This scene was part of the original draft of Compromising Positions, but I decided to remove it from the final draft because it simply didn’t fit into the chapter as I’d anticipated. However, I thought it provided additional insight into how Josie Hollingsworth used her past and present troubles in order to help others in similar predicaments. Plus, it helped her to continue to heal her emotional wounds and to recognize how lucky she was to have fallen in love with Stone Romero.
A Reminder of the Past and A Path to the Future
That night, Josie and Stone made love without any reservations or hesitation for the first time since her attack. When she woke in the morning, her back hurt worse than it had for a while, but Josie reasoned it had been worth it and took some Advil before she and Stone left for Carmody Internal Medicine and Romero Pediatrics. It was going to be an interesting day.
Everyone who came into the clinic was talking about how Josie had stood up to David Skinner. All of the people told her how proud they were of her. She was uncomfortable with the attention but happy that she’d made a lasting impression on other townspeople. She hoped they’d follow suit in their efforts to make Clayville a better place to live.
When it was time for lunch, Josie pulled her blonde hair into a ponytail and then ate a turkey sandwich and carrot sticks. She then returned to the empty waiting room and removed the “Back in 30 Minutes” sign from her desk. Stone and Flynn had already taken their lunch breaks and were with patients at that moment. Flynn Carmody had an appointment with a middle-aged man in twenty minutes, but Stone had a lull in his schedule for two hours. That was unusual, although Josie knew from experience that walk-ins were common for their practice.
As if on cue, a harried-looking woman in her thirties hurried in through the front door with a little girl who had curly black hair and a brown-haired toddler. The little girl was hyper to the extreme, while the boy seemed to be totally complacent in his mother’s arms. When Josie asked which one of the three was the patient, the woman declared, “All of us. Something’s wrong with my kids, and I can’t take it anymore. My husband left because of them, and I don’t have any help. I don’t know what to do! I don’t think I can keep my little girl anymore!”
“She tried to choke her brother to death this morning, and she keeps stabbing me with anything she can find. She stabs herself, too. She’s hurt teachers and kids at kindergarten. Her teachers say maybe she’s ADHD and needs medication, but she can’t come back to school until she stops trying to hurt herself and others, and she has to stay in her seat. They all agree that she’s super-bright, but she’s out of control.” Her eyes brimming with tears, the woman admitted, “I don’t know where else to turn.”
“How about if I hold your son while you fill out the paperwork? Your daughter can play with the toys in the corner.”
The woman nodded as she wiped her eyes and passed the boy to Josie. Then she led the little girl over to the toy area. Josie looked down at the toddler, noting how detached he seemed and then she looked across the room to his sister, who was chattering away as she used Legos to make an intricate structure in one part of the play area. She listened intently to the little girl’s monologue and realized it wasn’t a monologue. Chills ran up and down Josie’s spine, and she listened more closely. Her heart sank, and she looked towards the young mother filling out the paperwork.
Flynn and Stone emerged with their respective patients, and Josie hastened to ask if she could speak privately with the two of them before they met with the walk-in patients. Both nodded but looked perplexed. Once she’d passed the toddler back to his mother and checked out the other patients, Josie took the two doctors to the kitchen and said quietly, “That little girl is schizophrenic. I think the little boy has autism or some other sort of dissociative disorder.”
“What makes you say that?” Flynn asked, scratching at his short, blonde beard.
“Personal experience mostly. Well, at least with the girl’s behavior. You can look at the boy and tell. My mother was a psychology professor, remember? I had access to her books as well as Dad’s. As for the little girl, I’ve been watching and listening to her the whole time. She’s highly intelligent and is carrying on conversations with multiple people or things that aren’t there.”
“So, she has imaginary friends,” persisted Flynn.
Josie glanced towards the waiting room and said, “I spent most of my life living with my mother’s talking to her hallucinations. That’s what this little girl is doing. She’s seeing these things and interacting with them. Also, the mother says her daughter is hurting herself and –”
The woman screamed from the other room, and the three of them rushed out to see what was wrong. The little girl had taken a letter opener from the desk and was repeatedly stabbing herself in the leg with it. The mother was trying to stop her and had obviously taken one or two hits in the process. The boy lay oblivious on the floor across the room.
Stone and Flynn acted in tandem to stop the child. Stone grabbed her from behind, while Flynn tried to take the letter opener away from her, getting kicked several times in the process. The child was howling in fury and lashing out at the two men and her mother. Josie yelled for the mother to tell her the little girl’s name. Ironically, it was Angel.
“She won’t stop when she’s like this!” the woman cried. “She’ll go on this way for hours and destroy everything in her way as she tries to hurt herself and everyone else!”
“If we could calm her somehow –” Flynn began.
“No!” Josie interrupted. “She needs a sedative! Her mother’s right. Nothing is going to stop her if she’s like this.”
Stone asked Flynn to bring a hypodermic filled with a sedative for the child and called out an amount and type of medication. Flynn seemed displeased, but he didn’t hesitate to get what was requested. The child growled in frustration and screamed that various things with different names were going to kill all of them.
“Angel, tell the bad ones to stop trying to hurt everyone,” Josie commanded. “They won’t be able to once Dr. Romero and Dr. Carmody give you the medicine. The bad ones are wasting their time.”
“They say they’re not!” the child cried. “Black Bird and Thirty-Thirty say you’re lying!”
Josie sighed heavily. She knew it had been pointless to try to reason with the child and her hallucinations, but she’d had to try. Flynn gave the girl the injection, and she gradually went limp although she didn’t completely lose consciousness.
Stone carried the child to an exam room, and Flynn guided the mother in after them. Josie took the toddler into the room and gave him to his mother, who was trembling and crying. She asked Josie how she’d known that her daughter had evil, imaginary friends. Josie looked plaintively to Stone, who raked his fingers through his disheveled brown hair and gave her a miniscule shake of the head. She wasn’t a medical professional and couldn’t diagnose the little girl no matter how certain she was.
“My mother was like your daughter,” she finally said. “She had hundreds of…things she saw and interacted with. Some were good and some were bad. When she was like the way your daughter was just a minute ago, nothing would stop her except my dad holding her down until she wore herself out. She was older and not as fit as your little girl. I knew that wouldn’t work with Angel.”
“Your mother was like this her whole life?” the woman asked in horror.
“No. She became like this in her twenties.”
“What is it? What’s wrong with my Angel?”
“We’ll have to have her evaluated by other physicians and by psychiatrists,” Stone said quickly. “I want to have her hospitalized in a facility where they treat children. That won’t be around here. There isn’t such a place in our area.”
“I – I’m okay with that. I can’t keep Angel any longer. I lose her more and more each day as it is.”
“What’s your son’s name?”
“Who is their regular pediatrician, and why didn’t you bring them there?”
The woman glanced away and said, “Dr. Kelgar. He’s now refusing to treat either of my kids because of Angel’s behavior. Dustin was diagnosed with autism, but no treatment was offered for him.”
“And your name?”
“Tricia. I’m at my wit’s end. I love my kids and don’t want to give up either of them, but I can’t keep Angel anymore and don’t think Dustin even knows there’s a world outside his head. Like I said when I came in, my husband’s left us and I have no help. I’m done. I’ll end up killing myself if I keep the kids. It’s been five years of hell since Angel was born. Something was wrong from the moment she came out. My husband and I should never have had another baby. We just wanted a normal child. I would’ve had abortions with both of them if I’d known then what I know now. Please. Tell me what I have to do to give them up. Please.”
She started to sob, and Josie led her out so that Stone could examine Angel. She put Tricia and her toddler in a nearby room and asked her to wait since she’d heard the front door open and close. Josie went to the desk as she greeted Flynn’s next patient, explaining that there’d been an emergency walk-in. Then she gave the man the option of remaining for an indeterminate amount of time or rescheduling. Since the man had a bad chest cold, he opted to wait. Josie thanked him for his patience and returned to Tricia, who’d ceased sobbing but was still crying freely.
“You must think I’m a horrible person,” the young mother told her. “I think I’m a horrible person for giving up my kids.”
“I don’t think any such thing,” Josie told her. “I grew up with mentally ill parents and understand completely how hard it is and how overwhelming it can be. You want the best for them but sometimes that means not having them with you. At least that’s how it was for me with my family.”
“Are they okay now?”
“Yes, they are,” Josie said truthfully, neglecting to add that this was because they were all dead. “Maybe if your kids get help and you get help on how to deal with them, then you can still be a family. If not, then at least you know you tried. It seems like you’ve been trying since you had Angel.”
The woman nodded and accepted the tissue Josie offered her before saying, “Thanks for understanding. It makes it easier for me to deal with this.”
Josie smiled ruefully and said, “I guess that’s my purpose in life. I’m here to suffer through all sorts of stuff so other people will know they can get through things, too.”
Flynn entered the room and asked Josie to take Dustin to Angel’s room. He needed to talk with Tricia and cleanse and stitch the two puncture wounds the woman had sustained from her daughter’s attack with the letter opener. Josie also knew that he would suggest mental health resources for his new patient.
Once she’d entered the exam room, Josie reflected that Angel looked so normal as she slept on the table. Then she thought of Angel’s outburst and felt a deep sadness settle into her chest. She had met other schizophrenics because of her mother, but she’d never met a child who’d manifested such obvious symptoms. At least Josie’s mother had years of normalcy before she’d lost herself to madness. This child had evidently been born into a world where she’d never known what was real and what was hallucination.
“I’ve already called for someone to come for the kids,” Stone told her. “Tricia’s in no shape right now to have either one. Perhaps someday.” Taking Dustin from her arms, he said, “Perhaps never. Very sad.”
“She’ll never have any more children,” Josie said with certainty.
“No. I know I wouldn’t. I know for damn sure you wouldn’t.”
She nodded and swallowed hard before saying, “If Cheek had actually raped me and I’d gotten pregnant by him –”
“He didn’t. But if he had, had gotten you pregnant, and fathered a child like Angel as a result….” After pausing for a few heartbeats, he muttered, “Imagine if it’d happened a hundred years ago.”
Josie shuddered involuntarily as she recalled reading books about mental institutions of the past and of the living conditions and treatment of patients. Even at the best of places, without proper understanding and medication, the inhabitants were doomed to a life of unimaginable suffering. Even in present times, many facilities were ill-equipped and poorly staffed. Patients were vulnerable because of their already unstable mental conditions.
“Once whoever you called comes for the kids and Tricia’s gone, I want to go home for the day,” Josie announced. “I need to have some time alone.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t swallow a bunch of pills. I just need some time to mourn for a while, kind of like you do for Nelson.”
“What do you mean?”
“You mourn Nelson off and on, and I leave you to it. It’s important to you. He was your identical twin.”
“I still mourn Nelson to such an extent that you notice?”
“Yes, you do. Right now I need some space to mourn the loss of my family.”
Stone kissed her and then said, “Go home after this then. You’ll have a few hours alone before Tommy and I arrive at Wolfwood after work.”
Josie did exactly that. When she got home, she went to one of the extra bedrooms and removed the framed photo of her family from a drawer then spent the following half hour looking at it and crying before putting it back. She thought of the schizophrenic child she’d met earlier and of her mother and sister. She recalled her father’s OCD and anxiety issues and how odd her life had been because of her family. Thanking God once again that all of them were no longer struggling and that her nephew had been granted a merciful death, Josie went to wash her face. She then showered and put on jeans and a sweater before Stone and Tommy got home. Everything would be all right.
As all right as it can be, she thought. So much better than it ever was before I met and fell in love with Stone Romero.