Balloon Man

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Chapter 49

Eventually, Alma’s tears dried up. Cye hadn’t said one word and she worried he was angry. Pulling away from his embrace, she looked at his face, expecting a dark glare. There was a hint of anger, but the bigger emotion behind his eyes was happiness.

“Have you told her yet?” Cye asked.

“Alouette?” Alma questioned. Cye nodded. “No, I haven’t. I just found out less than twelve hours ago. I needed to tell you first. I’ve been so worried you weren’t going to make it, and I wanted to tell you about our child together. After all that’s happened, I guess my mind sort of shut down for a while. Once I gathered myself together, I came right here.”

“I’m still trying to process all this, but one thing stands out, and honestly, I’m surprised you haven’t already taken care of it.”

“What do you mean?”

Cye’s grin grew wider. “You go tell the staff that’s our granddaughter and make sure she’s released to you when she’s better. No way is she going to foster care. Period.”

Alma’s eyes widened in shock. “Lord! That totally slipped my mind! So much is going on, it’s a wonder I remember my own name!”

Cye pointed to the door. “Stop yapping, woman, and get to it! Then, once you’ve made sure she’s going only where you go, bring her up to see me. I want to meet my granddaughter.”

Happiness and overwhelming joy made Alma feel fifteen years younger and as light as a feather. She practically floated across the floor while making her way to Alouette’s room.

Alma’s giddiness waned a bit when she stepped inside Alouette’s room. Mr. Richardson sat across from her, a packet of papers spread out across the tray to his right. Swallowing her fears, Alma cleared her throat.

“Ms. Alma! I’ve been wondering when you were coming back!” Alouette gushed. “This man says I have to go into foster care since I don’t have any relatives. Please, tell me that’s not true! I can’t live with strangers! I want to go home with you!”

“Miss, calm down. I promise you that we vet all potential foster parents with a fine-toothed comb. You’ll be in good hands—”

“You’re right, Mr. Richardson. Alouette will be in good hands. Mine.”

Both Mr. Richardson and Alouette gaped at Alma.

“I’m afraid that’s not possible, Ms. Emmett. Wards of the state are only allowed to be placed with certified foster parents or a living relative, neither of which you are.”

A spark of anger made Alma’s words come out harsher than she intended. Rummaging around in her purse, she extracted the pieces of paper from Detective Booth and shoved them into Richardson’s hands. “Actually, I am. Oh, Alouette, I know what I’m about to say is going to be a lot to understand. I’m still struggling with it myself, and I just found out last night. I’m…your grandmother. Your mother, Giselle, was my daughter. I gave her up for adoption.”

Alouette burst into tears. “My grandma? My mom was adopted? Oh, my God. All this time—I’ve been so close to you all this time?”

Alma moved past Mr. Richardson and sat on the edge of the bed. She gathered her granddaughter into her arms. “Yes, and I’m so very sorry. For a lot of things. I didn’t know either until yesterday. It’s just a miracle from above we’ve been brought together again. Dry your tears, sweetie. You’re coming home with me. And when you feel up to it, your grandpa wants to meet you, too. He’s here in the hospital. Remember me telling you about my friend Cye, and what happened in the swamp before I found you?”

“Yes,” Alouette managed between sobs.

“Well, he’s here in the hospital, too, and wants to meet you. So, Mr. Richardson, I assume since you have all the proof you need there’s nothing else you need from us?”

Mr. Richardson finished reading the documents and nodded. “We’ll need you and Mr. Swain to sign some papers to make things official, but that can be done once all of you are out of the hospital. I must say, I’m thrilled things worked out the way they did. Sounds like you two have a lot of catching up do, so I’ll let you both visit in peace. Good day, ladies.”

“Wait!” Alouette yelled. “What about the babies? How come nobody can tell me about them? He took my baby! Please, make Herme tell you about how he took mine and my mother’s babies away from us and we never saw them again. Force him to tell you where they are!”

Alma thought her heart would break from grief. “That’s not a question for Mr. Richardson. Did you tell the detective when he questioned you?”

“I don’t remember. I was so tired, sore and hungry when we arrived. Maybe.”

“I’ll go call Detective Booth and have him come by,” Mr. Richardson offered. “The police will be able to help. That’s a promise. Rest now, Ms. Alouette, and enjoy visiting with your grandmother.”

Neither woman said a word as they watched Mr. Richardson leave. Alouette’s cried softly in Alma’s arms, and together, they clung to each other inside the small hospital room, both too overwhelmed to speak.

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