"Ree-tard! Ree-tard! Rita the Retard!"
The sing-song taunt played over and over in her head.
The song changed to a jeering, "Rita can't read! Rita can't read!"
and then returned to, "Ree-tard! Ree-tard! Rita the Retard!"
All those kids surrounding her, taunting her, some even poking her, pulling her hair.
Why did they keep picking on her?
Why was she the one singled out as their target, their scapegoat?
What had she ever done to them?
Why didn't someone, anyone, put a stop to it?
Did nobody know what was going on?
Did nobody care?
Would nobody help her?
And then, the anguished, desperate, pleading cry, "LEAVE ME ALONE!"
The sobs she could not hold back.
But that only made them mock her, pick on her, taunt her, all the more.
"Crybaby, crybaby! Retarded crybaby!"
She sat bolt upright in bed, gasping, covered, absolutely soaked, with sweat.
"That dream again?" her husband asked.
"Honey, it was so long ago. Can't you just let go of the memories?"
"No, Ambrose," she answered, "I can't let go of the memories because the memories won't let go of me."
"Maybe you should," he hesitated and then said, "talk to a professional."
"Maybe," she answered.
But she doubted that any therapist, no matter how skilled and sensitive, could stop the nightmares, could get the voices out of her head.
If only she could tell Rita she was sorry.