Cycling

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Chapter Thirty-Five

A week later, on the appointed date to meet Julianne’s daughter, Paige and I arrived at Julianne’s house armed. I brought gifts for the little girl, because I was still better at shopping than anything else. Paige, of course, brought a pie, which she tossed in the oven.

“So that the social worker knows that Sadie will get desserts straight from the oven,” she explained.

“When do you have time to make pies?” I replied.

“I make time for my friends.”

She had also brought her son. After putting the pie in the oven, Paige settled on the couch and gave her son a bottle, in hopes that he’d be asleep, or at least quiet, during our visit with the social worker and Julianne’s daughter. I helped Julianne straighten up the house a bit, not doing too much so that I wouldn’t overexert myself, and then she took me down the hall to show me the room she and Greg had finished decorating, ready for their daughter’s arrival.

“I can’t believe how much you have gotten accomplished in a week!” I exclaimed.

One week ago, the room had been bare. Now it was completely decorated from floor to ceiling. The room was delicately pretty. The wooden furniture was honey-colored. The walls were painted cream. All the fabric was pale green with soft pink and cream accents. Just right for a little girl.

“Do you think she’ll like it?” Julianne asked.

“I think Sadie will love it,” I replied, very sure about my answer.

“I’m really more concerned about impressing the social worker.”

“Oh, Jules. You said it’s too late things to change. Sadie’s coming to live with you for good.”

“That’s not what I’m worried about. I don’t want the social worker to worry, or second guess her choice to place Sadie with us. I want her to know that we’ll take good care of her, that the people around us will take good care of Sadie. I want to prove that we’ll be good for this little girl.”

“Yes, but how nice the room is has nothing to do with how good you’ll be as a parent.”

“I know that’s true, but I can’t help but worry.”

“Worry, worry, worry. You would think that that’s all any of us has done since our first negative pregnancy test.”

The doorbell rang and Julianne jumped. “They’re here!”

“Relax,” I said, placing a hand on her arm. “You don’t want her to know that you’re a spaz.”

Julianne shot me a dirty look, and led me back to the living room. Paige was finishing up with Nate. He had fallen asleep, and she was settling him in a pack and play in the corner of the room. Julianne glanced around the room one last time before opening the door.

“Jane,” Julianne greeted the social worker. “Thanks for coming.”

The little girl immediately wrapped herself around Julianne’s legs, and the sight melted my heart. Julianne was a mommy.

Julianne introduced Paige and me to Jane Patterson, Sadie’s social worker. Jane shook our hands, her hand tiny in my own. Sadie, on the other hand, didn’t care about meeting us. She likely had no idea what was going on, or why she was at Julianne’s house. She’d be going back to her foster home in a couple hours, before moving into Julianne’s house permanently in the next few days. Sadie toddled around the room, tripping every few steps, still not quite steady on her toddler legs. She spotted the two brightly wrapped gifts that I had brought for her, and her face lit up. The gifts inside weren’t big, but I knew that at her age, Sadie would be excited at the idea of a new thing, not by how grandiose that thing was. And, you know, the paper. She’d be delighted by that.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Jane said softly.

“It was my pleasure,” I replied. “I love buying kid stuff.”

“Oh, of course,” she said. “When are you due?” she asked, and for a moment I wasn’t sure what she meant.

“Oh, the baby,” I said, suddenly getting it. It wasn’t often people asked women when they were due, for fear of it only being a big lunch and not a baby, and I was still adjusting to the reality of my pregnancy. “I’m due in February.”

“Congratulations. You must be so excited.”

“Thank you, I am.”

“Is this your first?”

As soon as I had accepted the reality of this pregnancy, I had wrestled with how to answer this exact question. No, it most certainly was not my first child. My first had died inside of me. My second had lived outside of me for only eight weeks. But people didn’t understand that, and they didn’t want to talk about it. They would be uncomfortable if I brought those losses up, so I did my best to answer the question, explaining my losses without making them the focus.

“Well,” I said slowly, “I had a daughter who was born prematurely, and we lost her. I also had a son that I lost while still pregnant. So, I guess the answer to your question is yes and no. If all goes according to plan, this will be my first living child.”

She put her hand to her chest. “Oh, you poor thing. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been for you to go through.”

“It’s been very hard since our daughter passed,” I replied.

While we had been talking, Sadie had spied the pack and play and had descended upon it. “Baby,” she said clearly.

“Baby’s sleeping,” Julianne replied, and mimed sleeping, placing her head on her folded hands.

“Baby sleeping,” Sadie echoed, and turned to watch the sleeping baby.

Julianne’s voice was different when she spoke to this little girl. She didn’t talk to her the way she talked to Paige and me, or even the way she spoke to Nate. Julianne spoke to Sadie in a mother’s voice. I don’t know how else to describe it. Moms have a voice they use with their kids and only their kids, something tinged with the unending love that moms have for their kids. Julianne already sounded like that with Sadie. This really was her baby.

The three adults had coffee and pie while Sadie played with her new toys and, after he had woken up, the baby. Nate didn’t seem bothered at all by the bigger child who was in his personal space, waving toys at him and talking an incomprehensible language. He was easy going like that. I hoped that in a few years, they would be fast friends, always playing together, looking out for each other on the playground, that sort of thing. Hopefully my child would be a part of that too. I couldn’t wait to see him or her playing with Nate and Sadie, the third member of their trio.

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