They’re here again.
They roll up on the driveway, the crunch of rubber on concrete echoing through the house. Shaking the walls. Rumbling. She turns away from the window. To him. He’s in the living room. He’s playing with his toys. The TV is on. It’s a cartoon. He likes cartoons.
Three knocks on the door – short, sharp. They linger in the air, ring in her ears for a while afterwards. Like a funerary knell.
They enter. Black suits. Black ties. Hard eyes.
They don’t speak. They don’t need to speak.
“Rael,” she calls. He perks up, and she can’t help but notice the face. Blank. Vacant. Slowly, but with an air of daintiness, he stands and walks to her.
She pats him lightly on the back, forces a tight lipped smile. “Follow these men to the car, hm? I’ll be right behind you.”
Rael is silent. His features are unmoving. Still as stone.
And as they roll into the car, one after the other, she finds that tears are beginning to roll down her face. Because it’s just so wrong. Because no one should be forced to be like that. At that age.
She wipes them off. Straightens out her dress. And goes out to roll in with them.
He’s looking out the window during the car ride. He’s looking out, out at all the buildings. The trees. The cars, the signs, the children.
His face has remained unchanged for the mostpart, but his eyebrows have ever so slightly lifted. She smiles. She thinks it’s fascination.
Their entrance is a torrid mess, a chaotic act of plate juggling, of navigating complex corridors and the whims of Rael. The suits move quickly, efficiently, deliberately turning a blind eye to those lagging behind.
She doesn’t consider herself slow by any means, but she finds herself having to guide Rael. Through this new world, this loud, bustling, quick-moving world. Full of people, colour, light and sound. It’s more than he can handle. He’s standing dead still and breathing shallowly. His features remain unmoved.
In the end, she finds herself having to grab his hand and pull him towards the courtroom.
The audience settles. The doors are closed. The judge begins to speak.
It’s a blur. She finds herself zoning out for a moment, just empty perceiving the events unfolding before her, sitting silently in front of the jury with Rael.
It continues like this until they bring her out.
She’s thin, wiry. She’s short, but her limbs are long and bony. Her eyes are grey, shallow, darting back and forth, a rat trapped in a maze that will never end. She talks short, quick steps, bobbing up and down, head constantly twitching over her shoulder. Instinctually checking that no one is watching.
Her name is Catelynn. She hates her.
She’s the reason everyone is here today. She’s the reason Rael is sitting here today, stone-faced and silent, unable to convey how he feels properly with words or actions even if he really wants to, even if there’s something to say.
Catelynn catches sight of Rael, just of the corner of her eye. Her lips spread into the most awful sweet smile, a smile not of affection, but of recognition. The smile of a woman who thinks she’s found a leverage, an excuse for her monstrous acts.
She glares at Catelynn as she sits down, before turning to Rael. Making sure he’s okay. Wondering how deprived a mother must be to do this to her son.
To lock him up. Shut him out from the world.
And to continually do it. For 19 years.
It makes her blood boil.
When an anonymous tip had resulted in the dispatching of a small police group to Catelynn’s quiet suburban home, they found Rael, locked in a small room hidden away from the rest of the house, tucked away like it was ashamed of the contents within. In the room was a child’s bed, a skylight, a rudimentary toilet and a table, on which were several scattered children’s books.
In the corner of the room, crouched, whimpering, was a boy who looked to be in his high school years.
She worked mostly in childcare, particularly with those that were mentally disabled, and had volunteered her services as a legal guardian the moment she had heard the situation from a friend.
A week after Rael had been liberated, his extremely basic motor control and and limited vocabulary noted and logged, she drove him to her home.
And as she fumbled with the keys to the front door, Rael quietly turned away and noticed the still body of a bird that lay motionless besides them.
Rael had, as far as she knew, never seen an actual bird this close before, nevermind a dead one.
He extended a foot and, completely neutral, lacking any conviction, stepped on it.
Catelynn is distraught. She is a blubbering mess before the judge – an endless stream of crocodile tears and half hearted compassion for her son, her only son Rael, whom she loves so much and just wants to take care of.
It makes her sick.
I just wanted, she’s sobbing. I just wanted to protect him. From the world. It’s so dangerous. Society these days is so corrupt. The other kids…
Catelynn pauses, dab, dab, dabs at her eyes with a handkerchief and continues.
And I always made sure to take care of him. I gave him food, taught him to read. I took care of him.
She’s getting passionate now – her blubbering sobs have turned into spittled bouts.
Only difference is I raised him innocent – not like the kids these days. Innocence, just innocence. Is that so bad.
Silence. No one has a word to say.
And it’s like the gods lift her and and give strength to her voice as she stands and begins to shout no! No, it’s not so bad! But what IS bad is what YOU’VE done! Innocence? You really think that’s what this is?
She gestures to Rael, who seems to understand that he’s being defended.
You weren’t protecting him, she spits. You were depriving him. Shunning him. Neglecting him. You’ve given him food and water, but deprived him of everything that matters- interaction, emotion, empathy. You’re a psychopath. You’re a child abuser. You’re guilty.
She sits down, ignoring the stunned stares from everyone around her.
The trial proceeds normally from then on.
She doesn’t speak again.
Catelynn is found guilty. She cries her eyes out, get angry, and eventually gives up. She’ driven far away. She will never hurt again.
That night she drives Rael home without the suits. They eat food, real food, not the mush that Catelynn dumped into a bowl each night.
And as they’re eating, Rael stops for a moment, face still as stone but a look in his eyes filling in the vanca. And whispers so quiet, so small.
For the second time that day, her eyes fill with tears.
And she reaches out and hugs his long, tall body, quietly whispering back no, thank you, thank you so much.
She can feel Rael’s body stiffen for a moment. He has never been hugged before.
And then ever so slowly she feels arms wrapping around her as well.
The two embrace, and they do not let go for some time.