Read Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee Online
Authors: Mary G. Thompson
MOM SPITS OUT
the questions as she cooks. She's making Amy's favorite meal, macaroni and cheese. Her hands shake as she grates the cheese, and I'm afraid she's going to cut herself. I want to help her, but I don't know if I can move. I sit at the table, my Safeway bag on the seat next to me. The same dining room table, the same chairs. And even though she's older, the same mom. She stands in front of the stove, with her head tilted to the right and that tiny gap where her hair parts. Freckles dot the arm that holds the wooden spoon. I want to reach out and touch them.
“What happened?” she asks. “Where have you been? Where's Dee? Who was it? How did it happen? How did you get away? Why now? Do you want to take a shower? There's a desk in your room now, but we can move the air bed in until we get you a real bed. Are you tired?”
I don't answer any of the questions. I can't answer any
tired, so tired I want to collapse and never get up again. But my mind spins; my heart beats.
“It's too soon, isn't it? Never mind. We'll eat. You can talk about it when you're ready. Your dad. We have to call your dad.” She turns around. Her shaking hand knocks the wooden spoon against the edge of the pot. “HeÂ .Â .Â . he moved to Colorado. Boulder.”
“Oh,” I say.
“But he'll come back,” she says. “He'll be on the next plane.”
“Okay.” The last time I saw my dad was another Sunday.
Watch out for cars,
he said. And we did. We watched out for them. I thought he would be here. There was never a time when there was Mom without Dad, Dad without Mom.
“We have to call Aunt Hannah,” Mom says. She puts the dish in the oven, and she pushes it so hard that it slides all the way to the back. “Do you want to take a shower?”
“I'll wait,” I say.
Mom pulls a phone out of her pocket. “What am I going to tell her?”
I shake my head.
“I have to tell her something,” Mom says.
I look down at my bag. I want to pull out the doll, to run my fingers over her hair, to look into her eyes, which are blue just like Stacie's. Only they're not
like hers; they're darker, a true, pure blue. I run my hand over my neck, across my face. I cover my eyes with my hand and will the room away. But Mom is still there, and so are her questions. So is her voice, talking to Aunt Hannah on the phone.
Mom tells Aunt Hannah that I'm back. She repeats Amy's name over and over again, just like before. And then she says Dee. Dee Dee Dee Dee. The name floats in the air, and I cover my left ear with my left hand, but if I want to cover both ears, I'll have to take my hand off of my face. So I hear it with one ear, Mom saying she doesn't know, no police yet, Amy won't talk, she needs time.
“Amy, honey?” Mom says. She puts a hand on my shoulder. I let it sit there, but I don't move. I hear the word Lon, my dad's name, and Amy, and yes I'm sure. She's my daughter. And she doesn't know, and Dee, and not yet, no police, and
I don't know, Lon,
and then there's silence.
The kitchen timer dings, and I let my hands fall to my lap, and I watch my mom take the macaroni and cheese out of the oven. She spoons it onto a plate for me and pours ketchup so that it makes a little round pool, and she knocks the salt and pepper shakers together as she sets them on the table.
I take one bite, and my stomach untwists, and I take another bite and another, and pretty soon I've eaten almost the whole dish.
Mom is watching me with her eyes wide and sad. She looks at my raw, scraped-up hands. My fingers hurt as I curl them to hold the fork, but I pretend I can't feel it.
“Nobody starved me,” I say. “I just haven't eaten all day.”
“Oh. Good.” I can see the questions on her face, more who and where and when and why. But she doesn't ask them. Because she loves Amy. She would do anything for Amy, like any mom. If Mom thinks it's best for Amy if she gives her space
and doesn't ask all the things she wants to ask, then that's what she'll do. That's what any mom would do.
“Where's Jay?” I ask. He was eight years old then, and I remember his round face and his big brown eyes, and the way he ran and ran, and how much he wanted to come with us, and how we wouldn't let him. Because he was a pain in our butts, the way he was always underfoot. He said he just wanted some blackberries, so Dee said we'd bring some back, and Amy rolled her eyes, and Dee glared at Amy, and Amy promised.
We'll bring you some stupid blackberries, okay?
“He's with his friends,” Mom says. “But he's supposed to be back by six for dinner. IÂ .Â .Â . I could call him, too.”
“No,” I say. “I'll wait.”
There's a pounding on the door, and then the door bursts open, and Aunt Hannah runs into the room, and she looks at me, and just like Mom, she doesn't recognize me at first, but then she does. She takes a step toward me as if she's going to grab me and hug me like Mom did, but she's looking behind me, to either side of me, around the room, as if she's looking for someone, and she keeps looking, even though it's obvious that there's no one else here.
“Where is she?” she asks. She looks from me to Mom.
Neither of us says anything. I look at the ground.
“Where is she?” she yells.
Mom stands. “Hannah, she needs time.”
Where is she?
” my aunt cries. Tears stream down her face. “
Where is she?
I cover my face with my hand. I can't look at her, so desperate. I know how she feels, what she wants, what she's lost.
Where is she?
” Her voice echoes in my head, and so does the answer. The words I can't say, the images I can't see, the truth I can't even let myself think.
And then the cops come.
I'm in Amy's old room, sitting in the desk chair.
A woman in a black uniform asks me questions in a soft voice.
What is your name?
How old are you?
Is Dee Springfield alive?
.Â .Â .
Amy, I don't want to hurt you. I don't need to know the whole story right now. I just need to know if Dee is alive. I need to know so that we can help her.
.Â .Â .
If you don't want to say it, you can nod. You can nod yes or no. Can you do that?
I keep myself still. I don't move my head at all. I stare at the lady's stomach. I watch her uniform shirt flutter as she breathes in and out.
Just a yes or no, honey.
.Â .Â .
Where is the person who did this?
Was it a man?
Was it more than one person?
Amy, I want to help you. I want to make sure you're safe.
“I'm safe,” I say.
Is he dead? Is that why you're safe?
Did he promise not to find you?
Did he make you promise not to tell?
I stare at her stomach until she takes her stomach away, and then I'm staring at the wall. There's a framed picture of Amy and Jay when Amy was ten, the studio kind of picture with a weird colored background, and their faces are frozen into awkward smiles. Amy has long hair, and it's a lighter brown with tinges of blond still running through it. I remember when we took that picture. It was the last summer Amy was here.
Mom comes into the room. She puts her arm around my shoulders and brushes the greasy hair out of my face. “The police want you to talk to someone,” she says. “This person can help you tell them what they need to know so they can find Dee.” She gets down on her knees and looks up at me, just like she used to do when I was little. “And if they can't help her, then they need to know that, too. Aunt Hannah needs to know that. And Lee. They both need to know what happened to her.”
I stay where I am, and another woman comes in. She's wearing jeans and she looks a little frazzled, like someone who just got called somewhere on a Sunday and doesn't know what she's getting into. She sits on the floor, because there's nowhere else in this room to sit. And then she tells me she's a
psychologist, and she works with victims of abuse and sexual assault and kidnapping and all kinds of things. And everything I'm feeling is normal.
I stare over her head.
She talks, and she asks. And she talks.
“I'm tired,” I say. And it's true, but it's also a lie, because my heart is still pounding. Sweat pours from my skin, and sitting still is the hardest thing I've ever done. Sitting still and being quiet, when there's so much inside I want to say.
She leaves, and the cops leave, and Mom comes into the room with Jay trailing behind her, fourteen-year-old Jay, who looks nothing like the version I remember. He has a thin face now. He's beanpole skinny, with a buzz haircut and a baggy T-shirt, and he's about six feet tall if he's an inch.
He has the same eyes, though. Huge and brown and staring from his new face.
“I'm sorry I never brought the blackberries,” I blurt.
He stares. His jaw clenches, and his whole body tenses as if he's about to run.
“I'm sorry,” I say. I don't know why I say that, except that I can see he's hurt. I can see that it was more than blackberries I took from him, more that's changed than his height.
“HoneyÂ .Â .Â .” Mom says. I don't know if she's talking to him or me, but I know she wants to close the space between us. Always, even before, she wanted us to be close, to not fight, to take care of each other. But the three feet between Jay and me is a chasm.
“You were okay,” he says. His eyes are filling up with tears,
and I see the little boy that I remember. I want to step forward and hug him, but he's leaning away.
“I'm okay,” I say.
“All this time. We thought you were dead, and you were
I stare at him, searching for something I can say.
Tears spill from his eyes, and he almost bumps into Mom as he speeds back through the bedroom door. Down the hall, another door slams.
“He needs time,” Mom says.
“It's okay,” I say, but it isn't. I imagined seeing him again. I would give him those blackberries. I would take him into my arms and hug him. I would tell him how sorry I was for all the times I snapped at him or ignored him. I would tell him I loved him. But he thinks I didn't try to come home, didn't care that they all thought I was dead. I can't blame him, because he doesn't know. But he's wrong. He's so totally and completely wrong.
“He'll be okay,” Mom says. “Now that you're back, we all will.” She wraps her arms around me again.
I close my eyes. I wish I could erase all the hurt I just saw in Jay. I wish my dad was here and not in Colorado. But at the same time, I don't know if I could handle them here, loving me, either. My mom's love is already so much, it's overwhelming. It radiates from her body, almost explosive. I love her, but it's too much. I'm not ready for all this love for Amy, who I haven't been in so long.
Sweat still pours from my skin, and I need space. I need
time to let this all in, to figure out where I am and what my name is and how to live here. I want to lie down in the dark and the silence and let Amy go, and be Chelsea again. Or be neitherâno name and no thoughts and no one I have to love or who loves me. I want out of this, but I can't get out. I chose to come home, and I'm staying here.
ONE KIDNAPPED GIRL RETURNS
Fate of second girl unclear
AMY MACARTHUR has returned. In a case that rocked the county and made national headlines, the girl, now 16, and her cousin Dee Springfield, who would now be 18, were seen being forced into a vehicle by an unidentified man six years ago. According to Grey Wood police, MacArthur appeared at her mother's door Sunday afternoon with no warning and no explanation. Police are now reopening the investigation into the girls' disappearance.
“Miss MacArthur was unable to explain
her whereabouts for the past six years,” said a police spokesman. “This makes it even more important that anyone with information about the kidnapping come forward.” The spokesman did not provide any information about MacArthur's mental or physical health, except to say that she is not being treated at a hospital at this time. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call 1-800-555-9192.
â¢Â Â Â â¢Â Â Â â¢
The next morning, I'm wrapped in a towel in Amy's bedroom. My hair smells like apples. Mom offers me her clothes, jeans and a T-shirt. She stares at the scar on my left arm that goes halfway from my elbow to my shoulder, the one from when Kyle threw me into the kitchen counter. Her mouth moves like she wants to ask, like she's already asking, even though she can't say the words.
“It looks worse than it is,” I say.
She keeps staring, holding the clothes.
“I have clothes,” I say.
Mom takes a breath, then holds up my jeans. “These need to be washed,” she says.
“I only wear purple,” I say. I take the jeans out of her hand.
“Let me wash them,” she says. She takes them back. She puts them in a pile with the rest of my clothes, which I've already worn several days in a row. I guess she still washes her
clothes after just one wearing. She doesn't realize what a waste it is, how you wear out your clothes faster that way.
“Do you have anything purple?” I ask.
She hesitates, but doesn't question me. “Sure. I think so. Let me check.” I wait, and she comes back with a pair of purple jogging shorts and a ratty old sweatshirt, which isn't purple, but it's white with purple letters. I'm not comfortable, but I know she's going to wash my clothes. At least the purple letters are big. They say “Grey Otters.” The Otters were the Grey Wood High School mascot back when Mom went there, but it changed to the Grey Wood Turkeys when I was a kid. Mom used to say otters were a lot better than turkeys. She used to strut around town wearing this sweatshirt, like she was making a huge statement, defying the oppressive overlords of the school board.
“Thanks,” I say. I take it from her. “You sure? What if I spill something on it? You can't get a classic like this anywhere.”
She bursts into tears.
“I'm sorry,” I say.
She grabs me and hugs me. My towel starts to fall, and I grab it, dropping the clothes.
“You remember,” she says.
“The big Otters versus Turkeys battle? Of course I remember,” I say.
“I wasn't sure,” she says, pulling away from me again.
not even sure. I remember, but it wasn't me who listened to Mom and Dad talk about the glory days of the Mighty Otters and how they defeated the Pleasant Valley Lions in the
big game. It was Amy. Amy saw Mom walking around town in that sweatshirt, not me. And it wasn't Amy who came back. But no mom wants to hear that. She wants to hear that her Amy is back and she's all right.
“I never forgot,” I say.
The story I used to tell pops into my head.
Once upon a time, there was an otter and a turkey. An otter is an animal that lives in the water. It has slick brown hair and whiskers, and it slides around faster than water going down the drain. A turkey is a big bird with lots of feathers and a wattle hanging down from its neck. A wattle is like a lot of skin, right here. Well, even though the turkey had wings, he couldn't fly. So when he saw the otter whizzing down the river, he thought, I want to be just like that.
I can't think about that now. I shouldn't think about that ever.
“I'll let you get dressed,” Mom says. She stops at the door and turns around. “We kept all your things. We can get them out of storage if you want. Your dad and I, we just couldn'tÂ .Â .Â .” She closes her eyes, and it's like when I put my hand over my face yesterday. It's like she wishes she could go away. Tears are still leaking out, and I can see her struggle, how she wants to stop them.
“I can get them later,” I say. “I don't care about that stuff.” And I don't. I just want her to stop crying, because she hates that. When she cried, she'd always say she was sorry, like it embarrassed her. She never told me I shouldn't cry, but I learned it, too. I learned to be strong, and I know it helped me. I know I'm here partly because of that.
Mom opens her eyes and takes a breath. “We kept your room the same for a while. Almost a year. But it was haunting me. It was like you were in there, needing me, and I couldn't help.”
“MomÂ .Â .Â .” I don't know what to say. I tried not to think about what she must be feeling. I tried, but I
think about it. Every day, I thought about it and pushed it back. I couldn't let it through, or I would never have gotten out of bed. I would never have eaten and worked and put one foot in front of another. And there are more days to get through. Today and tomorrow and the next day.
“It was a long time before I stopped hoping.” She wipes a tear away, and I can see it all in her face, how she's thinking like I am.
Keep it inside. Keep upright.
“I kept the key in my purseâto the storage unitâfor years. I still know where it is. Any time you want, we can go.”
“It's okay, Mom.” I want to step forward and hug her again, but I don't. I can't handle it.
“It's not okay,” she says. “I should have
you were alive. I should have found you.”
“I'm home now.”
She steps through the door. “I should let you get dressed. I'll be right out here.”
“I'm okay.” She needs to hear that. I need to make sure she believes it. I need to learn how to smile and pretend, how to make it true again.
“I love you so much, Amy.” She gives me a last look and
closes the door behind her, and that's when I remember the right response. The thing I haven't been allowed to say for so long.
“I love you, too,” I whisper. I stand there for a long time holding my towel up, feeling the breath that makes the words. “I love you, Mom,” I say, louder. She isn't there to hear me, but I'll tell her. Before it becomes too late again.