Vanna was walking when she saw the child.
She liked the street; it seemed calm and homey, llike ‘Leave It to Beaver’. Trees branched out over the street, shading the sidewalk and pavement, leaving only tiny latticed spaces of light coming through. The breeze blew gently, whispering as birds sang. The early spring was still cool.
This was the street she would’ve lived on if Life had gone right.
And then she saw the toddler. The baby was standing in an open doorway, leaning against the child gate. She had a doll clutched in her arms and a banana balanced in tiny hands. It was the baby she would have, Vanna thought, if Life had gone right.
She’d had a baby once. She remembered his tiny, chubby hands grabbing her fingers and hair, remembered his giggle. He hated carrots, just like her. She wondered why she had ever fed him carrots.
As she watched the child in the doorway she slowed and gradually veered across the street, to the toddler’s house. She stopped at the sidewalk, looked both directions and studied the house.
Her life would be better with a baby, she thought. It would pull her together, and she’d get herself under control.
It wasn’t her fault, what had happened before. It wasn’t even her drugs that her baby took. She’d hurried to get him help, but she’d had to sober up, first. Her attorney seemed to understand that, but the judge had made that face that told her he thought she was stupid. He’d taken her boy away, called her an unfit mother, and put her in prison.
Like that would help.
Vanna studied the little one. Dark hair—not like her boy. But this child had blue eyes, just like her kid, and was about the same age as he had been when Vanna saw him last. She tried to think how old he would be now—ten, maybe eleven. She couldn’t be sure.
A baby could make things right again.
She had done everything right, once. Her sister called her “Saint Vanna”. She’d done and said it all just the way she was supposed to.
“Saint Vanna”…She wished she was Saint Vanna now, wished she hadn’t left that life. She couldn’t remember now why she had left, but she knew it hadn’t been her fault.
She could clean up if she had a kid. She could start doing things right again.
She started up the sidewalk, smiling, crouching toward the child. The bright eyed toddler giggled, just like she remembered her boy giggling, and raised her arms up. Vanna reached for her. Fulfillment was within her grasp.
“Can I help you?” A woman with a heavily accented voice appeared behind the little girl. She frowned down at Vanna, her eyes suspicious, knowing.
Vanna straightened quickly, awkwardly. “Can I get a drink?” she asked.
The woman hesitated.
“It’s really hot.”
The woman nodded, her dark hair bouncing around her face. She bent and scooped up the child, said, “Wait,” and closed the door.
Vanna waited, thinking. She could shove the woman when she came back, take the baby and run. But the woman would chase her down, call the cops and ruin her Life again. Or, Vanna thought, she could hurt the woman. She looked around the yard for a rock or a stick or a tool of some kind. A big flower pot full of zinnias sat nest to the door, a single bee buzzing around it.
That’s what she would do, Vanna decided, bending down beside the pot. She would pick up the pot and when the woman opened the door she would smash her on the head, grab the kid and run. No one would know.
And her Life would be back. She would be back.
“They’re beautiful, aren’t they?”
Vanna looked up, startled. A new woman stood there, taller, younger.
“My mother told me we had a visitor,” the woman said, smiling. “And that you looked tired and thirsty.”
“Why don’t you come around to the back? I have some chairs back there on the patio. Mom’s making us some sandwiches, and we could visit.”
Vanna frowned. She’d been on the street long enough to get the picture. ‘Mom’ was in there calling the cops. And this one was stalling her. “No,” Vanna said. “Just the water.”
Surprise crossed her face. “Are you sure?”
With water she’d do better. It would pull her together, and she’d get herself under control. “Water’s all I need.”
"Sir," the woman said, "…the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?” John 4:11
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