Charles Gaylor finished the outline of a story he wanted to write. After saving it to a flash drive, he headed to the kitchen to celebrate with a drink. He noticed a fine snow had started falling. When he opened his frig and the snow storm told him one thing. He needed some supplies. The Cross Road Market was ten miles away, so he picked up the pace and headed out.

“Hi Mary. Looks like we are in for a big one.”

“You made it just in time. I was about to close up and head home.”

“Can you give me a few minutes?”

“Sure, but don’t dally.” Chuck grabbed a cart and started shopping. Realizing he needed to hurry forced him to just rake cans of veggies and meat into the cart. He stopped at the dairy case and grabbed two gallons of milk. While he was bent over with his head in the cooler, he felt something on his leg. He came out with the milk and looked down. A baby was trying to crawl up his leg.

“Where in the world did you come from?” He looked but didn’t see anyone. Chuck picked up the child and peeked around to another isle. ‘Nope, she’s not there’. He went to an isle in the opposite direction. ‘Nope, not there’. He noticed the child only had on a diaper and was cold as the storm outside. Chuck unzipped his down coat and put the child inside against his chest.

After pushing the cart to the front check out counter, he pulled the baby out and tried to hand it to Mary. She made no effort to take it.

“Why are handing that to me? It’s not my baby. Chuck, I’m single for a reason. Those things are noisy and messy and I don’t want one.”

“I found the baby back by the dairy case and didn’t see anyone around. Did the mother leave it here on purpose?”

“You are the only person that’s been in the store lately. The last customers were a couple and they didn’t come in with a baby.”

“What am I suppose to do with it.”

“You found it, so it’s your problem.”

“I don’t know how to take care for a baby and don’t have anything babyish at my house.” Mary finished sacking up his food and took the cart to the isle of baby items. She returned with several bags of diapers, formula and a three pack of baby bottles.

“Here. I’ll do this much for you. On the house.” She put his groceries into the cart and headed for Chuck’s SUV. After placing everything in the back, she headed for her truck.

“Good luck.” She didn’t give Chuck time to complain.

He took off his coat and lay the baby on it in the front passenger seat. ‘That won’t work’. He placed the baby on the floor. Fired up the vehicle and headed home. About half way there, the crying started.

“I can’t stop now, so you’ll just have to cry.” It took him three times as long to go home as it did to go to the store. His nerves were on edge by the time he arrived.

Past interactions with babies gave him some idea on what to do with it. After sitting everything on the table, he got the baby out and put it on the bed. After retrieving a bag of diapers, he stopped the little one from falling off the bed, just in time. She was wet and a dry diaper solved the problem. He grabbed a quilt from the closet and lay it in front of the fireplace. His entire attitude changed. Being a mother is not about gender, it's about attitude.

He poured a drink and sat down by the fire and almost starting crying. He was thinking fast; no clothes, no baby bed, no, no, no. He didn’t have anything for a baby. He dried his eyes with his sleeve and faced reality. He was stuck with her whether he wanted her or not. Chuck swallowed hard and started solving the problems one at a time. Formula was the first one he solved.

After shoving his bed against the wall, he placed the child next to him and went to sleep. Thankfully she slept all night, but she did come close and cuddled up to him. He put his arm over her and fell in love with that little girl. It was the innocent love of a parent to a child.

Chuck slowly established a routine, which made caring for Cindy much easier. Her clothes consisted of a hand towel and an old T shirt. It was the best he could give her. Chairs from the dining table were placed around the quilt to form a pen. Cindy likes to crawl. Chuck worried constantly about running out diapers, formula, wood for the fire. He realized his worry always centered around the little girl. Her safety was always on his mind.

The hours turned into days. The days turned into weeks and still no mother showed up. The weeks turned into months.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with you when you get older. I only have one bed. Oh well, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.” He talked to Cindy constantly, never realizing he enjoyed her company. Her first word was "Papa". He heard a thump and rushed into the living room, only to find Cindy crawling across the floor. The makeshift pen no longer held her in.

“Come back here little one. My house isn’t baby proof yet and probably never will be.”

The snow finally melted enough to make a trip into town. His total purchase was for the child. Chuck didn’t think about himself. Cindy got new clothes and shoes, which she would not leave on. She could untie the most complicated knots. One day she started screaming at the top of her little lungs. Chuck can running.

“What have you gotten yourself into this time.” She was under the end table next to the couch and the wire sticking into the wall had bitten her. On top of that, she was trapped there. Chuck extracted her from that predicament and rubbed out the sting from her little hand.

“I bet you won’t do that again.” Chuck’s kind hands and gentle voice calmed down the child. He looked around the room to see what other mischief Cindy could cause. The child only stopped when she was asleep; the rest of the time was nonstop on the go trouble. He placed her in the walker which he purchased for her. She has yet to learn how to get out of it, but his shins and feet suffered some damaged.

He walked into the kitchen one day and froze. That little devil had pushed a chair over to the surface unit and got a bucket, which she placed on the cook top. She was standing on that bucket trying to reach the cabinet over the vent hood. She was a few inches short of reaching the box of Orville. She climbed down and spotted Chuck.

“Popcorn.” Chuck went to the cabinet and got a package out, then popped it in the microwave. Nothing surprised him anymore. He never knew what he would find her into.

He celebrated her birthday on the day her found her trying to crawl up his leg in that store. Eight years after that day, she opened her gifts and gave her usual hug and peck on his cheek. After she stopped playing with the doll and toy, Chuck sat her down in his lap. He felt it was time for true confessions.

“Cindy, I have something I need to tell you. I’ve been waiting until you are old enough to understand and I think you are old enough now. I’m not your real father.”

“I know.”

“How do you know?” She just shrugged her shoulders.

“Can you tell me why you said that?” Instead of telling Chuck, she put both hands on his temples and pressed hard. The images, emotions, and feelings hit him. It was a jumbled mess of sights, sounds, and chaos. Cindy climbed down and went into the bedroom. Chuck sat there trying to decipher what it meant. Over the course of the next few hours, some of the message slowly became clear. Many pieces of the puzzle were missing, but enough was clear to give him some idea of what it meant.

Chuck went to the cabinet and poured him a drink; a big drink. Sitting at his table, tears started to flow when he realized the images were from the baby who had been abused and tossed out like a bag of trash. Her parents had been killed by someone in a uniform. After laying in that pile of trash for a long time. It could have been only minutes. A man picked up Cindy. A clear image of an old man with long white hair picked up the child. No image followed, but the sensation of movement was felt. Chuck guessed it was the man running while holding the baby close to him, which block her view. The next image she gave was her crawling up Chucks leg.

He went to the bedroom and found Cindy sound asleep. Chuck put her under the covers and let her sleep. He went back to the kitchen and poured another big drink. ‘How could someone do that to her?’ He didn’t like the fact someone had abused his daughter, but could do nothing about it. The realization came into focus. Cindy was from another place, maybe another planet. She has an ability which Chuck couldn’t explain, but the facts speaks for themselves. She was special.

Chuck found himself rubbing a ghost pain in his right knee. An old injury from playing college football nagged him constantly. It was gone. Only a ghost pain remained. A small cut on his left hand from a sharp kitchen blade was also gone. No scar was present either.

He made a vow to himself. No one and he meant no one would ever abuse her again. Her ability must be kept secret or greedy people would take her apart to find out what makes her special. He was going to make sure that would never happen.

July 26, 2020 17:15

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