She wakes in the night and the house is dark and she looks to her doorway and sees her father. She's awake, not dreaming. He stands there and calls her name.
She hears it. She can actually hear his voice. And then he's gone and the doorway is empty, and Amanda Hallums is left alone.
Her father, Roy Hallums, has been a hostage in Iraq since Nov. 1. He was working for the Saudi Arabian Trading and Construction Co., supplying food to the Iraqi army, when his compound in Baghdad was overrun. In a hail of gunfire, he and five others were taken.
In late January, a video of Hallums was released. His usual clean-shaven face was covered in a shaggy beard. A gun was pointed to his head. He asked his family for help.
It's been almost five months since Hallums was taken hostage. Four others have been released. Only Hallums and Robert Tarongoy of the Philippines remain captive.
Amanda is 25, a single mom of a 7-year-old daughter, Sabrina. Her father grew up in Memphis, got married and moved around the country, settling in California. He started working for the Saudi company more than a decade ago, living there and then coming home to the United States for five to six weeks a year.
Amanda and Sabrina moved to Memphis two years ago. They live in a house Roy Hallums bought in Cordova. Amanda's older sister, Carrie, and her mom, Susan Hallums, still live in California. Amanda's father was planning on retiring this year and moving to Cordova.
Sabrina's dad isn't in her life and her grandfather is her father figure. She named him Da-Paw, a combination of daddy and grandpa. She prays every night for him to come home.
Amanda told a counselor about seeing her father and hearing him call her name. The counselor said that's common with people who have had a loved one who has died.
Amanda didn't go back. She doesn't know if her father is dead or alive, but she's got to believe he is alive. Her hope is all she has.
She's depressed and can't concentrate. She feels empty inside. She's always dropping things, breaking things, doing things like backing her car out of the garage wrong and breaking off the side mirror.
She bought him presents for Christmas. One is a model turquoise 1965 Pontiac GTO convertible -- the first car Roy and Susan Hallums bought together. Amanda put a red bow on top of the box. The other present is a pair of new leather moccasins, because they are his favorite shoes and the ones he has are worn and falling apart. The gifts are in a bedroom closet.
The last time she saw her father was in June. He spent more than a month with her and Sabrina in Cordova. For Amanda's birthday, he cooked a Mexican dinner. The card he gave her is on a board in her dressing room. "You're a wonderful daughter," he wrote.
Amanda is like her father. Quiet, kind. They internalize their feelings, push them down, and are calm on the outside.
Even though he lived so far away, Amanda felt like she could tell her father anything. He called all of the time. They chatted on the Internet. The last time they spoke was on Halloween. Amanda told him about Sabrina's vampire costume and her missing front teeth. (Article continued below.)
The picture to the left is the house my Grandmother (my Mom's Mom) left to my Mom recently when she passed away. My Mom will donated the proceeds of the sale of the house to my father's cause (more specifically, the reward money mentioned in the flyer).
At Amanda's house on Friday night, a game of Junior Monopoly is splayed across the kitchen table, the fourth match between Sabrina and her grandmother. Susan Hallums got into town from California late Tuesday and is staying for a few weeks. It was the first time she's seen her daughter and granddaughter since her ex-husband -- still her best friend -- was taken hostage.
Amanda and her mother look like each other. They're striking. Blond. Blue eyes. But where Amanda is quiet, Susan Hallums is outgoing. She's a take-charge, I-can-fix-anything type of person. It's been crushing because she can't fix this.
She's pleaded for her former husband's return on television and is in contact with Al Jazeera to broadcast in Iraq via satellite in the next few days. She's contacted every official she can think of. She's gotten advice from Thomas Hamill, the Mississippi farmer who was taken hostage in Iraq and escaped last year. She helped her daughter Carrie create a Web site (freeroy.net.) She's even considering going to the Middle East. To do what, she's not sure. But she feels like she's got to be doing something.
She was only 18 when she fell in love with Roy Hallums. He was 22, a senior at the University of Memphis. They married three months after they met. They divorced a few years ago, but she still loves him.
"He's one of the finest people I've ever met," she says. "I would do anything for him."
Amanda and her mother are sitting in the kitchen by a computer. Susan Hallums holds Hamill's book, "Escape in Iraq," to her chest like a child would a blanket. She and Amanda are going to meet him this week. She has found solace in Hamill's story. In the book, he describes talking with his captors and says the Iraqis are good people. It encourages her to get the message out. Roy is a good man. He is a good father. We want him home ...
On her computer there are photos of Roy. Roy as a baby. Roy and Susan on their wedding day. Roy and Carrie. Roy and Amanda. Roy and Sabrina. She made a CD of songs that remind her of him. She usually plays it in her car and sobs. She starts playing it while she looks at the photos. Linda Ronstadt is one of his favorites. Her song, "Somewhere Out There" fills the kitchen.
Somewhere out there beneath the pale moonlight
Someone's thinking of me and loving me tonight ...
"Don't play this, Mom," Amanda says.
Susan doesn't answer. She's whispering the words, lost in the photos.
Somewhere out there someone's saying a prayer
Amanda's eyes are glossy. Tears start falling down her cheeks.
That we'll find one another in that big somewhere out there ...
Amanda wipes her face and gets up and takes their coffee cups to the sink. Her mother keeps singing.
Somewhere out there if love can see us through
Then we'll be together somewhere out there
Out where dreams come true ...
Amanda comes back to her mother and sits down. Sabrina, her hair in ribboned pigtails, sits in her mother's lap.
"I hope he can feel our love," Susan Hallums says.
"You're crying," Sabrina says and points to her grandmother's eyes.
She nods to her granddaughter.
"The outcome of this is not in our hands," she says.
Amanda looks at her mother.
"It's in God's hands," Amanda says.
-- Erin Sullivan: 529-5880