After Mr. Valentine arrived, we lost track of Chrissy altogether and it worried me sick. Mabel was moved to a nursing home and at first, Chrissy stayed where she was supposed to at the Valentines’ home in Barnacle Bay. During that time, we kept in phone contact with Mr. Valentine in hopes that we could help in some way. Not long after Chrissy got there, though, she ran away. Try as we might, no one could find her. As time passed, we could only assume that by then, she’d had the baby and that he or she was still with her.
I fretted night and day about the infant, wondering if he or she was all right and being cared for. Chrissy had been seriously neglected, for how long, I didn’t know. Would she know what a baby needed?
Liev pushed all of his other cases aside in order to search for her. He traveled to Barnacle Bay to speak to Mr. Valentine in person. The only new information he was able to learn was that just a few weeks before running away, Chrissy met a boy and it was assumed she was with him somewhere. Liev was unimpressed with Mr. Valentine’s disinterest in finding the young woman and child. Because Chrissy was now a young adult, he told Liev that he was officially washing his hands of it all; after all, he had his own children to raise. Liev spoke to everyone who had come to his attention as being her friend. He suspected some of them might know where she went but they weren’t cooperating with him.
All of this could not have disappointed me more. The Chrissy I knew, albeit briefly, was not prepared for life as a responsible mother. I hoped and prayed she and the baby were all right and that I would get to see this child soon.
Many long months went by and my heart longed to know how the baby, who was surely now a toddler, fared. Liev and I had spoken to Leo many times. He was also concerned about the well being of Chrissy and the baby. He wanted to come home as soon as he learned everything that had happened, but we encouraged him to stay at Keniesha’s because he seemed to be doing so well there. As we saw it, there was nothing for him to do here except worry. Our decision was that he should finish the his senior year of high school there and we would keep him updated on anything we found out.
We’d almost given up hope altogether when Liev received a phone call from one of the friends he had questioned on his trip previously. She explained that she could no longer keep the secret as her conscience had been heavy with the knowledge that the baby might be in trouble. With this new information in hand, Liev left immediately for Barnacle Bay. To my immense relief, he located Chrissy and the child. I spoke to Liev every day while he was gone. He said the child was a girl and that he was trying to persuade Chrissy to come with him to our home. I prayed with all my being that she would agree.
My wish, it appears, was not that far fetched. The following morning, Liev and Chrissy arrived. She was carrying the little toddler in her arms. The child was dirty but absolutely beautiful.
As Liev brought in a small grocery bag of what looked like baby clothes and a few diapers, I tried to usher Chrissy inside to the living room. But she resisted, standing awkwardly in the foyer.
“Where have you been?” I gushed. “We’ve been looking for you for the the longest time.”
“Well, now you don’t have to look anymore,” she said, regarding me with hardened eyes.
She unceremoniously plopped the child onto the floor and turned back to speak with us.
“So, I’m sick of changing this brat’s diapers. I can’t afford her at all and Bobby hates her,” she blurted.
“Bobby?” I asked in a daze. I realized she had a new boyfriend and I could even understand not liking the smell of diapers or not having the money to take care of her, but to hate her? How could anyone be so lacking in affection as to hate a little child?
Liev and I exchanged a glance and he explained, “Bobby is Chrissy’s boyfriend. I couldn’t explain everything on the phone, I just wanted to get them here.”
“What he’s trying to say is, I don’t want her anymore,” Chrissy said. “I just can’t handle it. She cries all the time, she stinks, she costs a butt load of money every time I turn around and Bobby said it’s him or her.” The way she said ‘her’ had me cringing. It was as if she had tasted something horribly bitter and she couldn’t get it off her tongue fast enough.
“Chrissy, this is… we shouldn’t talk about this in front of her.”
Liev picked up the child and bounced her a little on his hip as Chrissy and I spoke.
“Look! I don’t have time for this! I have important stuff going on and I can’t be tied down! Leo hasn’t helped me even once, so guess what? It’s his turn now!”
“Leo hasn’t helped you – we haven’t helped you because we didn’t know where you were. We’ve been frantically trying to find you,” I said.
“Well, I just couldn’t stay with that jerk and his ridiculous family. He acted like he was doing me such a favor to take me in!”
If I was looking for a detailed explanation as to why she ran away, it would appear that I would be looking a long time. Yet, despite the horrible things she was saying and the way she was acting, I still felt empathy for her. I took a slow, deep breath before speaking, trying to imagine myself in her shoes. “It must have been extremely difficult to have been taken from your grandmother and brought somewhere to live with strangers in an unfamiliar place. Then to give birth on top of everything… it must have been horrible for you.”
She rolled her eyes. “Give me a break!”
Quickly switching gears, I tried a different tactic. “So, what’s her name?”
“Blue Valentine Capra,” she impatiently answered, tapping her foot on the floor. “Blue’s my favorite color, so why not? Her birth certificate’s in the bag.”
“You’re just leaving her here?” Liev asked. I could feel his anger rising just beneath the surface of his tone.
“I said, I don’t want her! What’s so hard to understand?”
“Please, not in front of her,” I urged again, trying to keep my voice even and calm, “we don’t even really know…”
I was going to say we didn’t even know if Leo was really Blue’s father. But then, I truly looked at her for the first time. The toddler looked back at me with Leo’s green eyes. My green eyes.
For a moment I couldn’t speak. I’d been hoping that somehow he wasn’t the father, even though Leo had shamefully admitted it was possible. I knew we’d need a paternity test to make certain. But seeing Blue’s face… her expression… her eyes… I just knew beyond a doubt.
Suddenly, I knew what I had to do. I only hoped Liev would feel the same way.
“Don’t go. I want you to stay here, too. It won’t be easy for any of us, but we’ll figure this out.”
Her eyes grew large with disbelief. “You’re asking me to move in?”
Nervously, I glanced again at Liev and then nodded, my personal feelings put aside and my mind made up. “Yes, I want you and Blue to move in. There’s no reason we can’t work something out that is best for everyone involved.”
She thrust her chin forward, squinting her eyes. “And what about Bobby?”
I shook my head but it was Liev who answered. “Bobby is not a part of this deal.”
Chrissy squared her shoulders and glowered at us. “Then there is no deal. He wants me to choose between her and him and to be honest, the choice isn’t that hard!”
“Wait!” I said, stopping her again. “Please, reconsider. Give yourself a moment to think about this seriously.”
“I have thought about it and thanks, but no thanks!” she yelled, gritting her teeth and clenching her hands into fists.
“How long do you plan on leaving her here?” I stammered, realizing there was no way I could hold her against her will.
“Uh, have you been listening at all? Forever!” Chrissy hissed.
I tried not to let her outbursts daunt me even though, inwardly, I was still cringing. “You don’t just drop your own flesh and blood off and leave because of a guy!”
“A guy? You think I’d leave her for just some guy? I love him and we’re going to be together forever!” Chrissy shrieked, her voice getting higher pitched by the minute. “I said I can’t handle it! I said I don’t want her! She’s your problem now! If you don’t like it, get Leo to man up! You figure it out!”
My back stiffened but, surprisingly, my voice remained neutral. The last thing Blue needed was to be exposed to anymore arguing. “Okay, Chrissy. Go then.”
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the girl turned on her heel and left without so much as saying goodbye to her daughter or looking back. I didn’t know if we’d ever see her again or not. But I couldn’t worry about that now.
Taking Blue from Liev, I held her close to me. Her tiny body melted against me. She was so quiet. So precious.
“Everything’s going to be okay, sweet girl,” I cooed as I stroked her dirty hair. I closed my eyes, sadness overtaking me as I thought about what it was like to feel abandoned and unwanted. Yes, I had an amazingly good childhood and my circumstances were very different from Blue’s. But even as a small child, as lucky as I was, I still had that little nagging feeling always plaguing me, always wondering why my parents gave me up. Always wondering why they didn’t love me enough to keep me.
Holding this small child, my heart bursting with love and empathy for her, I knew I would never let her feel that way. She would be so loved and cherished, she would never have to wonder any of those things that had tormented my mind as a child.
I took her upstairs and gave her a bath then dressed her in one of Rachel’s old outfits I’d stored away. After I brought her downstairs and fed her, I put her on the carpet in the living room and gave her a peg box to play with. Sitting with her, I showed her how to put the different shapes in the corresponding openings. When she seemed to have the hang of it, I settled next to Liev on the couch.
As we watched, she played very quietly, not vocalizing at all, which concerned me.
But she was the sweetest, loveliest baby and she was my grandchild. Tomorrow, I would take her to the pediatrician, then we would begin teaching her all of the things a little one needs to know; to talk and walk, and of course, the messy task of potty training.
“Isn’t that the way you used to fix Jilly’s hair?” Liev asked as he put his arm around me.
Oh, the memories. “Yes. Blue has dark hair like Jilly did. I guess I did it that way without thinking.”
A soft, sad smile curled the corners of his mouth. “She has Leo’s eyes.”
I nodded, leaning into him. It was still soothing after all these years to snuggle up to him. This time, instead of watching one of our children play, it was our grandchild. That seemed impossible, yet here she was.
After a time, Liev pulled away. I could tell he had some things on his mind.
“We need to tell Leo she’s here. I think it’s time he came home.”
My heart leaped at the thought of seeing my son again after all this time. It would be wonderful but I kept wondering if being home again would cause a relapse. “I guess you’re right.”
He must have heard the trepidation in my voice. “I think he’ll be okay. I honestly do, Memphis.”
I thought about it for a moment and came to the conclusion that even if Leo wasn’t exactly ready to assume his responsibilities as a father, Blue was here and needed him. Was anyone ever really one hundred percent ready to be a parent?
“Yes, we have to tell him to come home as soon as he can.”
I watched Blue play as Liev dialed Leo’s number.
After a moment, Liev said, “Hi, son…yes, I called to wish you a happy birthday….. Oh good, good…….. there’s something else I need to tell you….”