One of dozens of scenes set in the USA!
California Dreams or a Nightmare?
Kenneth Walsh spent his twentieth birthday as he did every weekday, and Saturdays, since a few months after his parents died in a pile-up on Route 66, working in the sort of garden his parents had dreamed of when they left Ireland for a new life in America.
He and Orla had been in the rear seat of the family Toyota Camry, and they’d survived, miraculously unhurt. The threat to him, then just eighteen, and his younger sister, had come from a female do-gooder who’d stepped from another car and established their parents were dead. He was an adult. She didn’t give a damn he had nothing but the clothes he was wearing and the contents of a backpack, but she proposed to take Orla when she could move her drivable car. The social services, she’d said bossily, were obliged to provide foster care for underage orphans.
He leaned on his rake for a minute and took a swig from his water bottle. The crash was as vivid now as the day it happened. No way would he have parted with Orla; he was all she had left, and the chaos of mangled vehicles, with paramedics and fire crews struggling to help the victims, had played into his hands. Nobody had been interested in two teenagers obviously unhurt, even the police. They’d cleared the scene and begged a lift with a motorist turning his car illegally to head back to LA.
Schooling was out, even though Orla was still grade nine; they needed two wages. Jobs in bars where nobody asked questions had kept them fed and housed, but he’d wondered too often if Orla would have been safer if he’d let her go into foster care; she was a pretty girl who attracted male attention. Doubts had ended when Mrs Davis-Browne advertised for a gardener. He’d applied and spent most of his nights before the interview reading about plants and soil, so he could answer questions. He’d got the job, though he suspected it was because, as the youngest applicant, the lady could offer him less money, but when he’d attempted to persuade her to raise it by saying he cared for his sister, she’d jumped at the chance of a cheap maid. It turned out Mrs Davis-Browne was a divorcee living above her means and aiming to attract a second wealthy husband, but it was marvellous for them. No drunks in sleazy bars –
A scream from an upper-storey window bounced back from the greenhouse and was silenced abruptly, but not before he recognised Orla’s voice. He dropped everything and ran, crushing flowers underfoot and aiming directly for the front door. It was unlocked. He pounded up the stairs. ‘Orla, Orla, where are you?’
No answer. He flung open doors to the bedrooms. Behind the third, a man he’d seen call at the house several times lay on top of Orla, one hand over her mouth. The rise and fall of his naked butt showed him that he was too late. The fucking asshole was raping his sister. Even as he crossed the room, the man shuddered and came inside her.
He grabbed the bastard’s hair and yanked him off Orla, and then laid him out with one punch to his chin.
‘Ken, you’ve killed him!’
Mrs Davis-Browne spoke from the doorway. ‘You’re fired, both of you. Get out of my house.’
Orla pulled a torn dress over her head. ‘You can’t do that! Ken hit him because he raped me.’
‘Really? You’ve been making a play for him every time he calls, and he’s mine. You either leave or I’ll call the police and who do you think they’ll believe? A respectable resident of an upscale part of town or a pair of immigrants?’
The answer was obvious, and it would end with Orla alone; he’d be in jail for assault. ‘Orla, we’re going home.’
‘She’s lying. It’s not fair.’
Life hadn’t been fair to their parents, all their hopes and hard work crushed in seconds when somebody took a risk overtaking a car-transporter way ahead of them, and they could expect no better. Neither of them had qualifications, for these jobs or any other, and Orla was still only fifteen. He put his arm around her and led her out to their latest acquisition, an old Chevy Cavalier he’d paid for after he’d bullied the salesman into basic repairs.
Back at Caverly Court, a fancy name for a trailer park in Watts, LA, he squeezed it into his parking place beside their small home and wished he’d never parted with the cash. It was worth nothing, and if it broke down on the highway, he’d have to pay tow charges or be prosecuted. Forget it. Think about Orla; she’d cried so much her eyes were swollen. and she’d gone inside alone. He followed, and she looked at him, a desperate expression in her grey eyes.
‘Suppose I’m pregnant, Ken?’
‘It was only once.’ Only, when he’d thought she was safe.
Orla pointed a shaking hand at a small stack of thumbed magazines Mrs Davis-Browne had given her. ‘There are advice columns in those, and “Ask E Jean” has loads of questions about sex and pregnancy, and she says once can be all it takes.’
Articles in those same magazines confirmed what he already feared. Abortion was legal in California, but only free in cases of rape, incest, or when it was medically necessary. Pray Orla had been lucky; they couldn’t prove rape, and “medically necessary” meant admitting Orla was underage. Any doctor would look at computer records, and their parents’ practice would have her correct date of birth, which was why they’d left registering with another and been lucky. Neither of them had needed a doctor, until now – maybe.
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