...my wife runs a successful daycare business out of our finished basement. She's been at it for more than a decade.
Throughout most days, the lower half of our home can sound like a demolition derby at the county fair. The hopping, thumping, banging, screaming excitement of children at play. And while her patience can at times, dwindle and scatter like dust, my wife's done well for herself.
Among her team of tiny home wreckers, are a pair of girls. Sisters, ages three and a year and a half. While the other children arrive with lungs full of voice, their bodies like capsules housing pent up energy, these girls crawl onto our couch, resting quietly amidst the bedlam. Their eyes focused on Sponge Bob, or The Teletubbies.
They smile when needed. Nod their heads if offered a snack. And at times, will speak if deemed necessary. But not often.
On occasion, the older sister suffers from a tremor. It comes and goes. And while it's no longer as noticeable as it was before her scalp grew in, the one year old's head bears a flat spot behind her temple.
It's a shame the girls don't speak more than they do. For if they would, the story they could tell...
...roughly a year ago, a social worker was accompanied by a Sheriff's deputy to an apartment building. A crippled, brick triplex teetering on a foundation of crack pipes and lost souls.
They'd received a call the other day. There was a "smell" coming from room 4B. Someone thought they'd seen a kid in there.
The first knock roused the dogs. A series of growls and yipping. Pairs of claws being dragged along the lower half of the door from inside.
The second knock earned itself a curse. A male voice, pitchy but definitely from a man, hollering at the dogs to shut up, and for the knocking to cease.
It was the third knock that finally did it.
The door swung open. The social worker was prepared for her usual greeting, most times an uncomfortable confrontation with festering parents, when she found herself unable to voice a single word. Her mouth hung open in a silent scream. Nausea gripped her stomach with fists that squeezed.
At seeing the policeman, the half-naked man in the doorway simply dropped his gaze to the floor and stood back, defeated. Allowing them access inside.
Three barking mongrels, the tallest one standing no higher than one's knee, hopped in circles around the guests as if each one was clenching a bowel movement. One glance at the floor however, revealed that these dogs squatted wherever they pleased.
Without a word, the man backed up, dropped onto a sofa. It sagged under his weight, what with it already supporting his significant other. The lady was passed out under a stained blanket, a stream of drool draining from the side of her mouth.
The apartment smelled of dope and animal feces. Small piles they stepped over en route to the bedroom. Where they found the girl.
She was wearing a diaper and nothing more. Crawling through what the dogs had left behind, some of it smeared on her face, the rest of it coating her arms and legs like grass stains on a used pair of jeans. Her full diaper dragged along the floor as she crawled. And when she saw them, she stopped, tilted her head to the side, and watched them. Curious.
It wasn't until they were leaving, before the little girl finally spoke. Clinging to the trembling social worker as they approached the exit, the girl reached back the way they'd come and said, "Sissy."
The social worker froze in her tracks. She looked from the girl in her arms, to the man on the couch, now handcuffed, the child's mother just now waking up, offering the nearby cop a yawn. Without a word, the man nodded toward the hallway, to the spare bedroom.
They found the girl's little sister in the closet. She was strapped into a car seat. And she'd been there a while. So long in fact, that one side of her head had a flat spot on it from supporting its weight against the side of the plastic carrier.
Just a baby, her arms were a set of twigs, pale flesh gathering around her elbows. A set of chapped lips parted a bit upon noticing the social worker, but no sound left her mouth. Her eyes were once blue, but had faded to a shade of gray. Purple bruises outlined her sockets as if she'd barely survived a fist fight. The battle she was fighting was not one of violence however, but rather neglect. She was dying of starvation, as her parents sat on the couch in the next room, getting high.
The social worker, a longtime veteran of the cause, dropped to her knees upon a floor littered in unspeakable filth, and cried.
...a year has passed. In a week the sisters will find themselves in a courtroom, the final papers regarding their adoption to a nice couple a mile or so down the road from us, will be signed. Their rescue made official.
They still don't talk much, those two. But eventually they will. And when they do, such stories they will tell...
Thanks for reading...