by Avon Leonard
Please don’t take her! Please! She needs her mother!” She’s on her knees pleading. The
side of her face has a huge tear in it. Blood in on the corner of the coffee table where she
fell against it when she was pushed.
Melanie tightens her hold on the struggling girl and backs out of the room. The mother’s
anguished wails follow Melanie and the screaming child.
“Melanie! Wake up!” Jack, none too gently shook his wife by her shoulders. He had lost
patience with these nightly dramas. He rose from the bed. “I’m going to check on Abby.”
He saw in the glow of the night light that she was shaking and sitting up in bed.
“Melanie had the bad dream again, didn’t she?”
“Yes but she’s OK now.” He sat on her bed and gathered her into the comfort of his
arms. “Go back to sleep.”
“Stay with me ’till I go to sleep?”
He welcomed the respite from his own bed. “OK.” He stretched out beside her and
listened for the steady rhythm of her breathing indicating she was sleeping.
He thought back to the day Abby came into their lives. Melanie was radiant with joy as she
pushed the small child into the room. The girl stared with frightened doe eyes at him.
“Abby is going to be our foster daughter. I just signed the papers. After a year, we’ll
“How did you do it without me?” Though they had discussed adopting a child, he was
fairly certain they both had to sign the papers….and he hadn’t. “Don’t they do a
background check on both prospective parents? No one has said anything to me at work
about an investigation.”
“Her mother was one of my cases.” Melanie was a social worker for Child
Protective Services. She deliberately ignored his question. “Let me show Abby her room,
then I’ll tell you everything.” She opened the door to a room any girl should love. A canopy
bed held the place of honor. On a small table was a fully furnished doll house, complete
with electric lights. “Do you like it?” Abby refused to enter the room. “You ungrateful brat!
This you room and you’re going to like it!”
“Hey! Calm down! She’s in an unfamiliar house with people she doesn’t know. Give her
some time.” Jack gave his wife’s shoulders a gentle squeeze.
He lay beside Abby and listened to her steady breathing. He tucked her stuffed Heffalump
under the covers with her, turned off the bedside lamp and kissed her tiny forehead. It
bothered him that Abby continued to withhold her love from Melanie but loved him with
total abandon. He knew he would not be able to get back to sleep so went to the kitchen
for a cup of tea. He wrapped his fingers around the warm cup. He felt guilty about
the thoughts he’d been having but couldn’t stop the nagging doubts. I have to know. How
did she get Abby the same day her mother died?
Jack watched his wife as she dressed for work. He noticed it was becoming darker.
“Melanie, what’s causing the red streak on your cheek? Don’t you think you should see
She paused while applying her eye shadow and whirled to face him. “There’s nothing
wrong with my face!” She snatched up her purse and said heatedly, “I may be late getting
home. I have some home visits to make. Feed Abby her dinner.” She jerked open the
bathroom door and stalked from the room.
Instead of going to her office, she sat in her car in the parking lot of Fred’s supermarket
and remembered when she first saw Abby. She appeared to be about four years old. Her
curly red hair bounced as she swiveled her head every which way, looking at the colorful
items on the shelves.
Melanie followed them home.
Abby’s mother opened the door and after flashing her badge, Melanie barged past the woman and into the room. “Where’s the child?”
“We’ve had complaints that you’re an unfit mother.”
“NO! I’m a good mother! Anyone who knows me can tell you.”
“Go to you room Abby.” The child looked from her mother to the strange woman. “Go to your room!”
Her mother started running toward her but Melanie stuck her foot out and tripped
her. She fell against the coffee table and tore a bloody gash in her cheek. She looked up as
Melanie swooped down on Abby and captured the screaming, struggling girl. Abby’s mother
crawled toward the woman. “Please don’t take her. Please. She needs her mother!” She
tried to stand but Melanie used her foot to push her backwards where she fell against the
Melanie looked at her watch and decided it was time to end her reverie and make an
appearance at work.
Ignoring her coworker’s greetings, she flung her purse on her desk and dropped into
her chair. She took a cigarette from her desk drawer, put it in her mouth, then took it out
and ground it, unlit, in the ashtray. Jack says I have a line on my face but he’s wrong! She
noticed the blinking light on her phone. Carolyn probably wants to know why I’m not doing
my home inspections. I don’t need this. She grabbed her purse and briefcase and left the
“Shut…up! I’m sick of listening to you!” Melanie applied blush to her cheeks. “See?” She
glared at Jack. “Flawless. No scar.” She snatched up her purse, briefcase and coat.
“Abby kiss Mommy goodbye.” She pulled the unwilling child toward her.
“I won’t! You’re not my Mommy! You hurt her! I hate you!” Melanie slapped her so
hard she left a handprint on Abby’s face.
“That’s enough, Melanie!” Jack cuddled the child before sending her outside. “I finally
know the truth. We can’t adopt her.” He thrust a photograph at her. “This is how the
police found her mother after you killed her and kidnapped Abby!”
“I didn’t kidnap Abby. She gave her to me.” Melanie felt a sudden searing pain
in her cheek and ran to the bathroom. “Noooo!” In the mirror she saw the hideous, raised
scar appearing on her cheek.”
It took three men to strap her to the gurney. Her screams hung in the air long after
the ambulance disappeared.
Jack pulled up in front of the house and looked one last time at the little girl who had
stolen his heart. Abby said excitedly, “This is Papa and Nana’s house!” Jack’s heart was
breaking. He already missed her sitting on his lap, while he read to her.
“I love Abby too much to keep her. This is where she belongs: with her grandparents.”
She was sitting on the sofa between them and patting their cheeks with her tiny hands.
Jack had to swallow the lump in his throat before speaking again. “Well, sweetheart, don’t
forget me.” He rose to leave.
“Don’t be in such a hurry young man.” Abby’s grandfather stood and offered his hand.
“I’m not asking you to shake hands. I’m asking if you’d like to share Abby with us.”
Jack took the hand and vigorously shook it. “You’ve got a deal!”
Now jack is the guest of honor at every Thanksgiving dinner and Abby sits right beside
And Melanie? She passes her days staring into the polished metal mirror in her room at
the asylum. She touches the scar and asks the same question of every attendant. “Aren’t I