Mito, Medical Kidnap Files #1, p.11P.D. Workman
WHEN GABRIEL GOT UP and made his way to the kitchen for some breakfast, he figured that Heather would tell him that he didn’t have to take one of the pills anymore. But she laid them beside his plate: pink, blue, and yellow. And she got out his other pills. Gabriel eyed the rainbow pills while he ate a piece of toast.
“I have to take them all?”
“The clinic said that your body would adjust. Make sure you have enough to eat, and at least two glasses of water, and you should do better this time.”
Gabriel ate the piece of toast and had a glass of water. His stomach was protesting about being too full. He couldn’t get another glass or piece of toast down. Reluctantly, he picked up the pills and swallowed them.
“Okay?” Heather questioned. “You don’t want anything else?”
Collin had already gone to school for an early football practice, and Luce sat across the table from Gabriel playing with some cereal and cut-up fruit on her plate. Gabriel had tuned out Josiah’s chatter, but looked at him now, focusing on what he was saying.
“Are you going to school today?” Josiah asked. “Do you have a day off again? When are you going to school?”
“I don’t know,” Gabriel told him. “I’m doing school at home right now. I’ll go to school… when I’m feeling better.”
“When will you feel better? I don’t like being sick. When I was sick at my mom’s house, they had to call an ’bulance. Have you ever been in an ’bulance?”
Gabriel nodded. He put his hand over his stomach, which was starting to gurgle and writhe. “Yes, a couple times.”
“Were you scared? I was scared. I thought I was going to fall off the bed,” Josiah declared.
Gabriel smiled at him. “They didn’t strap you down?”
“No, an’ I thought I was gonna fall off!” Josiah reiterated.
“Yeah,” Gabriel agreed. He stood up, leaning on the table.
Heather caught his eye. “You okay?”
Gabriel shook his head. He took a couple of steps to get to the wall for extra support and moved his feet as quickly as he could, pushing his lips together and willing his stomach not to revolt before he could get to the bathroom. He was hardly aware of covering the distance that would normally have taken him several minutes.
Between heaves, he could hear Heather trying to keep Josiah distracted and out of the way. The curious boy obviously wanted to come and watch the fun. After she got him on his bus, she came to see how Gabriel was managing.
“Settling down again?”
Gabriel wiped his mouth. “Don’t know how they’re going to do any good if I can’t keep them down.”
“Well, the clinic said just to keep trying. Try to eat a little bit more next time.”
“Eating more just means I’m going to throw up more.”
“I know it can’t be much fun for you, but let’s keep it up for a while. They know what they’re doing, and they said that your body would adjust.”
Gabriel shook his head and sat back against the wall, closing his eyes.
“I have good news for you,” Heather offered.
“What, another pill to add to the cocktail?”
“No, something that you wanted.”
There was only one thing that Gabriel wanted. He opened his eyes again and looked at Heather. Her eyes were dancing, and her mouth curled up in a smile.
“My mom?” Gabriel gasped.
Gabriel sat up. Leaning on the wall, he forced himself to his feet, so that he was looking down at Mrs. Foegel instead of up at her. “When? When do I get to see her?”
“This afternoon. Mrs. Scott will be taking you to a neutral meeting place to see her. It will be a supervised visit.”
“I don’t care. I just want to see her.”
The meeting with Keisha had luckily been scheduled long enough after Gabriel’s lunchtime meds that his stomach had settled down again so he could travel. But his gut was tied in knots with anxiety and excitement over seeing her again. He sat on the couch looking out the window, waiting for Carol Scott’s little aqua blue sports car to pull up. Heather walked by once or twice while he waited and smiled knowingly at him. She kept busy and out of the way with housework and taking care of Alex. Luce was home too, as her school apparently had the day off, but she didn’t pay any attention to Gabriel or anyone else. She drifted from one activity to another like a ghost, as if there were no one else in the house. Heather redirected her once or twice, but Luce was quiet and didn’t seem to get into much trouble.
The car pulled up, and Gabriel pushed himself off of the couch to his feet. He already had on his shoes and jacket. “She’s here. I’m going.”
“Okay, see you later,” Heather called back.
Gabriel was careful not to trip on the steps going out the door and shuffled down the sidewalk as fast as his shaky legs would let him. He leaned on the car for a moment before opening the door, steadying himself and trying to catch his breath again. He opened the door and got into the car, trying not to show how excited he was to the social worker.
“How are you doing today, Gabriel?” she asked, pulling out into the street just as he pulled his door closed.
“Umm… well, okay right now.”
“Oh? What’s wrong?”
“The new pills from the clinic make me sick. But I’m okay for now.”
“Oh, well that’s annoying, isn’t it? What did the doctor say?”
“They said just keep taking them; my body will adjust.”
“Good.” She turned the radio down a bit, so they didn’t have to raise their voices over it. “Are you excited to see your mom?”
She smiled. “I thought you would be. Mrs. Foegel’s really been pushing to get you visitation. I hope she hasn’t stepped on any toes getting it set up.”
“Stepped on toes? Whose toes?”
Mrs. Scott shook her head. “Foster parents just have to be careful. They aren’t in charge. Foster parents who get red-flagged for being difficult… well…”
“With DFS? Or who?”
She waved a hand at him, indicating to drop it. “I shouldn’t have said anything to you. Forget about it. The Foegels are a good home. I just wouldn’t want them to end up in any difficulties. Maybe you can back off a little on the demands to see your mom so that she’ll back off of us.”
Gabriel looked out the window, biting his lip. It didn’t matter much to him if the Foegels got themselves in trouble with DFS. He wasn’t about to tell Heather that he didn’t care about seeing his mother anymore. And she would know better even if he tried to tell her that.
“Okay, Gabriel?” Carol persisted. “Would you do that? Tell her to just ease up a bit?”
They were quiet for the rest of the drive, and Carol turned up the radio again to minimize the silence between them. Gabriel wasn’t sure where they were meeting, and didn’t know his way around that part of town very well, so he had no idea how close or far away they were. When Carol pulled the car into a parking lot, he sat up straight and looked around, trying to see where they were meeting or if he could see Keisha or her car. Carol pulled into a handicap space close to the big professional building. Gabriel opened the door and started toward the building ahead of her. He was slow, so it didn’t take her long to catch up and take the lead. Gabriel could see the DFS logo on the outside of one of the doors and headed for it.
He stumbled over the slight ridge of the doorframe and looked around the reception area. Keisha was sitting in one of the chairs, a magazine open on her lap, but her eyes on the door. She jumped to her feet and ran to Gabriel.
He pulled her into his arms and held her tightly, tears running down his face. “Mom, I missed you so much! I wanted you to come see me so bad!”
Keisha’s words were jumbled together between his. “I wanted to come—Are you okay?—Have they treated yo
Gabriel pressed his face into her hair, breathing in her sweet scent and holding her as close as he possibly could. “Mom. Oh, Mom, don’t ever go. Don’t ever let go.”
“I know, sweetie. I never wanted them to take you. I would have stopped them if I could.” She looked over at Carol Scott, who had entered the reception area and was watching them with a sad-looking smile. “Even the investigator knew I would never abuse you. She was crying when she took you, but she said she had to.”
Carol didn’t confirm or deny this. She looked away as if she was embarrassed about the whole thing. “Let’s grab a meeting room for you guys. This wasn’t meant to be a lobby meeting.”
Keisha held tightly to Gabriel, but they separated enough to walk, following Mrs. Scott through a security door with an electronic lock, down a short hall to a little meeting room. There were a table and three mismatched tubular chairs, a worn rust-colored couch on the wall, and a toy bin with ratty looking plushies and Duplo building blocks.
Keisha looked at the table and chairs and decided against them. She motioned to the couch, and she and Gabriel settled into it, cuddled close together. Keisha held Gabriel’s hand, weaving their fingers together.
“How are you, baby? Are you okay?” She touched his cheek.
“You’re not to talk about his health,” Carol Scott said.
They both looked at her.
“I’m not allowed to ask how he is?”
“No,” Carol said flatly.
They looked at each other.
“I’m so sorry this happened to you,” Keisha said finally. “I never knew… it never occurred to me that they could take you away for disagreeing with a doctor.”
“You’re not allowed to talk about the investigation or apprehension,” Carol intoned.
There was so much that Gabriel wanted to talk to Keisha about. The hospital, what had happened before that he couldn’t remember. The clinic. The side effects of the drugs. But he couldn’t talk about any of it. He cast around for something to say. Something to ask.
“Are you… okay?” he asked her.
“I’m perfectly fine,” Keisha said, rubbing Gabriel’s shoulder and back. “And your dad is good. Everything is fine for us. Other than…” she trailed off and looked at Carol.
“I made a friend at the hospital,” Gabriel blurted. “She has mito too.”
They both glanced at Carol, but she didn’t say anything.
“What’s her name?” Keisha asked. “Tell me about her.”
“Renata. She was nice and visited me a lot. She had trouble, though, that was why she was in… that unit.”
“Renata. That’s a pretty name. What kind of trouble did she have?”
“I don’t know all of it… but she had paranoia, so she thought there were a lot of plots and conspiracies going on.”
Keisha nodded. “You liked her? Was she your age?”
“She just turned fourteen, while we were there. But she’s really, really smart. She knew a lot of stuff.”
“How sad, to have your birthday in hospital. You had one… I think you were six. Do you remember it? You were in ICU.”
Gabriel thought back. He shook his head. “No… I don’t remember that. Did we celebrate at the hospital?”
“No, I just waited until you were home and we had a party then. It doesn’t make any difference to a six-year-old. You didn’t know which day was your birthday without being told.”
“I guess not,” Gabriel agreed. “Especially in the hospital… it’s easy to lose track of what day it is.”
“So did Renata celebrate at the hospital? Did her parents come? It’s a bit different for a fourteen-year-old. They know the day.”
“No.” Gabriel tightened his grip on Keisha and looked at her face. “She said—I don’t know if this is really true—she said that when the police came to take her from her mom… that her mom fought back against them, and they sent her to prison for resisting arrest. So she couldn’t come, just sent a card.”
They both looked at Carol again. The social worker looked uncomfortable and started scratching at some unidentifiable spill or mark on the table with a manicured fingernail. But she didn’t stop them.
“That’s awful, sweetie. Do you think she was telling the truth?”
“I know she believed it. But she thought a lot of weird things, so I don’t know what’s true or not. She said that her mom was trying to kill her and I don’t believe that part.”
“Why would her mother try to kill her? I agree, that part has to be her paranoia.”
“She said it was because she is so badly-behaved and hard to care for. She can’t even eat; she’s tube fed.”
“Considering how hard it is to get food into you and keep your weight up, that sounds easy. Just hook you up like the car at the gas station, instead of nagging over every snack and meal…”
Gabriel giggled at the mental image of being filled up at a gas station with a pump that dispensed formula instead of gas. “My foster family has a baby that’s tube fed. But you have to be careful about infection and everything too. Around her incision.” He had seen the care that Heather had to take to ensure that everything was kept clean and sanitary.
“What’s your foster family like?”
“No discussion about Gabriel’s foster family,” Carol Scott warned, without looking up from the table.
Keisha and Gabriel looked at each other in frustration. Gabriel fell back to discussing Renata, since she seemed to be one of the only allowed topics. “Renata gets around better than me, mostly. But then one of the orderlies broke her rib. It punctured her lung, so she was laid up.”
Keisha made a pained face. “Oh, that poor girl! How did he break her rib? Were they abusive to the patients?”
There was a warning look from Carol, but no comment.
“He was trying to hold her still. She was acting crazy, being disruptive and they were going to take her to the quiet room. But he held her too tight. The nurse says she probably has brittle bones because of her mito or feeding problems.”
“Poor girl,” Keisha repeated. “So sad, to be taken away from her parents, her mother in prison, all by herself in that place… to be hurt and sick and not have anyone to hold her hand or look after her…”
Gabriel nodded, a lump in his throat. He scratched his neck. He knew that Keisha wasn’t just talking about Renata. She was talking about him too.
“She thought that her mom was trying to kill her, so she was okay with being there alone. But a normal person… someone who wasn’t paranoid like that… would be sad and lonely.”
“And her mother must be frantic, not able to contact her or find out how she’s doing… if she’s sick or doing okay…”
“I guess… even if she was really hard to care for, and didn’t behave… her mom would still miss her and want to go see her.”
Keisha squeezed Gabriel’s hand. “Yes, baby. No matter what. She couldn’t stop loving her own daughter, no matter how bad things were.”
For a few minutes, they were silent, both too emotional to continue the conversation. Keisha patted Gabriel’s face, then something in her expression changed.
“What?” Gabriel asked, confused.
She touched his collar, moving it to the side and frowning. “What’s wrong with your skin? You have a rash.”
Gabriel looked down. He pulled his shirt away from his body and looked down the neck hole at his chest. Sure enough, there was a bumpy red rash. It wasn’t easy to see on his dark skin, but it was definitely rashy.
“There’s no discussion about his health,” Carol reminded.
“It must be from the new meds,” Gabriel said, rubbing the itchy red bumps with his fingertips, but not scratching them. “The clinic just started me on these experimental drugs…”
“Gabriel,” Carol Scott said in a firm warning voice.
Gabriel looked at her, then looked back at Keisha.
“This visit is over,” Carol snapped, standing up. “Gabriel, say good-bye. It’s time to go.”
Gabriel tightened his grip on Keisha’s hand. “No… please…”
Keisha’s expression oscillated between anger and anxiety. “No. I won’t say that. Please, don’t take him away yet. Let us visit.”
Mrs. Scott shook her head. She motioned for Gabriel to exit the room ahead of her. Gabriel looked at Keisha, agonized. Ten minutes was hardly long enough to say hello to his mother, certainly not long enough for the first visit in a month. Keisha looked stricken. She hugged Gabriel.
“You’d better go, baby. We don’t want them to block the next visit.”
Gabriel nodded, sniffling and trying not to let the hot tears escape his eyes. “I’ll see you… next week?”
“I don’t know. As soon as we can. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay.” Gabriel clung to her.
“Let’s go, Gabriel,” Mrs. Scott insisted.
Gabriel released Keisha reluctantly. She held his hand for another instant, giving it one last squeeze. Gabriel tried to swallow the lump in his throat and turned away from her to exit the room first. His knees were shaking. His whole body was weak and shuddery. He didn’t look back at Keisha, or he wouldn’t be able to go on. When they got to the front door of the office, Carol took him by the arm. Gabriel was angry at her presuming that she could touch him, but he needed the support, so he tried to swallow the anger welling up in him over the injustice and invasion of DFS into his life. He said nothing and Keisha didn’t either.
It was a good thing that she had parked so close. Carol helped him into the car and shut the door. Gabriel leaned against the inside of the door and closed his eyes, forcing himself to breathe evenly and not let the sobs take over. It wasn’t fair. After the days and weeks of being separated from his mother, he should have been able to have a nice long visit, to get all caught up on what happened that he couldn’t remember, and what she was doing to fight to get him back, and to let her know what was happening with him. The brief visitation left him feeling even more lonely and desolate than before.
Carol Scott got into the driver’s seat beside him. He didn’t look at her. “I’m sorry, Gabriel. I have to enforce the rules that DFS has dictated. Your mom is no longer in charge of your medical care. Her even talking to you about your health could have a detrimental effect.”
He said nothing. Even if he wasn’t struggling to hold it all together, he didn’t know what he would have said. It was all so wrong.
“I know you don’t understand that. But even if you don’t, you and your mom still have to follow the rules for a visit. You—” she foundered for words. “You just do!”
Gabriel didn’t open his eyes or turn his head. He scratched his itchy neck and chest, digging his nails in. It hurt, but it felt good to hurt on the outside.
Mito, Medical Kidnap Files #1 by P.D. Workman / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4.8 out of 5 / Based on19 votes