The Truant Risk

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 2 (v.1) - VISTA MARIA

Submitted: April 05, 2019

Reads: 149

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Submitted: April 05, 2019

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It was now Monday, and the early morning sun hadn’t yet made its appearance when KariAnn rolled over to turn off her buzzing alarm clock.  Butterflies danced around in her nervous stomach as she flicked on the light, and got dressed to her favorite rock and roll radio station CKLW.  Today was the morning her mother was taking her to Dearborn Heights to enroll her into Vista Maria. 

KariAnn thought back of all the times her father had asked her if anything was wrong or if she had wanted to talk, but her usual reply was, “No everything’s okay, dad.”  She knew her father was sincere in wanting to know what was going on inside her head, but how could she possibly tell him her biggest problem was with her mother, the one person he loved most in the world?  Now KariAnn thought to herself that her mom had to be in her glory to finally get her out of the way, and have the limelight all for herself…and Bob.

Mrs. Randall didn’t normally get up at 6 a.m. with KariAnn and her dad.  Usually she slept in till 7:15 when KariAnn woke her mom and three younger sisters before she left to catch the bus at 7:30.  The elementary school started an hour later than the junior high so there was no need for her mom to get up any sooner.  Mr. Randall’s routine was to shave, dress, and grab a cup of coffee with a cigarette, ready to walk out the door by 6:30.  This morning though when she came into the kitchen, her mom was frying up some eggs, bacon and toast.

“Boy, you’re up early, mom; morning, dad.” she greeted them.

I just thought it might be nice to cook you and your father some breakfast this morning.  How many eggs do you want?” she asked.

“Two please,” KariAnn replied, “over easy.”

Mr. Randall had just finished eating and was putting away his second cup of coffee.  Glancing down at his watch, he noticed he didn’t have much time left before he needed to meet up with the Special Projects Manager at the job site.  “I have to head out early this morning, and I want you to have something before I go.” he said to KariAnn.  “Come with me for a minute, and I’ll get it for you.”

She followed her father into her parents’ room, and sat on the edge of the bed while she watched him pull out a small strong box from the closet shelf.  Fumbling through its contents, he finally found what he was looking for.  “This is what I wanted to give you, KariAnn.” he said placing it in her hand.  “It’s a St. Christopher’s medal.  Your grandmother gave this to me when I enlisted in the Air Force.  St. Christopher is the saint of protection, and will keep you safe like it did me.”

“Thanks, dad, I’ll put it on a chain to wear as a necklace so I can keep it with me all the time and think of you.” she hugged him tight.

“Keep your chin up, princess, and try to do your best.  Fourteen months isn’t forever, and we’ll all come visit you every chance we can.  I love you, KariAnn, and I know you’ll make me proud.  Don’t forget to write home often, okay?” he said fighting back a tear.

“I will, dad, I promise.” KariAnn answered.

“Hey, you’d better get moving you two.” they heard Julie yell from the kitchen.  “Bob, you’re going to be late, and KariAnn your eggs and toast are getting cold.”

They had all thought it strange that their big sister was still home when they gradually one by one piled out of bed and headed in to raid the kitchen, but put all curiosity aside when they were told KariAnn had only missed her bus.  It was decided not to tell the other kids until after they got home from school and KariAnn was gone.

 

The forty-five minute drive to Dearborn Heights would have been in complete silence if not for the sound of the radio.  As they drove up to the tall, rustic iron gate of the stone wall surrounding the well-kept estate, KariAnn read the plaque on the wall as they went through the entrance.  It read:

 

VISTA MARIA

- HOME FOR WAYWARD GIRLS -

 

Mrs. Randall followed the paved road around to an old red brick two-story, moss covered building with ivy branching up its sides marked 'Reception Department’.  Parking the car in the small side parking lot, KariAnn and her mother walked up the stairs together; and over to the nun sitting behind the reception desk.

“Hello, maybe you can help me.  I’m Mrs. Randall, and I have an appointment to see Sister Veronica about enrolling my daughter, KariAnn.”

“Yes, Sr. Veronica is expecting you, Mrs. Randall.  Hello, KariAnn.  I hope you’ll like it here with us.  If you’ll both come this way, I’ll take you to see her now.” the nun said pleasantly, and they followed her down the hall to her office.

“Sr. Veronica, this is Mrs. Randall and her daughter, KariAnn.” she introduced.

“Thank you, Sr. Elizabeth.” she said to the other nun.  “Won’t the two of you have a seat and make yourselves comfortable while I grab the necessary forms we’ll need you to fill out.”  With that she got up and briefly left the room.  A minute later she returned with several enrollment and legal forms in her hand, and after giving some instructions to Mrs. Randall; she excused herself to take care of a couple quick tasks while Mrs. Randall finished filling out the paperwork.

As KariaAnn sat in anticipation of what was to follow, her mind wandered off to thoughts of Dave.  She wondered how long it would take him or any of her friends to learn what happened to her, or notice she hadn’t returned to school today.  It had only been 3 days since that Friday they all skipped school, and now as she sat there watching her mother sign away her custody over to the school, she wondered if she’d ever see her friends again. 

“KariAnn!” her mother snapped her back to the present, “Sr. Veronica is talking to you.”

“I’m sorry.” KariAnn said becoming the dutiful child, and just noticing her return.

“I was just asking if you’d like to come with me upstairs to meet some of the girls, and see where you’ll be staying for the next two weeks.” Sr. Veronica repeated.

Mrs. Randall and KariAnn followed Sr. Veronica through the door to the side of the reception desk, and up the stairs to the top level of the old building.  There were several small rooms branching off the hallway that lead out into a quite large room resembling a typical living room found in most homes only having much more furniture.  There were lovely framed scenic pictures that helped brighten up the slightly cracked walls, and the mismatched collection of couches, chairs, and few scattered end tables were neatly arranged to center around a big old black and white television set.

Windows ran the length of one side of the living room making visible the entire dormitory, and KariAnn thought how it reminded her of looking through the big windows of a hospital nursery.  There were two rows of beds, six to a row.  All twelve beds were made with hospital corners with the bed spreads pulled up over the pillows, and not one bed could she see had even as much as a wrinkle.  Sr. Veronica pointed out at the head of the dormitory was a small bathroom containing a toilet, a shower stall, and a sink with a mirror above it, so bathroom time needed to be limited to 15 minutes per girl.  The dining area was up front of the living room, and they saw it had two long tables each seating nine; four chairs along the side and one at the head of each table.

Most of the girls were watching a rerun of “I Love Lucy” when they walked by.  KariAnn felt very uneasy as she met the stare of every girl in the room, and knew they were all trying to size her up.  She wondered what they had done to end up here to be sentenced like her to the same fate, and she was pretty sure they were wondering the same about her.  Just then her thoughts were interrupted when an older nun somewhere in her late fifties approached them.  “This must be the new girl you said would be arriving today.” she said warmly.

“Yes, and I was just showing KariAnn and her mother around.” Sr. Veronica answered.

“Good.  I’m Sr. Batrill.” the old nun introduced herself.  “I’m going to be one of your housemothers for the next two weeks you’ll be with us.  Before I introduce you to the rest of the girls, KariAnn, why don’t you come with me and I’ll show you which bed will be yours and where you can put your things.”

“Okay, Sister.” KariAnn replied picking up her suitcase from the floor and following her into the dorm.

“No one is using the second bed on the right so you can take that one.” Sr. Batrill said pointing it out.

“Alright.” she said obediently setting her suitcase down next to her bed, and then asked, “Sr. Batrill, how do you get the beds made to turn out so perfect?”

“The secret is getting the sheets pulled real tight.” Sr. Batrill told her.  “We’ll show you how we do it, and how to make hospital corners tomorrow morning when we make up the beds again.  By the way, you must be fully dressed and have your bed made and inspected before coming to breakfast.”  The two of them rejoined Mrs. Randall and Sr. Veronica who had been observing the whole time from the window.

“Well, KariAnn, what do you think?” her mother asked.  “This seems like a pretty nice place to me.”

KariAnn had wanted to tell her mom that if she liked it so much then she could stay here and let her go back home, but instead she held her tongue and lied, “I’m sure I’ll like it just fine, mom.”

“Do either of you have any questions at this point that maybe Sr. Veronica or I could answer?” asked Sr. Batrill.

“Yes, I have one.” Mrs. Randall spoke up.  “How often will we be able to visit her?”

“Visiting day, Mrs. Randall, is every Sunday while she’s here in Reception, and then will only be once a month after she’s placed in one of the four Halls.” Sr. Batrill answered her question.  “You’re welcome to bring the whole family, and visiting hours are from 2:00 pm through 4:00 pm.”

“Sounds good.” said Mrs. Randall.  “Well, KariAnn, I guess we’ll see you in about a week.  Come give me a kiss, because I have to be getting home now before your sisters get out of school; and I left Michael next door with Mrs. Thompson.”

No sooner had her mom left, when suddenly a lonely feeling of abandonment overtook KariAnn.  This must be how a dog feels when the faithful, beloved master dumps him off at some kennel, and then takes off on a long vacation KariAnn thought to herself.  Sr. Batrill sensing KariAnn’s low spirits, decided now would be a good time to have her meet the other girls.  After they all exchanged names and hellos, KariAnn sat down quietly in one of the empty chairs, and tried to focus her attention on the TV hoping no one would notice how nervous and uncomfortable she was.  Minutes later, however, a commercial took over the screen, and a girl with shoulder length, straight black hair wearing round wire rim glasses, sat down in a chair beside her.

“Hi, my name is Carol Cook.” the girl said.  “I saw you come in with your mother, but since I was in the other room reading, I didn’t get a chance to catch your name or say hello earlier.”

“Hi, Carol.  I’m KariAnn Randall.” she said flatly.

“I know you must feel kind of strange and lost right now,” Carol said easily remembering her first day, “but believe it or not it does get a little easier each day.  Last Monday when my folks dropped me off, I was so bummed out that I didn’t think I’d ever feel like smiling again, but I’ve found the girls and sisters here are pretty nice once you get to know them.”

KariAnn nodded, not feeling much in the mood for talking, which Carol seemed to pick up on before speaking again.  “We have a small library in the other room if you like to read.  It helped me to pass the time my first week, and take my mind off my problems and missing my family.” she said pointing to the open door down the hall.  KariAnn just wanted to be left alone, and thought that sitting down with a book would give her the alone time she so badly needed right now.  The reading room was small, but had book shelves lining each wall with a table and two chairs in the middle.  The books were sorted by genre type, and she browsed through the paperbacks in the Thrillers section.  After reading many back covers, she finally selected one that sounded intriguing and suspenseful. 

Just then the door to the small service elevator down the hall opened, and the aroma of meatloaf, potatoes, and peas floated into the room as dinner was wheeled in on serving carts which was prepared in a kitchen downstairs.  “It’s time to eat.” one of the girls said flicking off the TV, and slowly everyone drifted into the dining area and took a seat at one of the tables.  There was no seating chart, and you could sit wherever you wanted, except for the head of the table which was reserved for the housemothers.  KariAnn was glad to see Carol had saved her a spot, and waved her over.  The girls all bowed their heads while Sr. Batrill said the blessing, and then patiently waited for her to take the first helping and start the food passing around the table.

Not long after dinner, one by one each girl was called to shower, brush her teeth, and get into her pajamas, being reminded of the fifteen minute time limit.  While waiting her turn, KariAnn played Scrabble with Carol and a girl named Sandy.  Just about all the letters were in play on the board, and when Sandy drew up the last five tiles left in the lid of the box after using six of her letters to spell ‘PROMISE’ off the ‘P’ in ‘PRIDE’, it left her with six unused letters, and KariAnn and Carol both with seven.

“Well, this is it.” Sandy said arranging the new letters on her rack.  “We not only have to play now with what we got, but also we have to find a space left that’s big enough to put it.”

“I know what you mean.” said KariAnn.  “I have a word that would use five of my letters but, it won’t fit anywhere!  I’m hoping Carol will give me something to build off of as it’s her turn to lay a word down.”

“I got one!” Carol said positioning a ‘V’, ‘O’, and ‘T’ above the ‘E’ in ‘PROMISE’ that Sandy had just laid down.

Now it was KariAnn’s turn.  The word she had wanted to play that she couldn’t fit on the board was ‘EXACT’, and her other two letters were another ‘E’ and a blank.  The ‘V’ in Carol’s word gave her several choices she could use to build off of.  She knew she could spell ‘CAVE’ or even ‘VACATE’, but if only she could build a word that would cover the triple word score box just three spaces left of the ‘V’.  Finally one came to her, and very proudly she put down a word using all seven of her tiles.  “I gotcha both beat for sure now!” KariAnn smiled as she spelled out ‘EXCAVATE’.  “I’m using my blank as another ‘A’, and at triple word score that makes…”

“That makes the game over.” Carol finished her sentence.  “No need to add up the points.  KariAnn was in the lead anyway.” she laughed.

“Sandy,” Sr. Batrill called out, “your turn to shower.”

 

The first two weeks had gone by fast.  Since the girls were kept out of school until after they were placed into a Hall, there was much free time to chat, read, write letters home, watch TV, or play board games; but there were certain scheduled activities too.  Such as every morning after breakfast, the girls would form into a long line and single file follow St. Batrill through the campus to the chapel for early mass.  Also late in the morning, everyone joined Sr. Batrill for about a half hour in prayer as they all said the rosary, and later in the afternoon a lady named, Mrs. Wood, came by with different arts and crafts.

During her short time in Reception, KariAnn had made a few new friends, read a good suspense thriller, made a set of embroidered hand towels for a Mother’s Day present in the afternoons with Mrs. Wood, and had made it through her family’s two Sunday visits without tears and begging to come back home.  KariAnn had been proud of herself for not getting emotional, and she was bound and determined to show her parents she could do well and once again make them proud of her.

Carol, Sandy, and another girl left Reception last week, and since then several more girls were enrolled to take their place.  Now it was May 5th, two weeks later, and KariAnn sat anxiously waiting with her things for the girl being sent over to take her back to Immaculate Heart Hall where she’d be living the rest of her stay at Vista Maria.  It wouldn’t be long before she could once again get outside free to walk around the grounds, and enjoy the fresh air and warm sun.  KariAnn also was excited about resuming school and the challenge of catching up to wherever each individual class was at in their studies.  She wondered if she’d be ahead of them or behind in what they had learned.

It wasn’t long before the escort arrived.  She was a pretty girl around KariAnn’s age with flaming auburn hair that glistened off the sun, a blanket of freckles on her face, and possessed a bubbly smile.  She was wearing the school uniform dressed in a navy blue and white plaid, knee-length, pleated skirt; white short- sleeve blouse; white knee socks; and a pair of white & black faux leather saddle shoes.  “Hi, I’m Judy.” she said while taking one of KariAnn’s bags.  “You’ll like it with us in Immaculate Heart.  We have the best housemothers, the best cooks, and the best baseball team on campus!”

“We have a baseball team!” KariAnn busted with excitement.  “I’ve been playing baseball with the neighborhood boys since I was eight!  I love baseball!”

“That’s great!” Judy returned her enthusiasm.  “What position do you play?”

“I usually played first base or short stop, but I can play outfield too as I have a good arm.” KariAnn replied.

“This Saturday we’re challenging Donna Maria to a game.  We can find you a spot on the team at practice after school.”

“I can’t wait!”  KariAnn beamed.

“Then come on, pick up your suitcase and I’ll show you around some before we go to the Hall.” said Judy as the two of them started walking.  “There’s the chapel,” she pointed, “and since you’ve already been there, we’ll go this way and I’ll start by showing you the schoolhouse.”

“Hey, what’s that modern big building over by the entrance?” KariAnn asked.

“Oh, that’s Transition House.  It was built for the girls who work or go to school off the grounds.” Judy explained.  “Each girl has her own little apartment and her own key.  They get to pretty much come and go as they please, but they do have a curfew I guess.  It’s a new experimental program for the older girls getting ready to graduate or have no place to go after graduation.”

Rounding the corner, they came to the schoolhouse.  It was an older red brick, moss-covered building matching the rest of them.  Most of the classrooms were now darkened, and the hallways were deserted.  “No use going in.” Judy decided.  “Everyone’s gone, and you’ll get your fill of this place soon enough.  We had better head back now.”  Soon they approached the four Halls.  “That’s Immaculate Heart, our hall, over there,” Judy pointed to the first building on the left, “and next to our hall is Donna Maria, across from Donna Maria is Good Shepherd, and next to that is Sacred Heart.

Each of the four Halls looked exactly like the other.  The head housemother was called ‘Mother’ instead of ‘Sister’, and had an office by the front door.The first thing you saw upon entering the Hall was the magnificent winding staircase that took you up to the private living areas where the dorms and showers were.  Downstairs were the family room where they watched TV, the recreation room where they played games and listened to the radio, the large dining room seating roughly 35, and a full kitchen with four refrigerators and two cooks; but best of all was each Hall had a built-in swimming pool out back. 

The next six weeks that followed in Immaculate Heart Hall were both very challenging and trying.  There were so many things to adjust to, but the hardest of all was the absence of boys (except for the altar boys at mass), not being allowed to smoke, and constantly fighting off the loneliness of missing your family and old friends.

In the area of school, KariAnn quickly realized she would have to really knock herself out to catch up in her classes and still keep her straight A average, but was totally convinced if she could accomplish the near impossible that her mother would have to be impressed and give her another chance to come home and rejoin the family.  All the teachers, like the housemothers, were nuns; each dressed in their traditional black and white Catholic habits.  Even the principal was a nun that everyone addressed as Mother Superior.  Few dared to step out of line in class or show up without her homework, once they’ve had the experience of being dragged by the ear to her office.

As in public school, KariAnn had become the teacher’s pet in more than one class; not just for being smart, but for her thirst for knowledge and hard efforts.  Most of her teachers let her do extra credit assignments which she jumped at every chance she could, and her biology teacher even let KariAnn study for the final exam from her teacher’s edition with all the important things to remember highlighted.  The only time you didn’t see KariAnn studying and doing extra credit was when there was a baseball practice or game, and when she was trying to earn stars to go home.  Stars were awarded for good conduct, good grades, doing chores, and other good behaviors, and earned you time off away from the school to spend at home with your family during summer break; and KariAnn had earned and accumulated enough stars to be able to go home for a whole two weeks!

Finally the big day was here, June 14th, graduation!  All the parents and families were coming, and the graduates scurried around excitedly packing their things and talking of nothing but going home.  KariAnn was also excited, and secretly had packed her own suitcase the night before and hid it in her alcove.  She knew her mom wasn’t ready to let her come back home for good, but figured while she was home visiting for the two weeks she earned off campus, she could show her mother just how helpful and well behaved she could be, and totally convince her she had changed.  Besides, how could her mom say no when everyone at the school was behind her and ready to put in a good word.  KariAnn was confident she was definitely going home today even if only for two weeks.

It was now 1 o’clock, just one hour away from the expected time the parents would begin to arrive.  KariAnn watched her closest friend, Judy, the same who escorted her six weeks earlier from Reception, in the mirror as she rolled up and pinned down the last curler in her hair.  “Just trust me, KariAnn.” Judy assured, “You won’t even recognize yourself when I’m through.”

“That’s exactly what I’m afraid of!” KariAnn chuckled.

Studying KariAnn over a minute, Judy reached for the tweezers on the vanity.  “How about letting me pluck those bushy eyebrows of yours?” Judy suggested.  “They look just great on Ali McGraw, but I think you’d look better if you’d let me shape them for you.”

“Okay, whatever you say.” KariAnn agreed.  “You’re the one studying to be a bonafide beautician, and I trust you.”

“Good, but I have to warn you that it may hurt a little since you’ve never plucked them before, but I’ll take it slow and easy and pull one hair out at a time.” Judy said as she plucked out the first hair.

“Ouch!” KariAnn yelled, “That was my skin!”

“Sorry,” Judy apologized, “won’t happen again unless you don’t hold still.”  About twenty minutes later, Judy told her she could turn around and look in the mirror.  “What do you think?”

“I think you were right,” KariAnn said quite pleased with the results, “Don’t you think I look a little more mature and sophisticated now?” she said pretending the role.

“Well, I’ll say this much,” Judy told her while feeling her hair to see if it was dry, “It does make you look older.  Let’s take these rollers out now.  I think your hair is dry, and after I finish with you, I still have to comb out mine.  What time is it?”

“Almost 1:30.  That only gives us about thirty minutes.” KariAnn replied.  “We’d better get moving.  We also have to get dressed yet.”

“You’re right.” Judy said quickly unwinding the rollers and tossing them into the open drawer.  Then picking up the brush, Judy explained that she was going to try something different.  “There.  I think by brushing your bangs back off your face also helps take away that little girl look.  Do you like it?”

“Like it?  I love it!” KariAnn exclaimed.  “Thanks, Judy, for being such a good friend.”

“What are friends for?” Judy gave her a quick hug.  “Good luck, KariAnn.  I hope your family lets you come home.  Hell, no one deserves to more than you.  Just keep your fingers crossed for me as I know my folks aren’t going to be too happy when they see I got a ‘D’ in math.  I’ll look for you later, and you can let me know what they said, but right now we’d better finish getting ready!”

Just then Sister Renee appeared at the head of the dorm and announced, “Judy, your family arrived early and they’re now downstairs.”

“But I’m not ready!” Judy panicked, bringing her hands up to her head full of rollers.

“Well, hurry up and finish getting ready and I’ll go down and keep them company for awhile.” Sr. Renee said calmly.  Ten minutes later, Judy was flying down the stairs to greet her family, while KariAnn also now dressed and ready, stayed behind to take one more appraising look in the mirror for confidence at the new and improved KariAnn Randall.  On visiting days you weren’t required to wear the school uniform, and could put on the clothes you brought with you from home.  All her hard work was about to pay off she thought, and could only think of how surprised they all would be.

Glancing at her watch and seeing it was almost 2 o’clock, KariAnn headed downstairs.  Upon reaching the bottom, she saw that several more families had arrived although her family was nowhere in sight as yet.  Walking around aimlessly, she spotted Judy and headed in her direction.  Seeing her approaching, Judy grabbed her brother by the arm and went to meet her.  “Hey, KariAnn,” Judy said reaching her, “remember I promised to introduce you to my sexy older brother?  Well didn’t I tell you he was a hunk?!!”

“She only says that because it’s true!” he chuckled warmly.  “I’m Steve, and it’s nice to meet you I’m sure.”

“I can see there’s no conceit in your family, Steve, because you have it all.” KariAnn returned his humor.  “Nice meeting you too, but I hope you don’t mind my rushing off.  I’d like to see if my family has gotten here yet.” she apologized, then turning to her friend, “I’ll look for you later, Judy.  Have a nice visit.”

KariAnn didn’t see any sign of her family inside so had decided to wait for them on the porch.  It was a warm June afternoon of eighty-two degrees, but the steady breeze helped to make it seem cooler.  One couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to have the families out strolling about the grounds.  As KariAnn sat soaking up the sun’s rays and waiting for her family to come walking into sight, she thought of how great it was going to be back at home.  She couldn’t wait to move back into her old room, look up a few friends, and buy a pack of cigarettes.  She wondered if Dave had a new girlfriend now, but it didn’t really matter since she knew she would have to stay away from him at all costs.

It was nearly 2:30, and KariAnn was beginning to get worried as to why they hadn’t shown up yet.  They did write and say they were coming, and she knew they would have called if anything suddenly came up, so what could possibly be keeping them?  Just then Mother Andrew stepped out on the porch, and supplied her with the answer to her question.  “Your dad just called, KariAnn, and he said…” she began before being cut off by KariAnn.

“Please don’t say they’re not coming!” KariAnn interrupted.

“Don’t worry, they’re coming.” Mother Andrew assured, “Now if you’d let me finish, I’ll explain what happened.  Your father said he had a flat tire and had to pull in and get it repaired.  He said he was calling from the gas station, the tire was fixed, and they’d be here very soon.”

“I’m so glad.  I was starting to get worried.” KariAnn confessed.

True to his word, it wasn’t long before her family’s olive green Grand Prix drove up.  When little 7-year-old Denise spotted her oldest sister, she began running up the sidewalk, ignoring the yelled orders behind her to slow down and walk.  After exchanging kisses and hugs, KariAnn wasted no time pulling her report card excitedly from her purse and proudly handed it over to her dad.

“That’s really good, honey!  Look here, Julie, she got another straight A report card even after changing schools and having to catch up with the others.  You know that couldn’t have been easy to do.” Mr. Randall bragged on her behalf.

“Well, I don’t see why you’re so surprised.  KariAnn has always gotten good grades”, her mother said flatly, then added, “but don’t get me wrong, KariAnn, because I think you’re doing pretty good so far and I hope you’ll keep up the great work.”

It was now a little after 3 o’clock, which left less than an hour of visiting before everyone piled into their cars and headed home.  Come 4 o’clock, there wouldn’t be many girls left at the school since in addition to the graduates moving out, most of the girls had earned enough stars to go home for a week or two.  KariAnn knew the time was running out, and it was now or never to pop the question about coming home.

“You don’t have to worry, mom.” KariAnn promised her.  “I won’t ever let you down again.  I really want you and dad to be able to trust me like you did before.”

“Well so far, KariAnn, I’ve been quite pleased with your progress and the reports I’ve gotten on you, and I can see that you’ve really been trying hard.” said Mrs. Randall. 

“That goes for me too.  We all are very proud of how well you’re doing.” added Mr. Randall.

“So then what would you say about me coming home for two weeks?  I’ve accumulated enough stars to go for that long, and I could be ready in five minutes.  You know I’d be a big help around the house, and you could see too just how much I’ve really changed.  Please, mom, please, dad, can I come home?” KariAnn pleaded.

“Well, princess, there’s nothing I’d like more than to say yes, but since the problem seems to lie between you and your mother, you had better talk it over with her.” her father said with a safe answer, avoiding taking sides.

“Thanks a lot, Bob!” retorted her mother, not liking the decision put entirely on her.  “Now if I say no, I’m the heavy in this where you come out smelling like a rose.”

“Look, Julie, it doesn’t matter what I say for only the two of you can decide whether it will work or not.” Mr. Randall explained.  “I’m going to take the kids for a walk and have a look around.  I won’t be long.  Talk to your daughter, Julie.  The two of you really do need to talk.”

After they had walked off, KariAnn looked over at her mother and was first to break the icy silence.  “Well, mom, what do you think?  I’d really like to come home.  I think we could make it work, because you wouldn’t have to worry about me anymore getting into trouble.  I’ll go by whatever rules you set, and you’ll see you can trust me again.”

“It seems I’ve heard that promise before, KariAnn.” her mother reminder her.  “I’m sorry to have to say this, but as much as I want to believe you, I just can’t.  I’m afraid it’s still a little too soon.”

“Too soon!” KariAnn exclaimed, diving off the deep end.  “Don’t tell me I haven’t supplied you with enough proof that I’ve changed.  I’ve done everything that was expected of me and then some.  Plus look at all the stars I earned!  They’re awarded for good behavior, you know, not for screwing up, and you were just telling me a while ago how everyone is so proud of me.  Well, I gave you my best shot.  Damn it, mom, I can’t do any better!” KariAnn was now in tears.

“If you’re ready to knock that chip off your shoulder and come down off that high horse of yours, I’ll tell you why I’m not ready to put my neck out on the chopping block as yet and welcome you home with open arms.” Mrs. Randall said, unmoved by KariAnn’s tears.

“Okay, mom, why don’t you tell me what I’m going to have to do to earn my way back into the family.” KariAnn said, letting her tone come out a little more sarcastically than she had meant to.

“All you have to do is show me you can continue to keep up the good work.” began Mrs. Randall.  “You have only been here two months, and you’ve shown me in the past that you can straighten up for longer periods than that before getting into the next scrape.  It seems just when you’ve earned back my trust, you have to go fuck up and kick me in the stomach one more time.  I’m not going to give you a chance to hurt me anymore.”

“How long do you think it will take me to prove it to you?” KariAnn asked.

“However long it takes.” Mrs. Randall answered.

When Mr. Randall returned, he didn’t have to ask what the answer had been after seeing KariAnn’s long face and red eyes.  “Hang in there, honey.” her father told her as they were getting ready to leave.  “You just keep your nose clean, and she is bound to come around.” he promised, and then remembering something added, “Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, KariAnn.  Do you remember I told you I’ve been remodeling the inside of a chain of Great Scott grocery stores?  Well, I’ll be down here working on the one right next door to the school in a few weeks.  If you hear some rocks hitting your window in the middle of the night, you’ll know it’s me.” he said trying to make her smile.

After they had left, KariAnn sat down on the porch, and sank into a deep depression of disappointment.  Most of the families and girls had left, and the few that remained were saying their final good-byes.  KariAnn didn’t even notice her friend, Judy, until after she sat down beside her.

“I take it you’re not going home either, huh.” Judy said putting her arm around KariAnn who then broke into tears again.

“I’m not staying here another day, Judy.” KariAnn sobbed.

“You’re not thinking of running are you?” Judy asked in surprise.  “Not many girls make it very far.  They usually get caught before they even reach the entrance.”

“I’ll make it.  I just need a good head start.  Will you help me, Judy?” she asked.

“Sure, just tell me what you want me to do.” Judy replied.


© Copyright 2019 Katie McDougal. All rights reserved.

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