They called me on a Saturday.
“Please come and get her,” they said, “Please. There’s no one else.”
I turned to my husband. “Absolutely not,” he said.
But when they opened up the evidence folder and showed him the pictures of her broken malnourished body, he relented.
“Well, it is only for a few weeks…”
She’s terrified of everything. Loud noises. Sudden movement. Being touched. One time, while fiddling with my keys, I managed to spill an entire cup of coffee on the kitchen floor. She stood on my back porch, mouth gaping with horror and refused to move until I wiped up every last drop.
They are seeking jail time for the man who did this to her. However, I rarely think of him. Something tells me she thinks about him enough for the both of us.
When I first brought her home, I showed her a bed made up with bright yellow linens. She immediately crawled into it, hid her face, and refused to move.
“She probably needs some time to herself,” I told myself.
The next day, she still refused to move. I brought her breakfast in bed. She picked at it a little and then went back to sleep.
“She’ll get bored eventually,” I told myself, “Then she’ll come out of bed so she can look around.”
But she never got bored. She stayed in bed and wouldn’t move even after she wet herself. Physically, I had to move her so I could keep her clean. She tolerated my touch, but she flinched every time I reached for her. At one point, I brought a few toys for her and set them by her bed. I figured she could always fiddle with them as she laid there. But she just stared at them, blankly, as if she didn’t know what they were for. Every day, I peeked into her room and said the same thing to her.
“If you want to come out and sit with the family, we’d be happy to have you…”
If only she could talk. I’d beg her to tell me how to help her.
For four days, she didn’t move. Finally, I could take no more. I called a few friends up on the phone and demanded, “Meet me at the park. Bring the kids!”
I carried her to a bench and she huddled up next to me, horrified, for a good 20 minutes. We watched the others play for awhile and before I knew it, she was standing up. That small movement alone would have been enough to make me stand up and cheer, so you can imagine how thrilled I was when she actually started playing herself. I sat on the bench with friends and watched them run.
“Look at her now,” a friend said to me, “You’d never know by looking at her what she’s been through…”
Later that day when the thunder crashed and the rain poured from the sky, I thought for sure she’d run and hide. But she didn’t. Instead she stood with us, huddled under the tree, shivering and freezing as we waited for the clouds to pass. Out of the corner of my eye, I could swear I saw her smiling. I would have hugged her then, if she wouldn’t have recoiled from it.
When I took her home, it was the same old story. Back in the bed. Frozen. Hiding. Unresponsive.
“You can sit with the family if you want,” I insisted. She stared at me blankly.
All night I felt like crying. I couldn’t understand why she regressed.
The atmosphere in my home has changed since we’ve had her. We never speak above a whisper. The phones are all set to vibrate. We now use the closed captioning on the television. We try our best to refrain from startling her. The slightest little misstep and she’ll retreat to the corner of her bed, her entire body vibrating with fear.
But for every step back, there’s always a few steps forward. Since that day at the park, I’ve made it a point to take her outside every day…even if I have to move her by force. Now I don’t have to force her. I just firmly say to her, “We’re going to the park now” and she gets right up. Yesterday she actually got up on her own to go to the bathroom. It was the first time she had left her bed to urinate.
We fight for every little milestone.
Then last night…
She crept out of her room without being prompted. We were shocked, but still managed to greet her softly. I invited her to sit down and she curled up on the end of the couch and watched a movie with us. After the movie, she quickly scurried back to bed. However, for those two short hours, my heart nearly thumped its way out of my chest.
Last night was the first full night of sleep I’ve gotten since she came.
I hope she slept well, too.
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