“What’s wrong?” I asked, grinding the sleep out of my eyes with my small balled fists. He didn’t respond, so I opened them and sat up. “What is it, Del?”
“We can’t do this,” he said. “I don’t know what got into me. I was so angry, so frustrated, I didn’t give it all real thought.”
“Why not? We have so much money. You said so yourself last night.”
“It’s going to take more than money, Teal, a lot more.”
“Why?” He shook his head. “Look at them,” he said, nodding at Shawn and Patty Girl. “We’ve taken on full responsibility for two infants. They have all sorts of needs, Teal, health needs, schooling, everything.”
“But the money…”
“It’s not going to last us forever, and we have to have some legal means, some proof of guardianship. Eventually, the law will catch up with us even if your father and mother are not coming after us. Then what do we do?”
“We can make it work. Somehow, we can, Del,” I pleaded.
He lowered his head.
“I haven’t even attended to her funeral,” he said. “I know I should hate her like crazy, but she’s lying back there in some cold hospital morgue, and there’s no one going to come around to see about her. They’ll dump her in some pauper’s grave, and I won’t even know where it is. Who knows what they’ll do? They might just cremate her and scatter her ashes in a junkyard.”
I stared at him.
“Del,” I said, shaking my head, struggling to come up with more reasons, more hope.
“I’m sorry, Teal. I was too impulsive. I know I got you into more trouble and you have enough of your own. You don’t need to take on ours as well. I’m sorry.”
“You didn’t get me into anything I didn’t want to get into myself,” I said petulantly.
Just then Shawn sat up and looked around, confused.
“Hey,” Del said, standing and going over to him.
“Where are we? Where’s Mama?”
“We took a little car ride for fun,” Del told him. “We’ll have breakfast in a restaurant soon, too.”
Shawn looked at me.
“Hi,” I said, and he smiled.
He looked down at Patty Girl and then at Del. Del glanced at me. Shawn wasn’t as young and trusting as I thought, and Del knew it, too.
“Where’s Mama?” he asked.
“We’ll go home,” Del said as an answer, and looked at me with an expression that shouted, “See! See what I mean and why it’s going to be so hard!”
I fell back against my pillow and stared up at the ceiling. Del went out and got Shawn’s and Patty Girl’s clothing. By the time he returned, she was up and I was helping to get them together. Before we had pulled into the motel, we saw a roadside restaurant that looked like an old-fashioned diner. Shawn and Patty Girl were excited about being there and having pancakes.
I was so nervous about them, about how they were going to take the news of their mother’s death, that I didn’t think about my own situation until we were a good half hour on the road back home. We bought Shawn and Patty Girl some coloring books and small toys to amuse them for the trip. Del kept apologizing and blaming himself. I was terribly disappointed but kept my tears behind my lids. They fell inside me.
We didn’t stop for anything but gas. Del got the kids some candy, and we were driving back into Albany proper by two-thirty.
“Where do you want to go first?” I asked him.
“We’ll go home and I’ll get their things back into the house. Then I’ll contact the hospital and see what I have to do.”
“I’ll stay with you as long as I can,” I said.