Finding Robin (Chapter Two of the Novella, “Ducky”)

{some strong language; sexual situations}

Finding Robin

Joni pushed her way out of the glass double doors of the King County Juvenile Detention Center at 12th and Alder in Seattle. Clarisse, her mother and attorney walked beside her carrying her release.

A girl with tattooed arms and wearing biker clothes stuck her head out the door. “Hey Duck, that’s the shortest I ever seen anyone stay in here, rich white girl!”

Another girl pushed the bar and opened the other door, “Come on back, Duck, and we’ll play some more three-on-three!”

Joni, six feet-one, broad-shouldered, with a blond braided ponytail, turned around walked backward and laughed. She shrugged, “What can I say? They came to their senses and dropped the charges!” Both girls laughed. “The George’s, Tanya’s parents, found out that Tanya started the whole thing. And there’s not a chance I’m coming back!” They all laughed.

“Now we’ll see if they let you back in school,” Clarisse said, also blond, but with blue eyes where Joni’s were brown, and with much shorter hair. She looked up at her daughter.

Brett, Joni’s father had curly blond hair like Joni, stood beside the Lexus on the corner. “You played basketball in there. That figures.”

“They had a court,” Joni said as she got in the back of the Lexus. Her father learned a long time ago that if there was a library and a gym side-by-side, she was going to the gym, without fail. So, he encouraged her, taught her sports and helped train her.

They got in the car and buckled, then Joni leaned forward.

“And before you ask, yes, we are still going to look for Robin,” Brett said. Joni gave him the slip with the address she got from Ms. Constance the guidance counselor at Lake Washington High and sat back. It was Robin’s grandmother’s address. They knew it might be bogus.

“This is in the international district, one of the worst neighborhoods in Seattle,” he said as punched in the address in his GPS. “Let’s go,” he said and handed the note back to her.

In a few minutes, she leaned forward sniffing. “It’s like I have tinnitus, or something. There’s this constant humming in my head going Robin, Robin, Robin, Robin, Robin. What do I do about that?” She asked and her eyes watered again.

Clarisse looked at Brett and they both smiled. “I’ve never heard it put quite like that before. That’s poetic.” Brett said.

“They only cure for that is more ‘Robin,’ I suppose, hold her and kiss her.” Clarisse said.
Joni leaned in to them, “That’s all I think about and that’s all I can see when I close my eyes.”

Brett put on his sunglasses and checked the GPS. Joni looked at the note. “Okay Dad, it says ten, ten Dearborn.”

They drove past Twelfth Avenue South and then nothing. There were no residences and up ahead there was the junction of I-5 and I-90. “There’s nothing here, Ducky,” Brett said.

“Keep going further,” she said.

They past a green area with some homeless people’s tents and shelters and then under the overpass. Some men stood on the side of the street with cardboard signs. There were no residences here. They passed Ninth and found nothing. They came up to the intersection of Eighth and Dearborn and there was a Christian Youth Center there.

“There’s a Youth Center, Dad. Let’s go in and show them Robin’s picture. Maybe they’ve seen her.”

“What do you think, Clarisse?”

“It couldn’t hurt. Sure, let’s stop and go ask.”

“I love you guys!”

Brett and Clarisse smiled at each other.

They parallel parked on Dearborn next to the Youth Center. They went to the front glass door facing the corner, and sadly it was after hours. There was a woman near the door inside busy with paperwork at the counter. Joni knocked on the glass and cupped her hand to see.

“Hello! I need to ask you about someone!” Joni said.

The woman inside was large, African American, and walked with a waddle. She came near the door so she could see who was knocking. She frowned and looked surprised, “We’re closed. It is after four thirty. You folks must be from out of town,” she said.

“Leschi district, Leschi Hill,” Dad said.

“That answers so many questions,” the woman said laughing. “What are you doing way down here?”

“We’re looking for a lost girl. We thought maybe someone here has seen her. Show her the picture, Joni.” Dad said.

She thumbed through some pictures on her phone. “Here, at the piano, the girl with brown hair,” Joni said. The woman dug a pair of readers out of her pocket and got close to the glass door to look at Joni’s phone.

“Yeah, you mean the one that’s not you,” the woman said. Joni grinned. “That looks like Little Bird. Yeah, I’ve seen her around. She comes in here sometimes and plays the piano.”

Joni hopped up and down on the balls of her feet. Tears started and Clarisse produced a packet of Kleenex. Joni got one and wiped her cheek.

“Have you seen her today?” Brett asked.

“No, I can’t say that I have,” the woman said shaking her head sadly.

“We have an address. It’s ten, ten, Dearborn. We drove around there but we saw no residence,” Brett said.

The woman stood back and eyed the family with perplexity. “You didn’t even see it. You probably drove right by it and didn’t even see it.”

“See what?” Brett asked timidly.

“That address you have there. That’s Nickelsville. Your Robin is homeless.”

Joni’s mouth opened and her bottom lip quivered. “Mom?”

Clarisse took Joni’s face in her hands. “It’s going to be okay, Ducky. It’s going to be okay.”

Nickelsville is the name given to several different quasi-permanent homeless camps around Seattle. The Donald’s thanked the woman profusely and climbed back in their car. They went back up Dearborn toward the homeless camp they passed, this time sad and apprehensive.

They slowed when they got to the intersection of Tenth and Dearborn. Brett pulled off on Tenth and parked. Vehicles roared overhead. They were near the interstate bridge. Joni got out. Brett told her to wait. It was like telling a race horse to wait after the gates open. The big girl was across the street and into the shanties and tents, wiping tears as she went, before Brett and Clarisse could get their bearings.

“She’s not afraid of anything,” Clarisse said.

“And cries over everything,” Brett added.

Brett took Clarisse’s arm and they crossed the street. The setting sun and shadows made faces difficult to discern. All she had to show the people was her smartphone photo. Joni’s blonde ponytail bounced as she hopped from shack to shack to tent, either knocking or saying, “knock-knock.”

As Joni went through the first row of tents and plywood shanties, men and women began to gather round her. She ended that row, but they crowded her and would not let her start the next row.

Joni looked at the crowd. “I don’t mean anybody any harm,” she told everyone. “I’m looking for someone.”

“Who you are looking for, rich girl?” a woman asked.

“Her name is Robin Randall. I have her picture on my cell.” She put her phone to them for them to see. They moved in some. “Has anyone seen her?”

“What’s she to you? You her sister or something?” a man asked. He reached for the phone but Joni pulled it back a little. He scared her. She looked at his watery old eyes and she saw his fear. She wanted them to understand.

“I…I love her,” Joni said and tears filled her eyes again. She burst out crying. “I have to find her!”

They knew her hurt. They all hurt, too. They talked among themselves for a minute then to her. “Go up to the last row and check with Henry. He’ll know where she is. He keeps track of folks.”

She looked up over the crowd. Brett and Clarisse were in the back. She sniffed and looked down at the picture of her and Robin at the piano. She trotted up the hill and they followed.

Joni approached a skinny black man in white undershirt and slacks on the last row of the shanty town. He was rinsing out a cook pot when she said hello. He stood and turned around.

“Excuse me, sir. Are you Henry? I’m looking for a missing girl. She’s in this picture here, the one on the right playing the piano,” Joni said showing him the picture. Her tears returned and she looked over her shoulder for her mother. The old man stared at her face while she looked at Clarisse.

“Yeah, that’s me and that’s Little Bird,” he said and Joni turned back to him wiping a tear with her hand.

“You know her?” she asked.

“Hell, everybody here knows her. If they don’t talk to you, they’re just trying to protect her,” Henry said.

“Do you know where she is right now?” Clarisse asked him. She was a little winded keeping up with Joni.

“Yeah, I know,” he said grinning and shaking his head, “but you folks…you folks ain’t going to like it.”

“Who you talking to?” A voice from inside the plywood shanty asked.

“Never you mind, woman, just some people looking for some people.”

“Cops?”

“No, they ain’t no cops!”

“Where is she?” Joni asked. Her tears streamed now, hands shaking.

“Why, she’s up the hill,” he said looking away at the green belt that stretched up an incline. He shook his head and looked at Brett. “It’s no place for your lady up there,” he said pointing up the trail “there’s a shack. It’s where some girls go to earn some money.”

Joni was already hopping sideways half running up the trail and half listening for more information.

“A girl has to do what she has to do to get by,” Henry said.

Joni disappeared up the hill. Brett and Clarisse trotted behind her.

Brett and Clarisse reached the summit, arms interlaced and breathing heavily, to find a small shack in front of an ivy-covered chain link fence. There was an overgrown gravel road in front of the shack and Brett and Clarisse stepped out of high weeds and onto that.

Joni paced the door to the shack with a look of dismay on her face.

Inside, heard plain as day, Robin squealed with delight. “Oh yes!” Robin shouted. The little wooden shack rocked.

“That’s it, baby! Harder, baby!”

There was grunts and moans from a man, like “Ugh! Ugh!”

Brett and Clarisse watched Joni pace in front of the shack while Robin was inside doing what she was doing. The shack rocked. Joni started for the door, Brett darted after her, but it was too late.

Joni dashed inside. There was a scuffle and some indistinct shouts.

A naked white man with a pot belly quickly backed out of the little door of the shack with both hands covering himself.

Joni came out next, taller and bigger than him, with her finger pointed in his face and his clothes in her other hand. She reached out and handed them to him. She teased him with his own clothes. She wouldn’t let him have them until he moved his hands. He had to let go of himself to take the clothes from her hand. When he did, Joni pointed at his penis and laughed. The man turned, saw all the people, then darted this way and that trying to figure out a place to go put on his clothes.

Clarisse and Brett chuckled. It was a funny sight. She whispered to Brett, “At least he wore a condom.”

Robin called to Joni and she slipped back inside. As they got closer they heard Robin’s voice as plainly as if she were outside the shack. Then the naked man ran past them and into the weeds.

“You weren’t supposed to see any of this, Ducky,” Robin said.

“Shut up and kiss me,” Joni said, then a long silence.

“I needed money,” Robin said.

“I know,” Joni said, “Let’s get you cleaned up, get some clothes on you.”

“I have to go now and ask somebody to stay for the night. I don’t have a tent or nothing and it might rain.”

“She can come home with us,” Clarisse said loudly.

“Who’s that?” Robin asked loudly, frightened.

“Relax, it’s my mom,” Joni said. “How do you think I got here?”

“You don’t drive?”

“I’ve got my permit, but the red lights make me cry sometimes,” Joni said.

“And the cars that follow too close,” Brett said. “I’m her Dad.”

“You’re a hot mess, you know that?” Robin said. They laughed.

“Do you have anything else, like school stuff?” Joni asked.

“No. It’s all at school.”

They emerged from the shack, Robin first, then Joni. Robin had on the same sleeveless sweatshirt she wore at school.

“This is Robin. Robin this is my Dad, Brett Donald and my Mom, Clarisse.”

“I’m honored to meet you both,” Robin said.

“And we are honored as well, Robin,” Brett said.

“You were right, Ducky, she is pretty,” Clarisse said.

“Thank you, Mrs. Donald.” She turned to Joni, “You said I was pretty?”

“Do you have a car? Uber? Taxi? Are we taking the bus?” Robin asked.

“I have a car. It’s parked down here on Tenth,” Brett said.

“Just follow this little gravel road. It comes out on Tenth, down the hill,” Robin said. “You folks know what I was doing here and I’m good to come home with you anyway?”

“We try not to judge, Robin. Like the man over there said, people do what they must do to survive. No one can hold this against you,” Brett said.

“You’d be surprised about that one,” Robin said. Clarisse chuckled.

“I’m a defense attorney, Robin, I know exactly what you mean,” she said.
Robin clutched Joni’s arm and looked up at her, “Can I use you as a crutch for a while?”

“Sure, you can. I’ve got two big strong arms just for you. Is there anything wrong?”
“It’s the walking I think. I’m feeling a little weak and woozy. I might need to sit down in a minute,” Robin said and started bending over holding tight to Joni’s arm.

“Mom, I think something’s wrong with her.”

“Joni, I need you to be strong,” Clarisse said. Whenever Mom started out with that statement Joni knew that she was trying to prepare her heart. They all stopped walking.

“She’s suffering from malnutrition. She needs to see a doctor. We will get her home tonight and get some broth in her and see if she keeps that down. I’ll call your pediatrician tomorrow. I don’t think she should go to school until she gets her strength back. You’ll need to carry her to the car.”

Joni scooped her up like a doll and cradled her in her arms. “You’re going to get better. I promise.”

They pulled into their driveway around six. Joni got out of her side and then went around and helped Robin to her feet. “I’ll try to walk,” Robin said.

“Okay, but I’m right behind you.’

Robin looked up at the multi-level house and then to Joni and then to her Dad. “Are we going to spend the night here? I thought we were going to your house.” She said standing at the back of the car parked in the garage.

“This is where we live, Robin, what did you think it was?” Brett asked.

“It looks like some sort of hotel or lodge,” Robin said.

“That’s very good because I fashioned it after a lodge I visited in Sweden years ago,” Brett said.

“Dad’s an architect. He designed and built our house,” Joni said. “If you need, I can carry.”

“I think I’m good.”

They went inside the house through the garage door entrance, into the laundry and mud room, then straight down the short hall into the kitchen past the maid’s bedroom, if they ever got a live-in. In the kitchen, the cooking island had an adjacent three-sided breakfast table attached. To the right was a huge walk-in pantry and left was the large formal dining room. Beyond that was the great room, and the entrance foyer to the house. Joni’s room was on the second floor which had three bedrooms, total of five in all. Joni’s room was upstairs then right across the bridge that was open to the great room below and her room was at the far end. She had her own full bath and her own deck with a view of Lake Washington.

“Robin, why don’t you let Joni show you where the bathroom is off the guest bedroom upstairs so you can get washed up before dinner? Maria made some chicken doodle soup for you before she left and if you can keep that down we might try some vegetables.”

“Chicken doodle?” Robin asked.

“That’s what I called it when I was a kid,” Joni said.

Later, Robin sat at the breakfast table nibbling on some bread. She asked if she could keep her soup bowl and she sipped a spoon of her second bowl while talking to Joni who sat diagonal across from her with a handful of Kleenex. Joni let a tear fall about every time Robin took a bite of food. Joni sat with the Kleenex in a ball at her cheek.

Robin sighed, “You’re something else, Ducky. No one in my life has moved me as much as you. I have to get used to all your tears. It hurts me so much to see you hurt so much.”

Joni reached across the table and touched her hand, “But you’re eating!” She said crying. “I’ll get stronger now that I have you home, I promise.”

“How are we doing in here?” Clarisse asked stepping into the kitchen from the hall.

“Water works,” Robin said nodding at Joni.

“That’s my Ducky. It’s something you’ll have to get used to,” Clarisse said.

“I’ve never known anyone like her,” Robin said. “She’s so strong, yet so…”

“Full of it?” She asked and giggled.

“No! Frizz head!” Robin said. Joni burst out laughing.

“Pit beards!” Joni called her. Robin had long armpit hair. Clarisse laughed. That caused Robin and Joni to laugh more.

“Jock strap!” Robin said.

“Lesbo!” Joni said. They all laughed.

“I think that’s enough,” Clarisse said laughing. “I’m going to have to keep my eyes on you two.”

“Fat ass,” Robin whispered. They choked back giggles.

Later that night Robin and Joni were ready for bed. They had found an old terrycloth bathrobe for Robin that Joni had outgrown but it still swallowed Robin whole. Clarisse put her jeans and sweatshirt in the wash earlier and they were dry now. She started to throw them in the trash but she didn’t have anything in the house for Robin to wear tomorrow. They were standing in the hallway outside the spare bedroom upstairs just past the bridge.

Robin stood close to Joni fingering the lapel on her robe. She took this opportunity to kiss Robin’s forehead. The girls didn’t hear her, but Clarisse had climbed the stairs and paused on the bridge to look at her husband below in the great room reading a magazine. She listened to the girls down the hall.

“Maybe I could come to your room later after everyone is asleep,” Robin said softly.

“Robin, can I ask something?” She asked.

“Of course,” she said softly, lost in Joni’s big brown eyes.

“You know how I feel about you,” she said.

“I hope you feel the same way I feel about you,” Robin said.

Joni started sobbing, “I love you, Robin. But what you were doing with that man, that’s called screwing, right?”

Robin wrapped her arms around her neck. She had to stand on tip-toes. “I love you, Ducky. Don’t think about that, please. It meant nothing. Men will pay good money to do that with a young teenager. I just did it for the money. It meant nothing.”

“You still like girls, then? You like me?”

“I love you, Ducky Donald!”

They embraced and held to each other.

“Okay, that makes me feel better,” Joni said.

Clarisse watched them embrace and wiped a tear of her own. She was so happy to see her daughter this happy.

“Okay, back to your question. Robin, I love you but I am afraid of sex right now. I’m not sure I even know how. You must do things slow. Like, do one thing, then the next thing. You can’t jump to the end with me. I don’t know how to do that yet. I learn the first thing, then the next thing. When I learned how to hit a softball, the first thing was how to stand with my legs in a ‘V’ shape. I learned that, then I went to the second thing. I want to make love with you so bad, but it can’t be right now. I haven’t learned a first thing yet,” Ducky said. Robin looked at the floor and nodded.

Clarisse smiled. She knew from years of experience that Joni’s heart can’t take an overload of input. She stops, and then works hard at the first thing until she figures it out. Then she’ll learn the next thing. There’s no use trying to go on to the next until she gets the first, Joni can’t. Joni just told her the truth and Robin must learn how she learns, like they all did. It takes time.

Clarisse walked to them with Robin’s clean things in her hands.

“Here are your clothes, Robin. I couldn’t find a bra for you, but I went up to the loft and dug around in Ducky’s old things and I think I may have found a couple pairs of panties that might fit.”

Robin grabbed the panties and held them in her fist close to her chest. She started to cry, which started Ducky crying. “You don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve worn underwear,” Robin said between sobs. “Thank you so much. I owe you all so much already. I’m trying to keep track of everything to pay you back, but there’s something I want, well two things,” Robin said looking at the floor.

Clarisse rubbed her shoulders, “Just ask, if we think it’s too much we’ll decide”

She turned to Ducky, nervously. She interlaced her fingers and cracked them. “If it isn’t too fast to ask. The kids at school really bully me about it. I don’t own a razor and it’s been so long. My hands shake, and Ducky, could you to help me shave my armpits? I’ll need clippers. I mean, you helped me wash my hair…”

“Of course, I’ll help shave you,” she said. She grinned and raised Robin’s arm. “What do you think, Mom, maybe we should take her out and hold her over the trash can?” They laughed.

“I’ll get the weed whacker,” Dad said from the downstairs in the great room. That made them laugh harder.

“Maybe we should put down newspaper in the bathroom tonight in case she pees the floor,” Clarisse said. That got Dad laughing. Robin’s mouth flew open and her eyes bugged out in disbelief.

“I’ll get you back for that one!” Robin said. She laughed and got dizzy. Joni caught her.

“You’re going to see Dr. Benticourt tomorrow. I called the firm and I’m taking a sick day tomorrow. I have enough of them saved up. I can’t remember my last day off. Besides, I want to go see Ducky hit a home run.”

Joni was happy to hear that, “That would be great, Mom. I love it when you or Dad comes to the game. Both of you would be better. What about it, Dad?”

“I don’t know yet. I won’t know until after our meeting tomorrow with the land developers. I’ll call Mom and let her know,” Brett said.

“Can I come?” Robin asked softly.

“We’ll see what Dr. Benticourt says, and if you have some strength back. You need more food in you,” Clarisse said.

Robin looked at Joni, “I’m going to be there, one way or the other, that’s the second thing.”

Joni smiled, through watery eyes, of course.

Much later that night, Joni’s bedroom door opened just a slit and Robin slipped in and then pushed it shut silently behind her. She went around to the far side of her bed, away from view of the door, and pulled back the quilt and sheet. Joni was fast asleep in a ball jersey and panties. Robin eased into the bed. She stirred and turned to look at Robin. She started to speak but Robin gently covered her mouth with her fingertips. Robin got close to her and whispered.

“This can be our first thing. It’s called cuddling. It’s when two people lie close to each other and just hold each other and feel each other’s warmth, nothing else. We can cuddle for our first thing, if you want to.”

Joni turned to her and pulled Robin close to her. Robin put her head on her shoulder and scooted close. “Like this?” Joni asked.

Robin turned her face up to Joni and smiled, “Exactly like this.”

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