A TOUCH OF DAWN Chapter Excerpt on Eat Sleep Write

*This originally posted here.

November 3, 2013
by Adam Scull

A Touch of Dawn - Chapter 4 by Erica Sutherhome



Chapter 4

            Caitlyn came awake slowly.  Sunlight streamed in through the curtains and a shot of pain sliced through her skull.  She covered her head with the bedspread, groaning.  So she was still sensitive to light.  It hadn’t seemed so bad last night, but this morning it was. 
            Her adjustment was harder.  She barely remembered the house or her room.  It was like someone else had lived here, not her.  Someone else had been the girl in the pictures, living memories she couldn’t recall.  And her room.  It was a girl’s room with pink walls and a pink spread.  The bed was small, but all right. 
But, no one had warned her how strange it would feel to be in this place, how to go on after being removed from that cellar.  She had barely slept last night.  She’d forgotten about the sleeping pills.  She wondered if they would give her more after the prescription had run out.  Who would?  Her doctor?  She didn’t even know if she had a family doctor, or if she got sick at all usually.  She didn’t know who she was, what her life was or how she was supposed to fit back into this place.
She needed to move, but she couldn’t manage it.  She had to get across the hall to the bathroom.  Groaning again, she whipped back the cover, then even though the light killed her eyes, she glanced around for something to put over the window.  She spotted a red winter blanket and a stapler, and set to work.  Eventually, the window was covered.  The room was dim, but cast in a reddish glow, accenting the pink hues. 
She sighed, then dashed for the door, nearly tripping over a box that sat there.  A bunch of boxes had been brought back from her apartment after it was cleared out.  She dreaded opening them.  Her mother had hung the clothes, but had done little else with the rest of the boxes.  She finished what she needed to do in the bathroom, then returned to her room.
Wincing, she remembered how her mother had hugged her hard last night at the door.  And the tears.  She had never felt more uncomfortable as she did then.  Maybe Caitlyn just wasn’t a touchy-feely person, but she thought it might have something to do with what she’d experienced.  She knew her mother meant no harm, but that didn’t make it any less awkward. 
The woman had fawned over her most of the evening.  She kept saying, “I’m so glad you’re home” or “I’m so glad you’re safe”.  Her mother had no way of knowing how relative those words were or how painful.  ‘Home’ and ‘safe’ implied that she could have been in a car accident, not raped brutally. 
Caitlyn had dreaded going home, and for good reason.  With it came expectations.  It entailed having to live a life, and she just wasn’t so sure she could do all that.  Caitlyn didn’t know who she was anymore.  She barely remembered who she had been.  Was she a daughter?  A reporter?  A whore?  She had no way to define herself.  What were her interests?  And would it matter?  Wouldn’t all of those things seem trivial after what she’d been through?  She knew she had promised herself not to take life for granted if she was rescued.  But, it was a lot of effort to summon the courage, a lot of effort to move on.
She walked over to her desk and sat down.  She tried to remember using the desk for homework or something.  She couldn’t.  She tried to imagine a girl that tragedy had not touched.  A happy girl, a girl with dreams.  Would that girl have written papers or articles here?  Would she have gone on to write exposés?  Would she have won a Pulitzer?  It was too much effort to entertain.  Too painful.
She saw the white card she had placed there on the desk last night.  She picked it up.  Jack Thomas, police consultant, Kidnapping and Crimes Division for the Police Department in Florence, Oregon.  Jack.  Jack, the man who’d rescued her.  A man she couldn’t see again.  Or could she?  He had insisted that he wanted to help.  She had believed him, still did. 
There was something about the way he’d looked at her last night when her mother had left him standing on the porch.  There was some kind of knowledge in his eyes.  It was like he truly understood her pain and her struggle.  And maybe he did.  He dealt with this all the time.  There probably wasn’t one thing about the ordeal that surprised him.  That meant that he had to deal with a lot of fallout from these situations.
Could Jack really help her?  Or was that something he offered politely?  The intense concern on his face when he’d spoken to her mother got to her.  Obviously, he wanted Caitlyn to heal.  But, how? How was she supposed to do that?  She didn’t know.  And she didn’t have the energy to figure it out. 
As she got up and crawled back under her covers, she sighed.  She needed time, that was all.  But, part of her wondered if even that would be enough.
****
Jack took the call three days later.  He was at home cooking breakfast.  Since he was basically on call 24/7, he had prepared himself to leave on the fly.  At the behest of Caitlyn’s soft tone, his spine straightened.  He turned off the burner.  “Everything all right, Caitlyn?”
“Jack?” she repeated the pained plea, and his stomach clenched.
“Sweetheart, what’s wrong?”
“I…I don’t know.  I need to talk to you.  Can you come?”
“You got it.  I’ll be there in a few minutes.  You hang on.”
“I’ll try,” she managed and it broke his heart.  He hung up, grabbed a fitness shake, threw on a pair of shoes and was out the door.
He wasn’t kidding.  He didn’t live that far away from her. Since his clients were always traumatized, it was useful to be on call.  And to be prepared for anything. Anything. Slit wrists, hangings, panic attacks, nervous breakdowns.  The list went on.  And he could get a psychiatric pal on the phone at the touch of a button if admission was necessary.
But, nothing, nothing had ever scared him like her soft plea.  It was hard to admit the girl had gotten to him, but she had.  And he wasn’t going to lose her.  When he pulled up, he got out of the car, ran up the walk and pounded on the door.
Mrs. Johnson came to the door.  She looked worried.  “Mr. Thomas?”
“Jack.”
“Right.”
He pushed inside, forgoing pleasantries.  “How is she?”
She wrung her hands.  “I don’t know.  I don’t know what’s wrong.  She…“  She shook her head.
“Where is she?”
She pointed the way. 
Jack followed a corridor to a small bedroom.  Pink walls, pink spread.  Caitlyn had thrown a red blanket over the window to keep out the light.  He saw a huddled form beneath the bedspread.  He threw it back. 
He sat down to get a look at her.  She rocked.  Tears streamed down her face.  She must have been crying.  Her eyes were shut tight and her hair was wild.  She wore a pair of lavender sweats, but was pretty much unresponsive to his touch.  He checked her for wounds, but found nothing.  So she hadn’t tried to hurt herself.
He suspected what was going on, but could only try to pull her out of the nightmare.  It was too easy for someone who had been traumatized like she had to revert to a catatonic state and he wished that hell on no one.
“Caitlyn?  Caitlyn, it’s Jack.  Jack Thomas, remember?”
No response.
A small sound came behind him, and he glanced back to see her mother covering her mouth.  It didn’t matter right now.  It couldn‘t.
“Come on, Caitlyn.  Come back to me.  Caitlyn, can you hear me?  It’s going to be okay.  I’ll help you get through this.  I’ll take care of you,” he vowed, and almost choked.  He pushed through it. 
He gathered her into his arms.  “Caitlyn, it’s Jack.  Okay?  I won’t let them hurt you anymore.  It’s just you and me.  You.  And me.  I’m going to take care of you,” he said with his lips pressed to her temple.  “Come back to me, Sweetheart.  Come on.”
A shudder went through her, and a small voice began, “Jack?”
“That’s right.  I’m here, honey.  You just go ahead and cry it out.  Then you can sleep.”
She sobbed hard as he held her tight.  Eventually, she quieted to the occasional sigh and he pulled back to look at her.  He caressed her cheek.  “How ya doing?”
She shook her head.
“All right.  That’s fine.  It’s a hard road, but I know you can do it.  I’ll help you.”
“You really mean that,” she whispered incredulously.
He nodded.  “Yeah, I do.”
“Okay.”
Her cheek was so soft beneath his hand that he had to stop himself.  “How are you sleeping?”  She didn’t answer.  “Okay, that’s what I thought.”  He looked at her mother.  “Mrs. Johnson?  Could you get her sleeping pills?”
The woman left the room and came back with the bottle and some water.  He measured out a couple of pills, then watched as Caitlyn took them, eyed her throat.  “Good, that’s good.  I’ll stay till you get to sleep, but we’re going to have to talk this out.  All right?”
She nodded.
Satisfied with that, he held her against his shoulder until she went limp and her breathing evened out.  He checked her eyelids to be sure she slept before he covered her up and left the room.
Mrs. Johnson followed him.  “What was that?  What’s going on?”
“Your daughter almost went into a catatonic state.  What happened was too traumatic for her.”
She sat down on the sofa abruptly as if she’d lost the strength to stand.  “But…I thought I could handle her.  I thought she would be all right.”
“This is more than anyone can handle alone.  And she’s not going to be all right for some time.”
She frowned.  “Then she needs a professional.”
“You want a therapist?  Fine.  I can do that-“
She stood up.  “You?  Why-“
“I have the credentials.”
“But-“
“Do you realize what just happened in there?  She trusts me.  She needs someone to trust, and she trusts me.  Do you get that?”
She nodded slowly, then frowned.  “I don’t understand her.  She’s despondent.  She won’t even look at me or talk to me.  I hear her crying at night, but she clams up when I’m around.  She won’t let me touch her at all.”
            He sighed.  “Mrs. Johnson, do you know what happened to your daughter?”
            “Of course I do.  She was kidnapped.”
            “No.  Do you know what really happened to her?”
            She got quiet.  “I wasn’t told exactly.  And she won’t tell me anything.”
            His tone got deadly serious, but he couldn’t have prevented himself from expressing it if he tried.  “It’s beyond anything you can imagine, not knowing if you’re going to die from physical abuse or neglect or just be raped from one minute to the next.  Do you know where they kept her?  In a dark cellar, locked up, caged for their pleasure.  That’s why she couldn’t stand the light and is still sensitive to it. Three months in the dark, terrified and abused and raped constantly. Can you imagine anything more terrible?” 
By the time he was done, Caitlyn’s mother was weeping.  Hard.  He crossed the room and grasped her shoulders, but didn’t hold her.  He couldn’t offer that much sympathy to the woman right now.  It wasn’t in him.  “So before you even think of complaining about her despondency again or her shell shock, try to think of where she’s been.  How would you react?” Then he released her. “I’ll let myself out.  I’ll check on her later in the week if she’s up to it.”

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