If she started crying, she might never stop.

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A VG Serial: Where It Ended

Chapter 4 – 2

“I’m going to get you help, Katie, I am. I know someone in Memphis who can help you. Please just let me do this one thing for you. I’ll take Martha Faye to stay with Margaret. And at day break, I’ll drive you to Memphis to a place that can help you.

Judd rose and helped her stand. Mercifully, she was too dazed to notice she’d wet herself. Judd took his hanky from his trousers and gently dusted the black powder off her cheek like he was cleaning dust from a rose petal. Slowly, he walked her out of the barn, his one arm around her shoulders and the other one holding onto her arm. He guided her up the stairs and into the kitchen where he helped her sit for a second. He got a glass of water and pulled a small pill jar from his pocket. He handed her two white tablets. “Here, take these two pills, they’ll help you get some sleep.”

She swallowed the pills with the water, and he helped her to her room, laid her on the bed and covered her with the spread. Only months later did she hear that Miss Imogene, Mr. Ware and Charlie Dumas followed Judd to the farm. Miss Imogene undressed her and washed her so she would not have to know all that happened that night. She stayed through the night and readied Katie for the trip the next morning. Charlie and Mr. Ware took Martha Faye with them. All she ever heard as an explanation of how Judd ended up at her farm that moment and raced toward the store was that someone told him to come. A voice made him feel it was so urgent, he jumped off the couch in the Ware’s front room where he was resting, and literally ran to his truck and took off. The other three followed his trail of dust to Katie’s farm.

With the dawn, Katie sat on the edge of her bed, groggy and confused. Miss Imogene sat next to her. Katie wasn’t sure if she was a child again, back at her parent’s house or where she was. She could hardly make out what Miss Imogene was saying. All she remembered was how hard she was trying not to cry, for it felt like if she started she might never stop. Miss Imogene took her to the bathroom and helped her wash up and get dressed. She could hear her, but it took too much energy to focus, so she just let it be noise. Miss Imogene hugged her for a long time, then held her face in her hands and said, “My Baby, they gonna make you well. You gonna have to stay there a while, but don’ you dare think we not think of you ever lasting minute you away. An we take good care of Martha Faye. You juss work on finding my little Katie an bringing her home to thems who love her.”

Then Imogene helped her down the stairs, and Judd took her on to Mr. Clarence’s car. Clarence drove while Judd sat with her in the back seat. She wasn’t sure what was going on, but she couldn’t organize her thoughts enough to care. It all took more energy than she could find. She watched out the window, but saw nothing in the predawn dark. She laid her head on Judd’s shoulder, spent.

Finally, the cotton field stubble gave way to houses and streets. Judd said they were in Memphis and would reach their destination soon. Time meant nothing to her. Nothing belonged to her, as if she were a child again. When they turned into a wide curved drive to what looked like an old southern mansion, Judd said they had arrived. Mr. Clarence helped her out, and Judd came around to help get her in the wheelchair an attendant just brought. Once inside, they parked her near a library-style window and she watched the people walking out in a manicured lawn with flowerbeds, now filled with asters among the fall-blooming gardenias.

Judd came back from the front desk and knelt down by her side. “I’m going to take you to your room where you can get some rest.”

It was bright and airy, the pale lemon-colored walls reflecting the sun through the barred windows. Judd helped Katie unpack her few belongings and made sure she was comfortable. Before Judd left, Dr. Raymond came in and Judd introduced her. He told her Dr. Raymond helped him some years back, and now he would help her get well too.

Katie said nothing. She watched. Dr. Raymond left once he’d finished his welcome. Judd sat down on the white chenille bedspread that softened her bed with a country look in this otherwise austere setting. Staring at her kindly for a moment, he spoke in a hushed voice. “I am someone you can count on forever. I will come back and visit as soon as they let me. Then one fine day, I will take you home, and you will know home for the first time.” He wiped a tear off his cheek with the back of his hand, smiled, walked to where she was sitting and tapped the end of her nose affectionately with his index finger. Then he turned and quietly left the room without looking back, closing the door behind him. When she heard the lock set, she sighed and shut her eyes. She just wanted to be left alone.

Episodes of Where It Ended by Christina Carson will be published every Tuesday.

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