The phone call came from New Orleans early in the morning. Right after he hung up, he made a phone call to his friend in Denver, and his friend and him would reach New Orleans International airport early that afternoon. Hopefully, the child would have reached the adoption agency by then. He forgot to ask whether it was a girl or a boy. But then again, it didn’t matter.
After having arrived at New Orleans, his friend and him rented a car from the airport and drove the next five miles to the adoption agency affiliated with the hospital. As soon as he landed, he received a text informing him that it was a girl. It chilled his heart, but further helped reassure him that he had indeed made the right decision. His friend was excited and anxious due to the fact that he had asked him for such a special favour.
“You can trust me entirely,” he had said solemnly. “I’ll raise the child like my own.”
He had no problems with the gender.
“But tell me,” he finally asked the question that had been nagging his mind, “How will you recognise it to be the right child if there are other new-borns? They look so… alike.”
He could only smile at his friend’s naivety. How could one fail to recognise his own blood?
The adoption agency had three children up for anonymous adoption. But he recognised her the moment he saw her.
The nurse gently handed her to him. He was overwhelmed with emotion as he stared at her. He had been right. How could one not recognise his own blood? He felt his eyes tear up. He touched her cheek gently. She opened her eyes. Such beautiful eyes!
He knew he had made the right decision. If he wouldn’t have stuck to his decision, he would have spent the rest of his life in a state of continuous torture. The regret would have killed him. Even though she wouldn’t be in his house, he would still be at ease knowing she is in caring and loving hands.
His friend had brought all the necessary things needed for her including the infant formula, clothes and a car seat. It took almost an hour to get the paperwork done. The background checks had been conducted, since they had registered early, which enabled the process to move quickly and steadily. It was an anonymous adoption. Neither party would know who the other was.
That was how he wanted it. That was the whole point. She had stayed in his arms while his friend went over the paperwork, sleeping the entire time. He felt like she recognised his touch. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. She was a mistake but she was so lovely. It wasn’t her fault.
Nervous about taking care of a new-born infant by himself, his friend had reserved the very next flight back to Denver. The flight was a little over two hours long. They said their goodbyes at the airport and he left for the gate to catch his own flight back home. His heart was flooded with conflicting emotions but the most overwhelming one was relief.
The decision to leave the job at the agency was made sooner than I had expected. I think Ammi ji’s sudden revelation had a lot to do with it. We were on our way to the airport to pick up the kids when the infamous job subject came up again. It started with Candice’s text. I cursed myself for mentioning it to Ali right then. In my excitement of meeting the kids after a week, I completely forgot my rule to never mention her texts or calls to him. It invariably got us started on the same subject.
“I don’t know why working at that particular place is more important to you than my feelings,” Ali sounded crest fallen.
There was no fight in his words that always put me on the defensive. I felt lousy. I couldn’t answer.
“Especially since you don’t need to work at all in the first place.”
He didn’t sound angry. It was as if he was making an effort to understand my reasoning. It is hard to argue while the other party is attempting to understand your position rather than demand your conformation.
“Okay Ali,” I sighed. “I do understand your reasons and I think it’s about time we found another topic to argue about, I’ll leave the job.”
He looked at me in disbelief. For someone who had put up quite a vehement fight over the issue, he probably couldn’t believe I had given in so abruptly.
“I appreciate that, Marium,” he sounded relieved and I knew he was. “And don’t worry, I’ll find a much better argument for us next time.”
I smiled at him. It really wasn’t fair to drag this matter any further. I’d be a fool to not realise that. I didn’t know why or how but I was just tired of going round in circles. Judging the situation objectively, I was being unsympathetic. If all Ali was asking for was a little compassion from his wife over a sensitive topic, then his demand wasn’t unfair.
I knew I could never expect Ali to understand my reasons. Guilt would creep up on me because I felt I was responsible for reminding Ali of his unpleasant past by pursuing my job issue.
Ali’s parents had died in a car accident when he was 12. He had survived the incident despite his serious injuries. Though he avoided talking about it, I knew the scene was still vivid in his mind. With no next of kin, he had ended up in temporary foster care with an American family. He was extremely fearful of the kind of home he would end up in through the adoption agency. He knew all about the abuse of foster parents and how children often went from home to home. Moreover, he was terrified that the foster parents would attempt to change his religion as well. His young mind was tormented for three months.
Miraculously enough, his uncle, who had not been on talking terms with his father, did not shirk from his responsibility when he found out about his brother’s death. He took in his orphaned nephew with open arms, providing a sound home and good education. But all this stability did not erase the fear of adoption agencies from Ali’s mind. He associated it with the most painful period in his life. It was no wonder that my working there was a constant reminder of a memory he did not want to refresh.
Over the years his friend kept him regularly updated on the child’s progress. His friend wanted to send the child’s pictures and report cards too, but he had refused. He didn’t want to take the risk of having these in the house.
She was very smart for her age, he was told. She could hardly have been anything else given her background. The child had good genes in her. It was when she was seven that the yearning to watch her grow up became overwhelming. It was difficult to isolate your blood deliberately from yourself. Even more so, if you had the option of seeing her every day even if from a distance. His wife had no objection to moving. She had never liked the bitter cold of the east coast anyway. The decision was made.
Stay tuned in for the finale of this series.
from The Express Tribune Blog http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/25161/series-2-checkmate-part-3-she-was-a-mistake-but-she-was-so-lovely/