To the sounds of her nephew banging notes on a xylophone, Maria emptied the last box of kitchenware she’d found at the thrift shop less than a block from the apartment complex. She paused and laughed. She knew that song, the theme from Jeopardy, her mother’s favorite program.
She drew a deep breath. So much to do to make this one bedroom apartment into a home for her four year old nephew. Beds to make, clothes to unpack. She needed to buy curtains to cover the blinds and add color to the ecru walls. She’d been fortunate that the woman from the Human Resources Department at Fern Lake General had found this place.
Last night, she and Jamie had slept on the green carpet in the living room pretending to be camping. This morning the furniture and other purchases from the thrift shop had been delivered.
Jamie finished his rendition with a sweep of the hammer over the keys. She leaned against the counter and loaded their bowls from lunch into the dishwasher.
Maria drew a deep breath. Inside, she quivered with tension she refused to allow to show. She must succeed.
Enough dawdling. There was a man she needed to see. Her gut clenched.
“Jamie, put your toys away. We’re going to see your father.” And pray the man agrees to pay for Jamie’s pre-school while she worked. Two weeks from today, she started at the local hospital as an occupational therapist.
“Will he like me?” Jamie asked.
She hated the worry in the boy’s voice and in his brilliant green eyes. She ruffled his dark curls. “What’s not to like?”
“He never came to see me.”
Maria sucked in a breath. She could have tried to locate the man years ago, but her mother had been adamantly opposed. “He didn’t know about you. Nana didn’t know his last name.” Maria brushed hair from her face. They could have learned. She couldn’t tell Jamie about his grandmother’s anger. Guilt curled in her thoughts.
Jamie looked up. “How did you know?”
“When we were packing to sell Nana’s house, I found some papers in a suitcase your mama left. I saw his name and looked for him.”
Jamie nodded. “Uncle Carlo said my mama runned away ‘cause my dad was mean.” His eyes widened.
She put her fingers on his lips. “What does Uncle Carlo know?”
“Just TV and beer.”
Maria popped toys in her huge bag and walked to the door. They rode the elevator to the semi-enclosed parking area and her battered ten year old blue sedan. She fastened Jamie into his booster seat.
Twenty minutes later with only one wrong turn, she pulled into the
U-shaped driveway leading to a huge house at the top of the rise. She rehearsed
what she planned to say when she saw Jamie’s father. She swallowed against a
lump in her throat. How would he react when she handed him the folder with her
reasons for being in
“Is that the house?” Jamie pointed up the hill. “Looks like a castle.”