A TOUCH OF DAWN Chapter 2 & 3 Excerpt on Eat Sleep Write
A Touch of Dawn - Chapter 2 & 3 by Erica Sutherhome
posted by Adam Scull
February 27, 2014
posted by Adam Scull
February 27, 2014
Jack sat in a plastic chair out in the hallway. He pulled on the ends of his hair and covered his face, sighing. He had already received the news from the doctor, and it was just what he’d expected. But, it never got easy, hearing it. It was still as fresh as his first case. According to the doctor, she had been raped far too many times to count and they had to stitch her where her soft, feminine skin was torn. He shuddered with that reality. She wasn’t pregnant or disease-ridden, and that was a wonder. But, sometimes in these situations, the human body could fight an invasion on that level.
They had given her antibiotics, some pain medicine, extra vitamins for strength and some sleeping pills, but nothing more. Guess there wasn’t a cure-for-all for the worse trauma imaginable.
The one thing he had found unbearable, though, was her tears. He had heard her crying hysterically in the room several times. It wasn’t the result of what had happened to her, though in a way it was the reason for it. Her circumstances hadn’t hit her fully yet. No, it was the shame of feeling human touch, however kind it was, a humiliation she could not bear for a long time. He knew this from experience. Touch was equated with an invasion, with terrible cruelty, a reminder of that worthlessness, and until she saw otherwise, it was going to be rough for her.
The door opened and he got to his feet, suspecting it was one of the staff. Maybe he could wring more news from them. Sometimes he felt so powerless as a consultant.
But, Caitlyn came out then, the nurse behind her, and he saw her clearly for the first time. Caitlyn’s hair was still damp from the shower and the hospital had lent her a pair of blue scrubs, a robe and some house slippers. He sucked in a breath.
She was striking with pale skin, large, luminous brown eyes and straight brown hair. She had dark circles under her eyes, but that was to be expected. It was her that he couldn’t get over. He wasn’t supposed to notice it, but she was beautiful. It was a damn shame that her innocence had been taken so swiftly. Even as an adult, a person could be so violated that they were never the same again.
Curiosity was in her eyes as she stared at him. “Are you Jack?”
He nodded. For one, he still wore the uniform he wore on rescues to make people more comfortable. “Sorry you couldn’t see me clearly until now.”
She shook her head. “It could not be helped.” Her eyes closed and she lifted a hand to her temple.
“The lights again?”
“They’re worse inside the hospital than out. Once we get in the car, you’ll feel better. I mean, if you want me to take you home. I could just as easily have a uniform take you.”
She shrugged. “The current arrangement is fine.”
Jack slowly made his way over to her, then drew her to his side until her face was pressed against him. “I can get you out now, if you’re ready.”
“Yes. Thank you,” came her small voice. He heard pain and weariness there, which made his throat tighten.
A doctor saw him and headed in his direction. Jack waved him off. “Please. I’ll take care of everything later.”
With a nod and a grim look, the doctor turned away.
He tightened his arm around Caitlyn’s back and led her down the hall to the emergency doors. “Easy,” he said as she tried to navigate the steps without her vision.
“It’s strange, this. I haven’t walked around much for awhile. I mean, I did a little in that cellar. But, not much.”
A long breath came out of him. “Did they feed you?”
She shrugged. “Some. Not much.”
“You’ve lost weight then.”
“I don’t know. I…” She shuddered. “I’m not sure I want to look in a mirror right now.”
“I’ll be your mirror, if you like.”
She laughed a little. “Do I look as terrible as I feel?”
“No, Sweetheart. Other than the fact that you’re obviously tired and you’ve been through something awful, you look okay. You were patched up down there, I assume. But, from what I can tell, most of the scars are on the inside.”
She pressed her face into his jacket and he wondered if she was trying to stifle the urge to cry.
He spotted his car, then led her straight out to it. He urged her into the vehicle, then closed the door behind her. He got into the driver’s side, reached over and clicked her seatbelt into place. He did the same for himself. Then he shut his door and turned the car on. He waited until they’d left the parking lot before he spoke. “Okay. I think you can open your eyes now.”
Caitlyn could see the town a little in the darkness. There were streetlights here and there, but they didn’t hurt her. It was so odd to see things now. It was pretty routine what he was doing, she could tell that clearly enough. But, it meant more than she knew how to express. He had taken her out of that dark place. He had removed her from the situation. Now, she would have to deal with life again.
Oh, God. The idea of it was so daunting. Life. Real life. Not being in a cellar, kept for someone’s needs. Doing something for herself instead. How was she supposed to do that?
“Where are we going?” she asked Jack.
He seemed to hesitate. “Your apartment was vacated long ago. Supposedly, the landlord would not cooperate. I thought of taking you to your mother’s. Is that all right? We could get you a hotel room instead, if you’d prefer that. If it would make you feel better, I could have an officer placed outside the door for security.”
She shuddered. There was one thing she knew instinctively. She should not be left to her own devices. After what she’d been through, her grip on herself was tenuous. She had struggled to stay sane in the cellar. But, if she had the opportunity, she might try to kill herself. Part of her wanted the release from life. And part of her was terrified of dying. “I should probably go home.” Home. Wasn’t that a strange word?
He nodded. “Okay. We can do that. I already called your mother after we found you. So she’s expecting you. She would have gone to the hospital, of course, but I told her you should be treated before you had visitors.”
Her stomach clenched a little. So her mother knew she was coming. What would the woman expect of her? How could she possibly live a normal life?
She glanced over at Jack. He had an olive tone to his skin. He had dark hair and blue eyes. His face was a bit scruffy as if he hadn’t shaved in a couple of days. It made him more attractive. Mysterious. But, really, what did it matter what the man looked like? She had too many issues to worry about her reaction to him. She had been raped. How in the world was she supposed to deal with that, and somehow move on?
“How far away is she from here?” she managed, trying to give her mind a distraction.
“A good twenty minutes.”
“Oh. Okay.” She sighed. “How long has it been? I mean…how long was I gone?”
He sucked in a breath. “Three months.”
Was that all? It was unfathomable. She shook her head. She couldn’t wrap her mind around that information. “How was I found?”
“Your case was never dropped, though the officer in charge was afraid the trail was cold. The police knew who had taken you, just didn’t know their location.” He sighed. “One day, a random citizen called in claiming to see one of the men that had been on television. We had put out a bulletin to see if anyone would find you.”
She had been on TV? That was strange. “And then what?”
“We looked into it, of course. Traced the receipts to the establishment they’d seen him in. He was using an alias though. We eventually found the house they were using. And here we are.”
She was quiet for a moment. It was a lot to take in. She just couldn’t dwell on it all right now. She wet her dry lips with her tongue. “I don’t remember my family. My life. I only remember fragments from the past. But, nothing informative.”
“I know. It will come back to you.”
She nodded, then bit her lip, aware that ever since she’d been rescued, the tears were closer to the surface than ever before. “Is it always like this? The way it was today?”
“It never gets any easier.”
The strange tone in his voice caused her to glance at him. She couldn’t dismiss the brief flash of pain in his eyes. “I’m sorry.”
He frowned. “What do you have to be sorry for?”
She shrugged. “It must be hard on you, too, is all.”
He didn’t respond to that.
She sighed. “Is this what you specialize in?”
He gave a brief nod. “Yes.”
They were quiet for several more minutes. Caitlyn was exhausted. She leaned her head back against the seat and closed her eyes. God, what she wouldn’t give for oblivion. Her life back. Her memories. Why couldn’t she remember who she really was?
“Your eyes still hurt?”
She looked at Jack, saw the naked concern in his eyes. “No. Not in the dark.”
He nodded and grew quiet again.
It was for the best. Caitlyn feared she would be terrible company besides.
Her eyes snapped wide and she glanced out the window to see a small one story house. The details were fuzzy at night, but it looked cozy. But really, what did it matter where she was as long as she was out of that cellar?
“Are you ready?” he asked gently.
“I think so.”
She followed Jack out of the car, felt better when he put his arm around her as they walked up to the house. The lights were on inside. They stood on the porch for a few moments. She glanced at Jack. “What will she want from me?”
He shook his head. “You’re her daughter. I think she just wants you safe.”
Caitlyn wanted that to be enough, but suspected her mother would want her to remember her life. And she couldn’t do that right away. She feared she never could.
All of a sudden, the door opened. She saw a brief swatch of dark blonde hair before the woman flew at her. She wasn’t prepared for the embrace or the tears from her mother.
Jack frowned. No way was Caitlyn ready for this reunion. She was barely coming to terms with what had happened, let alone the fact that she was finally safe. Now she would have to heal. It was hard to do that with her mother’s emotions overwhelming her. But, he supposed it would be much worse if she didn’t care about her daughter.
The woman pulled away, tears streaming down her face. “Oh, Caitlyn. My baby girl. What did they do to you?” she asked as she examined her daughter’s appearance.
Jack fielded that question by clearing his throat.
She blinked. “Oh, I’m sorry, Officer.”
“Actually, it’s just Jack. Jack Thomas. I’m a consultant with the police. We spoke on the phone earlier?”
“Oh. Well, thank you so much for bringing my daughter home.”
She frowned after a bit. “Is there anything I can do for you, Mr. Thomas?”
With a glance at Caitlyn, he led the woman aside. “Kidnappings are very traumatic on the victims. That is why I offer my services anytime this happens.”
She crossed her arms over her chest. “What…kind of services?”
“Counseling, anything I can do to help a victim get back in touch with the world.”
She nodded. “I do appreciate it. But, I’m sure we’ll be fine. I can help my own daughter.”
He frowned. “I’m afraid you can’t. Not alone. And you’ll see the reason soon enough. What happened to Caitlyn was terrible, and I'd be amazed if she could cope with it.”
The woman’s face hardened. “We’ll handle this on our own, as I said.”
He had dealt with overbearing mothers before. “Sure, but just think about it.”
Jack turned back to Caitlyn. “You need anything, you let me know. If you just want to talk, that’s fine. If you think of anything, call me.” He handed her his business card.
Caitlyn managed a small smile. “Thank you, Jack.”
He hated gratitude sometimes, especially in relation to a kidnapping. Or a rape. Or both, he thought with a grimace. “Don’t thank me. I just want to help you if I can. You just get on with the business of living, okay?”
Mrs. Johnson tugged at Caitlyn’s arm. “Come on, honey. Let’s go inside.”
“Yes, Mother,” she replied stiffly. And he could clearly see the agony in her eyes as her mother led her away. He knew she wasn’t ready for it yet, but he hoped the family home would allow her to break through into some happy memories.