Here's the continuation. Hope to have the next one up soon.
Disclaimer: The Plum universe belongs to JE.
"Aww!" Valerie gushed at the little boy, making him grin. My mother stopped with lunch prep to smile at the baby. So far they'd all been too occupied with the little guy to notice me.
"Oh. My. God." Valerie's eyes swept over me, finally noticing the ring on my hand. "Stephanie's engaged!" I cringed at the loud squeal. The baby fussed so my mother took him from my sister's arms.
"You're getting married?" My mother's tone was incredulous.
I sighed, nodding.
"And you're adopting!" Valerie rounded the table, giving me a tight hug.
"No, we're not adopting." I, again, gave them the rundown of how I ended up with the little boy.
"Lots of couples have fertility issues." Grandma Mazur said.
My mother, usually scandalized with such topics, added to the comment. "There are treatments, you know."
"Trust me. Fertility is not an issue." I wished we could have paced ourselves in the news-filling-department.
Valerie was the first to understand, eyes bugging out at the realization. A second later both mom and Grandma caught up. But, thankfully, before I was crushed to death amidst enthusiastic squeezes, my cell phone buzzed.
It was Connie, getting back to me. She didn't find anything on my neighbor. It was like the woman was invisible.
I ended the call, frowning at the information.
The others continued with their congratulations. And then the inevitable question came up.
"When are you getting married?" My mother wasn't about to waste any time.
"We haven't settled on a date yet." The baby was passed back to me, Grandma and Valerie setting out to serve lunch for everybody.
"There's so much that needs to get done." I could tell my mother was already running a mental checklist of what 'needs to get done'. The girls joined us, ready to be feed. The noise and movement kept my mother busy for the time being, but I'm sure I'll be hearing from her soon.
I tiny hand tangled in my hair. I stared at the little boy, carefully prying his hand open. He closed his eyes, laughing. I smiled, envying that playful smile. Poor little guy had no idea of what was going on. It made my heartache for his situation.
Grandma volunteered to come over and help with the baby. My worry grew when nighttime came and my neighbor was a still a no show to pick up the baby.
With Grandma's help I gave the baby a bath. I'd just settled on the inflatable mattress to get him to sleep when Ranger came in.
"Hey." I whispered as he approached. Ranger sat down on the floor next to the air mattress, giving me a head shake. Still no leads on why my neighbor had up and left, leaving a child behind.
"Babe, we need to notify the authorities."
"No. They'll take the boy to who knows where…" My heart pounded in my chest. Who would have thought I had such strong motherly instincts in me?
"Okay." Ranger touched my arm, saying he still had his men working on finding my neighbor. I knew that sooner or later I was going to have to turn the boy over, but I had hope that his mother would come back for him. A moment later Ranger cocked his head to the side, indicating I should follow.
I got up, slowly extracting my arm away from the baby. The little boy didn't stir. I stuffed my feet in my sneakers and followed Ranger. Grandma and Julie were in the kitchen working on dinner. I told them we'd be back soon.
We took the stairs to my neighbor's floor. Getting in was no problem for Ranger. The place was simple, but clean. I found a small suitcase, filled with the baby's clothes. I checked closets and drawers, a sinking suspicion arising.
"I don't think the baby's hers." I told Ranger, showing him the suitcase filled with the baby's stuff.
More pieces of the puzzle and still no clue as to how they fit.
We locked up and headed back to my apartment.
After dinner, Grandma Mazur took possession of my bed and left the bedroom door open in case I needed middle of the night help.
I settled next to the little boy, watching him sleep. Julie tossed her pillow on the floor, between the air mattress and the couch. The light in the hall was on, letting me get a good look at the teen's face.
"How can a mom just abandon their baby?" Julie's voice broke, vulnerable.
I didn't know what to say. Before the silence stretched out uncomfortably, Ranger emerged from the bathroom. As her father approached Julie clamed up, turning away from me to face the couch.
Ranger squeezed in on my other side, sandwiching me between his hard body and the sleeping baby.
I kept an eye on Julie, realizing the teen was more hurt than she let show.