The night Molly came, I shivered with joy to finally have a child in our home. But it wasn’t like I thought it would be.
“She’s seen things no child should ever see,” the social worker whispered. “The police found her huddled beneath the kitchen table. She hasn’t uttered a sound since.” There was more to the story, so much more, but we waited until Molly was in bed before discussing the details.
Molly was a beautiful five-year-old with soft curls and brown eyes. I think her eyes were brown. She wouldn’t look up – even when the social worker left. She clutched a rag in one hand and her thumb in her mouth.
The next morning, Rick kissed me as he left for work. “Call me, if you have any trouble.”
Molly wasn’t any trouble. In fact, she was like a giant doll. She let me wash her and dress her. I fed her and sat her in a comfy chair near the big window, where the finches and chickadees visited the feeder. Occasionally, I’d see her eyes follow the flight of a bird, but she never spoke and never took her thumb out of her mouth.
The pediatrician shook his head. “She’s not deaf. She can talk; she just chooses not to. This will just take time. Be patient. Be gentle. Let her feel loved and safe. Hopefully, she’ll come out of this dark place of fear.”
So Rick and I talked to her as if she was a normal child. We took her to the beach and the park and church. It was hard to answer the questions of our neighbors and friends. It was hard when Molly curled into a trembling ball, with her eyes squeezed tight and both hands over her ears. We learned to avoid noisy crowds and to leave a light on in the hallway. She liked to watch animal shows on the television, her brown eyes darting back and forth as she silently sucked her thumb.
Days - weeks - months passed. Where was Molly? Would she ever find her way?
This morning, I put a pink sweater on her and sat her on the porch swing while I attempted to get the kitchen cleaned. I peeked out of the window often to see her still sitting there. I almost wanted her to get into some kind of trouble – anything but just stay where I put her. As I wiped the sink, I heard a dog barking and looked outside.
A huge, white dog was on the porch with Molly. It barked and jumped and nuzzled her. I’ve never liked dogs. I guess I’m even a bit afraid of them. Dogs shed hair, they have fleas, they eat too much, they need to be washed and walked and taken to the vet. . . Dogs are too much work.
The white dog barked again, and Molly jumped. I scurried to the front door to rescue her. But by the time I slipped on my flip-flops and pulled a sweater around my shoulders, the barking stopped. I paused inside the screen door. Molly was stroking the dog with her thumb-sucking hand. I cringed at the thought of germs. The dog gently laid her head on Molly’s lap. I held my breath.
Then the dog wriggled away and barked playfully. It bounded down the steps and brought back a stick, which she dropped on Molly’s lap. It slid off and fell on the floor. The dog picked it up, twirled around, and tried again. Molly pushed the stick on the floor. The dog pounced and pranced and put it back on her lap again. Molly threw it a little farther. Her face lit up as the dog chased after it. After a while, I saw a smile and then there was a giggle. Molly was giggling!
I joined them on the porch. The white dog swished her bushy tail back and forth. Molly looked up at me. “Cherub.”
“Cherub loves me.”
Tears blurred my sight. Of course! Cherub is the perfect name for an angel – whether it looks like a dove or a dog.
Cherub followed us into the house. Tufts of fur floated to the floor like feathers, but I didn’t care. She lapped up the crumbs that fell from the table. At naptime, I peeked in the bedroom. Cherub sniffed Molly’s sleeping form and looked back at me, as if to say, “Don’t worry. She’s fine.”
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