Ghost Girlby Torey Hayden
Jadie never spoke. She never laughed, or cried, or uttered any sound. Despite efforts to reach her, Jadie remained locked in her own troubled world—until one remarkable teacher persuaded her to break her self-imposed silence. Nothing in all of Torey Hayden's experience could have prepared her for the shock of what Jadie told her—a story too horrendous… See more details below
Jadie never spoke. She never laughed, or cried, or uttered any sound. Despite efforts to reach her, Jadie remained locked in her own troubled world—until one remarkable teacher persuaded her to break her self-imposed silence. Nothing in all of Torey Hayden's experience could have prepared her for the shock of what Jadie told her—a story too horrendous for Torey's professional colleagues to acknowledge. Yet a little girl was living in a nightmare, and Torey Hayden responded in the only way she knew how—with courage, compassion, and dedication—demonstrating once again the tremendous power of love and the relilience of the human spirit.
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There were 152 miles between the city and Falls River and from there another 23 miles to Pecking. All of it was prairie, wide, flat, and open, interrupted only by the interstate. There were towns along the way, of course, although "town" was a rather grand description for most of them. The names, however, were always hopeful: Harmony, New Marseilles, Valhalla.
I'd allotted myself two and a half hours to cover the distance, setting off in the early morning darkness with an egg salad sandwich and a thermos of coffee. Given no nasty surprises in the January weather, I anticipated reaching Pecking by eight.
For much of the way mine was the only car on the road. In and around Falls River there was the bustle of rush hour traffic, but otherwise, nothing disturbed the white emptiness of the plains for mile after mile. A faint breeze eddied powderlike snow across the highway, making the tracks of my tires disappear as quickly as they were made. The sun rose, pale and indistinct in a white sky. A litter of sundogs scampered in an arc around it. Passing through one small town, I peered down the main street. The tirne-and-temperature sign read -38 degrees.
I was born and bred in the Montana Rockies, and my heart had remained in wide, wild places. Despite the enjoyable stimulation of city living, I found the confinement, the dirt, and especially the noise, oppressive. Consequently, what absorbed me most as I drove across the snow-covered prairie that January morning was not thoughts of the new life which lay ahead but rather a simple sense of unbridled freedom. I'd escaped from the city. I was alone with all that silent space around me, and the sense ofdeliverance it gave me verged on the ecstatic. I don't believe I actually thought about where I was going at all.
Fact was, it probably wasn't so much a case of not thinking as daring not to think. After nearly three years as a research coordinator and therapist at the Sandry Clinic, I'd thrown it all over in one wholly impulsive moment. Opening the Sunday newspaper one weekend before Christmas, I'd seen an advertisement for a special education teacher to fill a midyear vacancy in a class for the behaviorally disordered. A perfectly straightforward ad. Straightforward enough response, too. I saw it and I wanted it.
The strange part was that I hadn't been looking for a new job at the time. I hadn't even been thinking of looking. My time at the Sandry had been thoroughly enjoyable and professionally fulfilling. Staffed by seven psychiatrists and a handful of specialized psychologists like myself, the clinic was small, private, and pleasantly situated. I'd been taken on mainly for research expertise and for my experience in treating children with language-related psychological problems. In the years that followed, I'd often worked very hard and certainly there'd been a fair share of ups and downs, but the challenges had been worth it. I really did think I was happy there. Nothing available on a conscious level had clued me in to any desire to chuck the large, airy therapy room full of toys, the genial group of colleagues, and the stimulating research for another chance to gird my loins in denim and crawl around on some dusty classroom floor for the kind of money that would have paid traveling expenses at the clinic. But the Siren called and without a backward glance, I responded.
Like so many other little communities I'd passed through on my drive from the city, Pecking was in a state of sleepy decay. The wide, tree-lined streets testified to a time before the railroad had pulled out, before the interstate had passed it by, but now it stood, a wan ghost of small-town America, its A&W root beer stand still there but abandoned, its "Drink Coca-Cola" girl still gamely smiling from her faded mural on the side wall of the savings-and-loan building. The downtown district was virtually gone, all the big stores having moved to the shopping mall in Falls River. There was still a bank and a drugstore, a couple of cafes, a real estate agent, and a gas station on Main Street, and around the corner on First Street, a ranch store that sold saddles, boots, and hats, but there was no shopping district. What was available in Pecking had relocated far out on the southern fringe in an effort to tempt drivers from the interstate. A "shopping center" had been built there a few years before, and it consisted of a supermarket, another drugstore, and a parking lot so spacious it could no doubt have accommodated every car within five miles of Pecking and then some.
The school was on a side street two blocks over from Main. Built in 1898, it had once been the Pecking high school. The beautifully carved wooden plaque attesting to this status still hung above the door, although the word "High" had long since been puttied in. I didn't know how many schools there must have been in Pecking during its heyday, but this was all that was left now. An enormous monstrosity built from local sandstone, it housed grades K to six and the only special education classroom in the district.
"Good morning!" came a cheerful voice as I ascended the broad stone steps. One of the double doors swung open for me, and there stood Glen Tinbergen, the principal. "Getting settled in?"
"Just about," I replied and stamped snow from my feet. "But I don't get the keys to the apartment until Friday, so I've come down from the city this morning." Ghost Girl. Copyright © by Torey Hayden. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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