Home > When I Found You(4)

When I Found You(4)
Catherine Ryan Hyde

‘Neither one of us is very fond of kids. We made up our mind against them. Besides, we’re hardly kids ourselves.’

‘No, you made up your mind against them. You decided for both of us.’

Flora looked up from her paper for the first time. Peered at him through the smoke. ‘I thought you said it was more than you wanted to take on in life.’

‘This is different. This was meant to be.’

She took a puff of her cigarette, set it down on the ashtray, and regarded him briefly. ‘Nathan,’ she began. Nathan thought he heard a note of derision. Condescension, even. ‘I’ve known you twenty-nine years, and you have never before said that anything was “meant to be”.’

‘Maybe in twenty-nine years nothing else came into that category.’

Still the harshness of her scrutiny. ‘Why?’

‘Why what?’

‘Why what do you think? Why would you suddenly want to adopt the child of a perfect stranger? It makes no sense.’

He opened his mouth to answer, then stopped himself. You simply didn’t say, to the person who has shared her life with you, that her company was not enough to fulfill you. The truth though it may be. It was unnecessarily hurtful, and not intended to serve the common good.

He took a different tack.

‘I’ve just had this feeling. Since I found him. I can’t describe it. But it’s an emotion—’

She cut him off rudely. ‘An emotion? That’s unlike you.’

‘My point, exactly,’ Nathan said. ‘And now that I have it, I don’t want it to go away. I just don’t feel willing to give it up again. To go back to the way things felt before.’

He stopped there, feeling he skated dangerously close to the judgment he had earlier decided against voicing.

A difficult pause.

Then Flora shook her head. ‘Anyway, the kid probably has somebody. A mother. They could find the mother.’

‘If they find her,’ Nathan said evenly, ‘they will put her in jail.’

‘And then it could turn out he has some other kin that would take him.’

‘Maybe,’ Nathan said. ‘We’ll see. It just seems to me that when an infant is alone in the woods, slowly dying . . . then that child has . . . for all intents and purposes . . . no one.’

‘I guess we’ll see,’ Flora said.

‘Yes. I guess we’ll see.’

Nothing more was said about it for the remainder of the day, though Nathan was sure he could feel its presence at each moment, and he wondered if Flora could, too. He glanced over at her often, but saw no signs of her being similarly haunted.

Nathan dined on a simple evening meal of chicken and dumplings. He praised Flora for her cooking of it, and it was a more than adequate meal. In fact, he might have enjoyed it a great deal if not for the sense that it could not replace the anticipated roast duck. It simply was not what he’d been set to receive.

After dinner, Flora retired to her room. She had a TV set in her bedroom, the only one in the house. Nathan despised the drone of television dialogue as background to his life.

It wasn’t unusual for Flora to disappear right after dinner, but on this night Nathan was more than usually aware of it.

He sat on his bed across the hall, with his door open. Her bedroom door was closed, and as far as Nathan could hear, her TV had not been turned on yet. She must have been undressing for bed. Now and then he could see the vague shadow of feet cross the gap underneath her door. One of her floorboards tended to squeak when she crossed it, and she made no attempt to avoid it, as Nathan would have done.

For the first time in a very long time, years, Nathan felt tempted to knock on her door. Request that they spend a bit of time together. They could talk, or even play a game of cards. But before he could rise, he remembered her dismissive tone earlier in the day. No, the fact that he was feeling empty, he realized, did not mean in any way that Flora could, or would, help him fill that void.

He rose, and walked to the kitchen phone.

He called directory assistance, and asked for the number of the hospital.

He dialed, and got what sounded like a switchboard.

‘Patient information, please,’ he said.

‘What is the name of the patient?’ a cool woman’s voice responded.

That disarmed him.

‘Well. He doesn’t have a name,’ Nathan said. ‘I wanted to learn the condition of an abandoned newborn I found this morning in the woods. I brought him to your hospital. John Doe is his name, I suppose. At the moment.’

‘Are you family?’

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