This story is by S. Y. Walker and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Honey, let me help you.”
Juni allows her husband Matt to guide her into their small 2-bedroom apartment they share with their 5-yr old son, Justin. He helps her to the sofa next to the window. She gently sits, taking her time. Her body hurts, but her psyche hurts more. She positions herself to where she can look out.
“We can try again once you’re healed,” Matt assures her.
She shakes her head.
“I know how badly you want a girl.”
“I’m over it,” she responds coldly. “I’m just going to focus my life on him.” She looks at her son playing in the playground. The dryness in her throat makes her quiet for a few seconds. “Can you bring me some tea, please?”
He nods and walks off. She watches her son play from the window. She dozes off. When she wakes, her husband is helping Justin with his homework. “I’m going to bed.”
The next day, the loss is too much to bear and she wants to give up, until her son smiles. This pushes her back into the daily routine and soon her husband leaves for deployment.
Several days go by and she notices Justin found a new friend to play with.
“And who’s this?”
“I’m Eva,” the little girl said.
She is so cute and talkative, much different from her son. The more she watches them play, the more she wishes she had a little girl. Several more days go and it suddenly occurs to her that she’s never met Eva’s parents before.
“Eva, is your mommy home?”
“No,” she’s at work.
Juni looks up to see a tall, beautiful, slender woman dressed in a waitress uniform.
“Did you have fun, Eva?” The woman asked.
Eva nods and runs off to play with Justin.
“Hi, my name is Juni and I’m Justin’s mom. Our kids play together every day. It’s like they can’t get enough of each other!” She laughed.
“My name is Sonia.” She shakes her hand. “I’m really glad she found a friend. She’s been sad lately, but she seems better now. I work all day, so I don’t get to see her play.”
“She’s out here alone? I haven’t seen anyone watching…”
“No, silly, she has the Sun and the trees looking over her.” Sonia giggled.
“That’s not what I meant…” Juni laughed. “Nevermind, wanna come over for tea later?
She nods and walks off.
An hour later they show up. Eva is happy to see Justin and they run off to play.
“So tell me again, how did you and your husband meet?”
Juni chuckles. “I really don’t want to repeat that story again…but tell me about you, married?”
Sonia shakes her head. “Me and her father never married, but we’re ok with that.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean anything by it, I just…”
Sonia cackles cutting her off. “I really like you, you’re funny.” She turns to the kids and watches them play.
Juni doesn’t know if she’s done with the conversation or what. “More tea?” She asked nervously.
“So I heard you had a miscarriage?”
Juni spills her tea.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude. “
“How did you know?”
“Just the way you look at my daughter, almost like you wished you had one.”
Juni jerks back as if someone spit in her face.
“Oops, sorry again. I just say the craziest things.”
“No, it’s ok. I need someone to talk to. It was so hard. We talk about trying again, but…” Juni shakes her head. “I just learned to accepted it. How about you? Any miscarriages?”
Sonia smiles and stands up. “Well, we must be going now.”
Juni sits there for some time, tears flowing down her face.
“What’s wrong?” Justin runs up to his mom.
“You seem upset.”
“Oh, no, just something Eva’s mom brought up.”
“That’s not her mom.”
Juni is not sure she heard her son correctly. The next day, they are outside playing outside and she calls Justin in for lunch.
“Mom, Eva is hungry too, can she have some?”
She invites Eva in and watches her devour two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Afterwards, she allows them to play inside because of the hot weather. “Your mom won’t mind if you play inside, right?”
Eva shakes her head.
Juni kneels down and looks into Eva’s eyes. “Eva, who watches you all day when your mom’s at work?”
“The Sun and the trees.”
Juni is taken back by her answer, but smiles because she doesn’t want to scare Eva. Around five o’clock Sonia walks to the playground and calls for Eva.
Juni runs out. “She’s in here!”
Sonia’s face droops as she frantically searches around for Eva.
“She’s her!” Juni touches her arm.
“Ah! You scared me!” Sonia exclaims.
“I’m sorry, Eva was hungry and I fed her and then they played inside.”
Sonia smiles. “Thank you.” She turns to walk off, but then turns around. “I’m sorry, I hate to intrude, but can I talk to you?”
They sit down at the kitchen table.
“I’m having a rough time right now and need to work longer shifts. Is there any way you can watch Eva during the day?”
“Sure,” Juni nods without hesitation. She wants to tell her that Eva is going around saying she’s not her mom, but she doesn’t have the heart to. If Justin did that, she’d be crushed.
Several days go by and it works out fine. She picks her up and drops her off like clockwork, but then that changes. One day she’s an hour late and then the next day she doesn’t even show. Juni calls the phone number Sonia gave her, but it’s disconnected. Eva cries for her mother and Juni comforts her. She wants to call the cops, but knows Sonia is struggling, so she decides to give her till the next morning. At six o’clock she shows up.
“You can’t do this, I was worried.”
Sonia nods and mouths ok, but the next day she does the same.
Finally, Juni is fed up and calls Child Services. Eva is a really nice girl and doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.
The next day, after Eva is dropped off, a social worker from Child Services comes over to Juni’s house to observe Eva.
“She seems fine,” the social worker writes something down.
“Yes, because I’m taking care of her. Her mom goes to work and leaves her here all day.”
“So you’re babysitting her?”
“Yes, well not quite. I just told the mom that I would watch her while she works, but she doesn’t pay me.”
“So you do this out of the kindness of your heart?”
“She’s a child, I’m not going to just leave her. It’s just sad that she sees more of me, than of her own mother. Can you just please talk to the mom.”
“She looks fine, but if you want to put in a formal complaint, I will.”
Juni hesitates and then nods.
“Eva, Eva darling, come here. What apartment do you live in?”
“Nevermind, go play. I’ll show you.” Juni walks outside, but makes sure to keep an eye on the kids. “Up there, I’ve seen her walk up those stairs. There are two apartments up there and I’m pretty sure she’s in the one on the right.”
Later that day, Sonia shows up to pick up Eva.
“Hi Mommy, a nice lady was here. She asked….”
“What lady?” Sonia cut her off.
“Oh,” blurs Juni. “Just one of my friends.” She lies because she doesn’t have the heart to tell her the truth.
The next day, she doesn’t drop Eva off and Juni is terrified something happened. She goes outside and up the stairs to see that the note the social worker left is still on the door, which is strange. She knocks on the door, but no answer.
The next day, Sonia shows up with Eva. “Sorry about not letting you know about yesterday. Had a lot of stuff going on.”
“Hi Eva, Justin is upstairs in his room playing.”
Sonia looks grim.
“What’s wrong?” Juni held her hand out to touch Sonia, but she backs up.
She’s trembling. “I found Eva the perfect mother.”
“I want you to have her.”
“No! You can’t just give your kid away!”
“Please…Please take her.” Sonia runs off.
“Are you crazy?” Juni runs after her, but she’s gone. She immediately takes the kids down to the police station and tells them happened.
The cops listen and then leave the room. When they come back, they have a missing persons flyer.
“What’s going on? Why aren’t you doing anything?”
“Ma’m, the girl out there has been missing for a year and a half and you found her. We called her birth mom. She’s lucky to have someone like you.”
He crosses Eva’s name off the missing person’s list.
“Huh?” Was all Juni could say.