My hand holding the receiver on the pay phone shook as the phone on the other end rang. I glanced down at the hastily scribbled number. Unexpected tears made them dance on the paper. I couldn’t believe how close I finally was to the daughter I’d been seeking for almost a year.
“Hello?” The woman’s voice sounded older than I’d thought it would.
“Um, hello.” I heard my words tumble out. “I’m the mother of your child.“
“Really?” She laughed.
“I’m sorry. I cringed and tried again. “My name is Ellen Wright, Mrs. Keyes. I don’t want to intrude at all, and please tell me if I am. I got your name and number from the agency you adopted Cheryl from. Please…”.
“Did you say Keyes? Susan Keyes? I’m sorry; she’s away from her desk. Can I take a message?”
“No…uh no. When do you expect her back please?”
Susan Keyes was expected back in about half an hour. Thanking the woman and apologizing again, I thought of one more thing.
“And please, don’t say anything to Mrs. Keyes about my call?” I pleaded. Securing her word, I hung up.
“Lord, help me please.”
Why in the world hadn’t I thought to make that request in the first place?
After all this time, why wasn’t I better prepared for this moment?
I was 16 when Cheryl was born. My mind, my heart, my whole life were all in turmoil. Too young to handle the responsibility, I let my Mother make the decision for me, and my baby was spirited away to an adoption agency through one of her friends.
Not one day since then had I stopped thinking of her, though I finally married my awesome Dan and our own Maggie, Justin, and Derek followed. With a lump like clay in my throat I told Dan before we married about Cheryl. I can’t say it was easy for him to hear, but he’s always been accepting about my past. Now, his loving support was my anchor.
I couldn’t wait the thirty minutes. Walking to the elevator across the bank lobby from the phone I’d just called from, I stepped inside and pressed the button for the eighth floor. Arriving there, I walked around until I found the office with “Susan L. Keyes – Vice President” on the door.
With my hand almost on the door knob, the happy sound of voices, laughing and talking came around the corner just a few steps away.
A small, dark haired woman with a heart shaped face and dancing blue eyes was followed closely by a tall thin blonde haired teenager. The girl looked straight at me. My heart jumped. Was this my Cheryl?
The women stopped at the door. “Can I help you? Are you looking for someone?” Her voice was like little bells softly muted.
Was I? I forced myself to take my eyes off the girl. “Yes, I’m…looking for Mrs. Keyes.” I nodded toward the door.
She held out her hand. “I’m she, but please call me Susan. Come in. Do you have an appointment? I’m sorry…? Carrie, I’ll see you later.”
The two kissed on the cheek and hugged affectionately and Carrie waved bye as she left.
The woman at the reception desk inside gave me a conspiratorial smile when I introduced myself to Susan.
As I explained who I was and my mission, I watched Susan’s face carefully, knowing this had to be a shock.
But Susan’s cheerful and affectionate demeanor was genuine. “Oh, my!” she repeated several times as I explained the circumstances around Cheryl’s birth, and having to give her up. Her eyes shone bright with tears.
“Ellen, certainly you must come and meet Cheryl! Can you come for dinner tomorrow evening? “ Wrinkling her brow for a moment, she added “Or would you rather it be just the two of you?”
“Maybe you’d like to tell her, and let her get in touch with me if she wants to.”
I don’t know how those words came out of me but I sensed strength and help of a divine nature.
Susan agreed that might be best and I gave her my number.
We hugged like long separated sisters before I left, and Susan promised to call after she told Cheryl.
Not knowing what to expect, but joyfully hopeful, I returned home to Houston to wait.
The next evening I was preparing dinner when the phone rang.
A soft sweet voice, not Maggie’s said:
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