That same October morning—about the time that Nicholas and his classmates were marching behind Miss Ferguson through the breezeway, out to the play yard—Elleanor Hardaway-Neiman-Fisk received a call from The Heather Plageman Adoption Agency, the organization overseeing her request to foster and possibly adopt Nicholas.
“We’ve received the last of your paperwork from The State, Miss Hardaway-Neiman-Fisk,” a young and hopeful-sounding woman, who had introduced herself as Molly, from the agency, told Elleanor over the telephone.
Eight months ago, Elleanor would have dropped everything for a call from the agency. But call after cry-wolf call, asking only to verify something she knew she had verified a half-dozen times, and never with any sense of fruition, had worn down her attentiveness. Any more, she’d go about her business, half-listening to the voice—usually Heather’s, or that severe, older woman’s, Margaret something or other—on the other end of the line.
“Elleanor,” Elleanor replied, cradling the phone as she poured water into the coffeemaker. “Please, call me Elleanor.”
“Okay, Elleanor,” Molly said, politely. “Like I said, we’ve received the last of your paperwork from The State. Now, all that we’re going to need from you is a few more signatures.”
Of course you will Molly, Elleanor thought, counting out scoops of coffee. You will always need a few more signatures. Elleanor wanted badly to ask this Molly girl why she wasn’t speaking with Heather.
“Just as soon as we get those, Elleanor,” Molly went on, “everything should be finalized.”
The word ‘finalized’ filled Elleanor’s head like cement. She stared at the coffee scoop, hovering over the filter. She’d lost count.
“Can you make it in this morning?” Molly asked.
Elleanor couldn’t seem to make her mouth work. She felt the warmth of a tear, moving down her cheek.
“Of course, of course,” Elleanor blurted suddenly. “I’ll leave in just a few minutes.”
“Good then,” Molly said, cheerfully. “We’ll see you in a bit. Congratulations.”