No Good Deed
Copyright© 2019 by Lumpy
True to her word, by the time Celia’s grandmother knocked on the front door late that afternoon, I’d stopped thinking about the ledgers Damion had brought, entirely. She’d kept us hustling for nearly four hours, getting the house nearly spotless. I had to admit, I was feeling much better. There’s something to be said for doing a little hard work, and getting something done you can look at, like a perfectly clean house and say: ‘I did that!’
Of course, Tina and Judy managed to get out of helping. They’d argued that they weren’t upset about anything, and they’d planned a mall trip to look at clothes or something. Mom was a little worried, but Jawarski had been true to her word, and several of Carter’s guys showed up at the house and said they had several more out in cars if we more of us were going to leave the house.
Actually, they’d corrected me. They weren’t Carter’s guys anymore, and not all of them had even worked for Carter, at least not for him alone. Jawarski, Carter, and Levi had made the move to form their own security company, and they’d already started hiring some new people. Now that Mom had declared she wanted everyone in our family to have security, that was probably a good thing. As far as I could tell, Carter normally only had five to ten guys working for him at a time.
Tina and Judy headed out with two guys in tow, getting to skip out on the cleaning bonanza.
Thankfully, we’d finished the cleaning in enough time for me to take a shower, and I was happy I didn’t smell like cleaner supplies anymore as I opened the door and smiled at the older woman standing outside.
“Mrs. Keen!” I said stepping back to give her room to come inside. “Welcome to our home. Thanks for coming on such short notice.”
“Mr. Gr ... Caspian,” she said, acknowledging my greeting with a bob of her head. “I came as soon as my granddaughter called. I’m a little concerned. She managed to last much longer in the other programs we’d tried. Although, I guess it’s really my fault. I was expecting quite a lot, and you did warn me that you weren’t set up to take in patients. But ... I’d held out hope. Please show me to Celia so I can collect her and we’ll be out of your way.”
I stopped and looked at her, my head cocked at an angle in question, “I think there might have been some miscommunication. What did Celia say when she called?”
“Just that she needed to see me, and it was urgent.”
I repressed a grimace. It hadn’t occurred to me how much enthusiasm someone who’d gone through the change might have towards staying with us. I mentally kicked myself, since I’d had enough experience with people going through the change that I should have seen it coming.
“We aren’t looking to get rid of Ceilia or concerned with how her progress has been. The opposite, in fact. I’m sorry if she gave you the wrong impression. She’s just been really excited and wanted to run somethings by you as soon as she could.”
“So she hasn’t relapsed,” she asked, her voice tinged with surprise.
That also explained how the message got garbled. Celia had told us, or rather she’d told Zoe who then told me, how many times she’d been to rehab, and the success, or lack thereof, she’d had. Her grandmother had probably received a call about picking up her granddaughter many times before and had jumped to a conclusion, helped along by Celia’s lack of detail.
“How about you see her for yourself,” I said as I led her into the living room.
Celia was seated on one of the couches, beaming as she saw her grandmother and holding Zoe’s hand. Mrs. Keen stopped cold in her tracks as her granddaughter came into view, her eyes going wide.
“Oh my,” she said, her hand resting on her chest as she took her granddaughter in.
I’d been surprised at the change in Celia and I’d seen it occur, while not slowly, at least progressively. From her grandmother’s point of view, she’d dropped the girl off just a few weeks ago, looking almost like the walking dead in a nice sweater. The Celia she’d delivered had been almost emaciated, with sunken eyes and greying skin, open wounds scattered across her body, bad acne, and dirty, stringy hair.
The girl sitting on the couch had put on weight, and was almost back to a normal. Her skin had cleared up and returned to a natural color. Her eyes were alive, the dull glaze of the drugs gone completely, and her hair now had the life and bounce you’d see in a shampoo commercial.
She squeezed Zoe’s hand and release it, moving forward to stand in front of her grandmother, again with the combination of excitement and shyness.
“Celia?” Mrs. Keen asked, a wary look on her face.
“Yes,” Celia said, a bright smile breaking out across her face.
That was another change. Her teeth had been rotting in her mouth when we got her; again, thanks to all the crap she’d been shoving in her body. The chemistry of the change worked fast, and while they were still a little yellow, most of the damage she’d done to them had been repaired, making her smile an actual smile. Not that she’d smiled a lot before we’d put her through the change.
“Child, you look ... so ... so,” a tear formed at the corner of her eye as she looked at her granddaughter.
“She’s really responded to the treatments,” Zoe said coming to stand next to Celia, putting an arm around the daughter. “Also to everything afterward. We’re very proud of her.”
“How about we leave you two together to talk,” I said. “Have a seat and chat. We’ll be in the kitchen, just through there when you’re done.”
I took Zoe’s hand, and we headed out of the room as Mrs. Keen just gaped at her granddaughter in disbelief. We went into the kitchen and just chatted, Zoe filled me in on some of the stuff she’d been up to that week, while Emily and I’d been locked away at the office.
While normally we’d take the chance to snuggle up in one chair, the presence of an outsider tampered down the displays of affection. Mrs. Keen found us almost an hour later, sitting at the table, talking.
“Have a seat,” I said, pointing at a chair.
“Celia, how about we go upstairs,” Zoe said, sliding out of her seat as Mrs. Keen found hers.
Before the pair had come in to find us, Zoe and I’d agreed it would be best if I could talk with her grandmother separate from her so we could be franker. Zoe didn’t like the idea of ‘talking behind Celia’s back,’ but I’d countered that. If we really wanted Celia to hang around and work with them on Next Step, her grandmother would need to be on board. For that to happen, she needed to feel comfortable with everything we’d done.
“I am floored,” she said as her granddaughter left the room. “I almost don’t recognize her, both how she looks and her attitude. She’s like a bigger version of the little girl I remember from ... before her parents died. I was sure I’d lost that girl.”
“She was always in there. She just didn’t know how to deal with the pain of losing her parents, and she’d found she could at least numb it with drugs. As she got sober each time, she had both the pain from her parents still there, with shame over her habit added on top of it.”
“How’d you do this?”
“First, I want to make it clear, she isn’t cured. We managed to get all that crap out of her system, and more importantly, we’ve been giving her things to do that she could feel proud of. But, she still needs to get some therapy, to deal with the underlying problems. She still has a lot of pain, down deep.”
“That makes sense, I guess. I should have probably gotten her to counseling when it happened, but she was young. I thought maybe, if she just had the right environment...”
“I come from a very different background, so maybe I’m not the best informed on this subject. I think giving someone everything they think they want isn’t the same as giving them what they need.”
“Maybe. No, definitely you’re right. I guess it was that when I was a girl, and in my family, we just didn’t talk about things. Feelings and what not.”
“That’s fine. You don’t have to, not if you don’t want to, but you do need to make it available to her. We can help with that if you want.”
“She told me she wanted to stay here, with you all. She seemed very excited about working on that charity of yours.”
“Like I said, we gave her something she could do and be proud of. It’s part of what she really needs. We’d be happy to have her keep working with us, but I think there is a better middle ground.”
“For one, my household is already pretty full. While I think our non-profit has a place for her, and would be a good fit for her, I think she also needs to get back to the life she’s been turning her back on. She can’t change one crutch for another.”
“What do you suggest then?”
“I think she should go back to school. I’m not sure if it can be arranged this year, but it’ll be good if she could still room with Megan, that way she’d still have that tether to something and someone with positive associations. Also, we’d have someone to give us a warning if she relapsed.”
Of course, I knew she wasn’t going to relapse. Thanks to the change, she wouldn’t be able to get high, or drunk, or stoned, ever again. I wasn’t going to tell her grandmother that, but I was serious about our household not having room for more family members. It was a point I’d made painfully clear to the girls, in case they got any ideas.
“She can work with us on the weekends, especially since we’ll all be moving closer to Houston, and hence her school, at the end of the year. We’ll keep her involved as much as we can, with the stipulation that it doesn’t interfere with her school work.”
“I do like the sound of that.”
“Finally, she gets regular, weekly counseling. I think if we do that, this change has a good chance of sticking.”
“You know, when I came to see you, I was desperate. I honestly didn’t think it would work but, seeing her now. Yes, I’m willing to do all of that. I also like the idea of her continuing school. I’ll talk to the school and take care of it. I’ll also call your Mr. Colletta and see about that donation we discussed.”
“You know that isn’t why we helped her.”
“Yes, I get that impression; but a deal is a deal, and I am a woman of my word. You have more than lived up to your side of the bargain,” she said, reaching out a hand.
“Well, I appreciate it,” I replied, taking her hand and shaking it.
“I’ll be in touch after I talk to the school” she said. “Hopefully, her friend Megan will still be available to be her roommate. I’d feel better if someone was still around her regularly, for support and to warn us if she backslides.”
“I’m sure Megan would be happy to be Celia’s roommate again. We’ll be waiting for your call. Since you’re here, why don’t you and Celia spend some time together? Maybe go out to lunch, just the two of you. After everything you’ve been through together, it would be a good start on repairing your relationship.”
“That’s an excellent suggestion. Yes, I think we’ll do that,” she said.
The grumpy ‘old lady’ expression she seemed to wear as an armor had stripped away, and she was beaming. It was quite the change and a pretty good look for her, I thought to myself as I headed upstairs to get Celia and give her the good news.
While they were out, I called Megan, and gave her a heads up on what was happening. As I predicted, she had no problem taking Celia on again as a roommate, especially since she knew that Celia had gone through the change, making drugs a complete non-issue. Celia might not have known it, something I strongly reminded Megan of, but she still saw her as some kind of sister in the little but growing club of people who’d been changed.
Since she’d already made herself known in our household, and was therefore a potential target, I’d sent one of Carter’s ... no, one of the security ... people to follow them, unobtrusively as a safeguard. I didn’t think they’d actually need someone, but it did ease concerns I might have had when Celia called later to tell me she and her grandmother were making a day of it and she’d get dropped off at the apartment later that evening.
I was sitting in the kitchen, feeling insufferably pleased with myself when the next crisis burst it’s way into the kitchen.
I’d heard the front door open and, since we had security people in the house now, didn’t think anything about it. I’d assumed it was Judy and Tina returning from their mall trip, and it turned out I was right. What I hadn’t expected, was to find Judy in a crying fit and Tina trying to comfort her as they came into the kitchen.
Seeing her state, I yelled up at Tami to hurry downstairs and then went to sit next to the crying girl.
“What happened?” I said, putting my arm around her.
Tina slid out of the seat next to Judy as Tami appeared, the rest of the girls in tow behind her.
“We ran into her parents,” Tina said meekly.