Wednesday, December 21, 2011

S3: Chapter 04: Breakthrough

Author's note:
Hello readers! I know many of you sometimes gloss over warnings because you have become used to the way I write and since you haven't abandoned me I assume you've come to enjoy it. Thank you :)
However this chapter, I wanted to ensure you DIDN'T scroll by it. This chapter does NOT contain the adult material you have become accustomed to from this story. This chapter hits on the ongoing nature of Stefanie Brooks' relationship with her father Eddie.
If you are sensitive to child abuse or that topic is one that causes you extreme emotional distress I'd like to ask that you skip through those parts or bypass this chapter completely. I would not want to make you uncomfortable while reading.
Thank you again,

Dustin straightened the collar of his shirt, stepped into the building and checked his breath before walking up to the counter. “Hello is the doctor in?” he asked the smiling receptionist behind the counter.
“Do you have an appointment?” she asked looking down at the floor near him. “Are you picking up?”
“More like kidnapping. Dr. Valentine please?”
“Just one minute sir. And can I have your name please?”
“Thank you, please have a seat and I’ll let her know you’re here.”
He walked over towards a woman talking to a cat and stroking it a little hard. He tried to turn his gaze so as not to stare but the poor kitty was in pain and the sounds it made were strained, ragged and distressed.
“He likes being rubbed, don’t you Mr. Wiggles,” she replied to Dustin’s stare.

“Yeah I can see that; so much it hurts.”
He looked up in time to see Mica strolling from the back room and gave her a smile. “Excuse me.” He stood and approached her, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her into a hug.
“Dustin? What are you doing here?”
“I came to see if the Vet wanted to maybe have lunch or something with me.”
“Lunch? Hmm. Maybe. You should have called first though I have three more patients to see before I can go anywhere.”
“No worries, I’m a very patient man; I can wait. These are for you,” he said handing her a bouquet of fresh picked pink roses.
“Dustin they’re beautiful! Thank you!” She pulled them to her nose and inhaled deep. “It’ll be about an hour and I’ll be ready to go.”
“I’ll be here!” He leaned forward and whispered nodding in the direction of Mr. Wiggles and his owner. “Is she one of yours or one of the other vets in here?”
“Who Mrs. Daily? Yes she’s mine; Wiggles has been one of my patients for the last four years. Why?”
“You ever considered reporting her for violence to that poor animal? I saw her rubbing him earlier and I could swear he looked at me and begged me to shoot him. I didn’t bring my gun otherwise I’d have put him out of his misery.”
Mica laughed. “No, of course not. I do notice that he is bald in some spots from over petting but other than that he is in great health.”
“Yeah well if it were in my jurisdiction I’d arrest her for cruelty to fur balls.” Mica hit his arm playfully and walked back towards her office.
He took a seat between two different patients; one had with him a fish bowl the other a Great Dane.
“A pet fish huh?”
“Actually she’s a Holacanthus ciliaris otherwise known as a Queen Angelfish commonly found near reefs in the Atlantic Ocean, but I’m sure you knew that.”
Dustin looked at the guy and raised his eyebrow. “Uh huh...”
“She’s sick and I need Doc Valentine to look at her.”
“Yeah usually she’s swimming happily around her aquarium but the last few days she just lays there. She doesn’t even blow bubbles at me anymore.”
“Yeah? You know usually when that happens it means that they are…sleeping.”
He turned away from him and smiled at the elderly dog standing proudly next to his owner.
“She’s a great doctor,” the woman said sparking a conversation. “You’ll be amazed at the quality of life she helps your pet achieve. I thought my Scooby was done for but that was oh I’d say five years ago. He’s still kicking!”
“Yeah I’ve noticed,” Dustin started thinking about the last week he’d spent with Mica. “She certainly has that quality about her. Enough to get anyone’s heart racing.”
Ryan was pacing constantly; his gut was consumed by overwhelming guilt and pressure and he was killing his nerves going over Stefanie’s situation and what he thought was best for her. He needed to help her and Erica was right she needed to talk to someone.
The door to his apartment crept open slowly and he smiled seeing her step inside. “Pin Cushion!”
“Hey Ry,” she answered nervously and wrapped her arms around him.
“Where are your bags?”
“I can’t stay. Dad found out I’ve been sneaking over here for the weekends and told me that if I did it again he’d call the police and have you arrested for violating the court’s order.”
“Let him try Stef, you’re staying here. I’ll deal with the blowback don’t worry.”
“But I didn’t bring anything.”
“Then I guess that means we’ll have to go shopping then huh?”
Her face lit up and brought another smile to his. It was a cheap distraction but one that would work just the same. Erica had given him her number and was available on the weekends for those that needed help. He blew out a breath as he went over the game plan on how to approach his sister with the conversation and what he was hoping she’d agree to.
Three hours and twelve stores later, Ryan breathed a sigh of relief as he sank in a chair in the food court, dropped Stefanie’s bags by his feet and rested his head against the table. The moment they entered the mall and she beamed over all the high end fashion labels he knew he was in trouble.
“I got you a slice of pizza, Ry.” Stef joined him setting his food down in front of him before taking a seat across from him with a plate of hot wings that immediately awakened his senses.
“Hold on! Why do I get the wimpy slice of pizza and you get the hot wings from heaven?” He reached over to steal a wing and laughed when she smacked his hand.
“Because I paid for it!” She grinned.
“Yeah with my money! Give me one!” He reached again and Stefanie pushed away from the table, holding the sauce covered wings with a tight grip.
“No! Get your own!”
“You get them!”
“Or what? You gonna tell on me?” She stuck her tongue out, taunting him before she bit into one of the wings and moaned. “This is soooooo good!”
“Tell? Why tell when I can arrest you?!” He flashed a devious grin plotting the quickest way to snatch her food out of her hand.
“You can’t arrest me when I’ve done nothing wrong!”
Ryan paused taking in her last words and suddenly remembered the issue he was faced with. Being with her and watching her smile for the first time in what seemed like forever had taken his mind off of everything Erica told him and the change he’d witnessed his sister going through on his own.
“Speaking of,” he rubbed his head nervously hoping she wouldn’t close up on him as she had done in the last few weeks, “what’s up with cutting class? And those kids in the alley are you hanging around them?” Stefanie frowned and turned her attention back to her food. “Stef?”
“Why does it matter Ryan?”
“It matters because they look like trouble and I don’t want to see you go down the wrong path and kids like that aren’t exactly the ‘hey let’s go to class and earn A’s’ type! Trust me, I was one of them.”
“But they’re my friends Ryan! We’re not hurting anyone by hanging out in the alley or by the tracks! They’re fun and after what I go through at home, I could use a little fun!”
“What are you going through at home Stef?” She froze like he feared she would and dropped the eye contact he’d finally been able to obtain. “Stef-”
“Just drop it Ry! There is nothing you can do! There is nothing anyone can do! The courts won’t let me stay with you and I have no other choice but to deal with my Dad! Leave it alone and stop trying to fill me with hopes that everything will be ok!”
“It will be ok! You just have to trust me! I’m trying to work something out. In the mean time, I think you should speak with someone,” he paused and waited on her reaction. Her face never changed from the somber expression she shot him earlier but still he pressed the issue. “There’s a woman at your school, Erica Stanton, do you know her?”
Stef raised her eyes and looked in the direction of the parking lot momentarily. The sound of a car door slamming jolted her back to the conversation and she nodded her head slightly. “She’s the guidance counselor. You think I need counseling?”
“I think it might help if you spoke with another woman. I don’t know if it makes you uncomfortable talking to me but I…I don’t know Stef. I just want my sister back. Will you talk to her?”
“Why?” She blurted and almost laughed. “You want me to talk to her and do what? Cry on her shoulder? Be hugged then go home to my drunk Dad and your bitch Mom and pretend I’m sitting on rainbows? No thank you!” She dropped her plate on the table and went to storm away but Ryan’s quick reflexes held her in place.
“I’m really worried about you, Pin Cushion! Talking doesn’t always solve problems but it may help us come to a resolution. With a clear head and someone to talk to, you’ll feel better inside and that’s all I really want. If you love your big brother, you’ll try!”
He applied a generous amount of guilt with sad puppy dog eyes and pouty lips that made her laugh reluctantly. “And I’ll be there every step of the way! I’ll never leave your side.”
“You promise?” She whispered watching his face for any change to ensure he meant every word.
“I promise!” He wrapped his arm around her and led her back to her seat, snatching a wing from her plate as he made his way back to his.
“You were right, that is good!” he laughed.
Dustin pulled out Mica’s chair and watched her sit before joining her on the other side of the table. “Welcome to Cassidy’s, I’m John and I’ll be your server today. Can I start you off with drinks?”
“I’ll have an iced lemonade,” Mica smiled.
“Make that two,” Dustin added.
“Alright two lemonades and can I start you off with an appetizer as well?”
Dustin looked over at Mica and waited to see if there was anything special she wanted to request. When she motioned towards the nachos and cheese his eyes lit up and a huge smile spread across his face. “Get the lady her nachos! Please!”
“Coming right up!” John said excusing himself from the table.
“Nachos? Nice to know you’re not a glass of water and side salad girl.”
“Oh no not me. I like…scratch that I LOVE food and any girl that would rather starve than make a mess of herself in front of her date should not be out in public.”
“Amen to that,” Dustin laughed.
“Besides I like my hips.”
“Ha! Funny you should say that. I like your hips too; among other things.”
Mica blushed and a giggle escaped her lips as she pulled her menu back in front of her face.
Moments later John returned with their nachos and drinks. “Have you decided on lunch?”
“Yes, I’d like a side salad and…” she stopped and burst into laughter as she watched the smile fade on Dustin’s face. “I’m kidding!” He joined in her laughter as John looked on a bit confused. “Sorry,” she said smiling at him. “I’d like an order of the Stir Fry.”
“Mmm no you don’t want that; I can make that for you.”
“It’s what I want,” she grinned.
“You sure? I think you’d rather have me cook it for you. You’ve never tasted Stir fry unless it’s tempered in a Wok with a spicy blended ginger sauce and noodles. Real ingredients, fresh picked veggies and seasoned meat. But if you prefer the frozen food they’ll unpackage in the back and toss in a pan for a few minutes to serve to you, be my guest.”
“Fine!” Mica sighed. “But I’m holding you to that! I’ll have instead the Ratatouille please, John.”
“And for you Sir?”
“I’ll have the Stir fry.”
“What? You started it! The Grilled Salmon, please.”
“You’re a nut!”
“And you encourage it so does that make you a screw?”
“It makes me just as nutty,” she smiled. “I swear I have no idea what to do with you!”
“I’m sure I can think up a few things.” He took a bite of his nachos, smiling as she choked on her lemonade hearing the words he said.
“You’re getting ballsy I see! I have tools back at my office for that you know?”
“Ouch, uh no thank you. I like them just the way they are; attached, working and happy.”
“Working? You have kids?”
“No. I have a nephew whom I adore and an older sister and Grandmother living here. The rest of my family is back in Korea; an uncle, aunt and two cousins.”
“And your parents?”
“They…died in a...boating accident when I was a kid. My Grams took care of me and my sister after that. She became our only family as the rest of the Kimuras turned their backs on us.”
“Oh Dustin, I’m sorry to hear that.”
“It’s ok. We survived. I got a few jobs after school to save up enough money and come to the states which we did when I was 16. I quickly found work at a local arcade company repairing games and such as I worked my way through the remaining years of high school. It was easy though; Grams insisted we speak English before coming here. She is still a little hard to understand for most people but as you can see I barely have an accent.”
“So you speak to her in your native tongue?”
“Oh no, she speaks English. She only slips into Korean on certain occasions. You should hear her when she’s upset. I like to tease her just to make her do it.”
“Is it hard to learn?”
“Korean? I wouldn’t know,” he laughed. “Hangul would be more so I’d think. But I’d be more than happy to teach you. Here try this: Chonun Mica imnida it means; ‘my name is Mica’.”
“Chonun Mica imnida.”
“Not bad, not bad just try not to sound like a wounded dog next time; you don’t have to raise your pitch like that.”
She laughed and gave it another try, perfecting it over the course of lunch. Dustin taught her a few more phrases to add to her vocabulary and laughed just as much as she tried digesting the words with her meal.
Getting Stefanie to talk was a lot harder than Ryan expected. As he sat on the couch across from her, he took note of the tension in her shoulders and irritation in her tone. The simplest questions were met by quick replies and snappy remarks that Erica smoothed over with a gentle smile.
He was starting to understand why people disliked therapists. The small talk she was making to get Stefanie to open up and feel comfortable around her was wearing him thin. It did however make him smile when she asked why her hair color was blue and she confessed that it was because it’s his favorite color.
“Tell me what makes you happy, Stefanie,” Erica spoke calm and casually.
“I don’t know.” She shrugged looking over at Ryan with pleading eyes. “I like staying at Ryan’s.”
“Because he’s fun and he takes care of me.” Stefanie rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “I feel safe with him.” She added through clenched teeth.
“And you don’t feel safe at home? Why?”
“If your father was a drunk that liked to use you as a punching bag and your step-mom didn’t do a thing about it, would you feel safe?!” She snapped, feeling tears pool in the corners of her eyes she brushed them back by looking up at the ceiling.
Erica looked over at Ryan sensing his own discomfort and shot him a crooked smile silently asking him to remain silent and in his seat. He wanted to hug her. She could see it in his face. Everything about him changed the moment Stefanie said she was being abused and the heat radiating off of him was enough to set the room ablaze.
“How long has your father been abusing you Stefanie?” Erica’s voice lowered and her features softened. She looked over at Ryan and Erica followed her gaze. “Did you want to speak in private?”
“No,” Ryan started to protest but Stefanie quieted him asking if he wouldn’t mind waiting for her. He slowly backed away from the table and went out to the hall exiting to the back of the building.
Worry set in quicker as he began to run over the things she might be talking to Erica about and the things she felt she couldn’t say in front of him. He pulled out his pack of cigarettes and lit one. The sweet taste of nicotine burned his throat as he drew in a breath and released it through his nose.
Is she on drugs? Is she drinking? Is she pregnant? Is the abuse running deeper than arguments? How many times has he hit her? His sister needed him and the fact that he made her feel safe was not lost on him. He wanted that more than anything. “FUCK!” he yelled. “If that fucker hurts her again…” he pounded his fist into the wall and finished off his cancer stick.
“What is it that you wanted to talk about?” Erica asked pouring her a cup of chamomile.
Stefanie pulled up from the couch and began pacing in front of the table. “Whatever I say to you promise me you won’t tell Ryan!”
“YOU HAVE TO PROMISE!” she yelled ensuring she got her point across.
“I promise Stefanie. Whatever you say to me is protected information. We have a doctor/patient confidentiality I promise nothing you say in this room will ever be repeated.”
Tears began pouring from her eyes as she rubbed frantically at her face. Her sobs drowned out by her hands as she mumbled a confession that left Erica stunned. “He touches me.”
She took in a breath to regain her composure and sat up straight in her chair. “Are we talking about Ryan?”
“NO! NO! Ryan would never do that! He loves me! He’s the only one that loves me!”
“Your father?”
She nodded her head and fell to the floor. Erica moved towards her but hesitated on offering a compassionate hug fearing it would make her slink back into her shell. “Why don’t you sit on the couch and we can talk about it?” She placed a calming hand on Stefanie’s back and helped her to her feet. On the couch, she balled up protectively with her arms around her knees and her face pressed against them as her sobs continued.
“How long has this been going on Stefanie?” Erica sat beside her and caressed her hand.
“Since I was 8,” she replied without looking up. “It started after my Mom left. At first he’d come into my room and tell me he just wanted to make sure I was ok and that I was taking her leaving us fine. He said she was a whore and cheated on him numerous times and that I shouldn’t feel sorry for losing her because she didn’t love me. Later on he’d come with a different purpose.”
Erica waited for a break in the conversation. When she realized Stefanie was not going to continue she pushed her a little. “How far have things gone?”
“He started with a kiss,” she bit her lower lip trying to block out the stench of alcohol on his breath as his tongue pushed into her mouth for the first time.
“He said I was his baby I was his good girl and asked if I wanted to make him happy. That it was my duty as his daughter to make him happy.” She managed through heavy sobs and a downpour of tears. “The first time I thought he went to the bathroom in my mouth but he told me it was supposed to taste like that.”
“Afterwards he would…he used to make me bathe while he helped me. His hands…he said I had to be clean everywhere and he rubbed me. When he met Ryan’s Mom I thought he was finally through with me; that things would go back to the way they used to be but it only got worse. That’s when he…” she looked up finally her eyes red and swollen.
Erica handed her a tissue and sat the box close by. Her arm reached around her shoulder and Stefanie leaned into her. “How old were you at this point?”
“It happened on his wedding night. Sandra was too drunk to ‘perform her wifely duties’ and so I had to. He was drunk as usual and he was…panting really heavy. It hurt! It hurt so bad and I screamed! I couldn’t stop screaming but he didn’t care and he wouldn’t stop! He kept pushing and telling me he loved me! I was only 10 I couldn’t fight him off! I couldn’t stop him from hurting me! I was just a baby! Why would he do that? Why would he hurt me like that? Do I not matter?”
“Stefanie listen to me, what he did to you was not your fault. You can’t blame yourself because of his actions. No matter what your relationship is with him he has NO RIGHT to put his hands on you like this, NONE! You’re his daughter and his job is to protect you from things and people like this. The fact that he is your abuser is sad and it’s wrong but it is not because of anything you did. Do you understand me? Your father is committing an illegal act and should be punished for his crimes against you.” For the first time Stefanie made eye contact with her. It was brief but Erica saw a glimmer of hope within them. “How many times has he done this?”
“I don’t know. I lost count.  I just close my eyes and wait for it to be over.”
“Has he ever…?”
“Finished?” she gave a short laugh and sat up. “No. He never does inside. He said I didn’t deserve that pleasure. It’s an honor only for his wife. You know he screws me when she’s around too? He doesn’t even wait until that bitch is out of the house or when she’s asleep! Just...I beg him to leave me alone! I fight each time hoping he’ll be too tired to fight back or too mad to keep going! I can still feel his hand connecting with my cheek each time I protested.”
“That burn was like nothing I ever felt! The last time he...she was there! I saw her in the doorway watching me with disgust! When he finally left me I gathered my stuff to take a shower and get the feeling of his hands off of me and she was still there, watching me with her nose turned up and you know what she said?”
Stefanie looked up through blurred vision, “She said I can’t have him! I can’t have him; like I want him touching?! Like I asked him to do it?! He hasn’t bothered me since Ryan threatened him,” she smiled and drew her knees up again. “He told him he’d kill him if he ever hit me again.  He broke his nose and everything with just one punch!”
“Does Ryan know what your father does to you?”
“No,” she replied shaking her head quickly. “And I don’t want him to know. He only thinks he hit me once.”
“Stefanie you’ve never considered letting someone know about this? Ryan seems to really care about you and if he knew…”
“NO!” she yelled jumping up. “YOU PROMISED ME!”
“And I’m keeping that promise,” Erica replied in that same soothing tone as before. “But if someone knew they could get you away from him and…”
“Stick me in a state home! I’m not leaving Ryan he’s the ONLY one I can trust and the ONLY one that wants me around! I’m not leaving my brother! He loves me, really loves me like family should!” she said breaking down again. “I won’t abandon him like they do me! And I don’t want him to see me any differently. I couldn’t take it if he looked at me like they do…like someone not worthy of his love. He likes having me around!”
“Yes but not at the expense of your childhood or safety Stefanie. You deserve better than this.”
“Maybe.” She dropped defeated on the floor sobbing for a while and Erica watched until the last shudder left her body. She wiped her face across her arm some fifteen minutes later and stood up. “May I use your restroom?”
“Yes of course, Stefanie; it’s right through there.”
“Thank you. Could you ask Ryan to come back please?”
“Are you sure you’re done? Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?”
“I’m sure. I want my brother now.” She turned and started for the bathroom to clean her face.
Erica moved towards the office door and motioned for Ryan to come inside. “Where is she?”
“Right here!” Stefanie said rushing into his arms.
“Oh! How are you feeling Pin Cushion?”
“Better.” She looked over at Erica and mouthed a thank you to her. “Can we go? I’m in the mood for ice cream and scary movies.” She jumped up on his back and he let out a groan as she flipped onto his side and laughed.
He sighed and looked at Erica. His heart wanted to ask; he wanted to know and yet a part of him didn’t. “Fine but nothing with hillbillies you know how I hate those deformed things.”
Stefanie laughed and punched his arm. “Only because you think it could happen to you!”
“You hear that?” he smiled towards Erica. “What am I going to do with this one?” He thanked her for speaking to Stefanie and the two started for his apartment.
“Dustin I don’t know how to thank you for today,” Mica smiled. “I had such a great time!”
“That smile is thanks enough. It was my pleasure of course.” He smiled looking into her eyes as they came to a stop on her front porch. He brushed a loose strand of hair behind her ear and caressed her cheek. She warmly rubbed at his hand before he removed it.
His eyes moved to her lips and he wanted to touch them with his own. Her perfectly plump and shiny mouth was calling his name and he was dying for a taste. She sucked in her bottom lip and he took a step back before everything that was yelling for him to ravage his beauty forced him towards her. “I better get going now. The doctor needs her rest so she can deal with the next handful of colorful patients.” He leaned forward, “and I don’t mean the animals.”
Mica laughed and hit his arm lightly as he moved away again. “Dustin! They’re not ALL weirdoes; some of them are actually sweet and really loving to their pets. They even treat them like family.”
“Well that’s good. Maybe I’ll adopt a dog. It’ll give me more reasons to see you.”
“You don’t need a reason to drop by Dust. You’re always welcomed here,” Mica said rubbing his arm. She leaned forward and kissed his cheek. “Thank you again for lunch…and dinner. I’ll see you later.” She unlocked her door and stepped inside.
“Hey listen, I don’t want to sound too forward or anything and please totally feel free to stop me if I do but I was wondering if you wanted to have dinner with me at my Grams sometime later this week…or next. You know, meet my family?”
“I would love that!”
“Yeah Dust of course. Who knows? I might get to see some embarrassing baby pictures.”
“Oh right yeah maybe we should forget the whole thing. In fact…family? What family? No I’m an orphan!” Mica again started laughing and induced a huge grin from Dustin.
He loved the sound of her laugh and the way she ended with a hiccup every time. “Alright I’ll call them and let them know. Sweet dreams, Beautiful.”
“Goodnight Dustin.”

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