Chapter 19

This was it. Today was the day. Caitlin’s first day with Rod and the supervisor. My heart jumped when the door buzzer rang at 9 a.m. “Come on up!” I called into the speaker before pressing the button that would open the lobby door.

The Children’s Aid Society’s appointed supervisor knocked softly on my door. I opened to a young woman, standing in the hall. She was as skinny as a fishing rod.

“Hello, I’m Heather. Please come in.” I gave my bravest smile.

“Thank you.” She extended a hand, “My name is Christine Hickey.” Her hand felt soft in mine, and much too fragile. She wore a sheepskin knee-length coat. Her round blue eyes were set deep into her face. She looked like she’d spent an hour a week in a tanning salon ever since she was about three.

I called for Caitlin and she peeked shyly around her doorway.

“Caitlin. Come and meet Christine. She’s going to take you to visit with your father this weekend.”

Caitlin stepped slowly into the hallway, and kept her eyes on the floor. She walked straight over to me and hid behind my legs.

“Would you like to have a coffee before you go?” I offered.

“No, thank you. I expect that Rod will be waiting for us. I really can’t stay.” She knelt down to meet Caitlin’s eyes and said, “Hi Caitlin. I’ve heard so much about you. I’m glad to finally be meeting you. We’ll get to spend some time together today.” Then she reached into her pocket and pulled out a knitted finger puppet. “Do you know what this is?”

Caitlin came out from behind me.

“This is Sammy, my special little friend.” Christine then put the puppet on her finger and turned it to face her. “How are you today, Sammy?”

In a high-pitched voice she answered, “I’m fine, thanks. Who’s your new friend?” She turned the puppet to face Caitlin.

“This is my friend, Caitlin.” Then to Caitlin she asked, “Can you say hello to Sammy?”

“Hi Sammy,” Caitlin said with a smile.

“Want to be my friend?” Sammy asked.

“Yes.” Caitlin nodded.

Airy laughter filled the hall. “Great! Let’s go have a nice day together!” With this, Christine took the finger puppet off and gave it to Caitlin. Caitlin slipped her jacket on quickly so that she could try the puppet on her own finger. Although she didn’t say anything, she moved it around as if she were talking with it.

Christine turned her attention back to me. “We’ll be back around 6:30.”

I leaned over, picked up Caitlin and said, “Have a great time today, Caitlin. I’ll see you after supper.”

“Bye, Mommy.” Caitlin gave me a big squeeze.

“Love you, Caity-Cat.”

“Love you, Mommy.”

Christine took her hand and said goodbye, leading my daughter down the hallway. My stomach lurched.

I was at a loss without my daughter. The apartment felt so empty. I did what I normally do when I’m feeling helpless. I cleaned. I cleaned the floors of my apartment, absently opening drawers and cupboards looking for something to sort, dust or fold. I slumped on the couch, feeling lost. Blue-Casey sat beside me, purring loudly, a rhythmic vibration from his throat. I must have dozed off to sleep when the phone rang and startled me awake.


“Hi, Sissy. How are you?”

“Hey Janice. I’m okay. Caitlin left this morning to visit with Rod.”

“How’d it go? What was the supervisor like?”

“She was quiet, but Caitlin seemed to like her. I got a good feeling from her. I think she’ll be

The door buzzed and I realized it was almost one o’clock. Was Caitlin home already? Did something go wrong?

“Janice, someone’s at the door. I gotta go. Talk to you soon.”

“Bye, Sissy. Love ya.”

I ran to the intercom. “Hello?”

“Hi, Heather. It’s me.”

I involuntarily gasped. Our date! I stammered, “Oh Bill. Hi. Yeah, come on up.”

What do I do now? I ran to the bathroom and checked my teeth in the mirror. I quickly applied fresh makeup. Light foundation. Eyeliner. Lipstick. I took out the huge blusher brush and started sweeping the powder onto my cheeks and forehead. I freed my hair from its elastic band, combed it out and then twisted it back into place. I sprayed vanilla perfume on all my pulse points.

Bill knocked at the door and I called for him to come in.

“Hi Bill. I’m sorry. I almost forgot. Let me get my coat.”

I walked over to the closet and pulled out a jacket. Bill gave me a sideways glance and said, “Isn’t that a little too summery for today’s weather?” I looked at the coat and realized that it was my summer jacket. I pulled at another hanger and got my fall coat. Then I shuffled through the sea of shoes in the closet and finally pulled out a pair of short boots.

“Okay, I think I’m ready.” I gave a quick look around the apartment. On our way out, Bill asked, “Don’t you normally lock the door?”

“Oh, yeah.” When I went to reach for my keys I realized that I didn’t even have my purse. What a mess. Bill must think I’m a real airhead. I grabbed my purse, locked the door and joined Bill waiting in the hall.

“You seem very distracted today. Is everything okay?”

Bill’s kind words watered my eyes. “I’m okay.”

“How about we just go for a walk instead of to a restaurant. We could grab a burger or something down by the water. What do you say?”

A walk by the water was just what I needed, “Yeah, that’d be great.”

The air outside felt refreshing after a morning in my apartment. The sky was the color of blueberries and plums. A nippy breeze rose off the lake with the smell of autumn. We walked in step with each other down to the waterfront with nothing but the sound of gravel crunching beneath our feet.

“I just love the water. There’s something profound about the way the waves continuously ride up the beach.”

My thoughts exactly. “If I had it my way, I’d buy a home right on the water. Some day,” I said.

A seagull circled above us and let out a whining shriek. Bill leaned in to ask, “Can I be bold?”

I thought he was going to ask to hold my hand. I looked at him, “Sure.”

“What has got you so befuddled today?”

“Befuddled?” I laughed at his choice of words. But then when I saw the real concern in his eyes I stopped. “Can we sit down?”

We sat at the green bench overlooking the lake. A slight breeze blew wisps of hair into my face. Bill reached over and gently pulled a strand behind my ear. “Windy today.”

His smell enveloped me in a feeling of rightness and safety. “Bill, you know that I was hesitant to come on this date with you, right.”

Bill nodded slowly.

I breathed in the slightly herbal aroma of his hair gel. “Well, my life is a bit of a mess right now and I don’t know if it’s a good idea for us to be spending time together.”

His voice rumbled deep from his chest. “I disagree.”

Bill’s force startled me.

He continued, “Sorry, but if there’s something that’s bothering you then I believe it’s important to share it.”

“It’s not something, but someone.”

“Oh?” Bill frowned. He crossed his ankle over his knee and jiggled his foot.

“No, no, not you. Well, you obviously know that I was married before, right. And you know I have a young daughter.”

Bill interrupted, “Yes, of course. I have no problem with that.”

“No, Bill, wait. That’s not the problem.” I swallowed the lump in my throat.

“Heather, you can tell me. What is it?” He put his arm over my shoulder and pulled me to lean into his side. We stared out across the water. Strands of seaweed littered the surface of the water.

“Well, last month Caitlin told something that has turned our world upside down.” Bill sat quietly, waiting for me to continue. “She…she told her babysitter that she was molested.”

“Oh, Heather!” Bill pulled his arm away and sat up straight. “Is she okay?”

“Yes. She’s fine. But we are in the middle of trying to make sure that she stays this way.”

“What do you mean?” Bill raised his eyebrows.

I took a deep breath and then sighed it out. “Bill, Caitlin was molested by my ex-husband, her father.”

“What! Oh, dear Caitlin. Oh, Heather. I am so sorry.” Bill put his face in his hands and breathed deep. “I had no idea.” He pulled his hands away and looked me directly in the eyes. “What can I do to help?”

I gave a weak smile. “You’re doing it. Today was the first day that Caitlin went to visit her father since she disclosed. She’s being supervised by a woman from the Children’s Aid Society. That’s why I’m such a mess today. I’m at a loss without her.”

Bill was quiet and he pulled me in close and held me tight. He held me for a long time and I could feel the warmth of his body against mine. His chest moved with the rhythm of his breathing. I was drained and empty and it was a relief to be with Bill. It felt good to be held.

Bill whispered, “I know what it feels like to be betrayed…” His voice trailed off and there was a moment of silence.

“No one here knows, but the reason I left Rhode Island was to get away from my ex-wife.”

“What? You were married?”

“For only three months.” His face crumbled. “She left me.”

“Oh, Bill I’m sorry.”

“It was torture to stay in my small hometown while she was there. It was too much to take.”
Sadness gouged some extra lines around his eyes and mouth. “Although my entire family still begs me to return, I don’t think I could ever do that.”

A relaxed silence fell between us. The silence was comforting. We sat together staring out at the water until my stomach began to rumble.

“Oh, my goodness. I promised you lunch!” Taking my hand, Bill pulled me up off the bench. “Let’s go get that burger.”


“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay?” Bill asked as he finished tying his shoes.

“Yeah, I’m sure.” I just wanted to be with my little girl, alone. “Thanks so much for the great afternoon together.”

Bill kissed my forehead and gave my hand a little squeeze before leaving. “My pleasure.”

I had just enough time to tidy up when the buzzer sounded. I let Christine and Caitlin in and waited in the hallway for them to come up the stairs. As soon as Caitlin saw me, she ran down the hall. “Mommy, Mommy. Look what I got!”

I gave her a tight hug and then asked, “What have you got?”

Caitlin showed me her little toy – a tiny prize from inside her Kinder Surprise. “Daddy put it together for me.” She took it into the apartment and showed me how it could roll along the coffee table.

I turned back to where Christine stood, just outside the doorway. I wasn’t sure what to expect so
I asked, “Do I need to sign anything or do anything?”

Christine smiled shyly, “No, nothing so formal. I write a small report and submit it to the Children’s Aid Society.” At my puzzled look she added, “It was a nice day. We went to the zoo.”
Then she poked her head into the apartment and called, “Bye, Caitlin. See you next time!”

Caitlin skipped back to the door. “Bye, Chrissy.”

I closed the door and swooped Caitlin into my arms. “You went to the zoo? Tell me all about it.”