After the ride from Target in the back of a truck, Unity awakened in a comfortable bed in an Airstream camper, just as she expected. As much as the camper was a brilliant shiny metal shell, her senses and emotions were dulled and numb. According to the plan, she was well set up to live in the camper indefinitely, with a space heater and and an ipad with wifi from the Harhash home, and with Douglass and Samah taking turns bringing her food. She assured them that she had lived in much worse conditions before.
As soon as she saw the facebook posts and local news stories about the girl “kidnapped by terrorists in Target,” the gravity of what they had done sank in. She heard the prosecutor on television make a statement about “bringing the evil kidnappers to justice” in front of a background of a “Vote for me” sign, as she saw her adoptive parents crying beside him, and she knew that there were no “evil kidnappers” and certainly no terrorists, but she didn’t want to hurt the Washingtons. She didn’t know what to do and now felt just as trapped and isolated by her own actions as she did in any previous home.
Meanwhile, Liberty was becoming a shell of what she had been. The Washington home felt like a compound, with Dad building a fence around the property and tightly controlling ingress and egress. She missed Unity horribly, to the point that she stopped dancing and her grades were dropping. Without Unity, Liberty – the pride of the Washingtons – just wasn’t shining as the star of the neighborhood anymore. Rosy got her in to see a therapist, and the counseling and medications seemed to help a little, but they simply didn’t make up for Unity.
Things seemed to reach their lowest point, for Liberty, anyway, when Reagan and Rosy separated.
When the people in control become entrenched in blaming one another with sharp words for everything that is wrong, those who have little say in the mess are left feeling helpless and angry.
But they wondered why Liberty had changed so much. Rosy criticized Reagan for the fence, saying it kept Liberty’s friends from coming over; Reagan called Rosy a “bleeding heart,” saying those kids have homes of their own, and he didn’t trust those Harhashes and their kind anyway. Rosy suggested maybe Reagan was getting carried away with his “tools of self defense” so he started accusing her of stealing his guns and taking them to pawn shops, even though he knew they were all in the cabinet where they belonged. They were so busy stabbing one another in the back, figuratively, that they simply didn’t enjoy Liberty at all anymore, literally, and practically forgot about Unity, assuming she was gone. This pushed both of the children further away emotionally. The searched for Liberty finally stopped, and about the time Liberty was at her darkest point, Rosy moved out, taking her along, where they lived in a small apartment, Rosy in the bed and Liberty on a fold out sofa.
Both parents spent whatever Christmas money they had on lawyers, and began to formalize the fight. Reagan’s attorney repeatedly threatened to “lock Rosy up” for some things that showed up in her emails, and Rosy’s attorney would respond with a trite “When they go low, we’ll go high” in spite of the fact that she had hired people to try to bring out the worst in Reagan in public while others were videoing for use in court. Unity was watching on the internet and Liberty was watching in person.
After pleadings were filed, the main point of contention became “Who is the better caretaker of Liberty?” They rehashed all the same arguments, both arguing that they were morally superior to the other, when the truth was both were more loyal to themselves and their personal interests than they had ever been to Liberty. In an effort to convince the Court that they were each the more responsible parent, they began to accuse one another of guilt in Unity’s disappearance. Liberty couldn’t take it, and began to sincerely wish she had been taken along with Unity, back in September. At the first court hearing, the judge threatened to put Liberty in state custody.