The doorbell rings.
Jane closes her eyes and takes in a deep breath.
Now? Really? Who could it possibly be?
Working as a journalist at the town’s weekly paper, Jane’s hardest day is a Friday. It is the day after the paper has been printed and distributed, and it is a day of endless complaints from mid-forty-year-old women who have nothing better to do than scour the paper and find some sort of error in the 50-page newspaper. It is also a day of endless meetings and insincere apologies, filled with empty promises on how the paper intends to be better next week.
You can criticise Jane on a lot of things, but not on her ability and skill to write a damn good article. And yet, every single Friday, all she hears is criticism.
So after work on a Friday, when she gets home, she intends on doing nothing but getting tipsy off cheap wine, eating junk food and watching Netflix. On today’s line-up, she has ‘Shutter Island’ to creep her out slightly – although the creepy does get slightly ineffective the more you have watched the movie – followed by ‘Grease’, so her sleep is not haunted by the strange.
Everyone that matters in her life knows not to consider asking Jane to change or cancel her Friday night plans. It is her permanently standing date with herself. So who could possibly be ringing her doorbell well after 21:00? Since when do people even rock up on your doorstep without a warning phone call or text?
She chooses to ignore it – at first.
It just rang once after all. Her car is parked in the garage, the lights are all off and any indication that someone is home is well hidden under the façade of a fun Friday night out with friends.
Whoever it was must have realised they were at the wrong house. Either way, their lack of persistence allows Jane to watch Leo realise he is insane.
“Welcome to the club, Leo. We’re all crazy here,” she toasts the television with her half empty wine glass.
She can feel her head floating in the two and half glasses of wine she has demolished by herself and she wonders if she should mark up the uneasy and paranoid feeling in her gut to the alcohol.
Even though her eyes are fixated on the television, her mind is fixated on the single ring that, just minutes ago, came from her front door.
A thousand thoughts run through her mind. What if this is just a ploy to lure her to the door and she gets attacked or kidnapped? She has covered so many of these stories in the past that she has sadly become quite numb to it. But now, she is nervous and uncomfortable. Jane wonders if she will be the lead character of a horror story. If she is kidnapped, who would cover her story at the Weekly Sun? She also has so many stories that she’s been working on this week, and if she is being completely honest, she does not trust Louise or Susan to cover any of her stories, let alone her own kidnapping or murder story.
Woah! Jane puts her glass of wine down quickly, recoiling from it as if it has just bitten her. Her mind racing from thought to thought tells her she has had enough to drink.
Although her mind is swimming in cheap merlot, the gut feeling does not budge. Her curiosity is getting the better of her. She sighs, stands up, Doritos debris falls from her pyjamas and her blanket tumbles to the floor pooling around her ankles. She steadies herself against the sofa. Her lips are numb and her eyes feel thick. She has definitely had enough for the evening.
Jane takes careful and quiet steps towards the door – partly because her head is spinning and partly because she does not know what awaits her on the other side of the door.
She peers through the peep hole.
The distorted, dome-shaped image of the outside world makes her hold onto the door for balance.
Nothing is outside.
Do children still play ‘Ding, Dong, Ditch’?
It’s way too late for kids to be out now anyway.
She fights her every fear and slowly unlocks the door. She peers outside and looks left to right. Nothing.
“This is ridiculous,” she says out loud… and then she hears it. The faintest of coos. A sound only familiar to her because she heard it three years ago coming from her then three-week-old niece.
She is in utter disbelief. The blood has completely drained out of her face, she stands in her doorway a pale figure with a mouth gaping open in shock. Her mind sobers in an instant. She looks up and down the street again, but all she sees are the lifeless shadows cast by the street lights.
Her rational thinking quickly snaps into action and she gently lifts up the slightly squirming bundle. Rational thinking in action and she still doesn’t have a clue what to do.
A beautiful baby, whether it is a girl or boy, she does not know. There on her step is also a plastic bag that was lying next to the baby. In the bag is what can only be described as an emergency supply – some diapers, a half-empty pack of baby wipes, a small tub of baby crème, a small and already-open tin of baby formula, a dirty baby bottle, and beneath it all, a creased piece of folded paper.
“Ok, this will have to do for now. Until I figure out what happens next,” she tells the bundle that snuggles a little closer into her warmth.
She gently sits down on the sofa, still awkwardly holding the now sleeping baby. She digs around in the plastic bag and feels the paper. She pulls the note out and begins to read it.
Fortune, or misfortune… call it what you will for either of us. Your acts of kindness that I have watched from afar have made my choice and decision slightly less heart-breaking and earth-shattering. Buying an extra coffee for the homeless man outside your office every morning, giving the old parking attendant an apple and a generous tip whenever you visit the store, the big bag of clothes you just donated to the charity drive at the community centre… these are just some of the things I’ve seen you do over the past two weeks.
You did these things, not knowing anyone was watching.
But I was.
I have no requests, nor am I in any position to make requests, except that you raise my daughter with a heart as kind as yours.
-An apologetic, yet eternally thankful stranger.
Jane is winded, the breath knocked out from her as the words she has just read sinks in and begins to make sense. Panic surges and her heart starts racing. But she looks down at the face of this perfect, beautiful, defenceless, little girl, and the decision is made – be it by the stranger that left the baby on her door step, or by Jane herself.
“Welcome home, little one,” she whispers to the sleeping angel in her arms.
“Come on, Mom! I’m going to start the movie without you,” a 16-year-old Claire screams from the sofa in the lounge.
It is a Friday evening, and on the agenda for tonight is popcorn, Doritos, pizza, cranberry juice and a single glass of wine for mom. They are binge watching 'Friends', but the night will inevitably end with mom and daughter asleep in front of the television with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John singing their hearts out to each other. This has been their Friday night tradition for as long as Claire can remember.
The doorbell rings.
“I’ll be right there,” Jane answers, mostly to Claire, but she realises that her answer effectively responds to whoever is waiting at the door.
In a rush, she heads over to the door and pulls it open. There before her stands her daughter – or at least what her daughter would look like in 30 years.
A tired, battered and bruised face with expectant and smiling eyes stares back at Jane.
And just like that, Jane is met with the same, yet opposite disbelief and shock that she felt 16 years ago at this very same front door.