A young woman enters a stark room. She takes a small portion of her chestnut hair and begins to twist it. From the door, she sees an older gentleman fidgeting with a digital recorder. He sitting in a folding chair behind a square card table. He motions to the folding chair closest to her.
“Please, have a seat, miss.”
“I thought this was an interview. It looks more like a police interrogation with this set-up.” She slowly slides into the designated seat.
“Sorry for the stark accommodations. This isn’t one of the best neighborhoods.”
“I know that. I live here.” The reporter shuffles the recorder closer to her.
“Shall we begin?” She nods.
“Your name is Robin, right?”
“Yes, Robin Sikes.”
“You told my editor that you’ve been running the Hanover House, is it?” She nods, “For seven years now.”
“That would mean you opened it before you even graduated from high school, at seventeen?”
“Normally, yes, but I graduated a year early.”
“I see. Can you tell us a little about you and what the Hanover House is exactly?”
She points to the floor behind her, “Is it alright if I pace and talk? It’s just easier for me.”
“Of course.” She points to the recorder, “How sensitive is that?”
“It will be able to record your voice from across the room.”
“Oh, good, that means I don’t have to raise my voice. I hate doing that.” She stands and begins to walk the floor.
“About me, hmmm, well, I’m 24, and I have always wanted to build a place where people can come to feel safe and secure. A place where they can get back on their feet and then, when they are ready, go back out into this messed up world we live in. I like to read, not that I have much time to do that lately, and l like to cook to relax.”
“Do you have children?”
“Well, if you count all the orphans and abused children-“
“When are you going to make the cookies?” She looks at the door.
“Kevin, go back to the living room with Mr. Randall.” She looks at the ceiling and scratches her head, “Where? Oh yeah,” Her eyes widen as she reacquires the thought: Children. I have lot of children, but none of my own.”
“Does that bother you?”
“I don’t have time for it to bother me, and I think a couple of them have adopted me anyway.” She chuckles and points to the door.
“Continue. I didn’t mean to break your train of thought.”
“I’m used to it. It gets broken constantly.” She smiles, “I was born to two wonderful parents who encouraged me to follow my heart’s desire. They even helped get me started with the Hanover House.”
“I see. Where are they now?”
“Missing. They went on a transcontinental flight for a wedding anniversary and never came back. Everyone spent months looking for them, but they haven’t been found.”
The reporter fiddles with his tie, “Do you think they may be, deceased?”
She looks thoughtfully at the reporter, “No, something tells me they are still out there, somewhere. I can’t explain it, but I know they aren’t dead.”
“How big is the Hanover House?”
“Let’s see, how to fully explain it. It’s five floors tall and looks like a gigantic plantation house from the Civil War era. It’s big enough to house about 1,000 people comfortably.”
“One thousand people! There are 1,000 people in this place? How do you manage?”
“With house parents, security, teachers for classes, and a whole lot of patience, that is how I manage. Oh, and I have counselors as well to help the abused heal.”
“Nurses offices? Kitchens?”
“We have infirmaries and kitchens on each floor.” He looks at her incredulously. Putting a hand up to stop his next question, “There are trained individuals in each infirmary and we have physicians that come and do regular check-ups. We also have volunteers in the house that cook. We all sit down, plan meals, and help one another when the time comes.”
“So you charge rent or some sort of compensation?” She looks at him with an eyebrow raised and a look of disdain.
“No. We have fund raisers. Some of these people have lost their homes due to downsizing and can’t afford to pay rent. They give when they can as well. If I charged the jobless rent, they’d be homeless, and my house would be practically empty.” She makes her way to the window and looks outside at the children below.
“You mentioned security…”
“Yes, we have security offices on each floor, and the personnel are former military and law enforcement. They also love children. That’s important. Before you ask, they have been trained on how to handle situations with abused children so they do not further traumatize them. They are more like uncles and fathers that step in when something happens.”
“Have you been broken into?”
“Yes, we do live in the middle of two rival gang territories.”
“I was wondering how you picked the location.”
“It was cheap and in the middle of a neighborhood that needed it.”
“Do the gangs come here?”
“They don’t all come at the same time, and they are made to leave their weapons in a locked box just outside the door. If they start problems, they are escorted out.”
“They don’t protest about not being able to have their weapons- WAIT. You let them in here?”
“Sometimes they need to eat as well. Yes, I let them in. We are established neutral territory. If they don’t leave their weapons in the box outside, they don’t eat, period.”
Shaking his head, the reporter lets a sly smile cross his face, “You run quite a place here. I would have never thought I would even hear about a place likes in any of the slums. You are either a saint or you’re a little crazy, if you don’t mind my assertion.”
“I think I am a little of both, actually.”