In case you missed it, I posted Chapter 18 yesterday because we all need a distraction from the news of the world today, or just other stresses in our lives. Or at least I do because this week has been stressful for me. The one highlight of the week is that I have finished the first draft of A New Beginning and am now beginning rewrites, revisions and all that jazz, hoping to publish it on Kindle sometime in the Spring.
You will find a link to the previous chapters I have posted HERE or at the link at the top of the page.
You can find the first part of Blanche’s story on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.
The waiting room at the adoption agency wasn’t exactly what I would call welcome. Walls that had probably once been a sterile, eggshell white were now dull and stained. A few metal chairs and a coffee table with magazines scattered on top of it sat in the center of the room. In one corner a desk with a stained blue chair pushed against it was gathering dust. In the other corner, a plant revealed its synthetic status by the dust on its leaves. In some ways, the room reminded me more of a prison cell than a waiting room.
Edith’s hands were red from wringing them for half an hour now. I took her hands in mine to keep her from ripping the skin off and she managed a smile, worry clearly etched across her face.
Jimmy, chewing on a toothpick, paced in front of the small smeared window facing a brick wall, pushing his hand back through his sandy brown hair. Every few moments he looked at the floor, then back out the window, then at the closed door of the room. As I wished for the tenth time someone would come in to update us on what was happening, the door to the room opened and a plump woman with grey-streaked, frizzy blond hair and black cat-eye glasses stood in the doorway with a clipboard. Dressed in a blue blouse untucked from her grey skirt and covered with a gray suit jacket she looked flustered as she walked briskly into the room.
A teenage girl with straight blond hair and stooped shoulders walked behind her, her eyes lowered. Thin except for the small round belly protruding against the fabric of a flower-covered peasant blouse, she looked like she should be in a line at school, waiting to go to recess, not waiting to sign her baby away. The hem of her blue denim skirt rested a few inches above the knees, her legs covered by bright red tights.
“I’m sorry we took so long, Mr. and Mrs. Sickler,” the woman with the clipboard said, glancing up and stretching her hand out to Edith first and then Jimmy. “I’m Sandra Tyler, your social worker. Lily was running a little late. I should have updated you but my other appointment ran a little long.”
“We understand,” Edith said then gestured toward me. “I hope it’s okay we brought my sister Blanche as moral support.”
Sandra smiled at me and shook my hand as well. “Of course it is. I’m sure Lily is happy to meet anyone who will be a part of her baby’s adoptive family.” She gestured toward the chairs. “Please. Let’s all sit and get to know each other a little.”
Lily lowered herself gently into one of the metal chairs, her belly spilling over the top of the skirt under the blouse. Sunken eyes with dark circles under them looked out from the small, round face. She bit her bottom lip and bounced her foot, looking at Jimmy and Edith, as if sizing them up.
Sandra cleared her throat. “So, this Lily. She’s a young lady from here in the city and she’s due three months from now. We’ve been helping Lily with her addiction and she was just released from rehab a couple of weeks ago. Lily, this is Jimmy and Edith, the couple you chose from the files we showed you. Do you have any questions for Edith and Jimmy?”
Lily shrugged, folding her arms across her chest. “Yeah. I guess.” She looked at Sandra from under heavy eyelids and then at Edith and Jimmy. “Have you got a lot of room for kids?”
“Oh yes,” Edith said. “We live in a small town with a lovely backyard and both our parents have homes in the country with plenty of space for a child to run and play in.”
Lily’s mouth tipped upward slightly. “How come you don’t have kids of your own?” she asked abruptly.
Sandra looked startled at the question. “Lily, honey, that might be a little too personal,” she said softly.
“No. It’s okay,” Edith said quickly. “I don’t mind.” She smiled at Lily. “We lost a baby a few years ago and haven’t been able to have any more children since then. She was stillborn.”
Lily looked at the floor and shifted in the chair, her smile gone. “Sorry,” she mumbled. “That sucks.” She looked up at Edith through blond bangs. “Doesn’t really seem fair someone like you not being able to have a baby and someone like me – someone screwed up like me – getting knocked up by some guy who don’t even love me anymore.”
Edith swallowed hard and looked at Jimmy. “Well, Lily, I don’t … I mean, you’re not…”
Sandra interrupted. “What Edith means, Lily is that you’ve made some mistakes in life but you’re fixing those mistakes and one way you’re doing that is doing the right thing for your child and giving him or her to a loving couple to take care of him or her.”
Edith nodded and I could tell she was grateful for Sandra stepping in. “Right, Lily. You’re trying to make up for all that now.”
Jimmy cleared his throat and leaned forward slightly.
“So, how have you been doing, Lily ? Feeling pretty good ?”
Lily shrugged again and slumped slightly in the chair. “Yeah,” she squeezed her forearm and looked at the floor. “Been keepin’ clean from the drugs. They’ve got me in some program. I think it’s workin’.”
She kept her eyes downcast as her lower lip started to tremble. “Wish I’d never started all that junk in the first place.” She sniffed and dragged her hand across her nose. “I’m not ready for a baby at my age. I’m only 15. Can’t believe I let that guy talk me into doing that just for a hit off his pipe.”
My breath caught in my chest and I did my best not to gasp out loud. She was only 15 and pregnant. I had been a mess at 17 when I found out I was pregnant. She must have been terrified.
Tears rolled down Lily’s cheeks and dropped off her chin. Edith stood and kneeled in front of Lily, laying her hand over hers. “It’s going to be okay, Lily. You’re getting help. You’re getting on the right path and we’re going to take care of your baby, okay?”
Lily nodded, accepting the tissue Sandra offered her and wiping her face, then blowing her nose. She laid the crumpled tissue back in Sandra’s hand. The social worker looked at it with a small grimace and tossed it into the trash can next to her.
“You seem like good people,” Lily said softly. “I’m really excited for you to have this baby.”
After a few more minutes of conversation, Lily asking if Edith had painted the nursery and how old she and Jimmy were, Sandra suggested Edith and Jimmy plan another meeting with Lily in a month and everyone agreed.
“I feel a lot better about it all now that I’ve met you,” Lily said as we all stood, her nose still red from when she’d cried.
“We’re so glad to have been able to meet you, Lily,” Jimmy said.
Lily nodded, sniffed and laid her hand against her belly. “I’m glad you’re taking my baby. I’m in no shape to take care of it and the daddy don’t – doesn’t want it. I think it’ll be happier with nice people like you.”
When the door closed, we all looked at each other and I could tell none of us were sure how to react.
Edith sat in a chair and let out a breath. “Whoa. That was . . .”
Her voice trailed off as she shook her head.
“Crazy,” Jimmy said, sitting next to her. “How does a kid that young get in a situation like that? Where were her parents?”
“Maybe on the streets just like her,” I said with a shrug. “Who knows.”
Edith leaned forward, pressing her hand against her forehead. “Are we doing the right thing? Taking this baby from this girl? What if – I mean, maybe we could–”
“Edith, she’s too young to raise this baby on her own,” Jimmy interrupted. “We can give this child a better life.”
“And then what happens to Lily?” Edith asked, tears suddenly pooling in her eyes. “If her parents don’t care about her now and the father has left her – who else is around to care for her? And what about when she gets older and realizes what she’s done, that she gave up her baby?”
Jimmy leaned back in the chair and pushed his hands back into his hair. “I don’t know Edith. I just don’t know. But we can’t trust her to take care of that baby on her own either. We live too far away to keep an eye on her – what else can we do?”
We sat in silence, looking at the floor, feeling a heaviness as we heard doors open and close in the hallways beyond the room we were sitting in. I wondered how many other waiting rooms were in this building, how many other young mothers were struggling to decide how or if they could care for their babies. I thought how I could have been that mother if I had chosen Hank or drugs or anything else over Jackson, if I hadn’t had the support system I had had in Miss Mazie, Hannah, and my family.
When Sandra came back into the room, she handed a stack of papers to Jimmy and Edith.
“This is the preliminary paperwork you’ll need to sign. Of course, nothing is finalized until the baby is born and you and Lily sign the final papers the day of the birth.” She flipped the pages and pointed out where Edith and Jimmy needed to sign.
“What happens to Lily after the baby is born?” Edith said, her hand hovering over the stack of paper.
“What do you mean?” Sandra asked.
“I mean, does anyone keep an eye on her or help her through all this? It’s a big step, isn’t it, giving up your baby?”
Sandra sat back in the chair and sighed. “Yes, it is but most young girls like Lily move on with their lives and, sad to say, many of them return to the streets or the drugs or even, well, more unpleasant occupations.”
Edith winced. “Where are Lily’s parents?”
Sandra shook her head. “She only has her mother and that’s who brought her in, I’m afraid. She knows Lily can’t take care of this baby and the mother isn’t in any shape to do it either. She’s an alcoholic, living in an apartment complex in one of the worst parts in town. Quite frankly, I’m grateful she came here at all instead of trying to get Lily a back alley abortion somewhere.”
I felt sick to my stomach hearing what other young desperate mothers might turn to instead of adoption. I remembered Hank suggesting the same when I became pregnant, though thankfully he retracted the suggestion. I hadn’t understood what he meant back then when he’d suggested ending the pregnancy, but now I knew more and my heart ached that procedures like that were even possible.
“Mr. and Mrs. Sickler, listen,” Sandra laid the papers on the small coffee table and leaned toward them. “I know this is hard and scary and I think it’s wonderful you are so worried about Lily, but what she is doing is right for this baby. She can’t care for the baby on her own. The father isn’t even in the picture; we aren’t even sure who he is. Her mother is in worse shape than she is. You’re doing the right thing taking this baby. Otherwise, he or she will end up in foster care, bouncing from family to family. Your concerns for Lily are admirable, but the truth is, we just can’t save everyone.”
Edith was quiet on the way home and I knew she was thinking about what Sandra had said and struggling with her worry for Lily.