Abbey Finds Jenny a Home by Linda M Rhodes
.Sweeping back her limp hair, now streaked with white and silver, she recalled how it once bounced and curled naturally. Tying it back she examined her withered face in the looking glass, the reflection staring back frightened her a little. When did I become …old? Enjoy your golden years, all the books and magazines say…..Not sure I’d call them Golden….more like frigid winter. Seems she was always a bit chilled anymore, her favorite sweater her best friend.
Easing her tired body up from her make up table, not much use for make up these days, whom did she have to impress? There was only Kate, and Laddie, her two favorite furry creatures whom she loved dearly. Kate, a sleek black and white cat, with green eyes, named for her best friend who died the year Kate wondered into her back yard. Just a kitten meowing ferociously, as if she didn’t realize her tiny size. Abbey took her in, and they had been best of friends since.
Laddie, was a gift from her daughter and their family lets see….was it four years ago, My how time flies. He was a big ol’ lovable Labrador Retriever, from a champion bloodline, all she had to do was send in the papers. For the life of her, Abbey didn’t know why she needed papers to love this beautiful loyal animal? Abbey tossed the papers, but kept Laddie.
Laddie kept her feet warm on cool nights, tucked in at the foot of her bed, and Kate snuggled in her own bed just a few feet away. They woke when Abbey did, and waited patiently for her to feed them, then Abbey and Laddie would go for their walk. It used to be a mile both ways, but now it was only three blocks, taking nearly the same amount of time. Abbey hated that she had to stop and rest often now, I used to jog miles.
Today was just another routine day, Laddie close by her side, walking slowly on his leash. The neighborhood children seemed to love Laddie and would come out to pet him, giving Abbey time to catch her breath. They would make polite conversation, but mostly just said “hello or good morning.” One little girl always caught Abbey’s attention if she dared outside. It seemed she was always looking over her shoulder, back toward the foreboding Gray two story house holding her captive. Her name was Jenny, and she seemed to adore Laddie, always bringing him a treat when she’d visit.
It was Laddie’s lucky day, as Jenny ran to catch up with them. She couldn’t be more than ten, big blue eyes and a smile that showed a front tooth missing. She was a skinny knobby-kneed little wisp of a thing. Jenny’s hair always in pig tales, or loose braids, with tuffs of hair often falling out about her face. “Hi Miss. Abbey….hi Laddie, here look what I got for you,” Jenny greeted happily hugging Laddie, who sat to receive her generous love.
Jenny reached in her pocket and pulled out a biscuit and a piece of sausage, obviously leftovers from her breakfast. Laddie gobbled them up in no time, then licked Jenny’s face, Laddie’s way of thanking her, making Jenny giggle.
“How nice of you to share your breakfast, Jenny….Laddie surely enjoyed it. How lovely to see you today,” Abbey spoke smiling genuinely as she moved to pat Jenny’s shoulder to show affection. As Abbey reached, Jenny instinctively shrunk away from her touch, then stood very still staring at the sidewalk.
Pulling back her hand, Abbey was surprised then saddened by Jenny’s reaction. Abbey recognized the action realizing it’s consequence, Abbey was a teacher for most of her life, and had witnessed many forms of abuse. “Jenny, is someone hurting you?” Abbey asked softly, bending carefully so her knee would not give out, she wanted to make eye contact. Jenny did look up into Abbey’s eyes, in Jenny’s Abbey witnessed fear.
“Please don’t tell….I’ll get in trouble, I don’t want to be moved again,” Jenny pleaded biting her lower lip.
“Moved?” Abbey was puzzled a moment then realized Jenny was placed, she must live in a foster home. “Oh you have a foster family?” Abbey asked, and Jenny nodded quickly, looking over her shoulder at the grey house.
“I won’t tell, but honey if you are being treated badly you should tell someone….do you have a grown up friend, or teacher you know you could talk to?” Jenny fidgeted shuffling from one foot to the other nervously, Laddie nuzzled her hand with his head, begging to be petted, Jenny obliged.
“I only know you….I’m not allowed friends, and I’m home schooled,” Jenny offered hugging Laddie she made a hasty retreat, waving to Abbey as she ran back to her house.
Abbey pulled herself back up with the aid of Laddie he was a good crutch, Abbey petted him for a moment, while she pondered Jenny’s dilemma.
“Well Laddie what do we do about this? Hummmm boy….she’s such a dear child…What do I do?” Laddie barked and at that moment Abbey wished she understood dog language, for she was sure Laddie had the perfect solution. Finishing their walk, Abbey’s mind was on poor little Jenny the entire time. After returning home Abbey did some research on the computer, she wasn’t savvy on the damn thing, but knew how to surf for information, and there was the over 50 chat room she loved to visit.
It had been awhile since she taught school, and things had probably changed a lot in ten years. Abbey thought about the day she quit, the children gave her a huge party. Abbey would have loved to teach till retirement, but when John, her husband, got sick with Cancer she quit to spend as much time as she could with him. Abbey missed John terribly, gone six years now. Abbey found a helpful information page, copying down the numbers for reporting abuse, she put them by her computer, not convinced she should use them.
Abbey refocused her attentions on Kate and Laddie, as they did laundry, ran the vacuum, and made supper. After supper Abbey put on a light jacket and took Laddie on an unexpected walk. Normally he was let out the back door to do his business in the back yard at night. Laddie didn’t complain, and walked steady beside Abbey who paused when they neared Jenny’s house.
Abbey found a bench near by and sat watching the house for a little while. Abbey hoped she’d be privileged to some sort of activity that would help her make the decision to interfere. Jenny’s behavior certainly fit that of an abused child….but that alone was not proof. Abbey knew making false accusations could actually do more harm than good sometimes.
Waiting nearly a half hour Abbey didn’t witness anything strange. The father came home from work, Mom was home already, nothing seemed amiss. There was obviously no loud yelling or signs of alarming activity.
“Come along Laddie, perhaps I was wrong….we’ll go to the end of the street then turn back okay fella?” Abbey petted Laddie who barked and wagged his tail in approval.
They walked to the corner and turned around slowing once more by Jenny’s house, as Abbey strained to see anything odd or strange. Disappointed but relieved at the same time, Abbey continued home. Perhaps Jenny overreacted, or simply didn’t want to be touched. Maybe Jenny was not accustom to being showed affection and felt threatened by it, it happens that way sometimes Abbey recalled.
Abbey went to bed that night, only to toss and turn. Her mind would not shut off, and she could not get the thought of Jenny shrinking away from her out of her mind. It was clear in Abbey’s mind that Jenny had been or was being abused, but without proof, What can I do? Getting up Abbey decided to watch a little TV, clicking channels aimlessly, didn’t anyone know how to make good movies these days? Finally she found one and started watching. Minutes later there was a knock at the door. Abbey looked at the time it was nearly 1AM, Who could be calling this late?
Abbey clutched her bathrobe tighter around her and made her way to the front door. Nearing the door she could see flashing strobe lights that looked to be coming from a police cruiser parked in her driveway. What in the world? Abbey unlocked the deadbolt and chain lock, then opened her door peering outside, wondering what was going on.
“Mrs. Langford?” The officer at her door addressed her and Abbey nodded, still puzzling as to why a police officer was at her door.
“Do you know an minor child, Jennifer Green? She lives a couple blocks from here in a large grey house?” The officer asked Abbey.
“Yes I do….she always gives my dog Laddie treats….she’s a very special little girl….is there a problem with her, is she okay?” Abbey asked instantly concerned.
“Well, we are not sure….she apparently turned up missing. Her foster parents have called us to find her. You wouldn’t know where she is would you?” The officer was hopeful that Abbey could give him a clue to Jenny’s whereabouts, since she didn’t have any friends she played with.
“Missing….she ran away? Oh my….no I don’t…I saw her just today, while walking Laddie,” Abbey forwarded.
“Well if you see her….please contact us?” The officer left his name and badge number with Abbey, along with a contact number.
Abbey closed her door and shook her head, only one reason Jenny would run away…..Why didn’t I make that phone call? Abbey made a pot of coffee she’d not be sleeping tonight. Nearly a hour passed and Abbey gazed out the window often, checking the streets hoping to catch a glimpse of Jenny. Abbey worried for the small little girl out on the streets this time of night all alone, How scared she must be. Kate rubbed against Abbey’s ankles purring loudly, as if trying to reassure, sensing Abbey was worried.
“Awhhhh Kate…my little comforter….come here,” Abbey picked up the silky soft cat holding her in her arms, stroking her fur as Kate purred comfortingly.
Just then Laddie jumped up from his curled position on the rug by the sofa, where Abbey had been sitting watching TV. He ran to the back door and began scratching frantically, barking as if he wanted out. Abbey followed him to the door peering outside, seeing nothing. “You hear something boy? What is it a rabbit, or a squirrel maybe hummmm?” Abbey had witnessed both animals in her back yard. However Laddie’s behavior seemed more intent, he acted like something or someone was out there, his bark more like an alarm.
Again Abbey peered outside, there was no moon shining, making the night extremely dark. The streetlights lined the sidewalk out front, but only cast long shadows in her back yard. “What is it boy?” Abbey asked as Kate stirred and began meowing as well, jumping from Abbey’s arm pawing at the door with Laddie.
There was obviously something outside, Abbey turned on the porch light, but it only illuminated the steps and about five feet to either side. Abbey still didn’t see anything, then over by the shed What was that? There was a dark shadow near the shed door, it appeared to move quickly and vanish. Something, or someone was in the shed.
Abbey had two recourses she could call the police, or investigate herself, Abbey grabbed her flashlight, opened the door letting both Laddie and Kate out before her. They ran to the shed pawing at the door, Laddie barking and Kate cried with a high pitched meow. Abbey shined her light on the shed door, it was unlatched.
“Is someone in there? Come on out….the dog will not hurt you….come out or I will call the police,” Abbey warned. A moment later the door moved squeaking, and a tiny hand gripped the edge pushing it all the way open. Abbey gasped as she witnessed little Jenny standing cowardly in the doorway.
“Jenny….honey come here child, let’s get you inside where it’s warm,” Abbey reached her hand to Jenny who took it, as everyone made their way back into the house.
Abbey locked her door again, turning out the porch light. She escorted Jenny to her kitchen where she proceeded to make some instant hot chocolate. Abbey warmed the water in the Microwave, adding the mix with a few real marshmallows she had in the cupboard.
Handing Jenny’s to her, “ Be careful it’s plenty warm honey,” Abbey warned. Jenny smiled and nodded sipping the decedent hot chocolate, getting a marshmallow moustache that she licked off her upper lip.
“Jenny….why did you run away? Do you know people are looking for you?” Abbey asked searching the girl for clues of abuse, not seeing anything.
“I can’t go back….can I stay here with you and Laddie….please?” Jenny pleaded softly her eyes blinking tears. Going to Jenny, Abbey gently put her arms around the girl hugging her.
“Okay….it will be alright now, tell me why you can’t go back Jenny, please I can’t help if I don’t know what’s happening. Is someone hurting you?” Abbey asked softly brushing back Jenny’s hair.
“When he holds me down….it hurts. And when he….puts his finger in me…it hurts a lot. Sometimes he spanks my butt…and that hurts too,” Jenny confessed bravely tears streaming down her face.
“Did he hurt you tonight is that why you ran away?” Abbey asked trying to stay calm, controlling the anger that was manifesting. Jenny nodded sniffing, “He made me kiss it….and he put it in my mouth. I didn’t want to….he said he’d spank me hard if I didn’t. I’m sorry….I know it was wrong….but I couldn’t stay.” Jenny went into Abbey’s arms crying hysterically.
Abbey held Jenny rocking her gently until the tears subsided. Abbey put Jenny to bed in her bed snuggling her beneath the covers leaving the light on till Jenny fell asleep. Laddie cuddle up beside Jenny and Kate decided to keep watch at Jenny’s feet. Abbey said a prayer asking for guidance, then fell asleep herself.
It was a beautiful spring day, the blooms were sweetly fragrant as Abbey waited for Jenny at the bus stop. Laddie was especially anxious as his tail wagged happily. “She’ll be here in just a moment, You love to run with her don’t you boy?” A moment later, the bus pulled up and Jenny ran to greet them. She dropped to her knees hugging Laddie who licked her face happily giving kisses. “Laddie…stop it, enough already,” Jenny chuckled taking Laddie’s leash as they walked back to Abbey.
Abbey smiled admiring how tall and lovely Jenny had grown. She was nearly 15, My how the years fly, she’ll be driving next year. Abbey sighed shaking her head. They had moved from Abbey’s home, it was too close to the foster home where she’d been abused. They settled in a small country home, not too far from the city. It had a huge yard for Laddie to run, the bus stop was a quarter mile from their home, a nice walk for Abbey and Laddie.
Her own daughter scoffed at Abbey taking on the responsibilities of raising another child at her age. Abbey didn’t listen, to her Jenny was a Godsend. Jenny gave Abbey a brighter outlook on life, allowing Abbey to live it happily through Jenny’s eyes everyday.
“Hey Mom, how are you feeling today? I thought I’d make taco’s for supper is that okay?” Jenny asked kissing Abbey on the cheek. Jenny had asked Abbey if she could call her Mom that first year at Christmas, and Abbey couldn’t have been happier.
“Taco’s….why not….I know Laddie loves your tacos too,” Abbey laughed and Laddie barked his approval. “So how was school?” Abbey asked as they headed for home, Laddie walking by Abbey’s side.
“Oh same ol’ stuff, except….and you’ll never guess….Jimmy asked if he could borrow a pencil…and we talked a really long time, is that cool or what?” Jenny beamed a healthy happy teenage smile shining across her pretty face. There wasn’t a hint of sadness left from the abuse she’d endured 5 years ago. The pain of abuse had been replaced with the unconditional love of someone caring, and Jenny only had Abbey to thank, well her, Kate and Laddie.