“Okay.” Sara looked down at Lily again, as if he’d been dismissed from her mind.
An hour later they were on their way to the Chicago courthouse. Lily was asleep in the car seat. Sara had dressed her in a fancy one-piece outfit and even added a matching headband with a bow. If it had been him alone, the child would have been lucky to have on a sleeping onesie. Women just seemed to think of things like dressing up a child. Lily would look like the well cared-for, happy baby girl she was to the judge.
Once parked, they opted for taking out the stroller. Sara’s argument was that if Lily needed to sleep they had a place to put her. The three of them entered the courthouse building looking like a real family. With a start, Grant realized he thought of them that way.
Leon was there to greet them. “We’ll be meeting in the judge’s chambers. The Armsteads are here with their lawyer. To tell you the truth, I’m surprised to see them. I hadn’t expected them to push the issue this far after they found out you’d married. This may not be the walk in the park I had anticipated.”
A pang of fear shot through Grant. “What do I need to do?”
“Both of you...” Leon looked at Sara as well as him “...just need to answer the judge’s questions truthfully.”
The judge’s assistant opened the door and directed them into the judge’s personal chambers. Grant held the door as Sara pushed Lily into the office. The Armsteads and their lawyer were already seated in front of a large desk. Three empty chairs were further over. Sara went to the furthest one, pushed the stroller up next to it and sat. Grant took the one next to her and Leon the one closest to the Armstead party.
“I understand that we’re all here to decide who should have custody of Lily Evelyn Smythe,” the judge said from the other side of the desk.
Sara placed a hand over Grant’s where it gripped the arm of the chair. He glanced at her. She gave him a reassuring smile.
The judge stood and looked over the desk at Lily. “So this is the child in question.”
“Yes, sir, it is.” Leon began to outline Grant’s case.
The judge waved his hand, stopping him. “If you don’t mind I’d like to hear from the...” he looked down at the file in front of him “...the Armsteads first.”
Grant tensed and Sara squeezed his hand. He turned his over and clasped hers.
Over the next few minutes the Armsteads’ lawyer outlined the reasons why they should get custody of Lily.
“Enough of that,” the judge said. “I’d like to talk to the couple in question. Please tell me why you believe you are the best choice to be parents of this child.”
Mr. Armstead pointed out all of the advantages to living with them. Thankfully he said nothing that Grant wasn’t expecting.
The judge asked, “Mrs. Armstead, do you have anything to add?”
She looked at her husband and then shook her head.
The judge turned to Grant. “Dr. Smythe, I would like to hear from you now.”
Again Sara clasped his hand tighter. He cleared his throat. “Sir, the important thing here is what is best for Lily. She is my sister but now also my daughter. I believe that she should live with me and my wife, her closest family.” He continued to share all he could offer Lily.
As if Lily wanted to give her opinion, she whimpered in the stroller. Grant stopped talking while Sara picked Lily up and held her across her chest, patting her bottom.
Grant look at her. “She needs a change?”
He turned to the judge. “Would you excuse us a minute while we see to Lily?”
The judge nodded. Grant stepped past Leon and around the chairs to retrieve the diaper bag from under the seat of the stroller and pulled out a diaper. Sara had already laid Lily on his chair. With efficiency that he’d come to expect from her, Sara had the diaper off and was putting the new one on in no time. He took the wet diaper, rolled it up and placed it in the plastic bag he’d also taken from the diaper bag. He put it under the seat of the stroller. Sara was soon done dressing Lily again. Grant took his chair once more.
“Thank you, Judge. As I was saying...” As he finished Lily whimpered again. He took her from Sara and Lily quieted.
The judge looked at Sara. “Mrs. Smythe, do you have anything that you’d like to add?”
“Yes, I do.”
Grant was a little surprised Sara was speaking up but the confidence in her voice gave him some.
“Lily had nobody and Grant took her. He had no experience with babies. In fact, he was a baby at taking care of a baby. But he has been a quick learner. As you can see, he has come a long way in a short time.” Lily started to cry. She reached into the diaper bag and pulled out a burp pad. Handing it and a bottle to Grant, she continued, “This is one of the most caring and gentle men I’ve ever known. I’m sure the Armsteads are nice people and I’m sure they would do everything in their power to be good parents, but Grant and I both love Lily and think of her as our own. What you’re seeing here between the three of us isn’t for show. This is how it is. We’re both involved in Lily’s care. We are a partnership. Please let us continue to love and care for Lily.”