Kiki isn’t always happy. Sometimes, she wakes up from a nap, and no one is in the house, and she is alone again. Always, there’s that little fear–will they come back?
The fear doesn’t make her more shy–it draws her out to meet new people.
Most of the people she meets are really tall. She has to squint when she looks at them, even when she wears her sunglasses, because their heads are up in the sun.
Conversations work best, she finds, when she pretends she’s a kitten. Kiki the kitten. Really tall people like kittens, so their voices grow soft when she meows to them and bats her paws.
But she doesn’t have to pretend with Cay-Cay. He likes her even when she is a very small girl, even when her words don’t come out right, and even when she is sad and needs a hug.
He hugs her when she’s happy, too, though, so she learns early that she doesn’t have to be sad for him to notice her. He will notice her anyway.
“I think Kiana is adjusting really well,” Ira says.
“You’re doing all the right things, Case, to help her feel at home with us.”
“I think about what she’s been through a lot,” Case says.
“I know good things happen when you think,” Ira replies, more to herself, than anyone.
“I’ve been reading about attachment theory.”
Of course he has.
“Do you know,” he continues, “that even if early attachments are interrupted, it doesn’t mean that the child won’t ever form attachments again? And it doesn’t even really mean they’ll be scarred for life?”
“I sort of figured as much,” Ira chuckled. “You’ve got all the right components to help somebody feel like they belong.”
“Consistency, warmth, availability,” he adds. “Researchers say that these approaches help even adults who have had attachment issues.”
“Don’t I know it,” says Ira. “You’re always there, always kind, without being smothering. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be a little kid who has an adult around who’s like that. Kiki’s really lucky.”
“I think we should adopt her,” Case says. “Or I should, if they won’t let both of us. They said that they need to look for her family, because social services always tries to keep families together, whenever they can, so they’re looking for grandparents or uncles, aunts, cousins, that sort of thing. But the social worker also told me that they didn’t think they’d find any, or any that would qualify to take her. So there’s a chance we could adopt.”
“Do they let single people adopt?” Ira asks. “We could always get married if you had to have a spouse for that.”
“I wouldn’t want to,” Case replies. “It would feel weird. The social worker says there shouldn’t be any obstacle to being single, all things considered. But they need to finish their search, for the paperwork, then I need to prove that this really is a stable home.”
Ira feels confident that it will work out, even if it takes some time. Case isn’t ready to let himself feel optimistic. He’s not sure if he can trust things to work out when other people and their rules are involved. But he’s got to give it a try. He can’t imagine this tiny person becoming a really tall person anywhere but here, with him and Ira.