This story is by Cathy Leach and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I stand outside the window, watching them attempt to go on with their lives. There are only two of them now. In some ways, it’s like it was before, when they were first married, but in most ways, it’s nothing like it was before. Sadie had changed things, had changed them.
When Ben and Angie Miller moved into our close-knit neighborhood six years ago, they were newlyweds, young and in love. They held hands and smiled at each other, as neighbors gathered to welcome them.
At first, they seemed shy, but it wasn’t long until they fit right in, like they had always been a part of our community.
As much as we loved our neighbors, most of them were retired, so it was great to have people our own age to spend time with. Over the next year, Angie and I became close friends, as did Ben and my husband, Matt.
The Millers told us they eventually wanted children, but were in no rush to have them. Angie said she’d always dreamed of having a little girl someday.
Everyone in the neighborhood was thrilled the day Angie announced she was pregnant. She and Ben had been married for a little over two years by then, and they were ready to enlarge their family. We all knew they’d be wonderful parents.
By that time, I had come to think of Angie as the little sister I’d never had, so Matt and I were elated – and honored – when we were asked to be the baby’s godparents.
One day while our guys were golfing, Angie and I went shopping for baby things. She seemed to glow with excitement, as she picked through tiny socks and compared features of countless diaper bags.
“I can’t wait to see if it’s a boy or a girl,” Angie said, gazing wistfully at a rack of tiny dresses. “I’m pretty sure it’s a girl and I’d love to buy some frilly, little dresses, but I better wait. Just in case.”
“Yes,” I replied with a chuckle. “Benny, Jr. might not appreciate wearing ruffles and lace.”
“Probably not,” she agreed, taking a last look at the dress rack.
Two nights later, I was awakened by a call from Ben. Angie had lost the baby. They were devastated, but hopeful.
Matt held me until I cried myself to sleep that night.
Angie asked me once, cautiously, if Matt and I ever thought about having children. Without thinking, I shrugged and said, “No. Some people just aren’t meant to be parents.”
She never brought up the subject again. It was only later that I realized how cruel that comment must have sounded to her.
A year later, Angie had another miscarriage. This time neither of them wanted to talk about it. Their pain was obvious to everyone who knew them.
One day the following spring, as Angie and I sat at my kitchen table, drinking tea, she burst into tears.
“What’s wrong, Ang?” I asked her.
“I just found out I’m pregnant,” she sobbed. “I haven’t even told Ben yet. Oh, Jo! I don’t think I could handle losing another baby.”
She cried in my arms, as I tried my best to soothe her. I prayed that this time God would give them the baby they so desperately wanted and deserved.
Sometimes prayers are answered. Seven months later, Angie gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. They named her Sadie, after Ben’s great-grandmother.
The new parents were head over heels in love with their little bundle of joy. No child could have been more loved and cared for than dear little Sadie. She was the most cheerful baby I had ever seen. She was constantly smiling and gurgling and rarely cried. We all loved her from day one.
Angie and Ben were ideal parents, as we’d suspected all along. Sadie grew and flourished, delighting everyone around her with her own special brand of cuteness.
Meanwhile, life goes on and so does death. One Tuesday morning, my husband Matt had an accident at the mill where he worked and died before the ambulance arrived. I can’t begin to describe my pain and sense of loss. If it hadn’t been for Angie, I don’t know how I would have gotten through it all.
Three weeks after the funeral, I found out I was pregnant. I didn’t tell anyone from the neighborhood.
It was a rough pregnancy, but I guess I deserved that.
At the age of fifteen, I was dating a boy my parents hated. When I got pregnant, our parents gathered us together and lectured us for what seemed like hours. I can still hear my father saying, “Anyone who would be so irresponsible isn’t fit to have children.”
After a lot of shouting and crying, they forced me to have an abortion. I don’t know what happened to the boy after that, but I don’t blame him.
I never mentioned the incident to anyone, not even Matt.
Since I was sick most of the time, my older sister Evelyn insisted I stay with her in Vermont, at least until the baby was born. I was grateful for the offer and jumped at it, telling the neighbors I just couldn’t bear to stay in the house without Matt.
Angie and I spoke on the phone at least once a week, but I kept her in the dark about my condition. Under doctor’s orders, I spent a lot of time in bed, so I wasn’t available when the call came. I found out later.
“Jo?” my sister said quietly. “Are you awake?”
“Hm?” I mumbled.
“Never mind. I’ll wait till you’re awake.”
“Wait,” I said, trying to sit up in bed.
She eased me back down and pulled up the cover, tucking it around my shoulders.
“What were you going to say?” I asked.
She stood there for a moment, unconsciously wringing her hands.
“Well?” I said, mildly concerned.
She heaved a sigh before speaking.
“I’m afraid it’s bad news,” she said. “You aren’t supposed to get upset, but I can’t keep this from you, so I guess I’ll just have to tell you.”
“So, stop rambling and tell me!” I shouted. I was becoming frightened.
“One of your neighbors called a bit ago,” she began, tears forming in the corners of her eyes as she went on.
“I’m afraid, um, it’s bad. It’s S-S-Sadie.”
“What about Sadie? Tell me!”
“They said she was playing in the front yard. Her parents were right there. She was chasing a ball. It happened so quick. They were right there. They saw it happen.”
She was crying now.
“Where is she? Is she okay?” I tried to sit up. “We need to go see her.”
“No,” Evelyn said, holding up her hand. “It’s too late. She didn’t make it.”
I sank down into my pillows, but my heart sank farther. Sadie was gone. She’d been hit by a car in her own front yard, right in front of her parents.
Oh, no! How much more could they be expected to take?
“I have to go to Angie,” I said. “She needs me now.”
“No,” said Evelyn firmly. “You need to rest. Angie has family with her right now. There’s nothing you can do.”
As she spoke, I felt the first cramp.
Then my water broke.
That was two weeks ago. I had to stay in the hospital longer than expected because my blood count was dangerously low and I was too weak to get out of bed.
Now here I stand, outside the Millers’ house, looking in the window, feeling their pain, along with my own. I wasn’t able to attend Sadie’s funeral, so I won’t have a chance to say goodbye. Maybe it’s better this way.
I look down at the bundle in my arms and wonder if I can go through with it.
He’s so beautiful.
With tears streaming down my face, I tuck the blanket under his chin and lean in to give him a final kiss. Reaching into my pocket, I pull out the document I had notarized earlier today – the document saying I surrender my parental rights to Benjamin and Angela Miller. I position the paper on top of the blanket, making sure it’s clearly visible beside my note, and set the basket on the doorstep.
The ache in my heart is almost unbearable, as I pause to take one last look at my son.
“Mommy loves you,” I sob, as I ring the bell and run for the car.