Part XVII: Unexpected Delight
It had been a year since their marriage and Annalise was happier than she had been at the time of her miscarriage, just three months ago.
Gale and Rachel had been good friends to her and she realised that having children was not the only criterion to attaining happiness in a marriage. She now understood what her parents had told her about sacrifices in relationships…
She had been watering the garden, but had slipped into her own Dreamland, just as she sometimes did. Right now, to-day because it had triggered a memory – one in which, a week after Gale had returned from his studies abroad, he had come to her house and she had not realised it, because she had been fantasising about him and her together… and had turned around to see him standing right behind her! She had been rather flustered, but had managed to give him a happy smile.
Later on, after they had started dating, when she told him about that day, he had roared with laughter and pulled her leg so bad. And, although she had told him she would never speak to him again, she simply could not bring herself to do so, especially with all his pestering—both, personally and over the phone! Finally, she had relented when he had kissed her in her bedroom, as a final resort to seek her forgiveness.
’And now, look at us,’ she thought, unmindful of the water being wasted at her feet, ’married and happy... And although we’re never going to have a child of our own, I’m sure we’ll still find someone to take care of…’
It was true; they stopped trying the day after Annalise had had her miscarriage. Although Gale had told her that he wanted a break from trying, she knew that he secretly blamed himself for getting her upset – and giving her false hopes. She knew he hated to see her cry.
She sighed. ’He’ll never listen…’
Just as these thoughts were running through her mind, she thought she heard sniffling from somewhere about her, startling her out of her thoughts. She looked around to see, on the other side of the fence, Rachel, with Baby Bob in her arms, running towards the fence.
“Anna, quick, there’s a child at your gate! She seems to be crying – been so for quite some time now, I’ll bet! Go and see what the matter is!”
The young woman nodded her head once, ran to close the tap and hang the hose to it, and raced back to the front gate. Sure enough, the familiar sniffling was coming from a girl Rachel told her about. As Annalise opened the gate, she caught sight of a small thing, hunched up on the ground, hugging her knees, and her face hidden within the comfort of her arms.
’Oh dear,’ thought the young wife. ’I wonder what I should do… Should I simply let her in and offer her something? Will I get into trouble with her family for doing that?!’
However, when she saw Rachel walking towards her with some confidence, she made up her mind.
Annalise reached down to shake the little girl gently. “Child, what’s your name?”
The little thing suddenly lifted up her head and backed up at once, with the help of its arms and legs, before she realised that she had been sitting against the wall. Perhaps comprehending that she was out of all options, she waved her arms in front of her, head turned away, in defence.
Annalise and Rachel exchanged blank expressions. Rachel shrugged.
“Well, child,” began Annalise, “we’re not here to hurt you. We just want to know who you are, so we can take you back to your home. Your parents must be worried about –”
The girl reached near to hysterics at this point and she cried, “No, NEVER!! I’ll never go back to that hellhole of a hut!!”
Annalise was startled beyond response; she just sat staring at the young child.
Rachel knelt down beside her and held up her baby. “Look here now, child,” she said, voice very low and gentle. The girl looked up and blinked at the young mother. Rachel, seeing this as her opportunity, went on: “This baby here is Robert – we call him Bob for short. When he was born, his father left me, and I had to raise him all by myself. Do I look like someone who could afford to hurt another child, who seems just as lost as my son?”
The little girl sniffed, and that was when Annalise realised that her clothes were quite literally rags. How long had she been roaming the streets? Who are her parents? And, more importantly, why did they leave her?!
’That’s it,’ she thought, making up her with great determination. ’If we don’t find any of her relatives, Gale and I will take her in ourselves! If we do find, however, we’re going to pay for her education! Yes, that’s what we will do!’
A tap on her shoulder brought her out of reverie. She blinked back to the present and stared at Rachel, who was now standing up.
“Bring her in,” she was telling her, head tilting towards the child. “We need to feed that skeleton of hers!”
Annalise got up hurriedly. “Of course!” she exclaimed in reply. She picked up the child into her arms; the latter now seemed rather unafraid. ’I wonder what Rachel told her while I was spacing out,’ she thought, a slight forbidden frown creasing on her forehead.
Instead, the girl was actually smiling.
“Come now, child! Let’s get you something eat!” she told her cheerily.
The little girl nodded her head. “Yes, Mama!”