“IS THIS RIGHT, Miss Leigh?” Isabel asked, sitting on a chair in Leigh’s kitchen behind the table where she cut the shape of a pumpkin out of orange construction paper early the next day.
Too early. Leigh hid a yawn as she nodded. “Yes, sweetie, that’s great.” She glued a set of googly eyes to a cutout of a ghost and handed it to Dylan. “Just set this on the window ledge to dry with the others and they should be ready for you to take home at the end of the day.”
The oven timer chimed and Leigh grabbed her oven mitts from the counter. “Everyone stay in your seats, away from the oven, while I get the cookies,” she said, before removing the tray of shortbread and placing them on the cooling rack above the stove.
“They smell yummy. Can we decorate them now?” Melissa asked, standing on her chair to peer at the shortbread cookies with interest.
“They have to cool first, and chairs are for bottoms.” Leigh motioned for the little girl to sit as she removed her oven mitts and got out her decorating tools and bags of colored frosting and sprinkles.
The house phone rang and she scanned the messy kitchen for her cordless. She moved the art supplies and the baking dishes on the counter, guided by the muffled sound of the ringing. “Guys, have you seen the phone?” she asked, shuffling the loose sheets of construction paper on the table.
“Here it is,” Isabel said, moving a bag of pipe cleaners. Instead of handing it over, she answered it. “Hello?”
Leigh put her hand on her hip and cocked her head to the side. She hid a grin as she waited.
The girl’s eyebrows wove together as she listened. “Yeah, she’s right here. Hold, please,” she said, extending the phone to Leigh. “It’s for you.”
“You’re kidding?” Chuckling, she took the phone. “Hello?” She cradled the phone against her shoulder as she got the milk out of the fridge. Then opening the dishwasher, she removed the clean plastic multicolored cups and placed them on the counter.
“Leigh Norris?” an unfamiliar voice asked.
“Yes, this is Leigh.” Straightening, she turned and motioned for the noisy kids to quiet down. Very few people called her home phone anymore. She’d get rid of the landline altogether, but with operating the day care, it was safer in the case of an emergency.
“This is Michelle Bennett from the New Jersey Adoption Center.”
Leigh’s heart raced and her pulse thundered. Swallowing the lump in her throat and forcing her voice to remain steady, she said, “Hi, Ms. Bennett.” The letter she’d received stating her deposit had arrived had indicated it would be months before she’d hear anything. That was only a little over two weeks ago. Was a call this soon a good thing or a bad thing?
“Have I caught you at a bad time?”
Leigh plugged her other ear to the shrill noises in the background and winced, moving out into the hallway. Letting the swinging door close halfway behind her, but keeping it propped open with her foot to keep an eye on the kids, she said, “No, not at all. I run a day care in my home,” she explained. Please don’t let this woman form an opinion of my parenting skills based on the noise level in my home.
“Oh, okay. Well, that explains the noise,” Michelle said.
“Yes, I’m sorry. It’s arts-and-crafts time. They can get...excitable.” Leigh’s hand shook and she switched the phone to the other ear.
“No apology necessary. Children having fun is a wonderful sound.”
Leigh’s shoulders relaxed. She liked Michelle Bennett already, she decided. “What can I do for you, Michelle?” Her nerves were jumping. Had she sent the wrong amount for the application? Had they found a reason to reject her application already?
“I was hoping to set up a time for an interview and home visit.”
Leigh’s mouth dropped and the phone slipped out of her hand. She blinked through a dizzy spell. “Already?” she managed to choke out when she’d grabbed the phone up again.
“Yes. I know it’s probably sooner than you expected.”
Leigh stammered, “Um...yes....”
“Well, if it’s not a good time—”
“No, please excuse my hesitancy. I just hadn’t expected to hear from anyone so soon, but this is wonderful,” she said as she leaned against the wall in the hallway. Her knees felt like rubber and she didn’t trust their ability to hold her upright. A home visit. Already. Excitement welled in her chest.
“Great. Would sometime next week work for you? I don’t want to give you any false expectations, though. Be prepared for this process to take some time.” The woman hesitated and then added, “But we do have a situation currently that we feel may be a fit.”
Tears forced their way into her throat and she swallowed hard. “I understand.”
“So, next week? Monday?”
“Yes. I have the day-care children until five-thirty. Would six be okay?” Logan would have to do without her for an evening. If he was still here. The thought hit her with a wave of sadness.
If he knew what she was about to do, would he approve?
She heard Michelle hesitate. “If we need to meet earlier...” She’d figure something out. Maybe Ashley could work that afternoon and take the children to the playground on the corner.
“No, six will be fine. Most home visits are in the evening when couples are home from work. We’re flexible. I’ll see you then.”
“Great, thank you.” Leigh disconnected the call and held the phone to her chest. Her thoughts and emotions were indecipherable. A home visit...the first real step in the process. She could have a child sooner than she’d originally hoped or expected. Tears welled in her eyes and she swallowed the resurfacing lump in her throat as she leaned against the wall, her eyes fixed on the photo of her parents hanging on the wall across from her.
They didn’t know of her plans yet. She hadn’t wanted to tell too many people in case things didn’t work out and yet, they were her parents. They loved her and she could only imagine that they would support her in this. Maybe they’d even come home more often when they became grandparents. The very idea took Leigh’s breath away. She had to tell them. She would try to call them soon.
The swinging kitchen door opened and Melissa came out into the hall, her hand glued to a piece of construction paper. “Miss Leigh, I’m stuck.”
Leigh bent to squeeze the little girl tight. She was so happy she thought her heart would explode. “Okay, let’s go get you unstuck so we can decorate some cookies.”
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