Finding a Hart

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Chapter 8

Stephanie

My body was so used to getting up at five in the morning that I blinked awake shortly before six without the help of my alarm. Since I didn’t have to work, I didn’t try to get up. I laid there for so long that I was somehow able to doze back off. I probably could have slept for hours but the buzzing on the nightstand woke me up.

It was lighter in the room when I rolled over to grab my phone. I swiped my thumb across the screen and brought it to my ear.

“This is Stephanie.”

“Steph, it’s Robin. Were you still sleeping?”

I wanted to answer with sarcasm but my brain wasn’t awake enough yet to formulate something witty. “Yeah. What’s up?”

“I never even imagined that you’d sleep beyond six.” She chuckled slightly. “Go figure. Want me to let you go?”

I rubbed my eyes while slowly forcing myself to a sitting position. When the blankets fell away from my shoulders, I shivered slightly. “No, it’s fine. I won’t be able to go back to sleep anyway.”

“Okay. Well, this should be no surprise but I’m officially adding the baby from last night to your caseload. I figure you’re going to be working with the police closely anyway as the first responder so it makes sense.”

“I agree.” I pulled a sweatshirt over my head and walked out into the living room. “I was going to request it be my case anyway.”

“Okay, good.” Robin paused for a moment. “Depending on how much information they get throughout the week, the police department is tentatively scheduling a press conference on Friday regarding Baby Doe. I’m going to need you to go on camera.”

“What?” I was suddenly wide awake and the panic in my voice had risen to a high pitched decibel. “Why?”

“You found him so they’re going to want to hear from you. Besides, it might not even happen.”

“I hate press conferences.”

“I know. So you’ll do it?” I could hear the smile in Robin’s voice and didn’t like her in that moment.

I started the coffee maker and sighed. “Fine. Email me the details.”

“Thanks, Steph. Try to go back to sleep.”

“Yeah, thanks. Have a good weekend.” I ended the call and dropped my phone to the counter. After grabbing a cup of coffee, I went into the living room and found Alyssa there, positioned in some yoga pose, and she smiled when she caught sight of me.

“Hey, Steph. Join me in Virabhadrasana.”

“That sounds like you’re offering me some sort of STD,” I told her as I plopped onto the couch. She grinned and shook her head.

“You love when I speak Sanskrit to you. Besides, it’s a simple warrior’s pose that even the non-athletic Stephanie Gibson can do.”

“I’m doing a pose right now.” I took up as much of the sofa as possible. “I call this one the couch potato.”

Alyssa snorted and did some complicated bend. “I’m almost done.”

She worked through her weird yoga stuff for another ten minutes before turning off the TV and taking the only free spot on the couch. I had no idea how she was so awake when we had both gone to bed so late but that was typical Alyssa.

“What are you doing today?”

I sipped my coffee and shrugged. “I’ll need to go in and get an update on the baby and start my file on him. Otherwise, I have no idea.”

“Good. You and me, new Pitch Perfect movie tonight. You need some fun.”

I chuckled and nodded my head. “Sounds perfect.”

We sat on the couch together for another few minutes before I stood to go shower. Once I was wearing a pair of jeans, a long-sleeved blouse, and my sneakers, I waved to Alyssa and walked out to my car.

I drove from our small house to the hospital where the baby was. I washed my hands and stepped inside the NICU, greeting Kara before walking right towards the little guy’s incubator. It was empty when I got there, though, and I shot her a frantic look.

“Where is he?”

She grinned and gestured towards an open bed near her. “He graduated from the full incubator as soon as his body temperature stabilized and he proved he could maintain it.”

I moved towards the hospital bassinet and stared down at the tiny figure. He had a pink and blue striped hat on, a white shirt, and a diaper. His little eyes were closed and his mouth was pursed into the perfect ‘O’ shape as he slept.

“He looks good,” I said quietly as I stared down at him.

“Definitely. He’s a sweet little guy, too.” I felt Kara approach where I was standing. “Dr. Struthers will be in soon to go over his chart.”

I reached a finger out and gently touched his cheek. He was perfect. A perfect little guy that wasn’t wanted by whoever had left him. “Okay.”

“Why don’t you pick him up, Stephanie?” Kara asked and I turned my head to look at her questioningly. She just smiled. “He is starved for human affection and he’s not getting as much as he needs. Hold him. Cuddle him. He should be ready to eat soon.”

I hesitated before reaching in to do just that, bringing him to my chest so his cheek was against the bare skin above my shirt. Kara directed me to a rocking chair that was next to his bed, helping me so I didn’t disrupt his monitors, and she draped a blanket over him once I was a settled.

“Have you been here all night?” I asked as I glanced up from the baby to look at her. She shook her head.

“I left right after you did last night and just got here about fifteen minutes ago.”

I rocked him for a few minutes and watched the others in the NICU. Kara and another nurse floated between beds and incubators, helping parents and adjusting babies. The room was quiet, with only the sounds of machines and murmurs of voices being heard throughout.

After I’d been rocking the baby for about thirty minutes, two doctors walked in and one smiled at me before walking over to where I sat.

“Ms. Gibson. How are you?”

“Hi, Dr. Struthers. I’m good. How are you?”

He nodded and picked up a chart before pulling a rolling stool over to sit with me. “I’m great, thanks for asking. I figured you’d want an update on Baby Boy Doe, right?”

“Yeah,” I replied, frowning at the name he’d been given. “I need to start preparing a foster family for him so if you could give me a timeframe, too, that’d be great.”

Dr. Struthers flipped through the chart before setting it down. “Well, we’re still running some tests to ensure we aren’t missing anything from his initial intake last night. Thankfully, his toxicology report came back clean.”

Interesting. I was starting to doubt my theory that he’d been left by his mother. “Really? Because of the abandonment, I’d just assumed the mother had been a user.”

“So did we,” Dr. Struthers replied with a nod. “But no traces of drugs in his system at all. He has a really poor suck reflex and we need to correct that so he can eat. We’re probably looking at another week as long as he can avoid a feeding tube. Baby Boy should be ready to go after that.”

I rolled my eyes and looked up at the doctor. “Can’t we call him something else?”

Dr. Struthers laughed and shrugged his shoulders. “He’ll need a name but we figured that you guys would handle that officially. What do you propose?”

“A strong name.” Kara chimed in. “He deserves one to match his personality. Like Bruce.”


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