Kidnapped at a young age, a young girl is beaten by those that kidnapped her. When she lands in the hospital with a head injury at the age of ten, her kidnappers are arrested and thrown in jail. What happens when she wakes up in the hospital and learns the injury has deafened her? How does she tell the police about everything that has happened in her life thus far? How does she tell her social worker what has happened? Will she ever get back to her real family, now that she doesn't live in the same country? Will she have to spend the rest of her life searching for her birth family? How does this shape who she becomes?
Chapt.1: A Kidnapping:
I was four when Rita and Mark took me from my family. Four when I lost everything that I had ever known. I knew that I didn't belong to them and I cried constantly for my mom. My crying got me hit. The hitting continued every time I cried for something that I no longer had. Rita and Mark made sure that nobody could find me, because they knew that my family was looking for me. We traveled in a small RV and they always had the radio on tuned to the news. I could hear my parents pleading through the radio and on the news for Rita and Mark to bring me home, that if they just brought me home, there would be no trouble. But they knew that if they took me home, they would be arrested.
Originally from Canada, they crossed back over the border two days after taking me. The rental car they had snatched me in had been given back. And when police found the car, they would learn that it had been rented by a couple using a fake name and the entire car had already been cleaned so no prints could be found. When we crossed the border, we were stopped briefly. They already had the papers they needed to get me across the border. Apparently, their daughter was back home and we looked so much alike that her passport worked for me as well. The Border Patrol Agents never batted an eye and let us pass. I looked back the way we had come as I watched my home state disappear behind us and the tears flowed freely, though I had learned not to make a sound. Rita looked back at me and saw the tears but said nothing; she seemed to realize that I was no forever theirs and that I was finally realizing that I didn't belong to the state of Washington anymore.
It took us another week to get to their home. They lived on two acres near a dog farm in Dawson, Yukon Territory. The farm next door raised dogs for dog sledding. Rita and Mark never used them but they did have snowmobiles. From what I remembered of my father, he liked snowmobiling and he wanted us to experience it with him. Once at their home, Rita and Mark moved me into the bedroom that I was to be living in. I assumed their daughter's name, who was nowhere to be found. I soon found out why though. Their daughter never even existed. They had birth records for her, a social security number, a passport and all these documents for a girl that didn't even exist. The pictures on the walls of the girl were pictures of myself, somehow taken without my family knowing. They all showed a loving and spirited girl who loved everything around her. I took one of the pictures and held it to my face. Without them knowing, the picture didn't just show me; my dad was in the picture. I kept the picture with me, hiding it in a drawer in the room; I would have to find a new place for it after a while.
Rita and Mark settled into their life with me. They went about their daily routines, let me out of the house (since the only neighbor was a mile away; his property was huge), helped me get used to the extreme cold at all times and made sure that if I went into town with them, that people believe we belonged together as a family. The people in town never questioned my sudden appearance. And I was expected to go to school like nothing had ever happened. But being only four when they took me, I wouldn't have to go to school until I was five so that meant they had a whole year to groom me to say what they wanted people to know. They had a whole year to brainwash me into being their daughter. Over the few months that I was first with them, only one would go into town, neither with me as they wanted to let everything settle before shocking me to the town. The town was small and Rita and Mark lived on the outskirts.
As they started to condition me to say what they wanted me to say when out and about, Mark started to like hitting me, over and over again. Rita never joined in on hitting me until I got older and started to make mistakes around the house; she didn't need to, I was already terrified that they would one day see no more need for me and kill me. But the beating started to get less and less frequent around the time school started up. At the age of five, I did not talk much, I was too afraid to say the wrong thing and get a beating. The bruises were gone by the time I started school. Rita would take me to school and pick me up after she got off of work. She started working at a local diner while I was in school. Mark worked around the house and helped out on the dog farm. And that's how life was, sort of.
Chapt.2: A Semi-Normal Life:
As life went on, the beating only happened when I did something wrong or forgot to do something altogether. Mark's job at the Dog Farm was still active and on the weekends the three of us would venture over to the farm together. Rita would help in the kitchen and Mark would do his normal thing. It was the first time I felt normal. I still didn't talk much, I knew better since we were around other people. But the dogs and puppies were super cute and I would always light up when I saw them. On one particular occasion, we were getting ready to leave when a puppy ran up to me and jumped on me. We both fell to the ground and instead of screaming in pain, I screamed in laughter. Rita, Mark and the Dog owner came running. The puppy was licking my face and I was laughing trying to keep my face from his tongue. Rita pulled out the camera that she'd started to bring on these weekend trips and snapped a picture. She knew that one day I would want this picture, to know that there was still some good in the world.
Mark pulled me up and the puppy fell off of me as he did so. The puppy stayed next to me as if asking if he was coming with us. I looked up at Mark and begged him with my eyes. And the words that came from my mouth were "please, dad, I won't ever ask for anything else ever again". I guess that's what did it for Mark. I had called him 'dad' like he had beaten into me. He caved and looked over at the Dog Breeder who let us take the puppy home that day. Mark paid for the puppy and I picked it up. I marched over to the car and Rita opened the door. I put the puppy inside and then climbed in after it. I buckled the seat belt and then Rita and Mark got into the car. Before leaving, Mark turned around and said that the puppy would be my sole responsibility and that if I didn't take care of it, he would bring it back to the farm and I would never see it again. I only nodded and he looked at Rita. He gave her a look that said she better keep an eye on me and the puppy.
When we got back home, I jumped from the car, picked the puppy up and followed Rita into the house. Rita went into the kitchen and I just stood in the living room. Mark had not followed us in so I set the puppy on the ground and went to the front door. He was backing out of the driveway as I shut the door. I went back to the puppy who had ventured into the kitchen where Rita was. She smiled at me and set a bowl of milk on the ground. The puppy lapped at the milk. I sat down and watched my new pet as he greedily drank the milk. Rita set in a chair in the living room and asked what I was going to name my new puppy. I thought for a while before coming up with a name. I said that I would name him Terry. She said that that was a nice name, though she didn't know that that was the name of my birth father. When the puppy was done eating, I stood up and went into my room. The puppy followed and as I pulled out a notebook to start writing in it (something that had been given to me by Rita, who said a girl should always be able to write down her feelings), the puppy lay down at my feet. When Mark got home, he had a collar with him with the dog's name on it. Rita must have called him to let him know what I had named the puppy. He placed the collar around Terry's neck and said that I was to look after him at all times.
As Terry grew, I became more independent on the property. I venture out more and more while left alone during the weekends (if I didn't have any homework), learned how to skirt Mark's beatings better as Terry was able to get in the way most times before it got too bad, learned to cook with the help of Rita, and learned that I did have a voice, though I didn't use it much. I kept a journal as much as I could. When I ran out of pages in one journal, another journal would suddenly appear on my desk. Terry was a Malamute Husky and he went everywhere I did, except school. As I got older, Mark would take Terry back over to the Dog Farm while I was in school and then bring him back when school let out. Terry got trained on the Farm while I was at school. Mark wanted me to be able to go into town on a dog sled so Terry was being taught how to drag a sled and carry people.
When I was eight, I woke up one day to Mark standing in my doorway. He said it was time for me to start going to school on my own. He had a surprise for me. He left the room so I could get dressed and waited as I combed my hair and brushed my teeth. When I was ready, had my lunch and school bag packed, I followed Mark outside with Terry by my side. Outside, was an almost new sled. Mark showed me how to harness Terry into the sled and said that while in school, Terry was to be tied up and now allowed within the school, unless it was an especially cold day. Mark said that it was probably a good idea that I can help out around the house more often, since I was getting older. When Rita came outside, before I left for school that day, she gave me a new coat and said that I was to stay warm at all times.
I left for school that day knowing that they were trusting me with something they had never trusted me with before. I was free as I was going to get. The Sled was mine. I could keep whatever I wanted in it. After that day, I started to ask for things that I needed for the sled. I asked for plastic totes so that I could keep things safe from the snow and harsh weather as I traveled between town and the property. Believing that I just wanted to keep my backpack in the tote and maybe some food for Terry and myself, Mark got me the plastic tote. They were two 19 gallon totes with lids that were held shut with handles. Rita and I positioned the totes inside the sled and made sure that they didn't move around by putting them right next to each other. One tote held Terry's food and water bottles so that I could give him something to drink on hot days during the summer. In the second tote, I kept my backpack, shoebox of journals and anything else I deemed mine. I had a CD player with some CD's that Rita had gotten for me. Over the years, I had been given some books to read and they went into the tote as well. If Mark and Rita knew what I wrote about in my journals, they would have thrown them all away. Taped in the very first journal I had been given, was the picture of me with my father in the background. I kept that journal on the very bottom. On the back of the picture I had written the name of my father and mother and who I was as well as where I had been taken from.
When I turned ten, things started to get worse for me. Yes, I still had Terry and I still had the sled and totes, but Mark was starting to get very possessive of me. Rita saw it too and she did her best to keep him from hurting me. Over the years, Rita had come to regret her decision to help Mark kidnap me and hold me hostage for so long. And it was on one of her trips into town with Terry and the sled that Mark got what he wanted. She had told me that she was going to the police. She knew that I kept my journals in one of the totes on my sled. She knew what to hand over to the police. She didn't want Mark to kill Terry or burn everything that I owned so she said that she would take the sled into town to get something fixed on it. She had purposely broken it so that she had to go into town to fix it. When Rita was gone, Mark came into the house. I was in the kitchen doing the dishes when he walked up behind me. I knew that something was off almost immediately. Mark was never this close to me, ever.
I closed my eyes before shutting the dishwasher and turning around. I tried to get passed him, but he wouldn't let me. He stood with his arms crossed and a growl on his face. Before I could say anything, he lashed out. His fist made contact with my cheek and I hit the ground. It had been nearly half a year since the last time Mark had hit me. I had gotten too comfortable with the new him. I had thought that he had changed for the better; I was wrong. He continued to hit me in the face and after trying to get up, hit the ground again. At ten, I wasn't strong enough to stand up to him and I knew that Rita wouldn't get back from town any time soon. She needed to convince the town police that she and Mark had really kidnapped me and the I was in grave danger as Mark had turned violent the night before, screaming at Rita for some unknown reason. Mark was becoming unstable and she didn't know if I would be safe for much longer. With Rita around, Mark had always been held back from beating me too severely with Rita at the house. Now he had free range to do what he wanted. With both Rita and my dog Terry out of the house, it was time to do what he had wanted for nearly two years.
The beating continued even though I was on the ground. He began to kick me as well as punch me. Most of the blows were to my face and by the time he realized that someone else was in the house, it was too late. He was pulled off of me by the cops. Rita was keeping Terry out of the house and when the medics were able to get a good look at me, my face and head were bloodied and the rest of my body was badly bruised. A helicopter was called and I was transported to a hospital in Whitehorse, where I would have better medical attention. Rita was arrested as well, but my dog and sled went to the Dog Farm. Everything on the sled was kept in the totes, though the journals were taken by the FBI as evidence. The owner of the Dog Farm kept Terry safe and moved the sled into a shed that wasn't being used. But Terry had never been kept from me and he was so used to sleeping inside a house that he was eventually allowed inside the farmhouse to sleep with the kids of the owner.
Once at the hospital, I was rushed immediately into surgery. A specialist had to be flown up from Vancouver. The surgery took fourteen hours to complete, with most of the damage being to my head and face. The doctor that had been flown in from Vancouver, in turn, called more doctors to come and help with my case. They needed to make sure that I led as normal a life as possible, though they would agree later that I would probably never hear again. It took two weeks and multiple surgeries to get me to look like my old self. And by that time, a social worker had been assigned to my case. The FBI had gone through my journals and had found the very first one I had written. When they looked at the photo in the back of the journal, they noticed writing on the back. Untaping it from the journal very carefully, they turned it over and learned why this picture was so important to me. They immediately got in contact with their counter partners down in Seattle and let them know what was going on. But because I had not written down the last name of my birth family, it would take some time before they were able to be located.
I was in the hospital for two months before I learned my fate in the Canadian Children Protective Services. I was ten, I needed an immediate home and I needed a home that would be able to take in a deaf child and teach her sign language. That's right; the beating that nearly ended my life had left me completely deaf. I was already learning sign language with the help of my therapist. My first immediate questions were 'when could I see my dog?' but nobody knew the answer to that and my social worker didn't understand as she wasn't told that I even owned a dog. After a while, the only question I asked was if I could have a notebook so that I could write in it. That was provided to me as well as a pen but nothing else. I had lost everything that had belonged to me. I had lost Terry, my hearing and any sense of dignity. This time I was forced into silence by not being able to hear anything at all.
So, I wrote, and I did not stop writing. When the FBI came to ask questions, I answered the best I could. When the Social Worker brought her supervisor's and they asked questions, I answered them the best that I could. And then the reporter's started to show up. I didn't answer any of their questions, the police and security guards were able to keep them away from me for now. But once I got out of the hospital, I would still be subjected to them wherever I went. My Social Worker was visiting once when a knock came at the door. I looked up as she got up to answer it. I gasped at the face standing in the doorway and a smile formed on my lips. A small nose was poking out behind the man's legs. I whistled and the man dropped the leash. Terry was up on my bed before anyone could stop him. He started licking my face and acting all hyper. I just hugged him and held him to me. After a while, he calmed down, but I wouldn't let go of him. The owner of the Dog Farm smiled and continued to speak with my Social Worker. I couldn't understand the, but it became evident what the man was asking. My Social Worker kept looking over at me and when she finally relented, waked over to me. She grabbed my notebook, flipped to a page at the back and explained what was happening.
Rick would like to take you home with him to Dawson. His family would like to take care of you. You would go to the Art Institute to get your sign language lessons every day. You would be with your dog, Terry. You would still be expected to go to school every day, though you would get help from teachers. You don't have to go if you down want to, but I have found no one to take you here, in Whitehorse. The closest I could do is down in British Columbia, which is one province down from Yukon Territory. This is up to me, but I want your opinion. You've been through enough already. I do not want to put you through more hardship than you have already been through. What do you think?
I read what she wrote. I looked up at Rick, looked down at Terry on my lap and smiled to myself. I needed to be somewhere safe, even if it reminded me of the people that had taken me in the first place. I had good memories in Dawson; most of them were on Rick's farm. I could help with the dogs, Terry could stay with me and I wouldn't get separated from everything I had ever known. This way my second chance at a good life. And once the FBI knew anything about my birth parents, they would let me know what was going on, if they found my birth family that was. I nuzzled my head down next to Terry's and inhaled deeply. He was my family, he was my home, and wherever I was going to be, he would always be by my side. I grabbed the notebook and pen and wrote out my answer.
When do we leave? Terry is my family and will always be my family. If the FBI can find my birth family, I will meet with them. But my happiest memories of my time in Dawson were on Rick's farm. I will live with him and his family until mine is found. When do we leave?
To which my social worker wrote: Rick and his family still need to become licensed Foster Parents. But until then, you will come home with me. Terry can come with. I have a nice house with a big yard. And a friend of mine is fluent in sign language. We will get you well on your way with your new language before you are moved back up to Dawson. I'm sure your friends will be glad to see that you are alright.
To which I wrote: Does this mean that I won't be able to go back home? Will I stay with Rick and his family until I grow up?
To which my social worker wrote: For now, you are safer where you can be watched at all times and taken care of. We don't want you to get into trouble. And the FBI has assured me that they will make copies of your journals and then give them back to you. You can continue to write in them and one day maybe get them published. It would be up to you. Who knows, maybe if you do get published, your birth family will read the book, if they haven't already been found.
I nodded and Rick left after getting some paperwork from Ms. Riley. Terry was able to stay with me. I was in the hospital another week before I was able to go home with Ms. Riley. Once at Ms. Riley's house, I settled into a daily routine. Being a social worker, Ms. Riley had other kids to look after. So while she was at work, I was at the local community center getting my ASL classes. According to Ms. Riley, the Art Institute in Dawson had a deaf teacher and an interpreter. I would continue my schooling with the interpreter following me around and helping me with my school work.
Chapt.4: A Safe Life:
While living with Ms. Riley, I was given a laptop computer so that I would be able to write to my heart's content. Ms. Riley said that I would need the computer for the homework I could not get done at the moment. Since my beating and hospitalization had happened during the school year, I had a ton of school work to catch up on.