The Reluctant Psychic Ch. 06byonly_more_so©
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* * *
Bambi suddenly stopped and pointed, "Isn't that Betsy?"
Had I not been concentrating on the way Bambi's bottom moved beneath her gray wool skirt, and had I not been distracted by the waves of horniness that were emanating from her, I would have seen and felt Betsy long before Bambi did. Before my eyes had risen from Bambi's bottom, I could feel Betsy's mind and her pain. It wasn't a physical pain, but a whirlwind of psychological distress.
Bambi and I were more than fifty yards away, so Bambi couldn't see how distraught Betsy really was. But I could feel the pain and the fear, that was leaking out in tears. I ran past Bambi to get to Betsy and cast out with my mind to let her feel my presence. Betsy looked towards me with tear blinded eyes, and fell into my arms.
I was about to enter her mind and sooth her thoughts when Anna rebuked me, "Aren't you ever going to learn? People need to cry sometimes." I could feel that Anna's voice wanted to say more, but sometimes she made me learn on my own.
So, I held Betsy and she clung to the lapels of my suit. Her tears quickly soaked through the front of my shirt, as I patted her soft brown hair and whispered soft sounds to her. I soon felt Bambi's arms encircling us both, and that was when Betsy finally began to let out long sobs which replaced her silent tears.
I tentatively reached for Betsy's mind and saw that her thoughts and her sadness were centered around death. Someone had died? No, I thought as I pushed a little more deeply, someone was dying.
"My... my, my...," but the next word was too hard for her to get out. "The hospital... they called. Please go with me?" she asked. I looked down into her bloodshot green eyes and dipped my head in acknowledgement.
Betsy worked her arms under my suit coat and held onto me, clasping her hands behind me. With one arm I held her and with the other I reached out to touch Bambi's face. I was a bit surprised to see that Bambi also had a tear on her cheek. She knew as well as I did why the hospital would be calling Betsy.
"Let's go, little one," I said and tried to start towards the car. Betsy refused to release her clasp on me, but did move towards the side so we could walk back towards the cars. I kept one arm around Betsy and the other around Bambi as we made our way out of the park.
Betsy had parked her black Camry next to my gray BMW. Bambi hesitated as I made my way towards Betsy's car. I pulled her along until all three of us stood next to the passenger door. I had to let go of Bambi to open the car door and said, "Betsy, darling, get in and I'll take you to the hospital."
She gave me one last squeeze and meekly climbed into the car. When her legs were clear, I gently close the door, before turning to Bambi. Bambi's eyes were just as green as Betsy's but they were no bloodshot, only full of concern.
I cupped her cheek gently and used my thumb to stroke her cheek. "I have to take Betsy to the hospital. I don't think we will be home in time for dinner. Tell Claire to start dinner without me, and tell the other girls I'm sorry I can't be there tonight."
"Wouldn't it be better if I just called home and followed you to the hospital?"
"No, someone should tell the others what's happening, in person. I need to go with Betsy. Oh, and you better cancel my meetings for tomorrow, I think you know where Betsy keeps such things."
"I will. Take care of Betsy. She's the best little sister and littlest big sister most of us have ever had."
* * *
I really hate driving, probably because I'm so bad at it. Being a bad driver and telepathic means that you are constantly bombarded with curses, insults and accusations about your parentage. But Betsy was clearly in no shape to drive. Frankly, I was amazed that she made it to the park in the first place. I spent the entire trip to the hospital with one hand on the steering wheel and the other hand grasped tightly between both of Betsy's.
As we traveled towards the hospital, I confirmed my suspicions about why we were headed there. I can't recall if she actually told me, or if I pulled it from her thoughts. But at this point, all that mattered was that her father was dying. The hospital had called the house and told Betsy that her father had a severe heart attack. They didn't expect he would last through the night.
Betsy loved her father, even though they hadn't talked for more than half her life. Actually, she had talked to him, but he never said anything back.
* * *
I first met Betsy in the very same hospital where her father, Steven, now lay dying. "Even" Steven had been the first criminal to try to befriend me after I cleaned him out. He was the honest sort of criminal and I couldn't help liking him in return. Soon we did become friends, of sorts. I no longer took his money while gambling, and occasionally threw a good pot his way when he was having a bad day.
I was in the hospital visiting Anna. She had been in a coma for more than four years; a coma that I had put her into. The doctors performed test after test, and they insisted that her mind was wide awake. They couldn't explain why she didn't move and couldn't talk. I looked into her mind and tried again and again to apologize, but there was no one there.
I could sense and even talk to most of the other coma patients. I watched the doctors perform EEG's on Anna and the other patients, and I found that I could communicate at some level with all but the most brain dead. But Anna's brain activity was beyond that of any of the other coma patients and yet I couldn't sense her at all. I kept trying.
At first, I visited her every day after school. When I dropped out, it became every week. When I began gambling, my visits were even more sporadic. Sometimes I would plunge into gambling for months before something woke me up and I would find my way back to Anna's side.
When I met Betsy, it had been more than a year since I last visited Anna. I spent half of that year wanting to visit, but feeling too dirty from the things that I had seen and done. Finally my need to be near her, to beg forgiveness outweighed the other guilt that burdened my soul. I spent two days holding her hand, invisible to the nurses and doctors who came and went.
I started thinking that I would just hold her hand until I died of dehydration, lack of sleep, or simple guilt. But, that was when I heard Betsy's voice break the silence of the ward. If it had only been the noise, I would likely have stayed with Anna. However, Betsy's raw emotions were able to pull me from Anna's side.
I didn't even realize that I had gotten up until I tried to take the first step towards the door and my knees collapsed. I had been motionless for so long that my body barely worked. I rose on shaky legs and staggered to the door. As I looked down the hall I saw a large orderly carrying a scrawny little girl from the ward. The man was accompanied by an uptight social services worker.
Betsy was crying and flailing against the man, reaching for a room down the hall. I couldn't bear seeing the young girl in such a state and forced the man to let her down. As her feet touched the ground she gave the man a swift kick to the shin and ran down the hall. I stopped the social worker and the orderly from following her which left them standing looking very confused.
Eventually, I was able to make my way into the room where she disappeared. I found little Betsy lying with her arms draped across a man. It took me a moment to realize it was Even Steven, since it was the first time I saw him without a smile. He also didn't have his usual ruddiness. "Do you know this man?" I asked. I realized it was a stupid question, but it seemed incredulous that this little girl could possible know a gambler and gangster like Even Steven.
She grabbed him even tighter and said, "He's my father. Please don't take me away from him!"
"I'm not here to take you away from him."
"That's what the others said. But they were lying too!"
Curious, I reached into her mind and learned that the cops were waiting for Steven to wake up, so they could arrest him. Having a little girl hanging around his neck would hardly make such an arrest easier, so they called social services. Social services people saw that if he did wake up, the girl's only living family would be in jail, and if he didn't wake up the only living family would not be living enough to take care of her. So, they wanted to put her in a foster home.
I turned my attention to Steven, and delved into his mind. He was anxious, not that he was on the verge of death, but what might happen to his beloved daughter. Daughter! The bastard had been holding out on me. Not that I could blame him, considering our other associates. I looked around in his mind and saw how completely he compartmentalized his work life from his home life.
Apparently, I nudged something too hard while exploring his thoughts because I felt his awareness latch onto me. He was confused and clearly frightened, and I could hear the heart monitor beeping anxiously.
"Steven, you have to calm down."
"What's he doing here? I thought he was in China," Steven thought, not realizing that I had spoken directly into his mind and what that implied.
"I was visiting an old friend when I saw your daughter making a scene. I came to investigate and found you lying here."
"You can hear me? Betsy! Can you hear me Betsy!"
"She can't hear you, my friend. You can't talk, you're in a coma."
"Then how can you hear me? Talk to me?"
"You were right. I had to be psychic to beat you at cards, playing as poorly as I did."
We ended up talking for a long time, and I watched Betsy as she fell asleep next to her father. But slowly the bright flame of his mind began to dwindle. He was slipping deeper into the coma and I realized that we only had a few minutes left before he would be beyond my reach.
"Steven, you are fading out."
"I'm so tired." He paused for a long time, and I thought he had slipped away. "Please, do me a favor. You owe me for cheating me at cards."
"I owe you for being my only true friend."
"Please, take care of Betsy for me. Don't let them put her in a foster home."
As he slipped away into the darkness, I showed him his daughter as she lay curled up next to him.
* * *
When I began taking care of Betsy, she was a willow thin girl of thirteen who looked like a stiff breeze would blow her away. But a closer look revealed a strong independent young woman who might bend and bend, but would never break. As I learned more about this girl, mostly from reading her mind, I learned how much she'd had to bend.
Her mother had been a casino dealer when Even Steven blew into town. They'd had a brief tender affair, at least that is how Betsy chose to view it, that resulted in Betsy being born nine months later. When Steven heard the news he had rushed to be with his baby girl and spent as much time with her as work and the girl's mother would allow.
Steven had doted on Betsy and would always be sure to leave plenty of money for her care when he visited. But soon the money wasn't being spent on Betsy's clothes or food, it ended up being injected into her mother's veins. Steven found out early on, but mistakenly believed that Betsy would be better off living in a house with a poor excuse for a mother, than rambling around with a criminal father. So he started giving Betsy the money for food and rent, and leaving extra for her mother's habit.
With each visit, Steven spent equal time cherishing his daughter and teaching her about the world. He taught her how to be a criminal, so that she would never be taken advantage of by criminals. He taught her to be strong, so that she wouldn't have to live off a man, and he taught her to be proud, so that she would never want to.
A year before Steven got shot, her mother had finally OD'ed on heroin. This left Betsy living alone most of the time. Steven cut back on his trips, but still could only be in town a few days a week. Betsy had learned well, and did fine living on her own a few days at a time. But now Betsy was left truly alone in the world, except for me.
* * *
I watched Betsy sleep next to her father for hours. Nurses and doctors came and went without noticing either of us. Eventually, Betsy woke from her exhausted sleep to find her father still in a coma. She also found me watching her. She was almost as afraid of me as she was the police and social workers. I said, "Let's get something to eat, you're hungry."
I walked out and waited in the hall. Eventually, a bashful Betsy came out. She shut the door gently, as if afraid the noise would wake her father. I knew she wouldn't take my hand if I offered, so I walked calmly towards the elevators. Betsy followed, but she kept looking back over her shoulder.
"We will come back as soon as you've had something to eat. It isn't healthy for a growing girl to skip so many meals. The cafeteria food isn't terribly good, but I'm guessing you'd rather not wander too far?"
"But, I don't have any money with me."
"Well, it just so happens that I do have money. So, I guess I'll do the buying and you do the eating."
"I don't take charity!"
"It isn't charity. I happen to owe your father a good bit of money."
The elevator doors slid open and I stepped inside. Betsy stood outside for a long time deciding whether she could trust me or not. I patiently held the doors open as she decided. Finally, she stepped aboard the elevator and pressed the button for the lobby.
* * *
It was two weeks before Betsy allowed me to rent her a room in the motel across the street. She only spent a few hour there sleeping, before she would return to her father's bedside. I spent those weeks talking to other coma patients and trying to apologize to Anna.
One day, Betsy caught me in Anna's room, with tears in my eyes. I was so distracted that I didn't hear or sense her come into the room. She had been standing there a long time before she said, "Is that your wife? She's very beautiful." But it was Betsy's thoughts that hurt the most, "Why would a sweet looking woman, like her, have anything to do with him!"
Hurriedly, I ushered Betsy out of the room and shut the door. "She's not my wife," I said. I could feel my heart cramping as it wished I was lying. "She's... She's a woman I owe more than I owe your father."
"Probably because you put her there!" Betsy thought. I would have slapped her for that, if it weren't true. As I gained control Betsy said, "So who are you going to pay your debt to, since you can't pay her?"
Instead of answering, I set off down the hall towards the elevators. It was time for lunch, even if I would only be watching Betsy eat. As the doors for the elevators close, I knew that I couldn't visit Anna anymore.
* * *
After a month, Betsy still didn't believe I was a friend of her father. Every day, I watched another crazy idea come to her thirteen year old mind. For most of the first two weeks, Betsy was convinced I was a cop trying a slow play. The other times, I was some kind of pervert trying to win her trust. Eventually, perhaps because of the incident in Anna's room, she was convinced I was a crook. Either the pedophile sort of crook, or a crook who was after her father's money.
One day, she couldn't take it anymore and she said to me, "Why are you doing all of this for me? He never told me about you, so you must not have been one of his honest friends. That means you're a crook. Or a gambler, and they're just as bad as crooks."
"Actually, I'm more like a crooked gambler. I am doing this for you because your father asked me to. He's the only man who's treated me honestly and with friendship since... well for a long time now."
She was still very suspicious, and expected either rape or robbery. After a month of trying to be her friend, I had only amplified her fears, and she was growing to resent me.
"Betsy, I know you don't trust me, and since you know the sort of people your father associated with, there is no reason you should. But I promised your father that I would take care of you, and I keep my promises."
"A crooked gambler who keeps his promises? Yeah, right."
"Your father was a crooked gambler, but he kept his promises. Why do you think they called him Even Steven?"
"He's not crooked! He might be a crook and he might gamble, but he never cheated!" She yelled and ran at me with flailing fists. I let her hit me as the tears streamed from her eyes. Soon, she ran out of rage and her hands were clenched into my shirt instead of into fists, but she still said "He never cheated..."
* * *
Another month passed and Betsy finally decided I wasn't so crooked after all. I bought a little house near her high school and we told everyone I was Steven's younger brother. I met her teachers, took her shopping, and we seemed like the perfect little family.
The truth was, the whole parenting thing bothered me. I didn't have any idea of how to raise a kid aside from the clinical methods that my parent's had tried on me. I wasn't the only one who was uncomfortable, especially after I made a few too many accurate guesses about boys from school. To make matters worse, I was getting edgy.
At first, I was so driven to provide for Betsy that I was able to block out the past. But, every time we went to visit her father, I would see Anna's room at the end of the hall. In a way, the constant reminder of what I did to Anna saved Betsy. Had I not been dwelling on the subject, I wouldn't have noticed Betsy pushing away her desert claiming she didn't really like sweets. I was the one who didn't like sweets, Betsy was the one who spent fifty dollars of her money for clothes on chocolates.
I pulled in my powers and was on constant guard, thinking Betsy was safe. One night I was having a terrible nightmare and awoke to hear screaming that wasn't my own. I ran down the hall and found Betsy crying and drenched in sweat. I held her as she shook and cried. Eventually I reached into her mind and delicately eased the terror from her mind.
She slumped in my arms and was immediately back to sleep. I spent the entire night watching her sleep, and thinking. Just before her alarm was to go off, I quietly let myself out of her room. I had finally made my decision.
As we sat down to breakfast I said, "Betsy, I'm sending you to boarding school."
"But... I thought..." she said out loud, and her mind finished, "you loved me." I was a bit surprised and embarrassed by the other thoughts running through her mind. I guessed that my powers had leaked more than I imagine, although I have never been sure.
"The truth is, I'm doing a terrible job. I promised your father I would take care of you, and that I wouldn't let you be put in a foster home, so that leaves a boarding school."
"You're doing great. I'm the one who is being terrible. I'll do better, I promise!" I could feel her panic, the thought of being abandoned again.
"Betsy, you are not terrible. You are a wonderful girl. All your teachers speak well of you, your friends parent's say how well behaved you are when you visit, so it is clearly not you. Did you ever have nightmares when you lived with your dad? Did you ever feel bad about eating deserts?"
"No, but it can't be your fault either, you've been really nice to me, even when I didn't trust you." As she said this, I could see that she did trust me now. I would have been joyous, if I didn't have to send her away.
"It is my fault, Betsy. In ways you can never understand. I couldn't stand to see you end up like your father because of me, or like..." I stopped before I spoke Anna's name. "Betsy, I have been deluding myself into thinking that you could be safe around me. I am trying to fulfill my promise to your father, but it simply isn't safe for you to live with me."