"No! I can't do it! I won't!" My eyes were tight and narrow as I hung up the phone. I leaned back in my chair, tapping my fingers lightly on my desk. A knock echoed through the wooden door.
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"Come in!" I sighed. The door swung open and there he stood. His eyes narrowed, and his hands grasped tightly around his hips.
"Why do you have to be so stubborn?" he accused. I looked away and started sorting out my papers. He laid a picture on my desk and started to walk away, but turned slightly, staring me down.
"You know you're the best, Sam. Don't be foolish now." His words cut into my soul. I looked away. He sighed and walked out the door. I sat silently, staring at a crack in the wall. I picked up the picture and stared intently at the girl's big, green eyes. She was holding a doll in one hand and a bear in the other. Her eyebrows were tight, and she sat frowning. I turned the picture over. Written in red ink were these words:
"Autistic girl named Sarah in desperate need of help from a good, loving teacher."
I sat in my chair, drumming my fingers on the desk. Suddenly I felt warm and needed air. I grabbed my briefcase and was just about to lock up when I paused. I stood, leaning casually against the doorframe, biting my nail. I sighed deeply and walked back into the room, grabbed the picture and went home. Every light was off when I walked into the house. The smell of charred steak drifted through the kitchen and the sink was filled with dirty dishes.
"Very much like Eric!" I sighed, grinning to myself. What could I expect? Just the very fact that the house was still standing was a miracle.
I walked limply up the stairs, changed into my pajamas, and snuggled next to my husband. His snoring was so loud it could literally wake the dead I'm sure. I tossed and turned all night but still could not get to sleep. Finally I crept out of bed and found the picture of Sarah. I started thinking about the solemn expression she wore, so intense, so unflinching. What was she thinking about? Where was Sarah?
At daybreak, I was awoken by the alluring smell of freshly brewed coffee. Sarah's picture lay right side up on the floor, and I nearly trampled it.
"Somebody sure had fun last night!" I grinned, sneaking up behind Eric. He sat at the dining room table, drinking his black coffee.
"Mommy!" a boy's voice screamed excitedly as he ran up to me. He wrapped his arms around my neck and kissed my cheek three times.
"I love you too Zack." I laughed, loosening his tight grip.
He was wearing green shorts, a ninja turtle's shirt and a backward's baseball cap.
"I wish you would let me get rid of that had, Zack Allen." I sighed, placing my hands on my hips.
"I'm gonna be late for school. Bye mom, bye dad." I glanced over at Eric who sat smirking and gave him a stern look.
"Where's Jessica?" I asked a husband who continued sipping his coffee. Finally she crept down the stairs, blanket and all.
"There you are! Where's my hug?" I held out my arms expectantly. Slowly she approached but stopped before I could grab her.
"What's wrong honey Are you sick?" I asked wide-eyed, checking her forehead.
"You missed girl scouts." She turned her face away and pouted. Sighing, I hid my face in my hand. After regrouping, I looked her in the eye.
"Jessica, mommy's sorry she missed girl scouts. How about I take you to McDonalds tomorrow?"
"Promise?" Her eyes lit up as she jumped into my arms.
"Promise." I chuckled, giving her a big hug.
I watched a seven-year old skip lightly out the door, carrying her Little Mermaid backpack behind her.
I sat back down and began to sip my coffee, staring intently at a man who still had not finished his. He was reading a newspaper. I cleared my throat.
"I'm considering working with this autistic girl named Sarah." I spoke out, handing him the picture of her.
"What?" his paper came down slightly, and he stared me in the eye.
"Her name is Sarah. She's autistic." I repeated slowly.
"Have you forgotten your promise, Samantha Stanley?" He sat studying my expression, tapping his fingers on the table. I picked up my coffee and began to clear the dishes.
"Eric, can't you ever let go of the past? I loved Jenny very much. She was my little girl too or have you forgotten?" I began pacing back and forth, playing with my long, golden ringlets.
"Besides, I specialize in cases of autism. I can help this girl. I know I can."
"Fine! Do what you want. I must not know anything right?" He grabbed his jacket and walked out the door. I watched as he sped away and finally allowed that stubborn tear to fall.
Later that morning while at work, I walked into Dr. Adam's office. He was a round fellow with grey, curly hair. He jumped back as I approached. I tossed the picture of Sarah on his desk.
"I'll do it!" I sighed. He smiled as he sat down. I did likewise. We heard a knock at the door and a secretary entered.
"They're here, Dr. Adams." She spoke in monotone. Her solemn look put a smile across my face.
"Thank you, you may let them in, Brenda." He chuckled. He glanced at me, raising his eyebrows slightly.
When I glanced up, there they stood, here I sat. She looked much like her picture. She was a four foot, sixty pound, six year old. Her blonde curls hung loosely in her eyes. I walked over to her and brushed them away from her eyes.
"Eeaahh!" She muttered, turning her back to me and messing up her hair.
"She don't like nobody to be playin with her hair" Sarah's mother grinned. "Oh, by the way, me name's Alice. Alice Daughterby and yours is?" Alice held out her hand, smiling from ear to ear.
"My name's Samantha, Samantha Briggs. My friends call me Sam, so you can do the same." I smiled as we made acquaintance.
Her dialect was difficult to understand but she was very polite. Her smile brought out the color of her high plump cheekbones. and I could still see the color of the pink lipstick she wore. I glanced back at Sarah, noticing she was still holding the same bear and doll that she had in her picture.
"May I see your doll, Sarah?" I asked, trying to get her to turn around.
"Oh, she very particular about her Sarah doll, Mrs. Sam." Alice spoke out. She said something to Sarah, who turned, but still did not look me in the eye.
"Here's her things, Mrs. Sam." Alice said, handing me this blue bag that I would use as a briefcase.
"You go with teacher and behave yourself." She said to Sarah, who glared, and with her doll and bear, walked over next to me.
"You get her for one month. If you can help her, we'll make sure you're set for life. If not, so be it." Dr. Adams spoke with a grin.
I looked down at Sarah, who stood staring at the wall.
"One month? Okay!" I agreed.
I decided we would stay up at my summerhouse. This way, I could focus my undivided attention on Sarah, and Eric would have a chance to cool off.
Then I glanced back at Sarah, who sat contentedly, playing with her bear and doll. What was she thinking? Where was Sarah? I called Eric, no answer. I left a message explaining the situation and begging him to make it up to Jessica.
"Whoopa whoopa!" She murmured, throwing her bear in the air. I guessed whoopa was its name.
I retrieved my black Bible from the shelf and sat across from Sarah. I skimmed through it until I came to Psalm 42.
"As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God... My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, where is thy God?" As the last phrase echoed from my lips, I glanced down at Sarah, who had turned slightly in her chair.
"No! She couldn't possibly understand."
Later that evening, I gave her a drawing pad and some crayons to keep her amused while I read scripture.
"Why art thou cast down O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God..." I glanced over. She had fallen asleep. I took the paper she had drawn on and nearly dropped it. The intricately detailed lions and tigers and bears made my eyes widen. They were arranged in groups of three about three inches apart.
Just then I glanced up and through the window, noticed a shadowy figure walk across the lawn. I locked the doors that night and slept close to Sarah.
A few weeks passed and still I could not seem to reach her. I decided that today we would go to the park. She needed a break from all the lessons I had been giving her. The truth was, I needed a break as well.
The sun was shining, the birds were chirping as we walked down the sidewalk. Sarah was holding her Sarah doll. As I watched her swing, I smiled and read my devotional book.
Later that evening, a naked girl ran out screaming. Her pink underwear was bright.
"Sarah, where are your clothes?" I sighed, rolling my eyes.
"Where Sarah?" she asked through out the whole evening. By the end of the meal, she had managed to spill milk on the rug, slime the table with spaghetti and break my favorite china dish.
"That's it!" I cried. Sarah quickly ran to her room, murmuring something behind her. I threw myself on my bed and began to cry. I was tired, hungry and on the verge of hopelessness. Nothing could change that now. All that effort was for nothing. That was final I decided. Tomorrow I would call her parents and have them pick her up.
I slid into my blankets and was just about to fall asleep when I heard a murmuring sound. I glanced toward the doorway.There she stood, still in her underwear. They, too, had been stained by the milk. She approached me smiling slightly. She had my Bible in her hand, which she handed to me. What a little flirt she was, but a cute one, I'll give her that.
"And what do you want little missy?" I asked her, raising my eyebrows.
"Forgot Bible, read!" Those words were like music to my ears. She had remembered our bedtime reading of God's words. I had been reading to her every night, hoping she was listening. I snuggled the covers around her tight, getting ready to start our nightly reading, when the doorbell rang. There they stood, the whole family and a friend of Sarah's as well.
"Found Sarah!" she cooed, taking the doll with a big smile plastered to her face.
"We would like to join you too!" Eric had a smile on his face as he winked at me.
We walked back into the room and snuggled close. Jessica and Zack sat next to Sarah.
The smile was broad and genuine. There she was, the real girl. We had found Sarah.
"Love teacher!" she said, kissing me on the cheek.
As we read the scripture, a tear fell silently down my cheek. She had been reached.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!" I read to them.
It took a child to teach me that patience, love, hope and the words of the Lord are the real therapies in life. Today, Sarah still struggles with her speech, but with the help of the Lord and friends like me and my family, she already knows what really matters in life, having the Lord close and in your heart everyday. And through her, I, learned the lesson to never give up no matter how bad things seem. The Lord used me as her teacher. And through those precious words in the Bible, we had come to know and love a little girl named Sarah.