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Home is Where the Heart Is

There she was, curled into a dot on the bed, wrapped in a furry dog. I hoped my instincts would kick in as the dog’s had. This was way out of my comfort zone and level of experience… yet here she was, left in my uncertain hands.

The phone call had come just nine days earlier, during a leisurely afternoon nap (I had a feeling naps would be scarce in my new life). My blurry brain was having a hard time comprehending the surreal conversation. Perhaps I was still asleep and this was a  dream.

“Jane took off today. Nobody knows where she is, but I had a feeling this was coming. The kids are both with your father and me, but…” my mother trailed off. “It’s just too much for us with both the kids.”

What was she saying? What was she about to say? I knew there was a reason she had called me, and I think even in that foggy moment, I knew what the question would be. I’d had this conversation with my sister only a few weeks earlier. At the same time as it was a shock Jane had actually left, there had been some signs and a deep feeling it would come.

“Lynn, would you and Michael please consider taking in Diana?” What did that mean, and for how long?

My simple reply was, “Give us a couple days to think this over.” I could have just answered then. I knew what the answer would be. How could we deny taking in an innocent little girl who needed a home? Yet, this was my family, not his blood, and I knew a life-altering decision had to be discussed. That initial discussion lasted about 45 seconds. We knew it was the right thing to do, even if we were both frightened. So frightened.

So we stood in the doorway of the now pink room we had spent days preparing for her, and we watched her sleep, enthralled by what was happening.

She had not gone to sleep peacefully. She had screamed and cried and when there was nothing left for us to do, we had put her to bed where she cried herself to sleep as we helplessly cringed and stared at each other. She was angry, confused, and absolutely inconsolable. Who could blame her? But a four year old doesn’t know how to voice what we knew she was feeling. She didn’t understand where her mother was, why she had just spent a week and a half at her Gran and Pop’s house, and why she was now in our home, her great aunt and uncle she mostly just saw on holidays.

Our hearts went out to her. We knew she was in a tender place, but we also had to set a certain tone of authority, because this could very well be a permanent situation for us and we needed to be the ones in charge. What a crazy balance we would have to learn when we had spent fourteen years avoiding parenting.

She sighed and rolled over, and the dog stirred. The other dog, as uncertain and scared as we were, stepped towards the bed and peered over the top at the tiny creature who had made so much noise earlier, but now only lightly snored. She was a curiosity. Something new to be discovered, for all of us. And she would change us.

**Just a little creative writing draft**

Terri Klaes Harper

Copyright 2017


TBT: To Smile Again

I found a short story I wrote back in 2006, so I figured I’d share it for my Throw Back Thursday.

To Smile Again

By: Terree L. Klaes
Oct 2006


“You used to know how to smile.”

“You used to know how to make me smile.” The remark pierced straight through Rick’s normally thick skin, and he turned his eyes down, no longer able to look at Nina’s despondent face. What seemed like hours passed with nothing but the sound of distant water dripping from the bathroom faucet on the other side of the cockroach infested apartment.

“What made you decide to find me now, Rick? Did you need a last look at what you destroyed?”

“You have that backwards, Nina. You destroyed yourself, and tried to take me with you.”

“Liar! Besides, I didn’t mean that. I meant us. You destroyed us, and turned your back on me,” Nina screamed as she looked towards the small plastic baggie and mirror laying on her nightstand.

“Don’t you pin his on me. We were happy, big sister, until you started snorting that stuff up your nose every chance you got. You were supposed to take care of me, but I had to take care of you! I had to call 911 when you started convulsing on the floor because that junk had messed you up so badly!” Rick was shaking with emotion and adrenalin was running through his pure veins.

“You walked away from me when I needed you.”

“You needed me to support your habit, and I couldn’t do it anymore. I love you, Nina. Nothing will change the fact that you’re my sister, but I can’t do this anymore. You’re on a carousel, and I need to get off.”

Nina laughed. “A carousel? What’s that supposed to mean, Rick? You always have all these crazy phrases, and pretty words to explain everything,” she said as she stared with cold eyes, right into Rick’s soul. “Is that just a fancy way to say you think I’m nuts?”

“You’re not nuts. But you’re in some sort of destructive cycle,” he said as he instinctively grabbed her little, white, powdery bag and headed towards the bathroom.

Nina moved with an agility and speed which Rick had not seen from her in years. “Don’t do it! I won’t let you do it!” she screamed as she threw herself onto Rick’s back, grabbing at his hand which contained her treasure. “Let it go!”

Rick managed to twist around so he could push Nina away. She came at him again with her nails and attempted to scratch her stash from his hand this time. She was just about to bite his arm when he threw her to the floor. Nina bumped her head on the bathroom doorknob as she went down.

“Bastard! Look what you did to me,” Nina cursed as she showed Rick the blood on her hand after she reached back to touch her head. Then she glanced toward the floor and noticed a familiar white dust coating the area in front of the bathroom door. Already, two small crimson drops had landed in the center of the mess from the deepest of the four parallel scratches Nina had left on Rick’s forearm.

Nina flopped herself forward onto her hands and knees. She began scooping the cocaine into a little pile with her hands, smearing the blood into the pile, making a pasty glob.

As Rick watched this desperate move from his sister, he felt queasy. As he took a large step over her to enter the hallway, he dropped the little plastic bag on the floor in front of her, knowing she wanted her fix bad enough to scoop every last bit of the blood stained powder back into that bag. He couldn’t look at Nina now. Very quietly, Rick said, “I just came by to say goodbye, Nina, and give you one last chance for me to help you.”

“Obviously, I don’t need your help, Rick!”

“Yeah, obviously.”

“Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. I hope you die over there in Iraq!”

Found pic at through Google images

“I’m sure you do, Nina,” Rick whispered as he walked briskly to the door. He suddenly couldn’t get out of that apartment fast enough. He rushed down the stairs, taking two at a time.

“Where are you going, Rick?” Nina quizzed as she leaned over the railing in front of her apartment door, looking down at Rick who was already two flights below her. He only had one more flight to go before he was out of this place, and out of Nina’s life. He didn’t want to stop, but he couldn’t help himself. His steps slowed and then halted. Rick glanced up towards Nina.

“Nina, I’m through with all of this. I hope you figure things out and get help. But I can’t baby-sit you anymore. I won’t even be here.”

“I know. I know you’re right. And I know that you hate me. And I don’t even blame you, Rick. I’m so messed up. I don’t really hope you die. I want to die.” Something dangled from her right hand as she blew Rick a kiss. “I want you to take this with you. Wear it.” With that she dropped the object over the balcony. As Rick held out his hand, the chain from the necklace slipped over two of his fingers. Hanging from the chain was a locket that had belonged to their mother years ago. Inside were side by side pictures of Nina and Rick. “Please wear it Rick. While you’re gone, I promise I’ll check myself into a clinic. This was rock-bottom today. I can’t go on like this. I know that.”

Without saying a word, Rick slipped the chain over his head, and gave the locket a kiss before he tucked it out of sight and into his fatigues. “I’ll see you in six months, Nina,” he said as he strode the rest of the way down the stairs and out the door at the bottom onto the busy street.

Six months later, just in time for Nina to check out of the clinic, she received a necklace from Rick. His dog tags.