I was surrounded by red and white gingham, stone walls and I seriously needed to pee. Mum and I had been in Scotland for five months now, living in mum’s deceased uncle’s house, and had driven for almost an hour to the middle of nowhere to meet Jerry and Teresa McFarlow; the couple willing to semi-adopt my baby. They lived in a fairly large stone built cottage in an absolutely beautiful, yet slightly deserted, Scottish countryside, two hours North of Glasgow.
Teresa McFarlow was in her early fifties and despite her aged features you could tell she had once been very beautiful. She had shoulder length dirty-blonde hair, pale blue eyes and wore a thick, bottle green, woollen jumper, a knee length tartan skirt and brown penny-loafers. She seemed very nice… always smiling, which was nice to know.
Jerry, who was in his mid fifties, was near enough the twin of his wife, wearing a pale green shirt, grey cardigan, tartan tie, brown flannel trousers and brown shoes. The only difference between the two was his receding red hair, greying beard, and the large gut tucked tightly inside the elasticated waist of his trousers.
“Is there anything I can get you, my dear?” Teresa asked me politely. I had trouble understanding her, due to the distinct, thick accent she possessed – like everyone else I’d had a chance to speak to in this country…
“Oh, no thank you. But, err, do you mind if I use your bathroom?” I asked. I felt a nudge in my stomach but ignored it… Teresa seemed like the type of person who would be all gooey-eyed by anything and everything; especially my baby kicking inside of me. It was January and I was six months gone… I was now sixteen-years-old and very…fat.
“Of course not, you just go up the stairs, turn left and it’s at the end of the corridor.” She directed, pointing out in the hallway towards the stairs, imagining that the first floor was before her very eyes, showing me where to go. I smiled to thank her and left the room as quick as I could. Mum would hate me for leaving her in a room with two people she didn’t know and a social worker we could barely understand, but I couldn’t help the side effects of Mother Nature, could I?
The entire house was decorated near enough the same way throughout; bare stone walls, red and white gingham curtains, daffodils on every free surface and photographs all over the walls – from what I’d gathered, they’d had four children together. The house was very pretty and predictable, considering the apparent type of people the McFarlows appeared to be.
I found the bathroom easily and slumped down on the cold toilet seat, much too quickly than I should, causing baby to kick hard…ouch… this kid was going to turn out to be a hard little bleeder.
I sat there for a while… I didn’t realise my bladder could holdthatmuch… I listened to the rain pelting against the thin glass in the window panes. The McFarlows weren’t rich, but they had a comfortable lifestyle; ideal for looking after a baby.
When I’d finally done, I got up, fastened my elasticated-at-the-waist jeans, pulled the toilet chain, washed my hands thoroughly and returned back downstairs.
“Hello, dear,” Teresa greeted the minute I stepped into the room, “are you better now? You took your time.”
“Yes, thank you. My bladder is now empty.” I told her, sitting back down on the worn red couch next to mum. She grabbed hold of my hand and squeezed it tight. She was relieved that I was back.
“Now that we’re all together, we can discuss the plan based on the mother’s preference,” the social worker began; her native tongue was definitely not English, nor was it Scottish either. It might have been German or French, I couldn’t tell, “Miss Stewart wishes for her child to go to a family who would be prepared to care for the child for a minimum of a year and then be prepared to pass the child back to the mother. Do you understand this?” she looked over to the McFarlows where Teresa was nodding thoroughly. If she nodded anymore, her head would fall off.
“Yes, we’ve had children of our own so we knowexactlyhow to care for the baby when he, or she, comes.” Teresa gushed enthusiastically. She was obviously very excited.
“Of course, we wouldn’t becometooattached to the wee kiddie. You see, my wife and I have lost a son and, I fear, my wife may see this as an opportunity to bring our son back, in an estranged sort of way. She may find it hard to return the child after…” Jerry spoke – whose accent was just as strong as his wife’s – but was interrupted by Teresa throwing a playful, yet slightly hard, slap on his leg. She looked at him sternly, through a forced smile.
His words scared me though. Should I give my baby to these people if the woman might refuse to give it back to me… to replace her lost son…?
“Jerry! Don’t be ridiculous!” Teresa warned. She turned back to face me and smiled weakly. Upset lay in her eyes, near to tears, “I wouldnevertry to keep your baby, Casey, no matter how much he, or she, may remind me of our James… I’m a good person, and all I wish is that I can help you and your child. You’re still a child yourself, after all.”
“Yes, I know but…” I began, but Mum interrupted me,
“And that’s why we really do appreciate you doing this for us. Casey’s education is already slipping since arriving here, due to hospital appointments, lack of sleep and not being able to concentrate.
“I’ve noticed people looking at her in disgust and I personally do not want my daughter to have to deal with the stares for the rest of her teenage years.” Everyone stared at her. It was the first proper thing she’d said all day, other than ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Wow… she really did care. I squeezed her hand tight and smiled at her. She returned the smile and continued the conversation,
“Like I was saying,” she continued, “Casey’s education is the most important thing at this precise moment, as it will be for – hopefully – the next two to five years, if she should choose to have a University education.”
“The University of Glasgow is very good,” Jerry announced enthusiastically, “there’re lots of interesting courses to choose from. Our eldest, Benjamin, went there and our youngest, Marc, is currently studying there, isn’t he dear?” My ears stopped after the name Benjamin…Ben…
I’d tried not to think about him, but it was almost impossible. Every time Mum took me for my checkups or ultrasounds, or whenever the baby kicked, all I could think of was Ben and what he was missing… of what he didn’t knowexisted…
“Are you okay, Casey?” Teresa asked with a worried tone, “You lookawfullypale.” I actually did feel quite queasy.
“Oh, I’m fine, just thinking is all… and feeling a little… lightheaded.” I replied. I could feel my forehead burning ferociously, but didn’t want all the nonsense and fuss made over me.
“Maybe you ought to lie down?” Jerry recommended. I couldn’t disagree. I felt so tired. I nodded and was helped to my feet by Jerry, Teresa, Mum and the social worker. Teresa and Mum led me upstairs and into a little bedroom with white walls and a yellow check patterned border, curtains and duvet set.
I was laid down carefully onto the springy single bed with a patchwork blanket pulled over me; my feet stuck out at the end, but I didn’t mind… I had socks on. Mum kissed my burning forehead before exiting the room with Teresa.
All I could hear was the muffled murmurs of the conversation downstairs and the light ‘pitter patter’ of drizzling rain against the window.
Beside the bed was a white painted, wooden rocking cot with a yellow padded, infant sized mattress inside, a soft yellow baby blanket and a tiny, brown teddy with slightly matted fur, odd button eyes and a hand stitched nose and smiling mouth – obviously an old family pass-down.
I reached my hand over to the cot and gently rocked it from side to side, humming a lullaby under my breath…
‘Go to sleep, go to sleep. Go to sleep little baby…’