A Single Foot Step

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The infant that inspired this story really existed. I met her during a couple of days of volunteering at a center for pre-school mental health. Apart from her discovery in a drawer the rest is fiction.
This is a story that has been waiting to be written for years....thanks to Markie Bee for the cover that finally decided me to write this. https://www.booksie.com/users/markie-bee-223538

Submitted: October 08, 2018

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Submitted: October 08, 2018

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A Single Foot Step.

As I park the car, I turn in the seat. She is used to me now, the girl we called Melody. Today is her sixth birthday, or that is what is estimated. It’s hard to be sure with someone that was never officially ‘born’ or at least registered. This was the day four years from which she was found.

Melody looks at me and smiles. She knows that I am a friend and has learned to trust me, at least in part. She bends down and scoops up a gorgeous grey rabbit, still young and all fluffy grey fur. I can see that already she adores it.

She beckons me into the house of her ‘parents’; they are waiting to make the adoption official but this is a special case, a complicated case. The hutch for the rabbit is in the conservatory so that Melody can spend as much time as possible with her new pet. A crucial part of the bonding process is the time she can spend in its company. If this works well, and I have every hope that it will, another pet might be added in due course.

In the past four years, Melody has taken many steps. I am not allowed to go in to details because of privacy issues, but I can write down my thoughts and feelings, starting with that very first step.

* * * *

She was found because of a neighbour. Several sightings of nappy packs and baby bottles aroused their curiosity when no baby seemed to exist. The young woman, later presumed to have been Melody’s mother, died, either deliberately or accidentally was not known. Too many pills mixed with too much alcohol could have been deliberate, but there was no note to suggest that it was.

When the body was removed, the neighbour brought up the possibility of a baby being somewhere in the house. The police had almost given up searching when they found the drawer that was pushed underneath the bed.

Pulling it out, none of them had been prepared for it’s contents. An infant girl that just fitted inside it, was staring up at them. Not a tiny baby though, this one was more toddler size. They did not know what to do with it, not really, but the hospital was the first port of call and it was them that called me in.

She was about two years old, had been fed, had been kept clean, but in other ways had been left alone. There was no physical cause for her lack of reactions; she had just never received any kind of sensation, any physical or mental stimulation before. She could not respond because she quite simply had never had anything to respond to. It was heartbreaking to see, devastating to deal with, but deal with it we must. We called her Melody.

* * * *

Her eyes had never been exposed to bright lights of any kind. Her eyes acted like that of a newborn, responding by expanding and contraction of the pupil, nothing more. She did not respond to sound although there was no obvious problem with her ears. Her brain picked up noise, but she simply did not react to it.

Her muscles were rigid. When lifted from the box she remained in the same position. She showed no sign of even the simplest grasp reflex. Again, brainwaves proved that it was not that she was not receiving the stimulation, more that she could not recognize it for what it was.

Melody had never eaten any solid or even semi-solid food; would only drink formula made up in a bottle. For all of the two years of her life she had barely progressed from her moment of birth.

Would anyone or anything be able to break through the barriers of nothingness that existed? It was going to be a long hard process but we would try.

* * * *

For the first year I did not see Melody apart from for the initial assessment. Her introduction to the outside world was going to have to be a gentle one or there would be a good chance that she would remain totally cut off forever. She was now in expert hands, and would receive the best care possible.

On what was presumed to be her third birthday, I took in to her a small soft toy. It was a baby toy really, with different textured panels, a couple of which made different sounds when touched. Just gentle sounds like crinkles, not jarring like a squeaker.

I wasn’t sure quite what to expect when I saw the girl. There was no doubt that Melody had come a long way. She turned when someone said her name, she could hold something that was put in to her hands, and she was now able to sit in a specially adapted chair. She would eat from a spoon that was held to her mouth. At three years of age she was like an average six-month old.

It was still so heartbreaking to see but there was no doubting that progress, although slow, was definitely being made. I placed the teddy in to her hands and she held it. She made no noise, her expression was blank, but at least she was touching it – how much she actually ‘felt’ was a different matter.

* * * *

I missed Melody’s fourth birthday. Not by choice, of course, but she had become very sick. As her physical development had not taken place neither had that of her immune system. She had severe double pneumonia and the doctors were not at all sure that she would make it.

Several months later, I had a call to go and visit her. Again, the difference was startling to anyone that had seen her before. To anyone else Melody would have appeared exceedingly backward in her development in all ways.

The first thing that struck me was that she was mobile. She did not walk, but would drop down from her chair and crawl, returning to pull herself back up in to it. Her face was still very much blank apart from when she became angry or upset. I soon discovered that Melody had learned to make a noise, if not to actually talk. She was significantly stronger too.

Hello, Melody,” I said, slowly and precisely. Her head turned straight towards me and her hand grabbed out towards my glasses. I pulled back, wrongly, I realised afterwards, and she began to scream in frustration.

One of the nurses came and brought her a bowl of her favourite sliced banana, and the girl soon began to feed herself. Big steps had been made; the hospital now felt that she needed placing in a suitable home where, with lots of support, her progress would continue. She needed to learn to bond and to trust and to do that she needed the same individuals to always be there.

* * * *

I think the hospital had anticipated a long wait for a suitable home to be found for Melody but as it happened I had the ideal couple in mind. Charlie and Grace would be perfect.

I phoned them and arranged to visit them, taking pictures of Melody, from her initial discovery to how she was now.

It will be very far from easy,” I warned them, but they still seemed to be keen on going to meet the girl, so I arranged a visit for them the following week. I would go with them for the first time, as presumably I was a slightly familiar face.

To say it got off to a bad start would be an understatement. When Grace leaned forward to greet her, Melody lashed out, catching Grace on the jaw. Luckily it was nowhere near hard enough to cause any damage, but I could see Grace was shocked.

I gathered Charlie and Grace to me, and quietly suggested that we all sat on the floor and ‘played’ with some toys. They agreed and it did not take Melody long to crawl her way over to us. She did not join in, but she sat next to Grace and watched. It wasn’t much but it was a start.

No wave when we left, no sign of regret at our parting, but she did watch us leave. Melody was definitely becoming more aware of her surroundings and the people in it.

* * * *

I lost track of them all for a while. My workload had increased and I was finding it increasingly difficult to devote the necessary time to Melody’s case. Another worker, Rebecca, was assigned to her and she kept me informed of any progress.

It wasn’t the same though. I missed looking in on the girl who seemed to be defying her tragic start in life. Grace and Charles had taken Melody in to their home and she was adapting, slowly. They invited me to her fifth birthday party and I decided then and there that there was nothing going to keep me from attending.

She was walking now, not running but tottering around. She clearly listened, clearly saw. I had thought long and hard about what to buy her as a gift, eventually settling on some touch and feel books. Not only would they provide her with sensory stimulation, but the repetition of words might help with her language development.

Melody was still very much locked in to her own world. She was not really opening up to any relationship, and was certainly not bonding. That, along with all the other skills she was trailing behind with, needed to be worked on.

* * * *

And now we are back to Melody’s sixth birthday, in a story that has both began and ended with a rabbit. The fact that she seemed to recognise me as a friendly face was a massive step forward. But more than that, was her affection with the tiny animal. Her face was alive in a way that I’d never seen before; that she was able to feel emotion, and to bond, had been proven by that tiny scrap of fur.

I’d never been sure that she would make it back to any sort of life, but today I can say that I am sure that she will. I smile at Grace as Melody leads me indoors, and I can see from the woman’s expression that she knows that too.

 


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