Chapter 10 – The Unexpected Gift

Emily sat in the middle row of the nearly empty theater and watched the action on stage.  It had taken her six months to get this far.  The first three months were spent trying to get out of directing the play.  The last three were spent giving in and getting the ball rolling.  Emily loved being a drama and English teacher, but for high school students, not these young children.  Today was the first full dress rehearsal for the upcoming premier of The Little Princess.

“Okay folks let’s start with the scene with Sara and her father in the carriage.”  As she watched Emily thought – I think Christy and David should be wrapped in coats and blankets for this scene.  “Good run through, now let’s try it one more time using the coats and blankets.  No, no, not too many, have the blankets draped over their knees like they would be on a sleigh ride.  Yes, that it. Perfect.”

As she sat watching the action, Christy Daniels came out of the wings in preparation for the farewell scene.  She was dressed in her princess costume and her hair was dressed in curly splendor.  Emily wanted to focus on a few of the scenes, which were giving her problems.  She couldn’t get some of the scenes to feel right.  One of the scenes was the farewell scene between Sara and her father.  Christy just wasn’t showing the emotions needed for that scene.

“David, you should be sitting in the chair with your head in your hands.  Christy, you need to be standing in front of him with your hand on his shoulder.  Good.  Now let’s hear your lines.”

Father:      I’ll tell you what, let’s pretend we’re back in India and I’m going away with the troops for a few days.  Shall we?   (Sara nods)  We fought this kind of battle before haven’t we and you never cried once when I went away.  Remember.

Sara:         Yes, Daddy.

Father:      But this is going to be our hardest battle.  We’ll be good soldiers won’t we?

Sara:         Yes, Daddy.

Father:      Shall we say goodbye like we used to at home?

Sara:         Yes, Daddy.

“Christy, you should be crying at this point in the scene.  This is a very emotional part and I need to see your emotions to gauge the effects and how they will look and sound on opening night.”

“But this is just a run through.  Why do I have to make my eyes red now?”

“I need the emotions to be real, Christy.  Yes, I know that this is make believe and just a run through, but when you are acting your job is to make your character come alive.  You need to make Sara come alive!  Now let’s continue with David’s line and give me the emotions.”

Father:      Alright then chin up.  Go to the window and look out.  (Pause) Now say it as we used to “My Daddy has to go away.  But he’ll return most any day.  Any moment I may see, my Daddy coming back to me.”

Sara:         (Repeats Crying)  “My Daddy has to go away.  But he’ll return most any …” I can’t do it this time!  I can’t do it! (Hugs father) You, you’re crying too.

Father:      I’m afraid we’re not quite such good soldiers as we thought.

Sara:         Oh, yes we are.  (Kisses father) I can do it now.  (Turns back towards window and father leaves the room) “My Daddy has to go away.  But he’ll return most any day.  Any moment I may see, my Daddy coming back to me.” (Cries)

“Yes, that was much better.”  Emily thought that she might be demanding too much from Christy but there was something about the young girl that always put her on edge.  She knew that Christy came from a very unhappy home and that she was always running away because they talked about it together a few times.  Christy had even talked to her about becoming a foster mother.  Actually it was almost begging rather than talking.  At the time Emily brushed it off as just wishful thinking on Christy’s part.  But the last time Christy ran away about two weeks earlier she had run to her house.

“Christy, I need you to change into the peach dress.  Then you and Miranda need to go over the times when Sara gets the letter from her father and Miss Rose is in the room with her.  Miranda, you need to make your voice just a bit gentler.  Miss Rose is the good guy in this play, make her seem that way.  Now let me hear your lines and let’s work on the placement of the props.”

Rose:         A letter.

Sara:         It’s from my Daddy.

Rose:         Oh how nice.

Sara:         Oh but it isn’t.  It’s very bad news.

Rose:         Really.  What’s the matter dear?

Sara:         He says the Bores aren’t behaving quite as he expected and he may not get here in time for my birthday.

Rose:         But that’s months off.  So many things may happen before then.  He may still come you know.  (Sara reads the letter aloud)

Sara:         Isn’t he the most wonderful man in the world?

Rose:         Oh, with one exception.

“Better, yes, much better.”  Today Christy was ignoring her as much as possible.  Emily knew that it was because she had sent her back home that night to her foster parents.  She knew in her heart that was the right thing to do, but sometimes she wondered what would happen if she were to take Christy’s request seriously.  There were times when just looking at Christy sent shock waves of guilt coursing through Emily’s body.

When Christy broke Jack’s picture in the alcove that night, it was the beginning of Emily’s sleepless nights.  There was no way she would be able to replace the frame and the picture was scratched and torn beyond repair.  Jack had given her that picture on the night he had asked her to marry him.  Then to have Christy question her on if she looked like the man in the picture left Emily speechless.  How could Christy see herself in Jack’s picture?

As she watched Christy now pretending to be Sara Crew, Emily studied her very carefully.  She looked at the slate-blue eyes and the way her mouth tilted when she smiled.  She tried hard to see Jack’s face there.  Emily studied the strawberry golden color of her hair and the way Christy moved her hands as she spoke, hoping there might be some of Jack’s mannerisms.  The signs were all vaguely familiar to Emily.

“Miranda, you, Christy, and Lois need to go over the death scene one more time.  The transition between the bedroom and the attic needs to be smoother.  Let’s start where Miss Minchin comes in after Rose tells Sara that her father is dead.”

Minchin:   Have you? (Spoken to Rose)

Rose:         Yes

Minchin:   You may go. (Looks at Sara)  Sara, you understand of course that these rooms can no longer be yours.  Come with me.  (Go to the attic) This is to be your room in the future.  I shall have to sell your furnishings and your clothes to pay part of the dept your father owed.  Ordinarily you would go to a charitable institution.  But I’m going to let you remain here.  There will be duties to perform of course.  I hope you appreciate my kindness in not sending you away.  I was unable to find a black dress among your things, so one of the girls has given you this.  You better take off that party frock and put this on.  I’ll send up some shoes. (Leaves)

Sara:         I don’t believe it, I don’t, I don’t! (Stomps foot)(Stands holding doll looking into space)  “My Daddy has to go away.  But he’ll return most any day.  Any moment I may see, my Daddy coming back to me.”

“Christy, show a little more emotion in this scene.  You have just been told that your father is dead.  There should be pain and anger in your voice.  Try your last line one more time.”  Emily got an eerie feeling in the pit of her stomach as she watched Christy repeat her line.  There was just no way Christy could look like Jack.  It was impossible to fathom how one little question could turn her world upside down.

As Emily watched the scenes being played out on stage the events that occurred close to twelve years ago began to become intertwined.  Emily could still hear the anger in Jack’s voice as he yelled at her “It’s either the baby or me!  We are going to start this marriage off with a clean slate and that doesn’t include a baby that comes way too early.”  Then Emily remembered the blinding flash of white as Jack ran through the red light.  She knew that he hadn’t seen the car or the light because he was too busy yelling and looking at her.  Emily remembered trying to grab the wheel as she heard the sound of crushing metal.  The next thing she remembered was waking up in the hospital three days later feeling like life had played a horrible joke on her.

“Christy, I need you and Grace to play the scene where Becky comes into Sara’s room at night after Miss Minchin took away all of Sara’s possessions.  Grace, you need to make sure you’re wearing the bonnet and ratty robe.  Christy, you need to have the old nightgown and robe on also.”

Becky:       I’m glad your warms to sleep miss.  It’s one of them lonely nights.

Sara:         Yes, I wonder where Miss Rose is.  I shall miss her terribly.

Becky:       We’re all alone in the world aren’t we miss?

Sara:         No, no we’re not alone.  There’s my father you know.

How Emily and the baby survived that accident she never knew.  She was all alone in New York City and couldn’t call anyone.  Her parents were still angry with her for leaving Asheboro and not going into law or medicine like they wanted.  They thought acting was a waste of good brain materials and that Emily had better things to do with her time than pretending to be someone else.  Her parents just didn’t understand that, for Emily, acting gave her the same feeling of euphoria that winning a case or healing a broken body gave them.  Her need to bring to life the characters she read in books was like the need to breathe.

“Christy, I want you to go over the scene with Alan in front of the Veteran’s hospital.  Christy you need to put on the black dress and old button up shoes.  I want to feel your confusion and uncertainty as you are searching for your father.  Make me see Sara, bring her to life.”

Sara:         Oh, Mr. Bertie, can my father be in there?

Bertie:       Your father princess?

Sara:         Yes, you see, I know he isn’t dead.  I’ve been looking and looking.  He could be among the wounded couldn’t he?

Bertie:       (Hesitant) Yes.

Sara:         I’m almost sure he is (pauses) somewhere.  If you’re in charge could I please look for him in there?

“Yes, I can see Sara.  You are definitely becoming your part Christy.”  As Emily watched Christy she was enchanted by the acting ability the little girl was displaying.  She herself couldn’t even make her parents proud of her when she had graduated Magna cum Laude from the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, because the degree was in the wrong field.  If she had graduated as anything besides a drama major maybe they would have noticed.  After graduation Emily went to New York to try to make it on Broadway.  She rarely spoke to her parents and never told them about Jack and their plans to marry.  There was no way she could tell them Jack was dead or about the baby she carried.  The accident that took Jack’s life had really messed up her leg and there was no way she would ever be able to dance and act on Broadway again.  So Emily ran.

“Alan, you and Christy need to do the scene where Sara is leaving the hospital.  You need to show a hesitant but helpful attitude.”

Sara:         Mr. Bertie, will it be all right if I come again tomorrow?

Bertie:       I shouldn’t run away too often Princess.  You might get punished you know.  I’ll keep a sharp eye out whenever the wounded come in.

Sara:         You don’t really believe he’ll ever come do you?

Bertie:       Yes. Yes of course I do.  I told you missing men often turn up.

Sara:         Then I’d better come.  You might not know him if he’s changed.

“No Christy, you need to be more persuasive.  Convince us that even if Bertie doesn’t encourage you to come that you are going to come no matter what.  Convince us that you will keep running and escaping from the school as long as it takes for you to find your father.”

When Emily ran she ran as far as her money could take her and ended up in Albuquerque.  She spent the last five months of her pregnancy in a daze, working odd jobs and managing to survive any way she could find.  The only way she could afford to have the baby was through the Salude program set up by the state of New Mexico.  They paid for all of her costs; she just had to pick the hospital.

Sometimes Emily would send her parents the odd postcard or two, just to let them know that she was alive, but she never put her complete return address on them.  If her parents wanted to find her she gave them the postmark of where she was, it would be easy to trace.  Her father was a lawyer, he had connections and could find her if he really wanted to.

“Christy, I need you to go back and get ready for the scene where Miss Minchin confronts Sara about running away and leaving the school without permission.  David, you, Cassandra, Ed, and Frank need to run through the hospital scene with the father lying in bed semi-comatose and the nurse, aid and doctor are talking about him.”

Nurse:       Doctor, this man is an unknown.  His papers were lost.  Delirium following Malarial Fever.

Aid:           We’re very much concerned about him Sir.

Doctor:     Anemia, heart action weak, respiration low.  Well, that’s to be expected.

Aid:           But his mind is clear Sir, he has no lucid moments.

Doctor:     Hmm, temporary paralysis of some nerve center or a blood clot possibly.

Aid:           More likely to be the latter Sir, he received a nasty head wound.

Father:      (Lying in bed mutters) Sara, Sara

Aid:           He repeatedly calls for this person “Sara”.

Doctor:     You can’t learn who this Sara is?

Aid:           No way of finding out Sir, till his identity is established.

Father:      (Muttering) Sara, Sara

“Good, now I think it would work better if the bed was moved a little to the right and the doctor is standing closer to the foot of the bed where he can look over the chart.  Make the action look like a routine.  Make it seem like the doctor has other things and places on his mind and wants to get to them.”

When the baby was born Emily knew that there was no way that she could afford to take care of her.  Her savings were depleted and the apartment manager had given her a 30-day eviction notice.  To top that off the café where she worked was going into bankruptcy and her job would be eliminated in about three weeks.  There would be no place for her and her baby.  Emily had been able to keep her baby for three months and then was forced to make the hardest decision of her life; she signed the paperwork that allowed the baby to be put up for adoption.  She made sure that the baby was going to a good, steady family and had picked a nice couple from Tyler, Texas just northeast of Dallas.  She had to make sure that her baby was going to well cared for.  Then Emily ran once again without telling her parents where she was going.  She left Albuquerque that very night, this time ending up in Moriarty.

“Christy and Lois, I want you to do the scene with Miss Minchin confronting Sara after she ran away again.  Let me see how inflexible and unfeeling Miss Minchin is.”

Minchin:   Sara, where have you been?  Answer me. You’ve been out haven’t you?

Sara:         Yes, Miss Minchin.

Minchin:   What do you mean by disobeying my orders?

Sara:         I had too, I had to look for my father.

Minchin:   This ridiculous search for your father.  All this making believe and refusing to face the facts; It’s, it’s indecent, I’ve had enough of it.  You must realize once and for all that your father is dead.  (Shakes finger in Sara’s face)

Sara:         (Pushes hand out of the way)  Don’t you say that!  He’s not dead!  He’s not! And you can’t stop me from looking for him either!

Minchin:   How dare you speak to me in that manner you impudent little…(Raises had to slap Sara but doesn’t)  I’ll attend to you further in the morning. (Sara slams into her room)

Sara:         I can’t be a good soldier much longer.  I’m cold and I’m hungry too.  Do you hear? (Looks at her doll)  No you don’t hear and you don’t care.  You’re nothing but a doll, a doll! You never had a heart to make you feel, you’re just a doll. (Knocks doll to floor)

“Yes! I love it!  Christy, your emotions and feelings, they are amazing.  If I didn’t have to direct you I would be sitting here crying.  This portrayal was right on target.”

In Moriarty, Emily began to get her life under control.  She got her master’s in education through the University of New Mexico and became a teacher of English and drama.   She had stayed there for seven years hiding from life and just trying to keep her memories in the past.  She had made a few good friends and gone out on a couple dates.  But her heart was not into it when it came time to make a commitment.

Then when the baby would have turned seven Emily had tried to find her.  She was told what she already knew, that the child’s name had been changed.  Then she was told that the child had lost her parents six months earlier in a fire.  However, because she had given her daughter up she would not be able to get her child back and that the child had been placed in the foster care system.  Emily never tried to find her again knowing the type of pain she would go through.  As Emily sat remembering the decisions she had made in her life she absentmindedly rubbed leg.  The physical pain no longer plagued her but the memories of the night of the accident and the night of the adoption, always caused her mental anguish.

“Folks, it’s getting quite late.  I’m sure that you would all like to go get a bit of supper and a good night’s rest so why don’t we wrap it up for now.  Everyone may go, however, Christy before you and David leave could you please replay that last scene again?  I want to make some last minute changes to the stage props and I need you for the focal points.”

Father:      (In a stupor mutters) Sara, Sara

Sara:         Daddy

Father:      Sara

Sara:         Daddy, oh Daddy, it is you! I’ve found you! I’ve found you!  They said you were dead but I knew you weren’t.  I knew you’d come back.  Oh Daddy, hold me, hold me close! You won’t ever go away again will you?  Will you Daddy? What’s the matter Daddy?  Why don’t you talk to me?

Father:      Sara

Sara:         Don’t you know me Daddy?  I’m Sara!  I’m Sara!

Father:      Sara, where is my daughter?

Sara:         Oh Daddy, something’s happened to you.  Mr. Bertie! Mr. Bertie! Oh Daddy you’ve got to know me!  Look at me!  Look at me!  Oh Daddy.

Father:      You mustn’t cry.  You mustn’t cry.  We must be good soldiers you know.

Sara:         But I have been a good soldier Daddy, and you don’t know me!

Father:      My little Sara never cries.

Sara:         But I’m Sara!  I’m Sara!

Father:      (Snaps out of stupor) Yes.  Yes.  Sara.  Sara, my baby

Sara:         Oh Daddy

Father:      My darling

Sara:         Oh Daddy, you know me!

Father:      Sara, my darling

Sara:         You know me!

Father:      My baby, Sara.  Sara.  Oh Sara, my darling.

“Thank you, I just want to make one more change then you need to go over the last part of that scene when the father comes out of his stupor one more time.  I think that will do it for tonight.”

When the scene ended and David had left, Emily was confronted with a child that could possibly be her own.  While they remained there staring silently at each other Emily began to realize that it didn’t matter who Christy was or where she came from.  In her heart she was finally ready to love again and she knew that this child had opened the door for her, that Christy was the gift that healed her heart.

Suddenly Emily began to smile, and then she began to laugh.  The sheer joy of knowing her heart was healing and that Christy was a part of that process had Emily out of her chair dancing around the room.  She knew she must have looked weird to Christy, but she had finally come to a decision.  It was time to contact her parents and tell them everything.  Then she had to sit down and start filling out the foster parent paperwork that would make Christy hers.


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