Stevie’s heart almost stopped beating.
Brenda began digging through her paperwork with her brow furrowed, until she finally found what she was looking for.
“Please don’t panic, Stephanie…”
Karen almost snorted at how ridiculously unrealistic that request was, but she couldn’t blame the poor woman for trying.
“As far as I know, we are leagues ahead of them in terms of paperwork…”
When she looked up and saw Stevie’s eyes brimming with tears, Brenda realised that her reassurance was doing more harm than good. She hastily packed her things back into her briefcase and leant across the coffee table to take Stevie’s hand in hers.
“I am going to do everything that I can for you, Stephanie, I promise. But if I’m to help you, then I really need to get back to the office. I’m sorry.”
Stevie nodded tearfully and Brenda stood up from the couch, following Karen into the hallway to fetch her jacket. Just before she left, she turned around to face Karen.
“I’ll be in touch if I have any news at all.”
“Thank you, Brenda. Take care.”
Once the door was shut, Karen took a deep steadying breath and composed herself before she went back to pick up the pieces with Stevie. She was not at all surprised to find the lounge completely empty when she returned only a few minutes later. Karen brought their coffee cups into the kitchen and then began to make her way through the house in search of Stevie.
It was not long until she caught the faint sound of whimpering coming from the end of the corridor towards the master bedroom, that she finally knew she would find her – not in the master bedroom at all, but in the spare bedroom directly opposite.
“Stevie?” Karen whispered, pushing the door ajar.
The room was still relatively empty, save for a couple of storage boxes and a rocking chair that Stevie’s mother had given to her a few years before during the making of ‘Rock A Little’. That’s where she saw Stevie, rocking gently and clutching a pink cashmere blanket against her chest.
“This was going to be the nursery,” Stevie croaked, her eyes vacant and staring out of the window into the garden.
Karen felt her heart jump into her throat at the devastating sight before her. She made her way across the room and sank to the floor by Stevie’s feet, rubbing her leg supportively.
“I never thought I’d ever have to do this, Karen.”
“What do you mean ‘this’?”
“Adopt,” Stevie admitted sadly. “I always thought Lindsey and I... or, someone else...”
Karen stayed quiet at first, mostly because she did not really know what to say, but also because she sensed that Stevie needed to get some things off her chest.
“Have I ever told you about the babies that I lost?”
The atmosphere in the room suddenly shifted and Karen felt a chill run down her spine. With wide eyes, she shook her head and listened intently.
“The first happened back in 1975,” Stevie’s voice was hoarse and laced with emotion.
“Lindsey and I were going through a rough time. We’d taken a break for a few days when I found out I was pregnant. I didn’t know what to think at the time... I didn’t know whether Lindsey would want a baby or whether we’d even be able to have one and be touring. But when I told him, he almost burst with excitement,” a very small smile had crept onto Stevie’s lips at the memory and Karen had not missed it.
“It was the thing that brought us back together. It gave us hope for the future, something to work towards...” the faint smile suddenly disappeared. “Well, one night, I went to bed as two and...”
“Woke up as one,” Karen finished, immediately recognising the lyrics and trying to save Stevie from the emotional turmoil.
Stevie nodded tearfully.
“It tore us apart. Things were never the same between us. And then Don entered the scene...” she sighed.
“I was head-over-heels in love with him. He was a true gentleman and he absolutely spoiled me. One day, I started to see the signs again, but when I told him, his reaction couldn’t have been any more different to Lindsey’s...”
Without even finishing the story, Karen had already guessed exactly where this was going, and she didn’t like it at all.
“He said he didn’t want a baby, end of conversation. What was I supposed to do? I had no other choice. I terminated the pregnancy,” her voice cracked a little with the weight of the words.
“It was the hardest thing I ever did, but I was too young and there was no way I could have done it on my own, Karen! I just couldn’t!”
Karen reached out for one of Stevie’s hands and squeezed it comfortingly, desperately searching for the right words to say.
“The third was...”
“Stevie, stop,” Karen interjected, holding up her hand. “You don’t have to explain it all to me. I understand, and I know how upsetting this is for you.”
Stevie hung her head in emotional surrender, silent for a moment.
“She was meant to be mine, Karen,” she squeaked, clutching the blanket tighter against her chest. “All along it’s been her. She’s the one I’ve been waiting for. She’s the one I was meant to have.”
“She will be yours, Stevie!” Karen chirped with her best encouraging smile. “Brenda has all of our details; she knows how good you were with her and she certainly knows just how much you want her!”
“It’s not up to her anymore, Karen. I have to prove myself to a judge now!”
“Well then you had better convince him that you are meant to be Lily’s mother!”
Stevie’s eyes suddenly grew wide and Karen chuckled at her reaction.
“What? Of course I didn’t miss that little comment you made at the press conference a few days ago,” she said with a wink.
A genuine smile broke across Stevie’s face and she counted her lucky stars that she had such a wonderfully understanding and supportive assistant.
“Thank you, Karen. I don’t know what I’d do without you!”
A/N: Ghosts from her past have come back to haunt her - nobody said it would be easy!