In the parking lot of the restaurant, Payton takes my hand. As soon as we’re inside, she drops it and sprints across the restaurant. “Payton, please stop running!” I call, chasing after her. I picture someone dropping a cup of hot miso soup on her head and Charise meeting us in the ER instead of at our house. Payton ignores me, and every other time I say it.
I grab a high chair to contain her. She isn’t a large child but she is solid. I heave her over the wooden frame and shove her in. Her head swivels around, left to right and back again, constantly distracted by something other than what she is watching.
“Are you hungry? I ask.
“Yes.” Swivel, swivel; I can almost hear her head squeaking as she whips it from side to side.
“What did you have for lunch?”
“Pancakes and syrup from McDonald’s,” she says absently, her eyes flickering over the restaurant.
That can’t be right. They stop serving breakfast at eleven o’clock. Did she misunderstand me? I rephrase the question. “What did you eat today?”
“Pancakes and syrup,” she insists. If this is true – and it’s entirely possible considering her circumstances – then she last ate six plus hours earlier. I debate about ordering for her right now, but then Andrew, Eli and Paige arrive.
Eli bounds up to our table. “Hi Payton!” he exclaims, excited about having Payton over for a permanent play date.
Andrew brings the food and I scoop up a plate for Payton. I tell her the orange chicken pieces are nuggets, the Lo Mein is spaghetti, and the egg rolls are burritos, all Chinese style. She gobbles up everything and I pat myself on the back for my ingenuity.
Dinner ends abruptly when Paige throws her food on the floor in a fit of screaming. Eli rides home with me and Payton, and we leave Andrew to deal with Paige. At home we put Paige to bed, and then Andrew sets up a video for Eli while I run the water for Payton’s bath. She climbs in, stretches out on her tummy, and plays with the novel bath toys.
Our doorbell rings and a moment later Charise sticks her head into the bathroom. “Oh good,” she says by way of greeting, “I can do her physical check in here.” Charise smiles at Payton and discreetly looks her over. “You know me, huh?” Payton acts shy and looks away coyly.
Charise asks about Payton’s drop off. Then, as if talking about nothing more important than the weather, she nonchalantly asks,“Do you and Andrew want to adopt her?”
“What?” I ask, having heard her clearly.