Beth manages an orphanage and struggles with her inner demon and the demon of an orphan.
Beth entered the Orphanage, stopped and shook her umbrella then opened and closed it to dry it out somewhat. The Chicago weather is never predictable; she thought her weather app displayed a ten percent chance of rain today. She then limped toward her office. I've been presenting these fund raisers now for what twenty five years and by doing so I have been able to keep these doors open. Beth reflected, I've hired the most qualified, educated staff to benefit these kids, not just babysit. My staff spends time with each child, every day. Children need to be nurtured, and it's tough to break down their barriers, especially with their abused backgrounds.
However, lecturing in high heels for eight hours is relentless, next fund raiser will provide a chair. She recalled her young adult life dreaming of owning every pair of high-heels at the shoe store, now I shudder, at the agony of wearing them. The aging process sucks, my once golden brown hair is maintained by my hairdresser, my twenty-twenty vision is maintained by glasses and at times I hear ringing in my ears. Beth gazed out her office enjoying the assortment of colors provided by the hundreds of flowers in the botanical gardens across the boulevard: a gateway to nature for city people. She then lowered the blinds in hopes of catching a few winks.
Beth plopped in her swivel chair and leaned back gently placing her aching feet on an empty spot on her desk. Just five minutes closing her wearied eyes as her head nodded to the left side of the headrest.....
Within thirty seconds her office door burst opened, Beth flinched, a whiff of Leanne's' drug store brand perfume saturated her office. Grudgingly, Beth opened her eyes seeing her administrator's attire: Flashy fluorescent yellow skirt suit today. I thought the sun was intense.
Leanne her administrator and best friend for the past twenty years waddled in clutching a folder. "Good morning Beth, was the fund raiser that terrible, it's eleven o'clock in the morning and your feet are already planted on the desk?" Her contagious smile created dimples within her pudgy cheeks as her baby blue eyes sparkled with warmth.
"These high heels Leanne, god their torturous, I hate to admit this but I'm an old lady now because flats are appealing to me." Beth sat upright in her chair placing her elbows on her desk supporting her head with her two arms acting like a tripod. "The fund raiser tripled our expectations by the way thanks to our hours of preparation." She winked at Leanne
Leanne's plump frame jiggled as she tottered towards the window adjusting the blinds to brighten the gloomy office, her reading glasses bouncing on her chest secured by a silver chain."A sixteen year old girl named Jasmine was admitted by Sadie, the social worker from Sheldon County. Apparently a fire exploded at the Terrace Apartments in New Hampshire around two o'clock this morning. Her parents died in that fire, remnants of a meth lab was discovered in the ashes, the girl was found outside watching the building burn down.
"Jasmine has finished her physical and is awaiting you in the reception room." Leanne placed the girl's portfolio on an empty spot of Beth's cluttered desk, she was not an organized person, yet she can locate any document within seconds. Anything else you require in preparation for your consultation with Barb?" Leanne asked.
"Thank you." Beth flipped the folder open to study the girl's history, so she knew the appropriate questions to ask during their discussion.
"Oh one more detail the police shared with me, there is speculation over how the fire ignited. Of course the fire fighters established the cause was the meth lab, but the girl, stood watching it burn down not crying, not upset at all. Hearsay is based on the girl's behavior watching, staring into that fire with absolutely no emotion at all. So I thought you'd be interested, especially if there is any truth to it." Leanne smirked returning to her desk.
Beth watched Leanne walking out contemplating a night out with her it's been awhile since we solved the world's problem with a few bottles of good red wine, a much necessary requirement to balance out the disheartened parts of the job.
Dedicated to the children she brought her focus back to the file at hand. She read the jacket from cover to cover focused entirely on Jasmine's past life, knowing the girl is waiting and she hates to keep people waiting.
She jotted notes from Jasmine's file, thirteen years old, her abuse started when she was what eight, medical records state she was raped multiple times, and she sighed, ended with the fire. Beth massaged her temples to alleviate a developing headache. After reading all the documents Beth studied a few more minutes to review her notes, tapping her pencil against the desk. The poor kid has no siblings, cousins aunts or uncles. She's a loner.
The girl has no one, no one....Beth snapped her pencil. "No I will not." She muttered to obstruct her inner commanding voice.
She rose from her relaxing swivel chair to brandish her inner voice from talking, she sighed at the thought of planting her feet back in her high heels, but duty calls.
Opening her door she spotted Leanne typing on her computer and talking on the phone, such a multitasked. Beth leaned on the door waiting for Leanne to hang up the phone. Then she cleared her throat. Leanne glanced in her direction eyebrows arched.
"}I've read all the material on Jasmine and am fully prepared for her interview, so please bring her in." Beth lingered for either a smart response from Leanne or a criticism, just the relationship they shared.
Leanne held her index finger up signaling to just wait a second while she finished typing the last line of her document and grasped the arms of her chair for support eased herself to an upright position. "Right away."
She patted down the hallway stopping at various cubicles dropping off paperwork as she proceeded towards the reception area.
Beth tilted her head to the quietness of the office today, no clicking of the keyboards or voices yelling in the hallways. She shrugged her shoulders I better get back to my desk and become the professional I am before Jasmine arrives. Relieved to sit down she reviewed her calendar to verify her schedule for the afternoon. Ah, a meeting with Barb our resident psychologist concerning Jasmine worse than I imagined. She rarely consults before I have held the interview with the child.
The familiar knock of Leanne's knuckles repeated a high school song they adored - Louie, Louie before she entered Beth's office. A teenaged girl thin framed followed Leanne, she wore those skinny jeans, her disheveled black hair matched her gothic fashion of dark colors.
Leanne escorted Jasmine to be seated to the matching leather chairs facing Beth's walnut desk. "Beth this is Jasmine, Jasmine this is our Administrator of the orphanage, she will be conducting an interview with you to decide your living arrangements, and to explain the rules of the facility. Now before I depart would either one of you like a coffee, tea or soda?" She fisted her hands on her hips her eyebrows arched.
Jasmine shook her head, "Thank you Leanne, we're good for now, please no phone calls or interruptions."
"Of course, alright then, I'll leave you two to get acquainted," Leanne padded across the room shutting the door behind her
Silence enveloped the room, Jasmine stared at Beth her eyes roaming over Beth's physique. She folded one leg folded over the other bouncing her leg as she waited to hear about her destiny.
I feel like I'm under a microscope by the way she's scrutinizing me, Beth ran her finger under her blouse collar. Well time to control this interview, Beth assessed as she stood slipping her shoes back on and strolled around the desk. It's important to sit eye level and nearby each with no desk or furniture between, to promote openness and warmth.
After Beth sat in the chair next to Jasmine she fisted her hand for the bump, the cool greeting with kids today, and you have to be considered cool if you want to earn their respect.
"Hi my name is Beth I'm the administrator of the orphanage as my assistant stated earlier."
The girl returned the fisted bump greeting along with a slight smile, communications has commenced Beth thought; it paid to study up on the latest trends with the children. Beth smiled and proceeded with her communications, by folding her leg over the other imitating Jasmine's posture subtly. You need to establish relations by presenting things in common that you have, simply by mimicking the others postures, this is all subjective, no one realizes what is occurring as long as you don't overdo it. "I'm sorry on the loss of your parents."
Jasmine kept her eyes diverted to the floor; her arms wrapped around her mid-section remaining quiet- her leg bouncing.
Okay Beth thought, she doesn't want to discuss Mom and Dad I'll hold this topic for later or maybe Barb will dig into it with her.
"Jasmine would you prefer to have a roommate, the girl of course would be around your age, or live alone, it's your choice?"
"A roommate, yes that would be great," Jasmine whispered, as if she was afraid to reveal her actual voice. She picked at her fingers cuticles, and continued to glance out the window behind Beth from time to time, watching, waiting as the darkness crept in - a storm was brewing...
She certainly isn't a chatter box, but these abused kids generally aren't talkers, not a first but with time we will release her from her shell, her human built walls. Jasmine she is open to a slight communication, we will simply take it one day at a time Beth reflected.
Beth continued their interview, "Once a day for maybe an hour well see how it goes, for the first few weeks we will be meeting to chat about anything, everything. It says here you enjoy playing racquet ball, is that right?"
Jasmine nodded she continued whispering, "We played in school, my classmates and my teacher said I was a natural, but then well I stop..."she didn't finish her sentence.
"You're in luck, we have tennis courts and a recreational building filled with racquet, volleyball and of course baseball, basketball, golf if you like." Jasmine didn't smile over the possibility of involving herself in racquetball. Maybe, just maybe she was forced by her parents, other classmates, or a teacher or threatened to play racquet ball, Beth contemplated. She continued pursuing the homes activities, it's important to get the kids involved in a sport, hobby a social activity of any kind. "If racquetball no longer interests you we do offer other hobbies, crafts, sports that you may like to join."
Jasmine's eyes diverted around the room like a caged tiger looking for a way out knowing there isn't one. . Okay Beth thought, I'm not winning her over talking about sports right now, she wants to bolt, I've seen that look many many times. "We've set you up with Alice for a roommate, she's a talker but being a listener, I believe you two will get along just fine." Beth decided to provide Alice's background with Jasmine to relieve the spotlight of her for a while. "Alice arrived here last week, she knows the layout of the orphanage and she understands the rules.
Her parents died in a car crash, so you have broken hearts in common to mend and support." Jasmine remained locked up, not uttering a sound within herself and most likely needed time alone to become settled in her new home. Beth straightened her stiff back rolling her shoulders forward and back, she had sat way to long for this session, god her body is just falling apart these days. She repositioned her hands on her lap, preparing to stand. "I think that's enough torture from me today, time for you to have fun and meet your roommate, do you have questions for me?"
"Nope," she shook her head actually using her voice in a low tone, but it's above a whisper, in this business every small step is a huge achievement.
Beth stood up and strolled toward the door as Jasmine followed. "Remember Jasmine," Beth looked directly into her eyes, "I have an open door policy you need me walk right in got it?"
"After our long session today Jasmine if you're we have set up a tour for you and if this rain ever stops a tour of the grounds as well. Would this please you?" Beth thought I know I'd choose the nap.
Jasmine actually smiled, her eyes appeared happy, "A tour yea I'd like to know my way around, especially the café there is a place to eat right?" she continued speaking in low tones and biting her thumb nail.
Beth grew excited at this point she didn't care if Jasmine whispered, she smiled, she received her wish one last smile for the day, another block removed from her virtual wall.
"Great, Mary is your age, so you can escape, and chat about girl things and take a breather from authority and adults for a while. Beth smiled splaying her hand across her chest, "Mary arrived here at the age of eleven, her parents dropped her off not wanting her anymore, and she was such a timid, shy little girl. She spotted Mary by Leanne's desk sharpening a pencil. "Keep in mind as Mary talks your ear off, that when she arrived at the orphanage she was a quiet shy girl, who has flourished in five years." Thunder echoed throughout the building and within seconds the sound of pelting rain splashed against the windows.
The girls were introduced and Mary directed their conversation taking the lead, which the situation needed. Before they disappeared around the corner Jasmine stopped turned her head and nodded at Beth smiling. Mary's voice echoed until the hall door closed.
Beth smiled seeing that Jasmine has shown her personality, just a peek but a huge win. Don't wait too long, the time is now, before she settles in...Beth's inner voice echoed in her head, she shook her head to rid her mind of these thoughts then she interrupted Leanne's typing. "So Leanne what are your thoughts concerning Jasmine?"
Beth asked tapping her fingernails on the desk, because she always has respected Leanne's opinion and she's always been a good judge of character.
"Okay," Leanne swiveled her chair facing Beth, "You won't understand my assessment, because it's based on an intuition, a feeling." she splayed her hands in the air.
There is a darkness that follows that girl. Her soul is pure evil. Unfortunately I can't prove it, but mark my words something is missing." Leanne gripped a stack of papers and tapped them on her desk positioning them to stand even and then placed them in her drawer.
"Dark, like demonic, evil -wow," Beth stood back, "I don't recall you expressing any judgment so stern before, why so harsh?"
Leanne twisted a tissue nervously. "I'm not wrong Beth I've never been so confident about my judgment with Jasmine; please monitor her under surveillance, until we identify exactly what we've got here, that's all I ask."
I haven't witnessed Leanne this serious over a child at the orphanage ever since the shooting years ago. I appreciate her concerns and beliefs with her inner intuition for lack of a better word, however I can't run this place on hocus pokus, Beth reasoned. "You know Leanne I'm a black and white kind of person I'm not into the mediums, psychics like you do, and I especially cannot base this girl's future on fake beliefs
"Sorry, I wish these spiritual beings, spiritual senses were detectable, but since their not just protect yourself when your alone with her okay?" Leanne tossed her tissue in the trash basket by her desk.
Realizing this conversation has concluded she looked at Beth, "Don't forget your next appointment with Barb in forty minutes?" Leanne grabbed her Styrofoam cup from her desk to refill with coffee.
Beth rubbed her thumb and index fingers on her chin as she tilted her head trying to figure out why Jasmine has Leanne spooked. She then questioned, if Leanne senses anything about her..
"Is Barb's appointment concerning Jasmine the purpose for the darkness you speculate?" Beth asked her left eyebrow arched, wondering if this is the culprit for Leanne's intuition.
"No," she shook her head, "it's the validation for the darkness I expressed." Leanne replied as she fidgeted with her Styrofoam cup breaking pieces from the rim and throwing them in the trash.
Nothing factual to go on, Beth thought, a woman's intuition, she shook her head, I respect Leanne, but I can't scrutinize a young teen's life because of it. I need to proceed with my schedule, this topic is a dead-end, and Beth's stomach rumbled reminding her she hasn't eaten today. "I'm starving overdue for lunch." She dashed toward kitchenette, she announced to Leanne, "Be back in a second."
Beth's inner voice echoed in her mind, she stopped before entering the kitchen-Jasmine is consumed by evil, she must die before she kills innocent children; even your dearest friend, Leanne is aware.......
Beth whispered to herself, "I don't terminate children, not today, not tomorrow, and not ever." Anger flooded through her veins as she realized this voice in her head is becoming stronger, she stomped her good foot.
After she calmed herself down she entered the kitchenette wondering what else will prevent her from getting her lunch today. Then to complete her day she spotted Rob stirring a cup of soup she glanced at the ceiling wanting to surrender. "Busy day for you too?" She tugged at the old once white refrigerator silver handle and almost lost her footing the door sticks constantly and no one will fix the damn thing. Once inside she recognized her Tupperware bowl amongst the ten others piled on the three shelves. However, hers had the most delicious meal her favorite pasta left over from last night's dinner.
Rob is the accountant for the orphanage, maintaining the finances according to law along with the taxes each and every year. He literally is tied to his desk with barely enough time to take a piss, and take a fifteen minute lunch. "Buried under paperwork with the state auditors, they question why the sun comes up." He smiled. "How have you been?"
His toothpick appearance reminds Beth of a willowy tree just waiting on a good storm to blow him over. He's a nerdy type of guy of few words, and when he does talk its always concerning numbers which Beth finds totally uninteresting. For some odd reason Rob's quiet voice, slow pronunciation of his words, like the kind you'd imagine a serial killer to sound. To be polite she responded him with a compliment, you never want to piss off the accountants, and they are your soldiers of war battling the IRS. "You're the guy that formulates their happiness." Beth flashed her smile and dashed out of the room to avoid further conversation.
Beth charged back toward her office, she craved solitude to recharge her battery and clear her head over a large bowl of pasta.
Leanne noticed Beth flying past her desk without a glance or a comment which wasn't Beth's style, she wondered what was happening. "Is there a fire or something?"
"Rob," Beth replied with a smirk, she disappeared into her office, slamming the door behind her.
"Say no more." Leanne muttered to herself as she sipped her coffee recalling the countless hours of feeling trapped in relentless conversations with the guy. Poor Rob he's so starving for affection, talking to another human, but his topics, he needs to broaden his life a tad. She smiled typing the rest of her document to get the payroll out.
Beth savored her chicken pasta and garlic bread, while she contemplated on what Barb's discussion would entail over Jasmine. She reviewed the documents on the girl to see if she missed any pertinent information. Using her garlic bread she soaked up the Marsala sauce that lined the pan from the chicken removing all traces that remained. Not knowing when or if she'd get dinner tonight Beth tucked the bowl into her lunch bag when a rap at her door sounded.
"Come in." Beth yelled as she slipped her painful heels on and limped around her desk using it for support to greet her coworker. The door opened as a five foot two woman her short red hair peppered with gray short stepped in grasping a few folders against her chest.
Barb's husky smoking voice spoke. She glanced down at her feet. "Hello Beth, why are you limping?" The two women settled into the maroon leather chairs near the round table sitting in the corner.
"Heels I hate them, Beth stated, why do women continue wearing these torturous shoes?" She fidgeted with her gold-plated necklace and discovered her cross had slinked up the side of her neck.
Barb smiled. Another sign of aging my friend," her grey eyes twinkled with wisdom. "Our arches aren't as resilient as they once were, but then again what is.?" Barb raised her feet to fashion her blue flats, "But the awkward part is revealing my natural height and looking up at everyone, instead of meeting them eye to eye. When you reach my age comfort becomes more important than appearances. So for you, get the thin liners, most drugstores supply them. The inserts soften the pain quite a bit and support the arches." Barb flipped open one of the three folders displayed on her lap.
"Thanks Barb I'll stop on the way home. Are you as buried as I am these days? I just finished my lunch which is a battle to find the time, and some days I don't get to eat?" Beth said.
"Yes, but saving unwanted and abused children and developing them, makes it all worthwhile, doesn't it?' Barb winked swiveled her chair changing her position. "The reason for this meeting, have you met Jasmine?"
"You always put things in the right perspective Barb. Yes the children are the main reason were all working so hard. Beth placed her hands on her lap lacing her fingers between each digit. You've got me in suspense." Beth responded. Barb has never consoled me on a case before, she thought.
"It's imperative we treat this girl immediately. Her parents burned alive in their beds. Granted they lived in a shabby apartment building not exactly kept up to code. The police report stated a meth caused the fire."
After I interviewed with Jasmine I felt like she was holding back not disclosing her past, nor telling the truth for that matter. Barb rubbed the back of her neck. Jasmine wasn't upset about the loss of her parents. The doctors performed a rape examination and her father's sperm was detected. After the police investigated further they discovered her parents were dope addicts. They smoked, snorted every drug they acquired, leaving Jasmine abandoned. Mentally and physically Jasmine's been abused, she trusts no one, she's' shut up like a clam, and who can blame her."
"I read the file; she's been molested, and led a mistreated life as the other seventy-five percent of these orphans under our guardianship." Beth continued, "Darkness lingers over their souls and it's our responsibility to enlighten them. The children are missing pieces of a puzzle and we supervise these orphans to accept and fit in with society." Beth didn't understand why Barb was making such a to do for Jasmine.
"True, Jasmine's is an exception though" Barb paused then sighed, "is she murdered her parents." Barb replied twiddling her thumbs, staring into Beth's eye
Silence filled the office with an occasional phone ringing and clicks of keyboards in the background. While Beth collected her thoughts, she realized that Barb certainly doesn't beat around the bush with her assessments; she plunges directly into the heart of the situation. How do I respond to this? Beth thought a few seconds before responding, "Its only speculation, after all the police discovered a meth, lab that's what the fire department's report stated as cause of the fire?"
"Right for now, no there is no legal proof, and I understand the logistics, but from Jasmine's interview and talking with the lieutenant I incline to believe, Jasmine did murder her parents. "Legally she's safe, although if I pushed it I could prove she's mentally unstable and sign her into an institution, if she becomes dangerous." I've been in this business now for thirty years, as you know, and my gut tells me she did this." She yanked a hanky from her pocket and blew her nose. "I think I may be getting a cold. "Barb leaned forward. "Beth you know the longer she keeps these feelings locked up the worse she will become.
Beth remained quiet mulling over what Barb rambled over the past ten minutes then she leaned back in her chair. I've never seen Barb like this before, she's so rattled over Jasmine. "You know Alice?"
"I do," Barb answered.
"First of all I'm surprised that you condemn Jasmine so quickly, even though the police report explains with valid proof. Secondly, if she is a murderer why is she here to endanger the other children, not to mention the staff? What I had planned was for Alice, I'm not sure if you met her, but she's a nice, smart girl, who arrived a week ago, to work with Jasmine. I believe someone her own age would be less threatening to her and possibly the two girls would develop a relationship. How would you foresee this situation to be administered, you're the psychologist?" Beth shrugged pacing the length of her office.
Barb nodded, I apologize for appearing unprofessional. Due to her abuse I sense we can save her from getting locked up, because well you are aware, once you go into those places you rarely ever come out. If we show her love and affection as our programs are administered, I believe we can turn her around. And I applaud your idea in choosing another orphan to guide her and allow her to feel safe. I feel confident that this will work."
Barb smiled and stood up. I will leave the rest with you, keep me advised as usual. I will continue meeting with Jasmine once a week as I do with the other children."
Beth opened the office door, "I'll discuss this with Alice, I know these kids don't want to be labeled as a rat, but if she feels it's necessary for Jasmine's well-being she just might participate."
As Barb exited the office she then turned around to face Beth holding her index finger up pointing, "Oh don't forget to purchase a pair of those heel liners, you and your feet will be grateful." She smiled and strolled toward her office.