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It takes every bit of my self-control not to cry at the moment. It feels SO good to say, “Yes, Richard, Emily is here to stay this time—Barnabas has made sure of that!”
So many times—MOST of the time—my job is about the bad side of things. It feels REALLY good to be able to be the one to deliver the GOOD news every so often.
But, as is usual—with the good comes the bad…and now for the bad news…
I sigh as I see the poor girl start to tremble more…and I know it is not nerves.
I say, “Rich, can I come in? We need to talk…”
He gives me a funny look and gets up; he knows something is not right. He is still holding Emily’s hand tightly; like he is afraid if he lets go the fairy tale will end.
We start to walk in and I notice the poor girl start to shake even more. I motion to my OTHER travel companion to accompany us in. Nurse Wiggins had been standing out of view, but now follows me inside.
Rich gives me a funny look and I say, “Rich, this is Nurse Wiggins. She is helping with Emily until we can get her settled in here and under proper local care—assuming that is what you want. Please let her help her—she needs attention, I’m afraid.”
He gives me a confused look, but trusts me enough to turn Emily over to the nurse. As she attends to Emily, I take a deep breath and explain, “When I got my first good lead on Emily, I couldn’t get down there to handle the situation myself, since I was still working the case here. I sent a trusted accomplice of mine and he was able to fairly easily find Emily’s location in Mexico—in a drug-lord-infested corner of the country. He got word to me of her whereabouts just before I left last Friday. Unfortunately, it cost him his life…”
Rich pales and I hang my head. I say, “He was a good friend and didn’t deserve to die, but that is another fight. At any rate, I took his information and contacted some ‘business associates’ of Barnabas’ down there and after some ‘negotiations’, I was able to garner Emily’s freedom. I won’t bore you with THOSE details…”
I shudder at the recollection, in spite of myself—both the girl AND I are lucky to be alive, truth be told.
I continue, “They were preparing her for a life of…servitude… You know…”
Rich pales and nods.
I nod back and say, “They already had her hooked on cocaine, which is why she is shaking now—she is in full-on withdrawal. As best I can tell, they had not sexually abused her…YET—at least not down below. There are likely two reasons for that…her…’unique’ physiology, since she is pre-SRS, and the fact that a virgin gains a higher price. They were saving her for someone special. I am still not sure about oral, though…”
Rich is shaking in fury by now as he watches Nurse Wiggins ease her symptoms and calm the poor child. He asks, “Do we need to get her the hospital—or a special clinic?”
Nurse Wiggins looks at him and says, “That is actually up to you, Mr. Levine. You can check her into a rehab center where it will go on her record that she was an addict—or you can retain my services and see her through this. I am fully licensed and experienced in dealing with these situations—and Mr. Collins has already paid me.”
Rich seems thoughtful and looks over at me. I shrug—letting him know it is fully up to him.
He nods and says, “OK, I trust Barnabas—and if he vouches for you…. Let’s set her up in the guest room. Her…old…room is currently occupied…”
He takes the ghost of the girl he once knew and carries her lovingly up to one of the spare bedrooms and gets her comfortable in the bed. He mentions that it’s like she really doesn’t even recognize him, to which Nurse Wiggins ensures him it will get better.
Then, he gets his phone and sends a text—I assume to Grace. I know this isn’t what she needs in her current battle with the board, right now, but I also understand he can’t keep the news from her…
I can tell right away that something is off with Emily. My worst fears are confirmed when Chuck comes in and gives me the lowdown on Emily’s condition. The nurse that Barnabas has secured is a welcome help, at the moment, and I appreciate her willingness to help; although, I am sure that Barnabas has compensated her well, in any chance.
I smile wanly at her and say, “Nurse Wiggins, I would love to have to stay on and help us through this. I am sure that Grace, my wife will agree. We have plenty of room, so that is not an issue.”
I look at Chuck as Nurse Wiggins continues to help Emily through the withdrawals. I feel my face burn red at the thought of what they have done to our poor girl. I ask, “So, Chuck? How do we pay them back?”
He smiles grimly and says, “I’m afraid we leave that one well enough alone, Rich. I barely made it out of there alive. We have Emily and she is safe—and as sound as she can be at the moment. Even I didn’t appreciate just how dangerous that place was—and it cost me a good friend. Just focus on getting Emily better…and maybe shoring up this quickly growing family of yours?”
I sigh and look at Emily. I shake my head in frustration as I see whatever medicine it is that Nurse Wiggins is giving her calm her down…and put her to sleep.
I look back at Chuck and we quietly leave the room and close the door.
At that moment, I get a text from Grace, “Em’s back? O!M!G! She IS OK, right? I can’t come right now… I am in the middle of a firestorm with BOD… Day is in and the trap is set. I will be home ASAP! Love you!”
I shake my head and smile ruefully at Chuck. When it rains… I ask, “How about a beer, Chuck?”
We go to the kitchen and I pull out two bottles of craft IPA.
I finish the last of Day’s paperwork and get everything properly filed—there is nothing the BOD can do now… Day is in! And Barnabas’ financial stimulation package is now a done deal.
I smile at Mindy and ask, “How would you like to see the kitchen that you have so graciously offered to take the helm on?”
She smiles at me and nods. I lead her to the large cafeteria and kitchen and she nods appreciatively. The equipment is not the newest anymore, but it IS in very good condition and very clean.
I let Mindy look around while I check my phone. I had felt it buzz, signaling a message, on our way down. I nearly faint when I read the text from Rich.
I sit down in the nearest chair and Mindy gives me a concerned look. She asks, “Grace? Are you OK, Dear?”
I smile goofily back at her and say, “I just received the most wonderful news. My…our former ward, Emily, is back. She was taken to Mexico. It seems that Chuck was able to bring her home to us… There is some medical issue, but I don’t have details…”
At that moment, the chairman of the BOD rushes in and starts to berate me, “Ms. Levine! THERE you are! What kind of game are you playing?”
I smile to myself and bite my lip as I slowly and methodically ignore him and text Rich back. When I am done, I look up and ask, “Whatever are you talking about, Walt? I am just showing our new cook, well chef, actually, around the kitchen. And…don’t worry, she comes at a huge bargain that even YOU can’t pass up!”
He looks at her with disdain and shakes his head. He looks back at me and says, “That’s not what I’m talking about and you know it—although, we WILL discuss this more…later. I am talking about this frivolous investigation that has been launched against my company by some ‘anonymous’ third party. Admit it! It was YOU!”
I give him a withering look and say, “Careful going around accusing people of things, Walt. I have nothing to do with any investigation you may be facing. But, it seems you’re pretty worried about it! Is there a reason for you to be?”
He turns red, then white, then red again…and storms off.
Mindy just tsks and says, “Nice guy…” She giggles and says, “Hadn’t you better be getting home and seeing about that girl of yours?”
I shake my head and sigh. I say, “I wish I could. I still have to finish up a few things here—including getting Day’s schedule ready. Tomorrow is full-on classwork for our little prodigy.”
I escort Mindy out and have her promise to meet me here tomorrow with the rest of her ‘crew’, including any paperwork she can provide.
Jaime hands me a hanger with a pair of dark grey trousers, a white shirt, and a navy blue blazer—all in my size; and clearly cut for a boy. Then she hands me another hanger with a grey plaid skirt, white blouse, and a chartreuse blazer—also all in my size, but clearly cut for a girl.
I take both uniforms into the girl’s bathroom—only because it is closest and there is no one else down here with us.
I sigh and slowly undress, wondering what to do. When I am stripped to my underwear and socks, I take the boy’s uniform and feel the material. It is so rough…
I slowly put on the uniform and while it fits, it still does not seem to fit…right. I sort of get lost in the shape of the blazer. I look like a little kid in a big brother’s suit. I feel the coarse weave of the trousers rub on my bare skin. I try and smooth down the blazer—I still look like it is swallowing me.
I sigh and take off the uniform, carefully replacing it on the hanger.
I shake my head and take up the second hanger. I feel the material and smile—it is so soft and comforting.
I slowly put on the girl’s uniform and look at myself in the mirror. This time the uniform fits…and fits…right. While I look ridiculous wearing boys socks with the skirt, the rest is just…right.
I feel the cool, silky lining of the skirt swish against my legs. I feel the soft blouse caress my nipples. I smooth out the blazer again and turn one way, then the other—it just…fits.
I shake my head and blow out the air in my lungs. I say to myself, “I KNEW which one would feel right. I suspected which one would LOOK right. I was right, though—I am still not sure it IS right…”
I slowly walk out to where Jaime is waiting and she looks up at me and smiles. She grabs a pair of girl’s stockings and hands them to me, followed by a pair of the school’s signature three-inch lime-green pumps.
I peel off the socks and replace them with the nylons and then slip into the pumps. It still feels…right… The nylons feel heavenly on my legs—especially when the soft swish of the lined skirt caresses them.
Jaime says, “You can still take some boy’s ones home with you, if you want…”
I shake my head and say, “Jaime, I don’t know what to do. This feels so right…yet, somehow, so wrong…”
Jaime sighs and says, “Well, Hon, you LOOK awesome! And…you LOOK right—so how CAN it be wrong?”
I shake my head and say, “I don’t know. I guess time will tell. I suppose it’s a good thing that ‘Day’ can work for a girl, too… It seems that is how I am going to be presenting at school…at least for now…”
Jaime comes over and gives me a hug and says with a smile, “Welcome to the better sex, Love. Girls DO have more fun, you know!” She giggles and gives me a wink as she pulls out more uniforms for me to add to my pile.
I go back into the girl’s bathroom to get the other uniform and my stuff. I look around and shake my head as I see myself in the mirror again.
I once again smooth down the blazer and shrug as I say to myself, “Well…at least I made a decision. Soooo….Am I really going to do this?”
I look around the bathroom and smile as I make up my mind and think to myself, “Well…I guess this is now ‘my’ room, too…”
I smile as I hear my heals click on the ceramic tile floor. It is already starting to feel more…right…
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