Fifteen year old Yolanda ran! No matter how fast or how far, she ran, her
father's words continued to strike at her!
"You big, fat pig! All you do is stuff yourself; you eat all day long!"
It wasn't true. She didn't eat all day long, and she never ate in front of her father. She'd learned that particular lesson at a long past Thanksgiving dinner. It was rare that her mother's family ever came for a visit, so when mother had broken the news that Yolanda's grandparents, along with her aunt and uncle and three cousins were coming for Thanksgiving dinner, Yolanda had been surprised, usually Rodgers, her father didn't want any of her mother's people coming around to his house, and eating up his food and drinking up his liquor! It was understood that the house and everything in it, including Yolanda and her mother were owned by Rodgers. He was the only one working, and therefore, as he was fond of pointing out, that gave him the right to 'call the shots', and further, if Pearl, her mother; or Yolanda didn't like, they could just 'pack your bags and get the Hell out!'
The memories of that Thanksgiving came flooding back, just one of the many reasons Yolanda personally didn't care much for holidays.
Rodgers had been in one of his rare good moods' there had been lots of booze available, and Yolanda remembered how her father had seemed to drink glass, after glass. She had looked at him then, laughing, and happy. He looked like a fool' she had decided then and there that she would never drink, not if it made one look so ridiculous. But, for one he wasn't moaning aout being a poor man in a rich man's world.
Yolanda had looked down at her plate, as usual mother had piled wat too much food onto it along with the guilt-producing admonition to, "Eat it all, because I've been up since dawn and I'm so tired, but I'd gladly do it all again for my family. I love you all so much. I just hope you all appreciate it." Her mother said with her usual loud, tired sigh that always made Yolanda wish she could just disappear. Holidays just seemed to be too much work! They always meant that her mother would rise at the ungodly hour of 3 or 4am to begin her cooking, and expected Yolanda to get up also, so that she could keep her mother company. Hard-working Rodgers, sole provider for the family he apparently despised, didn't get up until noon, so as not to miss the football playoffs.
Yolanda's humiliation occurred because of a dinner roll. All the guests were eating and trying to laugh at Rodger's humor and Yolanda thought that maybe since it was a holiday, Rodgers wouldn't notice her helping herself to a piece of bread. He'd been furious at her for taking another helping of green beans the other evening at dinner, telling her to get her, "fat, piggy little hands out of my food! You had a serving! That's why you're so big and fat and ugly now!"
Surreptitiously glancing around the table, Yolanda quickly picked up a roll and put it on her plate. Her heart was pounding, but luckily, or so she thoght, she'd gotten away with it. Looking up, her gaze was caught and held by the cold, hard, almost reptilian eyes of her father glaring at her.
"You think you're pretty smart don't you! Don't you! Get up from my table and go to your room!" Rodgers bellowed at her.
Cheeks burnig with shame, and heart pounding in fear, Yolanda rose to go to her room. All activity had ceased around the table, and the urious eyes of her grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins all sliced into her like a knife. Only Yolanda's mother, Pearl, held her head down, and Yolanda could see the tears dropping onto her mother's folded hands.
"What happened?" "What did she do?" "Why is Yolanda leaving?"
Uncle Jimmy, Yolanda's uncle by marriage stood up then, "Rodgers, what's the matter with you? All the child did was get a piece of bread, hell this is a dinner isn't it? What's..." But he was cut off by an irate Rodgers yelling at the top of his voice, "This is my damn house, my child, and my damn table! You all don't like the way I run my damn house, you can all get the hell out!"
"Rodgers please," Mother began, "You promised that we could have a nice family dinner, please. I've been cooking all morning; please don't ruin it for everybody. Listen, what...whatever Yolanda did, I know she's sorry. Let her come back to the table and eat with the family. Please Rodgers, I'm begging you."
Yolanda knew from past experiences that such a plea, particularly made before people had very little effect on her father; if anything, it only made things worse. Rodgers' temper didn't improve either with her Uncle Jimmy's intervention.
"That's it! All of you!! Get out! I'm trying to help my child..."
"That's not how you help a child with a weight problem Rodgers." Yolanda's Aunt Rose spoke up. "You take her to a doctor, and Pearl you need to quite cooking all that rich food, everytime I talk to you, you're frying chicken or making gravy! The way you talk to that kid, she probably needs some mental help!"
Yolanda heard more angry voices coming from the dining room. Her cousins had been sent outside to play and she shrank down and crawled under her bed, to huddle in shame and fear in the furthest corner. She could still hear the shouting, but for some reason it all sounded far away, like some drama on the television. This wasn't real; things like this didn't happen in real life. In a minute the music would rise, and a commercial for paper towels or some such would come on. But no. This was all painfully real. She heard the scrape of chairs on the hardwood floor and the opening and closing of the front door until finally the house was silent. The only sound was the television mindlessly intoning the latest football scores.
The final blow that had sent Yolanda running into the night had fallen some 48 hours earlier. Yolanda had been sitting on the floor in the living room in her favorite corner, near the big window where she could look out on the yard. The garden had a calming effect on her, flowers, trees, green grass made her feel at ease and peaceful.
Yolanda had been writing a paper for English class which was due the next day. She love English, especially creative writing. Her teacher had said that Yolanda was the best writer in class, and that she wouldn't be surprised if Yolanda didn't become a world-known author. Yolanda had allowed herself a small smile then. A smile that was cut short by a classmate who thought he was being clever when he cried out, "Yeah, she can write for the Elephant Times!" Everybody of course laughed, and even the teacher smiled a little, as she said, "Oh George, be quiet, you're just envious. In fact, all of you could take a lesson from Yolanda here and apply yourselves a little more to you writing; you'd be surprised at what you might accomplish."
'Oh God! Mrs. Randall!' ,Yolanda thought, 'the kids are gonna get me good for that.' The rules of the schoolyard clearly stated, if a teacher reprimands a cool kid for saying something mean, nasty, or insulting to any of the school losers, of which Yolanda felt she was chief, it was open season on the poor kid. The taunts and teasing would only get worse. She'd made the mistake of reporting them for their teasing to the principal only once before, and needless to say, it was a mistake she would never repeat again.
It was a Tuesday evening and the dinner dishes were waiting Yolanda had asked her mother if she could get to the dishes later so that she could finish her homework. Her mother had been agreeable and so Yolanda had gotten settled down to work. About an hour later she heard water running in the kitchen.
"Mom, no! I said I'd do them. I just wanted to finish my paper. It's due tomorrow," Yolanda tried to explain.
"Then get your big, fat ass in there and do them!" Rodgers said in a cold, mean voice.
"Rodgers, please. Let the girl do her schoolwork, I can run my own kitchen." Ever so often Mother would make a little half-stand, from which she was usually shot down; today proved to be no different. Yolanda felt her stomach twist up into the familiar knot.
"What do you mean, 'your kitchen'? I bought this house. I heard you on the phone telling your nosy sister how tired you are of everything, how you wish you had some help...Let Yolanda take her big self in there and wash the damn dishes. She eats up everything, she can at least clean up." Rodgers said with his convoluted reasoning.
"Rodgers, the child didn't even eat dinner. She's trying to finish her homework; she wants to make something out of herself, and I want her to become more than I ever did." Her mother answered with that long-suffering sigh which Yolanda had come to hate almost as much as she hated Rodgers.
Still, she was her mother's daughter, so used was she to accepting blame, and following in her mother's footsteps of doing what ws necessary to placate Rodgers, she stepped forward, forcing a bland, neutral expression on her face.
"I'll do them right now. I'm sorry, I just got so busy, and aI guess I just forgot. I'm sorry", Yolanda walked past to the kitchen and as she did so her father grabbed her upper arm in a painful squeeze.
"I'm getting sick of you and that damn attitude! I'm gonna grab you and beat that attitude out of you. You ain't that damn smart!"
Trembling momentary with fear, and then a new emotion, complete and utter rage. It must have flashed in her eyes, because Rodgers turned her arm loose and stepped back, looking surprized. "Just clean up this kitchen. That's all." He muttered.
Yolanda knew at that moment what she had to do. With a calmness born of clear decision, Yolanda cleaned the kitchen in a way it had never been cleaned before. She even moped the floor. It was 10:30 when she finally finished.
Taking a shower, Yolanda put on fresh, clean clothes, took all the money out of her piggy bank, under her mattress, and from the old purse in the back of her closet. Finally, she slipped out the back door. Stopping to look at the dark silhouette of the house that had been her home/prison for the first 15 years of her life; she tried to memorize her mother's face. Yolanda made a conscience effort to forget the face of Rodgers, whom even though he was her biological father, was nothing more than a sperm donor in her estimation.
Yolanda started walking, and then she broke into a run. One good thing about New York, there are always people about. No one thought it odd for a kid to be out on the streets at 11:30, or at least the people who were out at that time of night didn't think it was odd.
Because of her weight and height, Yolanda could, pass for an adult at first glance. Looking to food as she always did when upset, Yolanda turned into the nearest deli and ordered a sandwich and a soft drink. For the first time in weeks, Yolanda actually sat down at a table, and enjoyed, no, make that savored her meal. There were no stares, no nasty comments, no nothing. After eating, she left and found an all night movie house where she spent the night, and found that she actually enjoyed the movie.
Yolanda spend the next day going from shop to shop, the movies, and even a couple of museums. She decided it was better to avoid going anyplace where she might be recognized. Around nine that evening, she took a long ride on the subway that deposited her right by Central Park. Turning into the park she spied a bench and decided to sit and think. She knew she had an aunt in California, she just didn't know where. The next question was how does a 15 year old kid get from New York to California, with only $83 dollars and some change? She wiped away tears at the memories of her many humiliations and the hopelessness of her situation. She looked up at the big clock that could be seen from the park, 1:15am. The park was deserted as Yolanda walked aimlessly. She thought of her parents, especially her mother. Despite it all, Yolanda really loved her mom, felt sorry for her. She was such a terrified little mouse where Rodgers was concerned. By now the house was in an uproar. Mother would be crying and telling anybody who'd listen how hard she'd worked to be a good mother, to cook good food everyday for her family, and clean, and wash and iron. Then her father would put on his "Proper Princeton" voice, recounting in vivid detail, "I don't know why Yolanda would run away from home. I mean, she's loved, cared for. Her mother an I have tried to give her everything she ever wanted. We're not rich people, we're poor, and maybe what we have, wasn't enough for her. I don't know, I mean..." Then he would gesture with both hands, palm side up in a helpless shrug. He'd probably even managed to shed a tear or two for good measure.
A young girl alone and afraid in New York's Central Park, watched by two pairs of eyes. The one, cold, cruel, calculating. The other, alert, curious, glittering azure blue.
As Yolanda stopped to sit on a park bench, she heard the soft rustle of branches and the shisper of cloth behind her.
"Hey Sweetheart. you shouldn't be here all alone at this time of morning. Don't you know Central Park ain't a safe place for a young lady?" said the voice smooth as silk, but cold as ice. "I know a place, nice and warm, plenty of good food, and its safe. Won't you tell me your name."
Something instinctive caused Yolanda to recoil from the man as he stepped out of the shadows. A slender built man dressed in dark clothes with what looked like a watch cap on his head. He advanced a little closer, and Yolanda backed up a little more.
Watching intently, the second pair of eyes drew closer, ready to spring.
"I'm...I'm waiting for a friend. I don't need anything. Please, just go away. Leave me alone", Yolanda replied with much more bravado than she actually felt. About the only thing her mother had taught her about men was that they were the enemies of all women. According to Pearl, all a man wanted was to "stick their thing in you", and furthermore, "No decent woman wants that".
"Why you want to be so anti-social, I'm just trying to be friendly-don't you want to be friends?" The man slide up behind Yolanda and grabbed her shoulders, trying to pull her backwards. Yolanda screamed, "No! Leave me alone!" At that moment the low, but unmistakable sound of a growl could be heard, gathering in intensity. It startled the man just enough for him to release his grip on Yolanda and she took off racing down a little footpath towards what looked like a large drain pipe.
The man, a 'chickenhawk' who's sole occupation was to recruit young girls and boys into the world of theft, drugs and prostitution, ran off muttering about, 'people and their damn dogs!' He decided Yolanda wasn't worth the trouble, he had a few clients who might be interesterd in a fat girl - but not many.
Hearing the sound of footsteps, Yolanda whirled around trying to pinpoint the sound.
"Who...who's there? Where are you?", Yolanda asked in a trembling voice.
"Please don't be frightened. I'm a friend. Are you unharmed?" asked a gravelly voice
Something in Vincent's tone, coupled with the air of calmness about him, helped Yolanda to be less afraid. Rather than running away, she stood and peered at the heavily cloaked figure before her. Still...
Vincent could sense, as well see the fear and hesitancy in Yolanda's features. He asked, "What brought you here to the park at this time of morning?"
The sound of kindness and concern in Vincent's voice was too much for Yolanda, she started to cry softly, as she answered,
"I ran away. Home is just...impossible. I'm not wanted there. My father hates me because I'm ugly. Fat, ugly and stupid he always calls me. He says I'm big as a house and dumb as a brick!"
The hateful words tumbled out of Yolanda, and she began to sob.
"I hate myself! Nobody likes me, the kids at school hit me and call me names, and my dad says it's my own fault, if I didn't look the way I do, I'd have friends. If I was thin and pretty everything would be all right!"
Yolanda's words hit Vincent's heart like physical blows. She was just a child, an innocent really, with all her life before her, and yet she was crying as if her heart had been broken and her spirit crushed beyond repair. His compassion led him to place a heavily gloved hand on Yolanda's shoulder; Vincent felt her shudder and pull back in fear.
"No...I don't know you! You're...you're a man..."
Vincent gave a mental snort! 'If the child only knew!'
"You have nothing to fear from me, not all men are like your father, or the man who sought to harm you earlier. What is your name?"
"Yolanda. What's your name?" Yolanda relaxed the smallest fraction.
Vincent made a decision then, and prayed that it was the right one.
"My name is Vincent", he answered quietly.
"Vincent. I'm glad you and your dog showed up when you did. If not..." The statement was left unfinished.
"Dog...?" Vincent said, a question in his voice, and then it dawned on him, he had growled and that is what the girl had heard.
" Yeah, I heard him growl, he must be big. That's when that creep took off. Where is your dog now?"
"Oh. Yes. Dog. He's around somewhere". Vincent decided it was probably better to let her think there had indeed been a large, growling dog, rather than a large growling half-man/half-beast, which according to Father, must be contained and controlled at all costs least the beast gain ascendance, and "Vincent", the man become forever lost. Well, thanks to his life mate Catherine, that theory had been proven wrong. Vincent wondered what else Father had been wrong about.
Yolanda had stopped crying somewhat, and said quietly, "I want to find my aunt in California, but that's a long way, I don't know what to do, I can't go back home, I just can't". Vincent listened intently, yes, an aunt in California sounded good, but she need a safe place now, but where? How could this child get from New York's Central Park all the way to California, on the West Coast?
Choosing his words carefully, Vincent began to speak.
"I know someone who perhaps can help you. Catherine Chandler works with the District Attorney. She can help you find your aunt in California. Please stay here inside the drain pipe. I will send Miss Chandler to you". The girl nodded in agreement and Vincent turned to go. As she turned her back to walk to the shelter of the drain pipe she felt the large black cloak of Vincent draped across her shoulders, turning quickly, she only saw the retreating form of her rescuer, and never his leonine face.
"Catherine! Catherine my love, wake up! I need your help!" Vincent spoke urgently.
"Umm...wha...", and then snapping awake as the Bond urged her to full wakefulness. Catherine asked,"Vincent! Whats wrong? Is Father all right?"
"Father is well, but there is someone else, a young girl I left at the entrance of the drain pipe. I believe her to be a runaway and she needs the help of your world's laws to protect her from harm". Vincent explained what had transpired in the park as Catherine scrambled out of bed. Stopping only long enough to pull on sweats and tennis shoes, Catherine followed Vincent down the path that led to the outskirts of Central Park, from that vantage point, she could cut around and come up on Yolanda sitting concealed from prying eyes in the the inner contours of the massive drain pipe that was the entrance to she and Vincent's world.
Looking up, she saw a subtle movement in the shadows and knew that Vincent was nearby.
Kneeling down next to the teen, Catherine began to speak slowly, reassuringly, calling upon her experience from working with runaways.
"Hi. I'm Catherine Chandler. Vincent, a friend told me you needed help, that you'd ran away from home. Can you tell me about it?"
Looking at Catherine, Yolanda felt reassured, but at the same time, she wondered, 'Why would this lady want to help me? Most of the pretty girls at school teased and taunted her with, "Big fat Yolanda, with the big fat bones!" and " Yolanda the yo-yo, big fat, and round!"
"Why do you want to help me? You don't even know me?" Yolanda said, still unsure, but hoping for the best.
"I want to help you because everyone deserves a chance to be happy, healthy, and cared for. Vincent said that you told him about your father. I'm an attorney and I can make it so that your father can never hurt you again." Vincent had told Catherine what the girl had said about her father.
Yolanda looked up in near wonderment. Someone was going to help her, protect her from her father's rages, and her mother's cloying weakness? The few times she'd called her grandparents to beg them over the phone to please let her come and live with them, they'd begged off, saying that she belonged at home with her parents, they couldn't get involved, and that no matter what, Rodgers was still her father, and that she should just ignore him when he said something mean. For someone to help her now, justified in Yolanda's mind the fact that it was okay to get out of an intolerable situation, It was okay to feel pain, and to seek help to stop that pain. Still...could she trust this lady, what about the man, Vincent, she hadn't been able to see his face, it seemed like he stayed in ghe shadows, almost like he didn't want to be seen, still, he and his dog had protected her from the man trying to attack her, he'd even given her his cloak to keep warm in the early morning chill.
Catherine could see the struggle going on in Yolanda's mind. She wondered what had happened to make this young woman so suspicious and frightened. Vincent had given her the 'bare bones', but his voice had betrayed his anger, as well as the clinching and unclenching of his hands. Vincent's sense of protectiveness towards children was in full force.
Looking at Yolanda, she gently took one of the girl's hands, "What's your name?".
"Yolanda. Yolanda Davis".
"Yolanda, where do you live?" Catherine was nearly knocked off balance as Yolanda scrambled to her feet, "No! I'm not going back there! I can't go back home. You don't know what it's like. He'll beat me! He'll beat me bad and momma won't do anything to stop him. You can't make me go back!" Yolanda sank to her knees in helpless, body racking sobs.
Catherine felt her blood practically boiling in anger at the miserable excuse for a parent who'd reduced his own child into a quivering mass of fear.
Reaching out to hug Yolanda tight, Catherine comforted the distraught teen. She could feel Vincent's own anger, no make that rage at the faceless man that Yolanda called father. Like her husband, Catherine made a decision and prayed it too was the right one.
"Come. My apartment is right over there on in that building on the 18th floor. You can rest, and I can start the necessary paperwork to get you into protective custody. You're not gong back to your father's house."
Catherine walked with the troubled teen, still wrapped in Vincent's great black cloak, out of the nightmare and into the light of promise.
"Radcliff! Are you outta your mind? It's 6am. Shouldn't you be alseep? Does Vincent know you're up harassing innocent D.A.'s who're trying to get their beauty sleep?"
Catherine laughed softly, "Joe and beauty. Never thought I'd hear those two words used in the same sentence."
"That's cold Cathy. I'm hurt", Joe answered back in mock pain. "What's going on?"
"Joe, I'm here at my apartment and I've got a young girl with me. Her name's Yolanda Davis. She's about 15 I'd say, a runaway, or more accurately a 'throwaway'. She's given me a little information about ongoing problems she's been having with her parents, particularly her father".
"Okay, Cathy, I'll get right on this, matter-of-fact, yeah, a missing persons report came in, circulated through Children's Services. Let me grab that."
Joe was notorious for keeping informed about everything that was going on in New York City.
"Yeah, here it is. Yolanda Davis. 15, 5'5", 200lbs. Whoa! Big girl! Parents can't understand why she ran away. Father says he thinks she was tired of being poor, wanted more, yada, yada, yada. Tell you what Radcliff, I'll send a matron over and maybe we can sort this all out, the kid can go home..."
"No Joe! First of all, she can't just 'go home'. From what she's told me, her home life is impossible. She mentioned that her father would beat her and her mother would just stand there and look. I have sufficient reason to believe that verbal, emotional, and physical abuse has taken place. I'm praying there has been no sexual abuse. Secondly, I don't think she'll trust anybody but me, so I'll keep her here with me while I generate the necessary paperwork. I want to send a social worker out to the home to throughly investigate those parents. Too many kids get sent right back into abusive homes only to get hurt again, or worse; and Joe you know that! One more thing, your comment about 'whoa! big girl' what was that for? At 15, I'd say it's not entirely her fault, sounds like the family makes poor food choices, so your comment is not only unfair, but cruel". Catherine finished with a huff! She knew only too well how society placed such great emphasis on one's looks.
"Cathy, of course you're right. I'm sorry. I feel like a total and complete heel. Look, you handle this the way you see fit, and you've got my backing all the way. If there is any evidence of abuse, any whatsoever that we can substantiate, we'll throw the book at 'em. Does Yolanda have any relatives that she could be placed with? She's okay with you for right now, but the courts usually decide to place minors with relatives"
"Yeah, I know. She mentioned an aunt in California. Vincent said she told him she wanted to go to California to be with her aunt," Catherine said.
"Cathy, she saw Vincent...",Joe asked with concern in his voice.
"No, actually she didn't. Vincent chased off a chickenhawk that was bothering her, and then kept himself covered so she could hear him, have a conversation with him, but she never saw him".
After hanging up the phone from Joe, Catherine sat for many minutes just staring at the phone. As a child, she'd been her father's little princess, the apple of his eye. She couldn't imagine a parent, a father mistreating his daughter. As a teenager, Catherine's dad had been her best friend, he'd taught her how to drive; he'd even bought her first car. Even after she'd put that long dent in the door, sideswiped a parked car, and knocked the entire thing out of alighnment, all he had said to her then was, "Well, the important thing is you're not hurt. You'll know better next time, right Kiddo?"
Yolanda was 15 years old, and didn't trust a soul. What would she be like emotionally at twenty? Twenty-five? Well, if Catherine Chandler had anything to say about it, Yolanda Davis was going to get the change to finish growing up in a happy, safe, sane environment. She picked up the phone and began to dial the firt of several numbers.
Amazing what a few phone calls could accomplish. Social Security numbers were
run, files were accessed. Neighbors, acquiantances, employers, all were
questioned about the parents of Yolanda Davis.
School officials and relatives were interviewed. Truths were told--hurts revealed.
The enraged screams of Rodgers Davis could be heard reverberating down the hall from his tiny office at the back of the building.
"That's a lie! That's a damn lie! She's lying! I've never hit her! I've never mistreated her!"
"Mr. Davis", began the impeccably dressed Walter Maddox, who in his many years with New York Child Protective Services was unfazed, unmoved, and totally unimpressed with Rodgers Davis' display of temper.
A tall, angular man, Mr. Maddox gave the air of one who was singularly bored with this mindless display of fire and smoke.
"Wheres my daughter? Where is she? I'll make her tell the truth! That's what keeping her nose always in a damn book does, teaches her how to lie on me!"
Rodgers glared at Mr. Maddox, who had calmly taken a small notebook from his jacket pocket and was proceeding to write in it. Mr. Maddox had enough experience to know that he was in absolutely no danger, Rodgers was nothing more than a bully, who enjoyed frightening those he perceived as weaker. Mr. Maddox was no weakling.
"Now, Mr. Davis, if you are quite finished, we can continue this interview, although I must say, your display of temper just now collaborates everything we've been told by our sources. Also, to answer your question, your daughter has been placed in protective custody, and after I turn in all of my information, as well as the information gathered from your wife, a judge will make a final decision as to what is in the best interest of the minor in question".
Pearl Davis sat silent and cow-eyed before what felt like a tribunal. She knew this was bad, but maybe, just maybe without Rodgers around, she could finally do right by her daughter. Maybe they could get some help out of this nightmare.
Catherine was there, representing the D.A.'s office; Principal Pat Johnson from Yolanda's school; Mr. Maddox, Child Protective Services; Dr. Meredith Chen,M.D.; and finally a child psychologist, Dr. Velma Perez.
"Now then, Mrs. Davis, witnesses state tht earlier this year the police were called to your home because of a loud argument, at which time your husband was briefly taken into custody for allegedly perpetrating a physical assault against you. Here on the police report it states that your then, 14 year old daughter, Yolanda, called the police because she was in fear for your safety. The report futher states, that you refused to press charges, in fact recanting that there was any problem in your home." Mr. Maddox spoke in the crisp, clipped tones of someone who had little patience for stupidity.
Catherine spoke next, "Mrs. Davis, you are as much a victim as your daughter. Let us help both of you. You are perfectly safe here - your husband can't hurt you or Yolanda. You can speak your heart, tell the truth, and we can stop him from hurting either of you again."
At the mention of her only child's name, coupled with the look of concern on Catherine's face, caused something inside of Pearl to snap. Years of holding back, of hiding her true feelings, all disappeared; it was as if a wall came tumbling down. Pearl told about the way Rodgers had slapped her one evening because, as he put it, she was 'talking back'. With tears in her eyes, she told about the
time he'd pushed Yolanda down the front porch steps because she wasn't getting out of his way fast enough. How she had often heard her daughter crying herself to sleep late at night.
Pearl told how, Rodgers, n one of his mindless rages had stormed into Yolanda's room and practically dragged her from her bed and ordered her to, "Clean up that damn kitchen!" There had been only one or two plates in the sink at the time. Pearl held nothing back; it seemed that once she started talking, she couldn't stop. There was an audible gasp in the room as Pearl reconted how Rodgers had once threatened to burn the entire house down to the ground if he couldn't run it the way he wanted.
Principal Johnson told how Yolanda had trouble making friends at school, and was suffering from obesity which, she theorized
was causing extremely poor self-esteem.
Dr. Chen confirmed that Yolanda was indeed suffering from obesity, an elevated blood pressure, as well as a stomach condition brought on by stress. Further, her obesity was caused solely by poor nutrition, and lack of adherence to good eating habits. Fortunately, there had been no signs of sexual abuse or activity whatsoever.
Dr. Perez, looking over her notes, stated that the child, Yoland Davis, appeared to be suffering from not only poor self-esteem, but
depression, stress, and was exhibiting definite signs of post traumatic shock syndrome due to external circumstances.
Enough. The physical violence as well as the threats of bodily harm proved
sufficient to issue an arrest warrant for one Rodgers Davis. He was given 3
years in New York State Prision for willful cruelty to a child.
Pearl Davis was ordered to undergo intensive therapy for at least six month, at the end of which time, if she'd made enough progress, she might be granted custody of her daughter. As for Yolanda, she was placed in the temporary custody of her Aunt Hazel, who'd been contacted in California. Hazel was the oldest of the three sisters. Upon being contacted, Hazel had hoped aboard a red-eye, midnight flight bound for JFK International Airport.
Hazel hit New York like a tornado. At 5'7" and 180 lbs, Hazel was not a small woman by anyone's definition, but she was beautiful, smart, and funny. She owned a successful gift shop, spend money freely, and lived by the motto: Life is short, eat dessert first.
Before Hazel had left New York to made her fortune in Los Angeles, she had wanted Pearl to come with her, but Pearl had been wrapped up in Rodgers, and didn't want to leave. Hazel had never liked him, but her sister was happy, and so she had hoped for the best.
The few times she'd called Pearl on the telephone, she could never talk; she had to get Rodgers' dinner, or draw his bath, or find his slippers; always something for Rodgers. Finally Hazel had just left her alone, and contented herself with mailing Christmas and Birthday cards. She would find out later why their parents and her sister Rose had never tried to intervene. For now, Hazel was simply content to know that her sister Pearl was finally free, Yolanda was going to be okay, an Rodgers was going to jail where he belonged. She hoped that if there were any justice in the world, that he would get his ass kicked on a daily basis
Hazel also had a secret. For years, she had been a trusted Helper, and always sent various items to Helpers in New York, who in turn routed the tiems to the Tunnel Dwellers. Now Hazel needed to pay a visit to a very special friend for protecting her young niece that night in Central Park, and starting the ball rolling from there.
Vincent was in a somewhat pensive mood after Hazel left. He couldn't help but think about his own life. Father had never been cruel or abusive, just overprotective. Something that could be easily forgiven. He thought about the man who loved him, had cared for him all his life. True he'd instilled so many unreasonable fears in him, which his beloved Catherine, with infinite patience, had worked so hard to help him overcome. Looking over at his pregnant wife as she lay sleeping, Vincent felt his heart would burst with pride and love. He vowed to be the best father and husband he could be as long as he lived.