The little girl sat quietly with her hands crossed at her wrists. She smoothed out her dress with the frills on the skirt nervously. Her guardian had told her she needed to be on her best behavior because a lady was coming to meet her.
At five years old Donna was what her teachers described as a “very smart child” and she knew what it meant when Mrs. Coombs told her that a lady was coming to meet her. She knew it meant that if “the lady” liked her, she may take her home on a trial basis. If she was happy with her, then she might consider adopting her.
She did not reveal any of this to Mrs. Coombs and she wondered if her guardian was aware that she knew. She just wished Mrs. Coombs did not insist on dressing her up as if she were one of the chickens she saw Cookie stuffing before placing in the oven.
Donna loved to wear shorts and t-shirts or little sundresses, which felt cool on her skin and allowed her to enjoy the warm, tropical climate on the island.
Whenever she had one of these interviews, Mrs. Coombs insisted on dressing her as if she were going to a wedding. At least the weddings she saw on TV. But she knew how important the meeting was and she wanted to be adopted into a loving home, so she said nothing.
The cuckoo clock in the living room where she sat waiting went off, startling her. At the same time, she heard footsteps coming down the hallway.
Mrs. Coombs opened the door with a flourish and spoke in a louder than usual voice, “Donna, I have someone who wants to meet you. Mrs. Parker, please meet Donna. I’ll leave you both alone for a while.” Looking directly at Mrs. Parker she said, “Mrs. Parker, you know where my office is. When you’re ready, please join me there.”
As Mrs. Coombs closed the door, the silence in the room was deafening. Neither Mrs. Parker nor Donna spoke for what may have been just 30 seconds, but to Donna, it felt like an hour.
The elegantly dressed lady with the Prada handbag and matching color leather pumps stood looking at the little girl with long braids below her shoulders and with the most beautiful brown eyes with a slight upward tilt at the corners. The term “doe eyes” came unbidden to her. She was sitting in a dress she had a feeling she was uncomfortable in.
The little girl saw kindness in her eyes and something else that she did not understand. As Mrs. Parker started to smile, she slowly got up from the sofa she’d been sitting on, walked over to her, and said in a quiet, but clear voice, “Good Morning, Mrs. Parker. I’m delighted to meet you.” The woman’s eyes widened slightly because she had not expected this display of dignity in the little girl, especially one raised in a group home since she was two years old. She smiled and replied.
Almost an hour later Mrs. Coombs tapped on the door before opening it and asked with concern in her voice, “Is everything okay?”
“Oh, yes! Donna and I have been having a lovely time. She reads very well. Did you know she is also a great storyteller? She has a story about many of the animals you have here.”
Mrs. Coombs looked a little uncomfortable because she had never talked with Donna for any length of time and definitely did not know of Donna’s storytelling ability. She was even more surprised when Donna said, “It’s ok, Mrs. Coombs. You’re always very busy taking care of us.” The adults looked at each other and smiled.
Mrs. Parker turned to Donna and told her she’d be right back after she’d spoken with Mrs. Coombs.
The little girl was left alone and in the 15 minutes or so she went from joy to despair and joy again. She prayed. She chastised herself for talking too much, but then she remembered something she and Mrs. Parker laughed about, and it made her feel better.
Once again, she heard footsteps coming down the hallway. Mrs. Parker opened the door, paused for a moment, then said, “Donna, I’d like you to come home with me to meet my husband and my son, Mark. Don’t worry, Mark is going off to college soon, so he won’t be there to bother you. But…that’s what I want. What would you like to do?”
In reply, Donna ran to her, hugged her tightly, and said, “I would love to go home with you.”
“That’s what I was hoping you’d say. Do you know what’s the first thing we’re going to do?”
“Have some lunch?”
“That’s second. First thing is to go shopping for some shorts and t-shirts and get you out of that stuffy dress!”
Hand in hand, laughing together they left the room. Mrs. Parker walked. Donna felt like she was floating on air.