It is the 1950s in rural New Zealand when the three children are placed in a foster home where they must learn new behaviors and a whole new way of life. Used to living behind locked doors and trusting no one, Jacqueline has difficulty making decisions for herself. But it is not long before she realizes that in her new home, she is accepted just as she is. As she and her siblings become acclimated to their loving environment and finally begin to relax, they have no idea that child welfare workers are determined to return them to their parents.
One Bead of Gold is a poignant tale that provides an unforgettable glimpse into the foster care system through the eyes of abused children.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.51(d)|
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One Bead of Gold
By Lorraine Stanton
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2011 Lorraine Stanton
All rights reserved.
The Morning After
* * *
A strange noise woke Jacqueline. She opened her eyes, looked upwards and tensed.
Something was above her head.
Keeping a wary watch on it, not moving a muscle, barely breathing, she cast around in her mind for an explanation only to realise she didn't know where she was, how she got there or what that big thing over her head could possibly be.
'I'm trapped!' she thought in startled horror.
Lying stiffly in the bed, her fists clenched beside her, Jacqueline stared up at the thing in the gloom, straining her ears for any sound that would give her a hint of where she was or what had happened to her.
But the sounds made no sense either.
Instead of hearing the ordinary early morning bird-type noises and the first traffic mumbles of the day, the only scraps of sound Jacqueline could detect were things she simply could not identify.
Swallowing against the steadily swelling fear, Jacqueline scrunched her eyes tight shut to listen as hard as she could, shutting out the distraction of sight; even supressing her breathing so that its noise wouldn't hide any familiar sounds she might catch.
Just as she began to convince herself she could hear a bird, she distinctly heard something completely alien.
A sort of snort-thump.
Her eyes sprang wide open.
One gasp. No more – 'it' might hear her.
She quietened her breaths again, but couldn't stop her heart pounding so loudly she couldn't hear over it.
Oh, yes, she could! She jumped at a sudden, loud noise.
There! What's that? A man. Yelling. No - it's more like he's calling something. She relaxed slightly. The man didn't seem angry. He was just saying things loudly as if he wanted someone a long way away to hear him. He made no sense to Jacqueline. He'd call one word or two. Then again. Then he'd whistle. Then the call or the whistle again, but the whistles were not any sort of tune.
Although she didn't seem to be in any immediate danger, Jacqueline couldn't relax completely. Too many times she had heard her father speak loudly outside the house, then was beaten as soon as he saw her when he walked inside.
She looked around wildly. She didn't know where she was, where she could hide, how to get away. She still didn't know what that thing over her head could be. It trapped her.
A dog barked. That noise again - the snort-thump. Blowing. The footsteps of a wooden legged giant. And more and more of all that. Lots and lots of it. Closer, closer. The calls and whistles, too. Right beside the room she was in. She stared at the wall in terror. What was it? Would it get her?
Then there was a moo-sound – a moo? – 'It's a cow, then,' she thought.
Jacqueline let her breath out in a huge sigh of relief. 'That must be the noise cows make when they walk. It's only cows. Lots of cows. That man has a dog and cows. Cor, I'm in a sort of farm place. Hey! Bonzer! Real cows and a dog and maybe I'll can touch them!'
It wasn't until she had that thought that she was able to relax and curl cosily in the warm bed. Now the strangeness of the whistle puzzled her instead of frightening her. It wasn't a bit like a tune. In fact, it was more like the way the man called to his dog, which seemed really weird.
The noises moved like a parade past the house. When they were all gone they left behind the bird songs that Jacqueline had been unable to hear before, with the sound of someone else breathing.
Jacqueline cringed to realise there was breathing in the room. She looked cautiously about herself until she made out a cot in the gloom. Once she was sure it was a cot she could see against the opposite wall, she was instantly sure that the little bundled shape she could almost see was her baby sister sleeping in the cot.
'Aw, that's all it is. Hey! If Lucinda's here, maybe Jonathan is too. They didn't lock me up by myself. Righto!'
Heartened, Jacqueline clambered out of bed and discovered that the frightening thing that had been over her head was the underneath of another bed.
'Crikey! Two beds on top of each other!'
Fascinated, Jacqueline examined the bunks. There was a ladder up the foot boards to give easy access to the top bunk. They appeared to be sturdy enough, so with a feeling of tremendous risk, she slowly climbed the ladder. A wide smile showed her relief when she was sure she was safe up on the top bunk. 'Oh, boy. This is mighty!'
No one was in the top bunk, although it was unmade as if someone had just slept there. Since it was barely dawn as far as Jacqueline could tell, she thought whoever it was must rise in the middle of the night. She pondered peacefully, safe from intrusion for a little while.
'I could fancy sleeping way up high like this. I'd even be above people's heads, I bet. Jonathan would have loved this.'
The thought of her brother brought Jacqueline back to reality with a shock.
'Jonathan! That's who it was! He was here when I was asleep and now they've taken him and I'll never see him again.' In grief she punched the bedding. 'I knew it. I knew it. They'll never let us see each other again now that they've got us. Ma told us and told us we'd never see each other again if the police got us, but we went with them anyway. This time she didn't lie. We're locked up by ourselves so we can't help each other get away.'
Tears pricking her eyelids, Jacqueline slowly turned to climb down the ladder. The memories of what had happened were coming back to her.
The children had all been brought to this house in the middle of the night.
One more fight between her parents had woken her. Her mother shouting again in that terrible sergeant-major's voice of hers. Her father swearing at her mother. The mother threw things at the father. There was a scuffle, hitting, shouting, accusing, swearing, menacing. The mother phoned the police, threatening to tell about the stolen and smuggled goods hidden in the garage. The father yanked the big, black phone out of the living-room wall, wooden box and all, making a horrible tearing noise. Jacqueline and Jonathan hid in the dark dining room staring at the hole in the living room wall, horrified.
Lucinda stood up in her cot, howling, hanging on to the top of the rails in the dark. The children could make out the dim shape of her white nightie across the living room through the open door of the baby's room. Their father bellowed at her to shut up, scaring her into screaming twice as loudly. In two strides he was beside her, his fist raised. He knocked her right across the cot. She bashed into the bars on the other side and lay quietly, gasping.
Jacqueline and Jonathan crept under the dining room table where they could peek out from under the edge of the tablecloth but had a better chance of not being seen.
Their mother shrieked at their father. He punched her. She clawed back, calling him names. Blows were traded. Insults.
Jonathan crept towards the kitchen, intending to get a knife and kill his father to save his mother. Lucinda recovered her breath and began to howl. Jacqueline sped in terror to her bedroom to hide. A blow from their mother turned their father's head. He caught sight of a movement past the living room door. "What are you bloody kids doing out of bed? I'll teach you!"
He was slowed down by their mother hauling on his arm, hitting at him, yelling at him, but still Jonathan was caught as he tried to get back to the bedroom.
More shouting. Beating. Swearing. The baby wailing on and on and on.
Some people came and found Jacqueline hiding under Jonathan's bed. They put her in a car with the other two and told her they'd all be alright now. No one would ever hit them again.
She was too weary and sick to care.
They were driven to a strange building all stark and white inside that smelled like the dentist's. A man doctor looked at all three children. He even made them take their night clothes off and pressed on the sore spots, even the old sore spots from last time that didn't really hurt any more until he said, "Does this hurt?" and made it hurt with his fingers. He wasn't even their doctor. Jacqueline hated him.
She hated the nurse that made her do what he said. Worse yet, some rude people took photos of the bruises and marks and people like police asked really nosy questions about home. They were pretending they weren't police, but Jacqueline wasn't fooled. She knew who they were whether they wore uniforms or not and she despised them for thinking they could fool her. She hated them all. She wouldn't do or say anything they wanted. They couldn't make her tell on her parents.
After they were there for what seemed like forever, the doctor gave them something 'to make them feel better'. It made them feel dopey. The nosy people put them in another car with a man driving and a lady in the back with them.
Jacqueline wouldn't let the lady hold Lucinda. She fought to have the baby on her own lap. Lucinda clung to her, terrified of the strangers, so the lady had to give in. "They all exhibit this strong separation anxiety," the man said and Jacqueline hated him, too.
Turning Lucinda so that the icky lady couldn't make silly faces and make friends with her, Jacqueline hugged the baby to herself, ignoring how the weight hurt her legs. Through the thinness of her nightdress she could clearly feel the lumps on Lucinda's head from crashing into the bars of her cot when their father had hit her. The hard lumps against her chest made Jacqueline feel as if she had a knife twisting in her stomach.
She hated her father with a burning hot loathing and wished she had told the nosy people everything he did so that he would get into trouble. She wished the icky lady would shut up.
As the car hummed out of the lights of the city into the darkness of the countryside the children squeezed together as tightly as they could. They had fought hard to prevent the icky lady from sitting between them and now they tried just as hard to avoid any touch from her, shrinking away from her consoling pats and glaring balefully up at her when she tried to comfort them with kindly words, which she did constantly. The woman seemed too stupid to realise that they were too clever to be taken in by her. Their fear and loathing turned to contempt. If this was how smart the welfare workers were, Jacqueline was sure she and Jonathan would have no difficulty getting away from them.
Their parents had warned them over and over again that the police would take them away and lock them up where they would never see one another again. Then they would grow up behind bars, never knowing what had happened to the others or to their mummy and daddy. The children had lived in terror of that, but now that it was happening it looked like there was a chance they could escape and make their way home.
Yet as the car took them further and further from everything familiar they pressed tightly against one another, keeping their distance from the welfare worker and cuddling Lucinda as she dozed off. They wanted to be touching and holding her tightly forever. For all of her life. They felt that they would only survive as long as they were touching one another.
Just the same, Jacqueline couldn't bring herself to look at Jonathan. She knew he was all swollen and discoloured, that almost any touch anywhere on his body hurt him. Looking at him reminded her of the times she had looked like that and felt like that; when she had been kept home from school because of 'falls' or 'flu' or an 'illness in the family'. She had to always remember what excuse it was to keep her out of sight until any marks that showed had faded. It was one of the leaping horrors of her life that she would forget and say the wrong thing and a teacher would ask questions, which would end up with Jacqueline being locked up in one of those places for bad children.
Their mother was better than their father at making sure nothing showed. He would just get mad and hit out blindly, but their mother more often made sure anything she did to the children wouldn't cause awkward questions.
Thinking of how much some of her mother's punishments hurt, Jacqueline trembled, closed her eyes and leaned against Jonathan. She knew that her weight was causing him pain, but she needed the touch of him. Guilty about making it worse for him, she pulled back after a moment and looked away. She didn't dare speak to him where they might be heard and she couldn't bring herself to look at him. She could almost feel his pain as it was.
Their grogginess made her uneasy that they were being carted off somewhere and wouldn't be able to remember how to get back home. She wanted to warn him not to fall asleep so that they could both watch where they were going to try to make note of landmarks to help them find their way back home when they escaped, but the icky lady was still babbling at them about how they need never be afraid again. Jacqueline was afraid to say anything to Jonathan that the woman might hear and get her with later.
Despite his fear and pain, the thrumming of the car and the sedative lulled Jonathan to sleep, leaning heavily into Jacqueline which brought the hot, tight skin of his bruised eye into contact with her arm. She closed her eyes, but not being able to see him no longer helped her avoid the images of the times she had been beaten along with or instead of him.
She recalled one time her father had threatened to flail the hide right off her back when she hadn't done anything near as bad as driving off into the night with strangers.
Dread made her nauseous. She knew for sure they'd really get it this time. This time they might kill her.
Horror jerked Jacqueline back to the top bunk, back to her current problem of having lost Jonathan after all.
Recollecting that she didn't know where she was, Jacqueline began to search the room. She needed to find both hiding places and escape routes before anyone knew she was awake to stop her. She knew from many panic stricken dashes away from enraged parents that surprise was her first defense. Under other circumstances Jacqueline would have liked the room. It was spacious when compared with the pokey little square box she shared with Jonathan.
There was a sort of line of polished wood all the way around the room where ceilings usually joined walls, but in this room there was another stretch of wall above the moulding making the ceiling the highest one Jacqueline had ever seen. She turned on the spot, staring upwards in the faint light trying to imagine how high it really was and why anyone would build a house with such tall rooms. She liked the airy feeling it gave.
Obviously the rooms weren't built for giants because the door wasn't above ordinary height as far as she could tell.
The space between the top of the door and the moulding was filled with a window which was letting in the small amount of light in the room.
Jacqueline was entranced by the idea of having a window on the inside of the house. 'Cor, look at that. It wouldn't ever be real dark in here, even in the middle of the night, as long as there's light somewhere else in the house.' She looked to see if there was a way she could get up to the window above the door to look through it, but was nothing she could climb up that she could see. She might have been able to touch the line of wood from the top bunk, but it was on the wrong side of the room. The thought of the top bunk reminded her that she didn't know how to get to Jonathan so she dropped her gaze to ground level and looked all around from there. Almost at once she was distracted again.
At the head of the bunks was a heavily curtained window under which was a desk with a lamp on it, beside which was a bookshelf built into the adjoining wall. The bookshelf went all the way up to the moulding, full of books right to the topmost shelf.
Not believing her eyes, Jacqueline walked up to the bookshelf to have a closer look. "Cor, blimey, I'd have to climb up to get those high ones." In her amazement she spoke aloud, the sound of her voice startling her back to silence and making Lucinda snuffle in her sleep. Even while she held her breath afraid that someone would have heard her, Jacqueline couldn't take her eyes off the bookshelf. The idea of books in a bedroom, of being able to read any time she wanted to, struck her dumb with wonder. She couldn't tell what kind of books they were in the dim light and she was too afraid to touch them, but knowing they were there made her feel better in spite of herself. Reading was one of the few escapes she had.
Excerpted from One Bead of Gold by Lorraine Stanton. Copyright © 2011 Lorraine Stanton. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsChapter One: The Morning After, 1,
Chapter Two: The New Family, 25,
Chapter Three: Allaying Fears, 45,
Chapter Four: Settling In, 56,
Chapter Five: Rabbits, 72,
Chapter Six: Wee Davie., 81,
Chapter Seven: Alphie, 98,
Chapter Eight: A Hint of Darkness., 119,
Chapter Nine: A Golden Time., 131,
Chapter Ten: Christmas., 145,
Chapter Eleven: The Bubble Bursts., 157,
Chapter Twelve: Tarnished Gold., 169,
Chapter Thirteen: Poppa, 183,
Chapter Fourteen: Afterwards, 198,
Chapter Fifteen: You Can't Go Home Again., 208,
If You Wish, 228,