and katie as laura always

Caged Bird |

He wasn’t sure how but the flight managed to last mere minutes in his mind.  Puck attributed this to the sheer focus he kept on the task ahead.  Upon landing, the drive in their rental was one he had taken so often he knew the route by sense alone, his heart growing heavier with each mile they drew closer.  Knowing he would be going in alone, he couldn’t help but draw strength from Quinn with a deliberate squeeze of her hand, more thankful than ever that she had embraced the darkest secret of his past.  Glancing through the rear view mirror, he smiled when Ivy sat up wide-eyed and for once virtually silent, as though she too understood the weight of today’s events.

Pulling into the familiar parking lot, he offered Quinn a quiet and lengthened kiss before ducking out the driver’s side door, standing tall and determined as he made his way into the building.  The minute he set foot into the main hall, he could feel it, the stench alone weighing heavily.  Today he was more thankful than ever that all of them had made the journey so frequently that they never bothered to disturb an orderly for directions on where they might find Laura.  After what he’d learned the night before, the question would be even more senseless to ask now.

Ducking into the young girl’s room, his brief glance over the walls and its paint job reminded him far too much of a New York winter.  Cold…senseless…void of feeling and personality.  What saved the dignity of these four walls was the light he could feel all but radiating off of her, even before turning to face her. Though he had no intention of doing so, he could feel his emotions pouring out of him so effortlessly he couldn’t even be bothered to wash them away.  Falling to his knees, he watched as she struggled against the damn restraints quietly taking hold of her arm to slip them off for her.  The minute she was free, her arms came up over her head eagerly, her every cell begging to be held.

“Good morning, pretty girl.”  Not at all surprising, what she lacked in verbal response she made up for in proximity, her entire body releasing what he knew to be years of pain and torment as she buried herself in his chest.  While he held her as close as he could, his eyes drifted over to Kurt who he could tell hadn’t moved in hours.  “Kurt…It’s all good man.  I’ve got her.”  Once he was able to rub sleep from his eyes, Kurt could see a degree of gratitude in the other man’s face he wasn’t sure he recognized.  “Go ahead and go home.  They need you.  We can come back to digging this up later.”  “Is she alright?”  “Yeah, she’s good.  Thank you…I don’t know how to…”  “This entire family suffered unimaginable loss that day.  It’s about time we do something about it.”  “Yeah…”  “You’re not actually going to sit here and hold her, right?”  “No.  I’m going to sit and hold her at home.  I know Mama’s been dying to see her.  Though I’m not sure how she’ll be received…”  Kurt nodded squeezing his shoulder kindly.  “She missed you the most.”  “I know…”

Once they’d been left alone, the smile he found was so wide his face nearly shattered from all of the pressure.  “Tight, tight, tight?”  “Tight, tight, tight,” he echoed pressing a kiss to her hair.  “So how about it?  Is Laura ready to go home?”  “My bed!” “Yeah…your bed.  We’re going to have to do some stuff first though, okay?” Laura visibly frowned, naturally gripping his collar with fear.  “Shh…It’s going to be okay.  Noah has to talk to some grown ups.”  “Oh…”  “Yeah…It’s not as fun as it sounds.  You wanna walk?”   “Hurts….” “What hurts?  Show me.”  When her gaze fell to her ankles, Puck noted the harsh red rings around them, his stomach turning at the idea that he had missed untying them completely.  Who in the world did this to you, sweet girl? He thought, even as the answer sat screaming in his ear.  “Piggyback ride.”  “Laura wants drums…”  He smiled softly, pressing her that much closer to his heart.  “Noah?”  “Yeah baby?” “Laura has to potty…” she blushed. “Can you hold it?”  “Really, really bad…”  Kissing her temple softly, he quietly nodded his permission, feeling the moment of tension almost completely leave her frail body, quickly replaced with impossible shame.  “Can Noah ask a question?”  Laura nodded, though her face stayed buried deep in his shirt.”  “Do you remember how to go in the big girl potty?”  Laura stayed silent for a good five minutes before she quietly shook her head. “Ms. Katie said.”  “She said you couldn’t use the potty?”  “Yuhuh…”  “Why couldn’t you use the potty?”  “Only babies cry.”  “Did you tell her you weren’t a baby?”  “Yuhuh…Laura cry lots…Laura’s a baby.”  “It’s okay to cry though.  It means you’re sad.”  “Laura really sad….”  “I know…”  “Sleep lots…Forgot to potty all the time.  Laura got all wet….” “And then what?”  Ms. Katie said if Laura kept going potty in bed…If Laura kept having accidents…Laura had to be in time out.”  “You had to go to your room.”  She nodded.  “If Laura wants to cry like a baby, Ms. Katie will treat her like a baby.”  “And then what happened?”  “Ms. Katie made Laura wear pants for babies…to go potty in bed…”  Puck swallowed hard, quietly and reluctantly making his way back to the cold empty room, if for no other reason than to collect any scrap of Laura there might be.  “Laura didn’t have to walk to potty anymore.  Ms. Katie made Laura stuck when she went potty in bed.  Ms. Katie squeezed.  Laura cry more.  Ms. Katie yells loud…Laura forgets to potty.”  “Honey, how many times did Ms. Katie hurt you?”  “Always….” she whispered.  “Ms. Katie said Laura was…a word I no remember.  It has an r.  Ms. Katie said Laura’s brain broke…”  “Okay honey, you can stop…”   “Laura’s brain isn’t broke.”  “No it is not.”  “Ms. Katie lied.”  “Yes she did.  Should we get you some new pants?” he asked kissing her forehead.  Laura nodded sheepishly, gripping Puck with new found strength as they made their way back through the room.  “Don’t look…”  “Laura hide now?”  “Yes she can,” he murmured collecting the opened bag and making his way into the closest washroom.  “Does Laura want help?”  She nodded, her face flushed with embarrassment.  “Laura no remember…”  “Shh…Noah will help, okay?”  “Not mad?”  I’m not mad.”  “Laura’s a baby…”  “No she isn’t.  She made a mistake and that’s okay.  Mistakes are allowed,” he murmured helping her step before finding her eyes.  “Can Laura look at Noah?”  Laura shook her head, gaze dropped to the tiled floor.  “With eyes please.”  “No.”  “I wanna see those big beautiful eyes of yours.  I…I think I forget what they look like.” “Laura blinked, reluctant to meet his gaze.  “Come on sweet girl.  Show me those eyes.”  Wen she let them open wide, Puck barely staggered back, constantly in awe of how deeply they went.  “Good girl,” he murmured kissing her temple.

Puck could feel his heart begin to physically bleed to realize how much she’d regressed in the last two years.  “We’re going to work on that, okay?”  “Laura sorry…”  “Shh…” he murmured, once again taken by how thin she was.  “Laura broke a rule….”  “Shh…It’s okay.  Sometimes it’s allowed.”  “It’s allowed?”  “Mhm…” “Ms. Katie said….”  “I know she did.”  “Laura big girl….Not a baby…”  “I’m not sure anybody does,” he mumbled walking with determination up to the front office, set on speaking to someone who might be able to give him some answers. Sitting Laura down gently in a chair to the side, he pressed a longing kiss to her forehead before standing back up and making his way to the desk.

“Excuse me?  I’d like to speak to whoever’s in charge.”  “That would be me,” a gruff older man bellowed producing a visceral reaction from Laura who struggled to curl up into a tight ball and begin a steady rocking. “My name’s Noah Puckerman and I would like to withdraw care of Laura Lynne Franklin, effective immediately.  I’ll be taking her home with me and continuing her care on my own time and money.”  “Who has authorized your visitation to the patient?”  Puck’s face hardened considerably, the anger kept simmering at the pit of his stomach.  “I’ve been in here every Friday for the last two years like clockwork.  I haven’t had an issue with any prior visitations.”  “I’m sorry sir but…visitation and withdraw of care are two very different concepts.  If we are to release her into your care, we must ensure that you are—“ “Competent, aware of her needs and the responsibilities they require.  I also have to be financially stable and have the proper funding for all of these said needs and therapies.  I also gotta give her a loving home and family.  I can assure you, she had all of this long before you came and ripped her away from us.”  “Mr. Puckerman, I…”  “Listen, for the last couple of years my brother and I have set up camp in New York. It’s not exactly a stone throw from Ohio, I get it.  But we made the drive.  Nine hours coming and going.  Each. Every five days.  Just so we could be here for her.  Just to give her a sense of home…normalcy.  Because as I’m sure you know, people like Laura rely on predictability.  And despite the fact that you ripped her away from everything she had ever known, we reluctantly allowed you to take her, fully believing that you and your men had the resources necessary to care for her.  And I believed that for a good…six months.  Until I saw subtle changes in the way you run this place.”

“Laura thrives on what she knows.  She gets comfortable.  So imagine how things might be for her if you were to throw her in this hell-hole, void of colour and texture…of freaking life.  It’s been reported to me, very early on, that Laura refused to eat…That she struggles with sleep…That it takes three people to get her into a shower on a regular basis.  Can you explain any of this to me?”  “Sir…I…I’m not all that familiar with your patient’s case.  But I can assure you we are very highly trained—“  “Highly trained my ass!  I just found her chained to a bed like a caged animal, curled up in my brother’s lap because besides me and my mother, she doesn’t trust a soul. You might think that because she doesn’t speak the way we do that she doesn’t see or feel or understand what’s been done to her.  I will tell you right now that the only way I know just how fucked up a system you are is because a twelve year old spent two hours on the phone crying to me about how mistreated she’s been.  I would say that I hardly believe it but the evidence shows.

Two years ago she came home to me bouncing off the walls with all that she had to say.  Today she speaks in whispers, her every question blanketed in fear that one wrong move could result in punishment she hardly deserves.  There is evidence of bruising and bloody rings around her wrists and ankles because god forbid she gets up and wanders in the middle of the night. We had her potty trained by the time she was five.  One year of diligent effort took all of six months to tear apart.  She no longer has the ability to make it to the damn toilet by herself and relies on a diaper that she is embarrassed to have to use. Do you know who told me this? Laura.  The little girl who fed me paragraphs of stories almost every day with a smile on her face.  If this your idea of “care for the needy” which in and of itself is just pathetic wording, then you are going to need to try a whole lot harder.  And all of this simply because Carole Hudson wasn’t a documented foster parent.  A slip of paper doesn’t determine how competent you are to foster.  Dedication.  Determination.  Heart. And understanding are what makes a home for children like Laura.

I understand that you have her blacklisted as a result of events that took place two years ago.  On those principles I request that Laura be placed in my care moving forward.  She will not be faced with the nightmare of these four walls again.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be taking my little girl home to my mother who hasn’t held her daughter in nearly six months because you don’t know the first thing about running a facility like this.  “Sir, that’s not the wisest idea…”  “And nearly starving her to death is?” he shot back.  “Setting her back years in her social and emotional progress is wise? Rest assured that when I have the proper resources available to me, I will be taking you and your entire company down, effectively shutting your doors indefinitely.  I may have let this slip past me once.  But not anymore.  And I sure as hell won’t allow what you’ve done to Laura to happen to another family. Have yourselves a nice day.”  Quietly collecting Laura’s discharge papers, he shuffled back over to her silently, dropping to his knees as he gently pulled apart her coiled frame.

“Come here, sweetheart,” he whispered letting her wrap shaking arms around his neck as he made his way out of the building and over to their rental car. “We’ll go home…We’ll get you cleaned up…We’ll put something yummy in your tummy…”  “Laura snuggles?”  “Oh absolutely,’ he grinned.  Sliding her into the backseat, he watched her shrink back at the sight of Quinn.  “Shh…Quin is my friend, okay?  She’s really nice.”  Despite his reassurances, he found Laura curled up tightly in her seat, a subtle rocking to her position.  “Whose ready to go home?”  Laura quietly gasped in surprise, her eyes shining like a million stars as she met his gaze.  “That’s what I thought.  She’s going to be so happy to see you…”  “Mama….” “That’s right…”  “Laura, this is Quinn.  Quinn is my friend.”  “Safe…” “Yes…she’s safe,” he whispered quietly pulling out of the lot and onto the main road.  “What does Laura think we should have for dinner?”  When she refused to answer, he shrugged.  “We’ve got plenty of time for that…First things first, a nice long bath and some fresh clothes…”  “Snuggles”.  “That’s right.  We have a lot of snuggles…”  “Baby….” “Yeah, that’s a baby.  Her name is Ivy.  Can you say hi?”  He watched her quietly refuse, naturally taking hold of Quinn’s hand as he drove. “Maybe later.  She’ll be around a while.”  “Finny…”  “What about him, baby?”  “Baby…” “Can you use your words?”  Again, radio silence, though her focus on Ivy was one of fascination, as though she was looking for hints of Finn on every inch of her body.  “Laura not a baby.”  “We know you’re not.”  “Baby,” she repeated pointing to the infant.  “Not baby.” “That’s right.”  “Just Noah.” “Just me what?”  “Don’t like it.  Laura’s not a baby.  Just Noah.” “Just me what?”  “Call Laura baby.”  “Why is that?”  “Noah loves Laura.  Always.” “That’s right.”  “Even when Laura is bad.”  “No matter what…”