Wrapped in Swaddling Clothes
This is a preview to the chapter Wrapped in Swaddling Clothes from the book Perking the Pansies by Jack Scott.
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It’s a well-known fact that most newly-hatched humans are pig ugly. My mother told me that I was born with a face like a rhino’s groin. “Even after a month I was embarrassed to take you out. We considered plastic surgery.” Mother would no doubt have been happier with Nancy’s charge, a tiny beguiling bundle of perfection with silky caffè latte skin, huge brown eyes and a tuft of wispy black down covering her head. This was a catwalk kid, the kind of child that could feature on the cover of Good Looking Babies International or become the face of Johnson’s baby oil without raising a sweat.
“Cute baby, Nancy,” I said. Liam cooed and the gurgling baby cooed back.
“Ain’t mine, Jack.”
Charlotte couldn’t contain herself. “Sweet pea, it’s a miracle.”
“Remember the night at Clement’s?”
“Still having the nightmares.”
“We got a call. The call. The poor young woman. We had to help.”
Charlotte welled up and grabbed my arm.
“The baby’s yours?”
“Yes. It’s our time.”
As we chatted, hugged and fussed over the baby, an astonishing tale unfolded. A young Turkish woman had given birth in Izmir. She named the baby Adalet. Unmarried and no better than a harlot in the eyes of her community, Adalet’s mother was faced with an agonising choice: place her baby in a state orphanage or find someone to take her on. An orphanage was unthinkable.
“She was so pleased to find us, Jack. It’s a perfect win-win situation.”
Charlotte was ecstatic. Private adoption was perfectly legal in Turkey and everything was done in the presence of a lawyer. Adalet was now theirs and that was that. Almost.
“In three weeks we’ll petition a local court to adopt her officially.”
“It’s a miracle,” said Nancy.
Charlotte cried. I don’t think I have ever seen a woman so happy. Years of repressed emotion had exploded in a single event. She clung on to her baby and sobbed with relief and unabashed joy. Liam wrapped his arms around Charlotte and they chatted animatedly about baby-grows, nursery wallpaper and the variable quality of Turkish nappies. I looked at Alan.
“I know, we could be paedophiles.” “I’m happy for you, Alan, really I am.”
I turned back to look at Adalet and she broke into a broad smile. These were good people with good hearts. Adalet would be happy and that’s what mattered. We said our goodbyes, left them to family life and wandered off into town.
We walked in silence, heading for the timber-framed council-run café. All Turkish towns had them. Cheap çay attracted locals and tourists alike, despite the surly service (“Get your own friggin’ cutlery!”) and arse-aching seats (“If you want comfort, go to the bloody Marina!”). Liam liked to go native and went off to order the tea in Turklish, leaving me at a table overlooking the sea. Boisterous Turkish families on their Sunday outing spilled onto the quayside. Grannies were wrapped up against the wind and pre-pubescent boys had dressed to impress the girl next door with their fake designer sportswear. Toddlers toddled too close to the harbour’s edge and shrieking mothers leapt to the rescue. Impromptu fishing lines with hooks fashioned from chicken wire were dangled in the choppy waters and proud sons rushed to their father’s side to count the catch. I loved it there.
Liam returned a defeated man.
“I ordered tea but got Nescafé. That man hates me.”
Nestlé had cornered the Turkish instant coffee market and we preferred it to the authentic Turkish kind, though Liam was determined to educate our palate.
“Just ‘cause it looks and tastes like tar, doesn’t mean we won’t grow to love it.”
We sipped our Nescafés and looked out to sea. “The baby thing,” I said. “What do you think?”
A small convoy of fishing boats put-putted past the café and the fishermen waved at the tea house. We waved back with everyone else, craning to understand the banter that was thrown between the two sides.
“But she’s not theirs,” I said. “Not yet, no.”
“It’s a strange process.”
“You think it’s wrong?”
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