For Hannah, everything was new. New bed. New home. New routine. New life. But sadly it’s the same old story you’ve heard a thousand times before. Mommy and Daddy don’t love each other anymore. That’s what they said during the court hearing and custody arrangements. And while everything had undoubtedly changed into something new, Hannah was happy that Mommy and Daddy were at least sharing her.
Every night Hannah would sleep at her Daddy, Garret’s, new apartment, and every morning her Mommy, Sandra, would take her to school. They didn’t like talking to one another, so with a gentle horn Hannah knew her mother arrived. Daddy would give her a kiss at the door and send her out. He left for work shortly after and would be home by the time Mommy dropped Hannah off at night. The night was their time together. Time to watch TV and play games. And even though Hannah had her own bed she loved cuddling with her dad.
Hannah acclimated to the new routine quickly. Almost as if life had always been this way. At five years old, there wasn’t enough life to compare it to, though she’d say she can almost remember how things used to be, if only for a brief moment.
It was a Tuesday morning when Garret stayed in bed. Hannah could hear silly snorting, but decided to let her daddy get rest. She did keep him awake late with countless re-readings of her favorite stories and decided it would be a good chance to show her independence. She climbed the cheap laminate counter and picked out a bowl and the sweetest cereal she could find. She even poured it without making much of a mess. And after she ate, she was able to dress herself however she wanted. Soon came the expected honk. So with a kiss on Daddy’s head, Hannah left.
Within the car was Hannah’s mommy, Sandra.
“How is your father?” Sandra spoke, trying to maintain an air of civility.
“Daddy is still sleeping. He must be really tired.” Hannah replied.
“Typical.” Sandra snapped back before biting her tongue.
And so the day passed. When Hannah came home Daddy was already in bed. He’d been working very hard and needed his rest. Hannah rummaged in the cabinets and found some crackers to eat for supper. Daddy wouldn’t mind. He’d be happy she ate at all. When she was done she slipped into her PJ’s and cuddled up with Daddy. He was cold that he was nearly blue, so Hannah held him tight all night long.
Wednesday morning came, when an angry honk screamed through the morning parking lot while Hannah and Daddy slept. It was then that Hannah roused awake, alarmed by the distinct impatience. She quickly grabbed her backpack and left without so much as changing out of her PJs.
“What took so long? Did you just wake up?” Sandra spoke, trying to maintain an air of civility.
“Yeah.” Hannah remarked ashamed.
“Did you eat anything?”
“Is your father taking care of you at all?”
” Daddy is very cold. He must be really sick.” Hannah replied.
“Is that so?”Sandra held her words in, planning the exchange of words she’d be sure to stab Garret with as soon as Hannah was out of earshot. “I guess we’ll just have to have a conversation later.”
Hannah knew what that meant. Mommy and Daddy used to have conversations in their room. Loud, angry conversations. The young girl lowered her head sadly as the two drove off for the morning.
Sandra tried calling and Garret didn’t answer. She knew it meant that he knew the justified frustration that was boiling within her and he hid like a coward from the confrontation. It made her even angrier, if not leaving her feeling a bit more powerful to cast such a shadow on a man that he would be threatened by her interrogation. Sandra planned to tell him off. She almost wanted to do it in person. But as she dropped Hannah off for the night she decided it would be best to let him stew in his own fear for another day. Besides, she wanted to tell him off when Hannah wasn’t around. And so the child climbed up the iron and concrete stairs in her mother’s supervision until she disappeared behind the apartment door.
That night no one talked. Garret was once again in bed. Hanna picked at her daddy’s face and he stared at her, not saying a word. He wouldn’t play or anything. And so Hannah felt bad that maybe she caused more problems for her parents. She slept in her own bed that night.
On Thursday morning, Hannah got up and very quietly made herself breakfast once again. She changed into her school clothes and waited on the steps for her mommy to pick her up.
“I’m glad to see you were ready this morning. Maybe your daddy is finally learning to take responsibility. Did he say anything?”
“No. Daddy was very quiet. I think he’s mad at me.”
“He’s not mad at you.”Sandra reassured the girl. “He just needs to grow up a bit.”Sandra felt good saying such things, but knew it wasn’t good to vent at the girl.
That night Sandra kept Hannah a little longer than she normally did, deciding it was a good day to take advantage of the time since Garret was on his heals about not getting the girl ready on time. And so Hannah was dropped off late. It was so late that it probably made more sense to just keep the girl for the night, but Sandra knew her temporary victory would become a loss if she bent the rules more than she already had. Hannah had direct instructions from her mother to go right to bed as soon as she finished brushing her teeth and hair. Like a good girl, Hannah obliged. Daddy was already in bed when she arrived. The air was stale with the scent of fart and while the night before Daddy was cold and distant, Hannah missed her dad. She jumped up onto the bed, draped his arms around her and cried until she fell asleep.
Hannah couldn’t sleep. The room smelled so bad that she went to the couch. The apartment still smelled, so she opened a window. Eventually she fell asleep once again.
It was Friday morning and Hannah didn’t want to eat. Things were bad in the apartment and all she wanted to do was leave. She changed into he clothes and once again waited for her mommy on the steps. Sandra was happy to see the child prepared since she arrived a few minutes late. Hannah stomped down the stairs grouchy. It was apparent in her body language she was having a bad morning.
“What’s wrong, Banana?” Sandra asked playfully as the girl entered the car.
“Daddy is smelly. He made the whole apartment smell.”
A heavy stench followed with the young girl, filling the car almost instantly.
“My God. What did he do to you? It smells like someone died.”
It was then Sandra realized. She opened the car door, ran up the stairs, rushed into the unlocked apartment door to find Hannah’s daddy laying on the bed, swollen with atrophy. It had been 4 days since Garret died.