English: Broken glass (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The orphaned, foster-child waits, clinging with tight determination to her small bag, her priceless possession. All she has is white-knuckled, clutched to her chest inside a small bag which used to be pink, but now is a faded peach rag stained dirty with a pull string running through the top.
The man sees her, he knows who she is, he knows she is not holding what she thinks. He beckons her to come, but she will not trust, will not follow, will not believe. What she has seen holds her spirit within a cage, and though the door is open, she will not escape. Instead she clings uncertainly to her few belongings, belongings crusted over with the filth of the past, with the lies of who she will become.
The man’s eyes fill with compassion, how many lost children has he rescued? He counts them in his mind as he searches for a way to gain her trust. There was Daniel, who was afraid to believe he could ever be found. There was Mia who lashed out in anger, convinced she would never receive kindness. He counted Doug and Ladarek, Tristin and Bartholomew, he remembered the cries of Peter and Latisha as well as Marcus’s screaming and Delilah’s silence. Each child he had attempted to rescue, each one jaded, tainted by a past that permeated their thoughts and actions, resisted the rescue. Not one of them came with him without hesitation. What they knew was familiar, and familiar was normal, and normal felt safe, even though it was not.
The little girl who sits before him had a hardened face, though she was only six. She was reported to be extremely bright as well as dangerous. Her tumultuous life had created despondency, the man knew to make headway with her, he would first have to prove himself trustworthy, someone who only thought of others, someone who put their needs before his own. There was no other way to reach this child and prove to her she could leave her cage, no other way to prove that what she was holding would bind her, mar her forever.
“Crystal,” his voice was soothing, but she had heard soothing voices before, and she would not believe the lies again. “I know you’re scared, sweetie. We really need to leave here and we need to leave now.” He could see by her glassy gaze that she was frozen, unable to see the smoke rising all around them, she could not hear the shattering of windows in the far side of the apartment. The monster that lay on the floor was now motionless, but she would never want to step over him. She would rather cower on the bed, dulling her senses and not believing the smell of smoke, the blistering heat that would be upon her in seconds.
She just held her bag tighter, wishing she could stop feeling. If she could stop feeling this man and others like him couldn’t hurt her anymore. She hated the hot tears that were stinging her eyes, passing the dam of her eyelids, cascading down her face.
“May I take that?”
Vehemently, she shakes her head. Why did he want to take the only thing she had?
“I promise, what I have for you is much better.”
“What?” her silence is crushed as she spits the word with distaste.
He did not replay with words, but held out his hand. It was covered with a thick glove, and as she looked at him, she realized all of him was covered by some sort of baggy suit. For a moment her fingers itched to reach him, for a moment, he looked safe, as though his hand could help her step over what she had done, what had been done to her . . . but she remembered how filthy her hands were, how nasty she was after what had happened this morning . . . Was it all her fault? She held her faded and now stained bag, visions of her stepfather, the only father she had ever known, coming into her room . . . would he hurt her again? She shook her head, and stared at the monstrous man on the floor. No, he never could again, but wouldn’t there be someone else like him, perhaps this man, someone who would come to hurt her. Her hands pressed into the sharpness the bag contained. Only the bite of the knife gave her the tangible courage to look at the approaching stranger . . . he was a stranger, wasn’t he? She hadn’t met him before, had she? Or had he been in one of the homes, or maybe one of her stepfather’s friends . . . She didn’t realize her bag was pierced and the edge of the blade was now cutting the inside of her palm.
The man breathed in the clean oxygen, knowing how this must be played out. He could not force her to trust him, but he would take the knife from her. He could not convince her, not yet, but he would not leave her alone, he could not let her remain in the prison of her fear without destroying the lies that would forever bind her.
The first lie was dispatched as he caught her and pulled a mask over her head. She hadn’t realized she could barely breathe before. He kicked out the window and grabbed her small body to remove her forcibly from the room. He knew her hatred and fears might cause her to lash out at him, but he had to take her away. She was the reason he had come, and he would not leave without her.
Hours later, her hands now cleaned, her palm stitched up and bandaged, she felt worse than ever. Truth was beginning to dawn, what she had done, what had been done to her, and that her foster father had saved her. He had once offered to adopt her, but she had refused, hating him simply for wanting to be her father. She hated his strong arms because they could hurt her, but today that strength had rescued her. She looked at him as he entered her room.
“Crystal, a lot of people are going to be asking you questions about why you went with your stepfather, about what happened.”
She nodded mutely.
“I want you to know that no matter what you say, no matter what happens, I love you. I will do my best to help you.”
She was afraid to believe him, but she found inside herself a need to trust him. If she had trusted him when they first met, maybe she would not have gone with her stepfather, but she had . . . Why had this man come for her? Why was she so important to him? He was reaching out his hand again and though her hands were clean, she could still feel the sticky blood, hers, her stepfathers . . . nothing made sense as the memory of screaming roared in her ears, as the acrid smell of smoke rose.
Then his solid hand gently touched hers. She didn’t know what was coming, but she wanted to believe he would never leave her.