As expected, the telephone had been ringing non-stop for almost twenty-four hours with calls from the press, family and friends; some calling to check whether Lily was okay, but most only calling to be nosy. After a particularly startling five a.m. phone call, Stevie had taken the receiver off the hook so that they could all finally get some uninterrupted sleep.
It was now eleven in the morning and Lily was napping in her Moses basket in the living room while Stevie milled around the house, trying to clean the place up a little before Brenda made her second and final post-placement visit later that afternoon.
Lindsey had popped out a little earlier to run a few errands in the city, but he promised that he would be back well in time for Brenda’s arrival.
Today was a big day for them all. Stevie lost herself in her daydreams as she went about the house, growing ever more excited by the second that they would soon be able to organise a court date to finalise Lily’s adoption. She already felt like her daughter, but Stevie could not wait for her to legally be hers. For them to finally be a family, the family they should have been all those years ago. She could not wipe the smile from her face, no matter how hard she tried.
Suddenly, a succession of loud knocks on the front door startled her and she dropped what she was doing to answer the door. She sighed heavily as she could hear Lily becoming restless in her basket after having been rudely awoken by the loud noise.
Up on her toes, Stevie looked through the peep-hole and saw Brenda standing on the other side of the door. She frowned as she glanced at the time; she could have sworn that the appointment had been made for three in the afternoon.
“Brenda!” Stevie exclaimed, opening the door and welcoming her warmly. “I’m so happy to see you! I thought you weren’t coming over until this aftern–”
She trailed out as she suddenly realised that Brenda was not alone.
“Stephanie, I’ve been trying to contact you all morning!” she announced, significantly more high-strung than Stevie had ever seen her.
The woman who had stepped out from behind Brenda seemed strangely familiar to Stevie, but she could not quite put her finger on it.
“Oh, I – I’m sorry about that, the press – they’ve been ringing the house non-stop, so we took the phone off the hook so it wouldn’t wake Lily…”
Stevie watched closely as the woman wrung her hands together nervously, very jittery and fidgety in her movements as she shot a look over at Brenda expectantly, who then nodded back in response.
“Brenda?” Stevie asked, gulping uncomfortably. “Brenda, what’s going on?”
“Stephanie, this is Louise…”
Stevie looked between the two women blankly, not knowing what to think.
“Lily’s birth mother.”
Those three words shook her to the bone, echoing through her body as if it were nothing but an empty shell, void of feeling, sensing and emotion. Her breath left her body with such force that it was as if someone had struck her across the chest with all of their might. She was paralysed, shackled to the ground which shook beneath her as if the earth was trying to rise up around her and swallow her whole. A deafness fell upon her as suffocating as the depths of an abyss, from which even light could not escape. There was nothing. She was nothing.
The only part of her that continued to function was her mind, which was plagued with unanswered questions and unfulfilled wishes.
It was the eyes. Those blue eyes that Stevie knew all too well, she could also see them in this woman, staring back at her with such intensity that she was petrified to look away. That is when she knew.