The Odyssey of Nausica - Prologue
She couldn’t save them. Not that a three year old could do anything, but her helplessness seemed a fault. Something she should have been able to change. In the end, all she could do was hide . . . and watch.
Nausica Roberts was the youngest daughter in a nuclear family of five. She had an older sister who was thirteen and an older brother who was eight. She remembered that they were good people who would play with her when she was an infant and change her diapers when they were wet or messy. They had been so proud of her when she finally learned to use the potty, and that in and of itself brought her an inner peace and joy. Her Mommy and Daddy were even better. To her recollection they never fought or raised their voices. With her they always exhibited a special kindness and love that while unconditional also seemed boundless. Nausica was happy. Happy until a horrible, horrible night. A night she wished she could forget but would never be able to fully. She could never escape from the night her family died.
It started so quietly that Nausica hadn’t been aware of what was happening until the lights flickered on in her room. She had been sleeping in her crib. Mommy had mentioned that she would be getting a big girl bed when she turned four next week. She had been excited at that idea. She looked up to her older sister and wanted to be just like her. Her first words had been a rendition of her sister’s name, Hermione, which she pronounced Hermy. How she wished that night never happened. She looked to see who had turned on the light with bleary eyes. Nausica never awoke quickly, and tonight was no exception.
The first thing she noticed was her training panties were dry and that pleased her enough to smile weakly as her eyes adjusted to the sudden brightness, “Mommy?” she asked curiously.
Instead of an answer she felt herself lifted without a word into her Mommy’s bosom and clutched tightly as her Mommy began to run out of the nursery, breathing hard. Nausica could feel sweat through her Mommy’s nightgown and could tell on a gut level that something was horribly wrong. That same feeling told her to be quiet.
As they entered the hallway she saw Daddy carrying something long and metallic with a wooden handle. She had never seen anything like it before; She had also never seen that look in her Daddy’s face. He was angry and his gray eyes, gray like her own, were narrowed to twin slits like the icicles hanging from outside her window.
“I called the police before they cut the phone line,” he said with a grim tone. “If they trace the call then they should get here, but until then we are on our own.”
Nausica, always a curious child wanted to ask what he was talking about, but that strange feeling told her not to talk. Her brother came out of his room holding a metal baseball bat and he looked scared. She had never seen him scared. He was the one that chased away that dog that tried to attack her three months ago, and even though he needed to get stitches in his arm where the dog bit him, he hadn’t looked afraid. Next to him came her sister clutching her slowly developing chest as she tiptoed behind their brother. She also had the strange look of fear on their face, which confused Nausica, as she was the baby of the house and the only person she ever knew to be afraid of everything. What were they scared of? They were invincible in her eyes.
Then she heard it. Something downstairs smashed against the wall and she could tell it was glass. She also began to hear voices, lots of them, and unlike the kind voices of her family, these sounded rough, mean, and evil. She could almost feel a small hand gripping her heart as she heard them. She wanted to feel safe, and usually being wrapped in her mother’s arms gave her that security, but right now that didn’t seem to be enough and she began to tremble.
Hermione looked to their father and asked, “Daddy? What’s going on?”
He didn’t answer except to say, “Get behind me. We’re going to hide in your room. Let them take what they want and leave. I don’t want you guys getting hurt.”
Very slowly, the five of them piled into Hermione’s room and shut the door. Hermione sat on the bed with Mommy and Nausica while her brother and Daddy stood with their weapons bared at the closed door. The waiting became horrible as they listened to the smashes and crashes of furniture and glass being destroyed all around them.
“Don’t worry,” Mommy whispered into Nausica’s ear. “Everything will be alright. My little angel. Hide under the bed, ok? I know it will make you feel safer.” Nausica did as she was told and crawled under her sister’s bed with one of the blankets, wrapping herself up like a cocoon so that she could see what was going on in the room, as if from looking out of a cave. “There, everything will be ok, I promise!”
As if to prove her wrong, the door burst open suddenly, startling them all. Her brother ran forward and clubbed the first thing to enter the room with his baseball bat. Whatever it was didn’t seem affected and Nausica heard a crash like thunder, followed by a scream from all of the members of her family. She wanted to join in that scream as her terror reached its apex and she could actually feel her heart pounding in her chest like a little hammer trying to get out.
“WILL!” her Mommy screamed as she saw her brother fall over as though knocked down. She didn’t know what had happened but it couldn’t be good. A lot of red liquid started to come towards her from Will as though he knocked over a pitcher of red Kool-Aid as he fell, but she didn’t remember any pitcher of juice being in the room. What happened?
She didn’t have time to ponder as she heard an even louder explosion from the metal thing Daddy was carrying and a scream from the other side of the door. That scream was followed by a lot more of those explosions from the other side of the door, which caused her family to scream. These scream sticks, Nausica didn’t know what a gun was at the time, terrified herm but she still could not speak or scream. Before the screaming had ended, the screams from Daddy sounding painful, she saw Daddy fall down and look at her under the bed. His eyes looked . . . different, as though he saw her, and yet didn’t. His mouth was contorted in pain, but the eyes didn’t seem to agree with that expression. She noticed Daddy’s white pajama tops were red now. How had he changed so quickly? And why were they wet?
Nausica wanted to look closer, but didn’t dare move. Suddenly a lot of people wearing black came into the room, at least their shoes and pants were black from where she could see. She heard her Mommy and Hermione crying as these men came into the room.
“Shut the fuck up, Bitch!” one of them yelled, but that didn’t quiet either of them down. From under the bed Nausica could see through her Mommy’s ankles. She saw the muscles in those legs tighten as Mommy stood up, but then they went loose again as another explosion, this one very near crashed though the room. Nausica heard Mommy gasp and sputter as if she drank something and it went down the wrong pipe. The ankles kicked around a little and then went still as rivulets of the red liquid pooled down Mommy’s legs and created a puddle around her feet. The whole of the floor seemed awash in the liquid and as the liquid reached Nausica, she could smell that it wasn’t juice. She stuck her finger into the glob and tasted it. It tasted like metal. Like . . . blood. BLOOD? She remembered blood from when she cut her finger and when Will’s stitches bled, but she didn’t think the human body HAD this much blood.
Nausica perked her ears, but the only sound she heard was Hermione crying, “Mommy?” as though asking a question. Mommy didn’t answer. Why? Neither did Daddy, or Will for that matter.
One of the men laughed and stepped forward. He must have knocked Mommy over because Mommy fell on top of Daddy. Odd. She had the same expression in her eyes as Daddy, as though she were looking right at Nausica but didn’t see her.
“NO!” Hermione screamed on the bed as the laughing man applied pressure to the bed. Nausica could hear the springs coil as his weight hit the mattress. Soon all of the men were laughing. Nausica didn’t know why. All she could see were their feet and the blood on the floor. But she heard what happened above her. She heard cloth tearing as she had when she tore her dress on the fence last week and she heard her sister’s screams, now more feverish and plaintive. Something was very wrong. A lot of movement was going on up there and she could feel the springs moving as if two people were wrestling like her sister and brother sometimes did when they got into arguments.
Then suddenly Nausica heard her sister produce a long a painful wail as the movements suddenly stopped. Before Hermione had finished her scream of pain, the movement started again as though some one were jumping on the bed. Nausica thought that one of the bad men must have been jumping on top of Hermione because she was screaming with every jump. Nausica was scared that these bad men would jump on her next. She wanted them to leave hers sister alone!
She shook, as the jumping continued for what seemed forever. Then when the first bad man stopped, another came and started jumping as the first had done, then two people started to jump on her. Hermione didn’t scream anymore. Nausica wanted to cry out, but she was too scared to do it.
After what must have been half an hour Nausica heard one more explosion that shook the bed, and then the bad men left the room. She watched their feet as they left and heard them laughing. That was all she could hear. She couldn’t hear Mommy or Daddy, Hermione or Will. She was completely alone. Hours later she extracted herself from under the bed and looked around. The lake of blood had dried into a dark glaze like paint. A smell began to emanate from her family and as she shook her parents she couldn’t help but feel afraid. She hugged Mommy, but instead of the usual warmth she felt, she perceived only a cold stiffness. She didn’t know hoe she knew this, but Mommy, and everyone else was dead.
Nausica was utterly alone, and now that she was alone she screamed and cried. She couldn’t stop. The police found her standing in the middle of the room, her white nighty bathed in blood, screaming in terror.
The first policeman to enter vomited as the next called out, “Sweet merciful Christ!” She was barely aware of their presence as she screamed and cried. She felt her bladder cut loose, but she didn’t care. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered anymore. All that she was sure of was now gone. Her loving family was dead. The only thing she could be sure of was that there was no God. No God could have let this happen. “Someone get her out of here!”
Nausica woke up screaming, clutching her sheets to her chest as a cold swear enveloped her body and her heart raced as though she were running a marathon. She felt cold and could feel her eyes dilated. Across the hall she heard a door open and the hall light flicker on. Nausica cowered in fear
A woman with long blond hair rushed into the room and sat on the bed, only to stand up again and examine her rear, which was very damp. Nausica only now became aware of the incredible degree of wetness around her waste and back that she had originally taken for sweat. She stopped screaming, but she breathed heavily.
“Nausica, honey!” the woman asked, seemingly very afraid. “What happened? Are you ok?”
Ashamed that she had wet the bed, she pulled the sheet over her blushing face so that only her eyes peered over the edge. “I had a nightmare . . .,” she whispered.
“It must have been some nightmare,” the woman said. “You wet the bed.”
Nausica shook with fear as well as shame. This was probably it. She was going to be tossed out like all the other foster parents had tossed her out. She had tried to be careful in everything she did so she wouldn’t screw this up. She started to cry, and to her renewed surprise the woman sat down again, despite the wet bed and hugged Nausica to her. “It’s ok, Nausica!” she said, rubbing her back. “It was just an accident. I am sure it wasn’t your fault and it won’t happen again. Do you want to tell me what you dreamed about?”
Nausica at first shook her head, but noticing the look of hurt in the woman’s eyes she sighed and replied, “It was about the night my family died. I saw it all over again. ALL OF IT!”
The woman clutched Nausica tighter, “Well no wonder you wet the bed. That must have been awful!”
The seven-year-old Nausica nodded. It had been awful. And it was only the beginning….
The day after the murder found Nausica alone in a strange room. She wasn’t aware of how she got there or what exactly happened after the police carried her away from her home. All of those details seemed a blur like the rare snow swirling outside with the flashing lights if the police cars and ambulances. The assault on her senses caused her to pass out into blessed oblivion where she didn’t have to think.
Everyone had been very nice to her, but she didn’t want nice. She wanted Mommy. They brought her to the hospital that very night, though she didn’t know it, or what a hospital was except that that was where Mommy took Will when the dog bit him. Mommy?
But Mommy was dead. And so were Daddy, Will and Hermione.
She started to cry again and not having her stuffed cat as she had in her home she could only hug her chest as she shook with her quiet sobs. Though the lights in the room were dim she could tell the room around her was white, completely so. White ceiling tiles, white walls, and a white linoleum floor. The bed she lay curled up in also appeared white, with a white mattress, sheet, pillow, and blanket. She felt a bulge between her legs and sniffled. Yes. That was white too.
The people who put her here probably didn’t know she was potty trained. It felt strange to be in such a big, fluffy diaper. It reminded her of her loving Mommy, and that reminded her of the hollow look her Mommy gave her when she was dead. She continued crying and eventually the white door in the room opened inward, spilling bright lights from the unknown hallway into the room. She could hear voices out there and hear wheels rolling like her stroller did over the sidewalk, back when Mommy pushed her in it.
A large black woman with huge breasts walked in wearing a white lab coat over blue smocks. She had a flat nose and burgundy lips that were set in a smile under her large glasses as she wobbled into the room because of her girth, making the already small room appear smaller still. She closed the door and those sounds left, leaving only the squeak of the black woman’s shoes on the linoleum. All of this seemed so foreign to Nausica and it certainly didn’t make her feel better, even if she wasn’t alone in the room anymore.
“Child,” she said in an exasperated but funny voice obviously meant to calm Nausica down, “What’s wrong with you, huh? You wet?”
She placed her large, hammy hand down the back of Nausica’s diaper and pulled it out with a confused look in her face. “You dry as a bone, sugah,” she announced. “What got you so upset?”
Nausica was frightened of the large woman, even if she was trying to be nice. Her dark skin in the dark room reminded her of the black trousers of the evil men. She shied away from the touch of the woman. Everyone was up for suspicion now, but she answered meekly, “I want MOMMY!” before curling tighter into a ball and sobbing.
The woman patted her back and said she was sorry. Apparently she didn’t know how to deal with this. People didn’t know what went on in the mind of a three year old that could not understand or know what death meant.
Nausica would find out the hard way that not very many people did. Neither of her parents left a will, and neither of them had any relatives to speak of. This became very difficult for the state of Louisiana to find a place for the toddler. Considering the tragic circumstances in which she became orphaned the state didn’t feel it right to place her in an orphanage like abandoned children and wait for someone eventually notice them. Not that their tales were any less tragic in that abandonment would probably hurt more, but because of the grisly murder of the Roberts family, and the news coverage it received Nausica suddenly became the center of attention for the public of Bossier City.
The entire population took pity on the toddler who was the soul survivor of the tragedy. The police never caught the killers and this was only the third family hit in what appeared to be a string of serial murders targeting small families. They questioned the three year old but her limited vocabulary and experience didn’t provide anything they could use except that there were a lot of men. The poor thing couldn’t even count to say how many there were. With all the publicity that the murder gave Nausica, the state felt it best to get her away from the murderers and away from the place that held such memories for the little tyke.
In escaping tragedy, Nausica only caused more.
The first family to adopt her, she later found out, only wanted the publicity for helping the tragic toddler as the news tended to call her. They seemed nice at first, an older couple with no children of their own, but that changed. They couldn’t deal with her loneliness or abandonment issues. It was as if she were a little puppy that couldn’t stand the thought of either of them leaving the house. The only relief, they said when they gave her back to child services, was that at least she had been house broken. Little Nausica was deathly afraid that her new family would leave her as her original one did. She couldn’t stand being alone or in the dark.
But that hadn’t been why the first family gave up on her. They might have been willing to deal with her had she not caused the death of one of their nephews. One day, as she was experiencing one of her bouts of loneliness and depression, the brother-in-law of her foster mother and his wife came with their own toddler who still wore diapers.
Somehow, Nausica couldn’t connect with the baby that seemed so blissfully unaware of how tragic life could be. As he played with his parents he didn’t pay any heed to Nausica, which only added to her depression. That night, the baby had a very messy bowel movement and instead of waiting to give him a bath when they got home his mother took him to take it now while her husband talked with her foster parents downstairs. They didn’t seem to care that Nausica didn’t feel loved or that she had gone to her room and sulked. Nausica was told later that this was their way of dealing with her, by avoiding the issue. The mother of the baby must have heard Nausica crying in her room because she rushed in to see what was the matter.
“What’s the matter with you, honey?” she gushed in a syrupy voice meant to console.
“I want MOMMY!” she cried. It had been two months since they died but her desire to see her Mommy again had not faded at all.
“I’ll get my sister.”
“NO!” she wailed. “I mean REAL Mommy!” This caused a look of pain to cross the woman’s features. But that pain could never compare to the pain in Nausica’s chest.
“Baby,” the mother said carefully. “Your mommy is dead. She isn’t coming back.”
Nausica hung her head in sorrow. No one cared about her. No one cared that Mommy and Daddy, Will and Hermione were gone. If it wasn’t their problem then they didn’t have to deal with it. Nausica did, though. This woman proved no different as she got up and walked out of the room.
A moment later Nausica heard an earsplitting screech coming from the bathroom. Everyone in the house converged on the room where the mother sat cradling her baby in her arm, sobbing uncontrollably and creaming in disbelief. Nausica recognized the look in the toddler’s eyes. He was dead. Just like Mommy and the others.
“Oh my GOD! Oh my God, oh my God!” the husband screamed. “What the hell happened!?”
Between sobs and moans she said, “I was giving him a bath when I heard her crying! I went to see what was wrong. It couldn’t have been more than a minute! When I got back he was facedown in the tub! THERE WASN’T EVEN THAT MUCH WATER!”
Nausica peered into the tub and saw that that was certainly true; the toddler had only been sitting in about six inches of water. She heard the screams and wails of her foster family and relatives as if through someone else’s ears. She heard her own family screaming and she saw her family’s bodies. She broke down crying just as much as they did, but no one in that room comforted her. Rather, the husband looked as though he wanted to hurt her.
His words proved it as he screamed through tears, “You little bitch! Why couldn’t you get over it!? YOU killed my SON, my SON!” He fell to his knees weeping into his hands as her foster parents huddled over them. His words cut Nausica to the marrow of her bones. She killed him?
After the funeral the foster parents, she hadn’t been with them long enough to even remember their names, sent her away. She didn’t know the state that she had been living in, but the next place she went was Connecticut.
This next family seemed to really want her. She even remembered their names, the Fong family. They were from Thailand and seemed really nice. They had weird thing in their house like burning sticks that gave off strange smelling smoke and little huts with oranges set in front of statues.
She lived with them for a year and a half and during that time she found a little peace, nothing like she wanted but enough to help her forget the tragedy in as much detail as she remembered. In that time she began to come out of her shell more and more so that she didn’t feel the need to cry herself to sleep. She even began to call the Fongs Mom and Dad, which seemed to please them.
The most notable change in her came about in that she began to play with friends, most notably the twins that lived next door in the cul-de-sac where their houses were located. Probably because of what happened Nausica didn’t remember their names other than they were really nice and probably her best friends in preschool.
Because of the influence of the Fongs on her studies, Nausica did very well in preschool and the beginning of kindergarten. They taught her how to tie her shoes months before the other kids learned how. They taught her simple math and even began to have her read simple story books on her own before she would go to bed. It was hard work for a five year old, but she managed to do very well under their guidance. It was almost suggested that she skip kindergarten and go straight into first grade, but they didn’t want her to miss out on making friends.
After what happened that horrible September afternoon, Nausica wished they had pushed her into first grade so she wouldn’t have made friends.
This day didn’t seem any different than any other in the summer break before kindergarten began. She remembered that it was hot and very humid; enough that she wore a tank top and wore her hair in braid to cool off. She, the twins next door, and some other neighborhood children went to the local park to play. Nausica brought along her beech ball for them to toss around if the sandbox grew boring. The twins’ mom walked them all to the park and sat down to read a book while the kids played.
Eventually they began to bounce the beech ball and try to not let it hit the ground as they hit it like volleyball between them. They all giggled at the odd motions they would make to get to the ball and bounce it back. Several times the ball would hit the ground and roll down the steep grassy slope towards the edge of the park and the street. It almost always lost momentum at the edge and whoever hit it last had to go get the ball and bring it back.
Nausica pelted the ball higher than she had as of yet and laughed with the others as it soured over them all to hit the hill with a large bounce and began to roll down. She didn’t wait for it to stop before she called out. “I’ll get it!” and ran down, chasing it as if to catch it before it reached the edge. No such luck. It bounced off the curb and across the street to the sidewalk on the other side.
Looking both ways she ran across the street to grab the ball and wondered why she bothered. At ten in the morning they had not seen a single car drive by at all. No one drove on a weekday near this park. So she grabbed the ball without a care in the world except to see if any of the others could beat her bounce as she walked across the road.
“NAUSICA!” she heard screamed at her, causing her to stop and look around. All her friends were screaming and point at something she couldn’t see, but they could from the vantage of the hill. Then she saw it. Coming around the bend at least fifty miles per hour was a sleek black car, barreling towards her, as she stood rooted in fear like a deer caught in headlight. She couldn’t move or think as she stared in horror at the machine coming at her like a stampeding bull.
Expecting her death she closed her eyes, but instead of an impact from in front she felt herself pushed roughly from the side, which catapulted her several feet away. She fell to her knees and felt them tear on the pavements, the cold grit burning the wounds as assuredly as lemons or salt. But that paled to what she heard behind her.
It sounded like a piece of meat falling from the counter to hit the ground, a sickening squelch in addition to glass shattering. She turned just in time to wish she hadn’t. One of the twins lay on the ground, her body not resembling a human’s anymore. She looked as though she were a garment bag folded in half, but the wrong way, as though she were trying to grab her ankles by bending backwards. Not that those mutilated arms could grab anything anymore. Through the blood and the gore that leaked out of the girl’s chest and side like raw hamburger meat, Nausica could see the tubing of her intestines falling out, she noticed only the eyes, which held that same DAMNED expression as the baby and her family; expressionless like a fish. Dead. The girl must have died on impact
Whether by choice or subconscious necessity little Nausica couldn’t remember any of what happened next, except that the twin and her family moved away soon after the tragedy, blaming Nausica for all of it. She didn’t remember the funeral or any of the next few weeks. Her only really cognizant recollection came when the Fongs decided to move back to Thailand. Of course Nausica wasn’t coming with them. They called her a bad omen, a destructive forced wherever she went.
Only a five year old, young Nausica didn’t know what they meant except that she would hurt whoever she loved by being with them. The title of tragic toddler followed her like a sick companion. For the next year she stayed in an orphanage in Manchester Connecticut. No one wanted to adopt her when they looked at the reasons the other foster parents abandoned her. Even those that scoffed at ill fortune and fate didn’t want to take a chance with her.
After the incident with the twin Nausica refused to make any friends while she was at the orphanage. Not that it mattered. Everyone she began to like ended up getting adopted soon after. It seemed she couldn’t win regardless of circumstances.
Until one day, all of that changed. A man adopted her. But unlike either the Fongs or the strange family this man seemed genuinely different, but not in a good way.
Callie Roberts stepped out of the shower and finished toweling off her long golden strands that fell to the small of her back. Her one pride and her favorite possession was her silken hair, which she treated with olive oil to keep it soft and full. She smiled at her reflection in the mirror of the bathroom and giggled. Her sapphire eyes blinked merrily back at her and her high cheeks dimpled with the smile. A small nose wrinkled as she thought, ‘Damn I am cute!’ before laughing.
Yeah. For someone so cute, why did she live in a ratty apartment underneath tenants that must be related to elephants they way they stomped about? Or why did she work at a restaurant as a waitress instead of cashing in on those good looks and landing a husband?
She had been foolish enough to get into an argument with her mother and one thing she should have remembered growing up in that house was that Mother always wins. Well, not this time. Mother CLAIMED that Callie would never get anywhere in life unless she married into it. Now Callie’s grades in high school hadn’t been the greatest, certainly not good enough to get her into college, but she graduated. To be so belittled by her mother went against her ethos. She was determined to prove that she could make it on her own in the big bad world, and while her mother and father sat on a veritable fortune Callie refused to make use of it. If she accepted any help than it was as much as giving in. They didn’t think she would last a year.
She had shown them! Twenty-two years old and she still managed. Well, not very well. Without a college degree she couldn’t get a very good job, at least her pretty face and charitable character ensured she got good tips at the restaurant. In a way, she had moved up. She remembered starting in Perkins making below minimum wage even with tips while staying in her cousin’s apartment. She gradually made her way up to one of the nicer restraints in town and could even move into her own place. Staying at her cousin’s felt like cheating. If she was to do this she needed to do it all on her own.
She couldn’t party or send money on anything nonessential. This seemed a far cry from the way she had behaved in high school. Every night had been a party then and she never lacked a boy to spend money on her. In the first year as she lived with her cousin Chloe she learned how to live responsibly. Going to work sixty hours a week helped ensure she stayed that way. From the moment she got up to the moment she went to bed she worked, except on Saturday and Sunday, which she took as her personal time. Ordinarily waitress had to work weekends in addition to their weekday shifts but because of the time she put into the restaurant, her seniority, and her schedule she managed to pull it off. She grew up in the Church and even if she didn’t consider herself very religious, Callie made it a point to go every Sunday, making Saturday the only day she had completely to herself.
Therefore it was no surprise that Callie slept till ten this morning. She gargled her mouthwash and spit it into the sink cracked with age and no longer as white as it started half a century ago. After her toiletries were finished she walked into her bedroom and got dressed. A pair of loose fitting jeans and a large purple sweater with blue snowflakes over a white turtleneck made her ensemble. Though thin from fasting, she couldn’t afford to eat a lot; she had always preferred bulky clothing, loose and comfortable.
After she was dressed Callie walked into the kitchenette/dining room to make herself a bowl of cereal. She only used the off brands as the Kellogg’s were often out of her budget. On her circular kitchen table, which she got at a garage sale for twenty bucks, complete with four rickety wooden chairs she saw an envelope and some pieces of paper, her to do list, and paycheck. Every Friday she got paid and she deposited it Saturday before the bank closed at one.
Her Dodge Neon, a 95 with 120,000 miles on it was her pride next to her hair. The darling little thing, despite its rusted exterior, dents, and depleting paint got almost thirty miles to the gallon in the city and that saved her so much money she couldn’t believe it, especially with the spike in gas prices. She jumped in and adjusted the mirror before pulling out of her parking spot. Though it wasn’t built for it, or perform like one, Callie treated her little Neon like a rally car. She took turns tight and would pretend that the red light was the start of a race. She didn’t speed too much, a few tickets taught her the danger of that, but enough to make her feel a slight sense of excitement and adventure.
The trip to the bank didn’t take more than ten minutes and when she got there she sighed in anger. Why was is it that during the week when it was open until six no one ever came to the bank, but when it only opened for three hours on Saturday everyone and his brother felt the urge to go and cash in their jars of pennies? Nothing for it but to go in and get in the line that looped six times until hitting the doors.
Great. Like she didn’t have other things to do on her one day off than stand in line at the bank for an hour. She was just glad she was wearing comfortable clothes and not the heels she had to wear at work. In front of her she surveyed the crowd. No one really interested her. The men were almost all wearing trench coat because of the cold and the women hats and scarves. No one seemed to be her age, all in their mid thirties on up.
Well, that wasn’t completely true. The man in front of him brought his daughter with him. Hmm. She looks to be about six or seven years old. Callie didn’t like kids too much, but she didn’t dislike them either. She hated walking into supermarkets only to listen to children throw a tantrum over a toy or cereal they wanted. She figured she could do without that for several years, though she did want to have kids eventually. It seemed the natural course of things, the right thing to do.
Callie didn’t know where her obsession over doing the right thing had come from. She certainly didn’t do right in high school. She had tried weed, she drank often, and she certainly didn’t care about morals. It had been a miracle she never got pregnant. But wherever it came from, Callie wanted to always do what she believed was right.
This girl seemed different from a normal six year old. It wasn’t that the child wasn’t dressed appropriately for the cold; the poor thing’s nose was sniffling terribly. Callie looked the child over without trying to be obvious about it while going through her purse for gum. Breaking smoking had been a chore, and in the end she found she had to have gum often. The child couldn’t have been more than three feet high with a well-chiseled face, heart shaped and demure. She had gray eyes, not just light blue, but honest to goodness gray eyes that almost seemed to glisten like metal. These eyes seemed sad, and that elicited a measure of pity from Callie. Kids that age didn’t have much to be sad about. Even their tantrums in the stores never lasted more than a moment, but this girl’s eyes looked different than that. Not that sadness of being scolded but a true sadness. The child’s raven black hair came down in waves just past her shoulders while her bangs dusted her cheeks and the bridge of her nose. The little thing should have been wearing a hat and earmuffs; those cherry red ears looked cold, despite the heater in the bank that began to warm her up.
She wore a green dress that looked tattered and stained, obviously old. ‘I couldn’t do much better, but I would at least make sure her dress was clean. What’s with this guy? He looks dressed like a banker and his daughter looks like a waif!’ she seethed as she looked at him in his London Fog Coat and bawler hat. He reminded her of her mother, so rich and oblivious to other people.
Suddenly, someone bumped into her and as she turned to tell whomever it was off, she gasped. He wore a blue ski mask and had a double barrel shot gun in his arms. To make matters worse, he wasn’t alone. Three others, armed with pistols and rifles shuffled into the bank, locking the door behind them. One had the security guard at gunpoint and called out for everyone to get down. Callie ducked immediately as her heart kicked into overdrive.
A bank robbery? People still did that? Well, obviously, but she certainly never thought she would be in the bank when it happened.
“Alright!” the leader of the robbers called out. “You three tellers get your asses out here now and keep those hands up and open where I can see them. Green!” he yelled at the man with a green ski mask. “Go behind the booth and make sure they didn’t push anything.”
“All clear, Yellow!” he reported, “The buttons haven’t been pressed!”
“Good! Red, Blue clear out the drawers!” Yellow barked. “Ok, we can do this the hard way or the easy way. None of you have to get hurt, empty out all your belonging onto the floor. Wallets, watches, cash, credit cards. I mean everything.”
Callie, who never had much money on her anyway pulled out the twenty bucks she had brought for food and put it in front of her. Yellow looked down at her meager contribution. “That’s it? Twenty bucks? No credit cards or anything?”
Callie kept her eyes down as she replied that that was all she had. This must not have been the right answer as he lifted her up by the front of her sweater and placed his gun in front of her face. “I really don’t like it when I am lied to, bitch. You better produce something else real quick or this will get bloody!”
Callie whimpered, “But that’s all I have, I swear!”
“LEAVE HER ALONE!” she heard a small voice cry out. Both she and Yellow turned to look at the little girl standing up, pulling on Yellow’s pants. “Put her down, you bog bully!”
“Well,” Yellow laughed, “What have we got here? A runt with balls!”
The man who was with the child grabbed her by the collar and forced her back down to the floor, “Damnit Nausica,” he hissed. “Do you want to get us all killed?!”
“SHUT UP! This isn’t our business!” he said softly, but angrily.
Callie felt both relief and disgust at the man’s words. On the one hand she didn’t want the little girl to get hurt, but she didn’t like his attitude about it either. She didn’t have a chance to ponder it much as Yellow tossed her to the floor.
“I am in a bad mood now,” Yellow growled. “First this bitch lies and says twenty bucks is all she can produce, and then this little clown comes up. Ok, fatty,” he addressed the girl’s father. “Choice is up to you. Who do I shoot? You or the kid for this offence?”
“Fucking shoot her!” he screamed. “She’s not my daughter anyway. She just brings trouble. Kill her, not me!”
The area under the ski mask where Yellow’s mouth lay revealed a twisted smile as he said, “Alright,” and pointed his pistol at the sitting child, whose eyes were glued to the barrel.
Callie didn’t know why she did it, some budding maternal instinct perhaps, but she did it despite the stupidity of it. As the gun was pointed at the child, she jumped on top of Nausica, exposing her back to the gun crying out, “Please don’t! She’s just a child. Take me, not her!”
Yellow laughed at this, “Solomon has spoken,” he said cryptically before shooting the man three times in the chest. “Fucker,” he spat. Blood pooled around him as he bled from the large holes in his chest creating a large pool that seeped into Nausica’s green dress and Callie could feel it as it covered her fingers, but she didn’t dare move. People were crying screaming at this.
“Shut the fuck up or I will kill another hostage!” Yellow bellowed. “Red, how’s the safe coming?”
“We’re in!” he called back. “The code worked like a charm.”
“Fuck, Yeah!” Yellow hooted, “I am glad I hired a hacker. Ok, fill the bags and then let’s get the hell out of here.”
It didn’t take them long, but for someone kneeling in someone else’s blood, even a minute lasted an eternity. Callie looked down at Nausica’s face, which neither seemed sad or troubled. “It’s the same,” the girl whispered in her lilting voice that seemed so tragic and older than it should have.
“What?” Callie whispered back. As close as their faces were to each other no one could hear them. “What’s the same?”
“The eyes,” she breathed, pointing to her dead father’s face. His orbs had already clouded over in death. “They are the same.”
“You’ve seen eyes like that before?” Callie whispered in horror. Nausica nodded. How could I six year old have seen a dead person’s eyes? Callie herself had never seen anyone dead, and but for the fact that she had to be strong for Nausica she was certain she would vomit.
On their way out, Yellow paused over the two of them. He grinned and then ran out with the others to their waiting car. As they left, Callie stood up quickly and grabbed Nausica with her. Cradling the small girl in her arms. She ran to the security guard who was rubbing his neck that had been so tense for the last twenty minutes with the barrel of a gun next to it. “Bathroom?” she asked in a rushed and panicky voice.
He pointed to one of the doors and she nodded her thanks as she dashed inside. She shut the door after setting Nausica on the toilet. Turning on the faucet in the sink she looked at Nausica’s blood soaked dress and said, “Give me your clothes.” The little girl dutifully removed her green dress, revealing yellow panties, soaked with urine and white thighs, now blotched with the beginnings of a rash. “Um, give me those too.” She bent down and helped remove the soaking undergarment from the blushing girl.
“I was scared,” Nausica explained, her face so red that she seemed about to burst.
Callie nodded, “You didn’t look it,” she said ruefully, some of her composure returning to her as she addressed this little girl, who without her clothes looked very little indeed, hardly more than a toddler/ “Don’t worry. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I think I wet myself too,” she lied, splashing her crotch with water. The little girl smiled weakly, but that was better than nothing.
Before washing the blood out of the clothes Callie picked up Nausica and washed her with her hands, cupping the hot water and soap to rinse the blood off her back and the drying urine from her thighs and crotch. That done, Callie removed her large, soft sweater and gave it to Nausica to wear. The sleeves came twice as far as Nausica’s short arms, so Callie folded them numerous times so Nausica could use her hands. The actual sweater went past the little girl’s knees, almost to her ankles. Despite the fear in her veins, Callie had to admit that the girl looked very cute. On impulse she bent down and kissed the child’s forehead, before washing the blood from the clothes. Nausica smiled sweetly at her, confused but pleased at the affection.
The two stepped out just as the police were arriving to question everyone. Callie was ashamed to admit it, but she used Nausica as a shield during the questioning, which took place in the bank office. She set Nausica in her lap and folded her arms around the child’s waste while resting her chin on Nausica’s soft hair.
“Are you and your daughter alright?” the inspector started, seeing the blood on Callie jeans.
“Oh she’s not mine,” Callie laughed, ‘But I wish she was!’ “I am just taking care of her at the moment.” And so Callie explained all that happened.
“Little girl-” the inspector asked,
“Nausica,” Callie interjected.
“Cute name,” he said under his breath before stating, “You don’t seem terribly upset that your father died.”
“He was NOT my Daddy!” Nausica said definitively. Everyone in the room could tell that Nausica didn’t exactly think fondly of the man, and Callie hardly blamed her considering what he said to her.
“Ok,” the inspector conceded scratching his bearded jaw. “Then where are your parents?”
Callie felt Nausica tighten up in her arms, “They are dead,” she whispered.
“So you are an orphan,” he said, jotting down notes on his pad. “Ok then. Ms. Roberts, you are free to go. Nausica you will need to come with us.”
As Callie stood up she hugged Nausica to her and then set the girl down on her feet. “You want your sweater back?” she asked sweetly.
“No honey,” Callie smiled, actually feeling tears in her eyes. Why was that? “You go ahead and keep it. Inspector Brown?”
“Yes?” he said, looking up from his report.
“What will happen to Nausica?”
“Well, this man was her foster parent and after the back ground check he was a single man. She will go back to an orphanage until someone decides to adopt her again. As cute as she is, I doubt that will be a problem.”
Nausica shook her head sadly and looked pleadingly at Callie, “No one wants me!” she pouted. “I am the tragic toddler. I bring only death.”
Callie looked at the kid again and cocked her head to the side. Six years old was a bit young to be behaving like some self absorbed, depressing Goth. This child must truly think she causes death. “It wasn’t your fault he died!” she cried to the child. “Don’t blame yourself!”
Instead of answering Nausica hung her head and walked to Inspector brown.
In her heart, Callie had already made the decision. ‘I am going to adopt that child! I am going to save her from the orphanage. I don’t know how I’ll do it. I don’t know how I’ll afford it, but I WILL find a way!’