Kate nodded, listening. This was it. They walked out of Mr. Miller’s office and passed Spencer who gave her a quick wink when he saw them. She gave him a nervous smile before following her guide down a long hallway through double doors that led into a large rectangle room painted in red, yellow and blue. Short built-in shelves along two walls held many toys, books and games. Several girls in coordinated outfits were having a tea party with bears at a little table for their height. Kate smiled, remembering her own days having tea with her bear. The children all seemed happy and were playing with a variety of things. Some were doing puzzles, some coloring, others watching a video.
“Sarah is having tea over there,” Mr. Miller pointed, “she’s in the pink and white polka dot outfit.”
Kate looked toward the group of girls playing and saw the girl he indicated. Kate stared at the little girl Mr. Miller referred to and sucked in her breath. If he hadn’t told her which little girl was Sarah, Kate would have known instantly. Sarah had John’s eyes and nose. Kate gulped down her emotions. Kate hadn’t even considered the possibility of Sarah looking like her father, which sent a wave of grief over her. Kate pushed it back and tried to smile as she watched Sarah toddle about, her puppy she held in her arms almost as big as she was.
Kate trailed behind Mr. Miller as he bent down and approached Sarah. “Sarah, this is Kate. She’s going to take you to your new home.”
Sarah looked up and promptly said, “No. I stay here.”
He smiled at Kate. “Even here, one of their first words is ‘no’. I don’t think you can even teach it to them.”
Kate bent down and said, “Hi Sarah. Do you like playing with puppies?”
Sarah nodded, squeezing hers tighter. “Mine.”
Kate gave her a smile before standing up. “Does she have much to pack?” she asked Mr. Miller.
“She has her puppy, some clothes and diapers. And a car seat. You have to have one properly installed and we’ll help you with that when you’re ready to leave.”
Kate said, “Thanks.”
“I’ll let you stay here and get acquainted while I have Judy pack her things. I’ll have them at the front desk for you.” Mr. Miller pointed out the various staff workers amongst the children if she had questions.
“I appreciate that. She does seem sweet. Does she have any routines or allergies or anything I need to know?” Kate watched her new little girl playing; still shocked this was all happening.
“Judy will know more about that; she works in the toddler wing daily and probably knows all their quirks by heart. I’ll have her leave some notes with her bags. There will be copies of her file for you also. I know her medical records from her mother are included.”
“Thank you.” Kate sat down next to Sarah and her puppy and asked what his name was. Mr. Miller left to interact with another group of children who were playing a board game. Kate smiled to herself when she watched him get down on his knees and helped some toddlers with their wooden puzzles. It was comforting to know he wasn’t above playing with the children cared for in the home.
Kate turned her attention to Sarah. “Bo Bo, mine.”
“Bo Bo? That’s a nice name. Is he thirsty?”
Sarah nodded and poured some tea in his cup. “May I have some?” Kate asked her.
She nodded again and took another cup from the nearby shelf. The other girls ignored the two of them as they had gone to watch cartoons. “Why thank you; it’s good tea,” Kate pretended to sip. “Does it have sugar?”
“Uh uh.” Sarah sat down on Kate’s lap while holding her puppy. Kate was surprised, but relieved too. “What do you like to play with besides Bo-Bo?”
Sarah didn’t answer, but pretended to give puppy some tea. Then she got up and took a plate and pretended to pass him something. “What’s that?” Kate asked.
“Cookies,” she answered. “Want one?”
“Sure, I love cookies. What kinds do you like?”
Kate watched her play a minute longer and then got up the courage to ask, “Are you ready to go to a new home and stay with me?”
Sarah dropped her dishes and looked at her. “Are you my new mommy?”
Kate nodded, not able to verbalize her thoughts and feelings. She wondered if the staff had mentioned Kate’s coming as a way of preparation for Sarah leaving another place.
Sarah stacked up all the dishes on the table and picked up Bo-Bo. “I ready. Can I say bye-bye to Taylor and Britney?” Sarah pronounced it like Bwitnee.
“Of course. I’ll wait right here.” Kate stood near the door, fiddling with her jacket string while she waited. The adventure was just beginning. She felt swirls in her stomach and her hands started to sweat. One hour at a time, she told herself.
Until next time,