Lisa, again. :) chapter 3, revised, see post 15 - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 21 Old 10-19-2006, 10:35 AM - Thread Starter
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Editted to shorten the thread and to keep from putting the whole story up at once! (Though it's quoted so you can read along anyway!)


See post 15 for chapter 3.
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#2 of 21 Old 10-21-2006, 12:44 PM
 
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Hi, Red,

I just wanted you to know that I'm looking forward to reading this, but, we're visiting family in the States right now, so I haven't had a chance to dig in yet.

I'll try to very soon!

Cheers,
Judi
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#3 of 21 Old 10-21-2006, 03:06 PM
 
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This book is now officially well on its way. You have made it very solid and your additions from the earlier draft give it depth and body. If I am making sound like a fine wine, it's because it is becoming very like that.

I still have a few comments and I looked a little more earnestly for typos. (You will never find them all; so report my friends who have published novels.)

A new thought came to Lisa Clark as she studied the tiny infant lying in her aching arms. Her stomach twisted and trickles of sweat ran from her underarms as the thought drummed repeatedly through her head.

What if she doesn’t come back?

She remembered how tenderly the too-young mother had kissed her infant’s fingers before darting from the aisle. Had she run straight for the exit?

It had been a long week. The weather had turned unseasonably hot and muggy for spring, she’d gotten a flat tire in rush hour traffic, and Mr. Harker, her boss, had been in a nasty mood. The newest employee in the offices of a fashion accessory wholesaler, Lisa soon discovered why there had been an opening. Mr. Harker took his bad moods out on his most recent hiree. She hated the job, hated her boss and loathed the very idea of going in each morning.

What am I going to do about this baby? How long should I wait before I call someone? Awkwardly pushing her hair out of her eyes, she began circling the store, just as her thoughts circled in her head. The thought of alerting the authorities made her feel nauseous.

She thought of calling her parent’s or Julie, her best friend, for advice. Her mother, she was sure, would say to call the police, to let the proper authorities handle the problem. As an adoptive parent, her mother believed that CPS could right the wrongs and protect the innocent children. After all, CPS had brought them Lisa, and their son, Tim.

[The first time you say CPS, you should spell it out. Child Protective Services. This agency goes by different names in different places and people might not know what you are talking about.]

Lisa’s own experiences as a foster child had left her feeling less convinced.

She trusted her mother’s judgment on most things, but her mother hadn’t shared those lonely years with her and had never understood her need to ‘dwell’ on them. Julie had and did.

What would Julie do? Having met in a foster home when they were 10, they had shared the horror of having no family to call their own. She thought back to the two of them sharing a room at Mrs. Jenner’s, of Julie crying herself to sleep because she so missed her neglectful, drug-addicted mother. Of her own pain and jealousy at knowing that as bad as Julie had it, she at least had a mother to miss.

She called her friend’s home number; this wasn’t something to discuss with someone who was fighting rush-hour traffic! When Julie didn’t answer she hung up, unable to think of how to word a message.

“This is not the evening I had planned,” she grumbled aloud to the quiet baby. “My arm is about to drop off! Five minutes. That’s what your mother said. Five minutes! And here we are, walking till my feet blister, an hour and a half later!”

The baby squirmed on her arm and Lisa changed her tone, crooning the rest of her irritation as if it were soothing words. “All I wanted was a book. Some hot pirate romance. Salt spray, crashing waves, helpless maiden.” She sighed. “So, I found a real helpless maiden, didn’t I? Know any pirates, kiddo? It’s Friday night and I don’t have a date.”

Her deep discussion with the baby earned her an odd look from a slim, well-dressed businesswoman, as she walked past.

“Great, now I’m talking to myself.” Another squirm, a mewling cry. “No, you’re right, I’m talking to you.”

It hadn’t occurred to her to ask the mother for her name, or even the baby’s name, so she couldn’t very well page her. She had a vision of herself calling the police, the young mother returning, apologetic and frightened, having some plausible excuse for her absence.

Glancing down at the cover of the pirate romance she held in her hand, she studied the half-naked young woman who was tied to the mast, long hair falling in a wild mass to her waist. An incredibly handsome pirate, despite a rather sinister-looking eye-patch, held a cutlass above her. His own hair fell thickly past his broad shoulders, a neat beard covered the lower half of his face, and sparkling sea-green eyes roved over the lush woman before him.

An hour ago, she’d thought it was the perfect book; an innocent young woman who stows-away, a commanding-yet-understanding and incredibly sexy pirate, plenty of passion, adventure and romance.

*******


In fact, just an hour ago, she’d been so caught up in the story she might have finished the first chapter right there in the store. But the piercing screams being emitted from a tiny infant a few aisles away, had made it impossible for her to concentrate. She doubted there had been many crying babies on ships.

Especially pirate ships.

When the infants screams became louder, rounded the end of the aisle, and intensified in the area of the movie magazines, just at the other end of the short row of paperbacks, Lisa peeked over the top of the pirate book. Bouncing the tiny, but very vocal baby irritably in her arms, was a girl of maybe 15 or 16, wearing a tiny black t-shirt that had “Baby Girl” written across the front of it in glitter. Her muddy brown hair hung lank and greasy.

[Typo. S/B infant’s]

“Oh, please, shut up!” the girl had muttered under her breath. She’d been trying to push a shopping cart with one hand and jiggle the baby with the other but now gave up and set the howling, red-faced infant down on a thin receiving blanket on the bottom of the metal cart. The tiny body arched as it came in contact with the hard surface; and the screaming got still louder.

Once the baby was out of her arms, the girl no longer appeared to hear it’s cries, and began digging through a faded diaper bag perched on the seat of the cart.
[Typo. “it’s” S/b its]

Let her find that baby a pacifier, Lisa had thought, or a bottle, but was dismayed as instead the girl rooted around and pulled out a package of chewing gum, nonchalantly unwrapped a piece and folded it into her mouth.

[If you put a period after bottle and start the next sentence “But she was…” you will enhance the effect of the surprise you are trying to imply, because the space between the two sentences will emphasize the contrast between what she hopes or expects and what actually happens.]

By now, she could feel the baby’s screams in the pit of her stomach. She’d always had a soft spot for the babies in the foster homes she’d been in. Not only were they helpless and motherless, but they were almost always happy to snuggle in her arms while she crooned and rocked them. They were never too busy for her. She had passed many lonely rainy afternoons, rocking first one baby, and then another, singing them lullabies she made up on the spot and playing “This Little Piggy Went to Market”. The sound of a baby crying, any baby, had always made her feel sick.

Grabbing the indifferent young woman by the shoulders and shaking some sense into her was Lisa’s first thought, though she doubted that doing so would help the baby. Maybe she could play up on the girl’s maternal pride, for despite her age, the baby obviously belonged to her.

[Careful with using “indifferent” here. I think this is Lisa’s first impression, but later we will find that the mother isn’t quite indifferent at all. At this point in your narrative, if you call the mother indifferent in this way, the reader may take it as a fact. So you might want to stress that this is Lisa’s opinion. “The young woman seemed indifferent, and Lisa’s first thought was to grab her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her.”

Sliding a few steps closer to the pair, from Romance novels to Mysteries, she waited for the girl to look up, then offered her a friendly smile.

Leaning in close enough to be heard, she noticed deep, nearly purple, depressions below the girl’s eyes. “Is it a boy or a girl?”

The young mother jumped, seemingly startled that someone had spoken to her, then sighed deeply, before answering in a voice almost too soft to be heard, “A girl.” She raised her eyes to meet Lisa’s, in defiance of the wetness that had sprung to them. “Her father really wanted a boy.” An uneasy, bitter laugh, “Mine too, I guess.” She bent over the cart and patted the wailing infant gently on the belly, studying her as if she were a science experiment that was going horribly wrong, then looked up at Lisa who smiled sympathetically.

The girl reminded her of a long-forgotten foster sister.

[These last two paragraphs are very good.]

“She cries like this a lot. I don’t know,” she wiped at her eyes, leaving smeared bits of mascara under each eye. “I feed her, change her, walk her. She just screams. Sometimes, I just can’t take it anymore,” her voice quavered, “then I put her down for a minute, ya know? And just chill.”
The baby was red and sweating from exertion, her little face screwed up in an expression of infant rage. Her breathing was coming in quick gasps and sobs and she sounded as if she were going hoarse. A few people slowed as they went by the aisle, peering in concern or curiosity for the source of the crying.

Lisa had never before been so desperate to make a noise stop. It was obvious to her that the girl had no further ideas on how to handle her baby’s discomfort. Not sure if she was crossing a line here, but wanting to help, she asked gently, “Could I hold her?”

The mother’s look said ‘why would anyone want to?’ but she nodded after a second’s hesitation. Lisa reached down into the shopping cart, easing her right hand under the baby’s head, cringing as she felt the hard metal of the cart against the back of her fingers through the thin, discolored blanket.

She recalled a trick a foster mother had shown her for soothing one of the colicky babies. Very gently she laid the baby, still screaming her near-hoarse cry, face-down over her left arm, with her head resting by her elbow and one thigh securely held in her left hand. With her right hand, she carefully tapped the tiny back and at the same time, she paced a few steps in each direction.

[Your expansion of the mother as a character is very well done and is a magnificent improvement from your earlier draft.]

The effect was the same as if the baby had come with an on-off switch, and she had turned it off.

Silence.

Well, almost silence. Little huffs and sobs still wracked the small, damp body. A man in the next aisle muttered, “Thank God!” loud enough for the two women to hear, and a woman was heard shushing him.

[The last two sections, starting from “Silence” to “shushing him” are very well done. You are cleverly combining a physical scene with the participant’s reaction to it and you are inviting the reader to collude with you, the writer. This sort of collusion is between the writer and the reader is what gives a good book its fire.]

The young mother stared, open-mouthed, as Lisa paced left and right across the aisle with the now quiet babe.

[I would still not use the word babe here. I suppose it’s because I am speaking as a male, but men will have a different sense of this word than a woman will. Of course, a man will understand it in its context, but it is a momentary distraction that you don’t need at this point.]

“Wow! That was awesome! She always cries this time of day, no matter what I do.” The young girl stood still watching carefully for a minute, then whispered, “She really likes you.”

[Good complex transition here. You are conveying a change of opinion in the mother about Lisa and you are also planting the idea that it is at this moment that the mother starts to think about leaving the baby with Lisa. Very powerful. This sentence is bearing a heavy weight in your narrative and it is strong enough to carry it.]

Lisa sighed deeply. It had been years since she’d cuddled a small baby so close. The familiar warm weight, the willing acceptance of her offer of comfort. For just a few seconds she closed her eyes, relaxed into the familiar rocking motion. She felt her own frustrations with the day, the week, melt as the tiny body relaxed and slumped over her arm.

[In the second sentence, use closely, close. Closely is an adverb. The third sentence is a fragment that might work better if you attach it to the second sentence by using the words “and felt”.

Having said that, it is very good and powerful that at the point where you imply that the mother might be thinking something about Lisa, Lisa is thinking something about the baby. You have a hard task in the whole chapter, because you have to make the mother want to give the baby to Lisa you also have to make Lisa want to take it. You do this well here and by juxtaposing these two sections you create as powerful a tension as someone writing a disaster novel would do if they had the two planes change course towards each other for completely different reasons.]

“I can show you what to do. It’s just how I’m holding her.” She hated to give the baby back so quickly, to lose the sweet rush of bringing peace to a tiny new person, but held the child out to the mother and said, “Here, I’ll show you.”

The young woman took a small, quick step back, putting the corner of her shopping cart between them. “Look, I was wondering…I really need to go to the bathroom. I mean, if you have a minute, and wouldn’t mind? There’s nowhere to put her down in there, and if I put her down, well, I might not be able to get her to stop crying again.”

Lisa pulled the child back in close to her chest, cradling her. Quieting the baby had left her feeling rather all-powerful and benevolent. Poor girl, where is her mother? Too young to be on her own with a baby, she looked like she needed nothing so much as a hot bath, a good meal and a long nap. A few minutes wouldn’t hurt anything.

[Excellent! You are making Lisa collude in her own victimization by the mother. This allows for all of the complex issues that you are going to introduce later.]

“Go on,” she waved a carefully manicured hand in the direction of the ladies’ room. “Take your time.”

“I just want to grab a few things on my way back. I’ll be five minutes, probably less.” She was already backing away, down the aisle, when she asked, “Are you sure you don’t mind?”

“We’ll be fine. I can read a little more of my book while we wait. She’s such a sweetie and I’ve haven’t held a baby in ages.”

“Thanks so much. Really.” She came quickly back to them, reached over, grasped a tiny hand and gave the backs of the fingers a gentle kiss. Still holding the baby’s hand, she said, “Five minutes, okay? You’ll be right here?”

“Of course. I promise.”

For the first time the girl smiled, and Lisa saw that under the poorly applied make-up, grime and exhaustion, she was pretty. The mother lovingly brushed the petite hand across her cheek, gently kissed it a second time, then let go.


“Back in a few,” she sang, and ran from the aisle.

[You might want to consider making the mother a bit more reluctant to leave the baby here. It could be that you want to cast the mother this way, but you might also leave a sign here that Lisa could castigate herself with later. “Why didn’t I see…” in retrospect. But it all depends on whether the mother reappears later in the book and what you want to say about her. In any case, this is the last glimpse that the reader has of the mother for the time being, and like all last glimpses, it will be how the reader remembers her until she comes back. So this little sentence carries a lot of weight.]

Lisa rocked back and forth, walked the aisle from end to end a few times. A few women walked by, saw the hic-cupping, nearly-sleeping baby and smiled knowing, reminiscent smiles at her.

She remembered now that while holding and calming a baby was a powerful thing, it was also mind-numbingly boring. The infant was snoring softly, so she assumed it was sleeping, though the way she was holding the baby kept her from being able to see its face.

The pirate novel that had so captured her attention was hanging off the edge of the shelf where she’d hastily placed it. Retrieving it, she tried to open it using only the fingers of her right hand. It took a few minutes to get to the right page and she grumbled when she dropped it once. She’d never noticed that it took two hands to read a book before.

Finishing the first chapter, with much fumbling and muttering and page losing, she glanced up to see if the girl was back yet. Surely, it had been more than five minutes? She looked down at the small body tucked against her, the curve of her back, the pink of her skin, the way the tiny body still shuddered from her earlier crying. No sense rushing her back to all of that.

Besides, the book was riveting! The young woman was hiding on her uncle’s ship, planning on running away to avoid an ‘advantageous’ marriage. The pirate was in a dock-side bar, getting rip-roaring drunk with his crew, and was invited to join a poker game.

“One more chapter,” she whispered to the sleeping baby.

The girl, named Desiree of course, slinked about the boat, trying to find the safest spot to hide in, someplace where she could sleep for a few hours. Every spot that seemed like it might work, had the same general problem. Rats. Not that she saw any, but there could be rats. Everyone knew ships were full of them. Finally, she went to the uncle’s cabin. Surely, if there was a safe, rat-free spot, it would be here. The captain always had the best of everything. She climbed into his huge wardrobe, all the way in the back, covered herself with a cloak and slept.

The drunk and angry captain, having bet and lost all he had made on his most recent sea voyage, desperately pitted his most precious possession, his ship, on one more hand.

And lost.

The Lucky Lady had a new owner.

Ha, this’ll be fun! Then Lisa crashed back to reality, her head snapped up. How long had it been? How much time had gone by? She’d always been able to lose herself completely in books and had just done it now. The store, her job, the fact that she was standing up, holding someone else’s baby, had all faded away.

Walking to the end of the aisle, she looked in both directions as far as she could see. She had said ‘take your time’ and the girl had mentioned picking up a few things, but she had left her cart here. How much could she carry? Had it been ten minutes? Fifteen? More? What was she doing? Having lunch?

Pacing slowly up and down the book and magazine aisle with the baby’s solid weight on her arm, she debated going to look for the baby’s mother, but was afraid the woman would come back looking for her child, and they’d miss each other. She had promised to stay right here.

But the girl had promised to be back in five minutes.

“Oh, this is not good, Baby. Not good at all.”

She looked over the few items in the bottom the young mother’s cart. A large package of the store’s own brand of diapers, a bottle of Coke, two little bottle of nail polish-one blue and one neon green, and an economy-sized tub of store-brand baby wipes.

[Typo. Bottle S/B plural.]

Her arm was aching, cramping. She longed to lower the baby into the cart, but couldn’t bear to lie her on the receiving blanket as her mother had. Gently, slowly, she turned the baby over and moved her onto her right arm.
Immediately the baby’s eyes opened, her legs began to pull up, then kick out. Her body twisted and squirmed and she began to cry. Lisa quickly returned her to the colic hold, only over her right arm, instead of her aching left. The baby quieted again, as she walked and rocked her.

[Typo. Lie S/B lay.]

“I’m sorry, Sweetie. I’m sorry.” Crooning words of consolation to the tiny being, she returned to pacing. “Still have a bellyache, huh? Where did your mother go? I guess we’ll wait a few more minutes, okay? One more chapter, huh?”

If she’d thought reading with just her right hand was difficult; using just her left was far worse. She dropped it twice in under a minute and a teenage boy with earrings the size of dimes actually in the holes in his ears, had picked it up both times, smiling so sweetly she knew she was seeing the child his mother still saw.

This time she’d keep her focus on where she really was and not fall so far into the story. Desiree was unaware that the ship had set sail, and the pirate captain was unaware of his stow away. The captain wandered the ship, checking for a sound hull, solid mast. His crew washed the decks, stowed equipment, took inventory. Finally, a weary pirate retired to his cabin, to have a drink and get some sleep. He heard a scuffling noise in his wardrobe, grabbed his cutlass, threw open the wardrobe door and hollered, “Damn rats!” Something much too big to be a rat shifted and moved in the dark on the floor of the wardrobe.

“Ok, that’s it. I’m not reading this whole novel while we wait.” She walked back to the end of the aisle and looked around again, glanced in the aisles to her right and left, walked a few aisles in either direction.

Awkwardly, she searched through her purse for her cell phone, and looked at the front for the time. 6:17. I left work at 5. Took maybe 10 minutes to get here, make it fifteen. Spent 2 or 3 minutes wandering around, 5 minutes looking for a good book. That means it was about 5:20, maybe 5:25 when I met that girl. We talked for, mmm, 5 minutes.

[You probably want to spell out the numbers in this section.]

That would mean that it had been 45 minutes since the girl had run off to the ladies room!

“Time’s up. We’re going to take a quick walk, Kiddo. Go look for your mama.” She rubbed the tiny back, soothingly. As she pushed the girls cart to the side she noticed the diaper bag sitting in the toddler seat. The girl might have left her wallet or money in it. It could get stolen left here unattended. She tucked the pirate book under her arm, grabbed the faded bag, and, swinging it over her left shoulder turned the corner out of the book aisle and onto the larger one that ran the width of the store.

[Typo. Girls cart S/B girl’s cart. By the way, my friends who have published novels tell me that they are never able to eliminate all the typos no matter how many times they go though it.]

Looking carefully in each direction, she made a quick loop of the store, peering up each aisle as she did. Her arm felt as if it were going to fall off and her shoulder ached. The baby’s diaper felt heavy and cool, as if she hadn’t been changed in a long time.

[Typo. Arm felt as it if was not were going to sleep.]

Surely, she thought, as she came to each new aisle, the girl will be in this row agonizing over which brand of shampoo to buy, or what kind of cookies to get. Maybe she just got distracted by that rack of CDs or some new video game. When she got back to “Books and Magazines”, she turned around and did the same search backward, unable to think of anything else to do.

A sick gnawing settled in the pit of her stomach. The girl was nowhere to be found. That was when the thought struck her, and began to drum repeatedly through her head.

What if she doesn’t come back?

It had been about an hour. Irritation at being so taken advantage of, battled with fear of what to do if the young woman didn’t return. She was mentally berating herself for getting into such a mess, when she felt her left arm grow very warm, and then very cool as the diaper finally past its’ capacity.
Great, she thought. Was it good luck if a baby peed on you? Maybe it didn’t count if it was just because of an overfull diaper. Or maybe the luck came when a bird pooped on your car?

“Well,” she muttered to the child, “at least I’m wearing short sleeves.”
Where to change the baby? She couldn’t just lie her on the thin cotton blanket, as her mother had. Heading for the changing area in the Ladies’ room, it struck her that she hadn’t looked there for the mother. She rushed to the bathroom, careful not to jostle her tiny charge, convinced that she’d find the girl passed out in one of the stalls, or simply taking her time applying make-up. When she pushed open the door a little too quickly, she startled a small boy washing his hands at the sink with his mother. The bathroom was empty except for them.

Feeling like a thief, she unzipped the diaper bag and rummaged around, hoping to find a diaper. There was little enough to rummage through, only one diaper in there and some travel-size packages of wipes. She removed a few packages of wipes and found a somewhat cleaner, though obviously second-hand, sleeper, on the bottom of the bag.

As soon as she shifted the baby onto the changing table, the little body arched and a small whimpering sound escaped her, then her large blue eyes focused on Lisa’s face, and her whole body stilled.

“Hi, there, Sweetie. Feeling any better?” The baby stared seriously at her, and put a fist to her mouth.

[I think you can say that the baby put a fist to its mouth, to eliminate any impression that the baby put a fist to Lisa’s mouth.]

It had been some time since she had changed a baby. The tape on the diaper stuck to her thumbnail and peeled off a big chunk of her nail polish. The baby watched her intently the entire time, her eyes owlish.

She used 3 or 4 of the wipes, giving the baby a mini-bath. The creases of the baby’s arms and legs and neck had powder and sweat caked in them, and her tiny bottom was an angry pink. Then she slipped the remaining outfit onto the now-quiet baby.

There had been plenty of newborns brought to the foster homes, they were the ones she wasn’t allowed to pick up until she was older. This child was larger and but still not capable of holding up her own head. A month? Maybe six weeks?
“All dry, Baby-face.” She looked down at her own dark green blouse, with the damp, dark spot just above the waist. “At least one of us is. Now I see your mother’s point about using the Ladies’ Room,” she whispered. “There really is no where to put you down, is there? I should have skipped that last cup of tea before I left work.”

Holding the baby on the table with one hand, she rifled uneasily through the pockets of the diaper bag, looking for anything that would give her a clue; a wallet, checkbook, an envelope with a return address, a bill with a name on it. The door pushed open and she gave a guilty start, but it was just two older women, chatting between themselves, giving her only a perfunctory glance and small acknowledging smile. She took a steadying breath, and resumed poking around for a clue to the girls identity, or address.

The zippered part of the bag, where you might put papers, money, an I.D. or checkbook contained a package of gum with two rainbow striped sticks still in it, three crumpled gum wrappers, twenty-four dollars in fives and ones, and a sanitary pad. The main compartment had the only the dirty clothes, and empty bottle. If she were planning on leaving the store, wouldn’t she have wanted her money? Maybe she hadn’t left. Lisa began zipping up the bag. She should go back to the Magazine aisle!

[This is very good. The bag is now fully playing the role in your story that it should play.]

Scooping the baby up quickly, she threw the thin, stained receiving blanket over her shoulder to protect her clothing from further mishaps and gathered up the useless diaper bag, her book, and her purse and hurried out into the store.

In college she’d taken only business and computer courses and wondered now if a course or two in Early Childhood Ed wouldn’t have been a good choice. Even her time management courses weren’t doing her any good at the moment!

[I would replace good choice with better choice to emphasize the irony.]

Not that those courses did me much good job-wise, she thought wryly. Her job wasn’t what she’d dreamed of when she’d been going to school. The dreams hadn’t included a boss, just an interesting job and an excellent paycheck which would lead swiftly to a home and a family. Her own family. A family that could never just change its mind and move away or get too sick or to old to continue to be her family.

She reached the book aisle to find it as deserted as it had been right along. The girl’s cart was still there, with the diapers, and nail polish and giant tub of wipes.

Not sure where else to go and tired of circling the store, she addressed the baby in her arms. “Gettin’ hungry? Let’s go eat. You’ll love the menu here.”

[In the way that you have constructed this section, you have moved us out of Lisa’s head and are expressing a more “objective” opinion as the writer outside of Lisa as to her mental state and motivations. You might want to keep us where we were relative to Lisa by saying that “Lisa felt tired of circling the store. She wasn’t sure where else she could go. She address…” I say this because by having us view so much through Lisa’s eyes, you have established for the reader a sort of intimacy with her and you don’t want to break this now until another character enters the story to give us another outside view of Lisa. You don’t want the writer to be this person in a story like this.]

She ordered her meal at the lunch counter, then had to balance the tray in one hand and the baby in the other, her purse and the diaper bag slung over her shoulder and her still unpaid for book tucked under her arm, she barely managed to maneuver the four feet to the first table without dropping anything. Sliding awkwardly into the attached plastic seat, she muttered, “Boy, oh boy, do I have a few things to say to your mother when she gets back.” Pushing her B.L.T. to the side, she popped the only full bottle of formula in the diaper bag into the waiting, tiny mouth, and began speaking in that sing-song way people sometimes use with babies.

“I could be an axe murderer, or one of those whackos who sells babies on the Internet. Yes, I could.” At this, the baby stopped sucking and stared at her wide-eyed for a moment. Then, apparently deciding that she was neither, began to suckle again.

[You should put “the baby” or “she” after “neither,”.]

“What’s your name? Where did your mother go?” she whispered. Huge blue eyes stared trustingly up at her, but the babe offered no information.

Balancing the baby against her shoulder, she gently burped her. Rubbing her cheek against the downy head, she noticed that instead of the usual sweet aroma babies gave off, this baby smelled of old urine, spit-up baby formula and the hot, sharp smell of a baby who has cried a long time. She cradled the infant again in her left arm as she tried to eat with her right.

[This is good, in that you have just had Lisa do a cursory cleaning of the baby. But you might intensify this a bit by mentioning the smell from the wipes that Lisa used. You might do this, because it shows in a small way the continuing contrast between what Lisa thinks she is doing (and is telling herself what she is doing) and what is actually going on. As Lisa moves towards keeping the baby, the baby looms larger as a real flesh and blood responsibility. It becomes more real and less a figment of Lisa’s imagination. I am not saying that the baby itself is a figment of her imagination, but so far, what the baby means has been. In a way (and you have done this very well) the baby has represented for Lisa all of the other babies that Lisa has ever had contact with. But you are now progressing to this baby being the real and unique baby that she actually is. This little section carries much of the weight of this because in some ways a baby is more real by the way it smells than the way it looks, because smell is a far more intimate sense than sight is.]

A crackly voice came over the store speakers, interrupting her thoughts, announcing that the store was closing in ten minutes and asking that everyone bring their purchases to the front of the store, then switched back to The Beatles singing ‘Hey, Jude’.

10 minutes!? Her heart dropped. She pushed the remains of her sandwich away. The tiny bundle in her arms squirmed and she looked down to meet the clear blue stare. A tiny fist waved in the air and as she reached for it the baby grabbed her index finger and held on.
“I don’t know what to do, Baby,” she whispered.


















Chapter 2
Care and Feeding

[While it is not a bad idea to give your chapters titles, it is also not necessary. I say this because there is an art to doing this. Here it looks like you are conveying a bitter irony. And this is not bad. But remember that if you give your chapters titles, the reader is going to read all the titles together before he or she reads the book. You will need to put all your titles together and read them as their own narrative to see if the titles convey what you want to convey to a reader who has not yet read the story. I am not suggesting that you should not use titles. I am only suggesting that you need to take great care with them and treat them at their own project.]

Panic set in as she began to trail round the store one more time. She held her cell phone in her trembling hand. Push 9-1-1! Just do it and get it over with!

She imagined what would happen if she did. The police would come, take her statement, ask lots of questions. At this hour on a Friday evening they would take the baby, to the hospital, where she would stay until a social worker from CPS could get out there on Monday. Then, the child would be placed in a foster home. She looked down at the baby again, and sleepy blue eyes looked trustingly back up. She remembered how lovingly the young mother had kissed her baby’s fingers, how she’d gently patted the screaming infant’s belly.

The girl had seemed incompetent, maybe neglectful, but not abusive. Maybe she was burned-out from lack of sleep and a colicky baby, and not having anyone to support her, maybe she didn’t know any better, but throwing this baby into the system wouldn’t teach the mother the skills she needed to learn to take care of her.

What if I just wait till Monday? Keeps the baby from spending a weekend in the hospital; gives that poor girl a chance to change her mind, wise up. CPS would put her through hell! She was so young- too young- and didn’t look like she had enough money for a decent meal. And she did ask me to watch her.The child squirmed in her arms, and she looked down at the tiny mouth forming a large, perfect oval, the miniature nose crumpling with the effort of the yawn. The liquid eyes blinked once, twice, and the baby drifted off, unaware that her own life’s course was hanging in the balance.

When I find her, I’ll threaten to call CPS unless she takes some parenting classes! Besides, she’ll probably be back tomorrow, freaking out. Monday at the latest, or I really will call.
[You have done something excellent by laying out the tissue of lies and rationalizations that are going through Lisa’s head as she constructs the reason she needs to keep the baby for the weekend. However, you have one big problem here and that is that there is no reason whatsoever right now for Lisa to think that the mother will ever come back to this store. So while Lisa may tell herself that the mother may have a change of heart, you have not given Lisa a mechanism for every finding the mother again. Will Lisa now go to the store from opening to closing for the next two or three days hoping to run into the mother at some point in a store that is so large that Lisa has already concluded that the mother could walking around and Lisa could just be missing her?

So you need a place where Lisa might find the mother again. This does not have to be complicated. After all, it is Lisa who is constructing these rationalizations. But you probably need to have the mother say something (and that something should be very simple and almost in passing) about a place that Lisa might find her. It could be something like the mother saying “I usually stop by here every day after I finish…” This would set the store as both a location and a time and Lisa could tell herself that she just needs to show up at the store at the same time to catch the mother. It’s a tricky problem, but you need to solve it. It can be solved, however, without doing anything radical to your narrative thus far.]

Decision made, but heart pounding, she grabbed an abandoned shopping cart, and struggling to push it with one hand while snuggling the baby with the other, made her way to the infant’s department. Putting a can of formula in the cart, she remembered how much the puppies at one of her foster homes had eaten, and put two more in beside it, then picked out two baby bottles with bright, silly designs on them, a dozen small disposable diapers, and, remembering the girls’ cart, a super-size container of baby wipes.

[Not “infant’s department” but “Infant Department” or maybe “Infant Aisle”.]

The voice came over the loudspeaker again. “We hope you’ve enjoyed shopping with us this evening. Please bring your purchases to the front of the store at this time.”

Going quickly through a bin marked ‘clearance’, she found a soft, thick, pink baby size quilt, on sale for $6.00 because it was nearly summer and no one was buying heavy, warm things. It was the cheery border of bright yellow ducks that convinced her, the bright clean colors, no stains or fading. This baby should have something new! Leaving the department, she noticed a clearance rack with some cute one-piece outfits hanging on it and swiftly grabbed one without even stopping.

Anxious, frightened, thinking about where else she might look for the baby’s mother, she was taken off-guard when the cashier at the check-out exclaimed, “Ooooh, what a pretty baby. How old is she?”

She looked down at the infant, dressed now in the faded pink sleeper, her dark brown fringe of hair falling on her forehead, peacefully sleeping, and smiled. And stalled.

[You don’t need to say that she stalled here, because what you say next indicates it well.]

Even a babysitter would know the age of the baby she was caring for.

“One month,” she blurted, hoping she was at least close.

“Wow, she’s small for a month, huh? How much does she weigh? My nephew is six weeks old and he’s much bigger.”

“Well, babies are all so different, aren’t they,” she answered, distractedly. Having carried the baby all over the store for hours, she was glad the infant wasn’t any heavier. Her arm would ache for days as it was. Wanting to divert the cashiers line of questioning she put in, “They grow so fast! What’s your nephew’s name?”

[Typo. Cashier’s, not cashier.]

The clerk rambled on and on, too busy talking about her nephew to be asking any more questions. Surely, Lisa thought, paying the astounding sum of $72 for a few baby things, the baby’s mother would be back tomorrow, contrite, concerned and grateful. She’d bring the baby back to the store first thing in the morning, and wait for the mother to return! Creeping guiltily through the alarm system at the door, she half-expected it to alert the clerks that she was kidnapping a child.

[Here you do convey a time and place for her to catch up with the mother, but you might still make this more specific as I suggested before. The mother has already made Lisa wait for a long time. We know that Lisa didn’t like it and we would expect Lisa to worry about it again. You could use the logic of what Lisa is thinking now as her rationale for thinking that the mother will return to the store, but you should then include Lisa thinking about what would happen if she had to wait again. She can then decide that she will wait again, that is, agree to herself to take the risk. But she needs to do that explicitly.

However, be aware that if Lisa decides to go back to the store, you are going to have to bring her back and occupy her there. So be careful of what you commit Lisa (and yourself the writer) to do.]

Crossing the nearly deserted parking lot, she faced her first real problem. She had only $13 left in her checking account, hadn’t made it to the bank to cash her paycheck, and hadn’t planned on picking up a baby while she shopped today. When a co-worker had her son last year, the hospital had told her that her baby wouldn’t be released unless there was a car seat, properly installed, for him to ride home in. Lisa, herself, always wore a seat belt.

Standing beside her cherry red Miata with some other woman’s baby snuggled against her chest, shaking with nerves at what she’d just now done, she tried to decide what to do next. Feeling exposed, she opened the back door and climbed in for a minute.

“Oh, Baby, I’ve really done it now,” she whispered, rocking the sleeping baby gently in her arms. “And how do I do this without a car seat?” A few of the store workers filtered out, walking to their cars and leaving the lot. Now her car was an island in a sea of empty spaces, more out in the open.

Unable to think of a truly acceptable solution, she shifted the baby onto the back seat while she went around to the trunk of car and pulled out the blanket her father insisted she keep in there for emergencies. Looking guiltily over her shoulder the every few seconds, she used it and the quilt she had just bought, and made a little nest on the floor of the back seat. Not a car seat, by a long shot, but at least the babe couldn’t fall. As soon as she laid her down, the baby began to fuss. Lisa looked over her shoulder again, afraid someone would see her putting a baby on the floor of her car and call the police.

Even driving slower than she ever had, she was a nervous wreck. This was the most irresponsible thing she’d ever done! The tiniest accident could kill that baby! Crawling along all the back roads, she was terrified that something would run out in the road or that a drunk driver would come straight at her.

As soon as the car had begun to roll, the baby had stopped fussing and, when they pulled around her building to her apartment in the back, she was snoring softly again. Lisa tried not to wake the her but the inevitable jostling of the baby, bags, and keys was enough. Her bladder felt like it was going to burst, and the baby had begun crying again.

The crying sounded like someone had switched on a police siren right next to her ear and her only thought was to make it stop. Since only a bottle and a diaper were apt to have much effect, she spread the well-used receiving blanket out on the living room carpet and gingerly placed the baby on it. The baby’s screams increased as soon as she was put down. Lisa ran to the kitchen with the new baby bottle and a can of formula.

[This is really, really good, especially when you say that the crying was like a police siren, which is exactly the state of mind we would expect Lisa to be in. Confronting Lisa with the physical problems of having this baby with her, and the contrasts to all of the things she’s been telling herself about the baby is simply marvelous.]

As soon as she turned on the water to rinse out the bottle, she knew she’d made a mistake. Not stopping to turn off the water, she ran for the bathroom, and leaving the door open, tried to reassure the baby that her bottle was coming, only slightly delayed. Feeling much better, she quickly filled the bottle and scooped the baby up, popping the nipple in her mouth at the same time.

[You should say “its mouth” not “her mouth” to eliminate the impression that Lisa for some reason stuck it into her own mouth. Although the baby is indeed a girl, it is also a baby and can be referred to in this regard as it.]

Silence reigns again, she thought, as the babe began to suckle. But instead of feeding hungrily, the babe spit the bottle out and began to wail again.
Within 15 minutes, she was wondering if maybe she should call the police. Nothing she was doing was working and the baby was looking frantic.

“Hmm, not hungry, huh?”

Lisa put the babe back on her blanket and changed her diaper. She tried warming the formula, scrubbing the new bottle and nipple again and checked to be sure formula was getting through the holes in the nipple.
She burped her, walked her, sang to her. But the poor baby just kept crying and chewing on her hand as if she were starving. Every time she gave her the bottle, she would suck on it for only a second before spitting it out and howling.

Walking by the diaper bag, she noticed the old bottle poking out of a side pocket. With one hand she rinsed the grubby bottle, which she had intended to thoroughly scrub before using again, then poured the formula in. For one second the babe seemed to be deciding whether to take it or not, and then latched on feverishly.

Blessed silence.

She inspected the bottle she had just bought carefully. Other than being much cleaner and not smelling of sour milk, she couldn’t see how the baby would know. Then she did the same with the nipple, it was stiffer than the old one, and smelled new. She wondered if it was the lack of the sour milk smell or the stiffness that had bothered the baby.

[This is very good. It works in so many ways. One of the best ways is that Lisa is now starting to learn things and to develop. She is already becoming more than she was when you introduced her.]

With nothing else to do while trying to support both the baby and the bottle, she settled herself on the couch to relax and watch TV.

Once she had fed and burped the baby, and changed her yet again, she was faced with a new problem.

“Where am I going to put you to sleep. Huh, Sweetie? I don’t have a crib.” With her free arm she went through her bedroom closet, finding some blankets she kept there for when Julie spent the night, and used them to make a mattress on the floor in one corner of her bedroom, then covered it with a sheet and placed the nearly sleeping baby carefully in the middle. Just for an extra measure of safety, she rolled up two blankets and put them along the open sides. Now the baby couldn’t even roll onto the floor.

Feeling that she had earned a snack and a movie for all her efforts and she headed back to the living room.

Entering the living room, she couldn’t believe that this was her usually orderly apartment. Bags from the store were strewn around the room. The disposable diapers had spilled out of their bag when she had frantically ripped it open with her teeth. The wet diaper was still rolled up on the edge of the receiving blanket where she had left it when she had been trying to soothe the child.

The kitchen looked as bad, spilled formula, used bottle, trash, everything just where she had dropped it. It was impossible to clean up and hold the baby at the same time!

As far as she knew her mail was still sitting outside in her mailbox, and she hadn’t fed Oscar, her goldfish, yet. She straightened up the living room and kitchen, got the mail, fed Oscar, and poured herself a glass of wine to drink while she checked her e-mail and looked for a good movie to watch on cable.
The only movies she could find were either made before she was born or were war movies with all male casts. Instead she watched a Drew Carey repeat and Crossing Over with John Edward. It didn’t really matter, her mind was going a million miles a minute, the TV was just for company.

[This is good. Lisa wants to blot out her stress. This is very natural. And it is very good that you have her watching stuff that she might not ordinarily watch in order to do this.]

She thought back to high school, where she had dreamed of being twenty-four, of having escaped school, being old enough to do whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. Manicures and hair appointments every week. Having a glass of wine with dinner would be fabulously sophisticated. She’d envisioned a condo, right by the beach, a huge aquarium built into the wall of her living room, a mantle covered with lit candles over a brick fireplace, a fancy car and loads of dates with fantastic, urbane men.

And then - meeting the one. The one. Her soul mate, her perfect other half.
She recalled envisioning him in detail. Dark hair, a bit too long. Green eyes. A mustache and beard. (Or the willingness to grow one!) Broad shoulders, narrow hips. Biceps! Great arms were her favorite body part, all those rippling muscles! If those arms led to a rock solid chest, so much the better.
He absolutely had to be able to find the humor in life’s situations, and have a bit of attitude, a sense of self, an ability to swim against the current. No wuss-y guys need apply. He’d have to be gentle and loving and romantic. And he’d have to want kids, lots of them.

Combined with her love of the sea, it was no wonder she’d become obsessed with pirates.

Huh! So much for all that! I’ve reached the magical age of 24. Why does it feel flat and monotonous?

Having a glass of wine had sounded much more fascinating when it was forbidden. Being able to stay out all night had sounded like a great time, until she realized that she had to deal with drunk guys, dangerous situations, and the next days’ exhaustion. Manicures and hair treatments were expensive. She’d yet to meet a fabulous man, was lucky to get a date with someone she’d think of as a guy.

The closest her most of her dates came to her dream-pirate was when they’d pull up in their fathers’ borrowed, beat-up old ‘Cutlass’. Conversation revolved around talk of their soon to take-off careers, cars, sports, or of them trying to convince her to let them…Let them come up to her apartment, let them take off her clothes, (or should this be ‘touch her’?) let them spend the night. And of her saying, “no”. She was desperate to find out where men with dreams for a future, and jobs to support those dreams, hung out.

[Nice touch to make the car a Cutlass.]

She’d managed her own sporty Miata, Oscar, who lived in a roomy fishbowl, a decent, though small, apartment only a few blocks from those once dreamt-of condos and the ocean, learned to do a professional job on her own nails and could trim her own honey blond hair. There was money in her savings account, enough for emergencies plus some extra she was putting away for a cruise with Julie.

If I had a man, a real man to share it all with, I’d be content with what I have.

[Careful here. “Real man” has two meanings. I think that you mean that she wants a real man as opposed to the imaginary or fantasy man she is thinking about. But it could also mean that she wishes she had some sort of he-man and this is further implied with her thinking about pirates. However, Lisa, for all of her self confusion, so far seems like a strong person. If you imply real man in the second sense, you make her sound weak. If you mean it in the first sense, all you have to say is “If I had a real man to share it with…”]

It was midnight and she was exhausted. She brushed her teeth, slipped into an old t-shirt that she often slept in and climbed into bed, then lay awake for about a half hour, worrying over the events of the day.

[You need to have her check on the baby before she goes to bed and you might wants to include her reaction to seeing it asleep.]

She drifted off with vague, troubling images of what she would do if the child’s mother didn’t come back.


*******

The noise, whatever it was, was too loud. Lisa clung to sleep, rolling onto her side and pulling the pillow over her head. Why didn’t it stop? She sat up with a start, remembering the baby, recognizing the sound as the child’s cry. Within seconds, the baby’s cry had gone from loud to ear piercing to breaking the sound barrier. Scooping her up, she hurried to the kitchen.

I should have thought to wash and fill the bottle before I went to bed!

[Very good!]

She tried to jam the dishcloth one-handed into the bottle while it was standing in the sink. Giving up, she knew it was a lot cleaner than the one she’d used earlier. Hurriedly, she filled the new bottle and slapped on the old nipple. With the baby howling and trying to do it all one-handed, it seemed to take forever.

For one tiny baby girl, she sure could make a lot of noise! Popping the bottle into the baby’s mouth, she spared a glance at the softly glowing digital clock on her stove. 2:12 a.m. She’d slept for less than 2 hours.

With a jaw-cracking yawn, she took the baby into the living room, curled up in a corner of the couch and fought to support the bottle with one hand while aiming the remote with the other. One episode of the Honeymooners later, she was tucking a clean, dry, fed and sleepy baby back into her makeshift bed. But when she returned from the bathroom, instead of finding a peacefully sleeping baby she saw a red-faced, squirming, getting-ready-to-howl-demon in its place.

[Good use of Honeymooners to imply everything about what television is like in the middle of the night.]

The amount of squirming, kicking, and screaming pointed to this being another bout of colic and Lisa began walking the baby the length of the living room, belly down, arms and legs dangling like a languorous cat’s.

As long as she kept walking, the baby hung relaxed over her arm. If she stopped, to put a kettle of water on for tea or to gaze out at the moon, the baby pulled her knees up and began to scream again. By 3:30 a.m., she was weary beyond words and wondering how many nights it had taken to push the baby’s mother to the point of abandoning her child.

At 3:47 a.m.- she knew the time exactly because she was pacing directly in front of the VCR and the glow of the LED readout seemed abnormally bright in the dark apartment- the baby drifted off to sleep. Her little body went slowly limp, her head lolled against Lisa’s forearm.

It occurred to her, as she lowered the baby ever so gently onto her little bed, that her diaper probably needed to be changed. However, she deemed the risk of waking the baby to outweigh any possible advantages. Exhausted, she climbed back into her own bed.



*******



She reached out from under her blankets and smacked her alarm clock. When this had no effect on the noise, she grabbed it and pulled it close to her face. She opened one eye and looked at the numbers. 6:13 a.m., it read. As she hurried to pick up the screaming baby, she remembered something from Family Living Class in high school. Babies, they had been told, ate every four hours. This baby had apparently taken the same class.

The teacher had left out the part about the screaming in between bottles.

She felt her heart sink as she entered her kitchen. Two used, smelly bottles of formula sat in the sink; nothing clean, screams as loud as an air horn sounding in her left ear. She hurried back to the bedroom, grabbed one of the quilts she’d made the baby’s bed from the night before and dragged it into the kitchen. Laying the wailing demon on the blanket, she found the screams could get much louder, and she hurriedly scrubbed and filled the new bottle and old nipple.

As soon as the nipple touched her lips, the baby stopped crying and began to suck greedily. She laid down beside the baby on the quilt, smoothing the soft, fine hair back from the baby’s forehead and marveling at how the child could go from demon to angel with just a bit of milk.

“Okay, baby, now what should I call you, huh? We’ve got at least another 4 hours before I can take you back to the store to look for your mother. ‘Baby’ is awful.” She looked at the sweet, round face, blue eyes staring so seriously at her. “It’s hard to be inspired on so little sleep, kiddo. You’re a little angel this morning, aren’t you?” She put the baby to her shoulder to burp her and immediately felt the wetness from the baby’s diaper cover her left breast.

“Ugh!” She jammed a piece of the quilt between herself and the baby and patted her back, gingerly trying to hang onto the dry spots.

Once the baby was fed, she filled the kitchen sink and gave her a bath, gently rubbing her scalp and being careful to gently wash every crease. Then she carefully dried the infant and dressed her in the new pink and green sleeper decorated with lace and a bow that she’d bought yesterday. When she’d finished, she couldn’t help but admire the change.

The child’s fine hair formed tiny golden brown ringlets about her head, a perfect frame for her rosy pink cheeks and alert blue eyes. Already the chapped and irritated spots in the creases and folds of her skin were less red. The new sleeper looked even more adorable on and the baby, when snuggled close, smelled faintly of soap and newborn skin.

While the baby lay on the quilt waving her arms and legs about, Lisa ran to take her own shower; she could feel the stiffness of spit-up formula in the ends of her blond hair. She’d grab a car seat from the second-hand store up the street, and take the baby back to the store to find her mother.

Taking the baby without a carseat had been necessary last night. Today, she cuddled the child in her arms and walked the 3 blocks to the thrift store. It was a pleasant, sunny morning, though her arm still ached from holding the baby for so long yesterday. It felt good to stretch out her legs, to greet other people who walked by, to get a close look at the tulips in the yard on the corner.

[Typo. Car seat is two words.]

The walk home was not as pleasant. Struggling home carrying the baby and a car seat, with a small bag of used baby clothes hanging from her arm, she wanted to cry. Both arms throbbed in pain, each had a heavy load. She was amazed at how heavy and bulky the seat was, at how quickly the warm May sunshine could make her sweat, how expensive it was to properly care for one tiny baby.

And now I’m truly a criminal! Writing bad checks, isn’t that fraud? The thirteen dollars in her checking account wasn’t going to cover the $43 dollars she’d just spent at the second hand store.

It was 1:30 p.m. before she managed to install the safety seat correctly in the backseat of her car.

By the time she pulled into the store parking lot, she was a wreck. It was 2:00! Surely, the baby’s mother had been at the store the minute it opened, waiting to retrieve her daughter. It wouldn’t surprise her one bit to see police cars and the FBI waiting for her. The baby began fussing for a bottle before she could even get her out of the car seat.

“Hey, Kiddo, I’m ready for you this time.” Easing the child into her arms she popped the bottle in her mouth, then headed for the Book and Magazine section. She figured since she’d seen the baby and her mother there first it would make sense to meet there again.

Within ten minutes, Lisa was experiencing deja-vu. True to her mother’s words, the baby began to experience the same colic symptoms as the day before and at 2 am. Only hanging over her arm, drooling and watching the multi-colored floor tiles pass by her line of sight offered any consolation. Soon she was slowly wandering through the store, keeping an eye out for the baby’s mother, just as she had the day before.

After 45 minutes, she was beginning to feel foolish. Why did I think that girl would return? And now what? she thought rubbing a hand wearily over her face.

The baby’s body was beginning to droop in a way that she already recognized as signaling oncoming sleep. She turned the limp, relaxed body over and looked into the heavy-lidded blue eyes. The tiny lids blinked slowly once, twice, and just as they were about to close for what she was sure would be a nice nap, an elderly woman leaned over to peek at the tiny babe. Lisa sighed, sure that the babe would howl, but instead, she just widened her crystal blue eyes and stared very seriously at the woman before her.

“Oh!” the woman exclaimed, “what a darling little angel,” and patted Lisa on the arm in a motherly fashion.

“Yes, she is, isn’t she,” she replied softly. A darling little angel. She had thought the baby looked like an angel just that morning. An abandoned angel. “Angel-face,” she whispered. The baby’s eyes slipped closed and she began to snore softly. “Angel, Angie. That’s what I’ll call you, Angie.” (I'm moving this part about naming the baby, just don't know where yet)

She decided to cruise the areas the girl was most likely to live in. Everything about that girl had screamed ‘poverty’, the stained, faded clothing, the lack of baby seat or stroller. The mother had worn no jewelry. Lisa decided to narrow her search to the areas served by the bus line.

Maybe we’ll get lucky. The girl must have some family! She’s too young to be living on her own. Her family could be frantic with worry about the baby. Maybe they’ll want to help her.

After grabbing some lunch at the local drive-through, Lisa began cruising through some of the less affluent neighborhoods, keeping watch for the child’s mother. Passing a small store with a large group of teens hanging out in front, she pulled over, and pretended to be searching through her purse for something, as she got a good look at each girl in the group.

They stopped twice more, once at a small neighborhood playground where a group of teenagers sat smoking cigarettes on a play structure and another time at a busy donut shop, where another group of teens stood sharing a box of donuts. In between, she crawled up and down the side streets, looking, unsuccessfully, for one teen girl.

[This is very good. You were going to have to get Lisa out on the street looking for the mother sooner or later, but you have used this to say something about the mother. The teenagers sitting on the swings smoking is a good touch. You might want to elaborate a little bit here with another detail or two that would tell us that the mother was probably sitting on these swings herself just a few months before.]
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Thank you for taking the time to look over my story so closely. I really can't find the words to tell you how much your thoughful and knowledable replies help!

I HAVE to comment on a few of your comments. I found myself talking out loud to my 'puter, ansering you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Unagidon View Post
This book is now officially well on its way. You have made it very solid and your additions from the earlier draft give it depth and body. If I am making sound like a fine wine, it's because it is becoming very like that.
I still have a few comments and I looked a little more earnestly for typos. (You will never find them all; so report my friends who have published novels.
Thank you for the praise! I'm rather fond of wine and enjoyed the analogy.

You found typos I'd never have found. I have some confusion about the placement of apostrophes.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Unagidon View Post

[Your expansion of the mother as a character is very well done and is a magnificent improvement from your earlier draft.]
The mother represents a few people for me. Bio mom's I have known. I am trying to give my character a little more depth than any of them ever seemed to have. I'm not quite done with her.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Unagidon View Post
[I would still not use the word babe here. I suppose it’s because I am speaking as a male, but men will have a different sense of this word than a woman will. Of course, a man will understand it in its context, but it is a momentary distraction that you don’t need at this point.]

Hmmm. JUst got tired of infant, baby, child. THinking 'babe' over.







[Typo. Lie S/B lay.] I always get those confused!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Unagidon View Post

Awkwardly, she searched through her purse for her cell phone, and looked at the front for the time. 6:17. I left work at 5. Took maybe 10 minutes to get here, make it fifteen. Spent 2 or 3 minutes wandering around, 5 minutes looking for a good book. That means it was about 5:20, maybe 5:25 when I met that girl. We talked for, mmm, 5 minutes.

[You probably want to spell out the numbers in this section.]
The times too, or just the 2, 3, 5?




Quote:
Originally Posted by Unagidon View Post
[I think you can say that the baby put a fist to its mouth, to eliminate any impression that the baby put a fist to Lisa’s mouth.]
Good idea.




Quote:
Originally Posted by Unagidon View Post
[In the way that you have constructed this section, you have moved us out of Lisa’s head and are expressing a more “objective” opinion as the writer outside of Lisa as to her mental state and motivations. You might want to keep us where we were relative to Lisa by saying that “Lisa felt tired of circling the store. She wasn’t sure where else she could go. She address…” I say this because by having us view so much through Lisa’s eyes, you have established for the reader a sort of intimacy with her and you don’t want to break this now until another character enters the story to give us another outside view of Lisa. You don’t want the writer to be this person in a story like this.]
For the whole book?

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[While it is not a bad idea to give your chapters titles, it is also not necessary. I am not suggesting that you should not use titles. I am only suggesting that you need to take great care with them and treat them at their own project.]
So far these have served as place holders for me, but I hadn't ever given them proper thought! I shall have to think quite carefully as to whether to use use them at all.




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[Nice touch to make the car a Cutlass.]
I thought that was rather inspired, myself.

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Originally Posted by Unagidon View Post
[Good use of Honeymooners to imply everything about what television is like in the middle of the night.]
I have a lot of experience in late night/early morning tv.

It's a busy weekend here, so I have to wait until MOnday morning to sit down and apply your comments to my manuscipt. Makes me nuts.

I truly appreciate your help. I am looking forward to reading chapter two of yours.






Twilight Girl, I know you're busy traveling. Having fun?

BelovedK, how's things??
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#5 of 21 Old 10-21-2006, 04:31 PM
 
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Thank you for your comments too.

Quote:
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Originally Posted by Unagidon
[In the way that you have constructed this section, you have moved us out of Lisa’s head and are expressing a more “objective” opinion as the writer outside of Lisa as to her mental state and motivations. You might want to keep us where we were relative to Lisa by saying that “Lisa felt tired of circling the store. She wasn’t sure where else she could go. She address…” I say this because by having us view so much through Lisa’s eyes, you have established for the reader a sort of intimacy with her and you don’t want to break this now until another character enters the story to give us another outside view of Lisa. You don’t want the writer to be this person in a story like this.]
For the whole book?
Sorry, no. I wasn't clear. You are in the book as well, but the best example I've seen so far is:

Quote:
Silence.

Well, almost silence. Little huffs and sobs still wracked the small, damp body. A man in the next aisle muttered, “Thank God!” loud enough for the two women to hear, and a woman was heard shushing him.
This could be Lisa thinking this, but I think it's you, and it is good.

You are in the background providing all of the contrasts that Lisa faces that give the story its energy. You nudge these a bit and this is where you appear in the story. Not to press the point, but you are like the goddesses that appear in the Odyssey that sometimes intervene to nudge the story along a bit. You don't want to be too obvious (and so far you haven't been), but it is clear that Lisa's existence is filled with lots of little ironies that someone is putting in her path. On one level, this story is rather funny and this is why it works. It is also deadly serious from all of the character's points of view as well. I'm probably being too cryptic here, but when I remarked that you suddenly intruded as the writer when you abruptly shifted the point of view, what I meant was that you suddenly intruded as a writer in a different way than you had thus far.

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Awkwardly, she searched through her purse for her cell phone, and looked at the front for the time. 6:17. I left work at 5. Took maybe 10 minutes to get here, make it fifteen. Spent 2 or 3 minutes wandering around, 5 minutes looking for a good book. That means it was about 5:20, maybe 5:25 when I met that girl. We talked for, mmm, 5 minutes.

[You probably want to spell out the numbers in this section.]
The times too, or just the 2, 3, 5?
No, not the times. Just the numbers.

Regarding the pure proof reading, I think that when Twilight Girl gets here she is going to do it better. She seems to have a natural eye for it (or perhaps she used to be some sort of editor).

You are doing well. I suppose at some point you are going to stop posting stuff on here and just get the thing published and I will have to wait to buy the book to find out what happens.

However, you have introduced a longing for a romance with your character, and a romance cannot be very far behind. I can't wait to see how you handle this.
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#6 of 21 Old 10-23-2006, 10:16 AM - Thread Starter
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Twilight Girl presently works translating from one language to another. I imagine that type of work would require attention to detail.


About the 'infant deptartment' vs 'infant's'...It's Ladies department, Men's (Oh where does that apostrophe go?) but also 'Shoe', not shoes, toy not toys...

Are you sure it should be 'infant'?

And I could really use a consensus on whether the parts of the book LIsa is reading in the store should stay or go? They aren't going to continue throughout the story and don't 'move the story along' but they are a bit of fun. What do you (ALL of you !) think??

Ah, the romantic interest. You'll meet her 'pirate' soon. :

I'll need help with this baby all the way to the end, so I imagine you'll know how it ends. (And I would get a rush out of being able to send you an autographed copy!!!)
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#7 of 21 Old 10-23-2006, 10:49 AM
 
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Twilight Girl presently works translating from one language to another. I imagine that type of work would require attention to detail.


About the 'infant deptartment' vs 'infant's'...It's Ladies department, Men's (Oh where does that apostrophe go?) but also 'Shoe', not shoes, toy not toys...

Are you sure it should be 'infant'?

And I could really use a consensus on whether the parts of the book LIsa is reading in the store should stay or go? They aren't going to continue throughout the story and don't 'move the story along' but they are a bit of fun. What do you (ALL of you !) think??

Ah, the romantic interest. You'll meet her 'pirate' soon. :

I'll need help with this baby all the way to the end, so I imagine you'll know how it ends. (And I would get a rush out of being able to send you an autographed copy!!!)
As a matter of fact, the infants thing got me hung up a bit too. So I went to the local Target to check it out. (I am assuming that that is the kind of store you were describing.) And the sign simply said Infants. So I don't know. I rather like the idea of just Infants, actually, since that is what Lisa goes home with. A rather vague joke, but one nonetheless.

The parts from the book can stay if you do not use them to forcefully push any sort of irony. One of Lisa's qualities is that she is a romantic, and your pirate imagery goes on beyond the book. You should use the lightest touch possible. And if you introduce her "pirate" by any allusion to the pirate theme, then you may find yourself bringing the book back later in the story after all.

I suspect that you are going to ask what I mean by "light touch". The pirate theme in romance literature is well known to everyone. It's almost a cliche. So it is something that you can safely assume that everyone knows about. If you quote from your pirate book, you will have to make the style of the book different from your own style. You can ham it up a bit; those books often go for what one might call an overblown style or what we used to call "purple prose". However, because people will probably know how the plot of a book will go, you can also just have Lisa refer to sentences and images in her own mind. Or, you can have her comment to herself how unrealistic the novel is.

The important thing is, what is Lisa's relationship to the novel? Does she think that the novel (or novels like it) represents some sort of realistic romantic view of the world (some women do). Or does she read them because she thinks they are odd or funny? They will contribute to irony in your story, but you can handle this in several ways. One is to say that she reads the novel and fantasizes about her "pirate" but knows he will never arrive (poor Lisa). He does later and he is either the guy from the book (this would be your story as a romance) or he is something awful (this would be your story as satire) or he starts out as a romantic attraction (in Lisa's mind) but ends up showing different but better qualities than Lisa first imagined (this would be your story as drama) or he shows up, adds complications (like the ones she is experiencing all ready), but in the end helps her to a positive conclusion (this would be your story as comedy), or he enters and he turns out to be perfect but the baby dooms the relationship or he turns out to be bad and dooms the relationship himself (this would be your story as tragedy).

The book is very close to becoming a character in your story. (Yes, inanimate objects can be characters in a story). Getting back to the light touch, this would be where Lisa did not speculate too much on the meaning of the story and the pirate story did not intrude too much into the narrative. The smallest intrusion would be to have her look at the cover of the book in the store and make a passing internal mention to it to herself. In fact, as long as you can refer to the cover of the book, you don't really need to quote the book at all. Just know that since you have introduced the book at all, you have done what a playright does when he or she hangs a loaded gun on the wall in the first act of the play. Someone is going to have to fire it sooner or later.
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#8 of 21 Old 10-25-2006, 11:00 AM - Thread Starter
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Oh, my. Decisions, decisions.

For the pirate book, I'm just going to leave it in for now, and see where the story goes. I read silly romance novels on occassion...as an escape from reality. (And because 5 kids, sloppin' the hogs, feeding the hens, washing laundry and floors and the toilet all leave me in a less than romantic, amiable mood. A hot tub and a hot book that bears NO resemblance to my real life and a glass of red wine: ....well, that's how I got to have 5 kids!

I imagined Lisa reading it to escape from a life lacking romance and good propects.

It could be that the book will return, I hadn't thought of that. If I decide I don't want it later, it's all easily removed.

Hmm, going to have to consider saying she went to 'Infants'. Doesn't sound right, somehow. Actually, the store Lisa is in is an old, non-chain department store, one of the ones in the poorer section of town. Ours have all closed, making it hard to find one to check out.

I love the paragraph about how treating the boook differently changes the whole story, comedy, tragedy, satire, romance.

My book is none of the above...it's fiction, though not 'literary' fiction. As you've mentioned before, it could be considered 'chick lit'. It's not really a romance.

So what is it. I mean, besides chick lit? If I make it more, well, for lack of a better word, available to male readers, what IS it? I wouldn't care, but it would make it a lot easier to pick an agent/publisher in the coming months and simpler to refer to it by style when trying to get that longed for fellowship.

I'm cheating!: This is my special 'work on the book only' time and I'm here! I have to run!
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#9 of 21 Old 10-25-2006, 07:14 PM
 
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Well, thanks for the observations about my eye for detail : I'm finishing a translation tonight, and I would very much like to read more about Lisa and ward over the weekend. Even though I will have already read it, I'll still buy your book when it gets published!

be back with you soon ...

j.
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Will put comments in bold and overall thoughts at the end

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A new thought came to Lisa Clark as she studied the tiny infant lying in her aching arms. Her stomach twisted and trickles of sweat ran from her underarms as the thought drummed repeatedly through her head.

What if she doesn’t come back?

She remembered how tenderly the too-young mother had kissed her infant’s fingers before darting from the aisle. Had she run straight for the exit?

It had been a long week. The weather had turned unseasonably hot and muggy for spring, she’d gotten a flat tire in rush hour traffic, and Mr. Harker, her boss, had been in a nasty mood. The newest employee in the offices of a fashion accessory wholesaler, Lisa soon discovered why there had been an opening. Mr. Harker took his bad moods out on his most recent hiree. She hated the job, hated her boss and loathed the very idea of going in each morning.

What am I going to do about this baby? How long should I wait before I call someone? Awkwardly pushing her hair out of her eyes, she began circling the store, just as her thoughts circled in her head. The thought of alerting the authorities made her feel nauseous.

She thought of calling her parentsdeleted apostrophe or Julie, her best friend, for advice. Her mother, she was sure, would say to call the police, to let the proper authorities handle the problem. As an adoptive parent, her mother believed that CPS could right the wrongs and protect the innocent children. After all, CPS had brought them Lisa, and their son, Tim.

Lisa’s own experiences as a foster child had left her feeling less convinced.

She trusted her mother’s judgment on most things, but her mother hadn’t shared those lonely years with her and had never understood her need to ‘dwell’ on them. Julie had and did.


What would Julie do in this situation or in Lisa's shoes or something of that sort, just to ground it to Lisa's situation? Having met in a foster home when they were 10, they had shared the horror of having no family I'd make this "no family of their own" "to call their own" sounds a little clicheto call their own. She thought back to the two of them sharing a room at Mrs. Jenner’s, of Julie crying herself to sleep because she so missed her neglectful, drug-addicted mother. Of her own pain and jealousy at knowing that as bad as Julie had it, she at least had a mother to miss.

She called her friend’s home number; this wasn’t something to discuss with someone who was fighting rush-hour traffic! When Julie didn’t answer she hung up, unable to summarize her situation in a 20 second voice mail message or something think of how to word a message.

“This is not the evening I had planned,” she grumbled aloud to the quiet baby. “My arm is about to drop off! Five minutes. That’s what your mother said. Five minutes! And here we are, walking till my feet blister, an hour and a half later!”

The baby squirmed on her arm and Lisa changed her tone, crooning the rest of her irritation as if it were soothing words. “All I wanted was a book. Some hot pirate romance. Salt spray, crashing waves, helpless maiden.” She sighed. “So, I found a real helpless maiden, didn’t I? Know any pirates, kiddo? It’s Friday night and I don’t have a date.”

Her deep discussion with the baby earned her an odd look from a slim, well-dressed or maybe slim woman in a tailored business suit ... to be a little more descriptive than 'well-dressed' businesswoman, as she walked past.

“Great, now I’m talking to myself.” Another squirm, a mewling cry. “No, you’re right, I’m talking to you.”

It hadn’t occurred to her to ask the mother for her name, or even the baby’s name, so she couldn’t very well page her. She had a vision of herself calling the police, the young mother returning, apologetic and frightened, having some plausible excuse for her absence.

Glancing down at the cover of the pirate romance she held in her hand, she studied the half-naked young woman who was tied to the mast, long hair falling in a wild mass to her waist. An maybe impossibly instead of incredibly says moreincredibly handsome pirate, despite a rather sinister-looking eyeno hyphen patch, threatened her with his cutlass? more sassy to go with the romance novel and a little double entendre held a cutlass above her. His own hair fell thickly past his broad shoulders, a neat beard covered the lower half of his face, and sparkling sea-green eyes drinking in or something else. the 'roved over' sounds like movement, so to me it makes the cover sound almost comical ... like googly eyes that move aroundroved over the lush woman before him.

An hour ago, she’d thought it was the perfect book; an innocent young woman who stowsno hyphen away, a commanding-would take out the hyphens 'commanding, yet understanding, and ... yet-understanding and incredibly sexy pirate, plenty of passion, adventure and romance.I think I would reverse this sentence: An innocent young woman stows away, the commanding, yet compassionate, and of course sexy pirate discovers her, plenty of passion, adventure and romance. An hour ago, she'd thought this was the perfect book. More punch to the contrast of her situation and the dramatic change that took place.

*******


In fact, delete just, detractsjust an hour ago, she’d been so caught up in the story she might have finished the first chapter right there in the store. But the piercing screams being emitted from a tiny infant a few aisles away, had made it impossible for her to concentrate. She doubted there had been many crying babies on ships.

Especially pirate ships.

When the infants screams became louder, rounded the end of the aisle, and intensified in the area of the movie magazines, just at the other end of the short row of paperbacks, Lisa peeked over the top of the pirate book. Bouncing the tiny, but very vocal baby irritably in her arms, was a girl of maybe 15 or 16, wearing a tiny black t-shirt that had “Baby Girl” written across the front of it in glitter. Her muddy brown hair hung lank and greasy.

“Oh, please, shut up!” the girl had muttered under her breath. She’d been trying to push a shopping cart with one hand and jiggle the baby with the other but now gave up and set the howling, red-faced infant down on a thin receiving blanket on the bottom of the metal cart. The tiny body arched as it came in contact with the hard surface; and the screaming got still louder.

Once the baby was out of her arms, the girl no longer appeared to hear it’s cries, and began digging through a faded diaper bag perched on the seat of the cart.

Let her find that baby a pacifier, Lisa had thought, or a bottle, but was dismayed as instead the girl rooted around and pulled out a package of chewing gum, nonchalantly unwrapped a piece and folded it into her mouth.
By now, she could feel the baby’s screams in the pit of her stomach. She’d always had a soft spot for the babies in the foster homes she’d been in. Not only were they helpless and motherless, but they were almost always happy to snuggle in her arms while she crooned and rocked them. They were never too busy for her. She had passed many lonely rainy afternoons, rocking first one baby, and then another, singing them lullabies she made up on the spot still like this, I think I said before, but if not, it is a little stab of a reminder, without being totally spelled out that Lisa didn't have a mother to learn lullabies fromand playing “This Little Piggy Went to Market”. The sound of a baby crying, any baby, had always made her feel sick.

Grabbing the I think Unagidon said something about this ... I agree: seemingly indifferent or other such. I'd also change woman to girl. You've just said she looks 15 or 16, I'd stick to calling her a girl to remind us that the mother is just a kid herself indifferent young woman by the shoulders and shaking some sense into her was Lisa’s first thought, though she doubted that doing so would help the baby. Maybe she could play up on the girl’s maternal pride, for despite her age, the baby obviously belonged to her.

Sliding a few steps closer to the pair, from Romance novels to Mysteries, she waited for the girl to look up, then offered her a friendly smile.

Leaning in close enough to be heard, she noticed deep, nearly purple, depressions below the girl’s eyes. “Is it a boy or a girl?”

The young mother jumped, seemingly startled that someone had spoken to her, then sighed deeply, before answering in a voice almost too soft to be heard, “A girl.” She raised her eyes to meet Lisa’s, in defiance of the wetness that had sprung to them. “Her father really wanted a boy.” An uneasy, bitter laugh, “Mine too, I guess.” She bent over the cart and patted the wailing infant gently on the belly, studying her as if she were a science experiment that was going horribly wrong, then looked up at Lisa who smiled sympathetically.

The girl reminded her of a long-forgotten foster sister.

“She cries like this a lot. I don’t know,” she wiped at her eyes, leaving smeared bits of mascara under each eye. “I feed her, change her, walk her. She just screams. Sometimes, I just can’t take it anymore,” her voice quavered, “then I put her down for a minute, ya know? And just chill.”
The baby was red and sweating from exertion, her little face screwed up in an expression of infant rage. Her breathing was coming in quick gasps and sobs and she sounded as if she were going hoarse. A few people slowed as they went by the aisle, peering in concern or curiosity for the source of the crying.

Lisa had never before been so desperate to make a noise stop. It was obvious to her that the girl had no further ideas on how to handle her baby’s discomfort. Not sure if she was crossing a line here, but wanting to help, she asked gently, “Could I hold her?”

The mother’s look said ‘why would anyone want to?’ but she nodded after a second’s hesitation. Lisa reached down into the shopping cart, easing her right hand under the baby’s head, cringing as she felt the hard metal of the cart against the back of her fingers through the thin, discolored blanket.
She recalled a trick a foster mother had shown her for soothing one of the colicky babies. Very gently she laid the baby, still screaming her near-hoarse cry, face-down over her left arm, with her head resting by her elbow and one thigh securely held in her left hand. With her right hand, she carefully tapped the tiny back and at the same time, she paced a few steps in each direction.

It was as if the baby had come with and on-off switch, and Lisa had just turned her off. little more succinct?The effect was the same as if the baby had come with an on-off switch, and she had turned it off.

Silence.

Well, almost silence. Little huffs and sobs still wracked the small, damp body. A man in the next aisle muttered, “Thank God!” loud enough for the two women to hear, and a woman was heard shushing him. Like this. I think that man would have been my husband in fact!

The young mother stared, open-mouthed, as Lisa paced left and right across the aisle with the now quiet babeagree with Unagidon but for different reasons. Babe just doesn't work for me here, in this sentence..

“Wow! That was awesome! She always cries this time of day, no matter what I do.” The young girl stood still watching carefully for a minute, then whispered, “She really likes you.”

Lisa sighed deeply. It had been years since she’d cuddled a small baby so close. The familiar warm weight, the willing acceptance of her offer of comfort. For just a few seconds she closed her eyes, relaxed into the familiar rocking motion. She felt her own frustrations with the day, the week, melt as the tiny body relaxed and slumped over her arm.

“I can show you what to do. It’s just how I’m holding her.” She hated to give the baby back so quickly, to lose the sweet rush of bringing peace to a tiny new person, but held the child out to the mother and said, “Here, I’ll show you.”

The young woman took a small, quick step back, putting the corner of her shopping cart between them. “Look, I was wondering…I really need to go to the bathroom. I mean, if you have a minute, and wouldn’t mind? There’s nowhere to put her down in there, and if I put her down, well, I might not be able to get her to stop crying again.”

Lisa pulled the child back in close to her chest, cradling her. Quieting the baby had left her feeling rather all-powerful and benevolent. Poor girl, where is her maybe italicize the her to make sure reader knows Lisa is wondering about the teenager's mother mother? Too young to be on her own with a baby, she looked like she needed nothing so much as a hot bath, a good meal and a long nap. A few minutes wouldn’t hurt anything.

more answer from Lisa. More like, "Oh, sure, no problem, go ahead,"“Go on,” she waved a carefully manicured hand in the direction of the ladies’ room. “Take your time.”

“I just want to grab a few things on my way back. I’ll be five minutes, probably less.” She was already backing away, down the aisle, when she asked, “Are you sure you don’t mind?”

“We’ll be fine. I can read a little more of my book while we wait. She’s such a sweetie and I’ve haven’t held a baby in ages.”

“Thanks so much. Really.” She came quickly back to them, reached over, grasped a tiny hand and gave the backs of the fingers a gentle kiss. Still holding the baby’s hand, she said, “Five minutes, okay? You’ll be right here?”

“Of course. I promise.”

For the first time the girl smiled, and Lisa saw that under the poorly applied make-up, grime and exhaustion, she was pretty. The mother lovingly brushed the petite hand across her cheek, gently kissed it a second time, then let go.


“Back in a few,” she sang, and ran from the aisle.


Lisa rocked back and forth, walked the aisle from end to end a few times. A few women walked by, saw the hicno hyphencupping, nearly no hyphensleeping baby and smiled knowing, reminiscent smiles at her.

She remembered now that while holding and calming a baby was a powerful thing, it was also mind-numbingly boring. good! The infant was snoring softly, so she assumed it was sleeping, though the way she was holding the baby kept her from being able to see its face.

The pirate novel that had so captured her attention was hanging off the edge of the shelf where she’d hastily placed it. Retrieving it, she tried to open it using only the fingers of her right hand. It took a few minutes to get to the right page and she grumbled when she dropped it once. She’d never noticed that it took two hands to read a book before.

Finishing the first chapter, with much fumbling and muttering and page losing, she glanced up to see if the girl was back yet. Surely, it had been more than five minutes? She looked down at the small body tucked against her, the curve of her back, the pink of her skin, the way the tiny body still shuddered from her earlier crying. No sense rushing her back to all of that.

Besides, she had already been drawn into the drama of the book ... suggestion...the book was riveting! The young woman was hiding on her uncle’s ship, planning on running away to avoid an ‘advantageous’ marriage. The pirate was in a dock-side bar, getting rip-roaring drunk with his crew, and was invited to join a poker game.

“One more chapter,” she whispered to the sleeping baby.

The girl, named Desiree of course, slinked about the boat, trying to find the safest spot to hide delete in, someplace where she could sleep for a few hours. Every spot that seemed like it might work, had the same general problem. Rats. Not that she saw any, but there could be rats. Everyone knew ships were full of them. Finally, she went to the uncle’s cabin. Surely, if there was a safe, rat-free spot, it would be here. The captain always had the best of everything. She climbed into his huge wardrobe, all the way in the back, covered herself with a cloak and slept.

The drunk and angry captain, having bet and lost all he had made on his most recent delete sea ... he's a pirate, of course his voyage would be on the sea voyage, desperately hedged, wagered, put up ... pitted is more like a dog fight or a cock fight, he pitted his bet rooster against the challenger or something of that nature his most precious possession, his ship, on one more hand.

And lost.

The Lucky Lady had a new owner.

Ha, this’ll be fun! Then Lisa crashed back to reality, her head snapped up. How long had it been? How much time had gone by? She’d always been able to lose herself completely in books and had just done it now. The store, her job, the fact that she was standing up, holding someone else’s baby, had all faded away.

Walking to the end of the aisle, she looked in both directions as far as she could see. She had said ‘take your time’ and the girl had mentioned picking up a few things, but she had left her cart here. How much could she carry? Had it been ten minutes? Fifteen? More? What was she doing? Having lunch?

Pacing slowly up and down the book and magazine aisle with the baby’s solid weight on her arm, she debated going to look for the baby’s mother, but was afraid the woman would come back looking for her child, and they’d miss each other. She had promised to stay right here.

But the girl had promised to be back in five minutes.

“Oh, this is not good, Baby. Not good at all.”

She looked over the few items in the bottom the young mother’s cart. A large package of the store’s own brand of diapers, a bottle of Coke, two little bottles of nail polish-one blue and one neon green, and an economy-sized tub of store-brand baby wipes.

Her arm was aching, cramping. Rearrange a bit: She longed to lay the baby down somewhere so she could finish out her nap, but couldn't bear to put her back down in the cart on the receiving blanket as her mother had. She longed to lower the baby into the cart, but couldn’t bear to lay lie her on the receiving blanket as her mother had. Gently, slowly, she turned the baby over and moved her onto her right arm.
Immediately the baby’s eyes opened, her legs began to pull up, then kick out. Her body twisted and squirmed and she began to cry. Lisa quickly returned her to the colic hold, only over her right arm, instead of her aching left. The baby quieted again, as she walked and rocked her.

“I’m sorry, Sweetie. I’m sorry.” Crooning words of consolation to the tiny being, she returned to pacing. “Still have a bellyache, huh? Where did your mother go? I guess we’ll wait a few more minutes, okay? One more chapter, huh?”

If she’d thought reading with just her right hand was difficult; using just her left was far worse. She dropped it twice in under a minute and a teenage boy with earrings the size of dimes actually in the holes in his ears, had picked it up both times, smiling so sweetly she knew she was seeing the child his mother still saw.

This time she’d keep her focus on where she really was and not fall so far into the story. Desiree was unaware that the ship had set sail, and the pirate captain was unaware of his stow away. Thought the pirate lost his ship in poker The captain wandered the ship, checking for a sound hull, solid mast. His crew washed the decks, stowed equipment, took inventory. Finally, a weary pirate retired to his cabin, to have a drink and get some sleep. He heard a scuffling noise in his wardrobe, grabbed his cutlass, threw open the wardrobe door and hollered, “Damn rats!” Something much too big to be a rat shifted and moved in the dark on the floor of the wardrobe.

“Ok, that’s it. I’m not reading this whole novel while we wait.” She walked back to the end of the aisle and looked around again, glanced in the aisles to her right and left, walked a few aisles in either direction.

Awkwardly, she searched through her purse for her cell phone, and looked at the front for the time. 6:17. I left work at 5. Took maybe 10 minutes to get here, make it fifteen. Spent 2 or 3 minutes wandering around, 5 minutes looking for a good book. That means it was about 5:20, maybe 5:25 when I met that girl. We talked for, mmm, 5 minutes.

That would mean that it had been 45 minutes since the girl had run off to the ladies room!

“Time’s up. We’re going to take a quick walk, Kiddo. Go look for your mama.” She rubbed the tiny back, soothingly. As she pushed the girls cart to the side she noticed the diaper bag sitting in the toddler seat. The girl might have left her wallet or money in it. It could get stolen left here unattended. She tucked the pirate book under her arm, grabbed the faded bag, and, swinging it over her left shoulder turned the corner out of the book aisle and onto the larger one that ran the width of the store.

Looking carefully in each direction, she made a quick loop of the store, peering up each aisle as she did. Her arm felt as if it were going to fall off and her shoulder ached. The baby’s diaper felt heavy and cool, as if she hadn’t been changed in a long time.

Surely, she thought, as she came to each new aisle, the girl will be in this row agonizing over which brand of shampoo to buy, or what kind of cookies to get. Maybe she just got distracted by that rack of CDs or some new video game. When she got back to “Books and Magazines”, she turned around and did the same search backward, unable to think of anything else to do.

A sick gnawing settled in the pit of her stomach. The girl was nowhere to be found. That was when the thought struck her, and began to drum repeatedly through her head.

What if she doesn’t come back?

It had been about an hour. Irritation at being so taken advantage of, battled with fear of what to do if the young woman didn’t return. She was mentally berating herself for getting into such a mess, when she felt her left arm grow very warm, and then very cool as the diaper finally past its no apostrophe ... new rule, possessive its no apostrophe, contraction it is it's gets apostrophe capacity.
Great, she thought. Was it good luck if a baby peed on you? Maybe it didn’t count if it was just because of an overfull diaper. Or maybe the luck came when a bird pooped on your car?

“Well,” she muttered to the child, “at least I’m wearing short sleeves.”
Where to change the baby? She couldn’t just lie her on the thin cotton blanket, as her mother hadrepetitive. You could just say, she couldn't very well change her in a shopping cart.. Heading for the changing area in the Ladies’ room, it struck her that she hadn’t looked there for the mother. She rushed to the bathroom, careful not to jostle her tiny charge, convinced that she’d find the girl passed out in one of the stalls, or simply taking her time applying make-up. When she pushed open the door a little too quickly, she startled a small boy washing his hands at the sink with his mother. The bathroom was empty except for them.

Feeling like a thief, she unzipped the diaper bag and rummaged around, hoping to find a diaper. There was little enough to rummage through, only one diaper in there and some travel-size packages of wipes. She removed a few packages of wipes and found a somewhat cleaner, though obviously second-hand, sleeper, on the bottom of the bag.

As soon as she shifted the baby onto the changing table, the little body arched and a small whimpering sound escaped her, then her large blue eyes focused on Lisa’s face, and she grew still.and her whole body stilled.

“Hi, there, Sweetie. Feeling any better?” The baby stared seriously at her, and put a fist to her mouth.

It had been some time since she had changed a baby. The tape on the diaper stuck to her thumbnail and peeled off a big chunk of her nail polish. The baby watched her intently the entire time, her eyes owlish.

She used 3 or 4 of the wipes, giving the baby a mini-bath. The creases of the baby’s arms and legs and neck had powder and sweat caked in them, and her tiny bottom was an angry pink. Then she slipped the remaining outfit onto the now-quiet baby.

There had been plenty of newborns brought to the foster homes, they were the ones she wasn’t allowed to pick up until she was older. This child was larger and but still not capable of holding up her own head. A month? Maybe six weeks?
“All dry, Baby-face.” She looked down at her own dark green blouse, with the damp, dark spot just above the waist. “At least one of us is. Now I see your mother’s point about using the Ladies’ Room,” she whispered. “There really is no where to put you down, is there? I should have skipped that last cup of tea before I left work.”

Holding the baby on the table with one hand, she rifled uneasily through the pockets of the diaper bag, looking for anything that would give her a clue; a wallet, checkbook, an envelope with a return address, a bill with a name on it. The door pushed open and she gave a guilty start, but it was just two older women, chatting between themselves, giving her only a perfunctory glance and small acknowledging smile. She took a steadying breath, and resumed poking around for a clue to the girls identity, or address.

The zippered part of the bag, where you might put papers, money, an I.D. or checkbook contained a package of gum with two rainbow striped sticks still in it, three crumpled gum wrappers, twenty-four dollars in fives and ones, and a sanitary pad. The main compartment had the only the dirty clothes, and empty bottle. Maybe she hadn't left the store, Lisa reasoned, she wouldn't have left the store without her money. Lisa zipped up the bag. She would go back to the magazine aisle!If she were planning on leaving the store, wouldn’t she have wanted her money? Maybe she hadn’t left. Lisa began zipping up the bag. She should go back to the Magazine aisle!

Scooping the baby up quickly, she threw the thin, stained receiving blanket over her shoulder to protect her clothing from further mishaps and gathered up the useless diaper bag, her book, and her purse and hurried out into the store.

In college she’d taken only business and computer courses and wondered now if a course or two in Early Childhood Ed wouldn’t have been a good choice. Even her time management courses weren’t doing her any good at the moment! Seems a bit early for this thought. This would be something that would come later, after a day or two with the baby

Not that those courses did me much good job-wise, she thought wryly. Her job wasn’t what she’d dreamed of when she’d been going to school. The dreams hadn’t included a boss, just an interesting job and an excellent paycheck which would lead swiftly to a home and a family. Her own family. A family that could never just change its mind and move away or get too sick or to old to continue to be her family.

She reached the book aisle to find it as deserted as it had been right along. The girl’s cart was still there, with the diapers, and nail polish and giant tub of wipes.

Not sure where else to go and tired of circling the store, she addressed the baby in her arms. “Gettin’ hungry? Let’s go eat. You’ll love the menu here.”

She ordered her meal at the lunch counter, then had to balance the tray in one hand and the baby in the other, her purse and the diaper bag slung over her shoulder and her still unpaid for book tucked under her arm, she barely managed to maneuver the four feet to the first table without dropping anything. Sliding awkwardly into the attached plastic seat, she muttered, “Boy, oh boy, do I have a few things to say to your mother when she gets back.” Pushing her B.L.T. to the side, she popped the only full bottle of formula in the diaper bag into the waiting, tiny mouth, and began speaking in that sing-song way people tend to usesometimes use with babies.

“I could be an axe murderer, or one of those whackos who sells babies on the Internet. Yes, I could.” At this, the baby stopped sucking and stared at her wide-eyed for a moment. Then, apparently deciding that she was neither, began to suckle again.

“What’s your name? Where did your mother go?” she whispered. Huge blue eyes stared trustingly up at her, but the babe offered no information.

Balancing the baby against her shoulder, she gently burped her. Rubbing her cheek against the downy head, she noticed that instead of the usual sweet aroma babies gave off, this baby smelled of old urine, spit-up baby formula and the hot, sharp smell of a baby who has cried a long time. She cradled the infant again in her left arm as she tried to eat with her right.

A crackly voice came over the store speakers, interrupting her thoughts, announcing that the store was closing in ten minutes and asking that everyone bring their purchases to the front of the store, then switched back to The Beatles singing ‘Hey, Jude’.

10 minutes!? Her heart dropped. She pushed the remains of her sandwich away. The tiny bundle in her arms squirmed and she looked down to meet the clear blue stare. A tiny fist waved in the air and as she reached for it the baby grabbed her index finger and held on.
“I don’t know what to do, Baby,” she whispered.

good end
















Chapter 2
Care and Feeding


Panic set in as she began to trail round the store one more time. She held her cell phone in her trembling hand. Push 9-1-1! Just do it and get it over with!

She imagined what would happen if she did. The police would come, take her statement, ask lots of questions. At this hour on a Friday evening they would take the baby, to the hospital, where she would stay until a social worker from CPS could get out there on Monday. Then, the child would be placed in a foster home. She looked down at the baby again, and sleepy blue eyes looked trustingly back up. She remembered how lovingly the young mother had kissed her baby’s fingers, how she’d gently patted the screaming infant’s belly.

The girl had seemed incompetent, maybe neglectful, but not abusive. Maybe she was burned-out from lack of sleep and a colicky baby, and not having anyone to support her, maybe she didn’t know any better, but throwing this baby into the system wouldn’t teach the mother the skills she needed to learn to take care of her.

What if I just wait till Monday? Keeps the baby from spending a weekend in the hospital; gives that poor girl a chance to change her mind, wise up. CPS would put her through hell! She was so young- too young- and didn’t look like she had enough money for a decent meal. And she did ask me to watch her.The child squirmed in her arms, and she looked down at the tiny mouth forming a large, perfect oval, the miniature nose crumpling with the effort of the yawn. The liquid eyes blinked once, twice, and the baby drifted off, unaware that her own life’s course was hanging in the balance.

When I find her, I’ll threaten to call CPS unless she takes some parenting classes! Besides, she’ll probably be back tomorrow, freaking out. Monday at the latest, or I really will call.

Decision made, but heart pounding, she grabbed an abandoned shopping cart, and struggling to push it with one hand while snuggling the baby with the other, made her way to the infant’s department. Putting a can of formula in the cart, she remembered how much the puppies at one of her foster homes had eaten, and put two more in beside it, then picked out two baby bottles with bright, silly designs on them, a dozen small disposable diapers, and, remembering the girls’ girl's cart, a super-size container of baby wipes.

The voice came over the loudspeaker again. “We hope you’ve enjoyed shopping with us this evening. Please bring your purchases to the front of the store at this time.”

Going quickly through a bin marked ‘clearance’, she found a soft, thick, pink baby delete size, it's fine to say baby quiltsize quilt, on sale for $6.00 because it was nearly summer and no one was buying heavy, warm things. It was the cheery border of bright yellow ducks that convinced her, the bright clean colors, no stains or fading. This baby should have something new! Leaving the department, she noticed a clearance rack with some cute one-piece outfits hanging on it and swiftly grabbed one without even stopping.

Anxious, frightened, thinking about where else she might look for the baby’s mother, she was taken off-guard when the cashier at the check-out exclaimed, “Ooooh, what a pretty baby. How old is she?”

She looked down at the infant, dressed now in the faded pink sleeper, her dark brown fringe of hair falling on her forehead, peacefully sleeping, and smiled. And stalled.

Even a babysitter would know the age of the baby she was caring for.

“One month,” she blurted, hoping she was at least close.

“Wow, she’s small for a month, huh? How much does she weigh? My nephew is six weeks old and he’s much bigger.”

“Well, babies are all so different, aren’t they,” she answered, distractedly. Having carried the baby all over the store for hours, she was glad the infant wasn’t any heavier. Her arm would ache for days as it was. Wanting to divert the cashiers line of questioning she put in, “They grow so fast! What’s your nephew’s name?”

The clerk rambled on and on, too busy talking about her nephew to be asking any more questions. Surely, Lisa thought, paying the astounding sum of $72 for a few baby things, the baby’s mother would be back tomorrow, contrite, concerned and grateful. She’d bring the baby back to the store first thing in the morning, and wait for the mother to return! Passing instead of creeping, maybe?Creeping guiltily through the alarm system at the door, she half-expected it to alert the clerks that she was kidnapping a child.

Crossing the nearly deserted parking lot, she faced her first real problem. She had only $13 left in her checking account, hadn’t made it to the bank to cash her paycheck, and hadn’t planned on picking up a baby while she shopped today. When a co-worker had her son last year, the hospital had told her that her baby wouldn’t be released unless there was a car seat, properly installed, for him to ride home in. Lisa, herself, always wore a seat belt.

Standing beside her cherry red Miata with some other woman’s baby snuggled against her chest, shaking with nerves at what she’d just delete nownow done, she tried to decide what to do next. Feeling exposed, she opened the back door and climbed in for a minute.

“Oh, Baby, I’ve really done it now,” she whispered, rocking the sleeping baby gently in her arms. “And how do I do this without a car seat?” A few of the store workers filtered out, walking to their cars and leaving the lot. Now her car was an island in a sea of empty spaces, more out in the open.

Unable to think of a truly acceptable solution, she shifted the baby onto the back seat while she went around to the trunk of car and pulled out the blanket her father insisted she keep in there for emergencies. Looking guiltily over her shoulder delete thethe every few seconds, she used it and the quilt she had just bought, and made a little nest on the floor of the back seat. Not a car seat, by a long shot, but at least the overusing babe I thinkbabe couldn’t fall. As soon as she laid her down, the baby began to fuss. Lisa looked over her shoulder again, afraid someone would see her putting a baby on the floor of her car and call the police.

Even driving slower than she ever had, she was a nervous wreck. This was the most irresponsible thing she’d ever done! The tiniest accident could kill that baby! Crawling along all the back roads, she was terrified that something would run out in the road or that a drunk driver would come straight at her.

As soon as the car had begun to roll, the baby had stopped fussing and, when they pulled around her building to her apartment in the back, she was snoring softly again. Lisa tried not to wake the her but the inevitable jostling of the baby, bags, and keys was enough. Her bladder felt like it was going to burst, and the baby had begun crying again.

The crying sounded like someone had switched on a police siren right next to her ear and her only thought was to make it stop. Since only a bottle and a diaper were apt to have much effect, she spread the well-used receiving blanket out on the living room carpet and gingerly placed the baby on it. The baby’s screams increased as soon as she was put down. Lisa ran to the kitchen with the new baby bottle and a can of formula.

As soon as she turned on the water to rinse out the bottle, she knew she’d made a mistake. Not stopping to turn off the water, she ran for the bathroom, and leaving the door open, tried to reassure the baby that her bottle was coming, only slightly delayed. Feeling much better, she quickly filled the bottle and scooped the baby up, popping the nipple in her mouth at the same time.

Silence reigns again, she thought, as the babe began to suckle. But instead of feeding hungrily, the already said, seems overused. Alright once in awhile, but choose where to use it so it has effectbabe spit the bottle out and began to wail again.
Within 15 minutes, she was wondering if maybe she should call the police. Nothing she was doing was working and the baby was looking frantic.

“Hmm, not hungry, huh?”

Lisa put the babe back on her blanket and changed her diaper. She tried warming the formula, scrubbing the new bottle and nipple again and checked to be sure formula was getting through the holes in the nipple.
She burped her, walked her, sang to her. But the poor baby just kept crying and chewing on her hand as if she were starving. Every time she gave her the bottle, she would suck on it for only a second before spitting it out and howling.

Walking by the diaper bag, she noticed the old bottle poking out of a side pocket. With one hand she rinsed the grubby bottle, which she had intended to thoroughly scrub before using again, then poured the formula in. For one second the babe seemed to be deciding whether to take it or not, and then latched on feverishly.

Blessed silence.

She inspected the bottle she had just bought carefully. Other than being much cleaner and not smelling of sour milk, she couldn’t see how the baby would know. Then she did the same with the nipple, it was stiffer than the old one, and smelled new. She wondered if it was the lack of the sour milk smell or the stiffness that had bothered the baby.

With nothing else to do while trying to support both the baby and the bottle, she settled herself on the couch to relax and watch TV.

Once she had fed and burped the baby, and changed her yet again, she was faced with a new problem.

“Where am I going to put you to sleep. Huh, Sweetie? I don’t have a crib.” With her free arm she went through her bedroom closet, finding some blankets she kept there for when Julie spent the night, and used them to make a mattress on the floor in one corner of her bedroom, then covered it with a sheet and placed the nearly sleeping baby carefully in the middle. Just for an extra measure of safety, she rolled up two blankets and put them along the open sides. Now the baby couldn’t even roll onto the floor.

Feeling that she had earned a snack and a movie for all her efforts and she headed back to the living room.

Entering the living room, she couldn’t believe that this was her usually orderly apartment. Bags from the store were strewn around the room. The disposable diapers had spilled out of their bag when she had frantically ripped it open with her teeth. The wet diaper was still rolled up on the edge of the receiving blanket where she had left it when she had been trying to soothe the child.

The kitchen looked as bad, spilled formula, used bottle, trash, everything just where she had dropped it. It was impossible to clean up and hold the baby at the same time!

As far as she knew her mail was still sitting outside in her mailbox, and she hadn’t fed Oscar, her goldfish, yet. She straightened up the living room and kitchen, got the mail, fed Oscar, and poured herself a glass of wine to drink while she checked her e-mail and looked for a good movie to watch on cable.
The only movies she could find were either made before she was born or were war movies with all male casts. Instead she watched a Drew Carey repeat and Crossing Over with John Edward. It didn’t really matter, her mind was going a million miles a minute, the TV was just for company.

She thought back to high school, where she had dreamed of being twenty-four, of having escaped school, being old enough to do whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. Manicures and hair appointments every week. Having a glass of wine with dinner would be fabulously sophisticated. She’d envisioned a condo, right by the beach, a huge aquarium built into the wall of her living room, a mantle covered with lit candles over a brick fireplace, a fancy car and loads of dates with fantastic, urbane men.

And then - meeting the one. The one. Her soul mate, her perfect other half.
She recalled envisioning him in detail. Dark hair, a bit too long. Green eyes. A mustache and beard. (Or the willingness to grow one!) Broad shoulders, narrow hips. Biceps! Great arms were her favorite body part, all those rippling muscles! If those arms led to a rock solid chest, so much the better.
He absolutely had to be able to find the humor in life’s situations, and have a bit of attitude, a sense of self, an ability to swim against the current. No wuss-no hypheny guys need apply. He’d have to be gentle and loving and romantic. And he’d have to want kids, lots of them.

Combine that with her love of the sea, and it was no wonder she’d become obsessed with pirates.

Huh! So much for all that! I’ve reached the magical age of 24. Why does it feel flat and monotonous?

Having a glass of wine had sounded much more fascinating when it was forbidden. Being able to stay out all night had sounded like a great time, until she realized that she had to deal with drunk guys, dangerous situations, and the next days’ exhaustion. Manicures and hair treatments were expensive. She’d yet to meet a fabulous man, was lucky to get a date with someone she’d think of as a guy.

The closest her most of her dates came to her dream-pirate was when they’d pull up in their fathers’ borrowed, beat-up old ‘Cutlass’. Conversation revolved around talk of their soon to take-off careers, cars, sports, or of them trying to convince her to let them…Let them come up to her apartment, let them take off her clothes, leave it take off her clothes ... touch her sounds creepy, makes her sound 12 and her dates sound like pedophiles. (or should this be ‘touch her’?) let them spend the night. And of her saying, “no”. She was desperate to find out where men with dreams for a future, and jobs to support those dreams, hung out.

She’d managed her own sporty Miata, Oscar, who lived in a roomy fishbowl, a decent, though small, apartment only a few blocks from those once dreamt-of condos and the ocean, learned to do a professional job on her own nails and could trim her own honey blond hair. There was money in her savings account, enough for emergencies plus some extra she was putting away for a cruise with Julie.

If I had a man, a real man to share it all with, I’d be content with what I have.

It was midnight and she was exhausted. She brushed her teeth, slipped into an old t-shirt that she often slept in and climbed into bed, then lay awake for about a half hour, worrying over the events of the day.

She drifted off with vague, troubling images of what she would do if the child’s mother didn’t come back.


*******

The noise, whatever it was, was too loud. Lisa clung to sleep, rolling onto her side and pulling the pillow over her head. Why didn’t it stop? She sat up with a start, remembering the baby, recognizing the sound as the child’s cry. Within seconds, the baby’s cry had gone from loud to ear piercing to breaking the sound barrier. Scooping her up, she hurried to the kitchen.

I should have thought to wash and fill the bottle before I went to bed!

She tried to jam the dishcloth one-handed into the bottle while it was standing in the sink. Giving up, she knew it was a lot cleaner than the one she’d used earlier. Hurriedly, she filled the new bottle and slapped on the old nipple. With the baby howling and trying to do it all one-handed, it seemed to take forever.

For one tiny baby girl, she sure could make a lot of noise! Popping the bottle into the baby’s mouth, she spared a glance at the softly glowing digital clock on her stove. 2:12 a.m. She’d slept for less than 2 hours.

With a jaw-cracking yawn, she took the baby into the living room, curled up in a corner of the couch and fought to support the bottle with one hand while aiming the remote with the other. One episode of the Honeymooners later, she was tucking a clean, dry, fed and sleepy baby back into her makeshift bed. But when she returned from the bathroom, instead of finding a peacefully sleeping baby she saw a red-faced, squirming, getting-ready-to-howl-delete last hyphendemon in its place.

The amount of squirming, kicking, and screaming pointed to this being another bout of colic and Lisa began walking the baby the length of the living room, belly down, arms and legs dangling like a languorous cat’s.

As long as she kept walking, the baby hung relaxed over her arm. If she stopped, to put a kettle of water on for tea or to gaze out at the moon, the baby pulled her knees up and began to scream again. By 3:30 a.m., she was weary beyond words and wondering how many nights it had taken to push the baby’s mother to the point of abandoning her child.

At 3:47 a.m.- she knew the time exactly because she was pacing directly in front of the VCR and the glow of the LED readout seemed abnormally bright in the dark apartment- the baby drifted off to sleep. Her little body went slowly limp, her head lolled against Lisa’s forearm.

It occurred to her, as she lowered the baby ever so gently onto her little bed, that her diaper probably needed to be changed. However, she deemed the risk of waking the baby to outweigh any possible advantages. Exhausted, she climbed back into her own bed.



*******



She reached out from under her blankets and smacked her alarm clock. When this had no effect on the noise, she grabbed it and pulled it close to her face. She opened one eye and looked at the numbers. 6:13 a.m., it read. As she hurried to pick up the screaming baby, she remembered something from Family Living Class in high school. Babies, they had been told, ate every four hours. This baby had apparently taken the same class.

The teacher had left out the part about the screaming in between bottles.

She felt her heart sink as she entered her kitchen. Two used, smelly bottles of formula sat in the sink; nothing clean, screams as loud as an air horn sounding in her left ear. She hurried back to the bedroom, grabbed one of the quilts she’d made the baby’s bed from the night before and dragged it into the kitchen. Laying the wailing demon on the blanket, she found the screams could get much louder, and she hurriedly scrubbed and filled the new bottle and old nipple.

As soon as the nipple touched her lips, the baby stopped crying and began to suck greedily. She laid down beside the baby on the quilt, smoothing the soft, fine hair back from the baby’s forehead and marveling at how the child could go from demon to angel with just a bit of milk.

“Okay, baby, now what should I call you, huh? We’ve got at least another 4 hours before I can take you back to the store to look for your mother. ‘Baby’ is awful.” She looked at the sweet, round face, blue eyes staring so seriously at her. “It’s hard to be inspired on so little sleep, kiddo. You’re a little angel this morning, aren’t you?” She put the baby to her shoulder to burp her and immediately felt the wetness from the baby’s diaper cover her left breast.

“Ugh!” She jammed a piece of the quilt between herself and the baby and patted her back, gingerly trying to hang onto the dry spots.

Once the baby was fed, she filled the kitchen sink and gave her a bath, gently rubbing her scalp and being careful to gently wash every crease. Then she carefully dried the infant and dressed her in the new pink and green sleeper decorated with lace and a bow that she’d bought yesterday. When she’d finished, she couldn’t help but admire the change.

The child’s fine hair formed tiny golden brown ringlets about her head, a perfect frame for her rosy pink cheeks and alert blue eyes. Already the chapped and irritated spots in the creases and folds of her skin were less red. The new sleeper looked even more adorable on and the baby, when snuggled close, smelled faintly of soap and newborn skin.

While the baby lay on the quilt waving her arms and legs about, Lisa ran to take her own shower; she could feel the stiffness of spit-up formula in the ends of her blond hair. She’d grab a car seat from the second-hand store up the street, and take the baby back to the store to find her mother.

Taking the baby without a carseat had been necessary last night. Today, she cuddled the child in her arms and walked the 3 blocks to the thrift store. It was a pleasant, sunny morning, though her arm still ached from holding the baby for so long yesterday. It felt good to stretch out her legs, to greet other people who walked by, to get a close look at the tulips in the yard on the corner.

The walk home was not as pleasant. Struggling home carrying the baby and a car seat, with a small bag of used baby clothes hanging from her arm, she wanted to cry. Both arms throbbed in pain, each had a heavy load. She was amazed at how heavy and bulky the seat was, at how quickly the warm May sunshine could make her sweat, how expensive it was to properly care for one tiny baby.

And now I’m truly a criminal! Writing bad checks, isn’t that fraud? The thirteen dollars in her checking account wasn’t going to cover the $43 dollars she’d just spent at the second hand store.

It was 1:30 p.m. before she managed to install the safety seat correctly in the backseat of her car.

By the time she pulled into the store parking lot, she was a wreck. It was 2:00! Surely, the baby’s mother had been at the store the minute it opened, waiting to retrieve her daughter. It wouldn’t surprise her one bit to see police cars and the FBI waiting for her. The baby began fussing for a bottle before she could even get her out of the car seat.

“Hey, Kiddo, I’m ready for you this time.” Easing the child into her arms she popped the bottle in her mouth, then headed for the Book and Magazine section. She figured since she’d seen the baby and her mother there first it would make sense to meet there again.

Within ten minutes, Lisa was experiencing deja-vu. True to her mother’s words, the baby began to experience the same colic symptoms as the day before and at 2 am. Only hanging over her arm, drooling and watching the multi-colored floor tiles pass by her line of sight offered any consolation. Soon she was slowly wandering through the store, keeping an eye out for the baby’s mother, just as she had the day before.

After 45 minutes, she was beginning to feel foolish. Why did I think that girl would return? And now what? she thought rubbing a hand wearily over her face.

The baby’s body was beginning to droop in a way that she already recognized as signaling oncoming sleep. She turned the limp, relaxed body over and looked into the heavy-lidded blue eyes. The tiny lids blinked slowly once, twice, and just as they were about to close for what she was sure would be a nice nap, an elderly woman leaned over to peek at the tiny babe. Lisa sighed, sure that the babe would howl, but instead, she just widened her crystal blue eyes and stared very seriously at the woman before her.

“Oh!” the woman exclaimed, “what a darling little angel,” and patted Lisa on the arm in a motherly fashion.

“Yes, she is, isn’t she,” she replied softly. A darling little angel. She had thought the baby looked like an angel just that morning. An abandoned angel. “Angel-face,” she whispered. The baby’s eyes slipped closed and she began to snore softly. “Angel, Angie. That’s what I’ll call you, Angie.” (I'm moving this part about naming the baby, just don't know where yet)

She decided to cruise the areas the girl was most likely to live in. Everything about that girl had screamed ‘poverty’, the stained, faded clothing, the lack of baby seat or stroller. The mother had worn no jewelry. Lisa decided to narrow her search to the areas served by the bus line.

Maybe we’ll get lucky. The girl must have some family! She’s too young to be living on her own. Her family could be frantic with worry about the baby. Maybe they’ll want to help her.

After grabbing some lunch at the local drive-through, Lisa began cruising through some of the less affluent neighborhoods, keeping watch for the child’s mother. Passing a small store with a large group of teens hanging out in front, she pulled over, and pretended to be searching through her purse for something, as she got a good look at each girl in the group.

They stopped twice more, once at a small neighborhood playground where a group of teenagers sat smoking cigarettes on a play structure and another time at a busy donut shop, where another group of teens stood sharing a box of donuts. In between, she crawled up and down the side streets, looking, unsuccessfully, for one teen girl.

Good! I like the development!! Would comment more, but it's after 1 a.m. and I'm off to bed.
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#11 of 21 Old 10-29-2006, 03:24 AM
 
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p.s. I like the bits with the pirate novel in it. Takes us with Lisa where she escapes to.
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#12 of 21 Old 10-30-2006, 12:21 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks so much!

I like gettting more than one opinion. THen if I disagree with th first one, I get another opinion to judge it by. If everyone agres but me, I really have to think about changing things, even if I think they work.

Like calling the baby 'babe'.

I'm going toclean it up. Thanks for the help with the apostrophes. I need to find the info...to show singular possesive, etc. All those things I thought didn't matter years ago. *sigh*.

I guess hyphens aren'e needed either, huh? :

Thanks so much for taking the time to go through this so carefully!



So, where's yours???
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#13 of 21 Old 10-30-2006, 12:04 PM
 
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Ah, well, poor twilight girl is being neglected ... We´ve been visiting with DH's father quite a bit and helping take care of household things for him (last week of radiation for brain cancer). And I've been taking translation jobs to help fill in the holes that some of these unexpected expenses have put in our budget!

I really must get back to her posthaste!
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#14 of 21 Old 10-30-2006, 11:07 PM - Thread Starter
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I hope your FIL is feeling fine real soon.



(And Twilight Girl misses you!)
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#15 of 21 Old 11-16-2006, 10:46 AM - Thread Starter
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Ok, a rewrite of Lisa telling Julie. I think it's better, still a lot of dialogue. I have only another week before I need to get this ready to send in for that fellowship.

I'll be needing help with the letter that accompanies it too!

Be honest. Be frank. (ok, you can be BelovedK or TwilightGirl or Unagidon. But you could be Frank)

Chapter 3
Julie

Angie’s nap was the best chance she was apt to get to call Julie. She took down her favorite tea mug, one Julie had given her the year the were fourteen, red with a big green Christmas tree on it and the words “Best Friends” repeated around the rim. She waited impatiently for it to steep, pacing about the kitchen and muttering to herself, before adding sugar and evaporated milk, just as a foster mother she’d lived with when she was young had fixed it for her. When it was perfect, she went in to dial Julie’s number, curling up in her aunt’s comfy chair and pulling the afghan around her shoulders for added comfort.

Her stomach twisted nervously, something it had done a lot in the last few days.

This was not going to be an easy story to tell Julie!

“Hey, Lees.” This was Julie’s pet name for Lisa since they’d first met.

“I hate Caller ID. Ruins the surprise.”

“But you know I love you! I always answer when I see your number. You’re not backing out on our plans tonight, are you?”

“Actually…”

“Aw, come on, Lisa! I’ve been dying to talk to you! You won’t believe who I saw last night!”

“Who?”

“Forget it. Wanna know, meet me at Rocky’s.”

“Julie, I can’t. Honest. Come here instead.”

“To your place? Why can’t you meet me at Rocky’s? You always just want to hang out at your house!”

“I like it here. Besides, I have a good excuse this time.”

“You’re not sick?”

“No.”

“Then, why?”

“I don’t have a babysitter.”

“You don’t even have a cat! Your goldfish will survive. They’re serving free munchies from six to eight and there’s going to be a band playing on the roof. Nothing too crowded, you don’t even have to get dressed up. Stop being such a…stick in the mud!”

They both laughed at the phrase Mrs. Jenner, their foster mother, had often used to describe Lisa.

“Listen, Julie, I can’t. Really. We’ll get a bottle of wine or make those raspberry Margaritas we had all last summer and sit out on the porch. You can put on any CD you want and we’ll turn it up rock-the-neighborhood-loud. Maybe some guys will walk by. It’ll almost feel like Rocky’s! Besides, I have company. Someone I want you to meet.”

“If you got a dog, I’ll kill you! You are coming on that cruise this winter.”

“No dog,” Lisa laughed. “I promise. And I am coming on that cruise. But tonight-"

“Oh, my Goddess! Is it a guy? Do you have a guy there? Bring him! I promise, I’ll be good, no getting drunk and telling embarrassing stories!”

“No! Believe me, it’s not a guy. Boiled lobster? Corn on the cob? Margaritas, good conversation, my house? Please?”

“Fine. Okay. Whoever I’m meeting better not walk on all fours, though!”

“Not yet. Six o’clock?”

“Yeah, six,” came Julies’ exasperated, resigned answer. “I’ll get the booze. Lots of it.”


**********

Since lobster was both Lisa and Julie’s favorite meal, she was a regular at the local fish market. The man who worked there always teased her about fixing lobsters for her ‘honey’.

“Sure is a lucky guy,” he’d say. “Gettin’ a pretty woman to cook him lobster all the time. Can I get you anything else, Honey?”

If he hadn’t been about seventy years old, she’d have asked him out a year ago. This time she entered with the tiny baby cradled in her arms.

“Aha! So, now I understand! You’ve been eating for two!” He chuckled as he came around the end of the counter for a closer look, admiring the baby’s blue eyes, and golden locks.

“Looks just like her mother! Beautiful.”

“Thanks,” she answered, blushing from the compliment. Explaining seemed too complicated.

“I never even noticed you were pregnant.” He winked. “Thought you were just gaining weight from eating all that lobster.”

“Hey!” She couldn’t help but laugh.

“My wife was as big as a house when she was pregnant. Had twins the first time and twins the last time. Got eight kids!”

“Wow! No wonder you own a fish market! Probably the only way you could afford to feed them all.”

“Huh. We just fed them fish heads and eyeballs. Grows ‘em strong and they can’t wait to move out! Two lobsters and a half pint of fish heads for the little one?”

Leaving without the fish heads to get fresh asparagus and sour cream she thought how simple running out to do these little errands had always seemed before! She couldn’t decide which was worse, having to buckle the baby in and out of the seat at every stop, or lug the heavy seat everywhere with the baby still inside it.


**************


Julie arrived carrying more alcohol than the two of them could drink in a week. Lisa met her on the porch, and after an awkward hug around the grocery bag full of drink-making supplies, Julie asked, “Okay, where is he? I brought enough booze to get whoever it is good and drunk.”

“I told you, it’s not a guy. And she doesn’t drink. At least, not alcohol.”

“Is your grandmother visiting?”

“No,” Lisa grinned, holding the door open, “she’s young and pretty.”

Angie lay on a big blanket in the middle of the living room, trying to catch her right hand with her left.

“You’re babysitting!? Jeez, Lisa, c’mon! We had plans!”

“Just put that bag in the kitchen and chill. It’s a long story.”

Julie slung the bag on the table, pulling out various bottles, wine, Margarita mix, rum, and banging them down on the table, one by one. “It better be a long story that includes someone having an exciting Saturday night.”

“Oh, someone’s having all the excitement they can handle.”

Lisa threw the lobsters into the boiling water and turned on the asparagus. Once Julie had her drink in hand, she returned to the living room, put her drink down and scooped the baby into her arms, cooing softly.
Julie always had been a sucker for babies. However, Lisa knew that wasn’t going to stop her from browbeating the truth out of her closest friend.
Coming back into the kitchen, snuggling the infant, she said, “Wow, she’s tiny, huh? I poured you a Margarita, on the counter behind you. So, whose kid? And why the hell are you watching her on a Saturday night?”

“It’s complicated.”

“Complicated, my ass. We had plans. Spill. No, wait.” Julie went to retrieve her drink. “Okay, now spill.”

“Mmm, yummy Margarita. I think the baby’s mother might have freaked out or something. She was pretty stressed looking. I mean, really young and tired.”

“What are you talking about? Who’s the mother?”

“No one you know.” Lisa took a long cool swallow of the Margarita. “I think I might have screwed up.”

“Screwed up? Jesus, Lisa! Does the mother know you have her baby?”

“Of course!”

“Good! Then how’d you screw up? Wait.” She carefully returned the baby to it’s blanket on the living room floor, within sight of most of the kitchen, and placed her drink on one side of the table. “Okay. I think you’re right. This is going to be a long story. Grab some plates, and something for the asparagus.”

Using tongs she fished out the two deep red lobsters, drained them briefly over the pan and put one on each plate with a potato beside it, then tossed the asparagus in a bowl. Lisa melted some butter in the microwave, set out the nut crackers and skinny forks, and put a bottle of white wine and two wine glasses out, though she knew they’d be too busy drinking Margaritas, now.

Julie eyed the table speculatively. “Got everything? I’m starving and you know I love lobster. I’m eating. You’re telling me exactly how you might have ‘screwed up’.”

“Okay. Well, I was in the store, that Rich’s near where I work?”

“I hate that store. Smells funny.” A trickle of butter ran down Julies’ chin. “Napkins?”

Lisa reached behind her for the paper towels and ripped two off the roll. “I just wanted a book and some shampoo.” She put a chunk of lobster on her tongue, savored the contrast of sweet meat and salty butter, while she considered how Julie would react to what she’d done. “There was a baby crying. Screaming. And I started talking to the mother.”

“You mean you just met this woman and now you’re the babysitter?”

“Not exactly. She asked me to hold the baby while she went to the bathroom. She was crying and had- has- colic, I think. And I was holding her over my arm, you know, like how Mrs. Jenner showed us to do with Emily? And I said I’d watch her for a few minutes.”

“And?”

“And she didn’t come back.”

“What do you mean, ‘she didn’t come back’?”

“I waited a long time, way longer than it could take to use the Ladies Room. Then I walked all over the store looking for her.”

“Maybe you missed her!”

“Well, I waited until the store was closing. And I didn’t want to call the police, send her baby to CPS.”

“So you took the baby home?!” Julie began coughing, a bit of potato lodged in her throat.

“You okay?”

“Peachy.” She coughed a few more times. “Wait a minute. You didn’t work today. What were you doing way over there? What time did the store close?”

“It happened yesterday.”

“Yesterday? Holy shit, Lees!”

“I know, but I just couldn’t think of anything else to do.” The baby began to fuss and Lisa went to pick her up.

“You could have gone to the store manager.”

“Who would have called the police, who would have called CPS. Look the mother was really young and totally stressed out. I figured I’d go back today, and she’d be there, you know. Freaking out. But she wasn’t.”

“And you still didn’t call the cops?”

“Because nothing has changed, really. It’s only been a day. I thought I’d wait till Monday, and if she still hadn’t turned up, then I’d call.”

“And say what?!” Julie drained her Margarita and got up to pour them each another. “‘Uh, hi, I have this baby that I took home last Friday and I’m just now getting around to calling and reporting that she was abandoned’?”

“C’mon, Jules! If I called yesterday this baby would spend the weekend in the hospital, or an emergency home, then Monday she’d be moved to another home, anyway. I’m just, sort of, the emergency home. What difference does it make?”

“Are you serious?" Julie's voice had risen an octave. "Ever heard of kidnapping?”

“Well, yeah, but I didn’t kidnap her! Her mother asked me to watch her.”

“For a few minutes. Not the weekend. And she didn’t say you could take her home!”

“She didn’t say to call the cops if she wasn’t back in five minutes, either!”

“That goes without saying!”

“I couldn’t just dump her off!”

“Oh, yes, you could’ve! I would’ve. Any normal person would! Hand me the baby,” said Julie, swallowing the last of her dinner. “I’ll hold her, you eat.”

“She needs to be changed.”

“Oh, joy. Then I’ll change her. Does she have jammies? I’ll get her ready for bed.”

“She needs a bath.”

“Lisa! I’ll wash her off good. I’ll change her, burp her, walk her. Whatever! Shut up and eat! As soon as she’s asleep, you and I need to talk.”

Lisa finished her dinner and did the dishes, watching her friend sitting in the rocker, murmuring sweet nothings to the baby while giving her a bottle. The instant the baby was asleep and tucked in, Julie grabbed her purse, motioned to Lisa and headed out to sit on the porch.

Fishing around in her purse, Julie pulled out a small tin box of mints and a lighter. She opened the tin, pulled out a joint and lit it. Julie scowled at Lisa as she passed her the joint. They each took a few hits before she spoke.

“I want to know everything you know. What do you know about the mother? What are you going to do Monday morning if she’s not back? Are you sure giving the baby back instead of calling CPS is the right thing to do? Some people shouldn’t have children, that’s why they have foster homes.”

Lisa took a long drag of the heavy sweet smoke and held her breath for a minute while gathering her thoughts, then slowly released it and answered her friend.

“I don’t know anything about the mother. She needed a bath, her jeans looked like they hadn’t been washed since she’d had the baby. She looked young. Really young. Maybe 16. Maybe younger. She seemed to be alone.

“I thought about calling the cops. I’m still thinking about it. I guess, Monday morning, if she’s not back, I’ll have to call someone.”

“What did your parents say?”

“I haven’t told them yet.”

Julie gave her a sharp look. “Why not?”

“Because I’ve been busy. Because I already know what they’ll say.”

“That you need to make a call?”

“You know how Mum is! CPS saves children and finds them marvelous homes.”

“Sometimes they do.”

They passed the joint in silence for a few minutes, listening to the crashing of the waves in the distance, then, in a quiet voice, Julie said, “She’d still be right about making the call.”

“Maybe. It sounds like a perfectly reasonable thing to do, doesn’t it? If it weren’t for knowing what happens, how long a kid can be in foster care. How scary it is.” Lisa stopped talking.

Peering through the twilight to see her friend, Julie saw the tears coursing down her face.

“How many homes? How many mothers? I had forty-seven brothers and sisters before I was adopted. Forty-seven! You had at least that many, right? And never got adopted.

“No one else is going to understand this. You’re the only one. I’ve known you longer than my parents! Maybe her mother could leave her. Maybe mine could leave me and yours could leave you. But, I can’t do it. Even if it’s the right thing to do. Not yet.”

“That does not sound like someone who plans to call CPS on Monday.”

“I know. But I will. I’ll have to.”

“Lisa, I’ve known you since we were 11 years old.” Julie leaned forward in her seat, elbows on knees. “You’ve always been a sucker for anyone with a sob story. Until you moved here you brought home more stray cats and dogs and injured birds than anyone I know. Your poor parents thought they were running an animal shelter! Mrs. Jenner had a standing appointment every month to drop off any ‘rescued’ animals.

“If you need help doing this, I’ll be there for you. I’ll make the call, hold your hand, help you tell your parents. I understand, Lees. But you have to call on Monday, no matter how hard it is, okay?”

At Lisa’s nod, Julie stood up. “Give me your glass. This situation requires alcohol. I’m making another pitcher of Raspberry Margarita’s and we’re going to think and drink.” ‘Think and drink’ had been Julie’s joke about how to get through college. She’d been better at it than Lisa, graduating with a degree in …………., in spite of having to support herself and having no help.

They sat out on the porch for another few hours, moving the stereo speakers out there and cranking up some music, doing more drinking than thinking, catching up on each others’ week, until the breeze from the ocean got too cold, and they were forced to move back into the living room.

At 2 a.m., the baby woke. Lisa got up, picked her up and headed to the kitchen. To try to keep from bothering Julie, she went back into her bedroom and to feed and change her. When the colic started, she began her nightly walking, back and forth, singing softly.

The infant’s fussing and Lisa’s soft murmurings awakened Julie. She knocked gently on the closed bedroom door, and pushed it open.

“Need help?”

“No, just colic.”

Julie used the bathroom and disappeared. Lisa supposed she’d gone back to bed. Ten minutes later she was back, with a sheaf of papers in her hand.

“Looked up colic on-line. Printed off what they said,” she whispered, yawning. “Try switching formulas, could be a cow’s milk allergy. Oh yeah, all the sites said to check with your pediatrician. You might want to think about how you’re going to do that. ’night.” She patted the little back gently, and ran her hand over the soft ringlets. The gesture reminded Lisa of the young mother’s hand tenderly caressing her baby’s head. She gave Julie a weak smile.

“’night.”

In the morning, over coffee and cheese Danish, Julie tried one more time.

“So, you’ll call in the morning, right?”

“Probably not until the afternoon. I want to go look for her mother one more time first.”

“Lees, you’re just dragging it out!”

“A few hours isn’t going to make any difference. I’m going looking this afternoon, and then tomorrow morning. Then I’ll call.”

“Do you want me to be here?”

“No. I think this is something I want to do on my own. I’ll call you right after.”

“I love you, Lees.”

“I know. I love you too, Jules.”
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#16 of 21 Old 11-16-2006, 01:50 PM
 
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Excellent job, Red!!!! The effect of her explaining everything to Julie is much more profound. Gives chills

I read most of the way, then skipped to the end. Much more descriptive, I like the side trip to the fish market, and the dialogue felt much more natural and Julie's reactions a lot more appropriate to the situation.

Great progress!!!
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#17 of 21 Old 11-16-2006, 11:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks! I feel like it's better too.
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#18 of 21 Old 11-16-2006, 11:54 PM
 
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Red,

Just wanted to let you know that the reasong I skipped to the end was because I ran out of time. It wasn´t lack of interest

Judi
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#19 of 21 Old 11-25-2006, 12:04 PM - Thread Starter
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TG, I figured the fact that you'd read it all before was why you'd skipped overthe middle. Thanks for the read-over!


Wednesday is 'mail it in' day! I'm a wreck! Without this fellowship, I'm going to have to take a 'job'. Like at Target or something. I'm really hoping for some good results! (though I won't know until March!)

Wish me luck, everyone!
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#20 of 21 Old 11-26-2006, 11:22 AM
 
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Good luck, Red!!!!
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#21 of 21 Old 12-01-2006, 02:45 PM - Thread Starter
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Ok, I sent it in.

There is no smilie for how I feel.

I'm taking today off, then I'm starting on the next 50 pages, which they'll ask for if they like the first 50.


Apparently, Family Circle wasn't too impressed with my short story. Never fear, I am undaunted. They have NO taste.
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