Wednesday, February 1, 2006

The Papers

There was a knock at the door, which interrupted our blissful morning. Steve got out of bed saying, “I wonder who that could be.”

“I bet it’s the parcel people,” I said, “Sam was supposed to be sending me a disc.”

Steve left went downstairs to answer the door, and I lay back on the bed. I was excited, for since my hard drive crashed taking all of my foolishly unbacked-up photos of Audrey with it, I’d only had the couple of printed photos to rely on when I wanted to look on her beautiful face. The disc, which Sam had promised me, was to contain all of the pictures from the computer I’d left with him before my move and pictures of their three week trip to Hawaii over the holidays. He’d just returned the week before and the day he got back, when I called to talk to Audrey, he asked for my address. I’d given it to him before, of course, but I was so excited about the pictures I didn’t think to lecture him about organization.

A few seconds after he left, Steve returned empty handed. “He said you needed to sign for it,” he said, shrugging, “Some sort of document. I wonder if it has to do with Lori.”

“Oh God,” I said, rolling my eyes, “I hope not.” But with her, anything was possible. Thinking she’d probably found some way to sue me for taking her husband, I got out of bed, threw on my sweats and moved my belly and me down the stairs to the front door. Steve had left him standing on the step with the door closed. I pulled it opened and faced a small, grey-haired, bespectacled man wearing a shirt and tie.

“Rebecca --------?” he said, eyebrows raised.


He pushed a stack of papers toward me, waited for me to take it, then said, “You’ve been served.”

Immediately feeling as though I’d been transported to a film set, I leaned against the door jam and flipped through the papers without really looking at them. The man didn’t seem in any hurry to go though his task was obviously completed. I got to the bottom of the stack and noticed the envelope, across which was written ‘Becca’ in familiar, adolescent handwriting that sent chills all over my body and froze me in shock as I stared down at it, right as the man spoke again.

“There was a letter with it. I’m sorry, but I opened it,” he leaned toward me and fingered the ripped envelope, “I thought it was a picture. I didn’t read it, though.” He chuckled nervously

I looked up at him. Of course he’d read it. Why wasn’t he going away? “Well anyway,” he continued, “You obviously want to be here. It’s your decision. If you need anything let me know.” With that, he flashed another smile, got out a business card and after placing it in my hand turned on his heel and returned to his car.
I obviously want to be here? Now I was thoroughly confused. I closed the door, and walked to the kitchen and had a seat at the table. Ignoring the rest of the papers, I pulled the letter, which the man claimed not to have read, from the envelope, unfolded the college-ruled school paper and began to read the letter written in more of that familiar, adolescent handwriting.

I got no further than the first line before I broke down. Sobs shook my entire body and shock encapsulated my mind. Steve ran into the kitchen, clearly alarmed, but I couldn’t answer his pleas to tell him what was wrong, instead I pushed the mostly unread letter toward him.

He picked it up and read for a couple of moments as I continued to sob uncontrollably. “Son of a bitch!” he exclaimed, tossing the letter down, himself unable to read all of the way through. Steve put his arm around me and helped me back to the bedroom, by which time anger had begun to match shock’s place in my mind.

I sat down on the bed and took the letter back from Steve, this time determined to read it all of the way through, and I did, from the “Dear Rebecca, I have had an attorney file papers with the court in King County seeking full custody of Audrey” to “I am truly sorry it has come to this, Sam” I read it. It didn’t matter what he said to try to explain his actions, they still didn’t make any sense to me.

I picked up the phone and dialed his number. There was of course no answer. It was only 1 AM there, but I dialed anyway. When I’d left I had a discussion with him about turning off his cell phone at night and how it wasn’t a good idea since he was all of the time dropping her at my mom’s or his mom’s for several nights in a row and if there was an emergency, they wouldn’t be able to get in touch with him. After several weeks of reminding him of the lack of responsibility of being out of reach when his daughter wasn’t with him, he finally was leaving on his phone. I suppose getting him to answer it was an entirely different matter. Getting no answer a second time, I left a message imploring him to call me right away.

I finally picked up the stack of papers to see what exactly had been filed with the court. Reading through it brought tears of anger and rage and hurt and betrayal. I was so confused.

He wrote in his declaration that he felt that I had abandoned Audrey. In the parenting plan they checked the sections under parental conduct to say that I had abandoned and neglected my daughter and therefore deserved severely limited contact with her. The visitation to be every other Saturday for 4 hours and even then to be supervised by an approved adult.

I cried and cried. How could this be? How could he do this? It wasn’t real. It couldn’t be. “I just talked to him yesterday,” I moaned as I rocked myself on the bed. Steve stood nearby, pain written across his face. “I just spoke to him yesterday. He agreed about her ticket. Why would he do that? Why didn’t he ever say anything to me? We had an agreement?” I repeated myself again and again; tears soon soaked the duvet cover and my hair as well.

I sat up after a while and dialed my mother. She picked up after two rings, her voice groggy with sleep. “Mom, Sam’s suing me for full custody of Audrey.”

“Oh my god,” she gasped. “Why?”

“I can’t figure it out, Mom,” I whispered, trying to keep from crying again. “He never once said he had a problem with our arrangement. I just spoke to him last night about Audrey coming here. Everything was fine. Why would he do this? This is a last straw, not a first step.”

“I bet his mother’s behind it,” she said.

“Oh, god,” I said. I’d been flipping through the papers and where it asks about attorney’s fees, it mentioned an ungodly sum, source – 'borrowed from mother.'