When Adelaide stumbled into the P-ICU for her shift, Kiana looked alarmed. “Addie, what’s the matter?” she exclaimed.
Adelaide blinked and looked around the sterile cinderblock common area ringed by sterile cinderblock rooms. She didn’t remember driving here.
“Addie? Honey, if you’re sick, you can’t be here.”
She roused herself. “I’m not sick.”
“Here, let me take your coat.” Kiana frowned. “What’s that?”
Adelaide glanced at the paper in her hand, crumpled where her fist clenched it. The letter she’d pulled from the mailbox on the way to the car. The letter that had ripped her heart out.
“They turned me down,” she said, her voice catching. “They won’t let me adopt. They said my schedule…”
Kiana drew a soft breath. “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry.” She wrapped her arms around Adelaide.
At that moment, an alarm sounded on the bank of monitors behind them. Kiana hurried back to work.
Adelaide read through reports as she scrubbed her hands. Not much had changed in the last thirty-six hours. There was the boy injured in a fall, the toddler battling pneumonia…and Baby Joy.
She tiptoed to the door, smiling slightly at the magic cast by tiny beads suspended over the warmer, turning this way and that on gossamer threads that shimmered as they scattered the light filtering through the blinds. Adelaide had made the pendants herself three days ago, when she could no longer stand the barrenness of Baby Joy’s room.
Such a beautiful baby, black hair and creamy skin, just three weeks old. For several days it had been touch and go, but she’d been extubated yesterday. Her cheek bore a red mark where the ventilator tubing had been taped down. Even now, both arms were taped to stabilizing boards, to keep her from pulling at tubes and leads.
“Nice to see her face, isn’t it?” Kiana whispered.
Adelaide glanced over. “Has the mother shown up yet?”
Kiana’s face darkened. “Hasn’t even called. The doctor calls her once a day, but…”
The girl had brought the baby here a week earlier, close to death, and stayed just long enough to leave everyone with a strong impression of her complete self-absorption.
Adelaide swallowed hard on rage. “It’s not fair,” she whispered. “When this is over, she gets to take that baby home, even though she’s too selfish to be a proper mother. And I…”
Kiana patted her arm. “You have such a heart for the little ones. At least we can hold her, now the vent’s off.”
It was a quiet day in the P-ICU, so Adelaide spent her shift in the rocker, stroking Baby Joy’s cheek, singing softly to her. If I could take you away with me, she thought, you’d grow up knowing what it means to be loved.
When she came back from dinner, there were new orders. Mother had been called. Baby Joy was moving to the main floor for observation anticipating release tomorrow. “Mom acted like it was a big inconvenience, because now she has to spend the night in the hospital.” Kiana’s eyes flashed. “Oh, well. Can you handle things for a few minutes, so I can visit the little girls’ room?”
Silence fell in the P-ICU. Adelaide didn’t hesitate. She knew what she had to do, even if it meant leaving everything she knew.
She pulled a scissors from the side table and carefully snipped off the baby’s security bracelet.
The assignment was to use the words gossamer and affinity as inspiration. Yesterday, Danielle suggested that I add “the day that really important letter comes in the mail.” And here you are. If you’re interested to know origins, our family has spent more time than we’d care to dwell on in the PICU, and one of those times there was, indeed, a baby in the PICU whose parents never visited. That much is real; the rest I made up.