I smiled and stared into the NICU. “Thanks for that. I’m going to stay here for another hour and then I’ll Uber back home.”
“I can come get you,” he replied and I could help but smile.
“That’s okay. Raincheck?”
He chuckled slightly. “I mean I can come get you and give you a ride home. We don’t have to finish what we started earlier.”
“I know. It’s really okay. Knowing you, you’re already half-asleep. Go to bed. I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?”
“Okay, babe. Thanks for coming with me tonight. Call if you need anything.”
We said our goodbyes and I stuffed my phone back into my clutch. I didn’t move from the window until the NICU nurse waved me in and then I left my belongings on the coat rack so I could wash my hands. I pushed through the door as soon as my hands were scrubbed clean.
“Hey there,” said a female nurse with a friendly smile that I couldn’t help return. “I’m Kara.”
“Stephanie. It’s nice to meet you.” My eyes left her light-brown ones as I looked to where the baby was. She chuckled and gestured towards him.
“Go ahead. He needs to stay in the incubator for now but you can touch him.”
I nodded my head quickly and walked to the little guy’s bed, slowly reaching through the opening. He was wearing only a diaper and a tiny, cotton hat and had several monitors stuck to him. His eyes were closed as he sucked furiously on a green pacifier and his little fist immediately grasped my finger.
“Who would do this to their baby?” I whispered as I shook my head. “You would think that nothing would surprise me anymore but here I am… still stunned.”
Kara let out a long sigh. “With the Safe Haven laws, there really is no reason for newborn abandonment. At least they had the good sense to tie off his umbilical cord with some sort of hair tie and kept him from bleeding to death.”
I ran my other hand up his soft little legs and admired the resilient little guy for a bit. There wasn’t a way to explain it but I felt a connection to that baby. I wanted him to be okay more than I wanted anything and I knew that I would dedicate my time to making sure someone loved him the way he deserved.
I was lost in my own head until Kara’s hand touched my shoulder. I looked up at her and she gestured to the window.
“Looks like some detectives are here.”
I turned my attention to where she was pointing and recognized the faces peering in through the glass. I smiled at them before looking back at the baby.
“I’ll be here tomorrow to see him,” I said to Kara as I stood and she just grinned.
“Sounds good. I’ll be here. Have a good night, Stephanie.”
I bid her goodnight and walked out of the NICU. I rounded the corner once I’d grabbed my things and the detectives greeted me immediately.
“Hey, guys.” I offered both Kevin and Valerie a smile. “It’s been a week since I last saw you. Way too long.”
Kevin chuckled as he shook his head. “No kidding. You looked fantastic. Hot date?”
I nodded my head. “Troy and I went to dinner tonight.
“And you found him after, huh?”
“Thankfully. That was a pretty scary moment.” I turned to look through the window before glancing back at the detectives. “His little cry was so weak. I don’t know how much longer he would have lasted.”
“Poor guy. We’re all lucky to have you, Steph.” Valerie flipped open her notebook with a smile. I spent twenty minutes going over how I found him and what the doctor had told me about the baby.
Valerie closed her notebook and rubbed her eyes tiredly. The two of them were with the Family Investigations Bureau within the Phoenix Police Department. I saw some terrible stuff but I knew they saw way worse.
“We’re pulling surveillance from the surrounding businesses to see what we can find. We’ll also take DNA to run through the database. Our biggest fear right now is whoever dumped the baby also did something to the mother.”
“I hope not. Neither scenario is a good one.” We all sat in silence for a moment and it wasn’t until I pulled out my phone so I could order an Uber ride that I spoke again. “Let me know what you find out. I’ll be in tomorrow to check on the little man.”
They both gave me swift hugs and I headed down the elevator to the loading zone. A car pulled up a few minutes later and I didn’t speak at all on the ride home. My thoughts were back at the hospital and with that little boy in the NICU. I had no idea how someone could just do that to a baby. The more I thought about it, the angrier I got, and I was fuming by the time I walked through the front door to our house.
“I didn’t think you’d be back tonight,” Alyssa said as I locked us in for the night. “I’m surprised Troy didn’t take you home to rip that dress off of you.”
I offered her a tiny smile. “That was the plan until I found the newborn baby in the garbage.”
“What?” Lyssa’s eyes went wide and I fell onto the couch while recapping my evening for her. By the time I was done, she looked pissed, too. “I can’t even believe that. What are your thoughts? Drugs?”
“I hope not but what else would possess you to abandon your hours old baby in the garbage?” I sighed and ran a hand down my face. “Hopefully the doctor will know more of what we’re up against tomorrow.”
Alyssa wrapped me in a tight hug. “You saved him, Steph. No matter what happens, you saved that little guy’s life. Good job.”
When I went to bed not too long after that, my face scrubbed free of make-up and the slinky red dress draped over my closet door, I couldn’t stop seeing that little baby in my mind. Kevin had mentioned something happening to the mother but my gut told me that the mother was the one who left him there.
When I would imagine my future all of those years before, I always assumed I would be married and have children by the time I was twenty-five. It hadn’t happened for me, obviously, and I think that realization just made me angrier that someone would throw away that gift so lightly.
It was a couple of hours before I finally fell asleep.