Terms and conditions
Sometimes she wished she’d made a different decision. Said no, instead of the “um, uh” which had been taken as assent. But because it was very unlikely she would ever be called on to fulfil the commitment she’d agreed to almost by default, she left it in abeyance assuming the whole idea would gather dust somewhere in the forgotten corners of their lives.
But her brother and sister-in-law hadn’t let the idea gather dust. They discussed her less than enthusiastic response but in the end felt it would be irresponsible to do nothing, although they too thought it was very unlikely the guardianship would ever need to be invoked.
The day of the accident was an unseasonably warm Saturday and when the news came, she was methodically weeding the garden and mulling over her plans for the summer. These included a long-awaited trip to America and the possibility of trading in her serviceable but boring hatchback for something a bit more exciting and zippy. Now, if ever she dared look back, the confusion of events of the next few weeks seemed like a series of cuttings in a scrapbook no one had yet had the time to put into sequence.
It was only now that she was, literally, coming to terms with it all. The terms were, as well as the obvious ones of no holiday, no new car and loss of job and independence, that she had to stop protesting her unsuitability for surrogate motherhood.
“Why do you want to adopt him?” asked the social worker and she wondered if it was only her imagination that sensed a genuine personal interest behind the official interrogation. Why did she want to adopt her orphaned nephew, when her side of the conditions was that she already enjoyed all the responsibilities and rights of his legal guardian for the next eighteen years, give or take the last few months?
Rain lashed against the window, promising an early start to winter. From upstairs, the baby’s thin wail cut into her thoughts, making her completely forget the high-minded and slightly sentimental speech she’d thought she ought to prepare in anticipation of the question. Apologising to the social worker, she got up to see to the baby, then remembered she still hadn’t answered.
“I love him,” she said.
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