#52weeks52stories “Left Behind”

Week 23!

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#52weeks52stories: Week 23

Word prompt: suicide

Word count: 1496, Reading Time  – 2 mins, 19 secs

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The watched hands of a clock are not supposed to move.

But Teddy Carver had seen the hands move for every one of the last twenty-four minutes.

Five minutes remained before the three o’clock bell rang signaling the end of history class and the end of the school day.

Time to go home.

Nervous jitters caused his knee to bounce while his fist tightened around the pencil he was holding. It snapped, breaking into pieces Teddy laid on the desk without taking his gaze from the clock.

He knew his classmates were staring at him. Some, out of curiosity but most were because they pitied their young friend. Teddy appreciated their kindness and concern. The school sent a beautiful wreath to his mom’s service and the GoFundme donations helped to pay for the service and more… since there’s no payout for suicides.

But he could live without the pity.

via #52weeks52stories “Left Behind”

#BlogTour “Amy Cole Has Lost Her Mind” by Elizabeth McGivern

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Amy Cole is a stay-at-home mum and a woman on the edge.

After a very public breakdown and failed suicide attempt, Amy finds herself trying to make it through her everyday life as a high-functioning zombie.

Elle De Bruyn is a force of nature ready to shake Amy back to life whether she likes it or not.
After a fortuitous meeting, the two embark on a journey together which will change them both and help them find out exactly what they’re capable of when rock bottom is just the beginning.

Amazon US     |     Amazon UK

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EXCERPT

This extract takes place at Elle’s art class, where Amy has come along to discuss her marital problems. Amy and Ben have encountered a sex drought and it’s come to her attention that she needs to do something about it:

I hated talking about this type of thing. I was always embarrassed at the thought of anyone asking me about my sex life, or worse still, anyone asking me for advice on it. I was never comfortable in my own skin and although I was finally kind about my body (mostly) I would never dream of a world in which I would gladly step into a lingerie department and kit myself out for a night of kink with the husband.

“When’s the last time you fooled about with him, or anyone?” She quizzed.

“Anyone?”

“Yeah, maybe you can’t be bothered boning him because you’re doing the nasty with someone else.”

“Just so I know, how many euphemisms for sex should I expect in this conversation?”

“Few hundred I suspect.”

“Excellent,” I replied flatly.

I explained that I wasn’t sleeping with my husband because the sheer effort to shave my legs was enough to put me off the notion completely, never mind shave anywhere intimate to impress a new man.

“What has shaving got to do with it? I once let my underarm hair grow so long I was able to dye it violet. I couldn’t deal with the upkeep though, the dye kept sweating off and ruining my bed sheets.”

“Can we stick to my problem please?”

“Well, no, actually I have to teach. The world doesn’t revolve around your little-repressed arse. Now, sit over there. Here’s a pencil and try to keep your clothes on during this class.”

I snatched the pencil and glumly walked over to a free space. I had no idea why I agreed to this class. I can’t draw nor do I want to learn how to draw a bunch of grapes in a fruit bowl. I decided on doodling on the paper until someone needed their brushes washed. I didn’t need to wait long before hush descended on the class and Elle commanded yet another room she was at the centre of. I was starting to see a pattern here.

“We have a newbie tonight guys, this is Amy and she can’t draw for shit. Everyone say ‘hi’.”

I glared at her direction as I heard an unenthusiastic welcome from my classmates.

“Right, you know the score. The model will be changing position every five minutes so you guys have to get used to the movement and the change in shadows from every angle. Let’s get to work then.”

Model? Great, now I get to stare awkwardly at anywhere but the direction of this poor shmuck student, who is so broke they need to get their kit off in front of a room full of strangers.

The first thing I noticed about this stranger was that he wasn’t remotely young. He was old, not death-knocking-on-his-door old, but still old enough to know better. He was balding at the back and was wearing a cosy looking gown. As he turned to face us and bare all, as it were, I looked at the man and quickly realised he wasn’t a stranger at all. Instead, I saw the man I respected more than anyone else on the planet, the man who I measured all other men up against, the man whose penis was eye level with me and I had nowhere to run.

“MOTHER OF GOD, PUT IT AWAY!” I screamed as loudly as my lungs could manage.

“Amy? Oh, Christ what are you doing here? You can’t draw. Oh Jesus, don’t tell your mother. Givemethetowel, givemethetowel!”

In his hurry to grab the robe he managed to tumble sideways giving me – and the rest of the class – a full view of his anus. I was tempted just to gouge my eyes out with the pencil just so this horror would end.

Elle was busy trying to help my dad up, whilst shooting daggers at me for interrupting her precious class. I sat wringing my hands as if I were Lady Macbeth trying to get that damn spot out and I hadn’t realised I was muttering to myself until I felt someone’s hand on my shoulder trying to shake me back into the room.

“What the fuck is happening, Amy?” asked Elle.

I couldn’t manage words yet, I was still trying to process what had just happened.

“Damien you don’t have to raise your hands if you want to ask a question, this isn’t a classroom. Well, it is but you don’t need to be such a brown-nosing little twat,” she said.

He sheepishly put down his hand and said: “Was that one of his poses? Should we be sketching now?”

“No, Damien,” I said in my best attempt at keeping my voice steady, “I would prefer if you didn’t spend the next two hours sketching my father’s arsehole from memory.”

Unfortunately, by the time I reached the end of the sentence I was screaming again. My fingers rubbed at my temples and I was waiting for the room to stop spinning. By the time I looked up my dad was nowhere to be seen and I could see Elle struggling to contain her laughter. I shot a look which seemed to convey ‘I dare you to laugh, I double dare you’ and it seemed to do the trick because her cheeks dropped and her face was serious once more.

“Where is my father?” I asked.

“He must be getting changed in the storeroom; maybe you should go have a chat with him?”

“You think?” I replied as sarcasm dripped from my voice.

I picked up my jacket and bag and headed towards the storeroom in order to confront my exhibitionist father. I knocked the door deliberately and louder than necessary to ensure that I wasn’t going to be walking into anything else mentally scarring.

He opened the door, just a fraction, so I could see one eye peering out from his cupboard of shame.

“Are you kidding me, dad?”

“Amy, just meet me outside. We can go grab a drink and have a chat.”

~~~~~

Elizabeth McGivern
Picture credited to Jess Lowe

About Elizabeth McGivern

Elizabeth McGivern is a former journalist turned hostage-in-her-own-home surrounded by three men and a horrible dog named Dougal.

In an effort to keep her sanity she decided to write a parenting blog after the birth of her first son so she can pinpoint the exact moment she failed as a mother.

In an unexpected turn of events, the blog helped her to find a voice and connect with parents in similar situations; namely those who were struggling with mental health issues and parenting. It was because of this encouragement – and wanting to avoid her children as much as possible – her debut novel, Amy Cole has lost her mind, was born.

Elizabeth lives in Northern Ireland although wishes she could relocate to Iceland on a daily basis. To witness her regular failings as a parent you can find her on: www.mayhemandbeyond.com .

Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Instagram

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“Worth the Effort: Ella’s Story” by Kai Strand

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Worth the Effort: Ella’s Story (Love’s an Effort Book 1)

by Kai Strand

Genre: Young Adult/Depression/Mental Illness

FREE at time of posting!

The morning Ella Jones forces herself to sit down and make a true connection with the homeless teen living behind the café where she works, she changes both their lives.

A senior in high school and a barista, seventeen-year-old Ella seems to be going places. Yet her parents’ ideas for her future are as fractured as their marriage and neither wants her to pursue her own dreams.

Ayden Worth lives on the streets.

Their friendship buds in alleys and public libraries. His quiet ways and his gentle treatment teach her about true courage. He inspires her to look beyond herself and to be a better person.

But there’s more to Ayden’s story than Ella knows. When their worlds collide in the most unexpected place, Ella feels betrayed. Has her courage grown enough to forgive Ayden’s misrepresentation?

WORTH THE EFFORT: Ella’s Story is a young adult contemporary romance novella at 19,000 words.

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“In the Best Interest of the Child” by Felicia Denise

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In the Best Interest of the Child

by Felicia Denise

Genre: Women’s Fiction/Psychological/Child Abuse/Romance

2.99 at time of posting!

Severely injured in an accident that forever changed her life, ten-year-old Olivia becomes another faceless, under-served child in foster care. With no time to mourn or grieve, the young girl is easy prey for uncaring social workers and ambivalent foster families.

Olivia quickly learns to hold her tongue and mask her emotions. Even when exposed to neglect, bullying, and assault, no one seems to care. Holding fast to the teachings of her late father, Olivia ages out of the system broken, but no longer a victim.

Now a successful child advocate attorney, Olivia is a passionate voice for children. However, a routine case assignment by the court plunges Olivia back into the trauma of her childhood. If she doesn’t face her demons, a child will be sent into foster care, and Olivia will lose the only chance at love she’s ever had…or wanted.

Foster care for her young client is not an option. But Olivia’s emotional scars run even deeper than she realized. Reconciling with her past means Olivia must confront the one woman she blames for her battered soul.

A woman who has no idea who Olivia is.

NOTE: This book is intended for 18+ only due to language, sexual activity and scenes of child abuse and near-rape. Those with emotional triggers should reconsider purchasing this book.

REVISED August 2017.

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“Family Matters (In the Best Interest of the Child, Book 2)” by Felicia Denise #CoverReveal


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“Family Matters”

Series: In the Best Interest of the Child, Book 2

Author: Felicia Denise

Cover Design: Jenn Cunningham

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Release Date: August 2017

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Synopsis:

Olivia Chandler’s journey to wholeness continues as she enters counseling. Her therapy will not be easy, and may not be successful unless Olivia can forgive her mother. But is Sarina Chandler the only one in need of Olivia’s forgiveness?

A Halloween party brings together a surprising group of people, and Bruce introduces Olivia to his adult children. Another Bellamy has a second chance at love – if he can put his old-fashioned ways aside.

The death of someone close to Olivia has her re-thinking the value of emotional connections. She withdraws from everyone, falling back into her old habit of burying herself in work. A surprise confrontation pushes Olivia to her limits and puts her heart on the line.

Her continued avoidance of confronting Sarina Chandler pulls at the seams of Olivia’s new-found love with Bruce Bellamy. Olivia must make a decision. Save them… or surrender to her emotional demons.

Excerpt:

“Olivia Chandler? I’m Sandra Riley, Sarina’s case manager.”

The tall woman grasped Olivia’s hand into both of her own, shaking briskly. “We’re so glad you’re here today. This is a big step forward for your mother.”

“Nice to meet you, Sandra, and honestly, it’s a big step for me too.”

“Oh, I’m sure, Olivia. Any questions for me before you visit with Sarina?”

Visit with Sarina. She made it sound so cute and homey, Olivia thought.

“Does she know I planned to be here today?”

“Yes, she does. When Sarina asked about you a few weeks ago, she said she also knew you’d have little or no reason to want to see her, but she’d always hoped you come someday.””

Olivia stared at the woman blankly, not knowing how to respond to the comment.

“I’m sure this is confusing, Olivia, and now isn’t the time for me to explain all that Sarina has gone through, but please know she is fully cognizant of her aging, of you, her late husband”, Sandra paused only for a second, “she even remembers the accident. It’s everything between the accident and a few months ago that’s fuzzy for her. It’s as though a switch was flipped off in her brain that was recently turned back on.”

Olivia frowned but didn’t ask the question on the tip of her tongue.

“May I see her now?”

“Of course! Follow me.”

The case manager’s long legs covered the distance across the sitting area in no time at all, with Olivia almost scurrying to keep up with her. Margot and Randie teased Olivia about her brisk walking pace, but she had nothing on Sandra Riley! Olivia would guess Sandra to be at least six feet tall… and light on her feet.

Reaching an unmarked door in the far corner, Sandra held it open for Olivia, who walked through and found herself standing in yet another sitting room, only this one resembled the average family room. Large, comfy chairs, throw rugs and even a flat screen television graced the area.

“Welcome to Honey Ridge East, Olivia.”

“Honey Ridge East? I don’t understand.”

Sandra pointed to a bulletin board on the wall near the door they’d just come through.

“The residents here are grouped by floor, the severity of mental disorder, and the amount of care and supervision needed. The healthiest, most independent residents reside here in Honey Ridge.”

“My mother is here… in this section?”

She nodded.

Olivia tried to digest the information. Her mother was healthy? Required little or no supervision? Trying to reconcile this new Sarina with the bedridden, incoherent woman she last saw five years ago was difficult for Olivia.

“How long has she lived here?”

Sandra pursed her lips, thinking. Then she nodded.

“I’m pretty sure Sarina was here for the group’s Valentine’s Day dinner dance, so that makes it eight months.” Sandra tried not to laugh at the horrified expression on Olivia’s face.

“Don’t be shocked. We also have Easter Egg hunts and 4th of July barbecues.  The residents got a big kick out of the Halloween hay rides.” Sandra leaned in towards Olivia, “ And I hear Santa will visit on Christmas Eve.”

Shaking her head, Olivia was incredulous.

“What kind of mental hospital is this? I mean, um…I thought…”

The case manager guided Olivia past the sitting area while answering.

“River Ridge Meadows is a private care, private pay, voluntary commitment facility. We’re fully licensed by the state and the federal government. Insurance isn’t accepted here, and no resident is here against their will. We currently have one hundred and sixty-one residents ranging in age from seven to eighty-six. Most are from throughout the state, but there are a few from other parts of the country, and even four from Europe. River Ridge has two permanent, board certified psychiatrists, two permanent, board certified medical doctors, six psychologists, and a nursing staff of 40 which includes licensed physical therapists.

The residents here are used to a certain way of life, and we provide that here, within reason. That’s why we also have an event planner and a social activities director on staff.”

Sandra stopped at the top end of a short hallway. “But we have all the time in the world for me to tell you about River Ridge, and even give you a tour, if you like.” She nodded towards the end of the hall. “Your mother is expecting you.”

Olivia pressed her hand against her stomach, the tiny nervous tremors threatening to morph into a full-fledged earthquake. Heat enveloped her body as the familiar tang of bile crept up the back of her throat. Closing her eyes, the nervous woman tried to will the anxiety away.

You’ve come this far, Chandler, don’t you dare freak out now!

 

~ Author Bio and Links ~

A wife, mother, daughter, sister, blogger and indie author, Felicia loves all things book-related and coffee-related. A southern girl by birth, the fifty-something, voracious reader now resides in Arizona (via Michigan and California) with her husband of thirty-three years. Their three adult children also reside in Arizona – with their dogs. Felicia frequently reminds them she is the only one of her parents’ nine children who isn’t a grandparent.

Writing has been a hobby of Felicia’s since grade school, but other than serving as editor and writing for her high school newspaper, she never publicly shared anything until the early 2000s when she began writing fan fiction. At the urging of a good friend, Felicia took on the challenge of NaNoWriMo in 2015, writing what would become her first published book, In the Best Interest of the Child, released in the fall of 2016. Her latest book, Free, a Novella, released May 30, 2017.

Sometimes serious and always sarcastic, Felicia continues her literary search for the ultimate non-alpha, non-billionaire, non-bad-boy hero with a non-sassy, non-feisty, non-bad-decision-making heroine whose relationship exemplifies true romance. Recommendations are always welcome!

 

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#Preorder Mark Lukach’s Heartfelt Memoir, “My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward”

My Lovely Wife coverA heart-wrenching, yet hopeful, memoir of a young marriage that is redefined by mental illness and affirms the power of love.

Mark and Giulia’s life together began as a storybook romance. They fell in love at eighteen, married at twenty-four, and were living their dream life in San Francisco. When Giulia was twenty-seven, she suffered a terrifying and unexpected psychotic break that landed her in the psych ward for nearly a month. One day she was vibrant and well-adjusted; the next she was delusional and suicidal, convinced that her loved ones were not safe.

Eventually, Giulia fully recovered, and the couple had a son. But, soon after Jonas was born, Giulia had another breakdown, and then a third a few years after that. Pushed to the edge of the abyss, everything the couple had once taken for granted was upended.

A story of the fragility of the mind, and the tenacity of the human spirit, My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward is, above all, a love story that raises profound questions: How do we care for the people we love? What and who do we live for? Breathtaking in its candor, radiant with compassion, and written with dazzling lyricism, Lukach’s is an intensely personal odyssey through the harrowing years of his wife’s mental illness, anchored by an abiding devotion to family that will affirm readers’ faith in the power of love.

My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward is on sale May 2nd; pre-order it from any of the retailers below.

HarperCollins Publishing    Amazon    Barnes & Noble    Books-A-Million    IndieBound

“In The Best Interest of the Child” by Felicia Denise #Excerpt #ComingSoon

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*Unedited and subject to revisions

When Olivia exited the elevator heading for her fifth floor office, she didn’t realize she was smiling. Karen from word processing was the first to notice.

“Wow, someone’s in a good mood!” Puzzled, Olivia shook her head and continued on. Peter, who specialized in adoptions, was standing in the door of his office.

“Hey now! Did you get laid last night?”

“Sheffield! Do you mind? Have you had lunch? Was it in a shot glass?” He laughed maniacally as she rounded the corner and nearly collided with Randie, her paralegal. Olivia quickly reached out to catch the files slipping from Randie’s arms.

“I’m so sorry, Randie! Sheffield was giving me a bad time and I…I… well, I walked right into you. Are you okay?” She shuffled the file folders together and handed them to Randie. She accepted the files while giving Olivia a scrutinizing look.

“Did you do something different with your hair? You look different today.” Olivia squeezed her eyes shut, shaking her head.

“Did I walk into an alternate universe? Why is everyone acting so strange and what’s so different about me?”

“It’s not a bad ‘different’, Olivia. It looks good on you.” Sighing, she let it go.

“Thank you, Randie…I think.”

Margo Schultz was simultaneously on the phone and Internet when Olivia passed her desk. She held up a finger to get Olivia’s attention and thrust a handful of files and messages in her direction. Olivia chuckled, knowing she had a full afternoon ahead of her. Entering her office, she quickened her step to her desk where she unceremoniously dumped the stack of paperwork and documents. Closing the west facing blinds to block out of the glare of the afternoon sun, Olivia turned up the air conditioning then plopped into her custom-made office chair. She loved that chair. With an extra high back, extra wide seat, cushioned armrests, and built-in massagers from the lumbar all the way to the neck, she didn’t mind the long hours she sometimes had to spend in it.

Kicking off her shoes under her desk, a glance at her desk clock startled her. 1:15? Had she really spent half the day with her newest client? Thinking back over the morning, Olivia pulled out the notes she’d made at the hospital, then grabbed a fresh legal pad and made notes in three columns – ‘Known’, ‘Unknown’, and ‘???’. Getting Rena an appointment for a psyche eval was a priority. Olivia wasn’t sure if it was consciously or subconsciously, but Rena Averest was holding in an incredible amount of emotions. Pain, loss, fear, and even anger were probably waging war inside her, and not knowing how to deal with them all at the same time, she held them all in. Olivia had seen it too many times. She had lived it too many times.

*** Flashback***
Livvie stared at the wall, willing her tears not to fall. “Oh, sweetie. Please don’t be angry. It will only make you feel worse. Everyone was only thinking of what was best for you”, the nurse cooed. She reached out to touch Livvie’s arm, but stopped short and pulled her hand back. The child met her gaze with defiant glare.

“You wait days to tell me my daddy’s dead, and now days later, you tell me they already had his funeral.”

“Honey, you were so weak, and your social worker said it was best for everyone not to tell you at the time, and just let you get better.”

“What social worker?”

“Your social worker, Mrs. Jenkins.” Livvie’s eyes widened.

“That tall woman with the ugly hair and mean face is my social worker?”

“Livvie! That’s not nice!”

“I only remember seeing her once, and she never looked at me…not one time. I don’t want her to be my social worker!” The nurse sighed heavily.

“Certain decisions have to be made for you right now, Livvie, and since you’re not an adult, the state has to step in and help out.”

“What about my mom?” The nurse looked away and smoothed the bed covers. “She’s still in a coma, isn’t she? And you were not going to tell me.”

Straightening her back and standing to her full height, the nurse’s voice took a firmer tone.

“You have no idea what your body…and your mind have been through, Livvie. As a child, you’re not able to understand how serious this all is.” Livvie pushed herself into a sitting position, wincing from the pain.

“My daddy’s dead, my mom’s in a coma and I have no one. People who don’t even know me get to tell me what to do.” She continued before the nurse could speak. “We don’t have any more family. We only had each other. So strangers buried my daddy, and no one told me. I’m ten and a half, not stupid.” She reached for the child, but Livvie pulled away, wincing again.

“I didn’t even get to say goodbye. My daddy’s gone…and I didn’t get to say goodbye.”

“Livvie, I’m so sorry-…” Ignoring the pain, Livvie turned on her side with her back to the nurse, and spoke barely above a whisper.

“Go away. Just go…away.” Livvie exhaled when she heard the door open, then close. The tears she had fought so hard to hold on to, now wouldn’t come at all. She wanted to scream and cry. She wanted her daddy to run into the room and save her. Instead she felt as if the lump in her throat would choke her.

Livvie massaged her forehead slowly and closed her eyes. “Why did you leave me, daddy? I’m so scared, daddy. I need you.” Livvie felt her legs and back begin to throb and knew someone would come to give her medicine soon to stop the pain. The medicine would make her sleep and she wouldn’t have to talk. That thought made her smile slightly and remember another time when she couldn’t talk. She’d had her tonsils removed two years ago, and despite being able to eat all the ice cream she wanted, she still cried because of the pain. Her daddy sat close to her on the bed and rubbed her back.

“It’s okay to cry, Livvie-Lou, everyone cries. But I’m going to need you to work towards being strong for your dad. Too much crying is not good for your throat and I know you don’t want to go back the hospital. And you know how your mom feels about hospitals.” Livvie opened her eyes suddenly.

No. She had no idea how her mother felt about hospitals.
***End Flashback***

“So are you going to tell me what’s going on?” Olivia jumped at the sound of Margo’s voice.

“What?”

“I’m used to you zoning out and getting lost in your thoughts. I learned long ago that was standard Olivia Chandler. But when you do it right after walking through the office positively glowing, I have to ask why?” Olivia pulled a face and tossed her pen onto the desk.

“What. The. Hell? Why is everyone acting so weird today? Saying I must be in a good mood, I must have gotten laid, I did something different with my hair!” She sat back in the chair and closed her eyes. “You people act like I’m Oscar the Grouch.”

“Oh, you’re a sweetheart and you know it. Your usual demeanor is just a tad more…reserved.” Margo guffawed. She made herself comfortable in one of the overstuffed office chairs across from Olivia.

“You just called me boring, didn’t you?”

“Did you get laid?” Olivia rolled her eyes at her assistant.

“Really? That’s all you got from my rant?” Margo shrugged.

“It was you who taught me to prioritize the details.” They smirked at each other, then laughed. Margo stretched her arms upwards, then laced her hands behind her head. “Sooooo…the details?”

“Margo! No! Did we not talk earlier? I was with our new client. Remember her? An eleven-year-old girl?” Margo acted as though she was pondering an answer.

“Um, that’s true. But, I called you ‘several’ times before you called-…”

“Stop it, Schultz!” Margo tried to suppress her grin.

“Alright. What’s up with our latest little darling?”

“It’s not good, but it could be worse. Eleven-year-old Rena Averest and her parents were involved in that horrible accident on Morrissey Highway back in June. Her mom was killed, and her dad was gravely injured. He broke just about every bone on the left side of his body, had severe internal injuries, suffered brain trauma, and was in a coma for quite some time only recently coming out of it.”

“Damn! And Rena?”

A concussion and several broken bones, including an ankle and hip. Poor thing had a total hip replacement.”

“Oh no!”

“Yeah. And you know as young as she is, there’s the chance of having to have the replacement replaced somewhere done the road. Just depends on how active her life is.”

“And emotionally? Mentally?”

“I am concerned with both. She only mentioned her mom twice and both times were about her death. There’s no “I miss my mommy”, or “Mommy always did this or that”. The only time she mentioned her dad was when we first met, and she thought I was there to tell her he had died. She’s blocking a lot or holding it in. She’s also in a considerable amount of pain, which is definitely distracting.” Margo reached and snagged the legal pad and a pen off the desk.

“Okay, boss lady – what are we doing?”

“Lawrence Metzgar for a psyche eval and Daniel Kilgore for a complete physical, ASAP.” Margo frowned.

“A physical? I can’t remember you ever having one done for an accident victim.”

“I never have. Rena is tall for her age, and appears to have lost quite a bit of weight. Not unusual for what she’s been through, but I’d feel better covering all the bases. She has physical and occupational therapy daily at St. Mary’s. I need copies of her COT and her ELOT.” She pushed several forms across her desk. Margo picked them up and flipped them all over.

“They’re blank.”

“Yep. Ever see that before?”

“Nope. What gives?” Olivia folded her arms and leaned on the desk.

“It doesn’t feel right. I’ve seen Family History forms with one name, first names only, not applicable and deceased. I’ve even seen “alive but we’re not on speaking terms”, but totally blank? That’s intentional. Rena and I were having a reasonably good meeting until I asked her about extended family. She shut down on me. Her mom has a brother back east, but he’s too ill to care for Rena, and she wouldn’t likely get upset at the mention of that. Get Louis on that for us, please, along with complete background checks for Duncan and Irene Averest. I also need Rena’s old medical records from her pediatrician. Daniel is going to need something to compare his findings to. Judge Dennison will sign subpoenas for anything we need.” Olivia stood and began to pace.

“Uh oh. That’s your thinking stance.” Olivia grinned, but did not stop pacing.

“My initial meeting with the Bellamys, Rena’s caregiver family, went well. I didn’t pick up on any signs of deception, they’re genuinely concerned about her, and Rena interacts well with them. It’s obvious there was a well-established family friendship prior to the accident. The Bellamys are also Rena’s godparents, so they must have been pretty close to her parents. They have a nice, well-kept home, and both seem very genuine.” She continued to pace.

“But…”

“They’re not blood relatives, and to my knowledge, there was nothing in writing prior to the accident appointing them guardians.”

“Can the father make that appointment now?” Olivia threw her arms then let them fall to her sides.

“That’s something else I don’t know. I need to meet with him and his doctor to find out his medical and mental state. If he’s not judged competent, we’ll have a fight on our hand with DCS. This could take time, and as you and I both know, DCS could swoop in at any time and take custody of Rena. Once they get her into their system, it will almost take a military coup to get her out.” A mischievous grin slowly spread across Margo’s face.

“You have a plan.”

“Of course I do, but the clock is working against us.” Margo scooted to the edge of her seat.

“What’s the play?” Olivia returned to her chair.

“I still have to complete the Bellamy formal interview, but I don’t see any immediate problems…except their familial responsibilities can, and have changed. Marissa’s mom goes to dialysis three times a week, and while an aunt heals from a small stroke, Marissa is her transportation, not to mention helping them also with their household needs. Rena feels like she’s an added burden to the family. Once I see the Averest insurance and financials, I’m going to see Judge Dennison. He gave this case to me for more than a couple reasons, not the least being he doesn’t want to see this child go into the foster care system. I plan to ask His Honor to let me hire some part time help.”

“Woman, are you nuts? They’re not blood relatives, AND they have to hire help to care for her? DCS will be out for blood!” Olivia leaned back in the chair and crossed her legs.

“How private money is spent is none of DCS’ concern. But just when did I say I was hiring someone to help with Rena? I plan to hire someone to help with her mother and aunt, and while Marissa does not seem like the type of woman to want or need a housekeeper, having someone for a few hours a week to dust, vacuum, and maybe do a load or two of laundry would take a bit of the workload off her. She has more time for Rena, Rena benefits.”

Margo leaned back in her chair. “That’s why it has to be paid for with Averest money and not the county’s. Boss Lady, I’m so glad you use your powers for good!” Olivia laughed easily, but turned serious.

“This child has been through hell. She’s had no time to properly mourn her mother or see and spend time with her father. Her body was battered and bruised and she’s far too young to know the kind of pain she deals with. The very last thing she needs is to have to adjust to a foster family who may or may not care about her and treat with her kindness or compassion. And let’s not forget about the nightmare referred to as DCS. The state made their budget cuts and is passing financial burdens on to counties. It’s only a matter of time before Hennepin County loses more employees, and social workers are always near the top of the cuts list. Keep in mind, these are my plans and this is what I think is best. But I’m not an attorney ad litum, so what I may think is best takes a back seat to what Rena wants.”

“Do you truly believe she wants to go into foster care?”

“No way. But until I’m certain where her head is emotionally and mentally, I won’t try to second guess her. She might feel it’s the thing to do to free the Bellamys from having to take care of her. I’m walking a very narrow path with this one. Did you hear back about the updated docket schedule?”

“Oh yeah. You’re off the hook until Tuesday.”

“Then let’s get to work and make some magic!” Margo stood and headed for the door. She stopped and slowly turned back to her boss.

“Olivia?”

“Yes?”

“Don’t think for one second that we’re not having a discussion about what had you glowing earlier, got it?” Olivia smirked, but silently said a prayer for having someone like Margo in her corner.

“I hear you loud and clear, Miss Marple!”

“The only reason we’re not having that discussion now is,” she took a couple of steps closer, “because this little girl needs us to move our asses and give her our best. And… you have another call you should make first.” Olivia gave her a curious look.

“Just who am I calling?” Her assistant took a deep breath.

“Willis Benson.” Olivia’s face fell.

Why is nothing ever easy?