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She sat in a faded yellow recliner staring blankly at the glaring white room filled with beautiful flowers and balloons with the message of “get well” written on their bloated surfaces. A young girl lay motionless on a medicinally uncomfortable bed with many tubes and wires attached to her frail body. The young girl had been in a coma for almost three weeks now and the doctor’s didn’t believe that she would wake up again.
But for the young girl that would be better than ever waking up again, her father had abused her, to the point of near death and she didn’t want to go through that pain again. In her deep slumber she felt calm, the fear had dissipated and she knew that her father was not in the room; but she felt a presence of someone she could not place, and as she lay there she tried tirelessly to place the elusive presence.
The doctor walked into the girl’s room and the woman’s head snapped up as she looked at him with baited breath. “There is an experimental treatment option for your daughter, if you would be open to trying it.” The woman instantly agreed and the doctor set up an IV drip into the girl’s fragile, bruised arm. An air of hope fell over the room as the woman held her daughter’s hand and prayed to God that this would work, that her daughter would live to feel love and be given the chance to have a real parent, one who never hurt her.
After two days of the IV drip the girl’s eyes fluttered weakly and tears welled up in her mother’s eyes as her daughter woke up. The little girl fought for air as she took her first breaths on her own. A single word escaped her chapped lips, “mommy?” a nod of confirmation was all she needed and she wrapped her weak arms around her newfound mother as tears streamed down her cheeks. This happiness was soon replaced by terror as she thought about her father and sensing this fear her mother whispered, “it’s alright, baby, he’s gone he can never hurt you again.”
After weeks of observation and bonding time with her mother the girl was finally able to go to her new home with her mom. As she was walked out of the hospital she was met by a man in a blue police uniform with a gun strapped to one hip and a Taser to the other. Fear swept over her as she realized that this man must know her father. “You need to come with me for some questioning Miss Sterling” he said sternly although his face showed no signs of anger or apprehension. The young girl and her mother obediently followed the police officer into his car and were driven to the police station where a woman, in her mid to late forties greeted them warmly and placed her calloused hand gently on the girl’s arm and led her into an interrogation room.
The woman introduced herself as Sheila and the young girl introduced herself as Anna. “When did the abuse first start Anna” Sheila asked gently.
“W-when I was about four”
“What would he do Anna?”
“He would hit me and yell at me and- and- and…” Anna choked back the sob rising in her throat.
“It’s okay honey, he can’t hurt you now”
“Alright Anna why don’t we take a break and we can go get some water, okay?” The frightened girl nodded gently and she slowly rose to her feet, shaking slightly. Sheila placed her arm protectively around Anna as she led her over to the water dispenser. Anna’s mother instantly hurried over to them but Sheila motioned her away as she did not want Anna to feel overwhelmed.
In another interrogation room down the hall from where Anna was, her father sat being questioned by a burly cop. He was chained to the chair and table yet he had an intimidating air about him. He had tattoos all up and down his arms and his face was permanently set in a scowl. The cop repeatedly asked him the same question, “why did you hurt her?” Each time, like the last, he received no answer, not even a change in his facial expression. The cop knew what must be done; he needed to bring Anna into the room to face her father.
A knock interrupted Anna and Sheila and Sheila was motioned outside. “I want Anna to see her father,” the burly cop said curtly.
“No, she’s not ready, I don’t know if she ever will be ready for that. Do you realize what could happen, she is traumatized Sean she wont be able to handle that.”
“Well, tell me when she is ready, Sheila; I’ll be waiting.”
Shelia briskly turned around and walked back into the room, sitting down apprehensively, trying to read Anna’s emotions.
“Was that about me?” Anna’s small voice broke the silence.
“Yes sweetheart, the cop talking to your father wants you to see him but I told him that you weren’t ready.”
“I want to see him, I am ready Sheila; I have never been more ready to face that monster in my entire life.”
Sheila’s mouth dropped slightly and she said, “Ok let’s go. Are you sure about this?”
As they walked down the hall the air seemed to thicken and Anna struggled to take in a clean breath. But she pushed on, knowing that this was her chance to make things right, to even the score. As Sheila slowly opened the door Anna confidently walked in staring at her father with stone cold eyes. His eyes darkened as he saw Anna but his face gave away nothing of what he was feeling.
“What do you want you worthless piece of crap?!”
A small laugh escaped Anna’s lips as she said coldly, “You can’t hurt me anymore; I have won.”
Her father’s face paled as he realized that she spoke the truth; he was powerless here. Sean and Sheila left the room but went into the small adjoining room with a one-way mirror. As they watched Anna became stronger as she gained confidence. In a split second the sweet girl changed, she raised her hand up to her father but just before her hand hit his face she stopped and said softly, “I’m not like you and I never will be.” Gathering her emotions Anna walked out the door and sank to the ground crying, Sheila wrapped her arms around her fragile body rocking her gently to comfort her. “I-I failed, didn’t I?”
“No honey, you were perfect, I’m proud of you, that was very brave.”
After many years Anna had forgotten about her father and all the pain that he caused, but the scars remained. The bad dreams that had plagued the last of her teenage years had faded away and she had gone to college, then law school to become a fighter of child abuse, to save people who had gone through the same hell she went through all those years ago.
After her schooling she moved back home to be close to her mother, although she was in the same town where everything had happened. But Anna was strong she would not let memories hold her back, not again. She knew it was going to be hard, but she went to visit her father for the first time. Her mother tried to talk her out of it, saying that it would only undo all the healing she had worked so hard for.
She met Sheila at the police station and the two friends drove along to old dirt road to the county jail. As Anna walked through the doors she felt the same airlessness as before although she was stronger now and she would not let the feeling affect her. They were led into an in-between room, with two doors, one leading out, and the other into the room with her father. “I want to do this alone Sheila, I’ll- I’ll be fine.”
“Ok honey, but if you need me I’m right here.”
Anna entered the room, her red curls bouncing slightly as she moved gracefully and she sank softly into a hard, cold, prison chair. Her father was not the man she remembered, he was weaker, broken by the other inmates who had thought of him as a bastard for abusing an innocent child. His voice was shaky as he whispered, “Anna, I-I-I’m sorry, I took my anger out on you but-but I didn’t mean to, oh Anna I’m so sorry”
“So am I dad.”
“Can you ever forgive me??”
“I can try, but you have to show me that you have changed.”
“Thank you Anna, I wont let you down. I promise.”
That was the first promise he had ever kept.