Children of the Fog by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Posted on Thursday, August 29, 2013


The instant Sam saw her standing in the classroom doorway, he let out a wild yell and charged at her, almost knocking her off her feet.

"Whoa there, little man," she said breathlessly. "Who are you supposed to be? Tarzan?"

"We just finished watching Pocahontas," a woman's voice called out.

"Hi, Jean," Sadie said. "How are things today?"

Jean Ellis taught a class of children with hearing impairments.

"Same as usual," the kindergarten teacher replied. "No change, I'm afraid."

Sadie tried to hide her disappointment. "Maybe tomorrow."

She studied Sam, who could hear everything just fine.

Why won't he speak?

"Did you have a good day, honey?"

Ignoring her, Sam pulled on a winter jacket and stuffed his feet into a pair of insulated boots.

"It was a great day," Jean said, signing as she spoke. "Sam made a friend. A real one this time."

Sadie was astounded. Sam's first real friend. Well, unless she counted his invisible friend, Joey.

"Hey, little man," she said, crouching down to gather him in her arms. "Mommy missed you today. But I'm glad you have a new friend. What's his name?"

When Sam didn't answer, Sadie glanced at Jean.

"Victoria," the woman said with a wink.

Grinning, Sadie ruffled Sam's hair. "Okay, charmer. Let's go."

With a quick wave to Jean, she reached for Sam's hand. She was always amazed by how perfectly it fit into hers, how warm and soft his skin was.

Outside in the parking lot, she unlocked the car and Sam scampered into the booster seat in the back. She leaned forward, fastened his seatbelt, then kissed his cheek. "Snug as a bug?"

He gave her the thumbs up.

Pulling away from the school, she flicked a look in her rearview mirror. Sam stared straight ahead, uninterested in the laughing children who waited for their parents to arrive. Her son was a shy boy, a loner who unintentionally scared kids away because of his inability to speak.

His lack of desire to speak, she corrected.

Sam hadn't always been mute.

Sadie had taught him the alphabet at two. By the age of three, he was reading short sentences. Then one day, for no apparent reason, Sam stopped talking.

Sadie was devastated.

And Philip? There were no words to describe his erratic behavior. At first, he seemed mortified, concerned. Then he shouted accusations at her, insinuating so many horrible things that after a while even she began to wonder. During one nasty exchange, he had grabbed her, his fingers digging into her arms.

"Did you drink while you were pregnant?" he demanded.

"No!" she wailed. "I haven't had a drop."

His eyes narrowed in disbelief. "Really?"

"I swear, Philip."

He stared at her for a long time before shaking his head and walking away.

"We have to get him help," she said, running after him.

Philip swiveled on one heel. "What exactly do you suggest?"

"There's a specialist downtown. Dr. Wheaton recommended him."

"Dr. Wheaton is an idiot. Sam will speak when he's good and ready to. Unless you've screwed him up for good."

His insensitive words cut her deeply, and after he'd gone back to work, she picked up the phone and booked Sam's first appointment. She didn't feel good about going behind Philip's back, but he'd left her no choice.

By the time Sam was three and a half, he had undergone numerous hearing and intelligence tests, x-rays, ultrasounds and psychiatric counseling, yet no one could explain why he wouldn't say a word. His vocal chords were perfectly healthy, according to one specialist. And he was right. Sam could scream, cry or shout. They had heard enough of that when he was younger.

Sadie finally managed to drag Philip to an appointment, but the psychologist—a small, timid man wearing a garish red-striped tie that screamed overcompensation—didn't have good news for them. He sat behind a sterile metal desk, all the while watching Philip and twitching as if he had Tourette's.

"Your son is suffering from some kind of trauma," the man said, pointing out what seemed obvious to Sadie.

"But what could've caused it?" she asked in dismay.

The doctor fidgeted with his tie. "Symptoms such as these often result from some form of…of abuse."

Philip jumped to his feet. "What the hell are you saying?"

The man's entire body jerked. "I-I'm saying that perhaps someone or something scared your son. Like a fight between parents, or witnessing drug or alcohol abuse."

Sadie cringed at his last words. The look Philip gave her was one of pure anger. And censure.

The doctor took a deep breath. "And of course, there is the possibility of physical or sexual—"

Without a word, Philip stormed out of the doctor's office.

Sadie ran after him.

He had blamed her, of course. According to him, it was her drinking that had caused her miscarriages. And Sam's delayed verbal development.

That night, after Sam had gone to bed, Philip had rummaged through every dresser drawer. Then he searched the closet.

She watched apprehensively. "What are you doing?"

"Looking for the bottles!" he barked.

She hissed in a breath. "I told you. I am not drinking."

"Once a drunk…"

She cowered when he approached her, his face flushed with anger.

"It's your fault!" he yelled.

Guilt did terrible things to people. It was such a destructive, invisible force that not even Sadie could fight it.

Children of the Fog

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Genre - Supernatural Suspense Thriller

Rating – PG13

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Website http://www.cherylktardif.com/

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