I return to the grotto after the hugger incident, laughing at the memory as I crawl through the side door of my metal crate. I pull out my box of peppers and pop a few in my mouth. My faithful little pepper plant hasn't produced anything yet, so my supply is running low. The moment I put both feet on the ground after climbing back out again (through the top this time), Spring runs up to me with Georgia in tow, carrying a bundle of cloth.
"Missy! We found somethin in a rubbish eap!" Spring exclaims, "At fist we thought it were a kitin, but when we go and look, we find Kit!"
Georgia hands me the cloth bundle, a malnourished baby girl sleeps soundly inside.
"We's been callin er Kit since we found er," says Georgia.
"How long have you had her?" I ask them, wondering whose baby was lost after the Cart Turning Feast.
"Ev'r since you fallo'd that fella in white," Spring replies, "We were gonna tell you, but you whatn't there!"
I sigh, staring at the sleeping child. "I'll ask around to see if anyone lost her." I hold little Kit in my arms and begin walking to the first home, Georgia and Spring keeping step with me as I go.
"Wot if she ain't gotta ome?" asks Georgia.
"Well we need to find out first, we can't just keep a baby that some mother is looking for." I tell Georgia.
Georgia scowls as I knock on the wall of one of the rooms. A young woman with tousled brown hair opens up a window beside it.
"Is this your baby?" I ask, holding out the bundle.
The young woman shakes her head, "I only got two at ome now, Miss."
"Do you know anyone with a baby girl?" I ask.
"No, miss, everyone ere's kids are three er older. Never seen this one around," she says, stroking the baby's dirty blonde hair with her finger.
"Thank you, I'll keep asking around." I reply with a smile.
"Yer welcome, miss, anytime." she says, closing the window behind her.
"Ok, so she ain't nobody's then, cen we keep her?" asks Georgia.
"We only asked at one house, we have more places to go before giving up!" I reply, a bit annoyed by their nagging. Mostly because I know they want to keep Kit to be part of our urchin family, however, I have no idea how to care for a baby!
"Why not?" asks Spring, "We'd take good care of er!"
"I'm sure you would, but we need to keep trying, I'm sure Kit misses her mama, don't you think?"
Spring and Georgia stare at the stone path in short lived shame while I make my way to the next home. Another room in a large brick buildings surrounding the grotto. Only this room is inside a different building from the last. I knock on an actual door this time, and a girl opens up, a girl about my age.
"Hello, what can I do you for?" she asks in the usual grotto greeting, a fearful tone in her voice. Her eyes are full of unrest, as if she has no idea what to expect from the grotto.
She must be new here.
Along with the unrest if a heavy grief, a recent grief that's been weighing down on her soul.
"I'm looking for this baby's mother, do you know her?" I say, holding out the bundle.
The girl takes one look at it and slams the door in my face, causing it to fall off it's hinges. The girl hides under a thread bare blanket, her eyes wide with terror.
"Don't bring that baby one step nearer!" she shrieks.
I hand the baby to Spring and stand lift the tarp a bit, maintaining eye contact with the frightened young woman.
"Don't be afraid," I say to her soothingly, "I won't hurt you."
"Me neither," Georgia pipes up. "But we wanna know bout Kit, why you so scared o er?"
I smile at Georgia, my little friend read my mind.
"It's not the baby . . ." the girl says, slowly pushing away the blanket, "It's the story behind her that frightens me."
I cock my head, She doesn't speak the way the urchin folk do, she must not be from around here.
"Can you tell us?" I ask her, sitting down on the floor beside her. Georgia plops down in my lap and Spring sits beside me with little Kit in her arms.
The girl sighs and begins her story. "We're not from around here, my sister and I, we used to live in Evercity with our father. He was an auto officer, and very wealthy as well." she sighs and stares at her feet.
"My name is Barbra Cobblestreet, my sister's name was Helen, we used to be happy with our father, until one day . . . everything changed."
Barbra let out a sob, I pat her on the shoulder and smile a bit, encouraging her to continue. "One day, word came that our father choked on a fog pill and died instantly. The Empire evicted us on the spot. Helen and I tried to protest, saying we'd find work somehow and we could pay the bills, but the Empire wouldn't listen. We lived on the streets for a week until a young auto officer, fresh out of the academy, fell in love with Helen. They got married with in a week of knowing each other. When they settled a home, they let me stay there to keep Helen company while her husband was away on business. However . . ."
Barbra sighs again, "He was secretly helping the Resistance, and one day, the Empire found out. They shot him on the spot and threw Helen and I out again! Helen was pregnant by that point. Having no where else to go, we moved into the grotto. Helen had her baby - that baby- here. It was hard on her, and she never fully recovered. By the time her girl was two months old she died."
She began crying non-stop now, her emotions coming undone. "I didn't know what to do! After I buried my sister I could barely look at the child! So I left her in a rubbish heap in that blanket, hoping someone else would care for her."
"Well, like it or not, she's rightfully yours." I tell her in an even voice.
Barbra looks at me with shocked irritation, "Do you think I know how to care for that child?" she yells.
Do you think I know how to care for her? I think irritably.
"That's ok," says Spring, "Missy will take good care o er for ya!"
"Oh will you?" says Barbra, grasping my shoulders, "Thank you so much!"
"We named er and everythin!" Georgia chimes in, "Her name's Kit, and she'll be our lil' sister!"
"Alright, now, miss, can you help me put my door back up?" Barbra asks politely.
I nod, trying to keep my irritation from showing in my face. After replacing her door, Spring, Georgia, and I return to my metal crate. Little Kit has woken up by now and is crying her head off. Spring looks at me anxiously.
I sigh and take the bundle from her, "Now, now," I whisper, "Don't cry, I'm here." I walk around the grotto a bit, rocking the baby in my arms, "It's alright, nothing to fear."
Kit stops crying and smiles a bit, I smile back, thinking of this poor child's late mother.
"Missy will take care of you, even if your Aunt won't." I say, glaring in the direction of Barbra's home. I turn to Spring and hand her the bundle. "I'll find a good sized crate to put her in, keep her with you until I come back."
"Alright, Missy, thanks fer letten us keep her!" she replies.
As if we could do anything else.I think, Every child deserves family.