This is an unedited preview of Chapter 2, part 1 of Girl of Vengeance. It contains spoilers.
Adelina. May 4.
“Mrs. Thompson? I’m Liam Tremblay, I’m the immigration officer assigned to your case.”
Adelina came to her feet. Tremblay was an unprepossessing man, roughly 30 years old. He had a crooked and mashed nose which looked as if it might have been broken in a fistfight, but he wore a respectable looking suit.
“I understand your daughter is undergoing some serious medical issues, so I won’t bother you today if you don’t have time to talk.”
Adelina shrugged helplessly. “My daughter is in treatment right now, I’ve got nothing but time.”
“I hope her prognosis is good…” He raised the pitch of his voice slightly at the end of the sentence, as if he were asking a question.
Adelina looked at the floor. How was she supposed to answer that? He daughter had become addicted to crystal meth. She’d done irreparable harm to her body and her brain. She might survive the stroke, but it was equally likely there would be more.
“All we can do is pray,” Adelina said. Which was bitter. She’d prayed for a lifetime, to no avail.
Tremblay sighed. “I see,” he said in a soft voice. “I’m sorry.”
“Please, Mr. Tremblay. What can I do for you?”
“Well, Mrs. Thompson, I’m the preliminary immigration officer. What I’m empowered to do is to reject your request for asylum out of hand, if I determine there’s no merit to it, or I can forward it on to the tribunal which will make a ruling after a hearing.”
She nodded. “My claim is valid,” she said, her voice confident.
“Be that as may, the process must be followed.”
“How long does it take?” She needed time. If Canada wouldn’t take them in, maybe the United Kingdom would. Somewhere. She needed time to find out why Richard was sending assassins after her and Jessica.
“Well, ma’am, if we go forward with your case, then your hearing will be within sixty days.”
“And how long does it take to make your decision.”
He smiled at her. “That I can do with a simple interview, here and now.”
She breathed a sigh of relief.
“Please. Please, go ahead.”
“All right, then. I’m going to ask you a few questions. I want to make it clear right up front, as a matter of normal rulings, we don’t accept asylum cases for people who crossed the border from the United States.”
Anxiety shot through her. “Why not?”
He gave her a gentle smile and held a hand palm up. “Normally,” he said. “The fact that someone was shooting at you when you came across the border changes things. The reason normally is because the U.S. and Canada have an agreement that if a refugee reaches our borders, then they must apply in the first country reached.”
She nodded. “Okay. I understand, that makes sense. But I’m a refugee from the United States.”
“That may be a first, ma’am. So I’d like to take you through some questions to determine the validity of your case. I’m going to ask you some basic questions. Please answer them briefly and truthfully.”
He took out a notebook and a pen, then perched a pair of reading glasses on the end of his mashed up nose. The reading glasses hung a little crookedly.
“Mrs. Thompson, first of all, where were you born?”
“Do you hold Spanish citizenship?”
She shook her head. Another pang of loss. “No. I renounced my Spanish citizenship at the time I obtained United States citizenship. That was in 1987.”
“I see. Why did you not keep dual citizenship?”
“My husband was an American diplomat.”
“When and where did you marry?”
“In Calella Spain. April 1981.”
“Why did it take so long to get your U.S. Citizenship?”
Adelina stared at the man. Wondering if she was making a mistake. She’d kept Richard’s secrets for thirty years, to protect her children, to protect her brother. But then she remembered. Richard had hired killers to kidnap their daughter Andrea. He’d sent killers after her and Jessica. He’d finally gone insane. There was no more keeping secrets.
In a flat, toneless voice, she replied, “Because Richard didn’t want anyone to know he’d raped a child. So we waited until I was significantly older than eighteen.”
Tremblay coughed, his eyes slightly bugging. “Please clarify.”
“I was sixteen when Richard Thompson raped me. He was a serving diplomat in Spain at the time. He then murdered my father a few weeks later, when my father became suspicious. My mother and priest forced me to marry him when they realized I was pregnant.”
“Dear Lord,” Tremblay said. “Yet, you’ve stayed with him more than thirty years.”
“It’s not that simple that I could just walk away. I had to stay to protect my children and my brother,” she said. “They’re worth a lifetime of torture.”
“Why did you flee now?”
“My youngest daughter Andrea is not his. When he learned she was coming back to the United States, he sent assassins after her. And me.”
“Andrea Thompson,” he mused. “I saw a great deal in the news about her. And you believe that if you go back to the United States, you’ll face risk of further attacks?”
Bitterly, she said, “He won’t stop until I’m dead.”
Trembley closed his notebook, then took a sheaf of paper out of his briefcase. “Wait just a moment please. I’m going to approve your case to go forward, which is going to raise a stink since you’re from the United States. You’ll likely be facing some media attention. Sorry about that.”
Adelina gasped. He dialed his phone, and a moment later was speaking with someone. “Yes. Yes. I need a date. Okay….”
Tremblay hung up the phone and scribbled a date into a blank at the top of the stack of forms.
“Your hearing date will be June 26th. In the meantime, you’ll need to fill these forms out completely. You have fifteen days to complete them and return them to me, and I’m issuing you and your daughter two-month visas. Welcome to Canada.”
Adelina burst into tears. Tremblay looked helpless, so he continued to awkwardly fill out paperwork and look away while she tried to collect herself.
“I’ll need to see you passports, ma’am. Do you have your daughter’s?”
“I do,” she said. She fumbled in her purse and passed over their personal passports. Tremblay scanned them with his phone, then took pictures of the photo pages. A moment later he stamped both.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
“My pleasure, Ma’am. Do you have a place to stay while you are here?”
“Not yet, but I have money to rent a couple of rooms. For now I’ll stay at the hospital until Jessica is recovered.”
He smiled and passed her a business card. “Here is my number in case you need to reach me. I’m based out of the border station in Abbotsford—the one you sneaked by when you crossed that field. I hope you’ll allow me to help if you need anything at all.”
She gave him a smile, and he left. Her heart was pounding, hard, a feeling that was all too familiar. A full blown panic attack was on the way. She closed her eyes and began to pray. Once they started she couldn’t stop them. Every time. Her heart rate would increase, then chest pain, unbearable fear in her body.
She didn’t have to have a reason. She’d begun having them in Belgium more than twenty years ago, when Richard cruelly tormented her with words and threats, leaving her unbalanced and terrified.
You know, he said once, it’s only a twelve hour drive to Calella. And I’ve never met young Luis. What is he, thirteen now?
You leave him alone!
Then you behave, he had snarled back.
The random cruelty he’d begun to visit on her had begun after he’d learned Carrie wasn’t his daughter. He didn’t need to make threats. He’d thoroughly cowed her with the hideous assault in February ’90 which had impregnated her with Alex and left her with lifelong scars.
She stared at the door, beyond which the doctors were treating Jessica. She hated herself for not leaving him thirty years before. He’d threatened all along that he would hurt their children, that he would hurt her, that he would kill Luis. If she “misbehaved.” But now he’d done it anyway, and Jessica was in the hospital and she had no one but herself and Richard to blame for it.
The pain in her chest was worsening. It always did. The first time it happened, in 1991, she’d been rushed to the hospital, thinking she was having a heart attack. No, the doctors informed her. Nothing physically wrong with her at all. They suggested Paxil, a powerful antidepressant.
She tried it, but it made her feel like bugs were moving under her skin. For the next twenty years she went through a series of different anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications. Her doctors were baffled.
But she did remember, one day not long after Julia went off to college, Doctor Thornton spoke with her. No amount of medication will stop anxiety that’s well-founded in something in your life, Adelina. Is there something I need to know about?
She behaved. She denied it, changed doctors and stayed terrified.
She clutched her fist against her chest and whimpered. The pain was severe.
“Mrs. Thompson—are you all right?”
She looked up, tears in her eyes. It was a nurse. “Panic attack,” she whispered. “I’ve had them before. I normally take Ativan when I have one, but I don’t have any.”
“Let’s take you down to an exam room,” the nurse said.
“No! I need to stay near Jessica.”
The nurse smiled. “Jessica’s going to be just fine. The doctor is actually on her way to see you now.”
Hope suddenly flooded through her. “What? Really?”
She shook so hard her teeth rattled against each other.
“Mrs. Thompson? I’m Linda Gates, the chief of neurosurgery.”
Neurosurgery. That’s what Carrie’s husband Ray had … before he died. She looked up. A tall woman with long blonde hair tied in a bun stood in front of her. She wore a white coat with blood stains on it. Adelina continued to shake.
The surgeon continued. “So… first of all, your daughter is in recovery. She had a hemorrhagic stroke, not an obstructive one. That means blood was pouring into her brain when you arrived at the hospital. Once we clearly identified that, she went immediately into surgery. I was right down the hall at the time she was brought in. We cleared out most of the blood and repaired the damaged vessel.”
“She’ll fully recover?” Adelina asked.
“It’s too soon to tell, Mrs. Thompson. Your daughter had a life-threatening stroke. I understand she was a regular crystal meth user?”
Adelina nodded. Ashamed. “Yes.”
“I’m so sorry,” Doctor Gates said. “That’s heartbreaking.” She reached out a hand and touched Adelina’s shoulder. “Panic attack?” she asked.
Adelina nodded, quickly. Tears rolled down her face.
“She said she’s had them before,” the nurse said. “And she takes Ativan.”
“Well. You don’t have any here with you? Is there anyone at home who can bring it to you?”
Adelina shook her head. “We’re… refugees, I guess. She had the stroke when we were attacked just before crossing the border from the United States.”
“Oh, dear. Well… I’ll write you a prescription for Ativan then. Good luck with your application.”
Adelina sank back into her chair. Three people in a row had been incredibly kind to her. She thought about how isolated she always was. It had been since the 1980s when she last had friends. Richard had put to a stop to that, insisting that she never go alone anywhere except church or school events.
I don’t want you hanging out with the Rainsley’s any more. Charles always has his eyes all over you, and Brianna does too.
They’re friends, she’d replied.
You don’t get friends, Adelina. You raise your daughters and go to church and you behave. Understand?
As the years went by, she’d hated Richard Thompson more and more.