There was a touch of Fall in the New Hampshire air. The atmosphere crackled with the beginning of the first frost. Lisbeth looked out of her window. She could see the moon turning the frosty ground and ice layered trees to an eerie and translucent blue. Everything looked perfect and untouched. Only one thing marred the pleasure of the picture, someone to share it with. Her husband, of twenty five years had died five years previously. Their two children were living in another part of the country, so she was alone. She had her craft shop during the day to keep her occupied , but coming home was always sad. No one was there to greet her after work, no one to talk to, and no one to share a meal or special moment with. Her dark blue eyes, normally sparkling with humor, were shadowed with memories of a happier time.
Suddenly, there was a sharp knock on the door. She heard the knock again, louder this time, and accompanied by a voice crying out, " Help me, oh please help me! "
She warily went to the door and without undoing the chain opened it. On the doorstep was a young woman, with windswept blond hair, and frightened tear filled eyes. She was not more than a child. Lisbeth opened the door fully and the girl almost fell into the room.
"Please help me!," she cried out again, then gave a loud moan.
Lisbeth saw the girl was pregnant and close to giving birth.She looked liked she had not eaten in a while, and her body was thin and bony, except for the bulge in her stomach. The girl let out another cry of pain and started shivering violently. Lisbeth took her over to the sofa in the living room, made her lie down and covered her with a blanket. After that, Lisbeth called Dr. Lestor the local gynecologist. Fortunately the doctor was home and available. She said she would be over as soon as possible. Lisbeth began getting hot water for the instruments. While she ws making the preparations, she kept an anxious eye on the expectant mother. When all was ready she sat by the mom to be, and gave her moral support, as the contractions were becoming closer together.
"What is your name, and how old are you? " she asked her gently.
"My name is Serena and I'm eighteen," the girl replied.
In between pains the young woman told her story, haltingly.
"I came to New Hampshire with my boyfriend," she said. "He told me that he had a job here, and that he wanted to marry me. We traveled all over Upstate New York and stayed in motels. One night he just left."
"I know he is coming back for me, " She added with childlike trust.
"My mother died when I was six years old, and my father brought me up."
"Why did you not contact your father when your were abandoned by your boyfriend?," Lispeth inquired.
"He hasn't abandoned me," she hastily replied, " Daddy does not like Roy. I had a huge argument with him and left home to be with Roy."
"Where does your father live?," she probed some more.
"In New York, " was the only answer Serena would give.
No other information was forthcoming.
Dr. Lestor finally arrived. For the next thirty minutes the doctor and her temporary assistant worked to bring the child into a cold, unfriendly, and insecure world.
Serena let out a scream and within minutes it was followed by the thin wail of a baby.
"You have a beautiful daughter." Dr. Lestor said with a smile. " What are you going to call her? "
"She'll be called Angela, " Serena said, with a sigh.
"I will return in the morning. " The doctor said. "Call me any time if there is a problem."
"Thank you so much, " said Lisbeth,"I am so relieved you were here on time."
All at once, Lisbeth felt very tired. She checked on Serena on the sofa, and the baby in a makeshift bed, made from a drawer. Both were sleeping soundly. She went to her bedroom and leaving the door ajar, fell into a deep dreamless sleep. At three in the morning she had a loud awakening. The baby's cry had become much louder and stronger. Past experience had her jumping out of bed fast. When she reached the living room, she was glad to see that Serena had awoken and was painfully trying to feed a very hungry young mouth. She sat by the young mother and her child. Serena gave her a weak smile but continued to suckle Angela.
"I didn't imagine how hard it is to be a mother," she said.
"In a while you will get use to it, " Lisbeth told her encouragingly.
Lisbeth decided she would close the store for a couple of days until something could be arranged for the mother and babes welfare.
She found out that Serena had dropped out of high school to follow her beau. According to her, he was tall and handsome with a great body. Privately Lisbeth felt the great body probably was crowned with a swollen head and miniscule brain. What kind of fiend would take an adolescent from her home with promises of marriage, get her pregnant and dump her in a strange town. He was a few years older than Serena, and she was blindly infatuated with him. Nothing Lisbeth could say, would shake Serena's faith in this man. Lisbeth realized that disillusionment would eventually occur.
"Serena, I will make a deal with you," Lisbeth said, " At this time you have nowhere to go or stay. You can go back to school here, and finish you final year. I will watch Angela during the day, and you will care for her at night. "
"I would have no social life at all, " Serena complained, not yet aware of the commitment of motherhood.
" What's in it for you anyway?" She added suspiciously.
" If you like, you could help keep the house tidy and cook sometimes. " Lisbeth replied . " My children are away at college, so I would not be so lonely. Also I am afraid that a baby puts a burden on one's social life." She answered both queries.
"OK , " she agreed sulkily. "I will register on Monday for the new semester."
For a while the situation worked well, and Lisbeth grew fond of Angela and her mom.
She felt like Angela was a grandchild, and spoiled her accordingly. She wrote the her children, Cindy and Philip, about the new guests. They were looking forward to meeting them at Christmas, when they came home on vacation.
One evening the shop was quiet. Serena had taken the baby home for the night. Lisbeth picked up a New York newspaper that someone had left in the store. As she was looking through it, she came to an article that caught her attention.
It had a younger photo of Serena and the writer described her as a missing person. Her father was searching for her. When Lisbeth got home she showed the column to Serena. The young woman went as white as a sheet, when she saw it.
"I can't believe he did this!" she exclaimed.
She begged Lisbeth not to contact him. Lisbeth made no promises, deciding she would call the number as soon as possible. She was very relieved that at last she had a name and number to reach Serena's family. Over the weeks Serena had been staying with her, Lisbeth was aware that the young mother's, father would be worrying about her. She had not been able to find out who he was.
As soon as Serena had left for school the following morning, Lisbeth called her father. His name was Greg Black. The number she had was his work number. It belonged to a very prestigeous firm of stockbrokers. He was not there but she was informed that he was the president of the company. She only told the receptionist that it was personal business, and left her name and phone number.
That night when Lisbeth got home she noted the house was in darkness, While she was rationalizing the situation, to control her panic, she quickly opened the door. The first thing she heard was the loud crying of the baby, mixed with the jangling of the phone. She ran into the baby's room and picked up Angela, hugging and kissing her in relief.
She rushed from room to room with a soaking wet baby on her hip, looking for Serena, terribly worried that something had happened to her. All the time the phone was continuously ringing. After a frenzied rush through all four bedrooms, and bathroom and den, she realized neither Serena nor her belongings were there. The phone also had stopped ringing at last. She went into the cold kitchen, with an unhappy child in her arms. She changed and fed Angela, then after moving the crib into her own bedroom, put the exhausted baby down to sleep.
All this time her brain was working overtime, trying to fathom out what had happened to Serena. When the initial shock had worn off, she lit a fire, made some hot soup, and tried to decide what to do. She had just sat down when the phone shrilly invaded her thoughts. She went quickly to answer it, hoping it was Serena. Just as she lifted up the receiver, she noticed a note propped against it. She recognized Serena's writing and with a sigh of relief started to read it. Suddenly she remembered she had the phone in her hand, and a deep aggravated voice was saying,
"Hello, Hello, anyone there?"
"Oh I'm sorry to keep you waiting," she said, "Who is this?"
"Is this Mrs. Richardson?", the man asked.
When she replied affirmatively, he went on to say.
"I"m Greg Black. You called me regarding something personal."
"Oh dear!", she said in dismay, not knowing what to tell him, as Serena was no longer there.
"I saw you article in the newspaper about Serena. She was staying with me at the time. Suddenly she has left and I do not know where she has gone."
"What!", was the enraged reply. "What are you saying? Have you done something to my daughter?"
After all that had happened this was the last straw.
"Believe me, " she snapped back. "If I had done something to her I certainly would'nt have called you. I regret that I did. If it wasn't for the fact tht she abandoned her baby, your granddaughter, here, I would not have bothered you."
"According to her, your last conversation with her did not induce good relations." She added in disgust.
"Are you trying to exhort moneyfrom me?", he said suspiciously.
Lisbeth got so angry at that remark that she slammed down the phone. She was still shook up from the unpleasant conversation, when she remembered the note. Although, if not for the call it might have been a while before she found it.
"Dear Lisbeth," Serena wrote. "I know you will think I"m awful, but I just could not hang around knowing that you may contact my dad. I met this really cute guy at school and he said I could stay with him. He did not want me to bring the baby, so I figured it would be O.K. to leave her with you. I'll visit when I can, but not if my father is there. I know you'll understand. Thanks for everything, and kiss Angela for me. Love Serena".
Lisbeth was really upset when she read the letter.
"It is sad when babies have babies, and are not nearly ready for the responsibilities. That was part of the reason for child abuse and neglect." She thought.
It was time to seek help from another resource. She could not keep another woman's baby legally, even if she had grown to love her. She went into her bedroom and looked fondly at the little helpless person sleeping so securely. She did not know that her little world was going to change dramatically. Her soft white petal skin was flushed with sleep. She was a beautiful child. She had hazel eyes and soft black wavy hair. She looked a lot like her mother, but her coloring was different. Serena had golden brown hair and brown eyes. Lisbeth decided she would call the Social Worker the next day.