The couple had been waiting for a long time for the opportunity to foster a child. Today they will meet her for the first time.
“They are a little late, aren’t they?” says Sarah.
“A little, but the rain has probably slowed traffic coming through the town.” James says.
“You think they will have come through the town?”
“I don’t know dear. Why don’t I put the kettle on and make us a cup of tea?”
They sit at the table barely sipping their tea. John is about to say that he might call the agency to make sure they have the right address but the sound of tires on gravel interrupts him.
“That will be them.” James says.
The couple walk on rubber legs and prepare their faces to show a warm and loving smile. They open the front door and wave at the driver of the big silver car in the drive way. He smiles and waves back, speaks to the woman sitting in the passenger seat, who in turn speaks to someone sitting in the back seat. The passenger door opens and the woman steps out. She is tall, middle aged and very well dressed. Sarah thinks of her own outfit, orange cardigan and blue jeans, and hopes her new daughter will not compare her to this professional looking woman. James squeezes her shoulder lightly, releases her and walks towards the woman, offering his hand.
“Hi, James, I presume? I’m Catherine, we spoke on the phone.”
“Hi Catherine, nice to meet you. This is my wife, Jane.”
“I hope the drive was ok for you, did you have trouble finding the place?” says Jane.
“No, no trouble. Mark is a wonder with a sat nav.” James and Sarah smile and nod.
Catherine looks at both of their strained and smiling faces.
“Well, I suppose you can’t wait to meet your daughter! Emily is a little tired from the journey, ok?”
Catherine opens the car door, and a little girl climbs out, holding a teddy bear to her ear and sucking on her thumb, looking sheepishly at the grownups from big wet blue eyes. James drops to one knee, still a few meters away from Emily, smiles and waves. Sarah has her hands over her mouth and her eyes are starting to cloud over from the tears forcing their way out.
“Emily, this is Sarah and James. They look like they are really happy to meet you. Would you like to say hello?”
Emily starts to sway on the spot, but her eyes stay on Sarah.
“Hi, Emily, I really like your teddy. Would you like to come inside and share some tea with us?” James says, still on his knee, still smiling softly.
Emily nods, and puts her hand out to be lead inside. James looks to Sarah and tilts his head in Emily’s direction. Sarah walks over to Emily, and feels her warm, tiny little hand slip into her own coarse grownup’s hand. Emily’s thumb is still wet from being sucked on, and it feels cold and slippery on Sarah’s hand. Sarah will never forget how that feels.
“I just have to speak to Mark for a moment, and then we will come in for some tea with you and your family, if that’s alright?” Catherine says to John.
“Yes of course.” James says, but he doesn’t look at Catherine, his eyes follow his wife and his new daughter as they walk on the gravel path he laid three hot summers ago. Here and there a few weeds poke through the gravel, and Emily looks at each one as she passes them. When they reach the door Sarah turns and looks at James, her eyes are bright and happy, and she is sure that they have the daughter they always dreamed of.