Stephanie and I left the house about and I could tell she was nervous. From what I could tell from her file, she hadn’t seen him since they had been picked up at his cousin’s house where they had been found. We arrived at the mall a few minutes after one and headed straight to the food court. Since the court was so big, we agreed to meet in front of the Showmars. I saw Denise approaching and Stephanie must have saw Scott because she ran towards a good looking boy that was pointing at her. Young love. I let her be. I already told her not to go outside the food court without telling me. I kept an eye on her while looking for Sean.
I saw Sean approaching from the street entrance. She was wearing a pair of jeans and a black button down shirt. Her hair was back in a ponytail and she had earrings on that I hadn’t noticed before. She walked up to me and gave me a hug I hadn’t expected. I felt my face get warm.
Denise was watching and smiling.
“Hi Sean, this is Denise,” I said putting my hand on Denise’s shoulder.
“Hi, how are you young lady?”
“I’m good,” she said smiling at me still.
Why was she looking at me like that?
We sat down at a table and we all looked from one to the other.
“Well this is fun,” Denise commented.
“I’m waiting for you,” Sean said. “What’s going on?”
I decided before I got there to let Sean handle this one. I still didn’t know how to handle all that was going on between her and I. I knew something was there but I didn’t know what exactly. I sat back and listened.
They talked about a girl that Denise had met and thought was really “hot.” Sean and her laughed and talked like old buddies. Sean asked her if she ever had a boyfriend. Denise had told her once but that she was only with him because a girl she didn’t like wanted him. Soon as the girl wasn’t interested anymore, she dumped him. They laughed at that. I had to too. I had done that before myself in high school.
They were having a good conversation while I was keeping an eye on Stephanie. I saw them start to walk over to us. I didn’t want to breach Denise’s trust by allowing Stephanie to walk in on their conversation so I met them halfway.
“This is Scott,” Stephanie introduced proudly.
“Hi Scott. I’m Toni.”
“Hi,” he said looking kind of nervous.
“What’s going on,” I asked the two lovebirds.
“Nothing, just wanted you to meet him,” she said still beaming.
“Well thank you. Its nice to finally meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you,” I complimented looking at Stephanie blushing.
He nodded his head and smiled shyly at Stephanie.
“Can we walk to the Gap over there,” she pointed to the store on the other side of the escalators.
“Sure but come right back. We will be leaving soon.”
The two of them rushed off holding hands. Young love was so beautiful. But I’ve seen it get really harmful too. I definitely was going to keep a close eye on Scott.
Denise and Sean were still talking, having a good time. I listened as Sean told her about her first boyfriend and how she knew right then she was gay.
“He was the best looking dude in the school and I still couldn’t get with him.”
Denise laughed hysterically.
“I feel you!”
The girl Denise was talking about was a girl from her cosmetology class. She was white and Denise and the girl had started off being working partners in class. The girl had a car so she drove Denise home some time and she really liked her. She told Sean that the girl kissed her yesterday and it was the best kiss she ever had, which wasn’t a lot but still the best.
Sean listened, focused. I was really admiring the way she was handling Denise.
I saw Stephanie and Scott heading towards our table again.
“Um, Denise. One of my other clients is here visiting with her friend.”
“Oh, okay,” she said turning around in the direction I was looking.
“I know her,” Denise said standing up.
“Oh my god! How are you,” Stephanie squealed. The two girls hugged.
As I listened to them squealing and catching up in thirty seconds, I figured out that they knew each other from middle school. They had been good friends once but lost contact after they went to different high schools. What a small world, they both said laughing.
We all sat down at the table and Sean and I went to grab drinks leaving the kids at the table.
“Thank you so much for coming to meet Denise. The two of you are really hitting it off.”
“Yea, she is a cool kid. Reminds me of myself at her age,” she smiled proudly.
“That is a good thing for her because you turned out okay,” I said smiling at her.
I really did think she was a great person. Her personality was contagious and everyone seemed to like her so far. I wondered for a split second what my parents would think of her.
“Thank you Toni. That means a lot to me.”
She was looking at me so intently, I wasn’t sure whether to continue walking or stop in my place.
She sat the drinks down she was holding on the table closest to us.
“Can I ask you something?”
I replied slowly, “Of course…”
“I know you are going through a lot right now but I'm attracted to you.”
I didn’t know what to say so I kept quiet.
“I just want to be there for you when and if you need someone to talk to or hang out with. Is that okay with you?’
“That’s easy. I think I can do that.”
I sat my drink down and gave her a nice tight hug. I wanted her to know that I was okay with how she felt and I didn’t want our growing friendship to be awkward.
On the way back to my place, the placement coordinator called me and said they had a bed at a girl’s home near Stephanie’s school. They could take her immediately. I explained to Stephanie what was going on and she got upset very quickly.
“I can’t keep going to different homes. Why can’t I go to Stacey’s?”
I hadn’t thought about that. Stacey was the woman who cared for her originally. She had been sick but she was still licensed. I called her privately to talk to her. She was more than happy to have Stephanie. When I told Stephanie, she started crying and hugged me. We went to my house to gather her things and then I dropped her off at Stacey’s and left a message with the placement coordinator of her whereabouts. I had to go back in the morning to take her to court.
I drove back home and settled in, cuddled on the couch with a bag of popcorn. I wanted to call Jessica but I wasn’t ready. I promised myself I would call her tomorrow. I thought about the day I had with Denise, Stephanie, and Sean. I had really enjoyed myself and thought again about the possibility of having kids myself. It wasn’t totally out of the picture. I could adopt if I didn’t get married before I turned 40. I was still young and I felt that I could be a good mother. I was already getting plenty of practice with my clients. I had faith, though, that my child would not ever have to endure the pain that my clients had.