I needed to do something productive, so I called the office and asked them to send my caseload to my house. Brittany, my Director tried to talk me out of it, requesting that I take more time but I told her that the more time I took, the angrier I would become. She agreed to let my pending cases get delivered to me but that was it. That pending status included Denise. They had found her at her mothers as I expected them to. She had been missing her mother terribly and kept fighting at school anytime someone mentioned her mother’s recent news report. Her mother, Vivian Thompson, had robbed a liquor store a few blocks from there which was the latest mark on her record that kept Denise from being returned home. She had almost gotten away with it until her on again off again boyfriend got mad at her and told one of his in between girlfriends who ratted her out. She had gotten away with five thousand dollars and was facing felony charges. Denise was not going home anytime soon. Denise’s father, Diego Vargas, had gotten her out on bail. Denise’s father was a well known drug dealer. Poor Denise, she was screwed both ways. She would be my priority.
I got up from the couch and noticed that Jessica had cooked me breakfast. My body was still aching but the pain was less. I got up slowly and steadied myself. Jessica must have stepped out for a second. She wouldn’t have gone far without waking me to tell me. I went to the bathroom and stopped before entering. I looked around as if I was expecting someone. No one was there. I stepped in and looked in the mirror. I couldn’t believe how horrible I looked. Actually I could, because I always looked how I felt. Some people could pull of looking amazing while they are feeling terrible inside. I was not one of those people.
My skin was pale. My hair was limp. My face had a few faint bruises on it. I took my mothers nightgown off and stood naked in front of the mirror. I could see the bruises on my body and a few scratches. I saw the needle marks on my forearm where the IVs had been placed. I turned the shower water on and waited as the room filled with steam. I wanted the water as hot as I could stand it. I wanted it all to wash away. I was fooling myself. I could never wash this feeling away. I scrubbed my skin until it was almost raw. I sat down on the shower floor and cried until I couldn’t cry anymore. I got out of the shower and just stood there folding my arms around me. I leaned against the wall and listened to the silence around me. I wondered when this dismal feeling would go away. I feared it never would. I knew it had to get better one day. I knew it wouldn’t be immediate then I thought of Denise. She might as well have had no one. I could be someone to her. I needed to reach out to someone who wasn’t looking at me as a victim.
I pulled myself together, wrapping my robe around me. I had air dried already so I went to the hall closet and grabbed my cell phone out my sweater. I hadn’t turned it on since… since I was raped. I was a rape victim. I shuttered at what was yet to come. Court, testimony, counseling, sentencing, healing…the list would go on. I thought of Denise again. I promised myself that I would accomplish something each day. I went back to the couch and opened Denise’s thick file. I started reading the police report that was placed when they took her from her mother again. Denise had put up a fight, biting one of the officers. Vivian had jumped on the other officers back. It had been a circus and the local news had caught it all on tape. Another embarrassing moment for Denise.
I dialed the youth detention center that they had taken Denise the night they found her. She wasn’t going back to foster care anytime soon. This last incident confirmed that. She would just run away again.
“Hello Karen. This is Toni Brown. How are you?”
“I am fine Toni. How are you feeling?”
She never asked me that before but then again I hadn’t been a victim of a crime before this.
“I am okay,” avoiding a long explanation. “I was calling to check on one of my clients, Denise Thompson.”
“Oh yes. Denise is not doing so well. She heard about your attack and is very angry that no one would let her call you. She kept asking for your number and no one would give it to her.”
I sighed. My phone had been off for over a week now and I hadn’t even checked my voicemail. If she had called she probably had left several messages.
“Is she available for me to speak to her,” I asked already knowing the answer.
“You know she can’t have calls during her probation period.”
“I know but it is very important that she talks to someone and I would prefer that person to be me.”
I heard Karen breathing. Then the phone was set down with a thump as if it had been dropped. A few minutes later I heard footsteps and then Denise’s voice.
“Hello,” I heard Denise say impatiently.
“Hi Denise, this is Toni.”
“Oh my god, Miss Brown! I’ve been so worried about you. Are you okay? How are you feeling? Is that dick in jail? I can get my daddy to kill him for you! Just say the word!”
I laughed because I knew she was serious.
“No Denise. He is locked up and he will not be getting out anytime soon. I am better. Taking it one day at a time. I heard that you were concerned about me. I was concerned about you and truthfully I missed your jokes.”
I smiled at the memory of our last visit. I had picked her up from school and some boy kept trying to talk to her. She had talked about him all the way home- from his “whack ass Mohawk” to his “red busted up shoes.” I remember those days.
Denise was kind of a bully. She was always fighting boys at her school and the girls stayed out of her way unless they were in her click. She hung out with a lot of hard looking girls. At one point, I thought that maybe they were gay. I hadn’t asked though. That was the least of her problems.
We talked for a few moments longer before Karen interrupted us.
“The witch said I can’t talk to you no more. Can you come see me?”
“Denise, be respectful,” I encouraged. “I will come visit you as soon as I’m able.”
“Don’t forget what I said. My daddy is a block away!”
I laughed again. Denise, despite her tough demeanor and quick temper, had become my favorite client. I had her case off and on for four years and soon she would age out of the system. I was hoping I could help her get on the right road before then. So many kids age out of the system and you don’t hear anything but negative things about them. Very few actually make it, but it took good support systems to make that possible. Denise didn’t have a support system. I vowed to be that single force.