Saturday, October 20, 2012
Safe at Home
Safe at Home
“If there is nothing more we can do here, maybe we should gather the children and go home. Oscar, you will let us know if Caroline and I can do anything to help.” Jamison said as Caroline carried Lucy into the room.
“Thank you, Oscar for opening your home to Valentine. I feared her before and now I feel so very sorry for her. I hope she will be able to survive this,” said Caroline.
“Doc should be here any minute now. You two run along and hug little Becky extra tightly. If it hadn't been for your instincts that things weren't quite right with Valentine we may have had a tragedy on our hands,” Oscar said.
Doc arrived along with Julie.
“I thought maybe Julie would be able to get through to the girl if what Luke said was correct and she has been brainwashed. Luke filled us in on her scheme. Julie and I will talk with the girl and see what we can find out. This is not our area of expertise, but we will give it a try.” Doc said as Oscar showed him to the room where Nettie had taken Valentine.
Molly returned with the news she had telegraphed the Hart family at the address in her mother's book.
“I waited for a reply and it came back within just a few minutes. Valentine's mama and papa will be boarding the train bound for Camden Corners in less than one hour. I hope I have done the right thing and not made it worse for Valentine. Oh Luke, I don't even know these people. From what Valentine said earlier, they teased her about her singing and dancing and took away her piano so she couldn't play it. I wonder if they are just as mean as Arnold Bloomfield.”
“Molly, you had to notify them. I'm sure if they are mean as you fear, Oscar won't let them make matters worse for Valentine.”
“Oscar, as soon as Doc and Julie finish talking with Valentine, Luke and I will take her back to the apartment. You and Nettie have done enough and she is my cousin.”
“Let's just let her stay here for the time being. Her parents can visit her and if need be we have the room for them to stay overnight. I don't want to alarm you but we don't know what this character, Arnold is capable of. He may decide to pay Valentine a visit to speed up any evil plan he had in mind.”
Nettie stepped into the room. “Trudy has made a light meal. Let's all get something to eat. It is well past the lunch hour and you need to keep your strength up.”
As they were eating, Doc came into the room.
“Valentine is a disturbed young woman as you all know. Julie is still talking with her. From what she indicated, my guess is Arnold was grooming her to be one of his ladies. For some reason he had not progressed in that area as yet. She is such an innocent maybe he was afraid she wouldn't be profitable. The talent agency was just a front for his prostitution operation.”
“Valentine had read the reviews in the paper regarding the play. She told Arnold she had relatives in Camden Corners. He read about the talent contest and thought it might be an opportunity to recruit his own kind of talent. He convinced young girls he could make them a star but never had any intention of following through. Their money ran out and they were forced into a life they never dreamed of. I do believe he used drugs to entice them. My guess is Valentine never did succumb to that pressure. She doesn't appear to have used drugs. She truly seems to not know what was going on beneath her nose. Although Arnold's preference were young girls, I don't believe he would go so far as to accept a girl Becky's age for his purposes. Valentine thought she had found someone who would be able to bring in money for years and years. It is a very sad situation. I do believe with the love of a family and some time, Valentine will be just fine. Julie is sitting with her and listening to her talk. Molly, were you able to contact her parents?”
“Yes Doc, they will be arriving in 30 minutes. Luke, would you wait at the train station with me? I'm nervous that I may not have done the right thing.”
“Valentine talked about her family. She misses them but is ashamed to face them. I'm sure you did the right thing Molly.”
The train pulled into the station. An older couple stepped onto the platform. Molly didn't recognize them but could tell by the worried looks on their faces that they must be Valentine's parents.
“Mr. & Mrs. Hart?” Molly asked. “I'm Molly and this is my husband Luke. Verna is at our friend's home.”
Mr. Hart said, “Call me Ray and this is my wife Ruth. Molly, thank you so much for wiring us. We haven't seen or heard from Verna in over a year. We were afraid she was dead.”
They were silent on their way to the Crowley home. Oscar greeted them at the door and invited them in. Sitting on a chair in the parlor was their daughter.
“Verna, my baby. I can't believe it's you,” Ruth Hart said holding daughter in her arms. Ray stood behind trying to keep the tears from flowing but not succeeding. Oscar stepped out of the room to give the Harts some time to be with their daughter alone.
Several minutes later, Ray Hart opened the door.
“Please come in everyone. Verna said she would like you to be here with us.”
Everyone walked into the room and sat quietly.
“Doc Julie said I should be open about my feelings,” Valentine began. “First of all, I think Valentine Hart is the most ridiculous name I have ever heard and I would like to be called by my real name. As you said Molly, Verna was our great grandmother and I think it's a very pretty name too. I'm not going to tell you that I understand what was happening in my head in the last year. Doc Julie said just getting out of that environment has started the healing process. I now know that I have no talent for singing or dancing and I will never be a Broadway star. I'm not even sure why I wanted it in the first place. I did work for Arnold Bloomfield and even convinced myself that he was a good man who would take care of me always. The first few weeks I was in New York was a nightmare. I didn't realize it at the time but I was living in a brothel. I was so terribly naïve and scared. I wanted to come home but I was ashamed to face everyone. I had convinced myself that if I found just one person who Arnold could make famous he would give up all the other women and marry me. I can't believe I planned to take Becky away from her home. She is such a sweet little girl. Maybe I was trying to relive my childhood through her. I know her parents will never forgive me for that.”
Nettie spoke up, “They have forgiven you already dear. They know now it wasn't your intention to hurt Becky in anyway. You will just have to work on forgiving yourself.”
Ruth smiled at Nettie. How fortunate Verna remembered Camden Corners and these wonderful people. It had been so many years since the family visited Ray's cousin.
“Verna dear,” her mother said. “You may not have been talented in singing and dancing but you do have talent. After you disappeared, I read your diary. I'm sorry about doing that but we were desperate for clues to your whereabouts. It was in reading your words that I realized your talent lies in your writing skills. We may have been unkind when we said your singing voice and dancing skills weren't good enough to make you stand out. We should have told you we were getting rid of the piano but someone offered to buy the old thing from us and we needed the money for food at that time. If you remember, your father was hurt on the job and couldn't work for six months. I didn't like putting a damper on your dreams but I was afraid you were setting yourself up to be hurt.”
“It looks like you were right, Mama. I was hurt but now I can see more clearly. I'm almost afraid to ask but how is Ronnie Ford? Is he married or engaged?”
“Not that I know of dear. He doesn't come by as often as he did when you first went away. He went to New York looking for you. He was sure he would run into you. I don't think the poor chap knew just how large that city is. He opened his own mechanic shop just a few months ago. I understand he is doing well. We have several automobiles in Jamestown now and Ronnie went right to the Ford Motor Company to study how to fix them. It's not an exciting life back home.”
Verna thought carefully, “Maybe an exciting life is not always the happiest life.”
The Harts accepted the Crowley's hospitality and stayed in Camden Corners for a few days. Verna was feeling like her old self again by the end of the visit. She had a meeting with Sheriff Mendenhall and he contacted his friend in the New York Police Department with enough evidence to put Arnold Bloomfield behind bars for a very long time.
She visited Caroline and Jamison and apologized for the anguish she had caused them. As Nettie had promised they had already forgiven her. She spent some time with Becky and told her to continue to sing because she wanted to and not because she would be famous. Becky told her she was going to be a nurse in the big hospital someday and she would sing lullabies to all the sick people. Verna thought that would be wonderful.
Doc and Julie felt Verna was well enough to go back to Jamestown. They would forward her records to her hometown doctor but they had the feeling she would be just fine. “Thank heaven she had the good sense to refuse the drugs he was offering. No telling what would have happened to her,” Julie said to her father.
After a tearful goodbye, the Hart's were on the train headed home. Verna was excited to see her brothers again and was looking forward to visiting the new mechanic shop and its owner.
Molly and Verna kept in touch through the years. Verna's mother was correct, her talent was in her writing. She went to school to become a journalist and wrote for the local newspaper. Ronnie had never stopped loving her and couldn't believe his eyes when she walked into his shop that day. They were married three months later. They had six children and all of them had beautiful singing voices. It turned out Ronnie was a talented singer. Verna never suggested any of her children look into show business as a career. They were perfectly happy singing in the church choir.
Things settled down in Camden Corners. The talent show went on as planned. Everyone had a wonderful time. Nobody sent invitations to any of the New York critics this time. They made well over enough money to pay back the library loan. Helene Robinson was happy to inform Mr. Ellis of the Greensboro Free Library that Camden Corners Library would be remaining in the jurisdiction of the Town of Camden Corners.
Storytime with Miss Isabelle continued uninterrupted on Wednesday afternoon and every Wednesday afternoon from then on.