Writing a novel must be a lot of work, so I feel kind of bad picking on the writing itself, but I find bits like this just confusing:
The thought of telling Casey about the impending court appearance added further layers of anxiety to her already-laden soul. But she knew putting it off further was not fair to Casey. After all, the court order specifically directed her to bring her daughter to court. Walinski advised Casey to sit with her grandmother in a waiting room and not listen to the bulk of the hearing. But she had to be in the building. The judge wanted her to be available and would hold Gwen in contempt if she failed to produce Casey at the time and place directed in the order.
If Bill Walinski advised Casey to sit with her grandmother during the hearing, why is Gwen so worried about telling Casey they have to go to the hearing—doesn’t she already know? Farris must mean that Bill advised Gwen to have Casey sit with her grandmother, but that’s not what it says. Also, when did this advising happen? Has Gwen had contact with Bill again since they met on Thursday? Or did Farris not tell us the whole of what was said in that Thursday meeting? If it’s the first case, you’d think Farris would have mentioned it. If it’s the second, well, Farris never said “They talked for another half hour” or anything to indicate that there was conversation he didn’t provide us with. In the end, I’m left a bit confused.
Oh, and while we’re on the subject, did Gwen ever take Casey to the doctor like Bill told her too, to get that affidavit signed? Surely she must have, but it’s Monday now and the hearing is the next day and we’ve heard nothing about the doctor visit. How did Gwen explain to Casey their sudden need to go to the doctor? What did the doctor say? Was Casey traumatized by having her clothes removed by the doctor, after the forced strip search? I want to know!
Instead, all we got of Friday was that Gwen was glad to be at work filling out patients’ paperwork to take her minds off things, all we got of Saturday was that Stan wanted Gwen and Casey to come with them to Walla Walla for the weekend, and all we got of Sunday was that Gordon had visitation and Gwen stopped by a church to pray. Now it’s Monday and all we’re getting of Monday is Gwen telling Casey about the hearing. Did the doctor visit happen? Did Gwen meet with Bill again, or speak on the phone? Why is this information considered not pertinent?
Anyway, we get some light-hearted interaction between Gwen and Casey—Casey cleans her room, Gwen is proud of her, Casey “giggled with delight at her mom’s approval,” and Gwen pulls her into a tight hug—and then Gwen gets down to business. She tells Casey that tomorrow they’re going to go downtown and that “there is going to be a lot of talking between grown-ups called a trial” and that Casey will sit with her grandmother.
“Why, Mommy? What are we going to talk about?” Casey asked inquisitively.
“Remember those ladies who came here and frightened you?”
Casey’s brow darkened at the mention of the “bad ladies” as she called them.
Gwen tries to reassure Casey, but it doesn’t work.
Casey’s lip began to quiver as she reached for her rag doll and clutched it close to her chest. “Mommy, I don’t like those bad ladies. They scared me and tried to hurt me. Please don’t take me. I don’t want them to see me. They’re mean.”
“Casey doll, Grandma or I will be right with you the whole time, and this time we won’t let those ladies take you, no matter what. Grandpa will be with me and we have another man to help us, Mr. Walinski. He’s a lawyer, and he will protect you, too. Nobody is going to take you from me, Casey. Nobody. Now, come here so I can give you another hug.”
This seems like a really bad idea. Why would you make a promise you can’t keep? How is that not obviously a bad idea? Gwen knows that if the hearing goes against her, Casey will be removed from her, for a week for observation. I get not wanting to tell a four-year-old that when it’s not sure that it’s going to happen, but that’s not what’s going on here. Instead, Gwen is lying to Casey.
I’m trying to consider what I would tell my daughter Sally if she and I were in this situation.
Sally is five rather than four, but by the time she was four she already knew about social workers, not because we’d had a visit but because I wanted Sally to know that there are other people out there with an interest in helping children. Sally has a friend who was adopted out of foster care. I have a friend who is a foster mother. I also don’t want Sally to be afraid of social workers the way I was as a child (primarily as a result of Farris’s rhetoric). I wanted her to know that if a social worker ever does come to the door wanting to make sure she’s okay, she needn’t be afraid, and should simply answer any questions openly and honestly.
But here things are a bit different, because Casey has already been traumatized—and not by her mother’s hysterics but rather by Donna’s forced strip search, which I’m fairly certain violated a whole page of social services guidelines. I’m not sure what I’d tell Sally in this situation, but I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t lie to her.
Casey took her rag doll, held her up to Gwen and said, “Here Mommy, Annie needs a kiss. She’s scared too.”
The trio kissed and hugged on the floor of Casey’s bedroom.
Farris is laying it on thick.
After a fitful night, Tuesday arrived.
Stan and June Mansfield pulled into the driveway of Gwen’s house at 8:45 Tuesday morning. Walinski had called and asked them to be at the courthouse at 9:30. It was a fifteen-minute drive to the courthouse.
So, Bill called Stan? This goes back to my earlier question—have he and Gwen talked again? Have they met again, or just spoken by phone? Are we to know anything else Bill said? Regardless, the hearing is at 10:00, so meeting at 9:30 leaves time for some discussion and planning beforehand.
Also weird, Farris has now spelled the word both “court house” and “courthouse.”
At 9:35, Walinski walked through the door looking every bit a poor man’s lawyer—blue blazer, gray slacks, red striped tie, unshined wingtips.
So, Bill is late—and underdressed. Farris is taking pains to make sure we understand that Bill is incompetent and not at all a wise pick for a lawyer. And given that he’s incompetent (and also lecherous, with designs on Gwen), I suspect we’re to have a bad feeling about the coming hearing.
He smiled broadly and went right up to Casey.
“So this must be our little girl,” he said in a loud voice.
Casey cringed and clung more tightly to Gwen.
“How ya doin’, Sweetheart?” Walinski said, winking in a friendly way at Casey.
Casey admitted a slight whimper.
Poor kid needs a break. :/
Bill suggests going into “the conference room” to talk, and offers that Casey can stay outside with Grandma. Poor Grandma. She always gets left out of the discussion when something important is going on!
Casey wasn’t thrilled about being separated from her mother and Grandpa, but she wasn’t panicked because being with Grandma was OK. At least that’s the way she felt until Donna Corliss entered the room at a quarter till ten.
“The ladies, the mean ladies! Grandma, help!” Casey screamed.
Corliss was embarrassed but said nothing. A twenty-something clerk who sat behind the counter turned to observe the commotion—somewhat unusual even for the emotion-laden setting of the Juvenile Court.
Gwen heard Casey’s screams from forty feet down the hall and through a closed door. She immediately burst out of the room and scooped Casey up in her arms, glared at the CPS investigator, and marched quickly back into the conference room. June Mansfield quietly—and with a bit of embarrassment—gathered up their things and went to join the rest of her family in the conference room.
Poor poor Grandma! I’m really starting to feel sorry for the woman.
Farris is taking pains to make sure we know the depth of Casey’s fear of Donna and Rita, the social workers who conducted the forced strip search. But if Casey’s trauma is so obvious to us, it must become obvious to the others in this story as well. For instance, the foster parents who take Casey if the hearing goes against Gwen are sure to notice that Casey is afraid of Donna and Rita but not of her mother, and the child psychologist who examines her will surely notice this as well.
I suppose what I’m saying is that even if Casey is removed based on Donna’s fraudulent report of fading bruises, I don’t see that being permanent unless more individuals are willing to join Donna and her boss in baldfaced lying. I suppose a social worker, her supervisor, the foster parents, and a child psychologist could all lie, but that seems a bit difficult to pull off.
At 9:55 Bill goes to check if the judge is ready. He comes back ten “anxious” minutes later. “Gwen and Stan, let’s go,” he says. The last thing we learn in this section is this:
The Juvenile Courtroom was very informal compared to the regular courtrooms in the main building . . . A place for a court reporter was on the left. They used a tape recorder unless counsel demanded a life court reporter. Walinski had not done so.
Somehow I feel like this is going to be significant.