|“Yes, yes. I do feel that the service I provide is a very special one.” Liza Knight, a large woman in her early fifties, patted her soft gray curls. “In fact, if you feel you’re ready, I can introduce you to the young lady now.” Her slight drawl hinted at Southern roots, but her voice was refined enough to indicate a distinct upper class upbringing. Liza was no longer the debutante she had been at the New York Debutante Ball of 1898 where she met her now late-husband. But even now, thirty years later and with nearly three times the girth added to her once-svelte body, she still maintained herself with the utmost dignity. It was important that a lady remain a lady, and besides, it was good for business.
Liza sat in a large, overstuffed rose-colored armchair where crocheted doilies adorned each arm of the chair and the headrest. She sat in the end chair of the furniture grouped around a narrow coffee table. The table was flanked by two overstuffed sofas, one on each side; one floral, the other the same dusty rose as the chair where Liza sat. A married couple sat on the floral sofa, closest to the door. Most visitors chose the sofa closest to the door.
“I’ll call her now so you can meet her,” Liza turned slightly to her right and made as if to call out.
The couple now sitting across from Liza on the overstuffed sofa glanced at one another. Liza was familiar with the reaction. She paused and turned back to smile kindly at them. It was a smile of understanding. Liza was practiced in her art and didn’t let even a hint of her glee surface at their reaction. Her joy was further heightened because she knew these people. They had only just been in the tabloids yesterday. Gunther Anderson was among the wealthiest bankers New York had ever seen, and his wife, Muriel, the daughter of an English Lord, was a glamorous woman who was well-known, not just in the city, but in the entire country. That both came from old money was wide-spread knowledge, but Gunther was, by all accounts, one of the most successful mavericks to trade on the stock exchange. Everything he touched turned to gold.
Of course, sitting here before Liza now, they had gone to great pains to hide their identities: dark wigs for both, and in the case of Mr. Anderson, an oversized false mustache that he used to hide much of the lower part of his face. Mrs. Anderson wore a scarf tied awkwardly to hide her chin, and decidedly ugly glasses gave her unadorned eyes a small, beady look. Yes, Liza knew exactly who these people were and she also knew that in ten years of marriage, they had yet to conceive. Liza made a mental note to think of them, for now, as Mr. and Mrs. James. She would hate to slip up and use their real names. The James’s they wanted to be, then the James’s they would be.
“Miss Liza, we appreciate the offer, but uh . . .” Mr. James shook his head. “We would rather not meet the young lady.”
“We mean no offense,” Mrs. James offered.
“None taken, none taken,” Liza said, reaching for Mrs. James’s hand. She patted the younger woman’s hand and cooed, “There, there now. You do only that which makes you comfortable. This is a rather life changing event and it must go exactly as you wish.” She quickly ran some figures in her head as she sized up the couple. The clothes were fine quality and clearly, tailor-made. Mrs. James’s green hat matched her jacket perfectly, which again was a perfect match to the green in the floral dress she wore beneath it. Her black patent leather pumps shone and carried not one scuff. Mr. James’s wingtips were likewise unsullied and his dark, pinstriped silk suit was perfectly tailored. In their daily lives, they made a remarkably striking couple; he dark and brooding, she light and airy with shiny blonde hair and clear blue eyes. But even now, disguised as they were, they still looked lovely together. Most importantly, Liza had no doubt they would pay their bills as required. Of course, she would charge them far more than the standard two hundred dollars per month. Even that was quite a hefty sum, but Liza was certain the Andersons could afford far more. She released the young woman’s hand and picked up her cup and saucer, taking a small sip as she continued her analysis of the couple. They had reached a crucial point in the meeting.
When Liza sensed that a couple was about to reconsider, she would do all she could to convince them, subtly, that the decision needed to be made now. This couple, however, would be back even if they did leave today without a solid agreement. She could see it in Muriel’s inability to hide her desperation. She was in her late twenties, if Liza recalled correctly, perhaps even her early thirties—late for a woman to begin childbearing. Liza could definitely relax with these two.
“If you need more time to think it over—“
“No, no.” Mr. James sat forward, set his teacup in its saucer and expertly placed the saucer on the coffee table so the china made barely a sound. “We do want to go through with this.”
Muriel looked almost guiltily at her husband, but her guilt gave way to gratitude. He smiled at her and she leaned into him, resting her head against his shoulder. He reached across with his free arm and squeezed his wife’s shoulder for a moment, then resumed his more business-like position and gazed directly into Liza’s eyes.
“This is what my wife wants, and what I want. I need an heir, and my wife feels the need to fulfill her maternal duties. But meeting the girl . . .” He shook his head and glanced away for a moment, then turned his gaze once more to Liza. “You confirm she’s blonde—“
“And very pretty. Under different circumstances, she might very well have been a movie star—“
“And her . . . the young man . . .”
“I saw his picture. He is remarkably like you. Oh, there are some differences, of course. Social standing, for one, but—“
“Then we’d rather not meet her.”
“At this time,” Mrs. James added.
“We may,” Mr. James paused and gave his wife a stern glance, “we may never meet her. We do not want to recognize her in the street upon accidental meeting, nor do we wish that she recognize us.”
“Oh, of course, of course.” Liza patted her hair again as she set her own saucer on the table. “If you’ll give me just a moment, I’ll go get the necessary paperwork.” She pushed herself out of the chair with both hands planted firmly on the arms of the chair. She was barely to her feet when Mr. James also rose, quite suddenly.
“No.” Mr. James thrust one arm out in a stop motion. “No,” he said again shaking his head, the tips of his mustache quivering. He suddenly stood up straight, unnecessarily straightened the knot of his tie and sat back down. His wife clutched his arm and gazed at the floor.
“But, I thought . . . “ Liza sank back down, her gaze flitting from the husband to the wife. Oh, she loved this couple, but continued to give no hint of it. Her features bore a mask of puzzlement.
“We, uh . . . we’d prefer no paper trail.”
“I see, I see.” Liza nodded, resting one elbow on the arm of a chair and tapping her chin thoughtfully.
“If anyone found out that I . . .” Mrs. James began, her tears precariously close to slipping from her eyes. “It’s why I’m spending the rest of the year in France, and—“
“Now, now, Darling. Let me handle this.”
Mrs. James nodded and clung to her husband’s arm.
Before Mr. James could speak, Liza cut in. “Mr. James, and I am certain that isn’t your real name . . .you have a highly recognizable face however you may choose to hide it,” Liza said quietly. Muriel looked anxiously toward her husband. Gunther opened his mouth to speak.
Liza put up a staying hand and continued. “Please understand that because of the very nature of what I do, I can assure you, I am completely discreet. The contract will be destroyed upon completion of the . . . how to word this . . .” She shook her head and then added with a sympathetic glance at the distraught woman, “the exchange. I no more want, nor need, a paper trail myself. However—“
“No, Miss Liza,” Mr. James spoke firmly, almost harshly. “You think you know who we are, and whatever your assumptions, I will neither confirm nor deny the truth if you were to ask, so please do not. And you would be well advised to understand that should we sign a contract, it would be entirely useless since I would not sign it with my real name. I see no point in signing one, and I will not take that risk. We came to you because we were informed that this would be done with absolute discretion.”
Liza bit her lower lip, her hands in her lap. She squeezed the fingers of one hand worriedly, then switched hands and did the same, as if extremely concerned about signing the contract. “My first concern is to the young lady in my charge. If I can’t promise her that she will be taken care of, how—“
“Please don’t tell me it’s money,” Mr. James laughed as he reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. He flipped it open with one hand and started pulling out bills. “I’ll pay everything upfront, right now. How much will it cost?”
“Mr. James, put your money away,” Liza said with a sigh. She smiled kindly at Mrs. James who gazed back with blatant desperation. “I’ll do it.”
“I mean what I say, Miss Liza. I am willing to pay you everything now. Just name the price.”
“You don’t need to pay it all today, Mr. James,” Liza said evenly, sweeping her hand delicately to indicate that Mr. James should be seated again, next to his wife. Mr. James gave a curt nod and after tucking his wallet back in his pocket, sat down and took his wife’s hand.
“The cost will be four hundred dollars per month from now until the birth, as well as one month afterward to ensure the young lady is recovered and can resume the life she once knew.”
“Four hundred dollars? That’s ludicrous!”
“You are asking me to take quite a risk by not signing a contract, sir. I must be absolutely certain that this helpless little child will have a loving home to go to when he—or she—is born.”
“And how far along is she?” Mrs. James asked.
“The baby will be born, we expect, well into autumn. Perhaps the end of October.”
“I will not pay four hundred dollars.”
“Ah, then we have a problem. I will not negotiate when a child’s life is at stake.” Liza kept her voice even throughout their exchange.
“I will pay you two hundred dollars per month. That, you know, is more than enough for medical expenses, food, clothing, shelter and God knows what else, and from what I’ve heard, despite that being a small fortune, it is your going rate.”
“Four hundred,” Liza said quietly. “Though, I suppose you could try a regular adoption agency.”
“I can’t do that,” Mrs. James whispered. She pulled a linen kerchief from her purse and lifted the glasses just enough to dab her eyes. Liza understood perfectly well. There was a certain shame for some women to admit they couldn’t bear children. Liza had never understood that thinking, since she herself had never been able to have a child, and had never felt less a woman for it. But then, it wasn’t something one talked about outside of a doctor’s office, and doctors just assumed a woman felt less womanly if she didn’t give birth.
Silence fell over them. Liza, still seated in her large chair, and Mr. James, standing next to the sofa, were locked in an unwavering gaze, while Mrs. James sobbed quietly.
“Explain to me why I shouldn’t just walk out of here right now and report you for your blatant extortion,” Mr. James said, keeping his temper under control, though just barely.
“And I shall in turn report that you came to me of your own free will, in the hopes of purchasing a baby, though I have none to sell. I can assure you, Mr. James, that there would be no trace of surrogacy here. Now, how your wife would withstand such attention from the media is surely—“
“Gunther, please!” Mrs. James pulled at her husband’s sleeve. “I couldn’t stand it if I had to walk out of here knowing we could have had a child. It’s only money, Gunther. Isn’t that what you always say? It’s only money?”
Once the financial arrangements were made, with Gunther agreeing to pay, in cash, a total sum of twenty-four hundred dollars, to be paid in monthly installments so as not to arouse suspicions with larger withdrawals, Mrs. James was truly excited for the first time since setting foot in Liza’s home. The three made their way to the foyer, and the moment Mr. James opened the front door, his driver came around from the front of the car to the back passenger door, where he stood at the ready for his next task of ushering his employers inside their luxurious Sedan.
“And you will send a telegraph to Paris, won’t you, when it’s time?”
“Of course, of course, my dear.” Mrs. James hugged Liza before parting, and Liza whispered, “You will make a wonderful mother, Muriel.”
“You really do know us?” the younger woman asked in alarm. She glanced toward her husband who was now out on the porch. Liza followed her gaze. The so-called Mr. James didn’t appear to have heard their exchange.
Liza winked and squeezed Muriel’s hand. “Your secret is safe with me.”
When the door was closed and the couple was walking briskly to the waiting car, Liza hurried to the bottom of the stairs. “Quickly, quickly, Mary-Ann! Go to the window and do the move!”
As quickly as she could, Liza hurried to the window of the parlor and careful not to be seen, looked out to see if Muriel would react as she suspected the young woman would. As if on cue, Muriel, just as she was about to get into the car, paused and gazed up at the house. She caught a glimpse of a young woman at one of the windows on the top floor. It was a brief glimpse. The young lady had let the curtain fall too quickly for Muriel to react, but she had seen enough. The woman, really little more than a girl, appeared to be in her very early twenties, or late teens perhaps. Her hair was long, blonde and flowed past her shoulders. The poor dear was clearly not up on styles, but still, she was absolutely beautiful. Muriel smiled.
Liza sat at the head of the table, and ate with great gusto. This cook was particularly good, knowing just how to spice everything and every other word out of Liza’s mouth was “divine.”
To Liza’s left were two young girls of about sixteen. Conchita was Mexican and spoke very little English, but her beauty was self-evident. She would only grow more beautiful as she aged. Next to her was Tawney, a mixed girl who said her mother was Negro and her father a white man she had never met. She was quite pretty and would have seemed all the prettier were she not seated next to Conchita. Both of these girls were pregnant.
On the right, across from Tawney and Conchita, sat two more girls. Mary-Ann, blond and beautiful was twenty-two now, and at the moment, wasn’t pregnant. She was the only one of Liza’s girls that had stayed with the older woman for more than the duration of her pregnancy, though Liza had made the same offer to other girls that she had made to Mary-Ann.
“Stay with me, if you like. Money, cars, anything you like will be provided, but in return, I will expect you to provide a baby now and again to help out.”
Mary-Ann didn’t particularly enjoy the lifestyle, but Liza gave her a good allowance and it was better than the life she’d been leading that had led her to Liza’s doorstep. In the seven years she’d been with Liza, Mary-Ann had given birth four times. It got easier every time. It was the moving that bothered her most. She’d loved Charleston the most, and considered staying there, but with no real skills, getting a job would have been too difficult. At least, that’s what she told herself when she agreed to make the moves to Philadelphia, Boston, and now, New York.
Next to Mary-Ann, sat the newest member of the group, Betty. By far the scrawniest of them all, she was also shorter than the other girls, younger by a year, and not nearly as pretty. She was a plain girl with mouse-brown hair and oversized large blue eyes. Unfortunately, her teeth were equally large in a mouth too small to fit them giving the poor child a decidedly unattractive overbite. But she was kind and eager to please. Her baby, Liza decided, would go to the Andersons.
All the girls were due at about the same time, give or take a week. None of them knew that all the babies would go to their new homes on the same day, and that the next . . . Liza, and most likely Mary-Ann, would be on to theirs. Neither Betty, nor the two girls who sat across from her had been asked to stay on beyond the birth of their children.
“Eat up, eat up, you scrawny little thing!” Liza said with great joy. She waved her fork toward Betty. “This food is absolutely divine and you are more fool than I give you credit for being if you don’t eat as much of it as you possibly can. Eat girls, eat!” Waving her fork as she spoke, she indicated the various plates and bowls of foods crammed at the center of the dining table.
A still steaming mound of Yorkshire puddings sat piled artistically between a platter of hot roast beef and a bowl of rich gravy. There were mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and freshly stewed tomatoes, and various vegetable dishes of, it seemed, every kind imaginable. There were salads: chicken salad, ham salad and a salad filled with Romaine lettuce and a variety of vegetables grown in Liza’s own garden. Various cheeses, pickles, and radishes filled the smaller side dishes. Afterward, the cook would bring out a fresh-from-the-oven apple dumpling that she would serve with ice cream. Peach tarts, macaroons and other such dainties would also be offered. Liza surely knew how to set a table when she was in a celebratory mood. All the babies would have homes to go to, and Liza’s bank account had suddenly taken a larger than expected leap. Today’s success surely warranted an over the top night of culinary hedonism.
“Indulge, girls. Indulge! That is the right of every young woman who must eat for two.” She laughed and then asked Tawney to pass the potatoes, “just once more.”
Summer passed uncomfortably for all of them. Liza couldn’t remember the last time she’d ever known summer to be so incredibly hot. Temperatures soared daily and it took all three of them—Mary-Ann, Cook and herself—to keep the girls cooled down. They complained incessantly of how hot they were, sometimes crying from the discomfort of being pregnant through the relentless heat. Mary-Ann and Cook did all the shopping during the day while Liza stayed behind as caretaker. She needed to make sure none of the girls tried to sneak outside in search of a cool breeze. Under cover of night, the three caretakers sometimes managed to spirit the girls out of the house for a walk through the park. It was cooler at night than during the day so it was the best time for walking, Liza told the girls. They were willing to take the stolen opportunities and the lie that went with them for the comfort the marginally cooler nights provided. Everyone knew, though no one stated it, that Liza’s primary concern was to ensure the girls weren’t seen out in public in their condition.
As summer wore on and turned to a golden-leafed autumn, the girls grew larger, and one by one, began to carry low. Liza checked them like she would turkeys roasting in the oven. “Yes, yes. You’re quite nearly ready, my dear. Quite nearly.” She had done extremely well with her timing this time around and was certain all the babies would be born close together. “Mere days, I think, mere days.” With her years of experience, Liza was rarely wrong.
The first labor began on Friday, October 18, 1929. Tawney was the first and unfortunately, had a difficult time of it. The other girls worried that their labors would be equally arduous. Liza was glad for Mary-Ann when the worrying began. “It’s painful yes, but it goes away so fast. And each time you have a baby, it’s easier and easier. So, someday, when you’re married and having babies of your own with your husband, he’ll be proud that his lovely little wife gives birth far better than any other new mothers!”
Liza and Mary-Ann stayed by Tawney through the night, and by noon the next day, a baby boy gave his first cry. Liza tutted over him, always happy to cuddle a new babe, but disappointed that this one would be difficult to pass off on the white family she had lined up to take him. He was paler than some of the black babies she had seen, but his features were far too distinct and easily belied his true heritage. Still, he was pale enough that she prayed he would do.
Liza fed a bottle to the strapping young boy in her arms and hoped Conchita’s baby would do all right. She knew better than to take in the darker girls, but when they’d been sent to her, she knew what a hard time they’d have of it if they tried to have their children adopted through the more “proper channels.” The way Liza did it, she handed the babies over, and before sunrise dawned the following day, she was gone, packed up and off to live under a new identity in another city. By the time that “hunch” that something wasn’t right hit one or both of the new parents, Liza was long gone. She never once used her real name in her exchanges, and if it weren’t for the regular deposits she made at the bank, she might easily have forgotten her real name altogether. She kissed the dark hair and her smile for the small boy was a sad one as she watched his grip on the bottle slacken and he drifted to sleep.
“Saturday’s child works hard for a living,” she whispered. “I think you and all your kin must have been born on Saturdays, you poor little thing. Or Wednesdays. But it might go different for you. I’ll certainly try. You just might be able to pass.”
Upstairs, Liza could hear Tawney beginning to call for her baby. Mary-Ann would administer a sedative and Liza would spirit the baby up to the attic, kept locked at all times. It was a pretty attic, done up as a nursery. Three cradles sat in a row at the middle of the room, and on the far side of the room, a change table stood against the wall. Two rocking chairs were set far from the window and the two small windows, the only ones in the room, faced out on the front lawn. Both had been covered with heavy draperies. Tawney’s son was placed gently in the cradle furthest from the door.
Liza was good at predicting due dates, but she hadn’t expected the other two girls to go into labor at virtually the same time. Liza was upstairs, serving soup to a still-convalescing Tawney. Music drifted up from the living room where she had left Mary-Ann entertaining the girls with her skill at the Charleston and the Shimmy. Liza found the dances somewhat vulgar with all the jiggling, but the girls seemed to enjoy Mary-Ann’s little shows.
Liza turned her attention fully to Tawney, trying now to make the girl drink some of the sage tea she’d had Cook prepare. It helped to dry up the milk, but as usual, Tawney pursed her lips and spat out what Liza did manage to get into her. The girl refused to move on and was entirely inconsolable at the loss of her child. Of course, Liza knew to expect this reaction sometimes, but usually, the girl had pulled herself together by the second day and was well on her way to recovery by the third. For five days now, Tawney had moaned, cried, and begged to see her baby. She heard him cry sometimes, she said, and at those times, would grab at her breasts, crying out in pain.
“They hurt me so bad. Please, please just let me feed my baby. Please. My baby needs mama.”
“Tawney, my dear girl, you know that isn’t possible. Please, don’t make the poor child starve. Let a little into the dish the way I showed you and they’ll feel better. I promise to feed it to the baby.” Liza was careful not to name the sex of the baby. She’d learned the hard way that when a mother knew even that little, it was harder to let go. Of course, there were always those that were grateful to be rid of the baby, but they were more rare than Liza would have preferred. She also knew not to give the child a name herself, however temporary. She’d found separating from the named children far more difficult than separating from the anonymous ones.
“Just let me feed my baby, myself,” Tawney often cried, weak and defeated, but always letting a little into the dish as instructed. Afterward, Liza would apply cabbage to the engorged breasts and bind them tight to help stop the milk from flowing. Liza always hated this part. She preferred to let Mary-Ann handle this and while they were supposed to take turns, Mary-Ann had more turns at changing the cabbage and binding than did Liza.
This evening, she finished securing the binding and finally got Tawney settled back down. Liza was just smoothing the covers when a low but rapid knock came at the bedroom door.
“Betty’s a fast one,” Mary-Ann said quickly when Liza joined her in the hall. “One moment her water broke, and the next she was into hard labor.”
“Oh my,” Liza said, following Mary-Ann down the hall to Betty’s room. The girl was writhing on the bed, a rag tied at her mouth to bite on and to keep noise of her screams from reaching their unsuspecting neighbors.
“She’s a screamer,” Mary-Ann said as explanation for the rag.
Liza nodded and went to Betty’s side. She stroked the young girl’s hair and kissed her forehead. “There, there, dear. There, there now. I’m just going to see how ready you are, alright?” She quickly washed her hands in the basin on the dressing table, then came to the bed where the girl, at the moment, lay limp and panting. Her next contraction could happen at any moment and Liza needed to know how far ready the girl was now. With a nod, she said, “Very good, Betty. You shouldn’t have to suffer much more than an hour or so, I’d say.” She again washed her hands in the basin, and returned to Betty’s side. She wiped the child’s head with a cool, damp cloth and leaned her head back on the headboard. Her eyes met Mary-Ann’s and pointed with her chin toward the basin. Mary-Ann nodded and left to fill it with fresh warm water. When she returned, she looked worried and asked to have a word with Liza in the hall.
“Conchita’s water broke while we were up here, but so far she hasn’t had any sign of labor.”
“Help her up to her room, and keep an eye on her. I’ll call for you when I think we’re ready in here. Oh and Mary-Ann,” Liza called out before she was fully down the stairs, “tell Cook we’ll need her to go to the telegraph office first thing in the morning and send a wire to Mrs. Anderson, er, James. James. Mrs. James. I’ll need you here.”
Two hours later, Betty was at last dilated enough to begin the actual birthing. Liza called to Mary-Ann to come quickly, and for such a small thing as Betty was, the birthing was unusually fast, but not without complications. The child was born face up with the cord wrapped once around her neck. Liza worked quickly to remove the cord, Mary-Ann cut and tied it, and as Liza carried the baby to the basin where she would wash away the birthing blood, she said in a happy singsong voice, “You are an absolute natural, Betty, you dear, dear girl.”
Liza glanced at the clock on the dresser. One minute to midnight, October 23, 1929. “Wednesday’s child,” she said with a shake of her head.The little girl, barely six pounds, had yet to utter so much as whimper. Laying the baby on the pile of towels laid out next to the basin, Liza worked to pull mucus from the baby’s mouth and holding the tiny thing by the ankles, gave first the bottom a smart smack, and then the back. The baby trembled and drew in a shallow breath.
“I don’t hear anything. Why don’t I hear anything?” Betty asked, trying to sit up.
“Just lie back and rest. You’ve just put your body through a terrible tussle and you have to rest.”
“Why don’t I hear a baby’s cry?”
Liza, meanwhile, continued to work at clearing the baby’s air passage. At last, her tiny body atremble, the little girl gave a small mew.
“Oh, I’m so glad. I’m so, so glad,” Betty said with relief, closed her eyes and swallowed hard. “It’s a girl, isn’t it? I had a feeling it would be a girl.”
“Please just rest,” Liza said. She silently carried the baby from the room. She made her way down to the kitchen, to the back bedroom and rapped at the door until she awakened Cook.
“See to this baby,” Liza said sharply. “She’s not well and we must tend to her. Don’t let her give up the ghost. I have another birthing to see to.” Despite how tired she felt, Liza climbed the stairs and this time, entered Conchita’s room. Thankfully, Conchita was sleeping. Although her water had broken earlier that evening, and she had some false contractions, Liza was hopeful she had time to get a little rest. Tawney’s slow recovery was tiring her out, and now with the other two having their children closer together than expected, Liza felt her age seeping into her bones. Perhaps it was time to give up this way of life. She’d been at this long enough that her nest egg was quite hefty. Maybe she and Mary-Ann could go back to Charleston, Mary-Ann could find a nice young man to marry, and Liza could be assured of Mary-Ann’s care in Liza’s declining years. But then, didn’t she think that same thing every time the process went less than smoothly? This one had been doomed from the start with two of the girls being of a different race. And then there was the ugly little Betty with her sickly child. And of course Tawney's spit-fire ways.
“No,” she muttered to herself, “No, it is time to consider an end to this.” She let herself into Betty’s room and found both girls asleep. Betty, laid out on clean sheets, appeared to be sleeping peacefully. On the chair next to her, Mary-Ann held Betty’s hand, her head resting on the edge of the mattress.
“Wake up, Mary-Ann.” Liza jiggled Mary-Ann’s shoulder to rouse her.
“How is she?” Mary-Ann asked, shuffling along the hall next to Liza.
“I don’t know,” Liza said. “She wasn’t breathing well. I’ve left her in Cook’s care. I know I should take care of her myself, but I just need to rest, if only for an hour or two.”
Mary-Ann put her arm around Liza’s shoulders and with her head close to Liza’s whispered, “This is where you say, ‘Oh, Mary-Ann, my dear girl, perhaps we should end this madness and go settle down in Charleston.’”
Liza smiled. Mary-Ann gave Liza’s shoulder a squeeze. “She’ll be fine, you’ll see. This is to be expected though, right?”
In unison, they said, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.”
Conchita gave birth in the early evening on the 24th of October. Liza had spent the day largely with Conchita, but checked on the babies in the nursery as often as she could. The childcare fell mostly to Cook who had managed to keep Betty’s little girl alive through the night but her ultimate prognosis still was not good. Conchita’s baby, also a girl, would easily pass as white. She was the most beautiful of the babies in Liza’s estimation. She would have liked to give the Anderson’s this most perfect specimen, but the eyes were dark. They had hoped for a blue-eyed baby and that meant Betty’s frail girl.
It was late when she and Mary-Ann sat down to a small meal in the kitchen. Cook was up in the attic, tending to the babies diaper changes. On the stove, bottles full of milk were boiling. When they were done boiling and were cooled enough, Liza and Mary-Ann would cover baby duty so that Cook could return to the kitchen to prepare the cabbage treatments and the sage tea.
When they sat down to enjoy the simple meal of toast and eggs that Mary-Ann had prepared, Liza turned on the radio. The music was soothing.
“I would so love to see Louis Armstrong play,” Mary-Ann said wistfully as she pushed her scrambled eggs around on the plate, not really in the mood for eating. Liza agreed it would be a fine thing.
When the jazz number ended, the news began. Mary-Ann reached to turn it off, but Liza shook her head. “Oh, let’s leave it on and find out what’s happening in this big old world of ours.”
“The way the world moves now, I bet we missed a lot these past few months. I hardly know what people are wearing anymore.” Mary-Ann continued to slowly push her eggs, making a perfect circle of them in the center of the plate.
“Shh, shh!” Liza admonished. She hadn’t heard what the broadcaster had said, but she noted the twinge of panic in his voice.
“. . . stock market crash earlier today. The mass panic resulted in what many have claimed were millions of stocks being sold. Economist Irving Fisher tells us that while he understands the panic, this is a temporary downturn and there is no need for further worry. Fisher is the same expert who recently stated, and I quote, ‘Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau,’ end quote. Well, it would seem Mr. Fisher was slightly off on his assessment, but we can certainly hope that the essence of his statement is at least true and that the stock market will soon return to a permanently high plateau. It is expected that the banks will meet to determine the cause of this sudden crash and how quickly we can look for the stock exchange to return to the bull market we’ve come to view as an American way of life.”
“Oh my,” Liza said, using her napkin to dab the sweat that had sprung suddenly on her forehead and neck. ‘Oh my,” she said again.
Mary-Ann stopped fussing with her eggs. “Miss Liza?” She instinctively reached out to place her hand on Liza’s arm in an effort to provide some comfort. “Are you okay?” When Liza didn’t answer, she pressed for more. “Do you have stocks, is that why you’re so upset?”
“No. No, not me,” Liza said, her eyes roving, not really looking distinctly at anything in particular. She looked toward the ceiling, her eyes flitting to the corners of the room, not seeing them, but thinking about what this could mean to her, to Mary-Ann, to all of them. “Some of our clients.”
“Well, you heard him,” Mary-Ann said with smile. “It’s temporary. You’ll see. By Monday, everything will be back to normal.”
“Oh, I hope you’re right, I hope you’re right. I have to admit, it worries me that this Mr. Fisher didn’t predict this.” Liza pushed her plate away and rose from the table. “I should go give Cook a little reprieve.”
Liza needed to keep busy. The radio broadcast upset her and she wasn’t entirely sure why. She trundled slowly up the stairs, her mind racing with implications of what the reporter had said. Yes, it would affect her own business, but at least this batch of babies was born just fine and she knew she had enough in the bank to see her through for the rest of her life if she spent it wisely. That was a comfort. And she had enough to get these girls set back on track with their lives, though if their current clients failed to pay the final month owing, it did mean less in her savings account for the long term. She paused on the top stair of the second floor landing and gazed down the hall, fixated on the door at the end. Panic suddenly washed over her.
Behind that door were stairs to the attic where right now, three new cherubs lay sleeping, entirely helpless and at the mercy of the world. What if her clients didn’t take the babies? Everywhere anyone turned these days, the talk was of the stock market. On the radio, in the newspaper, and on the few occasions she ventured out, even grocery clerks and shoeshine boys were discussing stocks. If it were true that Wall Street had suffered a crushing blow like the one the reporter described, just how bad was it? Could it turn around on a dime, or was this going to be a slow climb back? Just how much would a stock market crash affect the lives of all the occupants in Liza Knight’s house? Her heart beat faster. He said bankers were meeting? What could this mean to the banks? She hoped that wasn’t the part of the broadcast she’d missed.
‘Well, neither prince nor pauper procures peace through panic,” she whispered and continued down the hall, forcing herself to push aside the worst thoughts. She scolded herself for being so daft. The reporter hadn’t said a word about the banks themselves. Liza was almost certain of that and until she heard otherwise, it would be prudent to assume the banks were perfectly fine and to simply wait it out. Surely this Mr. Fisher knew his business and by end of day the following day, everyone would be sighing in relief and laughing at their own folly. She would call all the parents on Tuesday to announce the children would be available by Wednesday and the children would no longer be a worry. She would like to have called them all by now, but for the promise to call Mrs. Anderson back from Paris first. Why she hadn’t called a week earlier, Liza didn’t know. The evidence was stacking up. She just wasn’t as fit for this work now as she once was.
By Friday afternoon, Liza was feeling a little better about the stock market. Depending on which news story you read in the New York Times you could feel worried or relieved. The biggest headline was, by far, the most comfort to Liza: “Leaders Confer. Find Conditions Sound.” So Mary-Ann had been right. The bankers were easing tensions and stocks were stabilizing. Liza could stop worrying and start thinking about where she and Mary-Ann would go next. Was it time to go to Charleston? Or maybe, if she didn’t give up her work just yet, the west coast could be promising. That’s where all the big movie stars were and where there were stars, there were was wealth.
By Monday, all the girls were recovering quite well. Tawney’s milk was beginning to slow, though it wasn't going as well as expected, but even so, she said she was feeling well enough to help out around the house. Mostly she worked in silence, but every now and then, she still asked to see her baby.
Liza pulled leaves off a head of cabbage and Tawney pounded and pressed them until they were soft and pliable, then set them in a bowl of ice water. “Just once, ma’am. Please. Let me see my boy just one time so I can burn the memory on my mind and love him better all his life. He’ll feel it deep in his heart for all his life and grow into a good man, if only he has his mama’s blessing.”
“And what makes you think it is a boy, Tawney?” Liza stopped in her work and turned to face the young woman full on.
“Mary-Ann told me.”
Liza pursed her lips and returned to the task at hand, though her movements now were harsher and she more attacked the cabbages than plied them.
“Don’t be mad at her, Miss Liza. I wouldn’t let up on her, not one minute. And it was a good thing. That’s what got me feeling better.”
Liza braced her hands on the counter, hung her head and sighed. She felt Tawney’s hand flutter softly on her shoulder. Liza stood up straight and gave Tawney a tired smile. “You girls are all so different,” she said shaking her head and laying a hand on Tawney’s cheek. “I think I have a system down pat, and then I learn, and relearn, that no such system really exists. No one thing works in all situations.”
“Does this mean you’ll let me see my son?” Tawney’s eyes glistened with tears.
Liza opened her mouth to speak, when the back door banged open. She spun around quickly, ready to reprimand Mary-Ann for being so careless, but the look on Mary-Ann’s face stopped her. An ice-cold fear ran through her.
“Miss Liza, you’ve got to hurry! Now, now! There’s a run on the banks, and you must hurry!”
“There’s no time to explain. Hurry! We may already be too late.”
By the time Liza and Mary-Ann arrived at the bank, the crowd was thick and it was impossible to get even so far as the steps of the bank. Liza, her eyes wide with fear was pressed along with the crowd. She held Mary-Ann’s hand tight but with another surge of the mass of bodies, their hands slipped away from one another. Her breath was coming out in rasps, and with great effort, she pushed her way through the crowd and came out of the throng on the far side of the street. Everywhere she looked, people were in frenzy. What had happened? Everything had been resolved on the weekend hadn’t it? What went wrong?
She took one last look around for Mary-Ann and not seeing any sign of the girl, made her way back home. She would simply call the bank and confirm that her money was perfectly safe. Surely, if this was because of the stock market troubles, she wouldn’t be directly affected. Never having bought stocks herself, her money couldn’t possibly be tied up in the fiasco. She tried to convince herself of that with each plodding step that led her closer to home and closer, she hoped, to answers.
Liza managed to get through to the bank once but the telephone rang and rang. She finally conceded that nobody would be answering it and hung up. But what if they were just extremely slow to get to the telephone—they wouldn’t just let it ring like that without someone answering it at some point. She tried again, but this time couldn’t even get an open line. And still she tried. Again, and again. She was about to try again when Mary-Ann returned at last.
Liza got to her feet, silently beseeching the girl for answers.
Mary-Ann shook her head. “I got to the front but the doors were locked. I don’t know if our money is safe or not.”
Liza nodded. A new plan was necessary. There was no time to wait for Mrs. Anderson’s arrival. She would have to convince Mr. Anderson to take the child himself and he could present the child to his wife when the S.S. Bremen docked the following day. “We . . . we need to contact the parents immediately. The children must go today. Once the children are gone, we will take the girls to the train station and arrange for their safe passage to wherever they’d like to go.”
“But we can’t get any money—“
“Each of the families will be making a final payment when they pick up their children. It will be enough to get us all out of here and I can deal with the bank account later.”
Liza, when she was finished her pacing, stood quite close to the telephone table. She lifted the receiver to her ear, and pressed the cradle several times in quick succession. There was only silence. Reaching into the drawer, she pulled out her address book and rifled through it for the telephone numbers of the families. She tried the family that would be taking the boy, a wealthy steel magnate and his wife. She dialed the numbers carefully, but was met with the same silence.
“Oh, no. The switchboards must be jammed,” she said sadly. “Mary-Ann, go get Cook. I need the both of you to go to these families directly and tell them it is time.”
When they returned, Liza was back on track and ready to get things under control. “Cook, you go to the Philips house as well as to the Walkers. Here are their addresses.” She tore the pages out of the address book and stuffed them in Cook’s hand. “Now remember to tell the Philips’s that their baby boy has arrived. Tell the Walkers they a have a lovely daughter. If Mrs. Walker asks details, describe Conchita’s daughter to them.”
Liza turned to Mary-Ann. “You need to go to the Anderson house.”
“The Anderson house?”
“Yes, yes. Tell them their baby girl has arrived. Describe Betty’s little one. Hurry, go.”
She ushered the women out the door, then turned to survey the room, get her bearings and think of her next step. She drew in a sharp breath when she saw Betty standing at the foot of the staircase. “I had a girl?”
“Betty, dear, you’re weak. You need to rest. Come along.” Now that Betty no longer had a protruding belly, she looked far younger than her fifteen years and far more pathetic. Without the glow of motherhood, the girl appeared as sickly as the child to whom she’d given birth. Liza didn’t have any idea what would become of the homely child but hoped whatever it was, would happen soon. If everything went as Liza hoped, this house would stand empty before nightfall and this would be a nightmare she could put behind her forever.
“My baby is going to the Andersons? Do you mean that banker and the lady with the English title?”
“Betty, hush now.” She led the girl back up the stairs. “You need to get as much rest as possible right now because this afternoon, you begin a grand new adventure!” Liza opened the door to Betty’s room and stood aside to let the girl go in ahead of her.
“Miss Liza, I can’t thank you enough!” Betty threw her arms around Liza and hugged her tight. The girl was sobbing. “I never dreamed, when that terrible night happened, and I discovered myself with child—I never ever dreamed my baby’s life would be so wonderful.”
“Betty, please, you must rest now.” She extracted herself from the squeeze and led Betty toward the bed, pressed gently on her shoulders to make the girl sit, then lifted Betty’s legs up so she had no choice but to lie.
“I don’t care much what happens to me after this, but just knowing that my baby girl will live a grand life is enough for me. She’ll sail to England, and maybe have a pony all her own, and she’ll wear the prettiest clothes and go to tea parties and have more dolls than she can count. I bet she’ll have a nanny too who will take her to the park and—“
Liza put a finger to her own lips and whispered, “Shhh. Let those pretty thoughts take you into a restful sleep, my dear little Betty. Just rest now.”
She then hurried up to the attic and saw to the babies, who thankfully, were all sleeping at the moment. “Small blessings, small blessings,” she muttered and hurried down the stairs. Liza made short work of going through the house gathering up only the mementos that meant the most to her and that wouldn’t take up too much room in her trunks. This wouldn’t be the first time she’d need to travel light, but now, more than ever, she prayed it was the last.
By the time Cook returned, Liza had set to boiling bottles for the babies. She had moved the babes into Cook’s room, just off the kitchen to better care for them and save herself from extra trips up the stairs. They were all lined up on the bed, blankets buffered around the edges of the bed to satisfy herself they were safe there more than protection to keep them rolling off since they had yet to acquire such skill.
“Well? Well?” Liza picked up the tongs and lifted a bottle from the boiling water. She turned and faced Cook, hands on her hips.
Cook shook her head. “I’m so sorry, Miss Liza. The Philips flat out refused. They said they don’t want the baby. They’ve just lost everything and can’t afford another mouth to feed. The Walkers plain out refused to see me.”
When Mary-Ann returned, her news was likewise dim. Liza sat feeding a bottle to Conchita’s babe, while Cook fed Tawney’s son. “He denied any knowledge of what I was talking about. He said, ‘I’ve never heard such a preposterous accusation. Get out or I shall call the police at once. Perhaps you don’t read the papers little Miss, but there is a crisis going on and people have better things to do with their time than pander to silly girls with wild stories. Don’t come back or you shall go straight to prison.’”
“He said all that?” Cook asked.
Mary-Ann nodded and shrugged one shoulder. “There was a lot more but that’s all I can really remember.”
Liza bit her lower lip and tried to think. She had no idea where to go or what to do next. “How much have we got in the flour jar, Cook?”
Cook laid the sated baby back down on the bed and returned to the kitchen. She brought the canister to the table and dumped the flour out on it. She then reached into the bottom of the jar, pulled up a false bottom and dumped the contents onto the table next to the flour. Liza counted the money. There wasn’t enough to buy tickets for all of them, let alone enough left over for food or shelter when they got to their unknown destinations.
“What are we going to do?” Cook asked.
“We need to tell the girls and discuss our options.” Liza held Conchita’s baby a little closer and sighed. There had been times in the past when Liza sometimes feared what would happen to her if she were ever caught selling babies. It wasn’t exactly a noble profession. Yes, she helped young girls to better lives, brought joy to childless families and gave futures to otherwise unwanted babies. But she also knew that was all justification. Liza hadn’t exactly been honest in her dealings—passing off colored babies as white, taking more money from her clients than was fair. Sometimes, that was enough to cause her great fear. But never had she dreamed that in one fell swoop, she would be destitute with eight other bodies to worry about besides her own.
Once all were gathered in the living room, Liza and Mary-Ann explained as best they could, what had happened.
“Is there anywhere else you can turn? Any of you?”
“What about the Andersons?” Betty asked.
“We have no reason to believe any of the families will take the babies.”
“No!” Betty sprang to her feet. “No! My baby is going to have a good, good life. A great life. She’ll be rich and beautiful and someday she’ll be a movie star or she’ll marry a prince and she’ll have beautiful babies. She will! You wait and see! My baby will have a better life than any of us could ever, ever dream.”
“Take her upstairs please, Mary-Ann, and give her a sedative to calm her down.”
“No!” Betty fought, but Cook helped and soon they had Betty under control and were leading her away.
“We had hoped to leave today, but the banks were closed. We’ll try again tomorrow. I’m sure everything will be fine down on Wall Street and we can get on with our lives. But . . . if it doesn’t all turn around, do you girls have anyone else here who can take you in?”
Conchita shook her head and shrugged. Liza wished the girl knew enough English to understand what was happening to her. In a way, their communication barrier made Conchita more pathetic than little Betty. Liza feared that Conchita would find herself leading a very unhappy life and now, with virtually no resources, Liza was at a complete loss about the girl.
“Things will look brighter in the morning, but just in case, I wanted you girls to start thinking on your alternatives.”
A baby cried then, and Tawney was on her feet, following the sound.
“Tawney! Tawney, you come back here this instant. If the family changes their mind, that baby has to be free to go. Tawney.”
Liza chased after her, even knowing it was no use. Tawney picked up the baby boy, held him close and cried. It was Conchita’s baby who had been crying and Liza picked her up and rocked her.
Tawney sat down on the bed and laid the boy in her lap. “He’s so beautiful,” she whispered through her tears. “My beautiful boy. Mama loves you, you know that, right? Mama loves you.” She touched his tiny fingers and smiled when his small fingers curled around one of hers. “Oh, he’s strong,” Tawney said with a laugh and smiled up at Liza. “My beautiful little Moses.”
“Oh, Tawney, my dear girl, you can’t do that. Please, don’t name him. It won’t help you when it’s time for you to go your separate ways.”
“If we go our separate ways. Isn’t that more the truth, Miss Liza? If?”
Liza smiled sadly at Tawney but didn’t answer.
“Moses. Just like the Moses of the Bible, he was born in tumultuous times and he will lead his people to the Promised Land. Well, I’m not much, but I’m his people and this little man here—he’s leading us to the Promised Land. I am sure of that.”
Liza watched the two of them interacting and after a time said quietly, “You look so happy, Tawney.”
“Oh I am, I am Miss Liza.”
“When I met you, you said you didn’t want to keep your baby. Why did you come here and agree to give up your baby if it isn’t what you wanted?”
“I didn’t, exactly. It was . . . other people’s idea.”
Tawney shrugged and kissed her little boy’s nose. “None of that matters now.”
When Conchita’s baby had fallen asleep, Liza laid her back down on Cook’s bed.
“Can he stay with me tonight, Miss Liza?”
Liza, feeling very tired and bone weary, nodded. There no longer seemed a point to arguing.
"Tawney, my dear girl, have you any idea how difficult it is out there for a mother to raise a child alone? It's far more difficult for a girl of your . . . your color.“
"Yes, ma'am. I know that."
Neither spoke and Tawney turned her attention back to discovering every nuance of the small boy on her lap. She ran her fingertip lightly over his eyelashes and over his thin brows. She smiled when he stirred but was careful not to make him stir again.
"Help me bring the cradles down from the attic," Liza said at last. "I didn’t think we’d all be here for another night. We’ll put one in your room and the other two in my room. And then we’ll get Cook to make us a big dinner just like we had the night when we thought all the babies had homes. It's a comfort to know that one does.”
Tuesday morning, October 29, 1929, Liza opened her eyes, remembered what had become of her life in the past few days and wished she could go back to sleep and never wake up. She hadn’t slept well and didn’t actually get more than a few hours at most. Liza remembered hearing Cook come in quite early to get the babies. When Liza was dressed, she joined Cook in the kitchen and helped get breakfast started.
“Baby’s fed and changed and all is well,” Cook stated proudly.
Before long, the kitchen was alive with activity and the aromas of sizzling bacon and fried eggs. Mary-Ann slumped into her seat, followed by Conchita. No others joined them.
“Want me to go call Tawney and Betty for breakfast?”
“Not Tawney, no. I’m sure she and Moses are doing quite well up there without us. I’ll go get Betty.”
“Is she keeping him?” Mary-Ann asked.
Liza nodded. She knew Tawney wouldn’t be down to breakfast. She’d watched mother and son leave under the cover of darkness the night before. Where they were going, Liza didn’t know, but the moment Tawney held her child for the first time, Liza knew it was out of her hands now. Despite her young age, Tawney had grown up. She was a mother now. It was how she defined herself and she was proud to be one.
Betty was another story. Liza knocked gently at the door and called Betty’s name before entering the room. It was empty. Betty had cleaned out all her personal things and had made the bed before she left.
Liza hurried down the stairs, shouting for Cook. “Where’s the baby? Where’s Betty’s baby?”
Cook shook her head. “I thought you told Betty she could take her up to her room. You let Tawney and when Betty said she had your permission . . .”
“You said ‘babies fed.’ Didn’t you mean both babies?”
“No! I meant it like . . . the one. Like . . .”
“Possessive noun?” Mary-Ann offered.
Cook shrugged one shoulder and nodded.
“Betty’s gone and she’s taken the baby with her. We’ve got to find her,” Liza said.
“What about Tawney? Should I check on her too then?” Cook asked.
“No, no. She’s gone too, but I knew about her. She’ll be fine. It’s Betty—you saw how unstable she was yesterday. There’s no telling what a desperate girl like that might do.”
Liza went straight to the Andersons, and Mary-Ann hurried down to the port. The Bremen was supposed to be docking this morning and Mrs. Anderson would be on it if she got Cook’s telegram.
Liza's steps slowed as she approached the Anderson mansion. The gate was open, so that was one barrier she didn't need to be concerned about. Panting and wheezing, she ran up the sloped driveway to the Victorian house. An ambulance sat in the driveway directly in front of the wide double doors that stood open, and watched as a man was carried out on a stretcher. A few other cars were scattered here and there, some parked on the grass, others out on the street. As the ambulance was leaving, Liza hurried to the front porch where a butler and a maid stood with stony faces, watching the ambulance grow smaller then disappear over the slope. Liza understood the mass of cars now. Ambulance chasers. She was part of a throng of reporters.
“What’s happened?” Liza asked.
“It’s obvious isn’t it? The world has ended," the butler stated in a monotone.
“We’re hearing rumors that Mr. Anderson shot himself," declared one of the reporters. "Is that true?”
"What kind of gun did he use?"
"Where did it happen?"
"Were you here when it happened?"
Liza's head was spinning at all she was hearing. Surely, there was some mistake.
The maid bent her head, pressed her finger and thumb to her eyes, and her shoulders began to shake as she sobbed. She shook her head and ran back into the house.
“Talk to the coroner. I got no comment.” The butler too went inside and shut the door.
Liza stood dumbfounded. She trudged home feeling more and more empty and frightened with every step. “I’m too old for this,” she cried. She made one last attempt to get her money out of the bank, but she knew before she reached the wide double doors and pulled on the heavy chains looped around and around the handles, that it was pointless. Unlike the day before when the mob had stormed the bank, today, there were stragglers like herself who glanced hopefully at the bank, saw the chains and turned away, broken.
Mary-Ann did fare slightly better in terms of news about Betty. She didn’t find Betty, but she heard about her from some of the dock workers.
“Shoulda seen it! This little slip of a girl yellin’ and screamin’ at Lady Muriel saying, ‘you promised, you promised.’”
“’Course the Lady pretended not to hear or see her—“
“But you couldn’t miss her.”
“Pug ugly she was!”
“These are mad days, I tell you. Everyone’s going insane. I heard there’s been people jumpin’ out of buildings over this whole stock market business. More today, I bet. You see the headlines?”
“Billions of dollars lost! Billions. I didn’t even know there was that much money in one country!”
“Luckily, I didn’t have nothin’ in stock meself, but a buddy of mine did, and he’s gone as mad as the rest.”
“Oh, I hear we’s all bein’ hard hit on this one, though mate. See, the way they’re tellin it in the papers—“
“The girl, what happened?” Mary-Ann insisted.
“Well, she threw the baby at Lady Muriel, and if it weren’t dead before that, it were after when it hit the plank like a ripe watermelon. Not a pretty sight. Screamin’, yellin’, and before anyone can catch her, the little girl grabs the baby and shoots out of here like a bullet.”
“Where did she go?”
“Down that way, last I seen.”
“Thank you, thank you,” Mary-Ann said and took off at a race in the direction they’d pointed.
She didn’t find Betty, and after a fruitless search, returned home to break the bad news to Liza.
No one would ever find Betty and her baby. Cradling the unnamed and lifeless child in her arms, Betty simply jumped into the ocean and drifted out to sea.
“This is it then,” Liza said looking at the small group clustered. Mary-Ann, Cook, an unnamed baby and herself. “Where’s Conchita?”
Cook shrugged. “She said a lot, but I couldn’t understand it. Except ‘loco’. I’ve heard that before, and I know that means crazy.”
Liza sighed. Whether she meant it or not, it looked as though Liza was out of the baby-selling business. She picked up the pretty little baby and cooed at her. “You need a name, don’t you?”
“Oh, Sandra,” said Cook. “I like that name.”
"Oh, I don't," said Mary-Ann wrinkling her nose.
"Well I do. It's my name," Cook pouted.
“She’s exotic. Maria Juanita!” Mary-Ann offered.
Liza turned her head to one side and regarded the child carefully. “Remember she’s Thursday’s child so she has far to go. It has to be a name that embodies that. Oh, and it should be the female version of Moses. I have a feeling this little angel will lead us to the Promised Land.”