Hannah's ear infection was clearing up the past couple of days. She was still feeling a bit sluggish so Freddie and I kept her home another day from school. Freddie and Hannah were having a cuddle on the couch when I was on my way out. "Darling, I thought you had the day off today?" Freddie asked me as I was gathering my things. "I did but they decided to schedule a meeting for today so I have to go in for a couple of hours," I sighed. "Will you two be alright?" I asked Freddie. "I think we will manage, right Hannah?" Freddie responded. "Yes Papa," Hannah replied. "Alright, text me if you need anything," I told them as I kissed them both before leaving.
The whole drive I was filled with nerves. There was so much pressure on me for this meeting and I had to make sure I hit all of my points and said everything I needed to say. I had the tendency to panic and clam up when I was on the spot and I didn't want that to happen this time. Not again. I finally arrived and I parked the car. I could feel my nerves creeping up on me again but I talked myself down; you have to to this I told myself. As I walked from the car I rehearsed over and over in my head everything that I wanted to say. I walked up the stairs and made my way to the door and knocked. A few seconds later Hannah's mother answered. She looked shocked and a little scared by my presence, "um you dropped this at the grocery store, I just wanted to return it," I said as I handed her the ID. "Th..thank you," she replied as she looked at me confused. There was a bit of a pause "Do you want to come in?" She replied. "Oh um...." I hesitated "You didn't come here just to return my ID. You could have mailed it back," she said as she opened her door further. "I was just making some coffee, would you like some?" She offered as I walked into her apartment. "That would be nice, thank you," I replied. "I'm Amanda by the way, but I'm sure you know that since you had my ID," she said. "Yeah, I'm Alan," I replied. I took a seat at her kitchen table as she prepared the coffee. "I'd appreciate if this stayed between us, my husband wouldn't be too happy if he knew I was here," I told her. "Trust me I don't plan on speaking to your husband anytime soon," she replied as she brought over the coffee and had a seat. I stared at her for a moment taking her in. I saw bits of Hannah in her, especially in her eyes and mouth.
"I meant everything I said at the store. It wasn't my intention to scare her and upset you and your husband. I had no idea you lived around here. I suppose you didn't know I was out of jail, I don't remember seeing you at any of the court dates," Amanda said. "No, I knew you were out. Even though I wasn't there, I made sure to keep up with the court proceedings. The judge cut you a deal for testifying against Hannah's father," I told her. "Yeah, part of the deal was that I sign away my parental rights as well," she added. "I know, that's how we were able to adopt Hannah so quickly. I just didn't tell Hannah you were out because I didn't want to scare her," I said. "That was probably a good idea," she replied. "I didn't tell my husband either, he would have been furious if he knew," I said.
There was a bit of an awkward silence. "I suppose you came here because you wanted some answers. How I could be capable of hurting Hannah," she said. "Yes, that is part of the reason why I came here," I responded. "Before I was arrested I was addicted to drugs. All that mattered to me back then was getting high; I wasn't capable of taking care of her. He knew how much of a junkie I was and used it to his advantage. He controlled all the money so I would be at his mercy when I needed a fix. God I was so desperate to high I would anything he asked so he would give me money.... that included helping him hurt Hannah," she paused for a second tears starting to form in her eyes. "Sometimes he would have me hold her down while he hit her and..... hurt her. Sometimes he hit her harder for crying. When he started getting too rough with her I would try to distract him with anything so he would get off of her. Sometimes it worked and she was able to get away in hide, other times he beat us both. She got the worst of it when I was high because I was out of the way," she began to cry. "When I came to I would find her bruised and beaten. I tried to help her and clean her up but she was just so afraid of me, how could I blame her after everything I did," she said through her tears. "The food, why did she need permission to eat?" I asked. "That's another way he would control her. He would torment her with food. He used to starve her for a day or two, then he would put food in front of her. She would be so hungry she would try to eat it but as soon as she reached for it he would hit her because he said she needed his permission to eat. After a while she became so fearful around food. On the days he would starve her I would sneak her food while he wasn't looking. A couple times he caught me and he beat us both until we were black and blue." she said.
"The day you and him came to the hospital, what on earth were you planning on doing," I asked her. "When he found out she was gone, he went crazy. He was yelling and wasn't making any sense, he just kept saying that we needed to get her back. I tried to calm him down but he just kept yelling. The next thing I knew he had a gun and he dragged me in the car saying if I did anything stupid he would kill me. Somehow he managed to find her room, and well you know what happened from there." Amanda said.
"I know I was an awful mother to Hannah; it's no excuse but my drug problem got the best of me. All I could focus on was getting my fix. Ever since I got out I've been focused on staying clean. I'm so ashamed of the things I did, I hate myself for it. I don't know how I was capable of doing those things, I feel like such a monster," she said as she continued to cry. "I'll agree you certainly weren't the mother of the year and I hate everything you did to Hannah. I will never know how you and her father were capable of doing those horrible things to her. But I don't think you're a monster. An awful mother yes but not a monster," I replied. "I'm happy she found you and your husband, I'm glad she found a family that can love her and take care of her like she deserves. That day in the hospital, I couldn't stop staring. I was almost in awe of how protective and loving you and your husband were being to her. I was relieved, that she found you two," Amanda said. "Freddie and I love Hannah very much. We're the ones who were lucky to find her," I responded. "I'm trying to do the little things that I can to try to make things right. I'm making sure I'm staying clean. I stay away from the parks, the zoo, museums, playgrounds, or anywhere else I could think that you might take her. The last thing she needs is for me to scare her. I was doing pretty well until that day in the store, I promise I'll stay away from there from now on." she said.
"I know I have no right to know anything about her. I don't even have the right to call her my daughter. But......could you just consider telling me how she is doing from time to time. If she's okay," Amanda said sniffing. "I'm not sure about that. My husband would be furious if he knew I was here, let alone if he found out I was telling you about Hannah," I responded. "I understand; I blew any chance I had with being a part of her life," Amanda responded as she looked down. "I can tell you that she's okay, considering everything she's been through. She is a completely different girl from the one you knew." I told her. "Thank you, I'm happy she's doing better," she replied.
"I should be going, I need to get back home," I said as I got up and made my way to the door. "Thank you, for taking care of her," Amanda said as she closed the door behind me.
When I arrived home I found Freddie and Hannah asleep on the couch. Hannah tucked under Freddie's arm. I sat there staring at her. How could I feel sympathy for the woman who tortured this precious little girl. How could I have shared coffee with the woman I promised to protect Hannah from? As I sat there tormented by my thoughts Freddie started to wake up. "Oh hello darling, how long have you been home?" He asked. "Only a few minutes," I said. "Darling are you alright, you look like you've seen a ghost," he said. "Yes I'm fine, just a rough meeting," I replied. "How has Hannah been?" I asked "Good, her ears were bothering her a little bit earlier but some of cuddles took care of that," Freddie said. "Papa?" Hannah groggily said as she rubbed her eyes. "Hey there angel, I heard someone needed some extra cuddles today. How does a cuddle with Papa sound?" I said as I reached out my arms to her. Hannah nodded her head and reached her arms out to me. I pulled her into a cuddle and saw Freddie smiling at us. The guilt was eating at me. How could I keep this from my husband but I knew I had no choice, if I told him he would go ballistic.