Star Chapter 22

Chapter 22

Now that Jess had calmed down we were sitting around the table again. Jessica had always been called Jess, but after the incident felt like it didn't suit her anymore and had asked everyone to call her Jessica. With a determined look on her face she told us that she wanted to be called Jess again. She didn't want Anthony to win, is how she put it and none of us were going to argue. It felt like a good indication of improvement.

I was sitting next to her holding her hand. She was clinging on to it like it was a lifeline and we both had hot cocoa in front of us. Lisa was smiling that wonderful smile at us again, like all was perfect with the world. I had a suspicion that she was a cheerleader when she had been in high school.

“I have a question.” Jess asked, looking shyly at me, asking me permission to ask it. I subtly nodded. “You said you were going to ask for a favour.”

“Since you know a bit of my history, my favour should be fairly easy to explain. Up to age eleven I was a bit of a tomboy. I can't remember ever being in a dress. Then I have spent the last three years on the street. It has been mentioned to me that I act a bit like a hoyden.”

“A who?” Lisa asked.

“Hoyden, a girl behaving boyish. I wouldn't know feminine if it bit me on the ..”

“Astra!” Lisa exclaimed.

“Finger.” I continued with a smirk. “If you could teach me to be more feminine that would be great. And shopping tomorrow. Is fashion a foreign word?”

“You want me to help you choose your clothes?” Jess asked me, with a raised eyebrow.

“Yes and tell me when I am doing something unfeminine. My only concern is freedom of movement. Anything that restricts my mobility will reduce my ability to do my job. Other than that, if you tell me it looks good, I will believe you.”

“Of course.” Jess said with a hint of a smile. “I'll leave mum to work on your language. I'm not sure it is boyish or British. Anything else?”

“Yes. Jess I need to ask lots of questions regarding keeping you safe. Lisa, I need to talk to you about Barbie.”

“You haven't mentioned how Barbie comes into the tale. Are you up to telling us yet?” Alan asked.

“I didn't mean to ignore you Alan. I think I have an unconscious issue with male authority figures.” I said with a smile.

“Understandable.” Alan muttered.

“OK, round two. I don't want to talk about my time on the street, but I will say that I made sure I was near my father's house for Barbie's Birthday. Each Birthday I waited until the house went to sleep and then left a Birthday card for Barbie on the doorstep. This year, while I was waiting, I observed my father about to rape his six year old daughter.” I had to stop for a second and have a sip of my drink. Even the thought gave me a feeling of nausea mixed with anger.

Everyone was looking suitably disgusted.

“I sneaked into the house and rescued her before he could do any physical harm.” I looked up at Alan. “I might not be the only one who might need time to get over some emotional baggage regarding men. This time my stepmother did not believe my father and they separated. I reconnected with my stepmother and reunited her with Barbie. Unfortunately, my father couldn't let it go and the police believe he hired a gunman to kill us all. Barbie was asleep and I was in the bathroom when he entered. He killed my stepmother immediately and when he entered the bathroom we fought. He lost and I escaped with Barbie. I don't think Barbie witnessed her mother dying but she did see her dead body and when I tried to cover her, Barbie tucked her in as if she was going to sleep. She does have nightmares sometimes and will probably end up in my bed by the morning. I hope we can organise some kind of counselling for her. I contacted the Phoenix Group and here we are.”

“Wow. You have been through a lot. I don't think Barbie is the only one who is going to need counselling.” Lisa said.

“I see someone at the Phoenix Group headquarters.” I replied.

“I'll talk to Mr Fredrickson and see if your therapist recommends more frequent treatment.” Alan suggested.

I couldn't really argue with that so I just nodded my head.

“You could see my Dr. She is really good.” Jess added. “So what did you want to ask me?”

“In my mind I have separated the job into two sections. In school and out of school. Let's start with out of school. Any place that you want to go, I would like to know intimately before we go. Tomorrow I have asked that we travel to a shopping centre that is not local to lessen any chances of an unfortunate encounter. Normally I would prefer to only go to locations that I have previously scoped out, so I need a list of places that you would like to go to.”

“I don't go out any more.” She looked down at her hand again. Since one was now holding mine it was a less impressive gesture, but showed her unease.

I squeezed her fingers. “That was then, this is now. You are going to start going out again and living your life because you know.” I reached across and tapped her heart. “In here. I won't let anything bad happen to you. You are mine to protect.” I was staring her in the eyes until she gave me a little nod of acceptance. “You need to write out a list of locations and when you are safe at home, I will go, either alone or with one of your parents and thoroughly check them out. Before I can say you are safe at home I need to check out your alarm system and every access point into this house, we will also need to set up a procedure when I am not present, so I know you are not putting yourself at undue risk.”

“And at school?” Alan asked.

“I will need to speak to the principal and understand the nuances of the school policies. Where there are recording devises, what they record and for how long they keep the recording. I can't respond with violence in front of a camera and get thrown out of school. I need to know what is acceptable and what is not, before it happens. I suspect school will be the easiest to sort out. There is a lot of supervision and I believe they are sympathetic.

“How do we get to school?” I asked Jess.

“I used to walk. A couple of my friends would join me and we would walk together. Now mum drives me in and picks me up.”

“Until I am more sure of the area, is it OK if we continue that?” I asked Lisa.

“Of course.”

“Eventually I want you to reconnect with your friends and part of that is probably including the walk in. How have they treated you since the incident?”

“They have been nice, but I have been pushing them away so they don't get hurt. Plus I have not wanted to go out and talking about boys is not a comfortable subject for me.”

“I think we should probably start by you introducing them to me at school. Hopefully we can arrange for them to come here, maybe for a study session or a sleepover. You will be more protected if you are less isolated and if they are threatened I will deal with it. I am guessing that you are not doing any after school activities? The question is, do you want to?”

“Not really. I used to go to a dance class. A lot of my friends used to go as well.” Jess replied.

“Do you think that would help with my boyish movements?” I asked. I thought she would be more willing to go if she was doing it for someone else and the fact that she mentioned it suggested to me that she wanted to go again.

“Definitely. OK I think I can do that if you are going with me.”

“It is getting late girls.” Lisa remarked. “Jess's curfew is ten pm.”

Jess still hadn't let go of my hand. “I will take you up to your room Jess then if you don't mind Alan, could you show me around the house again and tell me about the security features?”

Alan nodded, so I drew Jess out of her seat and led her upstairs. I presumed she was drawing strength against her fears by my presence and I didn't mind that at all. I stopped at her bedroom door.

“I have a huge bed, if you feel the need for reassurance in the night, I don't mind you joining me. Barbie will probably already be there. We can be like a pile of puppies.” I told her.

She smiled shyly and gave another subtle head nod before gently releasing my hand.

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