TG Universes & Series:
This is a story about a place that is my dream. A place where down and out TG human beings can come to and know that they will be safe and loved, and helped. There are many stories written in this universe, and I urge you to read them all. They are all very well written by accomplished TG authors.
This story IS sad and it cost me a lot emotionally, but the story chose me to write it and I had to. Maybe to remind us that bad things DO happen to good people. It may make you cry, it may make you angry... or it might motivate you to do whatever you can to help someone less well off than you are. If it engenders any of those things than it is a story that HAD to be written, as much as it hurt me to write it.
I'm re-posting it because... well, I guess because I feel that people need to BE reminded that things like this DO happen and because it behooves every one of us to do whatever we can, no matter how small it might seem, to help someone who is need of help. It might just be that, whatever you can do, it might make the difference between hope and despair for someone.
That said, I present to you, Sara's Story. A repost of a Home That Love Built story.
A Home That Love Built Story
By Catherine Linda Michel
My alarm clock showed the time to be 3AM when I looked at it, blearily. Why was I looking at my clock at that hour? Well, the damn phone woke me up.
“Hello?” I mumbled into the phone. “Who is this?”
“Is this Cathilynn, the owner of The Home That Love Built?” The voice asked me.
“Yes, yes, it is. Now who is this calling me at this ungodly time of the morning?”
“We have a teen here in the hospital. This is Head nurse, Natalie Colm calling. I know what your place is all about, and I think you need to get here ASAP. This kid is in a bad way. I can't give you any details on the phone, but I can say that this is serious, and it concerns you and what your Home is all about.”
“Okay, okay.” I mumbled, still half asleep, but waking up quickly. “Give me a few minutes to dress and put on my face. I'll be there in about a half hour, is that fast enough?”
“I guess it'll have to be, but this kid is really hurt badly. The doctors are working on...um, her, as we speak and it doesn't look good”
Well, that was all I had to hear. I came to full wakefulness in less time than it takes to say it, jumped out of bed, told the nurse I'd be there as quick as I could, hung up the phone and began scrambling around, getting dressed. I hit the intercom to Irene's quarters and when she answered I told her to get up and get dressed. We had an emergency!
“Meet me in the parking lot in ten minutes. We need to get to the hospital fast!”
“I'll be there, Cathy. Any idea how bad this is?”
“No, hon. All the nurse would tell me was to get there as fast as I can. I have a feeling I'm going to need you with me, so hurry, okay hon?”
“I''m on my way, Cathy.” and she cut the intercom link.
By the time I got to the parking area, Irene already had a car started and was warming it up.
“You are amazing, hon! I said, as I climbed into the passenger side of the car. How did you beat me here?”
“If I told you that, I'd be giving up my reputation as a psychic, now wouldn't I? She said, with a small grin.
“One of these days, Irene, I'm going to figure out how you always know what's happening before I do, but I got the jump on you this time, since I got the call first.”
“I was already up, Cathy. I had the feeling, all last night, that something was going to happen. When you paged me, I was already dressed, with the car keys in my hand.”
I buckled my seat belt, sighing. “Someday, Irene...someday.”
“You'll only give yourself a headache trying to figure me out, Cathy. Just accept that, sometimes. I just know when something is gonna happen.” She said with a grin. “It'll be easier on you. You have enough headaches trying to run this place all by yourself, even though you know you have me, Sandra, and a couple others to help you. We need more people though, and you know it. Maybe you should start interviewing help soon.”
“I know, Irene, I know. It's just that I want to try to reserve enough positions for the girls who will come here when they have nowhere else to go. They are the ones who need to feel useful.” I sighed, as we careened through the darkened streets, headed for the hospital.
“If I hire someone off the street, that will be one more position I can't fill with someone who needs it to help them recover. WATCH THAT TRUCK!!” I screamed, as a delivery truck trundled slowly out of a parking lot.
Irene swerved around the truck, horn blaring. “Damned fool!!” She spat. “ Where in the hell do these people get their drivers licenses, from the Sears spring catalog?”
“Easy hon.” I said quietly. “We need to get to the hospital in one piece, okay? It won't do this kid any good if we end up as patients.”
The rest of the short drive went well. Somehow, Irene had the knack of making it through all the traffic lights while they were still green. We arrived in the emergency room parking lot, found a space for the car, and rushed inside.
I went to the admissions desk and asked for Head nurse Colm, and they paged her. When she called back, there was a brief conversation with the desk girl, who then turned to me and said,
“Natalie said for you to wait here. She'll be down as soon as she can. Seems like it's a busy night. Two traffic accidents, a beating, two babies being born, and an assault. The cops have been in and out of here since 8PM last night. Please have a seat in the waiting area, and I'll call you as soon as Natalie can get away to talk with you, okay?”
“There's nothing more you can tell us right now?” I pleaded with the receptionist.
“I know who you are, and I have an idea about why Natalie called you, but I really can't say any more than I have. I'm so sorry. I know who you are and I know about your Home. I think it's wonderful, what you're doing for people. In my opinion, it's none too soon. I have a TG friend, and she talks endlessly about your place and what you're trying to do. She is doing well, and her family and friends have stuck with her, but she feels for those who have no one. Hey! Do you need anyone out there? She's ready to graduate from college, with a degree in nursing. She's really good, and I know she'll be applying here, but if you need her more, I'm sure she'd love to work at the Home!”
“I don't know, hon.” I said. “Right now I'm too worried about this situation right here to think about anything else. Maybe when I know more about what Natalie wants, although I have a strong feeling that it's about a girl who's been abused or something like that. Otherwise, I wouldn't be here at this time of the morning, right?” I was trying to get a bit more info from her, but she just shook her head and told me I'd have to wait for Natalie, because she didn't want to tell me anything that might not be right.
I thanked her, and said I'd think about her friend when things settled down. Irene and I went to the waiting area, but I couldn't sit down. I was too worked up and worried about the kid Natalie had mentioned on the phone. I paced back and forth until Irene almost forced me to sit down.
“You're gonna worry yourself into a stroke or something,Cathy! Sit down and have a soda or some coffee, or something. There's no sense in getting all worked up over something you don't know enough about yet, is there?”
“I can't help it, Irene. You know how angry I get when a TG kid is hurt or abused by people who don't know better! It's bad enough when the hurt person is an adult, but when it's a kid! OOOhhh! I get SO mad!”
“I know hon, I know, but you have to calm down. Until Natalie gets here and tells us what's going on, you'll only get loud and disturb the whole place, if I know you. Now please just sit down?”
Irene's words, and her obvious worry about me, finally penetrated my consciousness, and I sat next to her, giving her a one armed hug.
“I know you worry about me, honey. I'm sorry, but being awakened at this hour for what has to be bad news just frustrates me! Can you forgive me for being such a bitch?”
“Cathy...if you didn't bitch about everything that doesn't go exactly your way, I would think you were sick or something. I know it's just your way of working through your frustrations, and, usually, I ignore it, but in this case, I'm worried about your blood pressure. You KNOW what the doctors have said! Look, I know it's bad for your health, but why don't you go outside and have a smoke. You're trying to quit, I know, but it always seems to help you calm down. Just don't tell the doctor I told you to smoke, okay?”
“Maybe you're right, Irene. I do seem to need a smoke. Will you promise to come out and tell me the second Natalie gets here?”
“No. I'm gonna keep you in the dark and worrying more and more, you dope! Of course I'll come out and get you! Sheesh!”
I got up and hugged Irene. I knew she cared about me and was only trying to help me de-stress as much as possible. I went outside and fired up a cigarette. Before any of you say anything, yes, I'm a smoker. I've tried to quit, but nothing seems to work. I have cut way down, and I only have one when I'm really worked up, worried or stressed.
I was halfway through my smoke, when the doors whooshed open, and Irene and Natalie came out,looking for me. I crushed out my cigarette in the ashtray, and turned to them, asking,
“Natalie! Finally! What's going on? Who is this kid you called me about? What's her story?”
“We'd better go inside, to the nurses lounge, Ma'am. I really don't want other ears to hear what I have to say.”
Intrigued, Irene and I followed Natalie to an area that contained a few tables and chairs and assorted vending machines. When we got there, she looked back out at the hallway that led to the room and then, locked the door!
“What's the deal, Natalie? Why lock the door?” I asked.
“Look. The kid I called you about? I found your card with the address of the Home, your name, and phone number on it. I know about your place and what you do. I might not agree with the why of what you're doing, I do think you're doing a lot of good, but that's neither here or there. This kid, she was beaten, raped and stabbed several times. It's a miracle she's alive at all. The doctors are still working on her, trying to get her stable enough so they can schedule further surgery!”
I slumped down into a chair, unable to believe what Natalie had just said, and momentarily too shocked to speak. Irene sat next to me, taking my hands in hers.
“Go on Natalie.” she said.
“We don't have much to go on as far as who did this to this kid. She, and I'm going to refer to her as she, although she has small, shrunken male genitals and what clothes were left after the attack were female, is in severely critical condition. We haven't been able to get anything from her about her name or anything else. No purse, and no I.D. on her either.” Natalie continued. “I heard one of the cops say that it looks, to him, to be the work of the South Side Bastards gang. It fits their M.O. according to him, and she was found in an alley in their 'turf', with gang signs all over the place, including one carved into her stomach! We've had victims of their violence in here before, and I agree with the cop. I called you, because there's no one else TO call. Without an I.D. I don't know who she is, who her parents are, or anything other than she only has a 20 percent chance of coming through this alive according to the surgeons.”
I just sat there, seething with anger for whoever had done this, and pity for this poor unknown child.
“What can I do?” I finally managed to say. “If it's a question of money, I'll make sure her medical bills are paid, regardless of the cost. Is she conscious at all?”
“Not yet.” Natalie replied. “She'll be in extreme ICU once the doctors have repaired the most major damage and gotten her cleaned up. We've done a rape kit on her already, so that's out of the way. The reason I called you at all was the word I've heard on the street about you. You're regarded as some kind of expert with kids like this, and we're going to need all the help we can get to identify her attackers. We took her fingerprints and will soon know who she is, I hope. Can you stay available so that, when and if she regains consciousness, you can comfort her and try to get her to talk about what happened?”
“Of COURSE I will!” I cried. “Anything I can do to help this poor child, I will do. I, or one of my trusted friends at the Home, will be on 24 hour call. We can be here in a matter of minutes. Please, is there anything else I can do for her? Does she need blood? May I see her?”
“Not for awhile, I'm afraid. She'll be watched 24/7 by skilled nurses until she either regains consciousness, or dies, whichever comes first. I feel horrible for this kid, but dressing the way she did in gang territory was asking for it, if you want my opinion. Maybe she will have a different story to tell when she wakes up, if she does, but until then, I have to assume that she let herself get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's happened before,and until this gang is arrested and put away, it'll happen again.” Natalie said, regretfully, shaking her head.
“Please don't misunderstand me,” she continued, “I sympathize with the transgendered. To feel like you're trapped in the wrong body must be hell, and I'm not passing judgement on any of you or them. I just think that, if one is TG, one HAS to be way more careful when out in public. It's obvious to me that, once this gang found out she wasn't a real woman, they did more damage to her than they might have otherwise. Anyway, if you or someone from your home can stay here, or be here, within minutes, that will be a big help, and thank you so much for coming in so quickly. I'll keep you well posted on her condition.”
“Whatever you need, Natalie, whatever she needs, you and she have it. My word on it. I'll be available 24/7 and either I, or Irene, or Sandra will be here before you hang up the phone. I'm going back to the Home to set a few things up financially to help this poor child. Irene, would you be so kind as to stay here until I call you? I'd really like for someone to be here all the time, at least for the next 24 hours, in case she wakes up.”
“Of course I will, Cathy! When you get back to the Home, wake Sandra and bring her up to date. She can relieve me here at lunchtime. You go back and do what you have to do, and then get some sleep! That's an order!” Irene said with a small grin at me, to let me know that the 'order' thing was her way of being concerned for me.
I left the hospital, driving straight back to the home, where I woke Sandra and told her what was going on. She promised to relieve Irene at noon, and I went to my office to make a few phone calls. I got hold of the hospital administrator and guaranteed the child's medical treatment. Then I contacted my lawyer and asked him to work with the cops to find our the child's name and family. I ordered flowers and some stuffies to be delivered to ICU, to be held for her until she could have them and I put some other less pressing matters aside after dealing with one or two that couldn't wait. Then I lay down on the couch in my office and tried to nap. I didn't think I'd be able to, but within seconds of my head hitting the couch pillows, I was out like a light.
I was awakened by a call from my lawyer, telling me that the child had been identified and her family notified of what had happened to her. From what he said, it didn't seem as if the family was very concerned, but they were going to the hospital to check on the child, probably after lunch.
I took a quick shower, threw on my face and some clothes, and drove back to the hospital, calling Irene to let her know I was on the way over and that the family of the child would probably be there shortly. By the time I got there, there was an argument going on between Natalie and a man who was identified to me as the child's father. He was raging about his 'perverted' son and saying that was the reason for the attack! I actually heard him say that it would be better if the child died, than to have his family living in shame!
I started toward him to give him a piece of my mind, but Irene held me back, turning me away from the argument.
“This isn't the time, Cathy! She whispered fiercely to me. “Let him rage. He's only embarrassing himself, and could very well get violent if you confront him! Let the doctors and hospital security handle it, please?
While I was seething in rage over the behavior of the father, I knew Irene was right. If there was going to be trouble here, it would be much better if HE was the cause of it, instead of me. Shortly after that, security arrived and escorted the father to a private office. That was the last I saw of him that day. Natalie told Irene that she had managed to get the child's name out of his bigot of a father. Shawn Jackson was the child's name, but in his tirade, the father had blurted out another name. Sara. That's the name he said that his little perverted bastard of a son was calling himself!
The father, Jerry Jackson, ranted and raved and was eventually escorted from the hospital by security and the cops, who arrived shortly after Jerry was taken into the private office. He was still shouting about his pervert of a son,and I wanted, more than ever, to shut him up, via a knee to his groin, but Irene restrained me again.
“Cathy! Come on! Being pissed off at that jerk is right, but if you do anything to him, even yelling at him, it'll look bad for The Home! Just let him go. He'll get his sooner or later. What we need to do is protect that child and we can't do that by attacking his asshole of a father. Come on now, let's go find Natalie and see if there's been any change in Sara's condition, okay?
As badly as I wanted to do some physical damage to Jerry, I knew Irene was right. She was thinking with her brain, not her guts, the way I was doing. She took me by the hand and led me back into the hospital and, finding Natalie, we found that Sara'd had a rough night, and was again in surgery, this time to repair some ruptured blood vessels damaged in the attack.
I decided to let Irene go get some rest, and took over the watch until Sandra arrived after lunch. I sat outside ICU, waiting for them to bring Sara back from surgery, alternately planning some kind of revenge against Sara's father, helping the cops find the gang members responsible for the attack, and planning for Sara's future, if she had one. I knew the odds were against her, but I prayed, and I pleaded, and fidgeted until Sandra showed up.
“Cathy!” she greeted me. “How's the kid?”
“No changes except she's back in surgery. I'm waiting here til they bring her back. Oh God, Sandy! This poor child! She's been through so much in her young life, and now there's a better than even chance she'll die here! She's never had a chance to be who she is and now she might never have the chance to be who she could be! Is it any wonder why I built the Home? Kids like this need love and understanding and help, not bigotry, hatred and violence! And that...man! Oohhh, I'd love to re-educate him in a way he wouldn't soon forget! I, I, oh my!”
“What's wrong Cathy? You look a bit odd. Are you alright? Cathy? CATHY!”
I only heard my name the first time Sandra said it. She told me later she'd called me several times, but I never heard her. I had, apparently passed out from the stress. When I next remember anything, I was lying on a bed, being attended to by a doctor and a nurse.
“What happened? Where am I? What's going on?” I pleaded.
“Just relax, Catherine.” the doctor said. “It appears you had a fainting spell, but you are okay now. Your blood pressure was through the roof, and you came close to having a stroke. I'm going to insist you stay with us for a few days, while we get you set up on some medications that will help get that pressure down. I'm also going to prescribe an anti smoking drug for you. It's fairly potent, and might cause a few really spectacular dreams for the first two weeks or so.”
“But, doctor.” I whined. “I have a place to run, people to deal with, things that must be done! Can't we postpone some of these things until I at least find out about Sara, and get her set up at the Home, once she's free from here?”
“Absolutely not, Catherine! Your condition has gone on too long already! If things continue the way they have been, you are risking a major stroke or possible death! I won't have that happening to you! Not on MY watch! Do you understand?”
“Cathy.” Irene broke in. “Sandy and I, along with a few others, can run the Home just fine for awhile. You need to take some time for you! We do not want to lose you! There's still so much that has to be done, so many lives to help, we need you, and we need you healthy! Please, do as the doctor asks? For us...for all the ones, like us, to come?”
“Sigh. Very well, Irene. I will leave the daily running of the Home to you and Sandra for now. You know what needs to be done, but I insist that, since I have to stay here, that I be kept in the know as concerns Sara. In fact, if it's possible, I want to be placed in the same room she is in, when she's released from ICU. If those things can be done, I will stay and not cause trouble. Doctor?”
“I believe we can do most of that, Catherine, but you need to know that there is every chance that Sara will not make it. She has regained consciousness sporadically, but we've not been able to get much information from her. She's in a lot of pain, despite massive doses of pain killers.”
“Then please let me go to her? She needs to know that someone who isn't an employee of the hospital, gives a damn about her!” I pleaded. Doctor? Do this for me, or I'll sign myself out AMA, I swear I will!”
Just then, a nurse came bursting in.
“Doctor! Doctor! Your patient in ICU is awake!”
“You mean Sara?” he asked.
“Yes, I do! She's awake! She's in some pain, but she's calling for you!” said the nurse, excitedly.
“Catherine, Ladies. If you will pardon me, duty calls.” and the Doctor turned to leave the room.
“Hold on just one second there Doc!” I yelled. I have to go with you! I refuse to lay here while there's any chance I might be able to help Sara! I'm no shrink, but I do know what needs to be said to her. Please, Doc?”
“You understand that, while talking with her, you will be required to wear full antibiotic gear? We can't take any risks with infections, as vulnerable as she is right now.!”
“I understand, Doctor! Whatever you want, I'll do, but I must be with her!”
“Very well, Catherine. I'll be watching both you and her, very closely. If there is ANY sign that either of you are in distress, I will end your visiting privileges immediately, understood? Very well. Nurse? Please take Catherine to get fitted with a full suit, and then bring her to ICU three. Use a wheelchair! No arguments Catherine!”
“You'll get none from me doctor. Nurse? Let's go! Irene? Sandra? Get back to the Home and make sure things are good there. It looks like I'm going to be occupied for the next day or three, or more, depending. Nurse? What are you doing standing there? Get that damned chair and let's get this show on the road!”
I was whisked away to an elevator which deposited us on some other floor. Well that's what they are supposed to do, right? Anyway, in some room, they put me into this ridiculous looking outfit that had it's own oxygen supply, and was sealed against the outside. Ugly thing it was, but it could have been a fuchsia Santa Claus suit, for all I cared. It was going to get me in to talk with Sara, if she could talk.
Back to the elevator we went and up another floor, where we rushed to ICU three. I pushed the nurse to hurry, and we were cornering on two wheels once or twice. She was out of breath by the time we reached ICU three, and I stood up from the chair, thanking her for all her help. I knocked on the door and the Doctor looked up, recognized me, and motioned me in. He was separated from Sara by a glass wall, using what are called 'Waldoes' to administer drugs and things to Sara. When I entered the room, there was a whoosh of air that went by me. Then the door closed, and I heard pumps start. Soon, the inner door opened and I walked slowly in for my first sight of poor Sara.
She looked horrible, with tubes and wires sticking out of her everywhere. She was pale as a ghost, and was only breathing shallowly. She was awake though, so I went to her bedside.
“Sara, honey, can you hear me? I'm Cathilynn, from The Home That Love Built, and I've come to see you.”
For a moment there was no response, but then Sara slowly, painfully, turned her head enough to see me in my 'space suit.'
“Hi sweetheart.” I said quietly.
Then, against all odds, she spoke.
“I was coming to try to get into the Home when I was attacked. I was at my wits end and had nowhere else to turn. I knew you would help me when I got there. I'm so glad to see you. Miss Cathilynn? I hurt so bad. Those gang bangers really did a job on me. The only thing that doesn't hurt is my hair, and the only reason that doesn't hurt is because they shaved me.” She tried to giggle, but I could tell how much it hurt her to do that.
“I really screwed up, Miss Cathilynn. I'm so sorry!”
“No, no, sweetie.” I said. “You did nothing wrong! It was those pretend bad guys who did this to you, but you're going to be okay. The best doctors in the City are looking after you, and...”
She reached out, even though I could tell it cost her a lot, and took my hand.
“Miss Cathilynn, I know I'm not gonna make it...not this time. I feel all busted up inside, and I hurt so bad.”
“Oh no, honey.” I cried. You're going to recover in time, and you'll come to live with me at the Home! We'll get you all fixed up, and give you a place to live, work to do, school to attend...”
“Again she stopped me, squeezing my hand, weakly.
“Oh Miss Cathy, that all sounds so wonderful, but I can feel myself getting weaker. I need to ask you some things though, privately?”
I looked at the doctor and he nodded. I heard a click, and I could no longer hear hear him or the sounds he had been making.
“Okay, Sweetheart. We're all alone now. Go ahead and ask what you want. I promise I'll stay quiet and let you talk, okay?”
She smiled weakly up at me and asked me to do some things, if she didn't make it. I tried to smile through my tears, but it was so hard! This dear, sweet girl thought she knew she would die, and she wanted ME to make sure she was taken care of properly...after.
“Miss Cathy? If I don't make it, would you make sure I am laid to rest, pretty? I mean all dressed up in a lovely gown, with makeup and jewelry and fancy underwear and all? I never had the chance to wear anything pretty, but I want to go to heaven, beautiful. Will you do that for me?”
“Of course I will honey, but let's not talk of dieing, okay?” I tried not to sob, but it was difficult. I had a huge lump in my throat.
“But I have to Miss Cathy. If I don't tell somebody, my dad will bury me as Shawn, in a suit, as a boy. I'm not a boy, Miss Cathy...I never was.” Her breathing was getting weaker, and her voice was fading.
“After he threw me out, I lived on the street, eating whatever I could get by begging, looking through dumpsters, and even stealing when I had to. I had finally decided to try to get to you and your Home, because I was getting sick a lot, and couldn't afford medicine and stuff. I thought maybe you'd let me stay for a little while, til I got better, and I could do stuff for you to pay you back.”
“Honey,” I said, When you get through this, you can come and live with me for as long as you want. You don't have to pay anything back. We want you there with us, and even though we barely know you, we love you already. Please, please sweetheart, fight to stay with us? Don't give up. We'll be right here, waiting to welcome you into our family. I should go now and let you rest, but I'll be here whenever you need to talk. Don't give up honey, okay?”
“I'll try really hard Miss Cathy, but the stuff I asked you about? Will you do that for me...in case?”
Swallowing that damned lump in my throat hurt like hell, but I did it.
“I promise, sweetie. I promise that you will be taken care of either way. If it hurts too much, and you just run out of strength, then know that I will do all you asked and more. These doctors here will take good care of you though, so let's look forward to you coming home with me, okay?”
She smiled a sweet, sad smile at me and then fell unconscious. For just a minute I thought she was gone, but she continued to breathe. I looked over at the doctor and he indicated she was just unconscious, not...dead.
I stumbled out of the ICU room, bawling my eyes out inside that damned suit and screaming, “Someone get out of this damned thing before I drown myself!!”
Finally, with help, I got out of that suit and was carried to a room where they placed me on a bed, with orders to stay there and get some rest. I was completely exhausted and was asleep, or fainted on the bed the moment they put me on it. When I woke up, Irene was there, sitting in a chair by the bed, holding my hand. I jerked upright, frightened I'd missed something, but Irene smiled and said.
“Sara is still hanging in there. The doctors say that your talk with her seemed to do her some good, and she seems stronger this morning. I would have woke you up to tell you sooner, but you needed some serious rest.”
“Oh thank God she's still alive. She needs to live, Irene, you know? She never really had a chance at anything before, and she just can't die now! She's GOT to live!” I cried.
“Whether she lives or dies is up to the doctors and God now, Cathy. If she's strong enough, if she wants it bad enough, then she's got a chance, I think. You however, cannot wear yourself down the way you have over the last few months. Get some more rest. Sandra will bring up some food for you in a bit, and the doctors have promised to let us know if Sara wakes up again.”
“I know, Irene. I know. I have to back off some, but it's so difficult to slow down when there's still so much to be done, and now, with Sara, I have to be strong for her too. Maybe after this is all over, and we have Sara safely back at the Home with us, I can slack off some and take some time off, but not til then. Not now. She needs me, she needs US, to help her be strong and live through this! I'll be damned if I'll quit on her, even at the risk of my own health!”
Irene just shook her head at me and tsk, tsked me.
“Somehow, I knew that was exactly what you were going to say. Sigh, okay Cathy, I'll go along with you on this, but as soon as it's over, one way or the other, you take some time to get healthy again! I didn't live through all the shit I went through, only to lose you so soon after I've finally found a home, and people who love me.”
We hugged and cried for a bit and I nodded off again for a few minutes. When I woke up again, Sandra was there by my bedside, with a tray of food.
“Hi Cathy.” She said tenderly, as I woke. “I'm under orders from a doctor, a nurse, and Irene. I'm to see that you eat everything on this tray, and then lay down for a nap, unless a call from ICU comes in, asking for you, so please help me out here? Eat everything, like a good girl, so you can regain some strength?”
Despite the situation, I had to smile at Sandra's pleading. She was one of the very first to come to live at the home and had been simply indispensable since her very first day. Her story, like so many others, had led her to come to me while the Home was still being built. She'd lost everything. Wife, family, job, reputation, even the pension she had been working toward. All she had left was her Social Security check each month. No savings either. Everything had been taken by her ex and her divorce lawyer.
Sandra is a tender, sweet soul, with a huge heart, and she's a fast learner as well. She serves as a bookkeeper/accountant/major domo, and oversees many more projects that are still in the works. I love her dearly, and so do all the rest of the residents of the Home.
I really wasn't very hungry, but I did as she asked. I ate everything on the tray and then, to get her goat a bit, I bit off one of the tines of the plastic fork and pretended to chew it up.
“A bit chewy, and somewhat flavorless, but what can I expect from hospital food, right?” I smirked at her, trying to get her to giggle.
“Cathy! My goodness! You shouldn't try to eat that thing... oh you! She giggled. “Alright you kidder, you! Spit that back out, although I'll admit that the plastic silverware probably has more nutrition value in it than most of what passes for food in a hospital. Well, that, at least, tells me that you're feeling better.”
“Well Sandy, I know that I'm not in really good shape right now, what with all the hubbub with Sara, and things that need done at the Home, so I need to eat and rest some until this is over. After we have Sara with us at the Home, and on the road to recovery, I can slow down and recuperate a bit. I think I will try for some rest until...”
CATHERINE MICHEL! PLEASE REPORT TO ICU THREE!
CATHERINE MICHEL! PLEASE REPORT TO ICU THREE! A voice on the public address system said.
Sandra helped me up and accompanied me to the room where I climbed into that damned suit again. I could see Sara was awake, and I wanted to hurry getting that damned thing on, but there's a way to do it right and, if one doesn't, on has to start all over again, wasting valuable time. Finally suited up and disinfected, I went through the airlock doors and then, to Sara's side. I thought she looked tired, and her face was covered with a sheen from perspiration. I smiled at her and took her hand.
“Hi again, sweetheart.” I said. “Are you feeling any better?”
“Hi Miss Cathilynn. I'm kinda numb. I can feel some parts of me, but others are just not there, you know?”
Her breathing was harsh and ragged, and I feared tiring her. I'd been told, on the way into ICU, that she had refused a breathing tube since she'd regained consciousness.
“Honey.” I asked. “Don't you think you should have them put in that breathing tube? It sounds like you're having a tough time breathing on your own.”
“I know it would be easier, Miss Cathilynn, but then I couldn't talk to you. Besides, I have enough tubes and wires going into me. One more, especially that one, would leave me unable to communicate at all, and I need to talk, especially with you. I had hoped they'd call you instead of my folks, while they were bringing me to the hospital. I had your card in my pocket and had left all my other identification in a ditch, in a plastic bag, covered with some stones. I knew my father would pitch a bitch if they called him here, especially with the way I was dressed.”
She paused to try to get her breath and cough, and then continued.
“I knew about your place, but I was dumb. I figured my family would come around and want me back after they saw I was serious about being a girl. They didn't though, and I wandered the streets, like I said, for over a year or so. Finally, I found one of your cards, and I was at my wits end. I thought I'd try to get there and stay until I got healthy again.”
“Oh honey! I wish you had come to the Home sooner. That's the reason we're there, to help kids like you...adults too. Well, what's done is done. As soon as you're out of here, we'll take you with us and you can live with us as long as you like.”
“That's nice, Miss Cathilynn.” she yawned. “I think maybe I'm gonna nap a little bit. Can we talk more when I wake up?”
“We can talk all you want, sweetie, but I think you're right. A nap right now will help you regain some strength. When you wake up, and when you want to talk more, you just have them call me and I'll be here quicker than you can say my name.”
I leaned over and gently kissed her forehead, through the plexiglass face mask of the suit, and she squeezed my hand and then her eyes closed and her hand went limp. I quickly checked her breathing, but she was just asleep again. I went outside the ICU, shed the suit, and went back to the room I'd been in. I grabbed my purse and headed downstairs for a smoke. My eyes were watering, and I was sobbing quietly, and I wanted, more than anything, to just lay down and sleep for a week, but I had things to do. I heard someone coming up behind me and turned to see Sandra looking worried.
“Cathy? Don't you think you should get some rest? You've been under a lot of stress the last day or two, and I know the doctors want you to rest.”
“Sandy, I know all that, but I need a smoke, and I need to contact my lawyer about getting legal custody over Sara. I need to check with the police to see if they've made any headway in arresting whoever was responsible for that kid's beating and rape. I can't do that from my room, so I'm going out for a smoke, and to use my cell phone. You can come with me if you want, but I'm going.”
Sandra objected, but she went outside with me and stayed by my side while I smoked and talked. My lawyer told me that papers were in the works and all they lacked was the signature of Sara's parents. A friendly Judge had already agreed to transfer custody to me as soon as the papers were signed. The cops had no real leads, since Sara had been unable to identify anyone, other than gang colors.
The cops were trying to do something with forensics evidence, but the rain, dirt and other factors had made almost impossible to gather anything useful at all, except for the rape kit that had been done when Sara was admitted to the E.R.
I slumped down onto a bench and just breathed deeply between drags on my cigarette, Sandra at my side.
“The doctors want me to quit these things, you know, Sandy? I've tried so many times, but I always start again. I always thought I was strong, but these little cylinders are stronger than I am.” I began to sob. “I know I have to stay alive as long as I can, so I, and all of us, can help more kids like Sara, and adults like you and Irene, and I know I came close today to cashing in my chips. Maybe this time the doctors will give me something strong enough that I can break this nasty habit. I hope so.” and I broke down, sobbing.
Sandra moved closer tome and put her arms around me, hugging me tightly.
“We'll all help you Cathy, you know that, but in the end, it's all up to you. You have to decide to WANT to quit and you have to decide whether it's more important to help the Home and people, than it is to take whatever solace you find in those cigarettes. Right now, do what you have to do to de-stress, but after this is all over, I think it'll be time for all of us to re-examine our lives and what we want to do. Finish your smoke and lets go back inside. It's getting chilly out here anyway. Come on, hon.”
She helped me up and held me as we went back inside. I was still crying, and Sandra knew that I was at a breaking point again. She took me to my room, made me lay down, and sat by the bed, holding my hand until I finally dropped off into a troubled sleep.
I stayed in the hospital for the next three days, having as much contact with Sara as they would allow me. At first, it seemed like she was gaining strength, and it helped me to de-stress a bit when I saw that, but the third day, as I readied myself to go in and talk with her, the doctor called me aside.
“Catherine.” he began. “Sara is going downhill. We've done all we can do for her, but the severity of the beating she received damaged her insides too much. If she doesn't show any improvement by tomorrow, well, all I can say is, we're all glad you've been here for her. We'll still monitor her, of course, and she won't lack for anything, but as far as surgeries go, she's gotten all we can do. Her kidneys are shutting down, her pancreas has almost quit as well, and her back is broken in three places. If, by some miracle she does survive, she'll likely end up a paraplegic, or worse.”
He sighed, and rubbed the sides of his nose, pinching it a bit. “Most of the doctors don't think she'll make it through the weekend and, quite frankly, even if she does, there's no real hope for a full recovery. I know what she's asked you to do for her. Have you made any arrangements regarding her requests?”
I sat down, my strength drained from me as if a tap had been opened and left that way. I couldn't think, and tears were spilling from my eyes.
“No doctor, I haven't.” I replied. “Things have been so up in the air, and I don't have legal custody yet, so even if I made plans, her family might fight me on them. If I get custody before she...goes, you may be sure that I will carry out her hopes and wishes. O God! Why her? Such a sweet, young child with her life all ahead of her!”
Just then, my phone began to ring. For a moment I didn't know what the sound was. The doctor gently took my hand and told me it was my phone, but I'd have to leave the hospital to answer it. I took the phone from my purse and looked at it. The number that was flashing was my lawyer's. I shut the phone off and put it back in my purse.
“That was my lawyer. Hopefully he's got some news for me, but I'll wait to call him until after I've seen Sara. Please give me a few minutes to compose myself, and then help me into the Clean suit?”
“Of course, Catherine. Take your time, and get yourself straightened out. When you're ready, you can go in and see Sara.”
I went into a nearby ladies room, still crying. I sat down in one of the stalls and tried to calm myself down. It wouldn't do for Sara to see me with my face all puffy and red-eyed from crying. After a few minutes, I managed to calm down enough so I stopped crying. I got up, went to the sink and splashed some cold water on my face. Then I wet some paper towels and, wetting them, I held them against my closed eyes, to help relieve the swellings under my eyes. My heart was breaking, but I knew I had to be strong for Sara, so I took a few deep breaths, straightened my clothing, dried my face and left the ladies room.
The doctor was waiting for me, and he helped me into the clean suit. I nodded my thanks and opened the airlock door, stepping in and closing it behind me, just like so many times before. I waited til the room cycled the air and a green light came on, then I stepped into the ICU room and went straight to Sara's bedside, where I took her hand in my gloved one, and just held it gently until she slowly opened her eyes and looked up at me.
“Oh, hi Miss Cathilynn. It's good to see you again. You've been so kind to me through all this, and I wish I had a way to repay you.”
“Honey,” I said, “There's nothing to repay. It's been my pleasure to be here for you. Everyone needs someone when they're down and hurting, and it's part of what I do at the Home, but being here with you hasn't been a burden or anything like it. I'm glad I could do it. You've even taught me some things that will help me run the Home better, so I'm the one who is indebted, not you.”
“Really Miss Cathilynn? What could I ever teach you? You're so with it, and it's like you've got it all together. I'm just a dumb kid who didn't know enough to get myself someplace where I'd be safe. I alienated my family and friends, and was too proud to go to your place when I should have. Then, when I finally decided to go, it was too late, and that gang caught me and did ... those things to me.” She began to cry.
“Oh honey! Please don't cry! What happened wasn't your fault. It was the fault of some wannabee tough guys who haven't enough courage among them to do anything alone. It always takes 5 or 6 or more before they get any guts, and then it's just dumb guts. Pack mentality. THEY'RE the ones at fault, not you, sweetheart! Trust me, sweetie. I will find a way to make them pay for what they did to you!”
I avoided any references to her family, feeling that this was not the time to bring them up. It would only make her feel worse. Instead, I spoke of how she was loved by me, and Irene, and Sandra, and how wonderful it would to have her with us at the Home when she got better. She listened to me with a kind of sad smile on her face, and she stopped me, saying:
“Miss Cathilynn, that sounds so wonderful. I wish I'd come to you sooner...but I didn't. Miss Cathilynn? Lean closer to me so I can whisper?”
“Of course, honey!” and I leaned down so she could whisper to me.
Miss Cathilynn, don't tell the doctors, but I know I'm not going to make it through this. I know I'm all busted up inside, and I can't feel my legs. I can feel myself getting weaker and weaker. Sometimes I can barely open my eyes at all, even when I know you're here, holding my hand. It's getting hard for me to concentrate and I sleep an awful lot. I can tell that I'm not getting better, and I wanted to thank you for seeing me through this, before it got too late and I couldn't talk any more.” She smiled that little smile again and continued. “Thank you for listening to me about my wishes ... when I go, you know? Even if you can't do it for me, it makes it a little easier for me that you listened and said you would do those things for me.”
“Honey, what I said I'd do, I will do. If I have to move heaven and earth, I will see that what you wanted will be done. Don't you fret anymore about that, okay? I promise!”
“Thanks Miss Cathilynn. I knew you would, but it's nice to hear you say it, and I believe you. I think you better go now. I can feel myself getting sleepy again. Miss Cathilynn?”
“I love you. Thank you so much for everything, okay?”
“Oh God, sweetie, I love you too! Please fight hard to stay with us, but know that, if you do leave us, you will never be forgotten. Not by me, or anyone else! You'll always have a place in my heart.”
She smiled at me again and squeezed my hand, and then she closed her eyes. Again, I checked her breathing and she was still breathing. God! Every time she did that I was scared that it would be the last time! I waited until she relaxed her hand in mine, then I let the ICU. I shed the clean suit and left it on the floor where it fell. I didn't care about the suit. Just then I didn't care about anything but Sara. I steeled myself and went downstairs, outside, and immediately called my lawyer.
When he answered, I said, shakily: “This is Cathilynn. I hope you have some good news for me. I could use it right now.”
“I do, Catherine. I finally got the custody papers signed. All that remains is for you to sign them. I can take them to the Judge this afternoon and he will approve them on the spot. That poor kid's family wanted nothing more to do with her! They signed away their rights to their daughter with no more emotion than if they were flushing a goldfish down the toilet! People like that shouldn't be allowed to have kids at all, if you ask me! Yeah! I know that's unprofessional of me, but this case has gotten to me as well. How are you holding up? Are you okay? Is there anything I can bring you? Anything else I can do?”
“No Sam, there isn't. Just get those papers to me ASAP and get them to the Judge. I have to make some arrangements and I can do most of that on the phone once we get off this call. I'll be on the fourth floor, in the ICU waiting room. How soon can you get here?”
“How does 20 minutes sound, Catherine? I want this whole business over and done with myself. How is Sara doing? Any improvement?”
“No Sam.” I sighed. “The doctors have told me that she doesn't have much of a chance at all. Even Sara believes she's going to die, even though I keep telling her she won't. I have to see this through, no matter how much it takes out of me, and I will, but after...Sam, I need some time off. I'm going to turn things over to Irene and Sandra for awhile and look after myself better. There are more Saras out there, and I want to be around to help as many of them as I can. God willing, there won't be any more like this time, but I'm afraid there will be. While I'm on vacation, will you keep your hand in at the Home? I know that Irene and Sandra believe they can handle everything, but your legal knowledge and toughness will be needed too.”
“You know I will, Catherine. The Home is too important for a lot of people, and I will never let you down.”
“Thank you, Sam. That makes me feel a little better. Now, get yourself down here with those papers. I'll be waiting.”
“You got it Catherine. I'll be there shortly. Get some rest, okay? You know I care about you.”
“I know, Sam. When this is all over, one way or another, I'll take that time off. Now hang up. I've got other calls to make.”
“See you shortly, Catherine.” and he hung up.
I took a cigarette out of my purse and lit it, dialing a number while I did.
“Hello?” Came a voice from the phone. “This is the McHahon Funeral Home. How may we help you?”
“This is Cathilynn Michel, and I might have to schedule a funeral in the next day or so. I'll need prices on a casket and all the rest. Will you work up a precis and have someone fax it to --- ----? That's The Home That Love Built. It will be for a 16 year old child, and some special things will need to be done. My staff and I will handle most of it though.”
“Of course, Cathilynn. We can get something together for you this afternoon if you like. It will all be subject to the special things you mentioned, and what they are, but we can certainly accommodate you. Please accept our sympathies and be assured that we will help you in any way we can.”
“Thank you.” I said, and hung up.
I sat there for a few minutes finishing my cigarette, and thinking. Then I called Irene, and asked her to find the prettiest gown in Sara's size that she could find and buy it, as well as some matching jewelry, still hoping against hope that Sara would survive this ordeal and be able to wear the dress when we welcomed her to the Home, but knowing that we might be dressing her in it for her funeral.
I crushed out my cigarette, hoping it would be one of the last ones I'd smoke. I went back inside the hospital and up to the Fourth floor ICU waiting room. Sandra was still there, and as I walked in and collapsed into a chair, she came over and sat beside me, taking my hands in hers.
“Cathy, how are you holding up? This has been very difficult for you...for all of us, and you've shown a lot of strength, but I'm very worried about you. You look very pale and weak. Are you alright?”
“Yes, Sandra. I'm okay for now. I talked with Sara awhile ago and the doctors told me that she hasn't much of a chance at survival at all. Even Sara believes she's going to die. Why, Sandy? Why would God take such a sweet soul from us, while there are so many rotten bastards who deserve to be taken?”
“No one knows God's will, honey. I know you've always been an agnostic, but you've changed over the last year or so. I think you're becoming a believer, and that isn't a bad thing. I've always believe that God had a hand in my life. After all, he led me to you and the Home, didn't he?”
“I don't know what it was that brought you here, Sandy. I only know that I'm so glad you came. You've been a huge help to me and all the residents at the Home. I don't know how we could ever have done so much if you hadn't been there to help. As for me becoming a believer ... well, a lot has happened over the last couple of years that I have no explanation for. Me winning the lottery, you and Irene coming to stay at the Home, so much that it does make me wonder if there isn't some divine power helping things along...but then, along comes a sweet, innocent child like Sara, who is in danger of losing her life because of some lowlife sons of bitches who were trying to prove some mythical manhood, bullshit ideals they have, and I can't help but doubt.”
Sandra looked me in the eyes and said,
“I know, honey, I know. I have faith and, maybe someday, you will too, that God knows what he's doing, and never does anything without a reason. It's not for us to judge. Only to accept and believe. Oh, here's Sam!”
Sam came over to where I was sitting and handed me a sheaf of papers. Another man came into the room and Sam said, “This man is a notary public. He can witness all the papers and notarize them for us. Sandra and I will sign as witnesses and then I can take the papers straight to the Judge who has promised he'd rule the minute he got them and looked them over. It'll be done today, Cathilynn. I promise.”
I looked through the papers briefly, and they looked good to me, so I signed where I was supposed to. The notary then put his stamp on them, after Sandra and Sam signed as witnesses, and signed them himself. Sam gathered everything up and, standing to leave, he took my hand in his.
“It's done Cathilynn. You will have full parental rights as concerns Sara. I'm going to leave now, but you call me if you need anything...anything at all, you hear me?”
“I will, Sam. Thank you so much for everything. I think I need to lay down for awhile. I'll call you if anything happens with Sara, okay?”
“Okay Cathilynn. See that you get some rest. As soon as the Judge signs these papers I'll personally take them to the Court Clerk's office and push them through. Sandra? You stay with her and make sure she gets some rest, please?”
“I will Sam, and thank you from me too.”
Sam left and I felt...well I don't know how I felt. Better, a little bit, because some vital stuff was either done, or being done, but very sad that some of that stuff was being done in the event that Sara didn't live through this whole thing.
Sandra led me to the room I'd been using and sat me down on the bed.
“Cathilynn, you need to take the doctor's, Sam's, Irene's and my advice seriously. You need to rest, because you have worn yourself to a frazzle over building the Home, staffing it, doing every little thing yourself, and now with Sara's situation. You simply cannot burn your candle at both ends. Too soon, it burns out, and we, all of us, need you. There is so much work yet to be done, and there are other children out there, in similar situations to Sara's. You know we can't help all of them, but so many others won't get help, if you work yourself into a breakdown, or worse!”
“Sandra, I know all that, okay?” I replied, tiredly. “I've already told you and everyone that I will take some time off after this is all over. I've agreed to the medications the doctors want me to get, so I can quit smoking, and I've delegated some things to you and Irene, but I have to see this through, whatever way it ends. Sara needs me right now, and I will not let her down! However much time she has left, or if she survives this, she's going to need me, and you and Irene to help her get her life back together. I just feel like this is something I have to do. Once I started it, I knew I had to see it through to whatever end awaits.”
I laid back on the bed.
“When I think of the miserable life Sara has had, it makes me ashamed of how easy mine has been. I was pretty much accepted as Cathilynn from the moment I started my real life test. Sara has never been accepted by anyone, not even her own family, and her father, that sanctimonious son of a bitch, yelling about what a freak she is and that she'd be better off dead so the family isn't embarrassed by her, pissed me off so badly, I wanted to castrate him right there in the emergency room!”
“Calm down, Cathilynn.” Sandra quietly reminded me. “You are not alone in your thoughts, okay? Irene and I, and most of the hospital staff agree with you about Sara's father. Remember, once Sam gets those papers through the court, Sara's father is no longer in the picture at all. Sara will be your legal responsibility, your ward, if you will. He can no longer hurt her, and if he tries, you can have him arrested. Now you lay back and get some rest. I'm going to the ladies room, and then to the cafeteria. Should I bring something back for you?”
“No honey.” I said. “I'm not really hungry, and I don't have to go potty, so I'll just lay here and try to calm down. Go ahead and do your thing. I'll be okay.”
Sandra nodded at me, let go of my hand and walked to the door, shutting it behind her, leaving me alone with my thoughts and emotions. Even though my fondest hope was that Sara would survive, I think I knew, even then, that it wasn't to be. I would be with her every second I could, or was allowed to be by the doctors, right to the end, if it came.
I must have fallen asleep, because it was a few hours later when I felt someone gently shaking me awake. It was Irene.
“Cathilynn, how are you feeling?” She asked.
“A little better, Irene, I think. Where's Sandra?”
“She had to go back to the Home. There were a couple of things that needed attention, but don't worry. Nothing serious is happening. Just some routine things, is all. I came up when she left, so you wouldn't be alone here.”
“Thanks Irene. I really appreciate all that you and Sandra are doing to help me and Sara. Is there any further word about Sara?”
“I've heard nothing new since I've been here,Cathilynn. They know where you are, and I'm certain they'd come and inform you if anything was happening. I think you need to take advantage of this “down time” and get all the rest you can.”
“I know you're right Irene, but It's so hard to relax when Sara might be dying up there. Do you know if the things I asked the funeral home about have been done?”
“Yes, they have, Cathilynn.” Irene said, taking my hand. “Everything is in order, just in case it's needed. I also had word from Sam that everything on his end is done, as well, so you can rest your mind on those scores.”
“Thanks honey.” I said. “Listen, I have to get up. I need to go check on Sara. I feel a bit better, and somehow, just seeing Sara laying there, helps me remember what I wanted to do when I began building the Home. Also, if she wakes up again, I want her to be able to see me immediately. Maybe it will give her strength. Right now, anything positive that can happen for her, adds to her chance for survival. You can come with me if you like.”
“I think this is something you have to do, alone, Cathilynn. Give me your phone though. I can check in with Sandra and Sam while you are up there.”
I handed Irene my cell phone and left the room. When I arrived at ICU three, I saw that a couple of doctors were working on Sara, using those bio suits to keep the risk of any infection to an absolute minimum. It looked like they were removing some of the tubes and wires from her and that frightened me. I waited anxiously until they finally finished and came out, shedding their suits.
“Doctor!” I said. “What's going on? Why are you removing stuff from her?”
“Cathilynn, we were going to get you up here as soon as we were done. I'm so sorry. I know how much Sara has come to mean to you, but there is nothing more we can do for her. Too many of her internal organs were damaged in the attack, and she isn't strong enough for any more surgeries. Her bleeding is stopped, but I'm afraid her time is short. You can go in if you want to. You won't need the suit, since any infection that might happen, won't make any difference, now.”
I sagged against the wall.
“There's no hope for her?”
“None Cathilynn. I hate this as much as anyone, but sometimes the best we can do for a patient, just isn't enough. I didn't see any purpose in keeping her tied to the countless pieces of equipment that no longer can do anything for her. She's free from everything except blood pressure and pain relief medications. She isn't in any pain, but is very weak. She wants to see you, so go ahead in. Alarms will go off if anything changes, so someone will be very near, with whatever is needed for her comfort in her last hours. Once again, Cathilynn, I am so sorry we couldn't save her. She was just too damaged and not in the best of health to begin with.”
I tried to swallow a huge lump that had appeared in my throat, but it didn't work. I felt like I was going to faint, but I steeled myself, and walked into the ICU room, and taking Sara's hands in mine. She opened her eyes the instant she felt me holding her hands, looked up at me and smiled a sweet, sad smile. In a weak, but clear voice, she said,
“Hi Miss Cathilynn. I'm so glad you're here. I was so afraid I'd be gone before I got to see you one last time. Please don't cry, Miss Cathilynn. It's better that I go to be with God. My whole life, everyone seemed to hate me, and I was never happy. I had no real friends except one, and she is the one who found me and called the ambulance. I'm not angry at anyone, even the gang that attacked me, not even my father. It's too late for anger, or hatred. Is everything set for after, Miss Cathilynn?”
“Yes, sweetheart, everything is set. You are now my ward, free from your family. I've made all the arrangements you asked me for.” I began to cry. “I want you to know that I love you honey. I wish, with all my heart, that we had more time together, but I know that it's not to be. I don't think anyone has ever touched me so deeply as you have sweetie, and I will never, never forget you.”
“Don't cry, Miss Cathilynn, please don't cry. I'll always be with you, no matter if I'm here or in heaven. You've been kinder to me than anyone else in my whole life, and I'm glad we met, even if it was this way. I know now that my life would have been wonderful with you at your place, and even though I'm sad I'll never get that wonderful life, someone finally loved me...you.” and she squeezed my hands.
I couldn't speak, I just tried to smile through my tears, and nodded at Sara.
“Miss Cathilynn? I have to go now. Please don't let them try to bring me back, okay? It's time, and God is calling me. I don't want to go, but I have to. Will you forgive me?”
“Oh Sara! My sweet Sara! There's nothing to forgive! I know you have to go, and I will miss you, every day of my life. I will never forget you, or what was done to you. I swear to you that those responsible will pay for what they did.”
“She smiled up at me again. Thank you Miss Cathilynn, for everything. I love you.”
She closed her eyes and took a couple of breaths, then she just relaxed and her breathing slowed and stopped. The alarms went off and people came rushing into the room. They tried to move me away from Sara, but I hung on with a supernatural strength.
“NO!” I screamed at them. Get away from her! She's gone and she made me promise to not let you try to bring her back! Just get away from us! Leave me and my daughter alone!!”
I felt a gentle pair of hands, urging me to let go, and a voice saying,
“Cathilynn. You have to let go now. We aren't going to try to resuscitate her. Please let go?”
I looked up to see one of the ICU doctors, his concerned face streaked with tears. I finally let go of Sara's hands and broke down completely in tears.
“She went peacefully, Cathilynn. She wasn't in pain, and the one person who meant anything to her, was with her, you. She's in a better place now, and we aren't going to take her peace away from her. Nurse? Would you please accompany Cathilynn to room 203 and stay with her? We need to complete Sara's records, and it will be easier if Cathilynn doesn't have to hear or see what we have to do.”
“Of course, doctor. Please, Cathilynn? Come with me? You need to lay down. I'll stay right with you until you fall asleep, or someone comes to take my place with you. We won't leave you alone, okay? Please honey, come with me?”
I was numb, and shaking with grief. I allowed myself to be led to my room, not noticing anything at all. I remember laying down on the bed and shaking with sobs, and the nurse trying to comfort me, but then, nothing.
When I woke, it was 26 hours later, and Irene, Sandra, and Sam were at my side, talking quietly.
“What are you all doing here?” I asked groggily, as they fell silent “Oh, never mind. Help me off this bed. I need to go see Sara.”
Sam sat on the edge of the bed.
“Cathilynn, they won't let you see her. They're doing an autopsy and when they're done, Sara will be transported to the Funeral Home. Everything has been arranged, and you will be allowed to see to Sara's final arrangements. That won't be until tomorrow though, and we all want you to just stay here and recuperate a bit. You've been through too much stress over the last three days, and according to the doctors, are in danger yourself.”
Sam leaned close to me and kissed me on my cheek. I threw my arms around his neck and sobbed into his shoulder.
“Oh Sam! She's gone! She died while I was holding her hands! She's gone!” was all I could say. I was crying so hard, my body literally shook.
“I know hon, I know.” he replied. You did everything you could do for her, and in the end, you made it easier for her to let go. She knew she was too badly hurt to live, but you being there for her, made her last time easier for her. I know that you're shattered right now, and you need rest, so please, let Irene, Sandra and I handle things until we can all go with you go finish things for Sara, at the Funeral Home?”
“Oh Sam. How could this happen? How could a sweet child like Sara come to this kind of an end? It isn't fair! It's just not fair!”
“Cathilynn, I know it's not fair. So much in life and death isn't fair. All we can do is our best, and hope that things work out. You did everything that could have been done for Sara under the circumstances. No one could have done more, please know that.”
I remember very little of the next 24 hours. I know some doctors attended me at some point. I faintly remember Irene, Sandra and Sam at one time or another, talking to me, although I don't know what they said. Nothing seemed real, and it was all like a bad, bad dream. I kept trying to talk with Sara, but I couldn't get any answers, or even words, out of her. When I finally became aware again, it was Saturday...two days after Sara had died. I sat up in bed suddenly, knowing I needed to be somewhere. Irene was at my side instantly, calming me and letting me know that everything was okay.
“How can everything be okay Irene?! Sara's dead, and I have to get to the funeral home! There are things Sara wanted and I have to see to them!”
“Cathy, it's okay. The funeral isn't until tomorrow. Everything else is taken care of. You would have been awakened later today if you hadn't come out of it by then. You have been catatonic for over 24 hours. That's twice in as many days, Cathy. That's too much and too often. The doctors have said that you are not to try to do anything for awhile. We can take you to the Funeral Home in the morning, so that you can oversee everything for Sara and her last requests.”
“But Irene! The Home! Is everything alright there? There are things I need to see to, and I can't do them from here! Please Irene, get me out of here! Please?”
“Honey, everything at the Home is under control. There are no emergencies or problems that you need to deal with, because Sandra, Sam and I have everything covered. The only thing you need to do right now, is to rest. If you insist on doing as you have been doing, the doctors will sedate you and force you to rest! Now lay back, breathe deeply and try to release the stress you have put yourself through, and please don't worry about anything. I will see to it that you get to the Funeral Home in plenty of time to take care of Sara's last wishes, and that's the ONLY thing you will do. Consider this bed your home until tomorrow morning. I'll bring you a change of clothes, both for doing Sara's makeup, and for the funeral, later. They have showers here, so you can clean up before going there, okay? Honey, Sara is waiting for you, and I know that, no matter what anyone says, you will insist on doing what you promised, so please don't worry.”
She hugged me tightly and stroked my hair, while I cried. My poor little girl. Her life stolen from her by some alleged human beings. She would never have a boyfriend, or a sleepover with her girlfriends. There would be no prom for her, no marriage, no life at all. Nothing but a resting place in the ground and a marker to show she had ever been alive at all. I would see that she would never be forgotten. The world would know that there was once a beautiful little soul named Sara.
I fell into a restful sleep, awakened the next morning early, by Irene. True to her words, she had brought me two changes of clothes. She took me for a shower, and stayed with me while I washed, then took me back to my room and helped me change into some sweat pants and a top. My doctor was called and he, against his best judgement, signed me out temporarily, extracting a promise from me and from Irene that I would come back the following morning for further treatment. We left the hospital and went directly to the Funeral Home, where we were met by the director, who showed us to their preparation room, expressed his sympathies and then left us alone with Sara.
For the next hour, we dressed Sara in a pale blue ball gown, and a lovely set of panties, bra, garter belt, and stockings, finished up by a pair of 4 inch, blue heels that matched the gown perfectly. Then we worked on her face and hair until she looked like an angel, sleeping peacefully until called by some higher power. We had to use a wig because her hair had been shaved, partly by the gang, and partly by the doctors, so we had a medium length brunette wig from the Home. It just would have touched her shoulders if she had been standing. We secured it with some medical glue so it wouldn't slip of fall off before burial, then we did her nails with some nails and permanent glue, painting them a delicate pink, to match her lipstick. When we were done, Irene left me alone with Sara so I could say my goodbyes privately.
I stood by her side, taking her cold hand in mine and promised her once again, that I would find and see punished, those who had taken her life.
“Sara sweetheart, they will be found and punished, I promise you. You are the closest thing I have ever had to a daughter, and I love you. You will never be forgotten, and there will be a plaque above the welcome room of the Home, dedicated to you and your fight for life. I...?
I was interrupted by a female voice.
“Um...are you Cathilynn? The one who has the Home out on Pomfret road?” she asked.
Angry at being interrupted, I spun around angrily, finding myself facing an older teen girl, possibly 17 or 18.
“Who are you and what do you want?! How dare you interrupt me at a time like this?!”
“I'm sorry.” she cried. “I'm Nancy Howard. I was Sara's friend. I was the one who found her and called the ambulance. I was too afraid to come to the hospital because of what I am. I thought I'd be made fun of and stuff, you know? I went there today anyway, only to have them tell me that Sara had died, and was at this Funeral Home and the funeral was today. This nurse, um, Natalie, told me about Sara's fight for life and your part in it. I just wanted to come here to pay my respects to Sara, my friend, and to thank you for being there for her. She and I were alike in so many ways, except that my family accepts me.” She stopped to wipe some tears from her eyes, then continued.
“I only went to the hospital today because I wanted to check on Sara. I thought she'd be okay after healing up, and I was gonna take her to your Home to see if she could stay there for awhile. She couldn't go home, you know. Her parents hated her and threw her out over a year ago. Sara would never come to stay at my house except on the really coldest nights in winter. The rest of the time she lived on the streets or in the occasional shelter. I don't know why she did that. My Mom and Dad would have let her stay with us, if she had wanted to, but no matter how many times I asked her to stay, she always went back to the streets.”
Nancy began to sob, sitting down on one of the stair steps.
“I wanted her to come and stay with us! I begged her I don't know how many times! Now she's gone, and I feel so bad that I didn't force her to come live with me! She was my friend, and I loved her, but she would never let me do anything for her!”
I crossed the room and sat next to Nancy, taking her into my arms, no longer angry, but saddened instead.
“Honey, from the brief time I had with Sara, she struck me as a stubborn girl, with a mind that, once it was made up, just wouldn't change, no matter what. I don't know why she couldn't take you up on your offer, but it must have been the same reasons she had for not coming to me sooner. We'll never know for sure honey, but you did your best for her, and I know she cared for you a lot. She spoke of you, even though you never called the hospital to find you how she was.”
“But I DID call, Cathilynn! I did! They wouldn't tell me anything because I wasn't family! I tried to tell them that I was her only friend but they still wouldn't tell me anything. My dad even tried, but got the same answer. The only reason they told me anything about her today, was I guess so I would know where her funeral was going to be!”
“I'm so sorry, honey.” I told her. “I never knew that anyone had called or stopped by to check on Sara, no one told me. I think maybe they knew I was under a lot of stress and that would only add to it. It doesn't excuse what they did, but it's done, and you came here to say goodbye. I'll step away so you can have some privacy. You let me know when you're done, okay? I'll be right over there. I pointed to a far corner of the room, then I walked away to wait.
Nancy went close to the coffin and I saw her take Sara's hand in hers. I could hear her talking to Sara, but I couldn't make out any words. She was still crying, and her posture told me that she was heartbroken. I waited until she motioned that she was done, and I quickly crossed the room to hug her.
“Honey, I know Sara would want you to stay for the funeral, will you please? It would help me too, knowing that she has at least one more friend here to say goodbye.”
“O...okay, Cathilynn. I will. I'm so sorry I let her down!”
“No honey. You didn't let her down, society did...her parents did, but not you. You did all you could, all she would let you do, for her.” A thought struck me. “Honey, do you have a job? Are you going to high school or college?”
“No Cathilynn. I graduated from high school last year, but my grades weren't high enough for any scholarships, and my folks can't afford for me to go to college. I tried to find work, but no one wants to hire a girl like me. You know, a Transsexual?”
“Nancy, after all this is over, I want you to come see me at the Home. I think I have an idea that will net you both a job, and a college. I have to talk to a couple of people, but I think I can work it out for you. It's the least I can do for Sara's only real friend, and I think she would want me to do something for you, okay?”
“Oh Cathilynn! Do you mean it? I'd given up hope, thinking I'd never amount to anything, never leave this town, always be a burden on my family! OH thank you, thank you, thank you, and thank you again for being there for Sara. She deserved a lot better than she ever got. I'll leave you with her now, but I'll wait upstairs for you. Okay?”
“You bet honey. Find a couple of women, one is Irene, the other is Sandra. They'll be with the group from the Home. Tell them that we talked and I want you to wait with them.”
Nancy nodded her head and went back upstairs, leaving me alone one last time with Sara. I went to the side of her coffin and took her hand one last time.
“Sara, sweetheart. Your life will not have been wasted. Your memory will live on in the form of a scholarship for girls like you and me. Additionally, I promise that I will find and help as many girls like us that I can find. Your memory will be with me always, as close as my soul. When I close my eyes, I will see you. Not as you are, not as I saw you in the hospital, but as I believe you were in life. Full of hope for the future. I love you,my precious little girl. I always will.”
I left the prep area and went back upstairs where Irene and the rest of my friends from the Home were waiting. Irene and I found a place for me to change clothes for the funeral, and then we rejoined the few people who were there. Sara's mother and father never showed... just as well.
The service only lasted a little while, since there was no one but me and Nancy to deliver any kind of eulogies for Sara. The procession to the Cemetery was short and the interment was over quickly. Sandra gave me some flowers to put on the casket as it was lowered into the ground, and then it was over. A minister said a few words. I wanted to say something but I was too choked up to say anything. There was a little reception we held at the Home, but after that, it was just me, Irene, Sandra Sam, and Nancy, sharing what little we knew about Sara. I finally stood and offered a toast to Sara's memory.
“I offer this toast to you all, and to the world at large. Sara Jackson was buried today, but her memory will never die. At this moment, I rededicate myself to the dream that built this lace. I will not rest until justice punishes those who took Sara from us, and I thank whatever fate that brought us to her when she needed us. This Home That Love Built, this dream of so many others, will never close it's doors to anyone TG, for any reason. It's name will always be formally known as The Home That Love Built, but it's new, unofficial name will be, The Sara Home! So let it be written, so let it be done.”
I raised my glass, joined by Irene, Sandra, Sam, Nancy, and other residents. We all stood, clinked glasses and each one rededicated him or herself to the Home and it's reason for being. Then things kind of wound down. I stopped everyone for just a minute more, saying:
“I have a date with a doctor tomorrow morning. Sam, would you do me the honor of taking me there? Irene and Sandra are going to have their hands full, running this place until I get back.”
“I will indeed, Miss Cathilynn.” Sam said. I've been your friend since we were in grade school, and I'll be your friend until death do us part. I'm honored to know you, my dear, and proud of your courage. I'll see you bright and early tomorrow morning. Good night ladies. Sweet dreams to you all, and better days for all of us.” He then raised his eyes to the ceiling and said: Goodnight Sara. Rest easy and know that we all loved you.”
With a tear in his eye, he hugged each of us and went out the door.
I looked around at the other girls.
I think we all should get some sleep. I have the feeling that it's going to get very busy around here, so we need to be at our best. Thank you all for all that you did for Sara and for me. I promise I'm going to be around for a long time, and will take much better care of myself. Fate chose well when it sent you to the Home to help make a dream, real. Good night ladies. As Sam said, sweet dreams to you all, and better days for all of us. I love you all.”
Turning to go to my room, I took Nancy by the hand. Will you please come with me and tell me more about Sara? I want to know everything there is to know about her and her life, and I think you need to talk as well. I want to know all about you too, honey. After all, if you're going to work here an go to school, we need to be friends, don't you think?”
Nancy looked up at me and smiled.
“I agree Miss Cathilynn. I'd be pleased to talk about Sara and to tell you about me and my family. Shall we go?”
We linked arms and walked off down the hall. Tomorrow would be a new day and there would be more Sara's to come. I vowed to save every one of them that I could, and I knew that every resident, every worker, everyone who had anything to do with the Home would do their utmost to do the same thing.
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