The Only Solution(2)

By: Leigh Michaels



Still, knowing that others had it even worse didn’t ease Wendy’s own problems.

She had a savings account, but she’d invaded that a few months ago when Rory outgrew her bassinet and needed a crib and a multitude of other supplies. She’d never dreamed babies could be so expensive. Infant formula cost the earth – the price per case had shocked her even before she was faced with the loss of a paycheck. Diapers weren’t cheap either. Then there was child care – she’d still need someone to look after Rory on a regular basis, or she wouldn’t be able to interview for other jobs.

What was left of her savings wouldn’t last long, and the severance pay she’d been offered was a pittance at best. Besides, she was afraid to count on it – because of the bankruptcy, it might not materialize at all.

Rory placidly sucked on her bottle. Her tiny hand was curled trustingly around Wendy’s little finger. The baby had Marissa’s eyes, clear and blue as a summer sky, with the same dark ring around the iris which Marissa had always said meant she had second sight.

Though the clairvoyance the young woman had claimed hadn’t been worth much in the end, Wendy thought, or she’d have sensed that car coming in time to get out of its way. Or at least she’d have seen the future clearly enough to write a will.

Rory finished the bottle with a gulp. Wendy patted her back to bring up the last bubble, then changed her diaper and put her back in bed. She hovered beside the crib for a while and watched the baby in the dim light and remembered the day she had stood beside another bed...

Marissa’s pretty face had escaped damage in the collision, and so it was possible to pretend that she was going to be all right. But Wendy knew from the ceaseless bustle of medical personnel, from the hissing and buzzing of the machinery, that the reality was all too grim, and not far off.

They hadn’t really expected her to regain consciousness at all, but somehow Marissa had pulled herself away from the gathering darkness and clutched Wendy’s hand. In a whisper, her tone fierce even though her voice was so faint Wendy could hardly hear, Marissa said, “Take care of my baby, Wendy. Don’t let my parents get their hands on her. They’ll ruin her, too. Promise!”

Wendy had tried not to wince at the bruising pressure of Marissa’s grasp, and she said, “I promise.” Then the grip had relaxed, and Marissa was gone.

With shaking hands, Wendy straightened Rory’s blanket and braced herself for what she must do tomorrow. She could no longer take care of Rory in the way Marissa would have wanted. So she would break her promise to Rory’s mother, and she would break her own heart.

There simply wasn’t any other choice.



*****



Wendy hadn’t said anything yet about the company’s closing to the young woman who took care of Rory during the day. The wound was too new, too raw, to talk about in public, and Carrie had been busy with other parents whenever Wendy came. But the following morning when Wendy carried the baby into Carrie’s house, it was obvious that she had heard the news.

“My husband said I had to tell you I can’t work on credit,” she said softly. She didn’t meet Wendy’s eyes; she was concentrating on unbuttoning Rory’s sweater. “I told him you wouldn’t expect me to, but he said I had to make it clear.” She looked up anxiously. “Will you still be bringing her?”

“I don’t know. I’ll tell you as soon as I can.” Wendy kissed the baby’s cheek and handed over the bag which held the day’s supplies, and hurried out into the rain before Carrie could ask any more questions.

Back in her car, Wendy put her head down against the steering wheel for a moment. Why hadn’t she told the truth? She wouldn’t be bringing Rory much longer, because Rory would be six states away.

She hadn’t said it because the longer she could delay putting it into words, the longer she could pretend that she wasn’t going to make that telephone call. That she wasn’t going to give Rory up at all.

But – difficult though it was to reconcile her conscience – she was going to break her promise. Marissa would understand, she told herself. Marissa would probably want her to do exactly that. Wendy couldn’t care for Rory now, not the way the baby should be cared for. No mother would want her child to live in poverty when something better was available.

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