“Hello, Ms. Langston. I’m Mr. Miller, the director here.” He held out his hand and Kate shook it. His grip was solid without being too strong. “Come on in and have a seat.” Kate turned back to Spencer for a moment and saw him nod before she followed Mr. Miller into his inner sanctum. Mr. Miller walked back into his office and stood behind his desk, gesturing at one of the upholstered chairs for visitors before sitting in his own. His desk was immaculate except for a pile of papers and folders on one corner. A business phone, notepad and pencil cup were the only other items on the desk. A display of family photos in silver and brass frames adorned a credenza behind Mr. Miller’s desk.
His office furniture in warm burnished red tones and the slate blue walls with white trim were quite a bit statelier than the glaring waiting room. Kate wondered if they were planning to update the waiting room any time soon. Sunshine shone through the slats of the blinds casting a vertical pattern across the navy carpet. Kate relaxed when she noticed Mr. Miller’s smile.
“I understand you’re probably nervous. It’s okay. We’d rather see that than someone who’s cocky and thinks they’ve got everything under control. Parenting is never easy, you know.”
Kate nodded in agreement. You can say that again, she thought. “When Mr. Carson gets here, we can get to business, but for now, I can get copies of your identification and give you some background. I need two forms of ID for Mary to copy and then we can get started.”
Kate pulled out her driver’s license and her military ID and handed them over.
Mr. Miller glanced at them quickly and said, “I’ll get these back to you in just a few minutes.” He opened his door and Kate could hear him ask Mary to make copies. He returned a minute later and sat down again.
“As you know Sarah came to us a few months ago when her mother could no longer care for her. She told us Sarah’s father was in the Air Force on active duty but didn’t know where in the world he was, literally. We contacted the Red Cross and they tracked him down for us and we found out he was in Afghanistan at the time. We took Sarah in, knowing it was temporary until John could come get her and knew he had left a will. Such a tragedy that both Sarah’s parents are gone.” He swallowed and added sincerely, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
Kate nodded, unable to speak. She swallowed down tears, trying not to choke audibly. She didn’t know Mr. Miller at all, but he seemed to be genuinely concerned for Sarah which somewhat relieved Kate’s anxiety about her welfare while she had been cared for here.
“We have some paperwork for you to fill out and because you’re adopting a ward of the state, you will receive a monthly stipend for Sarah’s care. It would be best if you gave us a permanent address of a trusted friend or relative so that if you also get sent overseas, you can still get access to your stipend.”
Kate swallowed. Who on earth would she use for that? Her own parents were gone and she didn’t have much family she was in contact with. “Can I get back to you with that?”
“Certainly. Here are the forms for you.” He handed her forms from one of the folders on his desk and pulled out a clipboard from a drawer.
Kate took the forms and read them over before signing. Her Air Force training kicked in gear. She couldn’t believe she was here. She was so grateful Spencer sat on the other side of the door waiting for her and Sarah. Kate started filling in the first page.
Mr. Miller’s phone buzzed and he answered it, “Thank you; send him in.” He returned the receiver and said, “Mr. Carson is here now.” He stood up to open the door.
“Mr. Carson, I’m Mr. Miller and this here is Ms. Langston. She’s the legal guardian for Sarah Kern/Warner.”
Mr. Carson was short and wiry with square-rimmed glasses and a small nose. He was in an expensive looking suit and seemed to be all business.
“Mr. Miller, Ms. Langston,” he shook hands with them and said, “Let’s get to it then. It’s all simple and straightforward.” He quickly sat in the chair next to Kate, put his briefcase on his lap, snapped it open, and pulled out a file folder. He handed Kate some forms and said, “These are the forms for legal guardianship and a copy of John’s will.” He paused for a moment and said, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you,” she said again. “You can call me Kate.” She took the forms and flipped through them before signing anything. She added them to her pile she had from Mr. Miller. She thought she might be leaving with a mild case of carpel tunnel by the time she finished with all of them.
When she got to the next-of-kin line, she sat and thought who that was. She didn’t know the address or phone number of John’s parents. Maybe Spencer did. She didn’t realize how difficult it would be to fill out forms that otherwise should be so simple.
She finished with the legal forms first since she didn’t need next of kin and gave them back to Mr. Carson. He looked over them and said, “Very well. I have an envelope for Sarah; you can give it to her whenever you’re ready.” He handed her a 9×12 manila envelope and she took it, spiking her curiosity. “If you have no questions I’ll be on my way.” He stood up and assumed she hadn’t any. But he did hand her a card from his suit coat. “Just in case you need anything, you can call my office.” With that he was out the door.
Kate looked at Mr. Miller and he at her. “Well, that was quick.” His understatement made Kate smile. “I should say.” She finished what she could on Mr. Miller’s forms and said, “I’ll have to get the rest later.”
Mr. Miller looked over them and said that’s fine. “I’ll take you down to the toddler wing and you can interact with Sarah. She has a very tender personality and you’ll bond with her quickly I think. She’s a sweetheart and though she hasn’t been with us too long, we’ll miss her.”
Until next time,