"Cries in the Night" 1/1
Disclaimer: I have absolutely no ownership of any characters on TWW. All others in this story are mine, however. Although they are fictional, they are still the voices of places from whence many of us came.
Author's note: (1) I'm a Psych major who has done research in the Social Work field (a possible career for me). (2) The story takes place in NY; a city where there are many cases of abuse on any given day. (3) Whatever you may think of this, feedback is a good thing. :-)
Maxine Marx worked at the Administration for Children's Services (ACS) in NYC. She
worked out of the field office in Manhattan her entire career. Her job is to determine the
placement of children who cannot or will not return home, for whatever reason.
Danny Concannon, the Senior member of the White House Press Corps arrived at her office
promtly at ten. Max was one the best, and therefore busiest, social workers in town. Her
time was limited and she had given him the great honor of sharing some of it with him. He
was writing a series of articles about abused children. It would be called 'Cries in the
Night', a title that immediately caught Max's attention when Danny had called to let her
know that, yet again, he would need her assistance.
"How many kids am I writing about?" This, of course, after exchanging the usual pleasantries.
"Four. There's Katie, the victim of incest. Taisha was physically abused. Jamal was being starved. And Toni is a good girl by everyone's standards who was being thrown out of the house when she turned sixteen."
"Okay, let's get to work. We'll tackle them one at a time. I'll just write everything and my editor can decide how he puts them out. It'll probably be one kid a day."
"That's fine. I just want these stories out there. People have got to know what they do to their kids. Their neighbors have got to start listening to the cries in the night. That's why I love your title, it's so apropos." She was shaking her head as she gathered her files. "Let's go somewhere to talk without interruptions."
When they were settled, Maxine began to discuss the children Danny would be writing
about. "I'll start with Katie. She is a fourteen year old from the Inwood area.
Previously a predominantly Irish neighborhood, it is now very diverse. However, a lot of
the old taverns are still there. Her father spent many a night in them. He began molesting
her when she was a mere child. She had an abortion last year and she's pregnant again. Her
mother wants her to have another abortion because she feels the pregnancy is bringing
shame on the family. She feels that it will be public knowledge that Katie isn't a
Danny shifted in his chair. "And the father raping his daughter didn't bring shame?"
"The reason that Katie was taken from the home is not solely that her father was molesting her because he's dead. Somehow the people in the neighborhood found out what was going on. The rumor is that he made a comment about his daughter that most fathers would never make. One night after he left the bar, very inebriated I might add, he was attacked. They found his body in a dumpster located in a dead end. No one was ever charged. From a legal point of view, justice was never served but from Katie's point, maybe it has been."
"Maxine, I know you don't really believe that." Danny was watching her closely.
"As a social worker, no, but as a woman, yes. Danny, this kid's life was hell at home. She joined every afterschool club she could to spend less and less time at home. She's a popular girl."
"But is she popular for other reasons as well? I know that sexually exploited children can become promiscuous."
"Yes, she is, very. She sees herself as a sexual object. That's how she relates to people. Just to give you fair warning, when you speak to her, she's going to hit on you."
Danny became very uncomfortable. "I don't want to get hit on by a teenager. Max, I'm not comfortable with that. You are going to be there with me, right?"
"Yes, I will be. These kids don't know you, Danny."
"If the father is dead, then why was she removed?"
"Because the mother is in total denial. She knew what was going on and did nothing about it. She refuses to let Katie go into therapy. The only way that kid has a shot in hell at a normal life from this point on, is to be out of that house."
Danny closed his notebook. "You know what, I could use some air. Let's go get some coffee."
He called CJ's office while they were outside. "Danny, what can I do for you? I
noticed that you haven't been at the briefings. Don't tell me you're calling to find out
what you missed?"
"No, my editor has me on something else in NY. I just wanted, needed actually, to hear a friendly voice, that's all. Thanks for not hanging up on me."
"Danny, you know I would never do that to you. Are you okay?"
Maxine was walking towards him with the coffee. "Yeah, look I gotta go back to work. Later."
When they returned to the the building, Danny was ready to pick up where they left off.
"Okay, the next child is Taisha. She's a ten year old from the West Village area. Both parents are professionals. The neighbors couldn't believe they could hurt their child because they're not poor. Somehow having a degree and good paying jobs, according to these people, puts you above all others in life. I guess you are no longer susceptible to the same fears, anxieties and stressors as the rest of us. They would hurt Taisha in little ways so that it was hard to notice. She started to wear long sleeved shirts and jeans to cover the bruises."
"How did she come to your attention, then?"
"One of her neighbors finally couldn't listen to the little girls cries anymore. It had been going on for months. She became convinced that Taisha would be better off in a foster home so she called us."
"We're going to work with the parents. The abuse began six months ago when the mother lost her job due to downsizing. The lost income really cramped their lifestyle so they began arguing frequently. When one of them got totally overwhelmed, he or she would do something to hurt Taisha rather then hurt the spouse."
"That's warped. Where do these people get off?" Danny's anger was apparent.
"Yes, it is warped but thanks to that neighbor, hopefully, they'll change and Taisha's life will improve. They need to attend parenting classes, anger management classes, and marital counseling. If they succeed with all of that, then Taisha can go back. Luckily for her, the abuse was not going on for that long. Even still, we'll keep an eye on the family for a specified amount of time after the reunion to ensure Taisha's continued safety."
"Wait, didn't people at her school notice that she suddenly started wearing clothes that covered up her body?"
"Yes, they did. They spoke to the mother about it. First, it took them time to notice the change, observe it for enough time to become concerned and then wait to see what happened after the discussion with the mother. By then, the neighbor had already reported the family to the hotline."
"Jamal's story is going to be a little harder for you take then Taisha's. He is a
three year old from Hell's Kitchen. His parents are immigrants. They brought Jamal and his
two sisters Jalai and Jelisa with them. Their families back home thought that something
was wrong with Jamal and seemed to blame the parents. When they moved to NY, he didn't
seem to improve so they chose to ignore him. His sisters are four and five years old,
respectively. The neighbors often saw the parents walking through the neighborhood with
the girls. There are not that many parks near their apartment, so they were allowed to
play in front of their building with other neighborhood kids. No one even knew that Jamal
existed. They had never seen him. Everyone that I spoke to only mentioned the daughters.
They were shocked to find out they had a son living with them as well."
"One of the kids mentioned it to somebody, I assume." Danny was shaking his head as he took notes.
"Yes, they enrolled Jelisa in Kindergarten. One of the assignments was for the students to draw a picture of their family. The little girl drew her parents, her and her sister, and her brother. The Principal immediately called us for advice. She had no idea how to handle it because she didn't have proof. We asked the little girl if the brother had died and if that's why no one mentioned him. Danny, she shook her head and said, 'No, they're waiting for him to die.' I've been in this field a very long time and I almost cried when I heard that."
"Why? What did they think was wrong with him?"
"Their family had told them that the boy was evil because he was different. You know what's wrong with this child? He's got Down Syndrome. They never bothered to take him to a doctor to get a diagnosis. They just decided to let him starve to death. They figured if they lived as if they just had the girls, then no one would miss Jamal when he died. The mother told me they planned on throwing him out with the trash. Then they would bless the house to rid it of the evil they felt Jamal brought into it. Obviously, the girls are in foster care. We were able to keep them together. They were unharmed but we can't leave those kids in that house after what happened to their brother."
"I'll be talking to the parents in prison, right? Because I hope they are not free after what they did."
"At this point, they're in jail. Danny, I know this is hard for you to take but you have to promise me that you're going to be able to control yourself when you do these interviews."
"Let's take another break. I could use one now." She led him back outside to get air again.
Danny placed another call to CJ's office. "Hey, sorry to bother you again."
"You're not. Really. What's wrong, Danny?"
"Nothing, just looking for that warm, friendly voice again. I'm taking a short break and really needed to talk to you. Is that okay?"
"Of course, it's fine. I don't mind at all. I just wish you would open up more unless you can't."
"It's not something that affects you, I just can't get into it now."
"I'm here for you, whenever."
"I really needed to hear that." He hung up as Maxine reached him with more coffee and a couple of hot dogs for lunch.
"Toni is the last one you'll be writing about. I was going to add a fifth but you
seem to be having some trouble with my stories this year, so I'll save that case for
another time. I'm sure your editor will send you back to me again. These articles are like
our yearly date." She patted Danny's arm affectionately.
"Is the other one somebody who really needs the coverage?" Danny was starting to feel guilty about allowing Max to pick up on how the kids were affecting him this time.
"No, her case is very similar to Taisha except the parents are poor. I would much rather you go with Taisha. People need to get rid of some of their stereotypes and understand what is really going on around them."
Danny nodded and got ready to take notes.
"Toni is a fifteen year old from East Harlem. She's from a single parent family, which is not unusual in that area. She has many siblings, most of whom have gotten into trouble one way or the other; either with the law or by getting pregnant. Toni is big on education. She sees that as her way out. She's smart, Danny, if life doesn't keep trying to knock her down, she'll be able to do whatever she sets her mind to. One day, her mother informed her that she would have to leave when she turned sixteen. When asked why, the mother stated that Toni was the mature one out of her kids. Being so responsible, the mother was sure that she would make it on her own. She didn't see anything wrong with it. She told me it wasn't like she was asking one of the other kids to leave. They wouldn't make it without getting into trouble but Toni would. Sick, huh?"
"Very. If she didn't have to leave till her sixteenth birthday, which hasn't come yet, why do you have her? And did that woman honestly think that was a good way for her kid to spend her birthday?"
"She didn't see anything wrong with it. Toni began to check into shelters around the city so that she could continue to go to school. She attends a Catholic high school and already works off half her tuition by working for the school's Science Department. She figured she could afford the other half with her after-school job. She counted on saving money on rent by living in a shelter which is why she had chosen to stay at Covenant House near Times Square."
"So she was close to at least one of her Science teachers?" Danny put his notebook down for a brief respite.
"Yes, they were discussing how she would be celebrating her sixteenth birthday. The teacher asked her if she was going to have a sweet sixteen party and Toni told her she'd be relocating that day. Upon further inquiry, the teacher was able to ascertain exactly what was going on. She and the Principal had a meeting with Toni's mother who seemed quite upset that she had told anyone. The mother told them, if it would make them happy, that the girl could continue living at home because, in her words, she's a bookworm anyway. That teacher is a friend of mine so she asked me to keep an unofficial eye on her, which I am. Toni's goal is to attend an out-of-state college when she graduates so that she can live on campus. She seems fairly certain that her mother will ask her to leave when she turns eighteen because her plans were turned upside-down this time so she's being very proactive. We're researching colleges together. She's a good girl. The only sign of normal adolescence I see in her is her attitude and sharp tongue. That's it. She's good, Danny, and you shouldn't get thrown out for being good." Maxine looked away from him allowing her gaze to fix on the scene outside.
"Hey, I'm glad I'm not the only one getting upset this year." He put his hand over hers. "We done with the briefings? I'd like to just get to these interviews and go home."
"Yeah, we're done. Take another break and we'll get to the interviews." She walked away.
All the interviews were done. Danny had what he needed for his story on his laptop
already and he was back in DC. He was still feeling depressed, though. It was too late, he
couldn't call CJ at the office. She was probably home already anyway. He'd take a chance
and go there.
"Hello. Am I interrupting something?"
CJ had answered the door in her robe and slippers. "Nope, just watching the News. Come in."
She hung up his coat. When she turned around, he put his arms around her and held her tightly. "I do this assignment every year and I hate it every year." He whispered into her neck.
She started planting kisses on his cheek to comfort him. "Talk to me." She led him to her couch when he finally let go of her.
He opened up about everything that had transpired over the last couple of days. "I kept calling you every time I had a major break just to center myself. I hope you didn't mind." He looked so sad and vulnerable. She had never seen him like this before.
"Danny, I told you every time you called that I did not mind. You know me, if I minded, I would've told you." One of his hands was caressing her cheek while the other pulled her closer to him. She moved her head a little to kiss his palm, then leaned in to kiss his cheek again. He grabbed her and kissed her on the mouth. Surprised, but also delighted, she responded with a vengeance. He was pulling on the sash of her robe when a thought occurred to him. "You're not doing this out of pity, are you? As much as I want you, I don't want it to be like that."
"It's not. We've been steadily working towards this, Danny, and the time feels right. If you want to stop, we can."
"No." He kissed her with all his heart and soul. He gave one last thought to the kids who were hurting right at that moment and allowed CJ to lead him to her bedroom.
Hopefully the article would help more children by creating a better awareness in
society, but that was tomorrow. Tonight, he was with CJ and that's all he was going to