A Stranger in Lawndale
a multi-part story by Belle Book

Chapter 11: The End of Tiffany's Nightmare

Stacy and Quinn were still trying to get some straight answers from Tiffany when Stacy suddenly heard footsteps coming up behind them. Turning around, she saw Derek and Sandi rushing towards them.

"What's wrong?" asked Derek.

"I got sodas for Tiffany and Quinn and gave the drinks to them and then I went to get one for myself," said Stacy. "But when I came back, I saw Quinn asking Tiffany to let her see what she just took out of her pocketbook. Tiffany was being recalcitrant, so Quinn grabbed her pocketbook and looked inside. This is what she found and showed me." She then showed Derek and Sandi a pill box. Inside were some pills. "Quinn explained that Tiffany had turned her back to her before opening the pocketbook. I'm sure Tiffany's been taking these pills secretly."

Derek visibly frowned as he examined the pills. "You're probably right," he said. "I think Tiffany has been taking pills secretly. And I'll bet that they're either barbituates or tranquilizers. How many pills did she take?"

"Three or four," said Quinn. "And she only took them a few moments ago."

"They probably won't be digested yet," said Derek. "I'm going to have to make Tiffany get rid of these pills in the bathroom. And then -- I'll have to get Tiffany to tell me what kind of pills these are -- and why she's taking them."

"Good luck," said Stacy as Derek took hold of Tiffany's arm and escorted her to the bathroom. As Stacy watched them go, she heard Sandi ask, "Tiffany's on drugs?"

"Yeah," said Stacy. "Derek suspected it and had Quinn & I watch her. He also thinks Tiffany's been taking the drugs because her uncle's been abusing her in some way. I sure hope we can find out what the problem is -- for Tiffany's sake."

"I never thought that Tiffany might be abusing drugs," Sandi admitted. "Or that she might be a victim of abuse."

"Hey, neither of us thought that either," Stacy heard Quinn say. "And I also hope we find out what's wrong, so Tiffany can get the help she needs."

Once Derek found the bathroom, he locked the door and got Tiffany to kneel down in front of it. Then he slipped off his shirt. He was pretty sure that Tiffany would be too doped even though the pills hadn't been digested yet to notice that his chest was covered with soft fur reminiscent of the fur of a fox. That's also why he had locked the door -- he didn't want anyone else walking in and getting the shock of their life at seeing the furry chest. He would've kept the shirt on except that he was sure he'd get puke all over it once he got Tiffany to get rid of the pills.

He turned to Tiffany, knelt down beside her, and opened her mouth before sticking his fingers down her throat as far as he could. Naturally, Tiffany began to bite down, but he kept forcing his fingers down her throat until finally she couldn't help but gag. He got behind her as fast as possible, keeping her head as close to the bowl (and as far away from her dress) as possible as he saw the partly-digested pills wind up in the bowl, along with the remains of some food that she must've had for dinner.

As Tiffany was puking in the bowl, Derek washed his hands in the sink before putting his shirt back on. As he watched Tiffany, he thought over what Stacy and Quinn had told him. This clearly was the evidence that he'd needed to prove that Tiffany was taking drugs. He just wasn't sure exactly what kind of pills she was taking and more importantly, he wasn't sure that abuse was the reason behind the drug-taking. And he suspected Tiffany wouldn't be willing to reveal why she was taking the drugs -- especially if abuse was behind it. He'd have to think of a good way to ask her -- and use his persuasive skills to get her to talk. He wasn't going to hypnotize her -- unless she got so upset that he believed hypnosis would be the only way to get past her defenses.

So Derek thought of what he was going to say as Tiffany finally stopped her puking.

Tiffany would later always wonder why she allowed Quinn to spot her taking the Xanax pills. Was she simply so spaced out that she wasn't aware that Quinn was nearby? Or was she somehow secretly hoping that someone would figure out was going on and rescue her?

Anyway, the next thing she knew, Sandi and that gorgeous guy Derek had come back and were hearing from Stacy and Quinn what had happened. Then, she found herself being pulled away and steered into a bathroom, where Derek proceeded to force her to vomit the pills. Tiffany didn't want to -- they were her only way of getting through what her Uncle Adam did to her when her parents went to bed now that he was living with her family. If she actually thought about what happened, the memories would be too painful for her to deal with.

But Derek wouldn't let her get out of getting rid of the Xanax. And now that the puking was over, she heard the sound of someone turning on the sink and rinsing something in it. The next thing she knew, a wet cloth was being applied to her whole face. It was Derek, getting rid of the vomit in a surprisingly tender way, considering what he'd done to her just moments before. Once the vomit was wiped off, she looked up and saw him rinsing the washcloth in the sink.

Then he got down on his knees and faced Tiffany. "Tiffany, you have a serious problem. A very serious problem. You may think drugs aren't a serious problem, but they are. They can really mess you up, even kill you. We're all worried about you and want to help you, but the only way we can help you is if you tell us everything about what's been going on."

Tiffany tried not to keep the panic from rising up in her throat. How could they help her -- without hurting her parents? She could still hear Uncle Adam telling her, back when she was a worried six-year old, that she was not to tell anyone. If she did, he'd kill her parents. And she was certain he'd do so. If she submitted, she might be the only one to get hurt. If she resisted -- tried to tell someone -- her parents would be hurt, and worse killed.

"First, will you please tell us what the pills were that you were taking?" Derek asked.

Well, that was an easy question to answer. "Xanax," Tiffany said dully.

"Where did you get them? Could you please tell me?" asked Derek.

"At first, from my mother," Tiffany said. "She took Xanax because sometimes she'd wake up and was too scared to get back to sleep. But then I secretly bought them on my own."

"Why was your mother too scared to get back to sleep?" asked Derek.

"I think she had nightmares about her father hitting her," Tiffany explained.

Derek sighed before taking a deep breath and asking, "Could you please tell me why you were taking the drugs?"

Tiffany nearly panicked then. "No! Please don't ask me!" she cried out and tried to get past Derek. But he grabbed hold of her and got her back down on her knees as he knelt down himself.

"I learned from Stacy that your speech hadn't been so slow until your uncle moved in," said Derek, his hands still on her shoulders. "Is that why you're taking the Xanax? Because your uncle has been abusing you somehow?"

Derek's question was bringing back a flood of memories. Although her usual spaced-out state helped dull the effect of the memories, she was still getting scared. "No, please! I can't tell you! He'll kill my parents!" she blurted out.

Shocked by her outburst, Tiffany tried to run but Derek's hands were tight on her shoulders, keeping her from running. She took a good look at him and saw that he was looking like he wasn't feeling very well himself.

"So that's why you didn't tell anyone," said Derek. "He threatened to kill your parents if you talked." Then his expression became earnest. "Listen to me. Your uncle won't kill your parents! Because if you tell me all that your uncle did, I swear that I'm going to take you straight to the police station and you can tell the police the whole story. I will add my own testimony and attempt to convince the police to get a warrant for your uncle's arrest immediately. And once they have the warrant, we'll take you back to your home -- but not until then."

Tiffany was reminded of her parents reading the Old Testament to her as a child and informing her that a vow should not be broken. And Derek sounded a lot like he was making a vow. "Aren't you just going to promise me all this?" she asked.

"If I just promise you, it will be easier for me to break. And that would be bad for you," Derek explained. "If I make a vow, on the other hand, I won't be easily tempted to break it since vows are serious."

Despite herself, Tiffany was impressed. If Derek was willing to take a vow, that meant he was serious about wanting to help her without risking her parents getting killed. Still, she couldn't help but add, "But the idea of telling you what Uncle Adam did is already bringing back painful memories. I don't know if I can handle going ahead and telling you."

Derek's grip grew gentle and his voice became very soft as he said, "I'm sure you're already hurting just by my efforts to convince you to tell the truth. And it's likely that telling me will hurt even more. But maybe it will help you if I compare the pain to the pain of having surgery. You know the surgery's going to hurt. And it does -- even if you only feel the effects after the anesthesia wears off. But if it's something that'll help you deal with a worse pain or if it's something that can help save your life, you must go through the pain in order to have relief or to save your life. Telling the truth will be painful. But the alternatives include death. And telling the truth can help you escape the prison you're in -- one of fear and self-destructive efforts to survive."

Tiffany thought it over. Could telling the truth help her escape? Could it set her free? Derek certainly believed it could set her free. And now that the haze she'd lived in for so long was starting to dissolve, she was beginning to see that her current existence was hardly great. If there really was a way out, shouldn't she take it? Especially if the person giving her the way out was willing to keep her parents safe as well.

Tiffany took a deep breath and made her decision.

It had been several minutes since Derek had pulled Tiffany into the bathroom, and Quinn was trying to contain her anxiety. There seemed to be no physical harm to either Derek or Tiffany, or she'd have heard Derek calling for help. But why was it taking so long for them to come out?

Finally, the door opened and out came Derek and Tiffany. And Quinn knew something was really wrong. Tiffany looked like she was crying, and Derek ... he looked like he was ready to kill someone.

She heard Stacy whisper, "I think whatever he heard, he hated so much he wants to kill the culprit."

That sounded like a good explanation. But before she could reply, the two arrived. Derek said, "Please comfort Tiffany while I go to tell Lindy we're taking Tiffany home. I'll inform her that we found out she's secretly been taking Xanax pills and we're going to tell her parents this. That's the truth, but there's more that I don't really want Lindy to know -- yet." In other words, Derek had found out what was behind the pill-taking, and it was painful enough that he didn't want to reveal it to Lindy yet.

Quinn nodded and she and Stacy took Tiffany while Derek went to make his excuses to Lindy. Quinn told Tiffany, "I hope Derek didn't threaten you in any way."

"No," said Tiffany. "He didn't pressure me against my will. I -- willingly told him. But telling him hurt. I think it hurt him as well."

"I'm pretty sure it did," Stacy told Tiffany. "I don't think urging you to tell him hurt him, however. Most likely, what you told him upset him."

"What did you tell him?" Sandi asked. But before Tiffany could reply, they heard Derek coming back.

"Lindy allowed us to go and said that she hopes Tiffany gets better," Derek said. "We'd better get going. Quinn and Sandi, maybe you should get into the back seat with Tiffany. Stacy can sit up in front with me, if that's okay."

"It's fine with me," said Quinn. Sandi and Stacy also agreed, so they left and got into Derek's car. Stacy got up in front beside Derek while Quinn, Sandi and Tiffany got in the back. Tiffany was between Sandi and Quinn.

Right after Derek drove away, Sandi repeated her question. Derek said, "I'll answer it. We're actually not going to Tiffany's house just yet. We're going to the police station because I was right in assuming that Tiffany's uncle had been abusing her. He'd been sexually abusing her for years."

Quinn hears Stacy ask, "When?"

"Starting when she was six," said Derek. "Her parents had to be out of town and they asked her Uncle Adam to babysit her. He promised he'd do so, but the first night he babysat he began molesting her. He didn't actually have sex with her at first -- he just fondled her. And ever since then, when her parents were out of town, he'd sexually abuse her. At first, he'd bribe her with little presents so she wouldn't talk but she increasingly became uncomfortable. One day shortly before her seventh birthday, she tried to tell her parents when they came back but her uncle heard her trying to tell them and took her aside. He then threatened to kill her parents if she talked."

Quinn was horrified and she had the feeling Stacy was too. She wasn't sure about Sandi, however. Quinn swallowed before asking, "Would he have done so?"

"I don't think so, but I'm not sure," Derek admitted. "I think he was simply trying to keep his abuse from being revealed. In any case, Tiffany believed he'd kill her parents, so she never tried to talk again. As she grew older, her uncle's molestations became increasingly more sexual. She admitted to me that she became more concerned with her weight after puberty began, but it wasn't until her freshman year that it became an obsession. That was because that was the time when her uncle began essentially raping her."

"And when her uncle came to stay with her parents, that's when she turned to drugs?" Sandi asked.

"Yeah," said Derek. "I believe her interest in her personal appearance, which had begun after her uncle threatened to kill her parents, was an attempt to regain some control, as was her obsession with not being too fat. But as long as her uncle wasn't around her 24/7, she felt she could handle the pain. But when he came to stay with her and her parents, she needed a way to handle the pain. Her mother took Xanax because of nightmares and the resulting insomina, so Tiffany began taking them. Since Tiffany told me that her maternal grandfather hit her mother, I suspect Tiffany's uncle -- her mother's brother -- had also been abused in some way."

"So we're going to the police station to get Tiffany's uncle arrested, right?" asked Stacy.

"Yeah," said Derek. "I swore to her that I wouldn't take her home until I convinced the police to get an arrest warrant for her uncle. And I'm keeping my word."

This impressed Quinn. Few people actually made vows. For Derek to do so, that meant he really meant business. But she had to let Derek know something. "There's only one problem," she said. "I think it'll be pretty hard for you to get an arrest warrant tonight. As the daughter of a lawyer, I should know."

"Well, I might just have to have one of you have Tiffany as a guest until we get that arrest warrant," said Derek. "That reminds me, Quinn -- you said that you're the daughter of a lawyer. Maybe you can have your parent help us out?"

"Sure!" said Quinn. "Her name is Helen Morgendoffer. We can call her as soon as we get to the police station. I'll have to explain everything to her."

"While I'm helping Tiffany tell her story to the police," said Derek. "And speaking of police, I think we're here." Sure enough, they were at the police station. Derek parked his car and he got out with Stacy, while Sandi and Quinn helped get Tiffany to the station.

Derek listened as Tiffany told her story to a young female officer. Quinn, Sandi and Stacy were behind him and Tiffany, standing whereas Tiffany and Derek were both sitting down on seats in front of the officer's desk.

The sergeant on duty when they all came in had been initially brusque, upsetting Tiffany even more. When Derek bluntly told him that Tiffany was very upset and he was making matters worse, the sergeant was a little kinder. As Quinn called her mother to tell her the situation, Derek helped Tiffany explain to the sergeant that they were here to report a case of sexual abuse and that if there was an officer that was experienced in dealing with sexual abuse cases, they'd really appreciate talking to that person. He recommended the officer that Tiffany was talking to right now and just before they went to see her, Quinn revealed that her mother was on her way to help get the wheels of justice moving.

Now Tiffany was telling her story. When she got to the part where she explained that her uncle had come to stay with her parents because he resigned from being the rabbi of a synogague, the officer looked especially interested at that but didn't say why. Derek had a feeling that the officer thought there might be more to the uncle's resignation than Tiffany was willing to admit -- or maybe than she knew; for all he knew, her uncle might never have revealed the exact reason for his resignation.

Tiffany finished her story and Derek explained how he managed to convince Tiffany to talk before urging the police officer to get an arrest warrant ASAP because he'd promised Tiffany that he wouldn't take her home until the arrest warrant was made -- and he explained why he made the promise. The officer said, "In that case, I'll work on the arrest warrant right away. I'm not sure Ms. Blum-Deckler's uncle would have killed her parents if she'd talked -- it's a fairly common tactic for abusers to use threats to ensure their victims would cooperate -- but just to be on the safe side, I'll work on it right now."

She then hit the phones and called a judge who was on standby for cases where arrest warrants were needed in a hurry. She spoke to the judge, explaining the situation as Derek heard the door open behind him. Turning, he saw a woman with either chestnut or auburn hair enter the room. She wore a red suit and looked somewhat like Quinn. He suspected this was Helen Morgendoffer, Quinn and Daria's mother. His suspicion was confirmed when Quinn whispered, "Mom!"

"Hey sweetie," Mrs. Morgendoffer whispered. "Thanks for calling me. I know Sandi, Stacy and Tiffany but I don't know the young man," she said, glancing at Derek in an appreciative way.

"This is Derek Powell, Stacy's boyfriend," Quinn explained.

"Nice to meet you, Mrs. Morgendoffer," Derek whispered. "And thanks for coming to help. Right now a police officer is calling a judge to get to work on an arrest warrant for Tiffany's uncle. I think it won't take too long, but it might be tomorrow before they can arrest him, so I'm also hoping you can let Tiffany stay in your place overnight."

"I'd be happy to," said Helen Morgendoffer. "Tiffany, would it be okay with you if you stayed overnight at our house? We can put you in the guest room and tell your parents that you're not feeling well, so I graciously invited you to stay overnight. We'll tell them the truth after your uncle has been arrested."

"Okay," said Tiffany.

At that point, the officer got off the phone. She turned to the people and said, "The judge is working on the arrest warrant right now. It'll take him a matter of hours. Unfortunately, I'm not sure he'll get it done before tomorrow morning, so I would advise you to stay somewhere else for the night."

"Tiffany will be staying with Quinn, my husband & I," said Helen Morgendoffer. "We've got a good story to keep her parents from worrying, and hopefully her uncle won't get suspicious."

"I'll be getting off my shift now, so I can stay with you as well, just in case her uncle decides to break in your house," the officer said. "I doubt that'll happen, but it's better to be safe than sorry."

Derek was relieved. Everything was working out as he hoped it would. Tiffany would be free and her uncle would be in jail, where he belonged.

It was decided to have them all go separate ways. Mrs. Morgendoffer volunteered to take Quinn and Tiffany back to her house in her car and Officer Novack (as she called herself) would go there in an unmarked police car. Derek would take Sandi and Stacy to their homes. So Derek, Sandi and Stacy said good-bye to the Morgendoffers, Tiffany and Officer Nelson before leaving the police station.

Now Sandi and Stacy were in Derek's car, heading to Sandi's home. Sandi was reflecting on all she had learned -- and not just about Tiffany. She was reflecting on some of the stuff she'd learned about Derek. First, she'd learned that Derek didn't seem to be a homophobe. Sure, he wasn't too happy about being hit on by that gay guy, but she doubted any straight person would appreciate being hit on by a gay one -- especially if the person in question was already going steady.

Second, she'd learned that despite Derek's gorgeous appearance, he wasn't someone who valued looks and popularity above all, nor did he value social compatibility the way her mother did. Could there possibly be more to life than looks, popularity or social compatibility? Maybe not -- Tiffany had looks and popularity, but she was the victim of sexual abuse. And Sandi herself was popular -- but she was also suffering from a crush on Quinn. Meanwhile, Quinn may be more of a "brain" now that her sister, Daria, was at college but that actually made her seem happier. And Stacy had a boyfriend who genuinely loved her, so she was happy. And Sandi's parents, who had married for looks and social compatibility? They weren't happy at all.

That's when Sandi came to her decision. She had to tell Derek and Stacy about her sexual orientation and just hope that Stacy was still willing to remain friends with her after this. And maybe if she did, she & Derek could help her figure out if she should tell Quinn -- and if so, what to say to her.

"Stacy, I don't think you might know this, but I haven't stopped pursuing your boyfriend just because Quinn stopped doing so," Sandi began.

"You haven't?" asked Stacy. "Why not, then?"

"Because I'm not attracted to guys," Sandi said. "And if I could be attracted to guys, I'd be really attracted to Derek. But I can't."

"Are -- are you a lesbian, then?" asked Stacy.

Sandi took a deep breath and said, "Yes. Remember Renee Kepler from elementary and middle school? In middle school, I became attracted to her." She then told the whole story of her brief involvement with Renee and its aftermath. "My mother made me promise only to date guys. I tried to be attracted to them, I really did, but ... I couldn't. And in my freshman year, I saw Quinn, and I instantly had a crush on her. But I couldn't date her, because of my promise and because I didn't know how Quinn felt about me."

"I'm sorry to break the bad news to you, but she can't reciprocate your feelings," Derek told her, a sad note in his voice. "She's straight. I can tell that she still thinks I'm gorgeous, that's how I know."

"I was afraid of that," Sandi said, sighing. "I probably should tell Tiffany, but not when she's got her own problems. As for Quinn ... I don't know if I should tell her, or if so, what to say. I'm also afraid that if word gets out, I'll be an outcast, abandoned by everyone."

"I won't abandon you," Stacy asserted. "I don't think Derek will abandon you, either."

"I won't," said Derek. "And I don't think Quinn and Tiffany will abandon you as friends either. However, I would advise you not to tell Quinn that you have a crush on her -- not when she can't reciprocate it. I'd also advise you to look around Lawndale High and see if there's a support group for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people. You could use it. As for your mother, she was wrong to make you promise to date only guys. And if your father knew about the promise, he was wrong to not stand up to your mother and insist that she accepts what you are."

"I won't tell Quinn," Sandi agrees. Yeah, telling the object of your crush that you have one when she can't reciprocate it would be a bad idea. And it would be a good idea to find a club for people like her at Lawndale. Maybe she'd find someone whom she could fall in love with and who could reciprocate. The only problem was ... "What about my mother?"

"I'll talk to her tomorrow, after church," said Derek. "Assuming you go to church, that is."

"We do, but it's hard to keep my brothers there," Sandi said.

"Anyway, I'll have a good long talk with your parents and try to convince your mother to accept you -- and your father to assert himself more in this area," Derek said. "I don't know if I'll succeed, but I'm sure going to try."

"Thanks," Sandi said gratefully. Soon they were at Sandi's place. Sandi got out and walked up to her house. She had a lot to think about, both good and bad. And most of all, she had a lot to think about ... and hope ... for Tiffany.

Soon they were at Stacy's house. Stacy was relived -- she had a lot to think about as well. Including the fact that she suspected Derek wasn't terribly surprised to hear that Sandi was a lesbian.

"Did you know Sandi was a lesbian?" she asked.

"Not until tonight," said Derek. "I had my suspicions but I wasn't sure if she was a lesbian or just asexual. I asked Andrea -- the Goth girl -- to help me find out. She was the one who told me that Sandi had a crush on Quinn -- and believe me, that was a surprise! I didn't think that Sandi's dislike of Quinn actually concealed an unrequited crush. Shows how much I know. I would've told you sooner but ... well --"

"We exposed the abuse poor Tiffany had been suffering for years," said Stacy. "Poor Sandi and Tiffany! I wonder if they'll be okay."

"Hopefully they will," said Derek. "I have more hope for Tiffany than for Sandi. By this time tomorrow, Tiffany's Uncle Adam will be in jail, where he belongs. But I don't know if I'm going to be able to persuade Sandi's mother to accept that she's a lesbian. I'd probably have a better chance than a lot of others -- especially since I can be quite charming and am gorgeous, as you all have said, but homophobia is a hard prejudice to get rid of."

By this point, they're at Stacy's door. Derek said, "I'll come over tomorrow and help you with your homework after I'm finished talking to Sandi's parents. Okay?"

"Sure!" Stacy said. She hugged Derek, and he responded by hugging her back. Then he looked down into her eyes, and all thought began to fade away as he bent his head down to kiss her. Immediately, her arms encircled her neck as she swayed closer into his embrace. His arms tightened as he pulled her closer. Time stopped for a few minutes ... or hours ... or even moonlit nights, before Derek finally lifted his head and stroked her cheek.

"See you tomorrow, my little angel," he whispered.

"Good night, my love," Stacy whispered back. He then broke the embrace and walked back to his car. Stacy opened her door, hoping that things would be okay for Sandi and Tiffany.

To be continued,
Belle Book