"Every baby is a gift, as opposed to a mere responsibility, don't you think, Doctor Edwards?" Willow's rounded eyes glanced at Shayne expectantly.
Shayne remained very still, unwilling to peel back any hard layers to hint at a soft core. But she got him there. He did indeed feel that way. Every child was a gift. A gift worth cherishing.
When his off-and-on girlfriend had his baby, he was elated. From the moment he first laid eyes on his son, he'd never known so much love. But when she ripped the baby from his life, she might as well have ripped out his heart.
Don't go there.
"In fact, I do think every baby is a gift, whether or not you care to believe me," Shayne told her.
A silence settled between them as the pretty nurse tended to their tiny patient, the abandoned baby she had named Jack. This newborn was a gift, as well. He just came in unusual packaging, but just as precious. Making sense of this sick baby's symptoms, and understanding his fate, became all the more important, and personal.
"I do believe you feel that way," Willow said, breaking the silence of the hospital room. "I also believe that every time a mother puts her child in your care, she is handing over the most precious gift in her life."
Her knowing words burdened him. Giving a gift of a child was one thing, but when the gift was taken away, ripped from your arms, that's when the real devastation settled in. At least, it had for Shayne. He chose not to share this with Willow; he had to keep things on a professional level.
"So, how else do you deduce that the mum loved this little guy despite abandoning him?" he asked.
Willow adjusted the blue baby blanket found wrapped around the baby when Shayne had discovered him on his doorstep. "He came gift-wrapped in this," she said. "New and soft as silk. The mother took great care tending to him. It must have been heartbreaking to give him up."
Shayne's harsh veneer thinned as he came around to seeing things through Willow's eyes. He enjoyed her tender story. He admired her uncanny ability to piece together a young woman's lament over what to do about a child she could no longer care for.
But what about any cracks in the story she'd told so solidly?
"If the mother took so much care, then what of that old carton he came in?" He gestured toward the worn cardboard box in the corner.
"That old box?" Willow turned toward it and planted her hands on her softly rounded hips. "Now that's the most telling part of the story. And the most tragic," she said without facing him. "The box confirms that the mom never intended to give up her baby. Hers was the desperate act of a new mother with little money and a sickly infant."
No beautiful basket and bow in this scenario, Shayne thought. Not a good way to wrap up a story of abandonment. Baby Jack's story could have turned tragic, however, if he hadn't found the baby in time.
"Ah," Shayne interjected, understanding where she was going with her speculation. "For if she had intended to give him up, she would have put him in something finer, like a proper infant carrier."
"Exactly. Either way, her intent was clear. She wanted to keep this baby."
Every detail Willow offered made sense. Shayne accepted her reasoning, at least for now. Seeing this little life through her eyes kept his own bitterness at bay.
Willow sighed. "Unfortunately, we'll never know the whole story since it's so rare for a mother to return to claim her child."
She turned back around. When she did, the soft golden light in the room reflected in her eyes. They glistened with a moistness Shayne hadn't seen before. She blinked back the edge of tears, and returned to the infant's side. She kept her face from him once again. Did she not want him to see the touch of soulfulness reflected in her tears?
Clearly, Willow had ventured on emotionally fragile ground. Perhaps the story resonated too closely to her own heart, to her own story. He wondered what heartache lurked within her, given her tearful testimony over the infant. Her connection to this patient extended beyond her training and experience as a pediatric ER nurse. It came from a woman with a deeply felt past, though perhaps not one she'd willingly share with him.
Shayne came to her side. Compelled to seek out her truth, he turned to her. His eyes sought hers to discover the hidden meaning behind her tale. Perhaps, if he convinced her to share more thoughts about this baby, he'd learn a little more about her.
"Tell me, is there any more? Anything at all?"
"More?" Despite the glistening in her eyes, she composed herself and smiled. "Oh, there's so much more."
Willow's expression volleyed between the infant and Shayne before finally giving him her complete attention. "There's one last piece of evidence." She tapped a tapered finger to her chin as though to ponder what she'd say next.
"And what is that?"
"The mom didn't abandon the baby in a bathroom stall or anything like that. She left her infant on the doorstep of one of the most renowned pediatric surgeons in the world... you."
Her smiling eyes brightened even more, despite their moistness, as though pleased with her ultimate deduction. And to that, he could say nothing.
"This mom left her infant in your care. She trusted you with his life. Like I said, this was an act of clear and utter love. She wanted you to have this baby. The question is, what will you do now?"
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