When Callie heard the footsteps, she knew he was coming toward her room.
She lay quietly in her bed not daring to move. She barely breathed as
she pretended to sleep.
He opened her bedroom door and just stood there in the doorway, staring
at her. He watched her as she lay in her bed as though he were in a
trance; as though he knew her secret.
Her nose itched, but she didn’t dare scratch it. She didn’t dare
move. Today was the day. If she could just get through this moment
without being caught, today she would leave.
Her heart was racing. It was beating so hard that she was afraid he
would hear it and know that she was awake. By his very presence, he had
stricken the chord of terror in her that had kept her his captive for
all this time.
She badly needed a deep breath, but she was afraid to take one--and she
really needed to scratch her nose. She willed herself to control her
breathing and keep it shallow, slow and even. She was terrified that if
he came all the way into the room, he might find the bag of things she
had hidden in the corner behind the desk.
Suddenly, he shook himself out of his trance and entered the room. As he
approached the side of her bed, she could smell his cologne. The
fragrance repulsed her.
He reached out to touch her long, blonde hair, but apparently thought
better of it. He turned around, and walked back toward the bedroom door
as though he were going to leave. She was going to make it! He was
leaving and he hadn’t found her bag.
Just before he got to the door, he stopped for a moment to look at the
old handmade ragdoll which Callie had left lying on the corner of the
She tensed. If he looked down, he would see her bag. She was terrified,
and her lungs were about to burst, but still she did not allow herself
to move. She concentrated on keeping her breathing slow and even.
He picked up the doll and turned it over in his hands, as though he were
studying it, as though he were trying to figure out why a girl
Callie’s age would have such a strong emotional attachment to an old,
In one swift motion, he ripped the head off of the doll. Chuckling to
himself, he left both pieces on the desk as an illustrative reminder of
what would happen to Callie if she ever crossed him.
Quietly, he left the room and closed the door leaving the stench of his
cologne behind him.
Callie lay perfectly still for another full minute before she very
carefully scratched her nose and took several deep breaths as quickly
and quietly as she could.
Now, she lay listening, straining to hear any sound. She was afraid to
move in case it was a trick and he hadn’t really left. She had heard
his footsteps as he walked across the ceramic tile in the entryway of
the house, and she had heard the front door open and close, but she
hadn’t heard the car start. She lay perfectly still, quietly waiting
for some sound which would tell her if he was still in the house.
This was her last chance to escape before he found out about her secret.
She knew what he would do to her if he found out. Today was the day that
she would run for her life. She would leave this house of horrors and
never look back.
It was June, the summer between her ninth and tenth grade school years.
Callie had known for a long time that she would have to run eventually.
She had known that she had no choice.
“I should have left weeks ago…”
Her mind wandered back to the few missed opportunities she’d had to
“If I had only left when I had the chance, this wouldn’t have
happened. Now what am I going to do? Where will I go? I’m only
fifteen; how am I going to survive?”
She had thought about leaving the first time it happened, but he had
talked her out of it.
“I’m sorry Callie. I’m really sorry. I shouldn’t have treated
you that way. I was drinking. I know that being drunk isn’t an excuse
to treat you the way I did. I know it was wrong. It’s just that I’ve
been so stressed out at work. They’ve been making cuts, Callie.
They’ve been laying people off. I’m so worried about my job. If I
lose my job, how will I take care of my family? And now, with my wife
out of town every week, I’m alone. I just needed someone to talk to,
Callie, and you’ve always been so understanding and kind. I didn’t
mean to hurt you. I was just trying to talk to you. I swear it won’t
ever happen again. Please don’t tell my wife. She wouldn’t
understand. Please Callie, don’t leave. Stay here and finish
school,” he had begged.
Callie knew that if she left, her chance of achieving her dreams would
be gone. She had always loved school and she had such high hopes for her
For as long as she could remember she had dreamed of making friends in
high school, going to the Prom and graduating. She hoped that, if she
worked hard enough, she might get to make the Valedictorian speech at
her graduation, and maybe even go to college on a scholarship.
She knew it would be impossible to keep good grades if she had to change
schools as much as she had in the past. This was the first time in the
five years since Nana died that she had spent more than two months in
the same school; except for the time when she was twelve, and she had
been allowed to stay with the Kyles for eight months.
Because of the Kyles, Callie had been able to spend nearly her entire
seventh grade year in the same school. She had even made a few friends.
The best friend she made was twelve year old Ashley; the Kyles’
daughter with whom Callie had shared clothes, bedrooms and secrets.
Ashley and Callie had become very close during the eight months they
shared a bedroom.
Callie would never forget their last day of seventh grade. She and
Ashley had walked home from the school bus stop excitedly talking about
eighth grade, boys and summer.
When they arrived home, they saw the Social Worker’s car parked in the
“What do you think she’s doing here, Cal,” Ashley asked.
“Don’t worry, Ash. She’s probably just here for a welfare check.
CPS has rules that the Social Workers have to check on us every few
Callie was far more concerned than she let Ashley know. She hadn’t
seen a Social Worker in months.
“Today is the last day of school. Mary probably needs my report card
for her file. She knows how well I’m doing here; I’m finally
catching up in school. I’m sure she isn’t here to move me. Come on;
let’s go show her my awesome grades.”
The girls walked into the house and found Mary sitting in the living
room with Ashley’s mother Carol.
Carol looked very upset, but she quickly put on a smile and greeted the
“Hello girls, I hope you both had a wonderful last day of seventh
grade. I’ve made some special snacks for your party. Please go change
your school clothes and then come back in here with us. Mary has been
waiting for Callie to get home.”
“Hello, Callie. It’s good to see you,” Mary said.
Callie excitedly extended her report card toward Mary.
“Hi Mary; look at my awesome grades.”
“Actually, Callie, I’ve been waiting for you. I’m afraid we
don’t have time for snacks, and you don’t need to change your
clothes—unless they belong to Ashley. You need to get your things
ready. I’m moving you to a new home today.”
Callie’s report card fluttered to the coffee table. Mary hadn’t even
looked at it.
Callie was stunned but she wasn’t surprised. This had happened to her
so many times before that she was used to it; if a child could get used
to such a thing, but this time it hurt. She had been doing so well here.
“But I don’t want to leave here. I’ve been doing so well here. I
have friends here, and I’m finally getting caught up in school. Why
are you moving me? I love it here.”
“Callie, Child Protective Services has decided to move you to another
home. We are afraid you are becoming too attached to the Kyles.”
“You mean you’re moving her because she’s too happy here,”
Ashley shrieked. “That’s not fair. Please don’t take her,” she
begged. “Mom, can’t you do something? Please don’t let them take
Callie away,” she cried as the tears rolled down her cheeks.
Carol was crying too, but there was nothing anyone could do. She could
tell that even Mary felt horrible about it, but her hands were tied. She
had to follow the rules, and the rules do not allow Foster Children to
stay in one home for too long. Ashley and Callie hugged each other and
cried as Mary took Callie’s things to the car.
Mary put Callie’s things in the car and then she came back into the
house to lead Callie away. Callie didn’t even look at Ashley and Carol
as she left. She could actually feel their sadness. She couldn’t bear
to see them crying and waving goodbye to her as she was taken away, and
she didn’t want them to remember her crying.
The girls had promised to keep in touch, but Callie had moved so many
times since then that she didn’t even have Ashley’s phone number or
Callie’s thoughts returned to the present. She wasn’t surprised to
find tears on her face. It always made her sad to think of Ashley and
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself, Callie Hunter. If you’re going to
save yourself, you’ve got to focus,” she told herself. “There will
be plenty of time to think during the walk to town. Maybe someday
you’ll get to see Ashley again.”
Callie was sustained by the hope that someday there were a lot of people
from her past who she would see again; if she ever got out of the
situation she was in.
She had realized weeks ago that she was going to have to leave if she
was going to survive, so she had started to make her plan to escape. She
knew she would have to be calm and careful and wait until she was alone
in the house. She also knew that she would have to prepare herself. She
was more than ten miles from the nearest town. She was going to need
food and water. Callie’s thoughts were jumbled.
“Why did I wait so long,” she wondered. “If I wasn’t so afraid
of him, I would have left already, but I guess if I wasn’t so afraid
of him, I wouldn’t have to leave…‘you’ve got to focus,
Callie’…and I know if he catches me trying to leave, he’s going to
kill me... ‘focus Callie, listen, figure out if he’s still in the
house…scared or not, I’ve got to at least try to get out of here
He had promised her that if she ever ran; if she ever told anyone what
he had done to her, he would kill her, and she believed him.
She knew that her escape would require money and some outside help. She
had neither. She had no family to turn to. She was on her own.
“I can’t go to the police” Callie thought. “They wouldn’t even
try to help me. All I’d be to them is another runaway. They’d just
bring me straight back to him. I can’t risk being brought back here.
Not now… I can do this…And even if I had anyone to call for help I
couldn’t…I’ve made my plan…They don’t even have a phone in
this house…I’ve got my things packed…They have their cell phones,
but what are the rest of us supposed to use? This place is like a
prison. I could ask to use the neighbor’s phone, but they would
probably tell him…today’s the day… Calling Mary wouldn’t do any
good. Even if I could reach her, she couldn’t help me now that they
have guardianship...focus Callie!”
As part of her CPS Permanency Plan, they had been awarded permanent
guardianship of Callie until she was eighteen. It would take time for
Mary to get permission to remove her from their home. A judge would have
to issue court orders before Callie could be moved, and no judge would
issue court orders without evidence proving that she was in danger.
“He’s not going to let me go. He’s going to try to find me.
He’ll be too afraid of what will happen if other people find out what
Ironically, the fear that had previously held her there was now the fear
that drove her. She could not let him find out about her secret. She
knew that he would kill her if she was still there when he realized what
had happened. She had to run now.
The boys were at a sleepover at their friend’s house, his wife was out
of town, and he had a meeting today which would keep him away for two
hours. This was the chance she had been waiting for. She had to leave
today. She was almost out of time. She still had nowhere to go, but
anywhere was safer than here.
There would be no Valedictorian speech and no college scholarship, but
she did not allow herself to think about that now. She did not allow
herself to dwell on the fact that now she would never be able to even
graduate high school. She did not cry. She did not indulge in self-pity.
There was no time for that.
Excerpted from "Rag Dolls" by Shelley D Terrell. Copyright © 2013 by Shelley D Terrell. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.