“What? You’ve got to be kidding. Read it again. There’s a major mistake nesting in that paperwork.” As an university research librarian, speaking quietly is a keenly honed librarian characteristic. Yet here I was creating decibel havoc in a lawyer’s office.
“It’s stated quite clearly, Ms Payton. Of course you don’t have to accept. However as it stands now, the will stipulates as the only living relative you are the designated guardian of said minor, Melanie DeLorenzo, in the event of the death of her mother, Margo Morgan.” The lawyer peered over his reading glasses. “You’re her cousin, as I understand it.”
“Yes, we are or were cousins, but we were never close. Let me underline, never.” I slapped my hand on his desk for emphasis. “I haven’t seen or heard from her in years. I didn’t even know she had a child. Why doesn’t the father stepped up to the plate?”
“He died in a car accident before Melanie was born.”
“What happens if I don’t accept this guardianship?” I shifted agitatedly in the chair.
“Melanie would become a ward of the court. She would enter the foster care system. If she was exceptionally lucky, perhaps someone would adopt her.”
“I’m sure you’ll come up with something suitable for her other than me. I know zilch about raising a child.”
The lawyer leaned back in his chair and said nothing.
I stood up to leave. “Where is the child now,” I asked.
“In the conference room across the hall,” he said.
“She’s here?” I sputtered.
“Yes, she arrived rather unexpectedly. She and her mother were in the Bahamas at a hotel, when Margo died. We were caught off guard, particularly since we hadn’t had the opportunity to contact you yet.”
” I never asked how my cousin died.”
“I’m afraid it was a heroin drug overdose.”
I said down again. “Margo died of a drug overdose? I’ll admit I’m shocked. Like I said we weren’t close and I lost track of her years ago. I’m sorry to hear that.”
“I need to get back to work, as I’m sure you need to do the same. Sorry I couldn’t help you.” I picked up my purse. “I’m sure you’ll find a suitable place for Melanie.”
“I wished I was as confident as you are Ms Payton. Because of her early arrival and the fact we were still trying to to locate you, we did instigate a secondary plan to find a foster placement. We’ve been informed the foster care system is so overloaded, it will take two weeks or more to find an opening. My secretary is attempting to locate a reputable temporary nanny to stay with her in an hotel. However so far it’s another dead end because of the short notice.”
“Something will turn up. Look, I’ll be blunt with you. At forty-seven I don’t want to be saddled with a child. Neither I nor my life is a suitable fit for a child.”
The white haired lawyer shuffled his papers and without looking up said, “She’s awfully small for her age.”
“What do you mean by that remark?”
“Just a comment,” he answered.
I put my hand on the door knob and said, “Well I wish you luck. She’ll be better off with a real family. I work long hours and live in a townhouse apartment. It simply wouldn’t work out.”
I stepped into the hall and stopped to put on my trench coat. Glancing across the hall, I spotted her sitting in an old fashion wooden office chair. Hearing my foot steps, she turned her head and looked at me with half hooded, pale grey eyes underscored with dark smudges. Her dark stringy hair was tied back with a dingy yellow ribbon. Now I understood the lawyer’s comment about her smallness, which wasn’t a dainty genetic smallness, but a smallness more indicative of undernourishment.
Above all else I was staggered by the look in her eyes, not one of normal curiosity expected from a six year old, but instead they were filled with the same hopeless resignation I had observed in abandoned old people.
Bloody hell I muttered as I reopened the lawyer’s office door. What’s two weeks and resurrecting my cookie baking skills.
To be continued——
Here are a couple of cookie recipes that I am sure are MORE than kid friendly.
Out of Sight Walnut Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies from Addie at Culicurious.
Taste Tantalizing Coconut Oil Carrot Oatmeal Cookies from Marcie at Flavor the Moments