After a twelve-hour shift at the hospital, Rosa was more than ready to go home, put her feet up, and fall asleep in front of the TV. She dreamed of a frozen meal comprised of mystery meat, gluey potatoes, and mushy peas, which to prepare, would only require her to push a couple of buttons on the microwave.
Unfortunately, the reality was starkly different - waiting for her at home were her elderly parents that needed around-the-clock care. Her father suffered from Parkinson’s and her mother from dementia. Rosa, being the only child, was the one to take care of them. Whenever she had to go to work, Amy – a caretaker – stayed with Rosa’s parents to keep a watchful eye on them and to ensure they took their medication. Amy’s duties also included reheating of dinners and simple preparations of foods like sandwiches or snacks but did not extend beyond that.
Before Rosa got to go home to relieve Amy and cook dinner for her parents, she had to go shopping first. Normally, she would just dash into the store, grab a few items, and dash out, but things have been different for the past couple of weeks. COVID-19 turned things upside-down and made many simple tasks difficult. Plenty of places shut down indefinitely, and those that remained open put a variety of restrictions in place. Only a certain amount of people was allowed at the store at any one time. In order for another person to enter, they had to wait for someone to exit. People lined up in front of the entrance, the queue often snaking around the building. Masks and gloves were required to enter the store.
Rosa was not looking forward to standing in line to the store in the dead of winter. It was only the beginning of April, and temperatures often dropped below freezing after sunset. She wondered if she could somehow skip going to the store that night when the supermarket’s commercial came on the radio.
“To show support for our heroes and their hard work, from 9 to 10pm, we will only allow healthcare workers to shop at our store.”
Rosa smiled. She needed something to go her way. With only forty-five minutes until 10pm, Rosa stepped on the gas. That, combined with not much traffic on the highway, made it possible for Rosa to arrive at the store with fifteen minutes to spare. Only one man was standing outside.
“That should not be that bad,” Rosa thought to herself and rushed out of the car.
“Please put your mask on,” said the man standing by the entrance to the supermarket. “We have gloves here for you,” he added, pointing towards a box of thin, plastic gloves on a table in front of him.
“Right,” Rosa thought to herself as she grabbed her surgical mask from the car and put it on. “Soon, they will tell me when I can and cannot breathe,” she smirked.
Armed in a mask and a pair of gloves, Rosa quickly made her way through most of the aisles, grabbing the essentials. She was about ready to check out when she noticed a blizzard outside. The snowflakes were large and thick, making it impossible to see past the store window. Rosa knew that it was going to slow her down on her way home. She sighed loudly, wishing that she would just catch a break.
Suddenly, Rosa froze. She realized that there was no one at the store. She did not see anything weird in not passing a single person in any of the aisles, because it was late. But now, she noticed there were no cashiers, either. The only person she saw was the one outside who urged her to wear a mask.
“Hello?” Rosa called out. “Hello?” she called out again, looking around.
There was no response.
A shiver ran down Rosa’s spine.
The blizzard outside was not letting up, but Rosa thought that if she could just make it to her car, she would feel a lot safer. She nearly jumped and yelped when her phone rang.
“Warning! Severe weather conditions! Expected blizzards in the area,” said the text.
“Late much?” Rosa rolled her eyes as she headed outside.
She was walking and typing a message to Amy to let her know she was going to be late when she tripped and almost fell right in front of the door. As she put her phone back in her jacket pocket and looked down, she noticed a peacefully sleeping baby in a carry basket.
Rosa kneeled next to it and adjusted the white blanket with pink rabbits to fit snuggly around the baby’s face. Then, she stood up and looked around the store again. There was still no one in sight. Unwilling to call out for anyone so as not to wake up the child, Rosa picked up the carry basket gently and made her way down every aisle. She even knocked on the door in the back with the “Employees only” label on it but got no response. It was locked; she checked. In the front, there were still not cashiers when Rosa made her way back. The man who urged her to put on a mask was no longer by the door.
For a minute, she considered leaving some money on the counter and walking out with her groceries, but she did not want anyone accusing her of stealing, so she left the shopping cart inside. When she approached the door, and it slid open, the wind was howling.
“Anyone out there?” she yelled, hoping the baby would not stir.
No response. Even if there was someone standing a few away, she still probably would not see or hear them. Unwilling to leave the baby by itself, she took the basket and placed it inside her car.
“911, what’s your emergency?”
“I found a baby at the store.”
“I’m sorry. You did what, Ma’am?”
“I went shopping and found a baby sleeping on the floor. There was no one at the store. I didn’t know what to do.”
“And where are you now?”
“In my car.”
“And the baby?”
Rosa had to provide all of her information, including name, address, and phone number so that the police could contact her with further instructions.
She also called the store and left a voice mail saying that she found the baby and to have the mother contact her.
“I will be here for the next ten minutes, but then I have to go. My parent’s caretaker has to leave, and I need to replace her.”
After about fifteen minutes, the snow slowed down, and the visibility improved. Rosa texted Amy that she was on her way and then put the car in Drive. The baby stirred briefly as the vehicle began to move but then continued to lay still.
Fifteen minutes later, Rosa parked her car in the driveway.
Amy ran out of the house the moment she saw Rosa pull in. “I have to go,” she said without stopping to talk.
Rosa was about to exit the car when she heard a quiet moan.
“What a beautiful, little angel you are,” she said, cooing over the baby she almost forgot was there.
After coming inside the house, the baby was full-on crying, and so Rosa decided it was time to feed her.
“I knew these would come in handy one day,” Rosa said more to the baby than to herself, as she pulled out infant formula from the cupboard.
She ran her hand through her stomach. And for a brief moment, Rosa’s smile turned into a frown. However, the baby’s kicking and screaming snapped her out of it.
“Alright. Alright. I am here. Mommy is right here,” Rosa said and took the baby into her hands.
After feeding the baby, Rosa heated up a frozen dinner for herself, sat down, and put her feet up in front of the TV.
Two days later, when Rosa was due for another shift at the hospital, she decided to call in sick.
“I have a stomach bug. It must be something I ate. I have been so sick these past two days. I’m not sure when it’s going to get better,” she told her supervisor.
“We’re only at 25% capacity right now, so do not worry. Take your time and rest. Let me know when you will be able to return,” the supervisor said in return.
With a smile on her face, Rosa rocked the baby.
“What are we going to do today, Mimi?” she asked, running her finger over the baby’s face.
As Rosa was heating up some milk for the baby, she heard a knock on the front door.
“Can I help you?” she asked the two officers at the door.
“We’re with the Sheriff’s office. This is Officer Bryant, and I am Officer Rogers. Can we come in?” the shorter of the men asked.
“What is this about?” Rosa inquired, glancing nervously at the baby in her arms. “Did the mother that left her baby at the store come forward?” she asked, swallowing hard.
It has only been a few days, but she has already grown attached to Mimi.
“May we please come in?” the taller man now asked.
“I was just about to feed my baby. Mimi. I mean, the baby…” Rosa announced, hoping that the officers would take the hint and leave.
“Ma’am, we need to come in,” Officer Bryant insisted, and nestled his way inside.
“Of course. Please, sit down,” Rosa, left with no choice, said, pointing to the couch in the living room.
“Please tell us how you came into possession of the baby,” Officer Rogers asked.
“Well, I went to the store and… shhhhh,” Rosa began, trying to comfort the now crying baby. “There was no one there. Do not cry, baby girl. And there she was by the door. All alone. I didn’t know what to do,” she added, tears welling up in her eyes.
Rosa went on to describe the man in front of the store, the emptiness inside, and the blizzard.
“I swear I did not steal anything. I left all the groceries inside. You have to believe me,” she said, hoping the officers were not there to arrest her for shoplifting.
The shorter officer scribbled something in his notebook while the taller one watched her intently.
“Ma’am, are you sure that’s how things happened?” the taller man asked.
“Yes. That is precisely how it happened,” Rosa confirmed.
“Alright. I see you are wearing scrubs. Do you work at a hospital?” the officer continued.
“Yes. At St. Mary’s on Donnelly Dr.,” Rosa answered. “I’m a nurse there,” she continued.
“Jordan. Rosa Jordan.”
“Ms. Jordan. A newborn baby has been abducted from the maternity ward the very same day you found this one,” the shorter officer said, pausing the writing.
“So, you’re saying that I might have saved it from a kidnapper?” Rosa asked and smiled at Mimi.
“Ms. Jordan, do you have children?” Officer Rogers asked.
“N-no,” Rosa answered, her eyes darting from one officer to the other. “I was pregnant a couple of times but miscarried… Why is this relevant?” Rosa asked.
“Ms. Jordan, we have reviewed the surveillance footage from the hospital,” the taller man started.
“Have you caught whoever it was?” Rosa asked, squeezing Mimi a little tighter.
“Ms. Jordan. It was you. It was you who took Amber from her crib-”
“Amber? Who’s that?” Rosa asked.
“You are the one seen walking out with her. Her mother described the blanket she was wrapped up in as white with pink bunnies,” he added and looked at Mimi, who was wrapped up in the very same blanket.
Rosa stood up and looked around the room, checking for ways to escape. To run away to a place where she can be with her child. To be with Mimi. She deserved to be a mother. She wanted it so badly. And she was going to be the best mother a little girl could have. She just knew it.
“Ms. Jordan, you are under arrest,” Officer Bryant announced.
“Noooooooooo! You cannot do this!” Rosa shouted. “Who will take care of my parents?” she asked more calmly.
“Ms. Jordan. You need help. You are suffering from a dissociative identity disorder. Your parents passed away a few years ago. You have not worked at St. Mary’s for a couple of years now. This baby is not yours,” the shorter officer explained as his partner put handcuffs on Rosa.
“We will return the baby to her mother, and she will be under great care. Don’t you worry,” he added, placing the baby in the carry basket.
“But I found her in the store,” Rosa said with disbelief.
“You came into the store with her. A psychiatrist we consulted said that you probably switched identities at that time. One of you was not aware of the kidnapping,” office Rogers proceeded to explain.
“What about the empty store?” Rosa asked incredulously.
“He said it might be a symptom of schizophrenia,” the shorter officer answered. “But please, no more questions for now,” he added and led Rosa outside to the police car.