Shwup. Beep! Celeste chuckled and pulled her plastic card back out of the hotel door, hurrying to push the handle while the little light was still green. Last time she’d been in a hotel they still had metal keys to unlock the doors. Next time she would probably just have to look into an eye recognition screen.
The room was perfect, decorated in greens and purples with a queen bed, a couch, a little table, and—she rushed into the bathroom to check—yes, a jetted tub! It was way more room than Celeste needed, but she had decided that if she had to come into the city she might as well make a mini-vacation of it. Tuesday she would go back home—back to her life of work and friends and movies. She would forget about the last few weeks and get back to normal.
Sometime later she was meandering down the sidewalk, window-shopping and enjoying the lingering rose scent of her recent bubble bath. She wandered down to the pier, noticing a young mother and father showing off their baby to an older woman, pride shining from their eyes. Celeste felt a twinge of regret, but pushed it quickly away. Seeing a bookstore, she smiled. That would be just the thing—a romance book to read before bed.
As she walked through the knick-knacks and books, she found herself in the Christian section. A framed oil painting caught her eye, depicting Jesus with children gathered all around him. When she left the bookstore a few minutes later, it wasn’t the book tucked under her arm that held her thoughts, but the kindness in Jesus’ eyes.
Right next door to the bookstore was a candy shop. Celeste grinned and entered. A woman was already in the shop, her kids crying excitedly, trying to make the oh-so-difficult decision of what to choose. One girl was uninterested in her own treat. Instead she dashed from one case to another, crying, “What are we going to get Daddy? Look Mommy! Daddy loves raspberry truffles.”
Back in her hotel room Celeste snuggled into the couch with her book, her chocolates within reach. But somehow she couldn’t concentrate. Finally she turned on the TV and watched until it was late.
Strangely, as she drifted off to sleep that night, it wasn’t Tom Hanks’ voice that filled her dreams, but a young girl’s voice, “What are we going to bring Daddy?”
Celeste woke abruptly. She couldn’t remember what she had dreamed, but her heart was racing and her breath came fast. Sitting there in the dark, the day came back to her with a muddled succession of confused thoughts. Two parents, beaming over their child. Youngsters’ shining eyes. The eyes of Jesus, looking kindly upon the children.
It was too much for Celeste. Curling into a ball, she wept. She wept with self-pity, for the lifestyle she was losing. But mostly she wept because of the appointment she had come to the city for, because of what she had almost done.
Finally the tears were spent, and Celeste stumbled to the light switch. Leaning against the wall, she stared down at her still-flat abdomen. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I’m so sorry.”
Taking a shuddering breath, Celeste reached for her purse and resolutely drew out a small white card. She laid it by the phone and dialed slowly. It seemed to take forever for the answering machine to pick up. “This is Celeste Thane. I was scheduled on Monday for an…” she couldn’t bring herself to say the word. “For an appointment. I want to cancel. I won’t be coming in.”
Celeste stood in the middle of the room. She wasn’t sure what to do, how to handle her emotions. She noticed that the sun had come up at some point, already lighting the room. She needed someone to talk to, someone to help her. There had been a church across the street from the bookstore. She laid a hand over her womb, over the child that would now live. Perhaps the pastor’s wife would talk with her. Maybe she could tell Celeste how to find a good mother and father for her child. And maybe, just maybe, the adoptive family would tell her child about Jesus. She wondered if he was as kind as the painter portrayed him.
Celeste dropped the business card in the garbage as she walked out the hotel door. Then she headed for the church.
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