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|A FAMILY SECRET (standard:other, 24612 words) [1/3] show all parts|
|Author: Kenneth Nash||Updated: Nov 09 2006||Views/Reads: 2358/1790||Part vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|A story of how a family secret influenced a young woman's decisions in life.|
Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story pointed towards the blue sky laced with fluffy white clouds. “I think it looks like the little lamb I saw at the farm the other day.” answered Adrienne. It was one of their favorite pastimes. The summers in Virginia are hot and humid. But, Adrienne loved the outdoors. She could smell the aroma of the freshly mowed lawns; feel the warm sun on her face, and the mild wind that blew across the Rivianna River. She loved living in Nicholson Manor. But especially, she loved Miss Sophia. Sophia, an old black woman, had come to live with the Nicholson family over thirty years ago. She cleaned the house, did the shopping, prepared meals, and what she liked best about her duties ... took care of the children. The housekeeper-cook-nanny was a short, bosomy, woman with silver-gray hair done up in a bun. No one knew how old she was and Miss Sophia wasn't telling! Her tongue could cut like a knife, but her heart was as soft as marshmallow. Miss Sophia was, to Adrienne's way of thinking, the best cook in Virginia, if not in the whole wide world! She enjoyed the family suppers that featured pot roast, rolls, brown gravy, potatoes, Cole slaw and sweet potato pie. Occasionally, there would be ox-tail stew prepared as only Miss Sophia could make it. Yvette complained at times about the food having too much cholesterol or “bad” carbs. “Now, missus ‘Vette,” the cook would reply, “ye ain't got a thang to wurry about, why, with a figure like y'all got?” Yvette would chuckle and say, “that is exactly what I am concerned about Sophia!” Adrienne always looked forward to the springtime. The short cold days of winter making way for days that were longer and warmer. She couldn't wait for the trees to blossom, the red maples and dogwoods interspersed among the mountain magnolias that lined the street she lived on. Although she could socialize in the upper class circles, Adrienne felt drawn to the social class of those less fortunate as well. Many of her friends were students living on food stamps and welfare checks. She was sixteen when she began dating. Her mother was concerned that she spent a good deal of time with friends that were” below her”. “Adrienne honey,” Yvette would exhort, “you can fall in love with a rich man as well as a poor one.” “Mom, don't even start!” thought the young girl. After graduating from Charlottesville High School, Adrienne enrolled at the University of Virginia. Her brother, Andrew, had graduated a year ago and was working at the bank. While waiting for classes to start in the fall, she took a summer job with McElroy Insurance Company as a receptionist. Adrienne had dated a few guys in high school, but none had an influence on her like the attractive Lonnie Garrison. After turning down several “dinner dates” she finally consented. Lonnie was three years older than Adrienne, his good looks and adventurous nature were enough to sway the seventeen year old. She felt intoxicated in his presence. “How could you let this happen?” shouted Phillip. “I can't believe you've disregarded all that we taught you!” “Do you even know who the father is?” “Yes, I know, and I am sorry I know!” thought the frightened teenager. Lonnie had not called her after that third date. She made several attempts to locate him, but the phone was disconnected. She went to his apartment only to find it vacant. The old clapboard building could use a coat of paint, and weeds had grown up in the yard where grass had once been. Some of the apartments had windows cracked, if not broken out completely. Adrienne noticed the old Ford truck sitting to the left of the building, rusting away with time. She rang the bell under the sign that said, “Manager.” “No, I don't know where he moved to,” the woman with the dirty blonde hair answered, “he just up and moved out.” A cigarette dangled from her lips as she spoke. She removed it, flicked it in the yard, and eyed Adrienne suspiciously. “You ain't one of his girlfriends are you? He had so many at his apartment, but none of ‘em was dressed up like you. They usually wore shorts and halters or them hip hugger jeans,” drawled the middle aged woman in the frayed housecoat. Adrienne, choking back the tears, did not respond to the woman's question. She turned and slowly walked to her car as the door to the manager's office slammed shut. After Adrienne missed “her time” for the second month in a row, she got scared. She needed to see a doctor. “I can't go to Doctor Fairchild; he is our family physician. He is the only Dr. I have ever gone to. I would just die if he knew I was pregnant,” thought the teenager. Anxiously, she searched the Waynesboro phone book for a physician, scheduled the appointment, and then drove 30 miles. The doctor, she couldn't even remember his name, confirmed her worst fear. “Young lady, you are pregnant,” he said smiling. “How am I ever going to tell mom and dad? I cannot even tell my best friend, Amanda,” she thought ruefully. As she broke the news to her parents, she knew what was coming. Her father would be furious, her mother shocked and expressionless, as the color drained from her face. Adrienne loved her mother, but she worshipped her father. The last thing she wanted to do was disappoint or shame him. She reflected back to the time that she had seen the disappointment in his soft brown eyes when she brought home her report card from her third year in school. Instead of all A's, there was the B. “Daddy didn't scold me, he just said, Honey, I know you can do better”, thought Adrienne. This was different; she couldn't change what was done now. The young woman was desperate for a solution to the worst problem she had ever faced. Such a tragic mistake she had made. Her plans for college were no longer an option. She felt alienated from her family and friends. The man she had loved and trusted had deserted her. “How could she ever tell anyone?” As bad as she felt for herself she was more concerned about the reputation of her father and mother in the community. Phillip and Yvette discussed their options and made a decision. The contacted Yvette's older sister and reluctantly explained the situation they were in. Marie lived in Lynchburg, almost 300 miles from Charlottesville. Marie and Thomas Newberry, both now in their late fifties. had never had children and they were fond of Adrienne. As a child she had spent some time with them during the summer months. And there was the home for unwed mothers located there. It was a tearful and painful goodbye for the Nicholson family as Adrienne boarded the bus bound for a future of uncertainty. (Part Two) It was a cool crisp morning as the Armstrong's arrived at Lynchburgh Regional Airport. It was a special day filled with excitement and anticipation. Michael and Michelle had tried for almost six years to have a child. Mike had been at work when the phone call came. “Mrs. Armstrong, we have a newborn baby girl for you and your husband.” The lady from the adoption agency had said that the baby was very healthy and had been released from the hospital after being checked closely by the staff pediatrician. “Yes, you may pick her up at your earliest convenience.” “Honey, make reservations for the next flight to Lynchburg!” Mike shouted his voice full of excitement. The flight from Garland, Texas to Lynchburg, Virginia seemed to take forever. All Mike and Michelle could talk about was that precious baby girl awaiting her new parents. Yes, Janelle LeAnn was perfect for her, named after her two grandmothers. Ms. Thomason, from the adoption agency, was waiting at the airport to take them to see Janelle. “Oh, Mike, she is even more beautiful than I ever imagined!” whispered Michelle as she held her daughter for the first time. Of course, Mike was beaming like the proud daddy he was. The Armstrong's had wanted a baby girl and the nursery was ready for her with pink and purple décor. It was truly a dream come true! As the months and years passed, Janelle amused her parents. She was an intelligent, beautiful child. Her hair was golden-brown with natural curls and eyes that were sparkling blue and full of mischief. When Mike and Michelle felt that Janelle was old enough to understand, they told her that she was an adopted child. “Honey, you are a special person. We waited on you for a long time and it was our choice to make you our own daughter.” When she was about eight or nine, she would lay on the lawn looking up at the clouds. She could imagine walking on them and would try to determine what the shapes looked like. That was one of her favorite things to do. Janelle's parents loved, and provided for her. She couldn't ask for a better mom and dad, she loved them so, yet, there were times that she wondered about her natural parents. “Do I look like my mother? What was my father like? Where do they live now? Why did they give me away?” she would ponder. The few months after she left the hospital was emotionally painful, almost unbearable at times, for Adrienne. Aunt Marie and Uncle Thomas had invited her to stay with them for as long as she wanted. “There are several good colleges and universities here in Lynchburg. Why, there is even a woman's college here,” said her aunt. Adrienne loved her aunt and uncle; they had been with her throughout the months of pregnancy, during delivery, and tried to help with the depression that followed after she left the hospital and came to live with them. But, she wanted to go back home. Phillip and Yvette had made several trips to Lynchburg, called every week, and assured her that she would be welcomed back to Nicholson Manor when she was ready to come home. Adrienne arrived at Charlottesville with mixed emotions. She was happy to see Miss Sophia again, and couldn't wait for the sweet potato pie that she knew was baking in the oven. It had been almost a year since she boarded the bus to go to the “home”. She had missed the magnolia, dogwood, and red maples that lined the street in front of the only place she ever called home. She was looking forward to seeing Amanda again. They had talked by phone and Adrienne had, somehow, mustered the courage to tell her best friend all that had happened. Amanda was understanding and tried to encourage her friend that was like a sister to her. But, underneath the happy exterior, there was a dread, a fear, which diminished the joy of coming back home. After Adrienne left, Phillip and Yvette just stated, without explanation, that she had gone to stay with her aunt and uncle for a few months before entering the University of Virginia. Even on her return, nothing was ever said about “the baby”. It was as though it had never happened. A closely guarded family secret. The skeleton in the Nicholson closet that would never be exposed. “What will I say if asked, about my going away? Is there anyone outside the family that knows? Can I be sure that Amanda didn't let something slip out?” These were some of the fears that faced Adrienne. Much to her delight, no one questioned, or seemed to care, about her moving away for almost a year. Things were beginning to take on a semblance of normalcy in her life. There were days she didn't think about “her baby” and then there were days when that was about all she thought of. “Giving my baby up for adoption was best for all concerned...I am sure she is in a good home...surely the adoption agency screens applicants closely...”she would reason with herself. At other times she would argue with herself. “If I would have just protested against mom and dads decision...If I could have been stronger and tried to raise her by myself...will the adoptive parents tell her she was adopted?...what will her reaction be?...will she hate me...I have to stop thinking about this -- what is done cannot be reversed”she would agonize in her mind. Adrienne enrolled in college the next fall semester. Life in college was far different than that of her high school years. She poured herself into her studies. Her social life was a contrast to that of high school. She withdrew socially and emotionally, having no close friends with the exception of Amanda, who was, now, a year ahead of her in school. “Adrienne, you need to get out of the dorm, go on a date, do something!” complained Amanda. Adrienne would just smile and say “No, I am just not ready for all that now.” It wasn't that she didn't have “offers”; there were several guys that begged her to go out with them. After all, she was one of the prettiest girls on campus. She would just smile and politely refuse. It was in her sophomore year that she began to be more sociable. But, she limited that to going with a group of students rather than a solo date. Adrienne, as long as she could remember, wanted to become a nurse. Her father often said, “Adrienne, you could go a few more years of college and become a physician”. She had considered his advice and decided to go to med school upon completion of her college requirements. That was before she had the baby. Now she didn't think she could bear seeing the newborns in the hospital nursery each day. It would bring back the memories...the family secrets... the painful emotions. She graduated with a master's degree just a few months short of her twenty-fifth birthday and was hired as a business consultant for a large firm in Richmond. The decision she had made years before, had changed her life and her career. (Part Three) Often Michelle Armstrong would look at her only daughter and wonder what she was thinking. Janelle would stare at something for the longest of times, not saying a word. She was nearing her thirteenth birthday. And, more was changing than that of becoming a young woman. Janelle, as a child, was often moody. But the moods quickly changed as she would become excited about something she was interested in, such as a friend spending the night, going to a movie, or ordering pizza. Now the moods lasted longer, and came with more frequency. When she spoke to Mike about it he would say, “She is just going through a phase, all pre-teens and teenagers do that!” But Michelle sensed it was more than that. Janelle would occasionally after a long silent spell quiz her about the adoption agency, had she met her “birthmother” and things like that. There was little she could say in answer to her daughter's questions. Her knowledge about her young daughter's natural family was very limited. She knew that Janelle's “mother” was a young girl in good health, and came from a well-to-do-family somewhere in Virginia. Michelle knew that in most cases the adoption agency had files concerning parent and child sealed to protect all concerned. One time after Janelle had asked questions, Michelle asked “Would you really like to know about her? Where she grew up? What her family was like?” Janelle responded with a shrug, “Nah, just wondering. If she didn't care about me, why should I care about her?” Family relationships in the Armstrong's house were becoming increasingly strained. Janelle, nearly sixteen, was staying at “friends” more often than her parents liked. She always asked permission but, when denied she would go to her room and turn up the music real loud and pout. On one occasion she told Mike and Michelle she was going to a certain friend's home but, went to a disco with some other teens. After the long “parents to daughter” talk, she sneaked out of her room and didn't return until early the next morning. The Armstrong's were at their wit's end and felt they were losing control of their only daughter. Where had they failed? Had they not tried to give her everything possible a child would need or want? It just seemed that Janelle was searching for something they could not provide for her. Just before her thirty-second birthday, Adrienne talked Amanda into going riding with her. She had bought a beautiful Arabian stallion. She loved horses, and was an experienced rider. Amanda's husband, Rob, sometimes rode with them. He spent most of that time kidding Adrienne about becoming an old spinster. Rob and Amanda seem to be more concerned about Adrienne's finding a husband than she did. She had been involved in a couple relationships over the years but just didn't find the one she wanted to commit to. The weather was perfect for riding. It was sunny, but not sweltering as it would be later in the summer months. Adrienne had purchased the ranch style home just west of Richmond. It had a comfortable old house that had been renovated, an old barn and even a garden spot. She had done some repairs to the barn and bought a horse to live in it. She usually rode the trail from her home across the small creek running through her land to the mountain west where she would rest and then make the return trip. The ride was normally no longer than two hours. “Amanda, it sure is a nice day for a ride, huh? I wish Rob could have joined us. I enjoy his company despite all the abuse I have to endure,” joked Adrienne. “Well, you know how Rob is when it comes to golf, everything else is second place. And yes, he sure loves to kid with you. I am so glad that you approved of him!” replied her best friend. Her Arabian seemed a little skittish all of a sudden. She hadn't had him long enough to know all his mannerisms yet. Adrienne was a few feet in the lead as the trail narrowed to allow only single file riders. She felt Prince buck, then rear up. He was so strong and it happened fast. The last thing she remembered was slipping from the saddle. She heard the voices. “I think she is coming around now,” the male voice said. “Oh! Thank God!” came the voice that she recognized as Amanda's. The voices seemed a long way off. “Am I having another nightmare? This one is different from the other ones. Where is the child, the little girl that comes running across the meadow, arms outstretched, her dark hair bouncing; then she falls but I cannot get to her? That is when I always wake up?” wondered Adrienne. Adrienne slowly opened her eyes. “Where am I?” She listened to the distant chatter outside the room. She recognized the antiseptic smell of a hospital and the clanking sounds of food trays being delivered to patients down the hall. Her head hurt terribly. She reached up and felt the bandage wound around her aching head. Her left arm was in a heavy cast, and the right arm had two IV tubes in it! The last thing she could remember was putting the saddle on Prince. The male voice said quietly “Miss Nicholson, you are a very lucky woman. You have a mild concussion from the fall, but there is no permanent brain damage. I am Dr. Barnett.” She tried to focus her eyes on the figure leaning over the bed with the stethoscope around his neck. He was clad in a green scrub suit covered with a white lab coat. “This doctor is the most handsome man I have ever seen!” thought Adrienne. “Why am I having these thoughts? It must be the medication!” Dr. Barnett spoke again, “There are a couple friends of yours here that have been pretty anxious about you. I will give them just a few minutes, and then you need to get some rest. I will check in on you soon.” With that he turned and strode out of the room. “Oh! Adrienne, we were so worried about you. Rob is here with me. We both love you so much. Thank God you are going to be okay!” Amanda was talking ninety miles an hour! Rob came to her bed side, tried to say something but the words wouldn't come; he just patted her hand and leaned over and kissed her cheek. Adrienne couldn't remember what had happened. She wanted to know, but more than that she wanted to sleep. As she was drifting off in sleep she heard the nurse tell Amanda and Rob that they could come back later. “Miss Nicholson needs to rest now.” The following day Amanda related the incident in detail. The Arabian had been spooked by a snake, a Copperhead that was commonly found on the mountain trails in Virginia. Adrienne had been thrown from the saddle and struck her head on a large boulder near the trail. “Adrienne, I was so frightened. You were breathing but unconscious. I used my cell to call 9-1-1, and they airlifted you to the hospital. Dr. Barnett was the doctor on call at the emergency room. He checked you over, ordered x-rays, CT scans, and then put a cast on your broken arm. Rob met me here at the hospital and we waited, what seemed like eternity, until Dr. Barnett came out and told us you would be okay!” “Why can't I remember the ride? The last thing I remember was brushing and saddling Prince. Oh my God! Prince! What happened to him? Did he run away? Did you find him?” asked the injured woman anxiously. “Whoa, slow down, one question at a time Missy” it was now Rob's turn to talk. “First, Prince is fine; he is at home enjoying a large bucket of oats. He is a great horse. He didn't run and was trying to sniff your face as if to say he was sorry for bucking you off! Second question: Dr. Barnett explained to us that with a concussion there is often short-time memory loss but, that usually reverses itself over time.” During the next few days, as she was recovering, Dr. Barnett made frequent visits to check Adrienne's progress. One of the night nurses commented on the “medical interest” the doctor had taken with her. “Is it not common for a doctor to follow a patient closely after an accident such as mine?” asked Adrienne. The middle aged nurse smiled and said, “Michael Barnett is one of the best docs we have, and according to his charting you are doing exceptionally well. I have just noticed that his visits are more frequent than with most of his other patients.” “He being so handsome, and not married... why, just about any nurse in this hospital would trade places with you.” Could it be more than a professional interest? He is a very handsome man. A little over six feet I would guess, from his appearance he must work out and run regularly. That is something we have in common. Not married... huh? I find his dark brown hair, trimmed just above the collar, rather attractive and the slight graying at the temples gives him a distinguished look. It also says something about his self esteem...not enough vanity to use hair color that some men do when they reach that age. His eyes are what draw attention to his face... steel gray, piercing, alert, when he is deep in thought while examining a patient yet, soft and compassionate when he is speaking to you. Adrienne! Why are you thinking these thoughts? It cannot be the medicine; it has been discontinued for days now!” The routine was nearly always the same -- up at 5:00 am, juice and one cup of black coffee, and running by 5:30. He looked forward to the three mile run each morning. It gave him time to think about his daily schedule: check in at the office, make rounds at the hospital, back to the office for his appointments if he had no surgeries scheduled. It wasn't unusual to think about some of his patients in the hospital during his morning run. Especially those just out of surgery, or in critical condition. For the past few days his mind was on the patient in 1214. Adrienne, uh, Miss Nicholson was recuperating just fine. But his thoughts kept returning to her. She was a beautiful woman with a kind, intelligent face. Even shortly after the tragic accident that caused her such pain, he could sense her character. A strong, determined, person that asked point blank questions and required honest straightforward answers. Inwardly he admitted that he had given more than a cursory look at her medical history particularly statistics that did not pertain to medical treatment. She was thirty-two years old, no children, employed as senior business consultant with the largest consulting firm in Virginia. Her marital status was marked “single”. Michael found that unusual. A woman still single at age 32? Divorced yes, but single? That is somewhat irregular in this day and time! Michael had been married once. That lasted for the better part of three years. He and Susan were just out of medical school. The whirlwind courtship consisted of three months, and then the huge wedding. “What happened to the magic, when did we start to not love each other anymore? I still respect Susan; she is a fine doctor, but our careers took off in different directions. I decided to go into general surgery and family practice. She specialized in pediatrics” reflected Michael as he began his rounds at Memorial Regional Medical Center. Doctor Michael Barnett had been divorced for four years now. There had been times that he thought about meeting someone, having children, doing all the parental things... but only briefly. “Been there...done that... don't want to do it again” was his usual comment to colleagues that tried to help Michael with his social life. It is not to say that he withdrew altogether from the social scene. There were occasional dinner dates, a movie, the opera, or sometimes a ball game. He would be amused at the way some of the nurses vied for his attention at the different nurses stations at MRMC. Most of the nurses, or female docs, his age were married. It was the younger, single, or divorced ones that often flirted with him. In his quiet, polite manner, he would just smile and become very involved in the chart before him. “But the patient, Adrienne Nicholson, in room 1214 was different. Close to his age, three years younger, beautiful, intelligent, and unmarried. Why has she never been married? Sexual preference? I doubt that, but one never knows. Emotional pain from a previous relationship? He would probably never know the answers to all the questions about the patient in room 1214,” thought Doctor Michael Barnett. (Part Four) The phone rang waking Michelle out of her sleep. Without turning on the light she reached over and drowsily took the phone from the hook. “Yes this is Ms. Armstrong. Yes, I have a daughter named Janelle. She is where!?” She glanced at the digital clock as she turned on the light. It was 11:30 pm. Michelle shook her husband out of his sleep. “Uh? I didn't hear the alarm. What time is it?” asked Mike sleepily. “Mike! Wake up! That was the police, they have Janelle downtown. We have to go get her. Get up!” yelled Michelle as she began to dress. As they drove across Garland to the police station, they both had questions and no answers. “Did the officer say why she was there?” asked her husband. Michele responded, “She only said that Janelle was being held until we arrived, and then they would let us know what was going on.” In a tone of voice that was out of character for Mike, he said sternly, “Just wait ‘till I get my hands on her. She is supposed to be in her room asleep. She went to bed at 8:30, and must have sneaked out to be with those riffraff kids she calls “friends!” Michelle knew the outburst from her husband was one of disappointment and fear rather than anger. He loved his daughter, but there were times that he did not know what to say, or do, to help her. They introduced themselves to the young female officer at the desk. “She is in the holding cell just through the double doors. I will have to buzz you through.” Mike spoke up, “Before we see her, can you tell us why you are holding our daughter?” The officer glanced down at a sheet of paper as she said, “she is being charged with shoplifting, and minor in possession of alcohol.” “My God”, thought Michelle, “why would she do a thing like that?” Janelle sat on the cot inside a small cell. She was the only one in the room. Mike and Michelle could not read the expression on her face or what was going through her young mind. She just sat there, saying nothing. “Please, Mom, don't even start” she broke in as Michelle started to ask her why in the world she would do something like that. The arresting officer, a big man with graying red hair that unlocked the cell door spoke up just as Mike, red faced, the muscles in his jaw twitching, took a step towards his daughter. The officer could see that the girl's father had finally reached the breaking point; he had seen it often enough in his almost twenty years on the force. “Mr. Armstrong, now is not the time. You are going to take Janelle home with you tonight. She has been issued a citation, and will go before the Juvenile Court in a few days. I cannot say what her sentence will be, but from past experience she will probably have to pay a fine, or, do some community service, and be on supervised probation for a time that will be decided by the Judge.” “I suggest that y'all go home, get some sleep, and discuss it in the morning”. Before they left the police station, Mike asked Officer Howard, the arresting officer, if he could tell him the other kids that were with Janelle. The policeman could only disclose that there were two other females the same age as Janelle, the girls had consumed some beer and, on a dare, each had stolen a pack of cigarettes from the Quik-Stop and Shop on Main street about 9:45pm. The night manager and store clerk detained them until he arrived five minutes later. (Part Five) Janelle awoke the next morning dreading the “family meeting”. She had experienced them before. “Why can't they just leave me alone? Always asking me about where I have been, who have I been with, when will you be home, did you do your home work.?” “They have never liked any of my friends just because they dress different from the kids they think I should look like and run around with!” “I am sixteen... well; I will be in a few months.” She thought about “the meeting” with her folks. Mike and Michelle tried to find out the details of last night's event. Janelle refused to talk about it. She didn't seem to show any remorse for her actions that caused her to be arrested. Their only child, the child that they loved and wanted to help, sat there stone-faced, listened to their questions refusing to answer. Janelle stood up, glared at her parents and screamed, “I hate you!” then stormed out to the dining room. They heard her bedroom door slam and the loud music begin. “Where had we gone wrong?” “What could we have done different?” “Who is this rebellious teenager living in our home?” “What caused the change from the sweet, lovable, happy little girl of a few years ago?” What was she searching for that she hasn't been able to find?” Michael and Michelle Armstrong had never faced such hopeless, helpless emotions. They were struck with the thought that they may never know the answers to the unanswered questions. After a two day stay in the hospital Dr. Barnett said he felt that Adrienne was ready to go home. Early that morning he came in, checked her, and signed the discharge papers. “Miss Nicholson, I am releasing you from the hospital with orders to go home where you can get some real rest. I think you need to take a couple weeks off work. I will give you a statement requesting that if you like.” “That won't be necessary Doctor,” replied Adrienne. “But thank you anyway.” Dr. Barnett told her to come to his office in a couple days and he would check the cast on her arm. She could call his office and make an appointment. (to be continued) Tweet
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