TW: Child Separation
“She missed the bus,” Mary said. Her feet dangled off the side of the child’s chair. The heel of her little black shoe tapped the linoleum as it threatened to slip off her foot. She drew a big yellow circle in the centre of a blank page.
“Has your mommy missed the bus before?” Lynne asked, crouched down to Mary’s level. Her wireframe glasses sat loosely on the tip of her nose. After a couple of hours of giving the small girl cola and chocolates, toys and TV, which she refused fervently, it was the crayon set that seemed to pull her out of her shell. Lynne imagined her grey hair would look unkempt by now.
“Mama… My mama doesn’t like that word.”
“What word? Mommy?” Lynne narrowed her brow.
“Mm-hmm,” she answered. She shaded the yellow circle with fast thrusts. “My mama missed the bus because I was bad.”
“Has she done this before?”
She picked up a purple crayon and drew a face on the sun. One of her shoes dropped on the floor. Mary shifted her weight and crossed her leg to sit it under her bottom.
“Tell me why you think you were bad?”
“Cuz I was,” she shrugged.
Lynne patted the girl’s hand, and Mary dropped the crayon onto the table. With the most matter-of-fact tone, Mary started talking.
Mama likes her juice. I don’t. Her juice smells funny. Sometimes Mama is really fun to be around when she has her juice. But sometimes she’s mean. Sometimes I get in trouble for being bad.
Mama throws my toys away when I’m bad. But when she isn’t looking, I dig them out of the trash. She doesn’t know it, but I hide them. I have a secret place that I put them.
My pink sparkle magic wand was in her chair yesterday. I forgot it. It was supposed to turn the chair into a big throne so Mama could be a queen. But it didn’t. And she sat down. She snapped it in half with her butt.
She slapped my hand and called me a naughty girl. Then she threw my wand away.
But it was my favorite! So I took it out of the trash when Mama was on the toilet. I took it to my room to fix it but she finished too soon so I stuck it under my mattress.
Only she saw the star sticking out.
She made me sit in the corner, took all my toys and threw them in the trash.
“So see? I was bad. And Mama is punishing me,” Mary said.
Lynne looked at the little girl and wanted to give her a hug. “Your mother isn’t punishing you,” she wanted to say. “She passed out on the couch. You were lost and roaming the streets until uniforms came to pick you up. You poor dear.”
“What if I told you that someone new, someone better could be your mama?” Lynne asked.
Mary furrowed her brow, “No. My mama is my mama.”
“What if your new mama would let you have all the magic wands you wanted?”
“No!” Mary said, slapping Lynne in the face before running to a corner of the room.
Lynne stroked her cheek before walking out of the room. She locked the door and rested against it with a heavy sigh.
“That didn’t go so well,” her supervisor, Greg, said.
“I know I was too heavy-handed in the end there.”
“No easy way to do it. She’s a ward of the State now through no fault of her own.”
“Wish there was some way to tell her that,” Lynne said as her shoulders sagged.