I pick her up on time. She hops in the car in a low-cut floral shirt and tight jeans, highlighting her becoming a young woman. She wears a trace of make-up –not overly done: just enough to be age-appropriate.
It’s her fifteenth birthday tomorrow, so I hand her a little bag from a make-up store with a card tucked inside. Aw you didn’t have to do that! she replies. Of course I did, I smile back. She deserves to be spoiled after everything she’s been through.
It was just a couple weeks ago Child Protection Services showed up at her school to pull her out of class. Her neglectful drug-addict mom moved away months ago and she lives with her drug-addict father who’s gotten himself involved with the type of people who are powerful for all the wrong reasons and feared for all the right. Enough calls of concern were made and the final straw broken. Luckily at her age, the government worker asked if there was somewhere she could go. She immediately responded with my good friend’s phone number. The three years my friend spent in a relationship with this on-and-off clean/addicted man built her a blessed relationship with this young girl. Of course she can live with me, she responded with no hesitation to save the girl the trauma of being passed around in the foster care system.
Early this morning I got the call from my friend saying the girl’s father had been beaten very badly last night. He phoned from the hospital asking to see his daughter. It’s pretty bad…I have a broken jaw, for one. I’ll be here a few days. I agreed to pick up his little girl and take her to see him.
The car-ride is mostly dampened by awkward silence. So, I query, how do you feel about seeing your dad? She flips her hair nervously. Um, I dunno… It’s hard to tell what she’s thinking. I sense after years of this detrimental life she hides her feelings well. I say, Yeah, I understand you probably have mixed feelings…It sounds like he’s in pretty bad shape so just be prepared for that.
I park in the free parking a block up from the hospital. I turn the engine off and she looks at me, raised eyebrows –you’re not coming in are you? I can take care of myself. Of course she can, but she shouldn’t have to at this age. She has been for far too long. Her line between adolescence and adulthood is blurred in dysfunction. Well, I respond, I have to use the bathroom anyway. I’ll just come in to make sure you find him okay.
The main foyer of the hospital is bustling with patterned or hospital-green scrubs. I stand back as she approaches the front desk where the volunteers sit in red shirts. I’m looking for a patient. She gives his name and the volunteer searches the computer. I start to feel anxiety curl in my stomach as she asks for the spelling of the name again and takes longer to search through. He’s gone, I know already. The girl’s energy emits fuming anger which I know is undermined by severe sadness. Abandonment, again. Lies, again. Broken promises, again.
Come on, I say, let’s check the emergency department. Maybe he’s just still there and not in the computer system yet.
We trudge to the opposite end of the foyer and through the doors where another set of red-shirt volunteers sit. A twenty-something lady scans the paper dossier of names. Sorry he’s not here…You can check with admitting department back in the foyer? My heart sinks to my stomach now. This poor girl. She is agitated and storms through the doors. How the hell am I supposed to talk to him if… She catches her emotions and stuffs them down –again, I reckon she’s well-adjusted to this. She takes a paper number and slumps into a waiting chair. You don’t have to stay, you know. My heart is torn. I want to hold her close. I can’t just leave her here.
The ticket number is called and we stand at the desk anxiously. She spells the name out yet again and the clerk files through the computer. Finally she confirms what we already know: I see he was admitted but he is no longer in the system –so that means he’s been discharged.
I sense her whole demeanor collapse on the inside. I’m sure she wants to collapse on the outside, to kick and scream on the floor. Despite her age, in my mind she reserves the right to –more so than a three-year-old not getting what they want.
We walk back to the car in silence. I don’t know what to say.
We pull into her boyfriend’s driveway and she forces a smile and thanks me again for the gift. Go spoil yourself, sweetie.
She departs through the side fence, barely able to reach over to unlock the gate. She disappears, along with another piece of her spirit.