “If you refuse to get away from him, I’ll have to have Lilly removed from the home.”
“You threatening me?”
“Do you feel threatened?”
“I guess not.”
Lilly stood, walked toward Marian and hugged her arm. She pressed her cheek into her mother’s shoulder.
“Mama,” she whispered. So softly that Marian wasn’t sure she’d heard anything. “Mama.”
Marian turned her head slowly. She kissed her daughter’s rust colored hair. “Did you say something, Baby?”
“He pushed me, Mama.”
“Who pushed you, Lilly? Where’d he push you?”
“Lilly,” the psychologist said, coming near to Lilly and squatting next to her. “Who is Maxwell?”
“My boyfriend’s son,” Marian said. “He’s older. But he ain’t right in the head.”
“When you say he isn’t ‘right’, what do you mean?”
“He been like that since he was a boy. Couldn’t think like regular people.”
“Mama,” Lilly said. “He wanted me to play on the shed with him. I’m sorry. I know I ain’t supposed to play up there.”
“What were you playing on the shed?” the psychologist asked.
“He wanted to play dare. Where you get the other person to do something.” Lilly squeezed her mother tighter. “He wanted me to eat a bug. And I wouldn’t do it.”
“What happened next?”
“He got so mad. He was hitting me and pushed me off the shed.” Lilly let go of Marian. “He didn’t mean to hurt me, Mama.”
“Lilly,” the psychologist said. “Do you remember what happened then?”
“When I fell on the ground, it didn’t hurt. Then my heart felt funny. Like it was being lazy. And I felt like I was holding my breath. Like when I’m swimming.” Lilly pet her horse again. “I heard Maxwell screaming. Then somebody was yelling at him. It was a man yelling…”
“Was it your Mama’s boyfriend?”
“Yes. He told Maxwell I was dead.” Lilly cocked her head. “Was I really dead?”
“That’s what the doctor said,” Marian said. “You weren’t breathing.”
“How’d I hear him?”
“I don’t know, Baby.”
“But he told Maxwell he better not tell no one. He’d get in big trouble.”
“Was Maxwell upset?” the psychologist asked.
“I could hear him crying. He didn’t want to get put away.”
“Where would he be put?”
“In jail. Hid daddy told him he’d go to jail if he told anybody.”
“Do you remember anything else?”
“After a while it felt like my heart was moving again. And then I stopped holding my breath.”
“That was in the ambulance,” Marian said. “The doctors didn’t know how you started breathing again.”
“Can you tell us why you didn’t want to talk after the accident?” the psychologist asked.
“I don’t want Maxwell to get in trouble.” Lilly climbed onto her mother’s lap. “His daddy was so mad.”
“We gotta go sleep at Granny’s house tonight, Lilly,” Marian said. “I’ll keep you safe there.”
Lilly put her arms around Marian’s neck. “Make sure we get a safe place for Maxwell, too.”
Marian carried her little girl out of the office. She knew that she was going to start a new life.