The appointment was scheduled for the next day at two o’clock in the afternoon, but at midday, Stevie was already itching to get there.
“How many cups of coffee have you had this morning?” Karen asked in amusement.
“Oh you’re so funny, you know that?”
Stevie made a joke of the comment, actually grateful for the momentary distraction to how nervous she always felt before a meeting at the agency.
As they walked into the office for the second time that week, Brenda welcomed them both with a hug and a wide smile. That woman was always smiling.
“It’s so good to see you both again! Please, come in!”
Stevie and Karen took their seats at her desk and accepted her offer of coffee.
“Thank you so much for seeing us today, Brenda,” Stevie chirped.
“It’s my pleasure, Stephanie! I can’t lie though; I’m surprised to see you back here so soon!” Brenda admitted, placing two cups of coffee down in front of them. “People usually spend a few weeks looking through all of the booklets, and then a lot of them back out of the process when they realise how much work is involved…”
“Oh you don’t need to worry about that with me. I want this more than anything!” Stevie reassured.
“Well that’s good to hear, honey,” Brenda said, taking her seat at her desk. “So, tell me. Have you had a chance to look through ‘the book’ yet? Have any of our little angels tugged on your heart strings?”
Karen glanced over at Stevie and could see that she was almost bursting at the seams.
“Actually, one has in particular,” Stevie smiled, nervously wringing her hands together in her lap.
“Oh I’m so glad! Oh that’s great news, Stephanie! Which one is it?”
“Well… the beautiful baby girl that you have here at the office? It’s her! She’s the one I want more than anything!” she gushed, jumping a little in her seat with excitement.
Brenda could not hide the shock on her face and was noticeably taken aback by Stevie’s choice.
“I instantly bonded with her, I mean, you both saw it! She stopped crying when she was in my arms, she clutched at my shirt when she felt that I was laying her down, and I heard her crying when I was leaving the other day. I can’t explain it, really, I just…” Stevie sighed contentedly. “She’s the one.”
The room was quiet and Stevie watched as Brenda repositioned herself in her chair.
“I uh, Stephanie I don’t really know what to say…” Brenda stammered, before Stevie interjected.
“I know it must seem strange to you, but believe me, I know my heart.”
Stevie’s smile almost reached ear to ear and she looked around the room expectantly.
“I was actually really hoping I could see her again today. Is – is she still just down here?” she asked, standing up from her seat and pointing towards the corridor leading to the make-shift nursery.
Brenda stood up suddenly.
“Stephanie, please,” she implored, gesturing for Stevie to sit down again.
Confusion swept across Stevie’s face and she slowly took her seat again as Brenda heaved a deep sigh.
“She’s not here.”
“What do you mean she’s not here? Where is she?” Stevie’s heart was beating out of her chest in panic.
“The baby was taken by child protection services yesterday,” Brenda said, her eyes full of apology. “I’m sorry, Stephanie. Had I known sooner that you wanted to see her again…”
“Wait. Wh–what does this even mean?”
“It just means that we have to take it through the courts now, that’s all.”
Stevie sank back into her chair, limp with grief. Things had just got a whole lot more complicated and Stevie had to fight the urge to break down into a thousand pieces.
“Stephanie, I know you’re upset but don’t you worry yourself too much right now, okay honey? I have her file right here and we were able to get most of your paperwork done a few days ago. It’ll be a lengthy process and there are no guarantees, but if you’re sure she’s the one, then I will have a custody case filed by the end of the day for you.”
Stevie’s head snapped up and she looked at Brenda with pleading eyes.
“I’ve never been surer of anything else in my life. Please Brenda, please help me.”
“I will Stephanie, I promise you.”
The woman reached her hand across the desk and gave Stevie’s hand a reassuring squeeze.
“The next thing that we have to do here is a house inspection. Is there a time in particular that you’d be able to do this?”
Karen leant forward and opened her diary.
“How about Thursday, would that be okay for you?”
“It most certainly would!” Brenda chirped, writing it down in her agenda. “Well then, I guess that’s all we can do for today.”
Stevie nodded along politely but it was blatantly obvious to everyone else in the room that her mind was completely somewhere else. Karen smiled kindly at Brenda and rubbed Stevie’s knee supportively.
“That’s great, thank you Brenda! We’ll see you on Thursday,” Karen spoke for the both of them, before taking Stevie’s hand and getting her home.