By Wes Leigh featuring the contributions of Rob the Scribe


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Chapter Thirteen


“No preachin” today,” Pastor James announced, “but don”t y”all get too comfortable with the idea!” There was scattered laughter and smiles all around. Pastor James looked at Auntie hugging Rachel and RJ being held tight in Roderyk”s arms and he said, “We”re being treated to another kind of sermon today. We”re seeing God”s love manifested in the lives of his children, and that”s worth a thousand sermons.”

Auntie turned to face Pastor James and replied, “Amen, Pastor, amen.”

“Why don”t we all head to the fellowship hall?” Pastor James suggested. “We can sit and talk while Barbara Ann finishes getting the food set out. Jasmine, why don”t you get all the youth to help her.”

Jasmine nodded. “Come on guys!”

The other teens ran out of the room with Jasmine, shouting excitedly as they headed for the kitchen.

The pastor shook his head slowly. “Barbara Ann is going to be upset at me. Ending the service early before she has a chance to prepare the food! Then sending a horde of teenagers to help her?”

It was a horde minus one. RJ hadn”t left Roderyk”s arms, but continued to cling to him, refusing to be put down.

Roderyk didn”t mind. At that moment, there was nowhere else he wanted RJ to be.

͠ ͠ ͠

Rachel sat facing Auntie, talking softly.

“It”s been the hardest week of my life, Auntie,” Rachel said, picking at her food.

Auntie placed a consoling hand on Rachel”s knee. “Yes. It has. But you and RJ made it through.”

Rachel looked over at her son, sitting next to Roderyk, smiling and laughing again. The two of them were surrounded by the rest of the church youth. They were all eating and talking as if nothing had happened. How easily they set aside trauma and moved on. If only adults could do the same, but unfortunately, adults sometimes look into the future and see the troubles barreling down on them.

“What”s on your mind, dear?” Auntie asked, seeing the fear in Rachel”s eyes.

Rachel sighed as she replied, “I”m worried, Auntie.”

“About what, dear?”

“RJ, mostly. What”s coming next.”

Auntie waited, taking a sip of tea and giving Rachel time to decide how much she wanted to share.

Rachel leaned in closer and whispered, “You know who I rent my apartment from, right?”

Auntie nodded. “Susan and Kenneth Daniels.”

Glancing nervously at her plate of food, Rachel continued, “Susan is an assistant DA. She wants to bring Roderyk up on charges.”

“She won”t let it go?”

Rachel shook her head. “She doesn”t believe what Roderyk and RJ said. She thinks something did happen between them, and she wants Roderyk in prison.”

“She told you that?”

Rachel nodded. “She caught me yesterday as I was leaving for work. She said I have a responsibility to RJ and all the other kids here in church. I should be talking RJ into telling the truth, for his good. For the safety of the other kids.”

Auntie pursed her lips. “Do you think RJ is lying?”

Rachel looked up, nervous. “Roderyk is your nephew. I … ummm … I probably shouldn”t be talking to you about this.”

“Rachel, dear. Yes, he”s my nephew. I”m the one who brought him here from Germany. I”m the one who brought him to church and insisted he work with the youth. If I thought for a moment that he was danger to these youngsters, I”d dig a deep hole and bury the both of us in it.”

Rachel snorted. “You can”t feel bad. You didn”t do anything izmit escort bayan wrong.”

Auntie shrugged. “I”d still feel responsible. And besides all that, I don”t think those boys did anything wrong either.”

The two women looked over and saw how carefree the young people were around Roderyk. He was listening to Jared and Timothy telling a story, and he was smiling at their histrionics. RJ was sitting as close to Roderyk as he could get, leaning against Roderyk”s shoulder. Roderyk turned and saw what RJ was doing, then lifted his arm and threw it across RJ”s shoulders, hugging the teen against his side. RJ smiled joyfully and leaned his head against the side of Roderyk”s broad chest.

“They look so happy like that,” Rachel said, biting her lip. “I suppose if anything did happen, RJ wasn”t harmed by it.”

Auntie tapped Rachel”s knee to get her attention. “Rachel. Listen to Auntie and let an old woman tell you something that should ease your mother”s heart. I know you feel like an old momma bear when it comes to your cub. You want to protect him and rip the face off of anyone who tries to hurt him. Am I right?”

Rachel nodded.

“And you should feel that way!” Auntie continued. “If I thought for one second RJ was bein” hurt by anyone, I”d be right by your side. Two old momma bears, rippin” and slashin” and tearin”.”

Rachel chuckled. “The only problem I”m having at the moment is deciding who to tear up.”

“That is the million-dollar-question, ain”t it? Who is hurtin” your cub?”

“Susan Daniels thinks it”s your nephew. So does Erin Masters, RJ”s teacher. But RJ keeps saying it isn”t true.”

“Is your boy a liar?”

“Well, I catch him slipping up every now and then. Like telling me he cleaned his room when he only picked up his dirty clothes.”

“I didn”t ask if he tells a lie every now and then. All kids do. I asked if he”s a liar. Is it RJ”s nature to lie? Or is he an honest boy, when all is said and done?”

Rachel thought about that for a moment, then smiled. “He”s an honest boy, isn”t he?”

Auntie nodded. “Has been for as long as I”ve known him.”

“So why aren”t we believing him now?” Rachel asked, more for her own benefit than anyone else”s.

“A very good question,” Auntie agreed, with a grin.

͠ ͠ ͠

As they pulled into the parking spot next to their apartment, Rachel and RJ saw the Daniels family in the backyard. Mickey and his dad Kenneth were throwing a baseball back and forth. Susan was bringing out a tray of drinks and setting them on the patio table. When she saw the McMahons parking their car, Susan walked over and waited for Rachel to get out of the car.

Rachel handed RJ the keys. “Why don”t you unlock the door and get out of your church clothes. I want to chat with Susan for a bit.”

RJ nodded. Taking the keys, he climbed out of the car, ignoring Mickey, his former best friend and now worst enemy.

When Rachel got out of the car, Susan asked, “Have you thought about what we discussed?”

Rachel nodded sharply. “I have. And I”ve made a decision.”

“What”s that?”

“I”m putting all this behind us. RJ and I are continuing on with our lives, and we won”t be discussing it anymore.”

“So you”ll let a pedophile get away with what he did to your son?”

“I don”t believe he did anything to RJ.”

Susan squinted suspiciously at Rachel. “You”re still going to that church, aren”t you?”

“There”s no reason for us to leave,” Rachel responded.

Susan shook her head in disbelief. “You would put your son in harm”s way and allow those other children to be at risk too? Are you hearing yourself, Rachel? This is child endangerment!”

Rachel”s expression turned ice cold. “Are you going to bring me up on charges now? Is that the plan, Susan?”

“That isn”t what I said, Rachel.”

“It”s what you implied.”

“No, it isn”t! Look, Rachel. I have a job to do. My husband keeps people safe out there in the county as a deputy sheriff. I keep the community safe too, in the courtroom, by taking evil men off the streets izmit escort and putting them where they can”t hurt anyone else!”

“That”s assuming those men truly are evil and did actually harm someone.”

“You know, in your heart, that”s exactly what happened!”

“Actually, I know, in my heart, that nothing happened.”

Susan”s face was bright red. “How can you be so sure?”

“I believe my son.” Rachel closed her car door and walked around Susan, heading for the apartment door, leaving a furious Susan Daniels seething with anger.

͠ ͠ ͠

“Don”t open the door for anyone,” Rachel told RJ as she headed out the door for work.

“Especially the Daniels,” RJ said, impishly.

Rachel chuckled and nodded her head. “Especially the Daniels,” she agreed.

“I don”t want to see any of them anyway,” RJ said. “I”ll probably just hide in my room and read.”

“Call me if you need anything. I”ll bring home something to eat from the diner.”

“Okay, Mom. Love you.”

“Love you too, booger bear.”

RJ smiled, hearing that. It had been years since his mom had called him booger bear. It was a childish nickname, but for some reason he didn”t mind. He and his mom were getting along so great these days.

He locked the door behind her and wandered into his room. Throwing himself onto his bed, he picked up the book he”d been reading, an old science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein, and found where he”d left off.

Engrossed in the story, he didn”t notice the tapping on his bedroom window at first. The tapping continued, louder, catching his attention. He turned and saw Mickey standing outside the window, looking anxiously in.

With a deep sigh, RJ rolled over, turning his back on Mickey.

Mickey kept tapping.

RJ turned back, rolling his eyes, and yelled, “What do you want?”

“To talk,” Mickey shouted back, his voice slightly muffled by the closed window.

RJ sat up and put his book down. He walked to the window and opened it a crack. “I don”t want to talk to you. You betrayed me.”

“BULLSHIT, RJ! I tried to help you.”

“By telling everyone I”ve been fucking Roderyk?”

“I didn”t say that, RJ?”

“Then what did you say?”

“I said I thought he might have molested you.”

“Well, he didn”t. Did you ever think of asking me before you started blabbing my business to everyone else?”

“I thought he was hurting you.”

“He wasn”t, Mickey. He hasn”t hurt me or anyone else.”

“That”s not what my mom says.”

“Your mom”s an idiot.”

“HEY! Don”t talk about my mom that way. I”m not talking about your mom, so why do ya wanna bring my mom into it?”

“I”m not the one who brought your mom into it, Mickey. You did!”

“Oh. Yeah … right. Anyway, RJ, my mom has handled cases like this before. She knows a pervert when she sees one.”

“Really. So Roderyk is a pervert now?”

“Well, it”s the truth, ain”t it?”

“Mickey … sometimes even adults lie.” RJ slammed the window shut and pulled the curtains closed. Then he climbed back into his bed and continued reading his book.

͠ ͠ ͠

When Rachel walked into the diner, she saw the other waitresses talking with their boss. They seemed to be huddled up, discussing something important. When they saw her walk in, they nervously broke apart and found other things to do.

She took out her apron and slipped it on. “Hey, Jimmie Jay, what”s going on?” she asked the boss.

“Nothin” much, Rachel. How are you and your boy doin”?”

“Just fine. Actually, doing great. We”re moving on.”

Jimmie Jay seemed upset when he heard that. “Movin” on? So the guy admitted it?”

“Admitted what? What are you talking about Jimmie Jay?”

“The guy who molested your son. I guess he admitted it and now your boy don”t have to go through all the hassle of testifyin” in court?”

Rachel shook her head. “My boy wasn”t molested. Why does everyone assume he was?”

Jimmie Jay blinked. “You sure about that?”

“Absolutely. Can we all just izmit kendi evi olan escort drop it and move on?”

Jimmie Jay frowned, obviously unhappy to hear that.

For the rest of her shift, Rachel noticed sideways glances from the other waitresses and annoyed scowls from Jimmie Jay. You”d think she was the one molesting RJ. What was wrong with these people?

͠ ͠ ͠

A week later, Rachel took Auntie aside before the church service was to begin. “Can we talk?” Rachel asked.

“Certainly, dear. What can old Auntie do for you?”

“I”m not sure, actually. I don”t know what to do at this point, but I trust your wisdom, and I”m hoping you can advise me.”

“I”ll do my best, dear.”

Rachel swallowed nervously. “I don”t even know where to begin. I thought we were past the worst part, that we could start moving on with our lives. But it seems like everyone else doesn”t want to let us. Susan and Kenneth Daniels are being hateful to me, making veiled threats about how I”m a bad mother for allowing my son to be hurt. My boss and coworkers act like I have a disease. The only place where people accept me is here, at church.”

Auntie nodded. “I wish I could talk to those yahoos and tell them what fools they”re bein”, but somehow I doubt they”d listen to me. They”s probably set in their ways. Most fools are.”

Rachel grimaced. “You”re right about that, Auntie. I doubt any amount of talking will change their minds.”

“Then what can I do to help you and that sweet child of yours?”

Rachel glanced around nervously. “I don”t want RJ to know, but I”m worried. The Daniels gave us a really good rate on the apartment we rent from them. From the way they”ve been talking, I”m actually concerned that they”ll kick us out. I can”t afford anything else, Auntie. I know. I”ve been looking. My job just doesn”t pay enough. We”re barely making it by as it is. And speaking of my job, I”m starting to worry about that too. I don”t think Jimmie Jay will fire me, but he”s making it very uncomfortable to work there.”

Auntie frowned and shook her head. “Like I said. Fools! Every one of `em.” Auntie took Rachel”s arm in her hand and squeezed gently. “Would you and RJ come over to my place after church is over? I have something I”d like to show you.”

͠ ͠ ͠

“These bedrooms ain”t been used in ages,” Auntie explained as she walked Rachel and RJ through the back bedrooms in the rambling old farmhouse. “You and RJ can have these two bedrooms here. There”s a door between `em, so you can check on RJ when you want, and your bedroom has an outside exit. That door over there takes you into the back yard, so you two can come and go as you wish without fuss. This bedroom shares my bathroom, so I think you should sleep in here. RJ can have the next one over and share the other bathroom with Roderyk. Girls in this one. Boys in that one. That should work out just fine. These rooms ain”t fancy, but they”s warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and I wouldn”t charge you for livin” here.”

Rachel looked at Auntie in surprise. “No rent?”

“Course not,” Auntie replied. “All I”d ask is you help me cook and clean. These old bones get a little cranky at times, and I could use an able hand or two.”

Rachel held a hand to her cheek, struggling not to cry. Then she smiled and said, “Thank you, Auntie.”

“You”re welcome, dear. Now follow me. I want to show you my babies.”

͠ ͠ ͠

Jimmie Jay was surprised when Rachel turned in her resignation. She must have found another job, probably at the new Applebee”s opening up nearby. “So you”re movin” up to the big time now?” he asked

“Yeah,” Rachel replied. “I”ll be raising chickens and collecting eggs!”

Jimmie Jay frowned, confused, “Huh?”

Rachel laughed. “You”re looking at the newest employee of Magnolia Farm Poultry. Bye, Jimmie Jay. Been nice knowing you.”

͠ ͠ ͠

The Daniels were also surprised when Rachel handed Susan the keys to the mother-in-law apartment.

“I cleaned the place up. You can keep the rest of the month”s rent. Thanks for everything, Susan. Really.”

Susan stared, shocked, as Rachel and RJ climbed into their car, the last of their belongings piled to the roof in the back seat, and drove off to begin a new life.

The end of UNCAGED, Chapter Thirteen


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