“Madam, you and your children need to come with me,” a police officer stated. He was from the police nationale.
Mom gazed up at him and asked: “Why, what have we done? We’ve only been sightseeing here on vacation. We have our passports and travel Visas.”
“If you come with me, right now, this will be much easier,” the officer said. I shivered at his cold impersonal accented tone.
My Mom attempted to speak but the officer squeezed her arm tightly and picking her up, deposited her in the back if his police car.
My sisters and I peered up at the officer scared spitless. “We didn’t do anything,” I said. “I’m twelve and my two sisters are ten-years old twins. We aren’t bad kids.”
The officer nodded at me. I could hear my Mom crying and banging her hands against the window in the police car. My sisters Paige and Monique were crying silently.
“What’s your name Cher?” The officer asked me. His French accent was thick when he spoke English.
“I’m Brianne, what did my Mom do?” The officer didn’t say anything, but he nodded to one of his fellow officers.
“We need to talk to your Mom about some things for a while. This is officer Carson, he’s going to take you back to your hotel. You girls can watch movies and swim in the pool. Don’t leave and always ask Carson when you want to do something. He’ll take you for repas du soir later on,” the officer said. He smiled at me and I could tell his smile was forced.
“But our Mom . . .” Paige and Monique whined. It was no use. Officer Carson herded us into his vehicle and drove us back to the hotel we were staying with our Mom.
We played in the pool, pretending we enjoyed it. We watched three movies on pay-per-view and then some cartoons on TV. We played on our Mom’s tablet, emailing our Uncle Reese and asking what we should do. The message always came back to Mom’s email, saying the email address was wrong, but we knew better.
At 4:00 pm Officer Carson came back from the gift shop with chips, popcorn, pop, and chocolate bars. Paige and Monique were happy to eat what they could; mom didn’t let us have much junk food, even on vacation. I had a square of delicious Belgian chocolate and almost threw-up.
Later around 8:00 pm, Carson told us to put on nice clothes for dinner. We dined at a trendy restaurant and the food was magnifique. By this time the smell of the delicious food in the restaurant and my hunger had surpassed the twisted and nauseous feeling in my stomach.
“My Mom, what if she can’t afford all this?” I asked Carson referring to all we’d done so far. Our family had scrounged and saved to travel to a few countries in Europe this year. Mom thought it was vital for us to have the experience traveling to see history, and other cultures.
Officer Carson appeared thoughtful. “It’s okay Brianne. Ne tu inquites pas. We’ll take care of things until your Mom returns. I nodded. I didn’t know what else to say.
That night we went to bed sleeping fitfully. The next morning Carson awoke us and told us we would be sightseeing today. He told us about various places we could visit and let us choose a couple of them to see. We went to the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. We didn’t have to wait in line at all; we immediately were able to see what we wanted first.
The four of us continued site seeing for the next week, never seeing our Mom. We always went out to dinner at a different restaurant each night to dine. Carson enjoyed eating well.
One day, Carson even took us to H&M and some clothing stores for girls our age and let us each have one-hundred-and-fifty Euros to shop. We didn’t question Carson on this, even though it was a lot of money to us. We decided to spend eighty Euros and save the rest of the money for emergency.
Caron seemed to know, “Vous etes des files intelligences pour economiser de l’argent. Bon les files.” He smiled at us, a rare occurence. We understood a bit of French from school and found ourselves picking it more with Carson. He brought us back to the hotel to spend the rest of the day watching movies and swimming.
Three-weeks later our Mom returned. We cried when we saw her. I thought I’d never see her again and I gathered Paige and Monique thought the same.
Mom appeared awful, unkept, and waif thin. She immediately went to bed, waking up in the middle of the night to shower. A wardrobe of various designer clothes and shoes was later delivered to her that week and Carson handed her a cheque for a large amount of money. My Mom’s eyes nearly popped out of her head.
“For all your troubles Madam,” Carson told her and disappeared; we never saw him again.
After Mom recovered for a couple of weeks, she decided we should continue to travel. A Doctor which had come to see her every two-days declared her fit and well.
“Now that we have the money, we can travel throughout Europe and see many countries, not only three,” Mom told us. She smiled almost like her old-self and arranged for us to go everywhere we wanted and stay in nice hotels.
Later I thought back to this and realized Mom was running from the demons chasing her inside, from her nightmares, and her flashbacks.
On a beach in Grenada, Spain, Mom finally said: “Girls I suppose it’s time we go home, you’ve missed a month of school already.”
We didn’t want to leave. We were worried about or Mom. She hadn’t been the same person since the police first took her away.
I’d given her space and only asked once or twice what happened to her. She ignored me. She wouldn’t talk to Paige or Monique either.
” I can’t tell you. That’s why we’ve so much money now Brianne,” she finally said to me.
Years later, I’m thirty-six and visiting my Mom. She is paging through a scrapbook of our European vacation.
“You never said,” I began,”You never told me or anyone what happened to you in France. I know the memories give you nightmares still. What did the French police do to you Mom?”
To my surprise she answered me. “Your Dad, you never knew him. I divorced him when you were only three-years-old and the twins one-years-old. He was a bad person, involved in things even in Europe which were awful and illegal.” A tear slipped out my Mom’s eye.
“When we came through France, they thought I was there to see your Dad. They promised they wouldn’t hurt my daughters but treat them well, if I told them everything I knew about your Dad. I told them I hadn’t seen him in almost ten-years that he was a terrible low-life, wanted across the North America.”
“They wanted more. The police thought I had to be in contact with him. They were sure I was here to see him. For a week they tortured me, wouldn’t let me sleep, and other worse things. Eventually, they believed me and promised to let me go if I helped catch your Dad and draw him out from hiding so they could arrest him. Their plan worked, your Dad’s locked up forever,” my Mom said.
“Mom, how could you not say anything all these years? How did you manage to travel around Europe after being . . .”
She cut me off. “Money Brianne. Millions and millions in US funds. Enough to send my three daughters to the best universities and give you everything I couldn’t before. Enough money to wipe out the misery of thattime in my life.”
“Did it work? I asked my Mom.
She sighed tears forming, “It’s money Brianne. It makes things better and hides the truth. But in the end, the truth of what I went through is always there behind my eyes when I close them. I’m thankful Carson took care of you Brianne and Paige and Monique. He treated you well as the police promised he would. Above all, I was grateful and am grateful for that.”
Mom closed her eyes and the tears continued to streak down her cheeks.
Thank you to Wandering Soul who host this challenge each week. You can complete the prompt sentences and add two sentences of your own or use the sentence to write your own story based on the sentence. This week’s prompt sentence is: ” The harried woman looked at me, aggravatedly. I couldn’t care less.”
The harried woman looked at me, aggravatedly. I couldn’t care less. I only needed to pay for my new driver’s license and have a new picture of myself taken.
The woman named Jill pretended not to see me. I knew from the length of the line-up she had been busy all day. I felt bad for Jill but at the same time, I had been standing in line one hour and there were four other ladies working at counters serving people politely and in a timely manner.
Why was the line I was in moving so slowly? The other women at their booths were cheery, as if they were attempting to do the best job they could, despite the constant flow of people.
But Jill sat in front of me and wouldn’t even look at me when I cleared my throat. She took her time drinking a soft drink until it was half-empty and pulled out a bag of ketchup chips from her desk drawer. Jill ate the chips slowly, licking her fingertips afterwards.
She didn’t bother to wipe off her hands or use hand sanitizer. Jill peered up at me finally giving me be a grumpy stare and said: “What would you like Ma’am?” My eyes went wide as she emphasized the title ‘Ma’am.’ She was using the title on purpose, to be insulting.
I smiled at her trying to be genuine.”My those chips looked tasty. It must be difficult to take a break when there are long line-ups. I like your nail polish, what colour is that, Jade?”
Jill looked at me distrustingly. “How can I help you?” She asked snidely. I sighed.
“Listen Jill, I have been waiting for help from you for an hour and a half and all I need to do is renew my driver’s license and take a new picture for the license.” I handed her my old driver’s license and I paid for a new license. Jill was fast with her computer skills to my surprise.
“Picture is fine, it doesn’t need retaking,” Jill said, trying to speed up the process of moving me through the line.
“I would like a new picture. I’ve lost twenty-pounds since my old picture.” I told Jill and she giggled.
“Still a ways to go?” I was taken a back. Especially after I regarded Jill’s plump form which was fuelled by junk food, as far I was concerned.
“Actually my weight is great, right on par for my height. Thank you for asking, let’s get that picture taken, shall we?”
Jill rolled her eyes and directed me where to sit and quickly snapped a picture. I glanced at the photo on her computer screen, “No, that’s a bad photo. Please take one more. Take pictures until you get one where I look decent.” Jill only took one more picture.
“We’re going to use this one,” she said trying to sound authoritive. It was better then the first one at least. I glanced at Jill again. What in the world was going on in her life that she was acting so miserable and rude?
I heard her take the next customer as I walked away. She drank the remainder of her soft drink before helping an elderly man. She told him to hurry up and that she didn’t have time to explain everything too him. I was going to go back and defend the man, but he seemed to be doing fine, pounding his fist on Jill’s desk and asking to see Jill’s manager.
What turns a person into a woman who behaves such as Jill? I wondered.