Its warm and cozy near the fireplace. The softness of the black leather sofa adds comfort to the warmth. Sally's crouched up on the floor in front of the fire, the orange red glow of the flames reflected in her drowsy eyes, heavy and sore from her ordeal. Her eyes seemed fixed on the red bricks beneath the ashes.
"Do all houses have stoves like this one?" Sally asks in a low lazy voice.
What kind of a life has Sally lived, in the small shelter at the mill that poses for a home. How can anybody stand the cold and dark nights? I've got to do something. I can't not just do nothing!
I grab the phone book.
"Who are you ringing Rachel?" calls Sam.
"Anyone who might help!"
Sally is startled by the knock on the door. Two police officers stand in the doorway, their uniforms looking clean and starched, their boots and buttons shining as they present their badges and ask to come in.
"Sally, this is Officer Jean and detective Bob Simpson, they are going to ask you a couple of questions if you don't mind."
The officers start asking Sally questions. They want to know who she is, where she lives and what has happened to her. Sally is reluctant about showing them her bruises and the marks on her body, but the sympathy the officers show help her to allow them to see enough. I explain to sally that they are here to help her and she is comforted, she becomes more open and starts talking about Daniel and the shelter.
"Who is Daniel?" Jean asks.
Sally's silent, and seems not to know how to answer the question, but then she slowly starts to explain Daniel to them.
Something is wrong!
The officers change their tone and attitude, when Sally mentions the name Silk. They ask her if she's talking about Mr. Silk who owns the mill, they seem to doubt everything she says after that. They wait until Sally finishes her story and then start talking about how wonderful Mr. Silk is and how well respected he is in Narrow Dale.
"Sam, would you mind taking Sally into the kitchen and make her one of your Toasted Sandwiches, she's probably hungry and you make the most delicious sandwiches!" Sally goes into the kitchen with Sam and my curiosity gets the best of me. I ask Jean, "What are you going to do? Are you going to go visit Mr. Silk at the mill? Can't you see she's afraid of him? Even I am!"
"We're going to visit the station to run some tests and fill out some forms, and then we'll go see Mr. Silk." Bob replies.
Sally and Sam come back into the room, with Sally's mouth clearly watering at the thought of biting into her tasty warm sandwich. She does not seem to be interested in what the officers are saying anymore, staring intently at her sandwich as she chews away. Some melted cheese drips on to her blouse but she does not seem to mind.
Sam, Sally and I get into the car and follow the officers to the station. We fill out the forms as the officers go into a small office and talk to their chief. The people around look friendly. All I can hear is the sound of the typewriters and the chattering of the police officers as they move around from room to room. Officer Jean and Officer Bob call for us and then we all head for Narrow Dale. Sam stops the car along the way and we step out to look from a distance at Narrow Dale, with its gleam of water. You could easily overlook the mill, hidden away from the world in its small secret fold.
"Daniel is somewhere on the other side of the mill." Sally says, her voice faltering as she says it. Her eyes light up with hope.
We drive closer to the mill but the officers ask us to keep our distance, saying that Sally should not have to see Mr. Silk. A small figure comes out of the house and stands framed in the doorway. He looks calm and walks towards Bob Simpson. Mr. Silk does not seem to be bothered. The master of the mill smiles and welcomes his visitors and they talk for a while. Mr. Silk goes back into the house and then gets in to the car and they all return to the station.
Mr. Silk goes into the chief's spacious room while Sally is taken in to a small room to be examined again. Sally looks totally bewildered and is embarrassed. After hours of waiting, the chief goes in to talk to her and tells her that there is not enough evidence to indicate that Mr. Silk had anything to do with her bruises. He asks her to tell him the truth and when she starts to cry, he asks her if she is trying to protect Daniel.
I sit in silence outside as I listen from behind the mirrored wall, helpless to defend Sally or explain. My mind had gone numb with guilt and fear. They froze the words in my throat. Sally had come to me for help and I had let her down. I allowed her to suffer through the embarrassing questions and the inspection. She is only an innocent little girl who only has Daniel to love and protect her. But he still cannot protect her from Mr. Silk. This might have been her only chance to escape the misery of her life and I had taken that away from her. She would never forgive me!
Finally, Sally is brought out, her face all pale and worn out. Her eyes looked at me without hope. A smiling Mr. Silk was asked to take her back home to the shelter.
"How are you sending her back there to the cold and hunger? She is not safe there." I hear myself shouting. My fear had turned to anger and I struggled to tear myself away from Sam's grip to rush to Sally's side. My tears streamed down my face in guilt and shame.
The chief states, "Due to the lack of evidence, Sally is to go back to Mr. Silk's care until we investigate this further."
I cry out again, but Sam grabs my arm harder and tries to comfort me as Sally is taken out to join Mr. Silk in the police car. She looks at me again, her eyes full of disappointment and fear. Then a shadow of hope passes across those innocent eyes and I immediately understand: she knows Daniel will be there waiting for her and that he will take care of her.
The guilt overwhelms me. Sam and I drive back home and I cannot stop the flow of my tears or words. No one seems to believe her! How can that be? Why would they think that she is lying? What will happen to her? The questions race through my mind as my heart pounds with fear. Sam tries hard to explain that I had done everything I possibly could. I am not convinced. I cannot forgive myself for what I have done to Sally.
We reach home and Sam helps me get to my room. I lie down on my bed thinking of what was going to happen to Sally now that Mr. Silk had taken her back to the shelter. Sam is being supportive and asks me to try to get some rest. He turns out the lights and I lie there in the dark. It slowly comes to me that Mr. Silk has a very good relationship with the mayor and the police force. He has always given donations to the police force and they saw him as a hero. They were not going to believe that he abused the children in his care. That is why they tried to help him and sent Sally back to the mill. I can't do anything against that.
Sally and Daniel will have to suffer a few more years, but at least they still have each other. I know that there is love there, that simple complicated crazy feeling you can have for all kinds of people. The feeling that makes everything possible. Their love will support them and help them get through the years of suffering. But only question continues to linger in my mind: How many more years do they have to endure before they are able to live their own life? They will certainly be able to do it, but the question is "when"?