Chapter 1: For Old Times' Sake
Evan couldn't sleep. He laid, eyes wide open, on his bed, in his room in their new apartment. His heart raced and tears threatened; so this is what it's like to feel guilt. Evan sat up and drank from the glass of water his mom left for him on the night stand, and replayed the past year in his head.
After his adoption became final, Evan went to live with Lyla. It was always funny to remember how difficult it had been to call her Mom. Evan hadn't understood why Louis couldn't live with them back then. After 12 years, 6 months and 23 days, it became rather urgent for Evan to have a family. Louis did come around very often, and sometimes just for his mom. That's how he discovered what resentment was. For a while Evan resented his parents for abandoning him all over again, every other Saturday night.
It had been easier to call Louis: dad, resentment and all, because after a while, Evan woke up to find him at the breakfast table. He didn't really understand how his parents didn't live together if Louis spent all his time with them. When they finally told him they were going to move to this new apartment together, Evan said to his father: "Now you won't have to wake up early just to come have breakfast with us". His mother must have thought exactly the same thing for her face became red as she joined Louis's smile.
All their friends had come to the dinner party the officially formed Connelly family hosted. Marshall, who hated being called uncle, had brought his bass guitar to 'jam' with his nephew- who loved being called nephew. Though he was always more resistant, he did alright adjusting to his baby brother's family, his as well. Every now and again Evan would 'crash their sessions'. It wasn't really crashing and it wasn't much of a session as much as a practice for some performance. And performances they called gigs.
Mr. Jeffries had also become a close friend of the family. He still worked for New York Child Services. The agency was so surprised with what had happened with Wizard that they gave him the chance to open a new division: a rescue team for endangered children. Mr. Jeffries was exceptionally good at it, especially since he had a secret weapon: Arthur. Arthur remained at Walden's until Ms. Lane's departure. Andrea Lane had been a crucial character witness at Arthur's adoption process. It would have otherwise been very hard for Mr. Jeffries alone. Lyla still didn't like her very much, though Louis did. Louis agreed with his friend Richard that Ms. Lane was an Amazonian, modern, too much of a woman. Lyla didn't appreciate this kind of jokes coming from Louis, but she knew he only tried to encourage their friend. Evan wasn't too sure why Mr. Jeffries was being encouraged. It seemed to him that Ms. Lane was the one who needed help; she was the one with a bruised heart she couldn't open. From what he'd heard, Mr. Jeffries had suffered from the same illness and Arthur had cured it. Maybe the two should go visit Ms. Lane.
Arthur couldn't be happier with his luck! He really was a changed person. For one, his hair was shorter and in what he called cornrows. Evan remembered the tall wheat crops he used to run away to and if corn was anything like it, he didn't get the name of the hairstyle. He dressed differently and had made many friends in the seventh grade. Unlike Evan, Arthur had been able to forget his past and begin again from scratch! He was happier now, called Mr. Jeffries Pop and remained Evan's best friend. Sometimes, Evan enquired about his mother. It was a sore subject for Arthur, but Evan couldn't stop his mind from wandering around in the past. Arthur's countenance always became serious as he answered, "I write to her every once in a while. It's a work in progress, but she'll be home soon…" Evan always pondered on Arthur's words. The only person he ever wrote to was Ms. Lane, said Mr. Jeffries.
Other than Arthur Jonas Jeffries, his new name, Evan didn't have many friends. His other only real friend was Hope and she was the reason he was feeling the way he felt. Every time he remembered how she had been an angel to him when he needed the most, he felt angry at himself for his inability to be the same for her now. Reverend J had finally found Hope and his grandmother a good place to live. Lyla and he had been over a few times to help them get settled. Hope painted her like the sky with clouds and rainbows and everything. But their happiness was short lived.
Soon after their brunch party and blessing on their new home, Hope's grandmother fell ill. Her condition became complicated, and with it, Evan and Hope's relationship. He didn't know how to talk to her and after a while, Hope wasn't easy to talk to either. She grew quiet and finally silent. Her condition aggravated as well. With her grandmother gone to heaven with her mother and her father discovered in jail, there was no one to tend to her. For the first few months after her grandma's death, Hope lived with a few members from church. However, New York Child Services soon intervened. She couldn't stay with any of them because they didn't qualify. Evan didn't dare ask his parents, but he had heard from Jeffries that they didn't qualify either since they were still in probation over Evan's adoption.
Tomorrow, Evan wouldn't forget, was Hope's first day at a foster home for girls. Lyla had already informed Mr. Jeffries of Hope's case and he was on it. Arthur had also made it known that he thought Ms. Lane could be of great help. Everyone was working to help Hope, but Evan couldn't move. The only thing he could do was replay his past over and over again in his head. He found he often did this when instead he should be helping out, only this time he didn't know how.
Hope dragged her feet as she walked through the cold hallways that would never be home. Her faith was shaken. Today was her birthday and she was removed from everything she knew and everyone she loved. She cried silently though her tears were apparent to the woman—Over the Rainbow Private Home for Girls' warden—as she walked her down to her new room. Hope tried to suppress the anger she felt at her mother; if only she hadn't died.
"Cheer up, dear. It's only provisional…"
The girl looked up as the sweet and calm voice spoke. Mrs. Goldman was a sweet old lady and she didn't look much like a guard or like she was in charge of anything but baking in some sweet smelling kitchen somewhere. Hope forced a smile to content the woman. Provisional sounded complicated, but it was said in such optimism, that Hope decided to consider the thought later on. She still couldn't get pass having lost everything—her new house and room—and especially her grandma.
"Your room is right around the corner, dearie…" Mrs. Goldman continued, "It's a two bed dormitory with its own bathroom, that's the difference between all those others foster homes and this one. See, it's not an orphanage per se, its…well, it's more complex…but you're not interested in that are you, dear?"
Hope shook her head. She barely listened, cared or understood.
"Well…" the stout woman stopped at a wooden door, very much like the ones they've been passing by. She gestured Hope to set her luggage on the floor before knocking on the door, "Here we are. I have a key, but since you're roommate is already in I best be polite…"
Mrs. Goldman knocked on the door for a second time. Hope only had two bags and a picture frame. That was all she had left. Forgetting her courtesy, Mrs. Goldman opened the door and surprised Hope's new roommate.
"Elle! You startled me!" said the woman in her squeaky voice, "You're new roommate is here. Ellie this is Hope…"
"Hi…" Hope said shyly, though she really didn't feel like meeting anyone.
"Hey…" she said taking her earphones off, "Hope? It's Elle, not Ellie…"
Elle went back to her bed and put her music back on. She wore her hoodie over her blonde hair and looked away. Mrs. Goldman was done bringing Hope's stuff in from the hallway.
"Well, now my dears, I'll leave you two to get to know each other better" she smiled at them and then turned to Hope, "You best get settled, child. Welcome home…"
Hope looked around and though she wanted to not cry, she couldn't help it. She cried and didn't care if Elle was looking. Hope was done dreaming and didn't quite know if she believed in miracles anymore.
"Don't worry Hope…" said Elle sitting by her on the bed.
"You wouldn't understand…" Hope said trying to hold back tears as she realized Elle was older than her, though not by much. She wondered what brought her here.
"You wouldn't believe…" Elle mumbled before talking to her again, "Sadness doesn't last forever," she said looking outside the window, "And if nothing else, it's in our hands to change it. In any case, don't worry, the worst is over…"
She didn't understand Elle's words. Hope didn't even know how it applied to her, but she tried hard to believe it. That's when she discovered she had to try harder.
Marshall opened the door to the building setting the dust free. Louis coughed. Marshall entered the place careless of the terrible state it was in.
"So? What do you think?" he asked excitedly.
Louis looked around the old club. The bar, you could still make out standing in the corner it was obviously never moved from. The empty space at the end must have been the stage and the disaster zone, where some broken chairs, tables and other pieces laid, had obviously been the audience. Louis didn't think Marshall was going to go through with his plan to restore the place and get it up and running in three months. His elder brother still couldn't spend an hour at his house without getting in some kind of argument with Lyla.
"Louie? What ya think?" his impatience was evident.
"It's a dump…" he finally burst laughing.
"You just can't see it?" Marshall asked trying to place the few tables and chairs so his brother would get his vision.
"Marshall, what's your margin of error for this?" he said still smiling. He'd never seen Marshall so enthusiastic about anything.
"My what?" Marshall regretted having sent Louis to school instead of having gone himself.
"Margin for error? Savings? Back up plans?" Louis insisted.
"Margin for error? Psbtsbsts!" Marshall became annoyed, "I used my savings and took a loan, is that what you mean?"
"Zero, you mean to say zero." Louis said walking around, "Marshall! What are you going to do if this goes wrong?"
Marshall stood before his brother and held Louis's shoulders with his hands, "Wrong? How could it go wrong, Louie?"
"Yet another Irish pub in Manhattan…" he said, "Very original, man…"
"Yes, but this one is authentic!" Marshall padded his face, "The Connelly Brothers could be featured every other night along with hot new acts from the streets of New York! This could be the hottest new scene of the Big Apple! Don't you see it brother?"
"Must be all this dust…"
Marshall watched his brother look about. Their relationship had improved, but it was sometimes boring. There were very few things they did together as men. For the rest, Lyla and Evan would always come along and Marshall hated to see his nephew was falling way short on the cool meter. It didn't matter that he had concerts in the park and went to Julliard and whatever, Evan was becoming as boring a teenager as he had been a kid.
"I'll give you half the partnership; help you support your family and what not…" Marshall said, "Aren't you tying the knot next year?"
"You know I am…" Louis turned to smile at him, but when he turned back his smile disappeared. Memories of his recurring dream returned.
"Give you 50% off if you have your wedding reception here…" Marshall chuckled.
Marshall noticed Louis's attitude had changed. He walked over to him and put his hand on his shoulder.
"What's wrong, Lou?"
"Do you remember mum at all?" Louis asked.
"What? No, Louis! Forget it. Let it go, man!" Marshall whined, "Mum's dead! No use bringing her back, mate"
"Do you remember her or not?"
"Better than you probably do…"
"Do you remember her eyes? What color were they?" Louis continued.
"Just tell me. Please."
"Gray", Marshall answered, "They were a beautiful shade of gray if that's even possible. They didn't look at all blue…"
"How do you remember such detail?" Louis wondered.
"Not that I remember myself, but I always remember Aunt Adele telling dad what a happy occurrence it was your blue eyes looked nothing like hers. Dad always described her as a rainy morning. It was cause of her eyes…"
The Connelly brothers hardly ever spoke about their parents, childhood or past. Their suffering was not worth mentioning or reliving, so they did neither. Marshall hoped Louis wouldn't get nostalgic as he did as a kid for their mother, though he could understand all these emotions surfacing as his nuptials neared. Louis hoped his anxiety wasn't evident. Clearly, the big blues in his dreams were not his mother's. Whoever them sapphires belonged to, he'd yet to meet her and he panicked at the idea of doing so.
"Aren't you going to answer that?" Marshall asked.
Louis's cell-phone went off yet he hadn't heard it. Quickly after Marshall's reminder, he answered the phone; Lyla and Evan called from the car, reminding him of their visit to Hope who had been moved to a home for girls after her grandmother's death a few days ago.
"Gotta go man," Louis said.
"But we are not done here! Can't it wait?" Marshall didn't have to hear the conversation or ask him to know that Lyla had called and that she and Evan dragged Louis somewhere he probably didn't want to go, but felt the responsibility to go to anyways.
Marshall watched his younger brother leave as he had watched him done so for one too many occasions in the past year. Louis had changed. Marshall thought he had lost his spirit after drowning in the ridiculous responsibilities of the suburbs life. Though he didn't live in the 'burbs, their new apartment was pretty far out from Manhattan. Marshall hated to go visit, but having them come over his place was not an option.
Visiting was always torturous for him. He had to watch of Louis had to pretend to be the perfect family man, while his guitar gathered dust in a corner of the living room. Although he worked from home, Louis barely had time to play anymore. Marshalls would occasionally book the band, but Louis now had a curfew and a perimeter he couldn't pass. Meeting his demands, probably Lyla's, was keeping The Connelly Brothers from reaching their true potential. That's when Marshall thought a recurring gig, that would generate enough money for both of them was perfect!
Unoriginal, maybe, but an Irish pub was a good solution to the problem and since he'd always want to manage his own business, Marshall didn't think twice about it. He had found a great place very close to the city but also a good distance close to the 'burbs. Marshall had always heard men complain about them having no place to go but into the city and their wives didn't like that much. Now that he saw it first hand from Louis, he was sure the place would be a success. He'd even name it "The Escape".
It had been a couple of days and Hope would never call this place home. There were about a hundred girls of all ages living in the place. Most of them even went to school there as it also was Saint Catherine's Boarding School for Girls. Apparently, two sisters decided to put their mother's fortune to good use and since they couldn't decide on which to use their old mansion for, they settled on both. Left wing held at least seventy-nine girls whose family had willingly placed them there and twenty-one girls who had no choice. Hope had probably been that one girl to take them to that number.
Evan's visit wasn't very comforting, though he, his parents, Mr. Jeffries, Arthur and Reverend J tried to tell her otherwise. There were promises of her situation being impermanent, of future visits and on her having better chances of a great life once this was over. Hope smiled kindly, but she didn't believe any of it. Not every kid was Evan, therefore not every one would end up like him. She walked around making no friends but her new diary that she filled with hopes and dreams that remained unspoken and always would. Her sanctuary became her room even though Elle was there.
Today had started beautiful enough, but as the evening neared it had begun to get dark, until it eventually rained. Hope wanted to sit by the window, but Elle already took that spot. In spite of herself, Hope found herself studying Elle. She didn't have many friends either, but everyone in the building knew her name. Hope could see why; her long blonde waves always looked dirty, she always wore a black hoodie on top layers shirts she couldn't see. Elle's outfit wasn't complete without a tutu skirt, black leggings and boy-ish boots. Hope knew all this because she had become very interested in fashion when a new member at church began to teach her how to sew. She hadn't seen this woman since her grandmother's funeral and doubted she ever would again.
"What?" Elle asked Hope annoyed.
Hope felt her cheeks hot when Elle discovered her. For some reason she felt intimidated by her and in her defense, it was all the stories she had heard from the others.
"Nothing…I just really like your skirt…" Hope spoke as softly as she could before returning to her writing.
Elle said nothing. She put on her hoodie and walked to a small pink radio on her night stand. Hope's eyes followed her roommate's every movement. She opened up her first drawers and all Hope could make out was that it had no clothes but was filled with something else. Out of it she took a compact disk and put it on. The music filled their room. It was a different kind of sound than Hope was familiar to. The music came out as a mix of sadness and anger, yet as calm as it was soulful. Elle hummed to it and Hope found her humming quite soothing to her never ending pain.
"What is that?" Hope's voice escaped before she could control it.
Hope didn't know who Elle talked about, but she found it funny that her roommate began to dance and sing to her song. Surprisingly enough, Elle had a beautiful voice that made Hope want to sing along, but Hope didn't know the words and knew she'd feel guilty if she did.
"You don't know Amy Whinehouse?" Elle looked offended.
"Do you like music?" she asked brightening up.
"Yeah, but…" Hope looked down.
"What?" Elle sat next to her.
"I don't think I should…" she explained, "For my grandma…"
Elle sat next to her. Hope thought she might cry, but didn't dare to in front of an older girl. The blonde put her arm around her and said nothing for a while. One song ended and another begun.
"I don't think you can do much to honor her memory but to live happy and free. Be who she wanted you to be and most importantly, be what she wanted you to be and that was probably happy…"
Hope didn't know how this stranger had become so wise and so dear to her in so little time, but she put her hands around her and cried. Hope cried like she'd wanted to but hadn't allowed herself to do because she had to be strong. She also allowed herself to be comforted by Elle like she hadn't allowed any of her closest friends do so. It was liberating and she thought she ought to lift some of the weight off her shoulders for there was sure more to come.
It was Evan's turn to place the table. Tonight Mr. Jeffries, Arthur and Reverend J joined them since they had gone to visit Hope together. Lyla had allowed Evan to skip his chore so he could watch television with Arthur, but Evan insisted. He felt guilty again because he omitted his real intention of eavesdropping on the adult's conversation.
"It is heartbreaking to see what has happened to Hope…" Reverend J said sadly looking into his glass of juice.
"Can nothing really be done, Richard?" Lyla asked as she prepared the salad.
"Well," Mr. Jeffries began, "If the agency has placed Hope there it means she could be endangered otherwise. Since her father got out of jail, it's too risky to let her stay at her old neighborhood with people he knows".
"Of all the years I've known Hope and her grandmother, they never said a thing about Hope's father. He abandoned her mother and was never heard of again. How can he be of any danger to her now? She doesn't know him…"
"But he knows her, he's seen her and knows where she's been. Whether he poses a real threat to her now, we don't want to have to find out when it's too late" Mr. Jeffries said, "As an agency protective of these children, we have to be extremely careful of this situation"
Lyla sat with them, "But he has no right over her doesn't he? I mean, neither Louis nor I had any rights over Evan being our biological son. So there's no real danger of him taking her"
Lyla looked over at the living room. Arthur was concentrated on the T.V., while Louis sat across from him, just thinking. His gaze was lost and Lyla assumed his thoughts where too.
"That's true, but we're not afraid of him taking her away, so much as him using her as shield to get his way, you know how it could go. We see it in the news every day and unfortunately we have very little cases that we can do something about at the agency," Mr. Jeffries concluded.
Reverend James was at ease knowing Hope's case was in the hand of someone as capable as Richard Jeffries seemed to be. He had faith enough to believe that Hope would end just as well as Evan and Arthur, if not better.
"You know," said the Reverend, "I have one more thing to add, but don't really know if you are the person to talk to this about. I believe it has struck Hope very hard—her grandmother's death and all that's happened—she doesn't seem much like herself and I am worried for her. She is only twelve. Isn't there anyone who could evaluate her, make sure she'll be alright?"
"Actually there is," Mr. Jeffries said and Lyla thought he blushed a little, "Because I am taking on more complex cases these days I have asked the department to allow one more member to my team. She's the best child psychologist I know—she treats adults too…"
"Are you talking about Ms. Lane?" Lyla asked but she already knew the answer.
"Yes," he said, "I heard she was coming back to New York to work for a private company, but I could use someone with her expertise on most of my cases. I am lost when it comes to human behavior and how to deal with it…"
"She treats adults you said?" finally Louis was woken up from his daydreaming.
"Yes…" Mr. Jeffries replied looking at him.
"Are you alright?" Lyla asked Louis.
"Just curious…" he said, "I'm fine…"
Lyla hadn't allowed herself to look back or think too much about anything. Lately, she tried to convince herself everything was alright between them, when it obviously wasn't. Louis slept most of the night on the couch more often than she liked. They never argued, but lately they barely talked. Evan remained oblivious to his father's change, but Lyla could no longer afford to. As much as she disliked Andrea Lane, maybe she did have to have a talk with her, for old times' sake.
NOTE: To my readers, sorry it's taken so long. I apologize for dragging you into a difficult year that has now come to an end. I will try my hardest to post new material regularly and in short periods of times. Just bare with me and thank you for your support.
Yours truly, Undiscovered Silence.