Yes, yes I can write a novel! Pt. 21
The Just War, Ch. 21
Note: This is the twenty-first chapter in my novel "The Just War" that I'm writing for the NaNoWriMo challenge. The challenge? Write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days! So far I'm on track, I hope you are enjoying the fruits of my labor but more importantly I hope you're inspired by it to do your own, as I'm sure it will be better than mine! Good luck!
Barry Donald Lawless loved his sister, but sometimes he resented her. That fact weighed heavily on him as he went upstairs with his girlfriend, preparing to grab his laptop computer and a coat so they could head over to her house. It had been what, six or seven hours? Twelve? He couldn’t keep track any more. He was fighting back tears most of the time. He didn’t understand anything about what was going on. Why would somebody steal his sister? Why had it happened to their family? Why in Fishers, which was supposed to be so safe? And why were Mom and Dad acting like they didn’t like each other?
“Hey,” Stacey said from the doorway as Barry zipped his MacBook into its carrying case.
“What?” Barry responded. His light was turned off, so she was in silhouette, standing in the doorway with a hand on the door frame and her head leaning against it.
“What can I do for you?” she asked.
Barry’s face scrunched up for a moment as he fought back tears. “Nothing,” he got out. “You’re already doing it.” He grabbed his jacket and they headed for the stairs, but Barry stopped before going down.
“What is it?” Stacey asked, pushing her glasses back up her nose.
Barry just looked at the open door, the door to Jen’s room. In all the frenzy to try to get her back, somehow who she was had gotten lost. He realized that, even with him and Stacey praying and everything, that everyone had sort of gotten locked into a mode of thinking about themselves, looking out for themselves. How had that happened? So much of the family life revolved around Jennifer, taking care of her and trying to help her be happy. Yet, when she should have been almost the sole focus of attention, he started crying for himself and Mom and Dad started splitting. Why?
“What are you thinking right now?” Stacey asked in a concerned voice. The look on Barry’s face made her a little anxious.
“I need to see something,” he answered, walking over to Jen’s room. Turning on the light, flipping the switch that turned on the overhead light that Dad had almost electrocuted himself installing, Barry looked around the room. Jen’s bed had a Hello Kitty bedspread but the sheets had been bought from The Company Store. She had one pillow on her bed, that she routinely threw off when it was time to sleep. She still had little blankets, that the family called ‘blankies’, on her bed. She always put one over her head when going to bed.
“Talk to me, Barry,” Stacey said. She was looking around the room too.
Walking over to her entertainment center, Barry picked up a video tape. It was cracked and needed to be tossed out. “VeggieTales,” he said. “She still likes all this kid stuff.”
“Yeah,” Stacey replied. She was just letting Barry talk.
“Veggie Tales and Hello Kitty and Barbie,” he continued. Then he chuckled, “She loves pink and she likes boys.”
“She does?” Stacey asked, genuinely surprised.
“Yeah, I can still remember the first time she thought a boy was good looking.”
“Really?” Stacey couldn’t get over that Jen would do something so normal. “Tell me about it?”
“Well, she was seven,” Barry started. “You know we take her over to the Super Target at 116th and I69 to run around, right?”
“Yeah, everyone knows that,” Stacey replied.
“Yeah, well it was summer, and Dad needed to look at some garden stuff so I was running around with her solo. She went up to the food court because she was hoping to get one of those drinks, even though she doesn’t like them.”
“What, you mean a Frosty?” Stacey was trying to think, to remember what the little area at the front of the store looked like and what kinds of things they sold there. She’d never even been in that area.
“Yeah, something like that. So, I’m like nine years old, trailing my seven year old sister and hoping that she doesn’t get upset and start banging her head or something. She walks in there because she always walks in there, right?” Stacey nodded her head in response. “But instead of heading over to the freezee machine like she always does, she takes one look at the kid behind the counter and then takes a seat where she can just look at him.”
Laughing, Stacey asked, “What’d he look like?”
“I don’t know,” Barry said, laughing as well. “I was a nine year old boy, I didn’t pay attention. I don’t know, he was about five ten, looked like a jock, had curly brown hair.”
“Wow! Did he say anything to her?” Stacey asked.
“He was oblivious. I explained that she’s severely autistic and likes to come in and sit down and he said that was find and went about cleaning the counter. He didn’t even think about it, I’m sure.”
“Wow!” Stacey repeated. “And she liked him, huh?”
Barry shook his head slightly, as if the memory were a little too much to believe. “Yeah, she sat there for fifteen minutes. That was a really long time for her.” He thought about it, then he started crying. Stacey walked over and took his head in her hands, then put it on her shoulder. He cried into her, saying, “Oh God, please bring her back safe! Please bring her back!”
“Are you guys okay?” Bob Siler asked, walking up the stairs. Stacey looked at him, and he could see that Barry was too overcome to say anything.
“Barry? We should probably get over to my house,” Stacey said, stroking his hair.
“Do you want me to drive you? It’s pretty rough out there,” Bob said.
Officer Yoder was behind Bob on the stairs, and said, “Actually sir, I’m going to take them.”
Turning his head, the light reflecting off his bald spot, Bob asked, “Are you sure?”
“Yes sir,” Yoder replied. “Detective Smithers wanted one of us to take them if they went anywhere.”
“Because of the weather?” Bob was trying to figure it out.
“Yes sir, and because of the media presence. He doesn’t want anyone hounding the kids.”
Bob nodded and thought about how respectful the news had been to the Lawless family so far. He had seen reports about other Big News stories and how the news crews had camped out practically on the lawns of people. He knew they were out there but had been grateful that they hadn’t come pounding on the Lawless’ door.
“Where’s Mrs. Siler?” Stacey asked.
“She went back home to talk to Billy and Sarah. They just got back from Youth Group. In fact, after you guys leave I’ll be heading over there myself.”
Barry gathered himself and his stuff. “Thanks for everything, Mr. Siler.”
Coming up the stairs all the way, Bob said, “It’s okay. Right now, we all need each other. You two get going, I’ll turn off the lights.”
“Thanks,” Barry and Stacey said together, then followed Yoder down the stairs. At the bottom, before leaving the house, Barry looked into the living room. Just an hour or so ago it had been filled with people. Dad had gone to the hospital with Officer Johnson. Officer Plastino followed. Mr. Bowen had left at the same time to go to the Emergency Room with Dad. Then later Detective Smithers had taken Mom to see him. Mrs. Siler had gone back home and Mr. Siler would be going as well, and Officer Yoder would be taking them over to Stacey’s house. Then he thought about something.
“What about the cell phone?” Barry asked, looking around but not seeing it anywhere.
“You mean the one from the kidnapper?” Yoder responded.
“Yeah, that’s the one,” Barry said.
“Detective Smithers took it with him when he took your mother up to the hospital,” the young police officer answered.
“Oh, okay,” Barry responded.
Then Yoder opened the door and followed the kids out into the rain. They got into the police interceptor, one of the pre-Charger numbers the department had had for what seemed like forever, and went off into the night.
Bob watched them leave, closing the door behind them. Going upstairs, he looked at Jens’ room for a moment. He’d never been in it, Sue had been the one who helped Jan decorate it. Everything seemed pretty much what he expected; the kids’ bedspread, the video tapes and DVD’s spread all over the entertainment center and the dressers. There were a couple of boy band posters on her wall, and then he noticed the cover for a DVD of the “Burn Notice” television series. He’d heard the story, of how she had seen it at Target and developed a death grip on it that she wouldn’t relinquish until it had been paid for and she was in the Explorer. She had stuck the disc in her player but never watched more than a few minutes of the show. Yet she kept the cover in her treasured stash of video tape and DVD covers. Everyone agreed that it was probably the male actor, whatever his name was. She must have had a crush on him. Bob wondered what it was really like to have a child who was such an extreme special needs case. He would never have said this but he was secretly glad that Sarah and Billy were normal.
He turned off the light in Jen’s room, turned off the upstairs hall light, and went downstairs. The coffee maker was off, the stove was off, the back door was locked. These were things he checked in his own house every night before going to bed. He turned off the light in the kitchen and the one in the dining room. He shut their computer down and then took a moment to watch the story on the news, about how nothing new was known at this hour about the tragic case of the missing autistic girl in Fishers, Indiana. Somehow, it all seemed unreal to Bob, kind of like they were talking about someone else. He flipped it off, turned out the light, and made sure the front door was locked. Then he walked the fifty feet to his own front door in the dark and driving rain.