Karen hoped she was making the right decision for her family, but how could a person truly know if it was right or wrong. The only thing that she knew for sure was that when she looked into those big emerald eyes, she didn't feel like she had a choice. There was something about the little red-headed girl that drew Karen to her, a bond already there, so strong she couldn't walk away from it.
Karen had checked in on the little girl many times over the past several months. It had taken weeks to convince her husband that this was the right thing to do, and then a couple months for all the paperwork and background checks to process, but today was the day. Any moment, that door would open and the girl would be hers. Just like that, she would have another daughter. One who could already walk and talk, at least Karen thought she could talk. No one had actually heard her say a word since she was found screaming on the side of the road several months ago.
She remembered the day the police brought the little girl into her office at the Department of Human Services. Her deep red hair fell in tangled waves to her waist. Her big green eyes taking everything in as she looked around. She didn’t seem scared- just quiet- as the officer explained where and how they found her. They had searched for her family and put her picture on the news, but no one came to claim her. She wouldn’t speak and she had nothing to identify her except a silver bracelet that said “Deirdre”.
Karen had seen dozens of children brought to her office in the ten years she had been a social worker. She cared about all of them, but none of them had ever struck her the way Deirdre had. Karen had stared at the little girl, drawn to her. She reached out to smooth the girl’s hair and two tiny arms wrapped around her waist. The funny thing was that it was the little girl who was giving comfort to Karen, and not the other way around.
Karen snapped back to the present as the door opened, her breath coming even faster. Was she ready for this?
Deirdre saw her standing in the room. Karen’s warm, brown eyes looked both happy and worried. The girl smiled shyly and walked up to Karen, putting her arms out for a hug. She held her as tightly as her tiny arms could. As they stood there, Deirdre could feel Karen relax, could hear her breathing slow down.
Karen pulled back a little, a feeling of peace spreading through her. “Are you ready to come home with me, Deirdre?” she asked.
The small girl nodded.
“Do you remember who will be there? They came here to meet you once. Henry will be your new daddy, your sister Caylin is eight, and your brothers Marcus and Joey are two,” Karen reminded her.
Deirdre nodded again.
“We are all very happy that you are becoming a part of our family today, sweetie,” Karen said.
Deirdre slid her hand into Karen’s and smiled up at her.
“Yeah, let’s go,” she said, picking up Deirdre’s bag as they left the room together.
Henry gave up. He had done his best to make the house and kids presentable. He had cleaned up all the breakfast dishes, picked up the toys, and got the kids dressed with their teeth brushed and faces washed. His wife, Karen, would be home any minute with their new daughter. Despite his best efforts, there was nothing presentable about this household. Barbie dolls and building blocks were strewn across the living room floor. Caylin had gotten into Karen’s makeup, so she could look “prezenible” to her new sister, Marcus had spilled grape juice down his new shirt, and Joey had cheerios stuck in his hair.
Henry heard the car pull in the driveway. ‘Trial by fire,’ he thought. She was going to have to see the family in their natural environment at some point. It might as well be now.
Joey was crying, blocks spread out around him, Marcus was driving around a suspicious looking truck with two blocks in the bed, and Caylin was skipping in circles around the couch singing her favorite song. Henry went to the door to greet his wife and Deirdre. He ran his hand through his hair and smiled sheepishly as they came in.
Karen looked around the house, taking in the chaos that was her family, and the smile froze on her face. She looked at Henry panicked, unsure of how Deirdre would handle the scene before them. It was a lot for a little girl to take in.
Deirdre stepped into her new home. She saw the big man with black hair- a hint of white at his temples- smiling down at her. She returned his smile as she passed him on her way to the living room. She sat down next to Joey and started to rebuild his tower, offering him a block to help out. Joey took the block in one hand while wiping his tears away with the back of his other hand; then, he scooped up more blocks so he could build his tower even higher than before.
Now that Joey was happy, Deirdre found another truck and began to drive it around Marcus. He looked at her for a moment, as if he was trying to decide whether or not he liked this new red-headed girl. Apparently he did, because his truck joined hers in a race around the coffee table. She let him win and he giggled with delight. “Again, again,” he squealed.
Caylin had stopped skipping and singing to watch this new little girl with her baby brothers. They were a handful and often times wore her out. They cried and drooled way too much, but this girl didn’t seem to mind. Maybe it would be nice to have someone to help out with the boys. She would be able to play with her own toys more if there was another kid to play with her brothers sometimes. ‘Yep, it would be good to have a sister,’ she thought.
Deirdre could feel Caylin watching her. She stopped racing the truck and looked up at Caylin’s brightly painted face. When Caylin smiled at her, she stood up and smiled back, her green eyes twinkling amiably. Deirdre held out her hand and they began to skip around the couch together while Caylin did all the singing.
Karen and Henry watched Deirdre as she spent time with each of their children. Her hand sought his as they both smiled at their new family. Karen looked up at Henry, her eyes damp with unshed tears. “We did the right thing, didn’t we?” she asked.
Henry nodded. “I think so.” He pulled her into a tight embrace. “Let’s go join our kids,” he whispered into her ear.
Karen picked up Joey, Henry lifted Marcus, and they all skipped around the living room singing and giggling till they could skip no more. The family collapsed in a heap of squirming arms and legs, happiness radiated throughout the room.
Deirdre laid her head on Karen’s chest. “Am I home now?” she asked in a melodic little voice.
Karen held her close, tears of joy streaming down her cheeks at the beauty of her words, “Yes, baby, this is your home now.”