Ramona takes us to a conference room. It, too, is crowded with boxes and filing cabinets. She tells us to sit. “I’ve been looking over your application,” she starts, and my heart drops. “You’re not legally married, correct?”
“No, ma’am,” Harrison says.
“We’ve been together for over twenty years, and you can see by the paperwork I gave you, we adopted each other’s children many years ago, without any issues.” I know I’m rambling. I can’t help it. I feel like she’s caught us in a lie. If California would acknowledge common law, we’d be all set. Harrison gives my hand a reassuring squeeze. If never getting married comes back to bite us in the ass, I’m dragging him to the nearest chapel and marrying him.
Ramona looks up. Her face shows little to no expression. I’m sure she’s mastered this look over the years. I’d give anything to see what she looks like when she’s delivering good news. My palms start to sweat, and my heart races faster than I knew possible.
“You amended your application to include out of state travel?”
Harrison clears this throat. “Yes, we are flying to Vermont on Friday and wish to take the baby with us. If possible,” he adds.
I want to know what the nod means. Is Ramona agreeing? Is she acknowledging Harrison? Or is she nodding because that’s what she’s used to doing? Right now, I feel like this isn’t the same person I met at the hospital, the one who was eager to get our paperwork started and felt like we had a good chance at becoming foster parents.
Ramona closes the folder and sets her clasped hands on top of i
t. “Katelyn, I’m going to repeat what I’ve already told you for Harrison, so he has a clear understanding of how we proceed.”
“Approximately, seven days ago, the child known as Baby John Doe 1096 was abandoned. Hospital staff determined he had been born no longer than eight hours prior. Under state law, the birth mother or father had the legal right to leave the said child at a safe haven location without being questioned. They filled out a simple sheet of medical information.” Ramona pulls a sheet of paper from the folder and slides it over to us. “More often than not, places are left blank, which leaves us in the dark.”
Harrison picks up the paper, and I lean in to read what’s on it. The only ink stain on the sheet is a checkmark next to boy.
“The hospital ran a series of tests, and we can confirm Baby John is not addicted to anything, just underdeveloped and likely premature. An ambulance transported him to the hospital from the fire station, where he has remained under the staff’s care. Now,” Ramona sighs. “It is my understanding that you wish to foster this child?” She opens her folder and starts writing on a legal pad.
“Yes,” Harrison states.
“And you’re able to provide a stable home for him?”
“Without a doubt,” he replies.
“Tell me about this vacation you’re taking? Will Baby John be cared for?”
“As Harrison said earlier, we’re going to Vermont. We’re staying in a lodge in the town of Stowe and meeting up with our life-long friends, who would play an important part in Baby John’s life if we were to adopt him. Our grown children will be there as well. We’ll celebrate the holidays as a family.”
“And Baby John would be incorporated in all of this?” she asks.
Harrison chuckles. “We’ll have six women to fawn over him. I can tell you he won’t lack attention.”
Ramona actually chuckles at this. “You mention adoption. Is this your intent?”
Harrison and I nod. “It is,” I say. “We already know what it’s like when a birth parent comes back. We had to experience it with our son, Quinn. We are prepared for Baby John’s mother or father or both to return. It’s something we’re willing to accept.”
Her hand moves quickly across the sheet of paper, writing in flowy cursive from what I can tell. I only wish I could lean forward and see what she’s putting down. Ramona closes the folder and, once again, clasps her hands together and sets them down. “Normally, I would need a home visit and some time to check your references. Under the circumstances, with time being limited and the holidays approaching, I will put that off until after the first of the year. Mr. James, you are a very public figure, and I can’t imagine you’re going to fly out of the country with the baby. Therefore, I’m going to sign-off on this foster arrangement temporarily. After I print the necessary paperwork, you’ll be able to pick Baby John up from the hospital.”
Ramona stands and exits the room, leaving Harrison and me there, stunned. He bumps my arm with his elbow and waits for me to look at him. “I’m thinking you better get on the phone and start reserving a car seat because we’re going to need one.”
My eyes go wide. “Oh, my God.”
“I know.” He smiles. “We’ll go pick him up, and then we’ll go to the store to get everything else. He’s tiny, so he’ll sleep in our room. You should make a list of everything we’ll need.”
It’s as if I’m on autopilot when I pick my phone up and open my notes app. I start typing everything I can think of from bottles to blankets. It’s been so long since I’ve had a baby, it’s hard to remember what they need to survive.
After what seems like an hour, Ramona is back with a mountain of paperwork. At first, Harrison is hesitant to sign anything without his lawyer reading it, but after they talked last night, he said the documents wouldn’t contain anything out of the ordinary. Harrison scribbles his name on each line, and I follow. When we’re done, Ramona hands us a copy, along with her card.
“Call me if there are any issues.”