A Cry for Help

by Rivka Jacobs

They turned left from Peachtree Street, into the parking lot beside the Brookhaven apartment building. Kayla, sitting like an unstrung marionette slumped against the back seat, caught her mother’s eyes as she glanced in the rear-view mirror. “Young lady, put your knees together,” the woman demanded of her daughter as they pulled into their reserved slot.

Six-year-old Kayla didn’t move. She watched as her mother checked her makeup and hair, then switched off the ignition. “I honestly don’t know what’s wrong with you,” her mother said as she exited with a graceful swing of her legs, stood, tugged her tight red skirt back into position. “The doctors and counselors couldn’t find anything wrong with you. They don’t have to live with you, sitting there with your mouth hanging open like a dumb animal, your mind the hell knows where…” She paused, then said loudly, “What are you waiting for? Take the damn seat belt off and don’t forget your book bag.” She waited another moment, then shouted, “Kayla Marie Boggs, get your butt out of that car!”

Kayla slowly complied. Her mother slammed the driver’s side door, locked it with a beep-beep. The child dragged her pink and lavender backpack by one strap; it scraped along the asphalt as she made her way towards the side entrance of the building. She abruptly stopped, noting a man across from them and about six cars down. He was looking up. She approached him, then absently raised her chin, her neck stretching until it hurt. She could see it too; something–someone?–was hanging from the edge of a balcony, a balcony identical to hers with symmetrical iron bars and a green railing. “That looks like the floor where I live,”  Kayla said. She quickly counted.  It is, it’s the tenth floor!” She studied the figure that dangled, ready to let go and fall to certain death. It seemed familiar. She heard the rapid and loud clip-clip-clip of her mother’s high-heels on the blacktop.

“What in the hell is that?” the woman said, and then yelped, “That’s my apartment! Who is that? Wait, is that…?”

Kayla stared at her mother, then at the man in front of her; she recognized him. He was Haas the “fix-it guy” as her mother called him.

“Missus Boggs, is that yours?” the middle-aged maintenance man asked. “I was about to go up and unlock the door, check it out,” he added.

Kayla forced her eyes upward again. She dropped her bookbag strap and gasped. “That’s Victor, that’s my Victor,” she cried. Her stomach hurt. “Mommy, Mommy, it’s Victor!” She started to run toward her mother, but froze as she saw the woman’s shocked, enraged expression. “Mommy, Victor’s going to jump!” she whimpered.

“Missus Boggs, what is she talking about,” Haas asked. “Honey, what are you talking about,” he addressed Kayla.

She spun around and focused on the man’s face. “That’s my teddy bear, Victor. He’s very unhappy. He told me he would throw himself off the balcony, but I didn’t believe him. Quick, we have to get upstairs and save him!” She turned back to her mother. “Mommy, hurry, we have to help him!”

But her mother didn’t appear ready to move. Her face flushed and her hands balled into fists, her knuckles blanching white. “Kayla Marie, how did that stupid bear get out on the balcony?”

Kayla flinched one step backward. “Mommy, please, he’s going to die….” She began to sob in low, staccato moans; water spilled from her eyes, her nose dripped.

“Missus Boggs, go easy on the kid,” Haas said.

She stiffened, thrust a finger in his direction. “You stay out of this. Just mind your own business! Get the hell out of here!”

Kayla lurched, trying to follow the Fix-It-Guy, but her mother strode the few feet between them and grabbed the child’s wrist in one hand, jerked her twice. “What the hell did you do?” she said, her voice low and enraged. “Did you put that bear up there?”

“No ma’am,” Kayla answered, gulping air. “I told you. Victor is very angry at you. You make him sad. He told me, he hates living with us, because you’re mean and you treat us so bad. He said he was going to jump off the balcony, but I didn’t believe him.”

Her mother’s hand flew through the air and Kayla heard the slap echo off cement and glass and felt a handprint on her cheek hot and icy, but she didn’t feel any pain.

“That’s it. I’ve had it,” her mother shouted. “How could a fucking toy bear tell you anything? You want to go live with your father and his girlfriends? I should send you to him, let him handle it.”

At that moment, something came whistling down past them, crashing a short distance away. It sounded like a melon splitting as it hit a car and bounced to the ground.

“Victor, Victor,” Kayla screamed, trying to wrench away from her mother’s grip.

“He’s a stuffed animal. He’s not alive. Are you an idiot?” she said as Kayla pulled free and ran to what was now a broken, pulsing, oozing mess in the middle of the car park.

Kayla dropped to her knees and gazed down; she recognized one button eye, the torn remains of a round, fuzzy ear, the stubby end of a leg amidst the gore. Her head bowed as she watched rivulets of dark blood trickle and pool around her legs, staining her pink corduroys. “You’ll pay for this,” she whispered. She twisted her face around and glared up into her mother’s frightened, saucer eyes. “You’ll be sorry.”

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