A Chance To Forgive | Teen Ink

A Chance To Forgive

May 12, 2021
By karthiksanjana, Scarsdale, Please select
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karthiksanjana, Scarsdale, Please Select
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Author's note:

This story was a learning process for my characters and me. Prior to writing this I was not aware of the restorative justice process. With guidance of my english teacher I learned and started to appreciate and believe in the restorative justice process. 

Dr. Athena, Andy, Grayson, Sarah, and Sarah’s parents assembled around a cozy conversational table surrounded by windows in every direction, soothing jasmine, and soft ceiling lights. Sarah’s therapist, Athena spoke first,

“Grayson, would you like to share your side of the story so that Sarah may understand what happened to you, how you responded, and how you now wish you had responded?”

Grayson, taking a deep breath, began,

“At exactly 3pm, I received a call. I remember because I had just spent the last two hours installing a new grandfather clock that struck when the phone rang. I picked-up to hear a distorted voice say, You have 24 hours to find and kidnap a girl named Sarah Harris. If you don’t, your wife and kids will die.’ 

“I couldn’t control my voice.” Grayson’s voice uncontrollably trembled again with the memory.  “Who is this? How do I know that this is not a prank? Would you like to hear your children’s voices? Say hi daddy? The two children, their voices shaking said hi for proof of authenticity. If you ever want to hear from them again, kidnap the girl. If I even hear a whisper of police activity, that will be the last time you hear from your kids. I will call later with more instructions. Andy, the police detective working on the case, spoke up, 

“This is definitely a killer-kidnapper with a specific agenda. No wonder Grayson was frightened out of his mind. Please, go on, Grayson.” 

Calmed by Andy’s support, Grayson swallowed and spoke, “After that, I didn’t know what to do or how to react. All I felt was that, if anything happened to my family, I would blame myself for the rest of my life. Caught up in the panic, I knew I would do anything to save them, even kidnap that girl. Already, I had objectified and dehumanized Sarah. Being a technology whiz, it was easy for me to bring up all of her information, so I started to plan: I would hack all of the security cameras surrounding the Harris residence and would need to strike when Sarah was alone. 

Now, in retrospect, I blame myself for not having run immediately to the neighbor’s to call my brother for support.  I could have shared the situation with Jackson, asked him to call the police, and reminded him to be discreet so that no one could trace his call.  I blame myself for not having reflected on the harm my act would cause Sarah and her family."

Athena spoke up, “I understand Grayson. You were troubled and not yourself.” Athena’s genuine understanding and comfort touched Grayson, who choked and teared-up before he could continue.

“Still panicked, I left for the Harris residence, a 30-minute drive, and waited until Sarah might step out. Though I kept an eye out for surveillers, and though I could see no one, this moment had dredged up my dread of moving forward, my awareness of an irrevocable turning point the outcome of which would be unknown. Once again, I could have called Jackson from a supermarket. I now sincerely regret that I had ignored this turning point. 

 I acted quickly, believing only that I’d be saving my wife and children.  It had grown very dark by 6 PM. To avoid identification, I pulled on a black ski mask to blend with my black clothes from head to toe like a criminal in the movies. I was in a role, in the criminal mind now, Sarah was stolen goods. Still I was always self-aware, looking around again to assure myself that no one had witnessed me.  Here was another turning point. Because I hadn’t witnessed anyone tailing me, I could have scrapped the plan, floored the car to the neighbors and called Jackson. Yet, I picked-up Sarah, caught myself flooring the accelerator, and then slowed down to avoid being pulled over for speeding. Sarah’s disturbed thumping and screaming from the backseat strangely began to humanize me. So I put on some music, hoping to calm and reassure myself that no one could hear her. Could I have turned back now and let Sarah go? Yes, I could have, but no, I persevered, afraid that Sarah would identify the car and eventually me. I realized I had been trapped. I loathed my choices. I loathed myself.

After what seemed like hours, I pulled into my driveway and hauled into the storm cellar Sarah, whose fists pounded my back.  Though this was the best place to hide her, I struggled to complete the real kidnapper’s plan. This was the first time I realized that I was not the real kidnapper -- that the real kidnapper was merely using me as a pawn to hide his crime. I still could have asked my brother to call the police, but I didn’t. I still could have used my technical skills to learn where the bug was in my house -- or if there was one at all. But fear still paralyzed me and anger persecuted me for complicity with the real criminal.  Sarah, I am so very sorry for the pain and fear I have caused you."

Andy responded, “Grayson, your re-framing of this event, realizing what you could have done, is treating your trauma and humanizing you."

Athena agreed, “You are also helping Sarah to re-frame her trauma and to humanize her, too. Please continue, Grayson.”

Grayson replied. “Almost the second I stepped into the house, the phone rang. A distorted voice responded,  I see you have gotten Sarah, with much time to spare. Now I want you to keep her in your storm cellar without giving her food or water for 24 hours."

“Why? Why make an innocent person suffer?”

"She may be innocent, but her parents certainly are not! 

"His words affirmed that he had serveilled my house and bugged it earlier, knew of my storm cellar and where I was now keeping Sarah.  I then knew that my best chance of saving my family would be to debug the house as discreetly as possible, and immediately call my brother and the police from a neighbor’s phone. Thereafter, I could have driven Sarah back home. Yet, I didn’t follow this chance because I feared that the kidnapper’s suspicion could mean the death of my family."

Athena, interjected, “Notice how many times Grayson has only relied on himself. Because we don’t live interdependently, as we used to, each of us tries his or her best to be independent.  However, this extreme independence is dangerous, especially for one like Grayson who is in real trouble, isn’t it?”   

Andy added, “Self-reliance is about developing individual integrity in relationship with others. It’s not about being super independent machos. Do you understand, Grayson, how you were victimized twice?  Not only by the kidnapper, but by our cultural values -- or lack of them?” 

Grayson answered, “I now understand another reason why I hadn’t called my brother. We were both raised to be macho, independent, strong men. I was fulfilling what I had thought was my responsibility alone -- not my social responsibility.”

Athena replied, “Good self-reflecting, Grayson. Then what happened?” 

Grayson continued, “After 24 hours my phone rang again, and the distorted voice left specific instructions about what I should do with Sarah. I was to take Sarah to this isolated place and leave her there alone. I only had the coordinates, so I didn’t know where I was going. After giving Sarah some leftover pasta with marinara sauce and water from the night before, I put her back in the trunk. After driving towards the coordinates, I was stopped at a roadblock. The officers grew suspicious after asking me questions and observing my taunt expression. They examined the car, found Sarah, who had already been reported lost, and arrested me. You know the rest.”

Athena spoke, “Thank you, Grayson.  All of us have learned from your difficult learning experience.  Now, let’s hear from Sarah, who, at the beginning was as terrified and as panicked as Grayson. Sarah, can you share more about how you have reframed this incident?” 

“Yes, thank you, Athena -- and Grayson! As you reframed your viewpoints, Grayson, I was able to reframe mine.  I had not understood your situation and choice. Terror had overwhelmed me and my reason, too. Now I empathize with you and appreciate your present regret.” 

“Now you and Grayson are beginning to realize what restorative justice is,” replied Athena. “Restorative justice begins with understanding one another. Understanding humanizes us and opens our hearts and minds to empathy. Anything more you would add, Sarah, to help Grayson understand your situation now?”

 “After what you had chosen to do,” Sarah began, trembling a little at the memory, “I used to feel numb and anxious. I hadn’t ever thought I would recover to be myself again. I still am always nervous, and the smallest sounds do scare me. I don’t know why what you did affected me so much, but it did. Yet, I now understand  your choices and that you weren’t in your right mind either. I am inclined to believe that I may have reacted the same way. I cannot imagine the fear you were going through, and I am sorry about your family. I recognize that you still have no idea what is going on with your family, and I can’t even fathom how much you are panicking right now. I know that you were in distress and were not thinking completely clearly when you kidnapped me. You were the victim, not the perpetrator in this situation, and I hope the police are able to find both your family and the real kidnapper.”

Astonished by her generosity Grayson thankfully responded, “Sarah, you don’t know how much this means to me. I hope that one day I will be able to earn your forgiveness.”

Athena transitioned, “Restorative justice continues with reparation. Grayson, what could you do to help restore trust between you and Sarah and her family? How could you relieve their suffering? 

Grayson responded, “Sarah, I know that you have been going to therapy every week to help cope with what I had done. Could I help pay for it?” He directed the question to Athena and Sarah’s parents. 

Athena responded, “I think it’s a wonderful idea, if Sarah and her parents are okay with it.”

Grayson turned and looked at Sarah’s mom. Her eyes were glistening with pride for her daughter and a little more acceptance for Grayson. Sarah’s father was looking at his daughter with protectiveness. He was frowning, but it wasn’t from disapproval, it was from sympathy. They then looked at Grayson and said it was okay with them.

“Fantastic, we will meet again after Grayson has paid for the sessions to learn if everyone is seeing a difference in how they view each other and themselves.”

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This book has 1 comment.

Lydiaq ELITE said...
on May. 20 2021 at 6:15 pm
Lydiaq ELITE, Somonauk, Illinois
163 articles 47 photos 1025 comments

Favorite Quote:
The universe must be a teenage girl. So much darkness, so many stars.

This is a great and unusual book, I loved it!