Friday, October 19, 2012
A Talented Tot
A Talented Tot
“Did you have fun tonight, Becky?” Caroline asked as she was tucking her into her bed.
“Oh yes Mama. I have a new friend and her name is Valentine. Isn't that the prettiest name you have ever heard? She said she was going to call me Rebecca because she had a dolly named Rebecca when she was a little girl.”
“Valentine is a very pretty name and so is Rebecca but you are my Becky, and I love you.”
“I love you too Mama.”
Caroline kissed Becky good night and turned out the light. She had an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach.
“Jamison, do you think it's odd that a perfect stranger has chosen to change Becky's name to Rebecca?” She said to her husband who was playing a game of checkers with Kenny.
Kenny looked up and said, “Becky doesn't like to be called Rebecca. Papa use to call her that when he yelled at her to stop singing.”
“She doesn't seem to mind now. She likes this woman called Valentine. I'm going to have to speak with Molly about her. I know she is Molly's cousin but Nettie told me Molly hadn't seen her in years and at that time she was called Verna. It just doesn't feel right to me.”
“Kenny, your mama is a worry wart but it's better to be safe. Luke is questioning her motives too. He is going to ask Sheriff Mendenhall to see if he can discover anything about her through the Brooklyn Police Department. Kenny, don't mention this to Becky. I'd hate to keep her from seeing the woman if she is on the up and up. Becky is a loveable little girl and maybe Valentine is just being kind.”
Caroline was happy the sheriff would be involved. She slept fitfully and decided she would speak to Molly in the morning about her cousin.
After church the following day, Caroline stopped for Becky in her Sunday school class. Molly was teaching that day.
“Hi Molly, Where is Becky, did she go off with Cassandra?”
“No, Nick came to take Cassandra home. Lucinda is suffering from a bout of morning sickness and Nick was worried about her. Some of the children went out in the yard when class ended. It is such a beautiful day.”
Caroline wanted to speak with Molly about her cousin but she was worried about Becky and went out to look for her.
She noticed her talking to Valentine under the oak tree on the other side of the street. Her voice was shaking as she called to her daughter.
“Becky, come here dear. We will be leaving shortly.”
Becky gave Valentine a hug which made Caroline even more uncomfortable. She came running across the street waving goodbye to Valentine on the way.
“What were you and Valentine talking about Becky?” Caroline tried to sound calm but Becky noticed the edge in her voice.
“Are you mad at me, Mama?”
“No dear, I just couldn't find you and I was worried that's all. Why did you go across the street?”
“Valentine wanted to show me a flower in the Hawthorne's garden. She said it looked like a star and that I could be a star someday because I sing so pretty. I like Valentine, she always tells me I'm pretty and I sing pretty. She asked me if I thought you and Papa would let me go to New York City with her someday.”
Caroline was tempted to approach Valentine who was still across the street and staring in their direction. She thought better of it, but she did want to talk with Oscar Crowley today. That uneasy feeling just wouldn't go away.
Jamison came strolling across the lawn carrying Lucy with Kenny walking behind.
“Where have you two been? You disappeared on me. You had me worried. I guess it must be catching.”
Kenny and Becky started running ahead. They caught up with Iris Taylor and April Hawthorne.
Caroline told Jamison about finding Becky across the street with Valentine and the conversation the two of them had.
“I'm worried Jamison. I want to talk with Oscar about this girl. I just have a bad feeling about her. You don't suppose she is a relative of Becky's parents do you?”
“I don't know but something doesn't seem right. There's Oscar now. You keep an eye on Becky and I'll go speak to him.”
Just then Lucy began to cry and distracted Caroline. When she looked up she could hear Kenny calling Becky's name. There was no answer.
“Jamison, come quickly. Becky has disappeared.”
Everyone walking from church heard Caroline's cries. They all came running and looking for Becky.
“Rebecca is with me, we were talking about her singing career.” said a smug Valentine.
Becky looked a little fearful. She liked Valentine but she really wanted to play with her friends. She was tired of talking about singing and that was all Valentine wanted to talk about.
“Her singing career? What singing career? Becky sings for her pleasure and the pleasure of those around her. She is seven years old. She doesn't have a career and won't for many years, if ever! Who are you anyway and why are you harassing my daughter?”
Caroline was still holding Lucy who began crying even louder. Becky was in tears and Kenny took her hand and moved her away from Valentine.
“You don't understand!” cried Valentine. “I promised Arnold I would bring him a client. Becky has a beautiful singing voice and we can make her a star. She will be happy, I'll make sure of it. I won't let Arnold be mean to her, I promise.”
“The woman is mad!” shouted Jamison. “Leave Becky alone and leave my family alone. Molly who is this woman? I can't believe she is related to you.”
Laura Hawthorne came over and offered to take the children into her house.
“That's a good idea Laura.” said Oscar knowing things were getting out of hand. “Shall we all go to our house and try to get to the bottom of this? Molly and Luke, you come too. Young lady, I am Oscar Crowley and this is my wife Nettie. Please join us. Let's not frighten the children anymore than they already are.”
Valentine walked along with everyone else. What had she gotten herself into? Arnold would be fit to be tied.
Nettie asked Trudy to make coffee for everyone. Lucy had fallen asleep in Caroline's arms.
“Let me put Lucy down in Faith's crib. We still have it set up in her old room for when she comes for a visit.” Nettie said as she carried the sleeping baby to the bedroom.
Oscar started the conversation. He tried to take on a calming tone and it worked. The hysteria had gone from Caroline's voice.
Molly spoke up. “Valentine, are you really my cousin? We only met one time and we were no older than Becky is right now. I barely remember the visit let alone remember you. Why did you seek me out?”
“Yes, I am your cousin. I meant no harm. Molly told me the little girl is an orphan. I didn't think it would matter to you if I took her to New York City to make her famous. After all you have a baby and she is your real daughter.”
Caroline had to control herself to not jump up and throttle the girl. Jamison held her arm. He knew having another shouting match would not help matters.
“Young lady,” Oscar said calmly. “Why do you think you have the right to take Becky anywhere?”
“Don't you see, I have to bring her to New York. Arnold will be angry with me if I don't. I told him I could find someone talented in Camden Corners. I saw the reviews in the papers after the play your town put on. I figured since the critics all said such nice things about the actors I could talk one of them into being a client of Arnold's. Then I heard Rebecca sing and she was the answer to my prayers.”
Oscar spoke again, “Valentine, please start at the beginning. Who is Arnold to you and why are you willing to take a child away from parents who love her so that he can make money?”
“You make it sound so terrible. I didn't mean for anyone to get hurt. I wish someone had made me a star when I was Rebecca's age.”
“Please Valentine, start at the beginning.”
“Alright. My name is really Verna. My last name is Hart and Arnold thought Valentine sounded like a Broadway star so I changed it. I lived with my family in Jamestown. I had dreamed of being famous for as long as I can remember. My brothers use to tease me that I couldn't sing and I couldn't dance. We didn't have the money for lessons so I tried to teach myself. Papa use to say that I was born with two left feet. I never knew what that meant but I knew it wasn't a good thing. Mama told me I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket and that made me feel bad too. Nobody said anything about my piano playing, they just had the piano hauled away one afternoon while I was at school.
“All through high school I dreamed of the day I would be a star. I knew if I could just get to New York City I would be able to improve my signing and dancing. Mama wanted me to marry Ronnie Ford and have a bunch of babies but that wasn't for me. I liked Ronnie but I just couldn't stay in Jamestown all my life.
“Papa wouldn't let me go to New York so I worked at the local dairy farm until I saved enough money to buy a train ticket and some extra for a boarding house. I told mama and papa I was going on a picnic with Ronnie and put my clothes in a picnic basket and caught the next train out of town.
“I was sure that my dreams would all come true the day I stepped off the train. New York wasn't what I thought it would be. I couldn't see Broadway and didn't even know how to get there. My money was running out quickly. I lived in a boarding house with six roommates and some of them had men coming into the room. I couldn't sleep most nights and didn't know what I was going to do. One of the other girls told me I needed to get an agent and she told me about Arnold Bloomfield. She said he would be able to get me a job. I went to see him and he helped me move out of the boarding house and into a room in his office. He told me I could stay there if I would take care of his business.
“He didn't have very many clients but the ones he did have were all very pretty girls who wore a lot of makeup and not a lot of clothes. I thought they were showgirls and had to dress that way.
“Everything was going well until one day when the police banged the door down and took all the books right out from under me. Arnold was hauled off to jail. Someone paid the fine to get him out. I think it might have been the lady who lives downstairs. Her name is Clara Bella.
“I love Arnold. He helped me when I didn't have anywhere to go. He gets mad sometimes but it's only because I do something wrong. He told me it was my fault that the police arrested him because I told them about the girls who performed on Broadway. I didn't say anything to anybody but it must have been my fault that Arnold lost all his money. That's why I wanted Rebecca to come with me. She would be a big star. I just know it.”
Molly had to ask, “Valentine, did Arnold strike you? Is that where the bruise on your face came from?”
“He only hits me when I do wrong. He is always sorry afterward. I know he loves me. He takes care of me and I don't have anywhere else to go.”
Valentine began to cry. Nettie put her arm around the girl and led her into the other room.
Caroline spoke. “That man should be horsewhipped. He has brainwashed that young girl. Did you hear her say everything that evil man did was her fault? What can we do to help her?”
Tears ran down Molly's face. She couldn't believe what she had heard.
“I wonder if her parents even know where she is. Luke, I have to try to find them. I think I might have the address in Mama's keepsakes. I thought about looking for her address book the other day when I was beginning to suspect Valentine was up to no good. Oscar, do you think she is capable of kidnapping a child?”
“I think she is a very troubled young woman. I'd like to have Doc check her out. He would know more about her psychological condition than I do. She has definitely been brainwashed. I only hope it isn't too late.”
Luke said, “I'll go over and ask Doc to pay her a visit. Molly, why don't you see if you can find that address? I think we should get in touch with her family if we can.”
“Both are good ideas,” said Oscar. “I think we should talk to Doc before calling the sheriff. We'll see what he has to say.”
Caroline and Jamison held hands. They were both thinking about what could have happened if Valentine had taken Becky to New York. Caroline couldn't stop shaking.