Chapter Forty Four
(Eight Months Later)
Gabe put his bike away in the garage and lifted his two shopping bags from the basket on the back. He'd not driven the car since the day Jordan left; he'd had trouble getting the damn thing up the driveway, never mind driving around the town. He staggered inside with the heavy bags and set them on the work surface. He was unpacking groceries when the doorbell rang. Sighing, he went to answer it, and stopped in surprise. The postman was on the doorstep, holding three letters in one hand, and a baby carrier in the other.
"Your mail." He said sourly. "And a woman at the end of the driveway asked me to give you this." The carrier was thrust into Gabe's arms. "You're welcome." The postman pulled the door closed and left before Gabe could speak. Regaining his senses, Gabe put the letters down on the side, and set the carrier down on an armchair. He stared at the baby for a moment, before taking out a folded piece of paper tucked behind the baby's head.
Two days after we broke up, I discovered I was pregnant. I've tried to look after him, but I can't. I've moved back in with my mother, and she's very ill at the moment. I need to care for her, and haven't got time for a baby as well. He was born on the 9th of June. He's had some of his jabs; you'll know which ones he needs to have next.
You can choose his name,
Gabe re-read the latter three times, feeling fury rising in his throat, before he folded the paper and slid it into his pocket. He looked down at the baby for a moment. He could see that it was Jordan's. The baby had a mop of black fuzz on the top of his head, his skin was a golden-olive colour, and his eyes were near-black, like Jordan's.
"Well, this is excellent." He muttered to himself. "What am I going to do with you, huh?" Rubbing a hand through his hair, he gingerly reached down and picked the baby up. The little bundle felt solid, a nice weight in his arms. "I guess I've got to write to your dad." Gabe picked up the phone and rang one of the girls from the café where he'd recently found work. "Hi Marie, it's Gabe. I was wondering if you could do me a favour?"
"Sure, Gabe. What's up?"
"I need you to pick up some stuff for me in town."
"Alright. Is it big?" She knew he couldn't drive, and sometimes fetched a big load of shopping for him and dropped it off at the house.
"No. I… I need you to get everything a baby could possibly need, as fast as you can."
"I know." Gabe sighed. "Remember Jordan's girlfriend, Ellen? She's just dropped his baby off at the house."
"What?" Marie shouted. "She abandoned him?"
"Pretty much. Please, can you get the things? Nappies, a dummy or two, baby shampoo, talcum powder, powdered milk."
"Sure. I think I have some clothes left over from when my kids were little. How old is… she? He?"
"He's about a month, I think."
"Bitch." Marie swore. "I'll be there as soon as I can."
"Thanks." Gabe hung up and stroked the baby's cheek. He looked into near-black eyes for a moment longer, before carefully putting the baby back into the carrier, and taking him through to the kitchen. He put him on the work surface and finished putting away the groceries, before pinning Ellen's letter to the cork board hanging from the wall. Finally, he settled down the write to Jordan.
I hope you're okay. It's been a while since your last letter, so I thought I'd check up on you. We both know I love playing 'mother'! Things are quiet here; I got a job last week. A café in town was looking for a waiter, and they took me on! I've already started paying back some of the money I owe you, and before you start arguing, I'm going to pay you back whether you like it or not, so just deal with it.
I heard back from your policeman friend. He hasn't been able to find Pheebs, Liam or Rose. They must've changed their names to the families that fostered them or something. He isn't hopeful we'll find them, but… Well, I guess we could ring every Phoebe, Liam and Rose in the phonebook. I'd let you pay for that, though.
Things today are a little… odd. I've got a bit of a surprise for you when you get back home and, before you think it, I'll tell you now, it's not the leather dominatrix outfit you were hinting at me wearing in your last letter!
I'll explain everything as best I can when I see you.
Stay safe, love,
He heard Marie knock on the door as he finished the letter. He went to let her in, sticking a stamp on the letter and writing the address of Jordan's camp in Iraq on the envelope. He hugged Marie and went to help her fetch in several bags stuffed with baby things. He gave her the letter to post, before quickly unpacking most of the items, and finding them homes in the cupboards. She'd brought everything; biscuit rusks that he could crush into milk, jars of strained, pureed food, powered milk, clothes, dummies, nappies, shampoo, a soft sponge and flannel and wet wipes. She'd even brought him an old pram, a baby bouncer, a sleeping basket and several blankets.
"I can take you into town tomorrow to get a proper cot and everything else you need. Karla can babysit for you while we go. This should keep you going for a while though." Gabe nodded, thankful she'd managed to come so quickly.
"Do you want to see him?" He led her into the kitchen, smiling when she saw the baby.
"What's his name?" She asked, picking up the baby and cradling him in her arms.
"He doesn't have one. I'll just call him 'baby' until Jordan gets home and names him." Marie shook her head.
"How can a mother abandon her own baby?" She asked. Gabe shrugged, stroking the baby's head. "Will you be alright looking after him?"
"Yeah. I looked after my younger siblings for years."
"Yeah. My mum died when I was fifteen, so I looked after my four brothers and sisters until I was nineteen." Marie gently put the baby back into the carrier and hugged Gabe.
"I'll pick you up tomorrow, around ten?" Gabe nodded and showed her out. Feeling suddenly exhausted, Gabe returned to the kitchen and looked at the baby, wondering how he'd tell Jordan. He prepared a bottle of warmed milk, lifted the baby gently from the carrier and carried him through to the living room to feed him.