Back on 1 March 2019 (yes, that long ago, I know) I put out a prompt request which I am now finishing off. As a result, I owe Zia Nuray one more story than I have a prompt for, so I have written an extension to something that she liked in the past. Zia, I hope that you like this too. It came in at 1,153 words and follows on from Null and Void 4 while being on the same day as Cocktails at Sunset or the day after.
The Renvers, Charlik and Yvette, were confused. They'd gotten home from their respite weekend the previous night to find their daughter Yollie, the only neurotypical child of their eight, missing and two unknown professional carers in the house. Ted, their adult eldest son who'd been in charge in their absence, had refused to say anything about the situation other than that Yollie was safe and that they had an in-situ appointment with Yollie's social worker at nine on Monday morning. When they'd left for the weekend, Yollie hadn't had a social worker.
The overnight carers left when the regular school morning help, bolstered by another unexpected professional carer, arrived. Despite Yollie's absence the younger children were ready for their school-bound transport on time and the house was clean and tidy when the two social workers arrived precisely at 9:00am. It was Ted who let them into the house and organised the social workers and his parents at the dining room table before sitting down himself.
Yollie's social worker, Zeus Georgiadis, was a big, olive-skinned man who moved with an easy physical confidence. His supervisor was Bethia Lennix, who they already knew. When they were all seated, Charlik went to speak but Zeus Georgiadis cut him off. "We became aware of Yolanda's problem when she tried to leave the state without parental or guardian's authorisation. Her paperwork has been updated and she's gone to take up her scholarship, but as she's a minor we do need to investigate how she came to be in this condition."
Charlik and Yvette looked at each other, puzzled, then Charlik asked, "What condition and what scholarship?"
"We can talk more about the scholarship later," replied Mr Georgiadis as he opened the manila folder in front of him and slide the top document across the table to the Renvers. It was a photograph of an arm with multiple bruises of differing ages covering the limb from mid-forearm to the shoulder. "This is the condition we're talking about. This photograph was taken with Yolanda's permission on Saturday."
"I, we, weren't aware that this had occurred," said Charlik after sharing a glance with his wife.
"It happened in this house, under your supervision, and you were unaware of it." Mr Georgiadis gave him a sceptical look.
"Yollie’s never complained of anything," added Yvette.
"I understand that you manage your other children with a policy of non-escalation," remarked Mr Georgiadis. "Has Yollie been allowed to complain of, or to react to, events which might cause her pain, distress, or even identifiable injury?"
"None of her brothers or sisters would ever deliberately hurt Yollie," protested Yvette.
Mr Georgiadis indicated the photograph still on the table. "That's an improbable number of accidents over an extended period," he commented. "If you can't or won't identify her assailant, then my professional opinion is that Yollie is safest elsewhere and I will recommend that our department support her in alternate living arrangements."
"Aren't we going to be told where she is?" Yvette's eyes darted around the table. "That's normal, isn't it?"
"Not when a minor has been removed for their own safety and the threat is believed to be someone else living in that domicile," replied Mr Georgiadis.
Charlik was incredulous. "You think that we hurt Yollie? That's ridiculous! Have you seen our care plans for the children?"
"I have," affirmed Mr Georgiadis. "There isn't one for Yollie. She isn't mentioned at all, unless she's tasked with doing something for one of the others. You haven't even noted when she gets her respite breaks, like the one you two had this weekend." He lifted an eyebrow questioningly,
"Yollie's young and resilient, and she only helps with her brothers and sisters," replied Charlik. "She doesn't need respite breaks."
"Or counselling support. Or medical attention. Or school enrichment activities. Or time to do her homework. Or friends. And, apparently, any chance of a good night's sleep." Mr Georgiadis added a new document to the line-up on the table with each sentence. "So, what does Yollie get that she needs and benefits her?"
Yvette bridled. "We don't neglect Yollie!"
Mr Georgiadis indicated the documents lying on the table between them and asked, "How would you describe the situation if you had this information about someone else's child? Particularly if they said they didn't know how she was being hurt?"
Mz Lennix added, "We will, of course, have to have the other children interviewed and medically reviewed to see if they can shed any light on what's been happening to Yollie and to ensure none of them have the same injuries."
Charlik asked, "But when it's all sorted out, Yollie will come home again?" He added, "Our care plans for the others rely on her help - her role isn't been big, but it is essential. Without her help we wouldn't be able to stretch our carers' budget as far as it goes."
"I wouldn't call sole overnight responsibility for a teenaged sibling who requires some physical assistance and supervision, every night, a small role," replied Mr Georgiadis. "How well does Yolanda sleep? How much sleep does she get on an average night? How much does she get on a bad one?"
Yvette began, "Well, Karla usually wakes two or three-."
"This meeting is about Yolanda," interrupted Mr Georgiadis. "Can you tell me anything about Yolanda without first talking about her siblings?" He looked at both of Yolanda's parents and added, "Can either of you do that?" After almost a minute’s silence he said, “I see,” and made a note in his papers.
“What about this scholarship?” It was Charlik who asked that. “Why has Yollie had to travel to take it up? She could take classes here if she wants further education, and study between her responsibilities.”
Zeus Georgiadis looked at him with a slightly disbelieving air just long enough for Charlik to become uncomfortable. “Yolanda has been granted a scholarship for academically disadvantaged students that is specific to the institution she will be attending. I would point out that only being able to attend to her schoolwork ‘between her responsibilities’ is how she became academically disadvantaged in the first place.”
“I am surprised,” commented Bethia Lennix, “that your enthusiasm for your children to pursue their academic potential doesn’t extend to Yolanda. I agree with Mr Georgiadis that Yolanda should remain where she is at least until our investigation is completed. Now, unless you have anything else to raise, I believe this meeting is over. We will be in contact with the appointment times for the further assessments required.” She looked at them for a moment and added, “I’m sure that Ted can see us out. Good day.”
Charlik and Yvette sat there watching and unsure as Ted stood and showed the social workers out of the house.
Yvette asked quietly, “What do we do?”
“I have no idea,” replied Charlik. “Perhaps wonder if we’ll ever see Yollie again? That and work out how we cope without her.”
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