I don’t want to tell you how long this title took to find. I had over half the story written and I still didn’t have a title. I even tried a title contest and got no entries. I was listening to the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s RWA National Conference (I didn’t get to go, it was on YouTube) and they were showing some of the author’s titles over the years. I don’t even remember what title caught my eye, but suddenly Baby Steps and Snowflakes hit me.
I usually start with a title before I ever have a story. The title is important to me and my writing. It adds to the theme of the story and is incorporated into the lines of dialogue and narrative. I can’t weave a tapestry of words without the main thread–the title.
I had booked my cover artist without a title to be seen. I literally had a title a day before the cover art appointment. That big sigh you hear? That was me finally breathing. LOL
Baby Steps and Snowflakes will be in this year’s boxed set with the Authors of Main Street.
“I’m sorry, Miss Green. There are no babies for fostering right now. With the holidays in a few weeks, that’s a good thing.”
Krista bit her lip. Of course, it was a good thing there were no babies waiting for homes, but her house felt so empty without the cries and giggles of little ones, the scampering of tiny feet. Christmas was a bad enough time for her without the warmth and comfort of another to care for.
“What about an older child, Mrs. White? I know they are harder to place.”
The woman turned kind eyes her way, her glasses slipping down her nose to make her the twin sister of Mrs. Santa Claus; with her twinkling-blue eyes and snow-white hair.
“Miss Green…Krista. We need you available if any babies might come in this holiday season.”
“You mean addicted babies,” she said, a hitch in her voice at the lump in her throat.
Mrs. White reached across the desk and patted her hand. The scent of peppermint and pine trees wafted up from the older woman’s soft skin. It sent flashes of happy, childhood Christmases to her mind. Back when she’d been naïve and young and believed Santa Claus and Daddy could fix everything. Before she’d grown up and realized that miracles didn’t happen, Christmas or not.
“Krista, those babies are the hardest to place. We are so grateful for what you do for them…for us. I don’t know what we would do without you.”
She looked behind the older woman to the Happy Wall. The pictures of babies and children with their new parents in their Forever Homes. The images wavered through her unshed tears. For every success story there were hundreds, thousands of failures. Children who slipped through the cracks and disappeared into an unkind world.
Krista yanked back her hand, snatched up her purse, and stood. “Please let me know if you need me. Please.” She winced at the pleading in her voice.
“Of course, Krista. We always need you. I hope you know that.”
She nodded as best she could and walked out of the office. Not sure how she’d made it to her car, she placed her head on the roof and let the tears come. The turmoil passed and cleared her mind. A few sniffles and a swipe of her wet face helped her put things into perspective. She could do this. How many holidays had she’d spent alone? Too many to count. The thought shot through her head. She could do this.
Krista wrapped her coat around her and buttoned it up. Pulling on her gloves, she blinked as snowflakes wafted down to fall on her outstretched hand. She stared across the road to Lake Willowbee. The watery retreat would be frozen by morning. Flashes of red and green showed through the trees as kids cheered and broke the thin ice at the edge of the water with their stamping feet. If she’d been as carefree at one time, it was long forgotten.
She turned away with slumped shoulders and got into her car. Her teeth chattered as the heater fought against the frigid temperature in the vehicle. Krista hated the cold. It brought too many thoughts of kids on the streets, struggling to survive in killing cold nights.
“Don’t go there, Krista. You are warm in your car, going to your nice, warm house. Count your blessings.”
The daily mantra did its job as her shoulders untightened and a small smile curved her lips. A swipe of the windshield wipers cleared the glass and displayed a world of fluffy white. She put the car into gear. A shiver went down her spine. The weather in the Sierras could go from fluffy to whiteout within hours. She planned to be in front of a crackling fire before that happened.
* * *
A warm fire and hot tea had done the trick. Krista woke up to find herself on the couch, staring at the dying embers in the fireplace. For once, her dreams had been lovely and calm. She shook her head. Another ring of her phone told her what had dragged her from a peaceful, needed sleep.
“Hello.” Her voice crackled as she tried to swallow through her dry throat.
“Krista, it’s Mrs. White. I’m so sorry to call you so late, but we need you to come in and pick up a baby boy. He’s at Lake Willowbee General. He was in a car accident with his mother.”
There was a pause. That said it all. The mother didn’t make it and there was no other family to reach. That’s why she’d been called.
She cursed silently. Karma was a bitch. She’d asked for a baby to care for and now this little boy had lost his mother. Someday she’d learn to keep her thoughts hidden from the fates. She would have thought she’d learned that lesson years ago.
“Can you come in the side entrance, dear? The reporters and cops are in the front. It is quite the mob scene.”
She gasped. “What happened?”
“The woman was on drugs. She crashed into a police car. The officer is here at the hospital too. They aren’t sure he will make it.”
Her heart broke. So much death and destruction lay in the wake of people who didn’t know not to drink and drive, or do drugs and drive. She sighed. The mother was beyond it all now. Her focus had to be on the baby boy.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“Thank you, dear. You are an angel. See you soon.”
As she pushed the keypad to end the call her thoughts were far from angelic. Some people had it all and just tossed it away. What she wouldn’t give. . . Her mind tried to travel down a twisted road she didn’t have time for. That way was filled with regrets and what might have been. She shook her head and returned to the present.
Thankfully, she was still dressed and just needed to pour water on the fireplace ashes and grab her coat and purse as she remembered to turn the heat up for her return with a small baby. In minutes, she was on the road, concentrating on the slick, icy conditions down to the town of Lake Willowbee and the hospital.
She slowed as the parking lot came into view. The front was lit up like a midnight special sale with television vans and reporters on camera. The police vehicles filled the space in front of the building. Every officer in town must be at the hospital to support their brother in blue.
Once she parked, Krista snuck in the side door and found the nurse’s station for NICU. Agnes Smith and Mary Lewis were manning the desk tonight. Over the past few years, she’d gotten to know all the nurses in Neonatal.
Mrs. White came up and gave her a hug. Krista found herself surrounded with the scent of Christmas. “The little one is being evaluated by Dr. Peters. He seems to have survived the crash with no injuries, but he definitely has Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.”
Her heart sunk. FASD was a vicious disorder. Life was hard enough as it was without all the difficulties that came with that diagnosis. A nurse came down the corridor with a blue-blanketed bundle. One look at his sweet face and Krista was lost. The markers were slight, but they were there. He gazed at her with deep, dark eyes and a smile flashed across his smooth face
Mrs. White came to her side and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “This is Max Evans.”
“Hi, Max,” Krista whispered as the nurse handed her the slight bundle. “Such a serious name for such a little boy.”
A small hand reached for her and wrapped small fingers around her finger and her heart.
Nurse Smith reached out a hand, smoothing fluffy brown hair on a head too small for his body.
Her heart ached as the little one closed his eyes with a smile on his face. “What about the father?”
“We’re trying to find him now, but the records show ‘father unknown’ and no one seems to know who it could be. Lake Willowbee isn’t so big that we won’t find him. Teri Evans has lived here her whole life,” the nurse said.
“The investigators are looking into it now. We’re hoping to find him before Christmas. If not, we’ll miss days to the holiday break,” Mrs. White added.
She cupped Max’s face. “Where’s your daddy, little one?”
Check out our boxed set this year for Baby Steps and Snowflakes and the rest of the stories from the Authors of Main Street.
Jill James, author of the Lake Willowbee Series