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"Unseen Links" by Rebecca L. Monroe

“Two cents.”

Sarah looked up in surprised. “Oh, nothing. I wasn’t thinking anything.”

Emma raised an eyebrow. “Really? Is that why you were looking so pissed off?”

Sarah shrugged, picking up the next box on the assembly line to examine it for defects. “I guess it’s my natural expression.” Emma was new to her line – a plumpish woman who wore thick glasses, had a pasty complexion and blondish hair. Emma had been moved to replace Trish because Trish had quit the day before. Found another job and moved on. Sarah wished she had the guts to do that.

“I don’t think it is.” Emma picked up a box of her own. “The lines in your face say you laugh quite a lot. I can tell difference, you know.”

“Tell what?”

“The difference in what you’re saying versus what you’re thinking.”

“You don’t say.”

Emma smiled, becoming almost pretty. “I do say. You’re upset about something you think is none of my business.”

“It’s not. I don’t even know you.” Sarah immediately regretted her words and tone. “I’m sorry. I’m not an open person.”

“You’re not sorry.” Emma put her box down and picked up another. Four had gone by while they talked. “I am pushy and rather strange looking and you’re right, you don’t know me. Why try to hide the truth?”

Sarah pretended to find a defect in her box. This was going to be a long night.

“Sarah, you are okay to think what you’re thinking.”

“Well, gee, thank you. I’d rather not talk anymore, Emma.”

“You don’t want my life history? It’s very interesting It would take your mind off whatever is bothering you.”

“No. I don’t want your life history and I don’t have anything bothering me!”

“Oops. Okay.”

Sarah kept working, sensing the heavy weight of anger between them. Maybe she should take a cue from Trish and quit. Tomorrow, she’d start looking for a new job.

“How long have you worked here?” Emma asked.

“Two years.”

“What do you really want to do?”

The question startled Sarah. “Excuse me?”

“What do you really want to do? For a living, I mean. It can’t be this.” Emma’s blue eyes were a bit distorted by the thickness of her glasses.

“I haven’t decided yet.”

“You’re twenty?”

“Good guess,”

Emma shrugged. “Small town, no college nearby. Two years is a long time to still be thinking about it.”

“You’re pretty rude,” the words popped out before Sarah could stop them.

“No, dear. I’m direct. Not common these days. What do you want to do?”

“I don’t want to work here the rest of my life.” Sarah replied.

“Then what do you want?”

“I don’t know…a good job, a nice house,”

“What kind of job?”

“A secretary or…it would be nice to work with animals.”

“Where have you applied?” Emma examined two boxes at once, discarding one and putting the other back on the line

“Nowhere yet. I probably will this weekend, now that my friend is gone.”

Emma nodded. “Good. You can tell me where on Monday.”

After work, Sarah drove back to her apartment, head full of Emma’s voice. The woman had talked non-stop the whole of the shift. Sarah knew she should pick up some applications but she wasn’t in the mood. She would do it tomorrow. She couldn’t imagine showing up for work without having applied for at least one job somewhere.

Parking her car in the carport, Sarah climbed the steps to her apartment, unlocking the door. The wind behind her was sharp and she was thankful to get out of it. There was a message on her answering machine. She hit play. It was Trish.

“I thought we could go out tonight. Give me a call when you get off work.”

Sarah hesitated, then texted Trish. After eight hours of Emma, she needed a dose of Trish.

They met at their favorite bar which was about halfway between where they both lived.

“You look beat.” Trish said when Sarah sat down.

Trish was a slim, short haired brunette with brown eyes. Her face was narrow with high cheek bones where her own face looked like she’d come in from milking the cows, all round wholesomeness.

“Wait until I tell you about your replacement.” She launched into her tirade about Emma, the nonstop talking and rudeness.

“Wait a minute,” Trish interrupted. “Is this woman about 5’3, blondish gray curly hair, sort of chunky?”

“Yes. Wears thick glasses.”

“I like her! She’s the one who talked me into getting a different job.” Trish exclaimed.

“You like her?” The bar was dark, a candle on the table flickering light across their faces.

“Yes! I’ll admit, I didn’t at first however she grows on you. She has some good advice.”

“I can’t imagine her ever growing on me.” Sarah took a drink of her rum and coke. “How’s your job?”

“Exhausting. I’m not used to the phone, don’t know enough to be able to answer questions yet, screwed up a million times today and I love it.”

“I’m jealous. This weekend I’m going to seriously start looking for something else.”

Trish smiled. “Emma wants to know where, right?”

Sarah felt herself blush.

“Trish! Sarah!”

The voice was sharp, piercing and Sarah winced. Tonight Deidra was the last person she wanted to see.

Deidra pulled a chair out and slid into it. Short, plump, just this side of fat, she had black hair and heavy makeup. She’d always dressed to exaggerate her attributes but in the last year the tightness of her clothes no longer flattered her. “I haven’t seen you two in forever. What have you been up to?”

“Working.” They said in unison.

“I keep telling you, you should get married like I did. Then you don’t have to work.”

Sarah was careful not to look at Trish. Deidra’s wedding vows were loosely worn and most people in town knew it.

‘I’d be bored,” said Trish. “Besides, who wants to be tied down? I can pack up and go to another city tomorrow if I want. I like the freedom of that.”

Deidra’s smile sharpened. “You haven’t though. You still work at the box factory for minimum wage.”

“Actually I don’t. I got a job with Ren and Associates. Next month they’re sending me to Detroit for training.”

“You dog!” Sarah said. “You didn’t tell me.”

Deidra feigned a shudder. “Ick. I don’t like big cities. They’re dangerous too. You’re not going alone, are you?”’

“Yes. It’ll be exciting.”

“What about you, Sarah? Do you have a different job now too?”

“Not yet. I’m looking though.”

“Well good luck. Jobs are few and far between.”

Sarah bit back her ‘thank you for staying out of the market then’. She’d never much cared for Deidra, even when they’d played together in grade school. As they’d gotten older the division between positive and negative got wider.

“I’d better get going. I have a tough day of shopping ahead of me tomorrow.”

Trish rolled her eyes after Deidra left.

“Are you really going to Detroit?”

“Yes? Want to come?”

Sarah felt a thrill of excitement mixed with fear. “Yes, if I can get off work, and if I can afford it.”

The next morning Sarah got up early to go through the want ads in the paper. Deidra hadn’t been joking. The jobs were scarce and most menial, worse than the box factory. She had to apply somewhere! For some reason, she heard Emma saying ‘where do you WANT to work?’. That was easy, the veterinarian’s office, the flower shop, the pet store would be fun. None probably paid well but…

Then apply.

There were no ads.

Apply anyway.

Sarah sat back. But…but. Deidra and negativity. Who was she judging? She was no better. Okay, she would put in an application at every place she wanted to work. The worst they could say was no. She rose, eager to get started.

By the end of the day, she’d visited twenty businesses and received fifteen absolutely nots, four you can fill out an application however we’re not hiring and one maybe. The ‘maybe’ was at the feed store. By the time she got home her legs were tired and she had a headache but she felt content. She curled up on the couch and made a list of other places she wanted to work. Next week she would go out again.

* * *

For once Emma was silent, looking at Sarah.

“What? By the way, Trish says hi.”

The woman’s face softened as she smiled. “I liked Trish.” For a moment, Emma was almost pretty as she lost her sharp, inquisitive focus. “You are amazing. I was completely wrong about you and I’m not often wrong.” She grabbed a box. “I had you pegged for a whiner, figured we’d retire together. Instead I find I won’t get to work with you long. I never would have thought to apply to everywhere, openings or not.”

“It was your idea.”

“Mine? I never said anything other than you should apply somewhere.”

“You lit the fire…”

Emma laughed. “Honey if the spark hadn’t been there, all the gas in the world wouldn’t have started it. How is Trish? Is she happy?”

Sarah saw a box with a bad corner and snagged it. “Yes. Very.” Then she told Emma about Deidra. She’d learned Emma was actually a good listener. She just didn’t do silence. Someone had to be talking.

“That’s sad.” Emma said when Sarah was done.

“Sad? Deidra has it made. It’d be nice if she weren’t nasty about it.”

“How old is she?”


“She’s living the life of a forty year old. She chose a nice padded cage of laziness. I guarantee you she’s not happy.”

“Then why doesn’t she get a job?”

“When one has chosen the easy path, getting back in the brush is not so simple. It takes will power and rarely do those who’ve made the choice in the first place have much will power. It will take a tragedy to lurch her loose. I’ve known many Deidras in my life. The other sad thing is they do their best to kill other people’s dreams as well. They had parents who derided them and so they pass it on.”

Sarah put the box back slowly. She hadn’t considered how Deidra had become the way she was. “You described Deidra’s mother.”

“What’s your mother like?”

“Busy! She worked when I was growing up so us kids shared the housework. She usually had something going on…fundraisers, food drives, you name it,”

“Do you see her much now?”

“No. We talk about once a month, do the holiday thing.” Sarah looked up in time to see Emma’s brows knit together and her face redden. “What about you? Do you have kids?”

“Tons. You, Trish, ones like you. Of my own? Not anymore. I did for a while. It didn’t work out.” Emma turned away a little, following a box down the conveyor with her gaze. The set of her shoulders, the way her arms were crossed told Sarah she wasn’t seeing the box at all.

“I’m sorry. We can talk about something else.”

“No. It’s fine. Rose left home when she was eighteen. You two would have been in the same class. She did fairly well her first year, had a good job at Costco in Grand Rapids, had plans to attend night school to get her degree. Then she began behaving strangely. She lost weight. She would come home once a week or so and I began to notice things missing.”

Sarah took another box off the line. It was crushed on one end so she put it in her reject pile.

“It took me a long time to admit I was seeing an addict. I confronted her. She broke down. She’d become addicted to opiates. We had a horrible fight, made up, and got things straight. I helped her get into a rehab program. She moved back home. Costco was wonderful – let her keep her job. They have their own program for drug abuse. That lasted about two months. Then she disappeared.”

Sarah searched for something to say. “Is she still missing?”

“Yes. It’s been two years next April. I doubt she’s still alive.”

“I’ll bet she is. To people our age, two years is nothing.”

Emma turned back, face pink, eyes bright. “Thank you dear, but I doubt it.”

“There is nothing wrong with hope. If it’d been ten I’d say she’s probably gone but,”

“You’re going to go far, Sarah.” Emma resumed watching the boxes flow by.

“How’s that?”

“You listen with your heart."

* * *

“You want to go to a party?” Trish was on the phone.

Sarah looked at her dirty apartment. Cleaning it was on her list of things to do for the evening. “You bet. When and where?”

“Deidra’s at seven. I’ll pick you up.”

“Deidra’s? Really? Why would you want to go to a party of hers?” Suddenly cleaning the apartment looked more attractive.

“She’s got this cousin in town. I haven’t actually seen him but Patty says he’s drop dead gorgeous.”

“I don’t know, Trish. I don’t think any guy is worth an evening with Deidra.”

“There will be tons of people there so you won’t have to talk to her.”

“Okay. I’ll meet you there though. In case I want to leave early,”

“Sounds good. I’ll see you in an hour, in front of Deidra’s.”

Sarah ended the call and went to take a shower, chuckling. Trish had been chasing drop dead gorgeous for years. She never seemed to remember it usually meant the three S’s: Stuck-up, Shallow and Selfish. Sarah liked her guys a little plump, a little shy. They were much nicer. It was even better if they’d been dropped a time or two. It taught them respect.

She parked behind Trish’s little compact, surprised at the number of cars along the curbs in the subdivision. “You look drop dead yourself,”

Trish gave a small curtsy. “Why, thank you. Any luck on the job hunting?”

“No. Work isn’t so bad now though. Emma has turned out to be okay.”

“She is, isn’t she.”

They walked toward the house, an older two story built in colonial style.

“What’s the occasion, anyway?” Sarah asked.

“Oh, you don’t know? Deidra’s getting a divorce.”

“You’re kidding. I thought she liked married.”

“She did. Her husband didn’t.”

Sarah felt a stab of worry for Deidra. Her future was probably not going to be easy.

They entered the house directly into a large living room, people standing in clumps with drinks in their hands, trying to talk over the music.

“Where’s the cousin?” Sarah asked in Trish’s ear.

“I don’t see him. You go that way. I’ll go the other. Wave to me if you find him.”


Trish flashed her a grin and started wading through people.

Sarah wandered. She liked parties when she didn’t know people. It let her watch without being cornered by any one person. She spotted a man who was probably the cousin; Latin looking, longish hair, smoldering eyes, surrounded by females. She looked for Trish but didn’t see her.

Sarah felt a hand grab her arm and turned. Deidra.

“Wow! What are you doing here? How’d you like the party? Awesome, isn’t it? Half of these people are from out of town. I can’t believe they came. I thought they all liked Bob and not me. Now I’m finding out it was always me they liked! Did you hear I’m getting divorced? Bob couldn’t take a wife who stood up to him, the wimp”

Sarah found herself smiling stiffly. “You sound happy about it.”

“I’m delighted! Bob was so boring. Now I can be free to grow. Kara! Kara! What are you doing here?” Deidra hurried after a tall blonde, drink spilling over her fingers as she stumbled.

Pity waved through Sarah. The look in Deidra’s eyes had not been delight. Sarah had seen the same look in a dog who had been hit without understanding why.

Trish appeared at her elbow. “Did you see him?”

“Yes. Didn’t you?”

“Well, yes, but I’m not a good swimmer and the ocean of women was deep.”

“I’m sure he’s shallow and self-centered.”

“Oh, I’m sure. However one can overlook much with such a view.”

“I’m beat. I think I’ll head home.”

Trish gave her a quick hug. “Thanks for being such a friend. I’ll see you next week,”

Sarah set her glass on a table and maneuvered through the crowd to the front door. She stepped outside, taking a deep breath of the cold night air. It was quiet, a relief after the intense noise she’d come from. She started for her car when she heard a noise by the side of the house. It sounded like a sob. She hesitated. With as much alcohol as was flowing it could be almost anything, none of it good. The sob came again and there was something in it that made Sarah move toward the sound. She walked softly, listening. Finally she saw someone crouched by the corner of the garage. In the street light Sarah could see long hair, arms folded across her stomach. A female…getting sick?

No, it was a wrenching sob and the girl’s body shuddered but from some inner pain, not illness. Sarah moved closer.

“Are you all right?” There was no response. “Excuse me. Are you all right?”

The girl looked up at her, face thin enough to scare Sarah. There was no recognition in the look.

“Can I help you?”

The girl opened her mouth as if to respond and then contorted in pain, sob replacing any words she might have said.

“Is it your stomach? Do you need to go to the hospital?”

The girl shook her head and tried to rise, falling.

“Enough.” Sarah grabbed the girl’s arm. “Whatever is wrong, you need a doctor.” She expected a fight, decided if the girl fought hard enough, she’d let her go. However the girl didn’t. Her arm was felt like she’d grabbed a hold of a pipe it was so thin. “My car is over there. Let me take you to the hospital. Is there someone I can call?”

Another shake of the head.

Sarah got the girl in her car, praying she didn’t throw up or something. The girl was in obvious pain. She curled up on the front seat, oblivious to anything else.

Sarah maneuvered her car onto the street and drove as fast as she legally could. Periodically there was a gasp or cry from the girl beside her.

Sarah realized the problem was probably drugs, not alcohol. Though she had lovely dark auburn hair and her face had been a ghastly white.

At the hospital, Sarah pulled into the emergency area and shut the car off. “I’m going to get help. I will be pissed if I come back and you’re gone.” It wasn’t very sympathetic but if it was drugs, the girl could bolt. “Do you hear me? Don’t try because you won’t get far in your condition and I will find you.”

There was no response.

Sarah hurried into the ER to the nurse’s station. “I have a sick girl I found at a party. She needs help.”

The nurse, a short, stout woman with a square face and heavy brows frowned at her. “Where is she?”

“In my car.”

The nurse rose and followed her out to the car. Carefully she opened the passenger door, hand poised in case the girl fell out.

Sarah expected the nurse to haul the girl out, she’d seemed less than concerned once she’d heard the word ‘party’.

“Honey, hey, how are you?” the nurse’s hands checked forehead and cheeks, then the girl’s neck for a pulse. “She’s passed out. Stay here, make sure she doesn’t move. I’ll get a stretcher.” She motioned Sarah down beside the car and then hurried back inside.

Sarah studied the girls’ face. She looked to be about 17. Her cheekbones protruded out and her eyes were sunken; way too thin to be healthy. She had a worn T-Shirt and jeans that were too big. Whatever she’d been doing at Deidra’s party, she hadn’t come with the normal crowd.

The girl’s eyes opened and she looked at Sarah. “I’m not worth the trouble,” it came out a whisper.

“Who says?” Sarah asked softly.

The girl closed her eyes. “I do.”

The nurse returned with an intern. They picked the girl up between them and got her on the stretcher. Sarah watched them go back inside and hesitated. She’d done her part. She didn’t need to stay. She shut her passenger door and walked around to the driver’s door.

“Miss! Don’t go yet, please. I have some questions.”

Of course. Sarah locked her car and went back inside.

It took half an hour to explain all she knew. The nurse confirmed it was probably a drug overdose.

“Will she be all right?”

“Let me go check.”

Sarah wished she hadn’t asked. She was tired and just wanted to go home.

Ten minutes later, the nurse returned. “She’d like to see you.”

“All right.” Sarah followed the nurse down the hall and into one of the rooms. The girl was in a bed, IV in her veins, looking much more alert than she had been.

“The doctor explained that to you?” the nurse nodded at the IV, speaking to the girl.

“Yes. It’s my surrogate drug. Apparently, cold turkey and I aren’t getting along.”

“At least you were trying. I suggest you accept help. We can talk about it tomorrow. Here is the young lady who brought you in.”

“Hi,” the girl gave Sarah a small smile. “I don’t think you saved my life but you sure improved it.”

There was something familiar about the way the girl spoke. “I’m glad. How are you feeling?”

“Better. I was having withdrawals. Quite badly, I guess.”

“How did you get to Deidra’s house?”

“You mean where I was? I don’t know. I went out with a friend and realized they were bad company and so decided to walk. I was getting shaky anyway and then it really hit me and I didn’t want to be found in the bushes in the dark so tried to get to a house.”

There was so much the girl wasn’t saying. “You’re in good hands here. It’s late. I better let you get some rest.”

“What’s your name?”

“Sarah. What’s yours?”


Sarah felt a shock run through her. The age was right, and the circumstances. The tone and mannerisms were Emma’s, which was why they were so familiar.

“Would you come back and see me? I know it’s a lot to ask but, well, never mind. It’s a lot to ask,”

“I might.” She stopped. The girl looked suddenly exhausted. “Get some rest.”

Sarah left and drove home wondering if she should call Emma tell her her daughter was alive? Or should she talk to Rose first, try and get Rose to call her mother? She decided to wait. Telling Emma about Rose would do no good if Rose didn’t want to see Emma.

The next day she went back to the hospital. She wouldn’t have, under different circumstances but she liked Emma. She had to at least try.

Rose’s face lit up when she walked in. “I didn’t think you’d come.”

“I wanted to see how you were and, I have something to tell you,”

“Good. The nurse that looks like a German bouncer takes no guff from me and is very sweet. You’re going to lecture me?’ Rose motioned to a visitor’s chair.

“For trying to get off drugs?” Sarah sat down.

“For being on them in the first place. Stupidity. Weakness of character, lack of direction and drive, waste of a life,”

Sarah thought of Deidra, the look in her eyes, the plastic happiness. “Rose, we all have addictions to some degree or other. Drugs, alcohol, shopping, working, gambling, pick your poison,”

Rose’s face turned red and she looked away. “Dang,” she said roughly. “I do criticism fine. I’m not so hot at acceptance.”

“Perhaps you need practice then. Actually, the reason I’m here is because I know your mother and I know she’s hurting because she thinks you’re dead.”

There was a long silence. Rose’s jaws worked, hands smoothing the edge of the sheet. Finally she said. “Better she does. I put her through hell and back and until I clean up my act, she’s better off without me.”


“Really.” Rose’s mouth pressed together and she stared hard at Sarah. “You weren’t there. You have no idea how much I hurt her.”

Sarah nodded slowly. “You’re right. I wasn’t there. How long have you been trying to get off drugs?”

“A year. You’d be amazed at how little help there is. Cleo, the nurse, understands what it’s like. She’s getting me some contacts, a support group and a social worker. She’s amazing.”

“What do you want to do with your life? After you get off drugs?”

Rose pushed her hair out of her face, gaze puzzled. “I hadn’t thought about it.”

“It’s something I’ve been struggling with. Your Mom put a foot in my butt to get me out of factory work. Nothings come of it yet but thanks to her, I am looking.”

“She was, is, a good Mom. Talks too much…”

Sarah laughed.

“Yeah. Talks and talks! She always cared though. Even when she was so mad I thought she’d kill me, I knew she cared. Wow. What a question. What do you think I should do?”

“I couldn’t answer that for you. Whatever lights you up,” Sarah sat back, suddenly aware she liked Rose. The girl was honest, clear and in a way, more relaxed with herself than most. “Deidra, the girl who owned the house where I found you. She thought she’d found the easy path. She was so focused on arranging her own comfort she was strangling from it. Now it’s fallen apart on her. She’s miserable, can’t admit it because the solution would involve work, which she abhors.”

“What’s your point?’ Rose tilted her head at Sarah with a soft smile.

“Drugs are a variation of one of the many ways we try to short cut. Breaking the pattern is horribly difficult. You’ve gone through, are going through, one of the hardest things there is. After this, whatever you decide to do will seem like a cake walk.” Sarah rose. “I probably should let you get some rest.”

Rose stiffened, hands clutching the blanket. “I don’t suppose you’d like to come back? The accommodations aren’t great but…”

“I would love to, Rose. Can I bring you anything? A change of clothes or, shampoo or?”’

“No, I’m fine,”

“Where do you live?” She hadn’t thought to wonder before or if Rose had left her car somewhere or something.

“I’ve a room downtown. When I went out yesterday, I only took my key. I knew better than to take anything of value with me. I called a friend of mine and she’ll bring me some things,”

“Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow. After work.”

“That sounds great!”

* * *

Sarah let Emma do the talking at work, uncomfortable she couldn’t tell her about Rose, ease her pain, but it wouldn’t have been right. About halfway through the shift, Emma stopped and eyed her closely.

“Perhaps I’d better shut up and let you tell me what’s wrong. Are you mad at me?”

“No! I’ve just got some things on my mind. I haven’t gotten any calls on the applications I’ve put out. I may be here the rest of my life after all.” It was the best she could come up with.

“You won’t. The cure is to put out even more applications. You’ll get a job. You wait and see. Trish said the exact same thing and a week later, bam,”

“That’s reassuring. How long have you lived here?”

“About thirty years. My husband grew up here and wanted to move back. It sounded like a good place to raise a family.” Emma pulled a box off the conveyor. “Four boxes. Quality control up above needs to pay attention. Anyway, he decided his high school sweetheart could cook better than me. I stayed here though I’m not sure it was the best decision I’ve ever made, given how things turned out.”

Sarah’s throat tightened. It wasn’t only Rose. Here was this nice lady making minimum wage in a factory, reading and watching TV the highlights of her life. “I’m going to get a good job and we can go to Hawaii together or something.”

“Be careful! I’ll hold you to that. Can you imagine going on vacation with me? You’ll want to admire some nice volcano and I’ll be talking about the man in shorts ahead of us.”

Sarah laughed. “Yes. I can. It would be fun.”

Emma got a strange look on her face and snagged another box. “Maybe my decision wasn’t so bad after all.”

That evening on her way home from work, Sarah stopped by the hospital. Rose was up and seated in a chair, dressed in clean but worn clothes. Her hair was done, pale face made-up and even knowing her so little, Sarah could see the strain in it.

“What’s going on?” Sarah asked.

“I can’t stay. Cleo told me about an hour ago. I have to leave. The social worker stopped by and she’s going to help me get home, make sure I have my prescription, stay with me a bit. She said we’d start looking for a support group,”

It was obvious Rose was scared to be alone. Sarah was tempted to offer to stay with her but she didn’t know enough. Some part of Rose had decided on drugs…

“Where do you live? Is it far from here?’

“Down town. I’m about four miles from the box factory.”

Just four miles! Poor Emma, so close.

“Rose. I like you and I don’t like very many people. It’s tough being alone and you’re too smart not take advantage of all the help you can get. Why don’t you call your Mom?”

“I told you. I’ve hurt her enough.”

“Then don’t hurt her anymore.” Sarah crossed the room to sit in the chair across from Rose. “Do you want to be friends with me?” It sounded childish and Sarah wondered why the answer mattered so much.

“Yes. Yes, I do.”

“Then listen. You can’t hurt your mother any more than what she’s hurting right now, thinking you’re dead. Maybe there are things she does that set you off, creates more of a problem but if not, your refusal to see her is stupid.”

Rose looked away, hands strangling each other in her lap. “You don’t understand. I stole from her. I lied to her. I called her horrible things and made her feel as if my problems were her fault. She wouldn’t want to see me.”

“If I were here, with you, would it help? I don’t think you’re right however I understand your fear.”

Rose’s head whipped around. “Fear?”

“Well, yes. You’re afraid of rejection. That’s normal.”

“Fear. I guess I didn’t think of it as fear. I felt pain, hurt…not fear…It IS fear,”

“Does it matter?”

“Yes. I hate fear. It’s an ugly, useless thing. I never took drugs because I was afraid. I took drugs to make me feel better.”

Sarah frowned. She didn’t see the distinction but there was a crack in Rose’s resistance and she didn’t want it to close up. “It sounds like fear too me. What’s the worst that can happen? Not seeing her isn’t helping. Oh,” she kicked herself inside. “You aren’t convinced you’ll stay off the drugs.”

Rose glared at her. For the first time Sarah saw the person who could lie, steal and calculate. She felt a dip of sadness. Then it was gone and Rose smiled.

“You’re going to be one heck of a friend. You’re right. I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t go back, put my mother through hell again. I was afraid. Now I’m sure, and I’m not afraid. I hate fear,” Rose got up and went to the hospital phone. She hesitated and then picked up the receiver and dialed. “Mom? It’s Rose. Yes. Your daughter. I’m fine. I’m at the hospital but I’m fine. I’d like to see you if you want,” Rose sank onto her bed, curling her arm about herself. “I’m okay,”

Sarah got up and went out to the hall, nearly running into Cleo who was at the door. “Rose is talking to her Mom. She doesn’t have to leave yet does she?”’

“No, dear. Not yet. If her Mom will come get her, she can stay longer. I was listening. I hope you don’t mind. You are very good.”

“Excuse me?”

“You told her what she needed to hear without being overbearing. Have you thought about being a professional counselor?”

“I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

“Think about it. There are classes you can take. Come see me if you’re interested.” Cleo turned away and went down the hall.

Sarah watched her walk away feeling a push of excitement.

Rose came out into the hall. “Mom is coming to get me. She sounded so happy,”

“Of course she did. She loves you. Love is stronger than you think.”

“She says she owes you a trip to Hawaii as soon as she’s done killing you.”

Sarah laughed.

“You’ll come see me?”

“Absolutely! We have your future to figure out.”

“And yours.”

“You know,” replied Sarah. “I think I’ve got mine covered.”

They hugged and went back into Rose’s room to wait for Emma.

Rebecca lives in Montana in a log cabin by a river and has been writing for most of her life. She has over 100 published stories and a book of short stories, Reaching Beyond, published by Bellowing Ark Press. Along with writing, she loves to read, take long walks with Dodge, her yellow Labrador retriever and volunteer at the local animal shelter.

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