Sophia looked at the little girl sitting across from her. They were in a diner, the fun, old-fashioned kind with black and white checker floors and loud oldies music playing in the background. She was glad she brought her here. Heaven knows the child could use some fun.
“Aunt Sophie” said Jenny.
“Yes, Jenny.” Sophia smiled and looked into the big, brown eyes that were fixed on her. They were eyes that seemed much older than a mere six years. They were eyes that had seen too much, and held too much pain for one that young.
“I’m really coming to live with you? For always?” Jenny looked unsure, as if she were ready to be disappointed again.
“Yes, Jenny. You’re coming to live with me now and you won’t have to live anywhere else from now on.”
“I’m glad. I like it at your house.” Jenny went back to eating her fries.
Sophia was glad too. It would be nice to have her niece living with her. Nice for her, but it would be lifesaving for Jenny. Such a beautiful child, she thought, and the spitting image of Natalie, at that age. Natalie was Sophia’s younger sister and Jenny’s mom. She had finally agreed to sign over custody of Jenny to Sophia.
“Aunt Sophie, when I’m living with you, will I be in the way? Mommy said I was always in the way.” With that, Jenny took a big drink out of her chocolate shake.
Sophia could feel her own eyes brimming with tears. Lord, help me to comfort her. Help me to show her she’s wanted and safe now. “No Jenny, you won’t be in the way. I’m happy to be taking care of you. You know I love you very much, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I think so. Is that why Mommy didn’t love me, because I was in the way?” Jenny asked sadly, while picking up her burger. Sophia was struck by how simply and matter-of-factly Jenny spoke.
“Oh Jenny, your mommy loves you. She really does. She just, well, she just has problems and that’s why she’s letting you live with me.” She had no idea how to explain to the child the devastating affects that drugs had on a person, or how it could ruin lives.
Sophia had been so relieved when she talked Natalie into letting her have permanent custody. It hadn’t been easy. For some reason Natalie believed that giving up her child made her a bad mother, not the neglect and abuse. Sophia found she had to resort to manipulation to get Natalie to see that she would be the better caregiver. Natalie, if you don’t have to worry about Jenny, you can do what you want and come and go as you please. You won’t have to try to remember to get her up for school or get her to bed at night. She didn’t like to have to manipulate her sister, but it worked. In seeing how it would benefit her, Natalie finally agreed.
“Aunt Sophie, are you going to cook for me? ‘Cause sometimes Mommy would forget and I would be hungry, sometimes for days.” Jenny was finishing the last of her fries. The child never left anything on her plate. Just in case.
“Yes Jenny, I’m going to cook for you and I promise I won’t ever forget, ok? And on top of that, you and I are going to have a lot of fun too!” said Sophia. Jenny smiled and drank the rest of her shake.
As they were leaving the diner, she slipped her hand into Sophia’s. “I love you too, Aunt Sophie.”
When she heard that, Sophia knelt down and hugged her niece. “I’m so glad” she softly whispered.
They walked to the car holding hands and they both knew things would be different now. It was time to go home. As Jenny was climbing in, she asked, “Aunt Sophie, can I get a kitty?”
Sophia laughed, “We might be able to arrange that.” As she walked around the car, she thought, we’re going to be ok. It will take time and effort, but we’ll be ok. Thank you Lord, for this amazing child, please help me to care for her the way she deserves to be. Lord, help her to feel safe and secure and happy. Help her to laugh and be a child again.
As Sophia started driving away, she looked over at Jenny. “So Jenny, what kind of kitty do you want?”
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