Molly’s twin sister’s death four years ago hasn’t been the only hardship her family has endured. It’s been one hard knock after another.
Now she has not one, but three little brothers to deal with, and it doesn’t help that two of the boys are disabled. Her mom wants to try again for another girl – a replacement for her dead twin, Madeline – the shining star everyone idolized. Molly’s mother has no time for her these days, and Molly has begun to resent her dead sister’s ‘perfect’ memory.
When her family vacations in Florida, animal lover Molly is thrilled to spend her time at the animal park. It’s a chance to cast off her life-sucks attitude for a while.
When she receives an S.O.S. message from a gorilla behind the glass at the park, nobody believes her. Molly has no idea why or what she can do to help the Silverback, but she’s determined to figure it out.
It quickly becomes apparent doing so will change her family forever. What she doesn’t realize yet is, it might just change the world.
Previous Chapter: Molly has just rescued the baby gorilla, Jace, from the animal park. Capable of speech, Jace is in danger of being turned over for scientific experimentation. Against all odds, and with the help of her friend, Andre, she manages to get Jace to her family’s car. They arrive home without incident, but when her father suffers a heart attack, her mother sees the baby gorilla, Jace moving around and talking. Molly is forced to choose between betraying her mother and allowing Jace to be discovered. Her mother is taken for a psychiatric evaluation, giving Molly a short window to breathe and figure out what to do with Jace. But when Andre arrives with bad news, Molly realizes she must choose, and neither choice seems right.
Now, read on…
No Right Choice
“In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)
Officer George picked up a box of tissues sitting on the side table and offered them to Molly.
“I’m sorry,” she said, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand even as she pulled a tissue from the box.
“Don’t be. It’s completely understandable. Would you like me to call your aunt?”
“No,” Molly said, silently willing Ryker and Ryan to stay upstairs. “That’s okay. I can call her.” She reached forward and picked up the phone from where it had landed on the floor.
Hands shaking, she dialed Aunt Helen’s number and waited.
“Aunt Helen?” Molly sucked in a deep breath when her aunt answered the phone. “We need you to come over if you can.” She paused, listening. “Yes, actually they just took her to the hospital, but it’s Dad. He, uh, he had…” She bit her lip, trying to control the raging flood of emotions threatening to overwhelm her. She held the phone away from her ear, trying to regain her composure.
“Would you like me to explain?” George asked.
Molly nodded and handed him the phone. Flopping back on the sofa, she listened to the officer explain what had happened. She knew her down-to-earth aunt would be more than willing to help. It bewildered Molly how two sisters could be so different. Helen and Pet were twins, like she and Madeline were, well, had been. Her cheeks flushed as she remembered being a little girl, and wishing Helen had been her mother, instead of Pet.
Aunt Helen had three boys, no daughters, so she’d doted on Maddie and Molly, somehow managing to make them both feel equally special and valued, and never mistaking one for the other, as others had. After Madeline died, Molly had taken her mother’s sewing shears to her long, dark-brown locks in a moment of temporary insanity she supposed, after listening to her mother criticize her lack of style, compared to Madeline. Pet had gone ballistic, surprise, surprise, but Helen said looked terrific and totally lit. Aunt Helen even knew how to talk the talk. To pacify Pet, Helen had taken Molly to a stylist she knew to tidy up the ragged ends, transforming her hair into the cute pixie cut she still wore today.
Snapping out of her recollections, Molly stared past the police officer.
“I’m afraid my co-workers called D.H.S. and -” He paused, mistaking Molly’s expression for one of apprehension over his comment. “You have nothing to be afraid of. They want to make sure your aunt is going to be able to take care of you children for a few days until we figure out what’s happening with your mom, and your dad. That’s all. They’re good people.”
Molly barely heard him over the whooshing of her heartbeat.
Ryker and Ryan were standing in the doorway of the living room, with Jace clinging to Ryker’s back, his chin resting on the top of the young boy’s head, eyes wide open.
The officer turned toward the door, and his brow furrowed. “That does look real, doesn’t it? I can see why your mother became confused. Your aunt mentioned this isn’t her first brush with mental health issues.”
Eyes widening, Ryker stepped back, and Ryan followed him, disappearing from view.
Molly exhaled audibly. “I can’t even,” she said.
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of,” George said.
“Yeah, I know.” Molly swallowed past the lump in her throat. “She’s been in the psych ward several times a year since my sister died.” She continued to stare at the empty doorway, willing the boys to stay out of sight.
George ran a hand through his hair and grimaced. “Tough deal for everyone.” He looked out the window. “Ah, I see Susan, our D.H.S. worker is here.” He craned his neck. “Looks like your aunt just arrived, too. I’ll be right back in.”
A loud shriek erupted from the vicinity of the kitchen, and Molly recognized Ryan’s voice. “Mine! Mine! My toy grilla!”
The back screen door slammed.
“I’ve got to take care of the boys,” she said, jumping to her feet as the officer headed toward the front door.
In the hallway, she nearly collided with Andrè.
“Where did you come from?” she gasped. “Never mind, you’ve got to help me.” Grasping his arm, she steered him in the direction of Ryan’s shouting.
André barked out a laugh. “You have no idea, Bae,” he said. “Where’s your Mom and Dad? Do they know already?”
“Not sure what you’re talking about, but let me fill you in.” Molly pulled him forward, quickly explaining what had gone down in the past hour.
They reached the kitchen to find flour all over the floor and the twins covered in it. Ryan scooped up a handful and flung it at Ryker.
“Stop it,” Molly hissed, snatching up Ryan, who immediately patted her cheeks with his flour-coated hands and grinned. She set him on the counter, pinning him in place with her forearm and looking around for Jace.
‘Hiding,’ Ryker signed and pointed to the cupboard beneath the sink.
André opened it and stifled a laugh. “He looks like a baby ghost.”
Jace held out his arms to André who lifted him up, brushing some of the caked flour from his fur. “Okay, I’ve got him. Meet you at my place in ten minutes. Come right to the barn. My bike is there.”
Molly shook her head. “Are you crazy? Did you not just hear me? Mom is back into the nuthouse, and Dad is on his way to the hospital for probably having had a heart attack.” She squeezed her eyes shut. “My Aunt Helen is outside talking to D.H.S. and George, who’s a cop, and I have this mess to clean up.” She looked at the floor and grimaced.
“You don’t have a choice, girl.” André pulled a large dishtowel from the ring on the wall and wrapped it around Jace. “See you in ten.”
Molly groaned. “André, seriously. I can’t leave.”
André frowned. “You didn’t see the breaking news story?”
Molly felt icy fingers of terror rake across her heart. “What breaking news story?”
“They’re coming for you, Molly. They have photos of you carrying Jace from the hotel to the car. You and Ryker. They’re saying you let all the gorillas out of their pen, and stole Jace.”
Molly sagged against the counter.
“I’m so sorry. My brother recognized you, and he called it in, but they said they already knew.” André took a deep breath and exhaled through pursed lips. “That’s the only reason I didn’t throttle him.” He swallowed hard. “They shot one of the gorillas already.”
“Please tell me it wasn’t Ben.” Molly eyed a bowl sitting on the dish rack as her stomach threatened to evacuate its contents.
André shrugged and raised his hands in a placating gesture. “It didn’t look like him, but I don’t know. I kind of freaked out and came right here.”
Molly heard her Aunt Helen’s voice in the hallway. She grabbed Ryan from the counter, and set him down, even as André headed for the back door.
‘Ryker, please remember, Jace is our secret,’ Molly signed, and pulled the confused little boy into a tight hug and kissed his cheek. “I love you, little Bro,” she said, wishing he could hear her. She looked at Ryan. “You too, buddy.”
Ryan sat in the middle of the floor, drawing lines aimlessly in the flour and ignoring her, caught up in his own little world.
Molly wondered for the gazillionth time who he might have grown up to be, if not for the brain-eating bacterial meningitis that had robbed him of his future. She looked at Ryker.
‘Stay with Aunt Helen,’ she signed. ‘I’ll be back soon.’
‘Don’t go. Stay,’ Ryker signed.
‘I can’t,’ she signed back. ‘I love you. Be good.’
Approaching sirens wailed down the street and seconds later, tires squealed in their driveway. Multiple car doors slammed. The neighbor’s dogs started barking, adding to the cacophony.
“Crap, crap, crap,” Molly said, under her breath, as Ryker began to cry.
“Ryker? Ryan? Molly?” Aunt Helen’s voice drew nearer as she walked toward the kitchen.
“I’m so sorry,” Molly whispered. Covering her ears, she shouldered open the back door and bolted after André and Jace.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Teen Slang: Due to the intended age of the targeted reader audience (Y.A.) this chapter contains some current teenage slang.
Bae – slang for ‘Before All Others’ – a term of endearment used amongst close friends, such as Andre and Molly. Also possibly used as an adaption of “Babe.”
“I can’t even.” Slang expression for being so overwhelmed, you can’t even complete a thought or imagine something.