It was official after her eighteenth birthday on June 7, we were an item. After a month of sleeping, yes only sleeping, next to this punk goddess, we had consummated our relationship. She was young and fairly inexperienced so I was considerate, gentle and careful. I knew she couldn’t get pregnant again since she was already bitten by that bug, but I did feel a little strange making love to her in that condition, even though she had barely begun to show. After a week or so, I put the question to her again: “So what are we going to do about the baby?”
“I guess I’ll call that lawyer guy, if you want me to.”
“It’s your decision, Maria. Is that what you want?”
“I guess so.”
The law offices were on South Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and we were sitting in the reception area looking through brochures and pictures of happy couples with lovely little darlings wrapped in their arms. It all looked so peaceful, pleasant and harmless, but I knew it was going to be difficult for her to give up the baby, and probably hard for me, too. First things first, we had to be accepted by the “firm” , but I really had no doubts that a baby by a Nordic, blonde beauty was going to be anything but accepted, hell, they would most likely throw rose petals at her feet as she walked down the corridor to the office.
The receptionist opened the glass window, the partition that separated the staff from the clients and told us that the attorney was ready to see us now. I held her hand and guided her into the office that looked like any other law office, with floor to ceiling law books, magazines relating to motherhood and parenting, and a few Sports Illustrated mags and Golf Digests for the men. The attorney, let’s call him Roger, was a tall man, thick of chest, with thick salt and pepper hair and an expression of compassion hiding his true lust for money and power. When he took one look at Maria I could literately see his eyes pop out of his head.
“Hello, Mr. Haymer and Ms. Bornemann, I’m so glad you could make it down this morning. Can I get you anything, coffee or a soda?”
“I’ll have a coffee, please,” I said politely.
“Could I have a Diet Pepsi?”
“Of course,” Roger said in his most accommodating voice.
He reached behind his desk and pick up the phone and in a manner of thirty seconds our beverages were set down on the wrought iron and glass coffee table by a pretty, red-headed woman in her late twenties, or early thirties.
“Mrs. Lowery has filled me in on the details and she told me you both are aware of what we do here. As you know, we are not a baby shop and don’t buy babies and ship them off to Africa or anything like that. This is a completely above board operation in every sense of the word. But I’m sure you have questions and I would more than happy to answer any and all of them.”
“How does it actually work,” I asked. “I mean do we pick the adopting parents out of a brochure or catalogue?”
Maria nodded at me as if I was asking a good question, one that she would have asked first herself.
“Something like that. We have several books,” he pointed to a group of books that looked like photo albums stacked neatly on the desk in the far corner of the room. Let me show you.” He pranced over to the other desk and gather up a handful of photo books then set them down in front of Maria. “Why don’t you browse through some of these to get an idea of what I’m talking about.”
She opened the first book and I squeezed in close to her so I could see, too. There were all sorts of happy looking couples, some very young, some twenty-something’s, thirty something’s and forty something’s, some white, black, Asian, European, South American, you name it. Some were Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhists, Atheists, Agnostics and everything else in between. Some were the same age, some had wide age differences, some were different religions and races. It was a very mixed bag. There was a couple that caught my eye because the man was Jewish and the woman was Protestant. He was a filmmaker and the woman was a housewife. They both appeared to be in their mid to late thirties.
“Look at this couple,” I said to Maria. “They would be perfect, don’t you think? He’s Jewish, like me and she’s Protestant, kind of like you, and they’re definitely worth considering.”
“As long as they’re not Scientologists.”
“I assure you Maria, Is it okay that I call you that?” Roger had asked as a mere formality.
“I can guarantee they are not Scientologist. Although we can’t discriminate, we frown at any cult affiliations.”
We left the attorney’s office feeling like we were making the right decision, even though it was going to be a tough one. Important decisions are usually tough, aren’t they? We had both thought that the couple, (the Jewish film director and the Christian housewife) were a heads up favorite in the race for the adopting parents to be. We had come to an agreement with the law office on the compensation package as well. She was going to get sixteen hundred dollars a month that would be retroactive from the first of May. This would include food rent and other amenities. Of course all doctor visits would be gratis and we were given a list of obstetricians to choose from. We ended up going with the first one we visited with since she didn’t want to get too busy with the details; as long as he or she wasn’t a complete creep, they would be fine in her book.
Since the place on El Cerritos was getting a little cramped we thought it would be a good idea to move into a bigger place, maybe even a two bedroom. It was back to Homefinders again. The lists came out twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, and you had to be there at eight in the morning to get a good jump on the prime candidates. The early bird catches the worm, and all that. We saw a listing for a large room in a huge house in the Hollywood Hills off of Pacific View Terrace right off Mulholland Drive. We called right away and this English woman answered the call. She sounded like a cross between Emma Peel and the Queen of England and she said she would be delighted to meet up with us chappies (pip, pip, cheerio and all that rot; eh what?)
The excitement was mounting as we drove down Mulholland in my Porsche with Maria in the passenger seat and Bridget in the back. Maria was starting to get used to my dog, even though she was drooling on her left shoulder at the moment. I thought it would be best to bring the beast (she was a rather large dog) so the landlady could get an idea of what kind of dog (the sweetest in the world) she was and if it would be agreeable to rent to all three of us.
We parked the Porsche on the street and went looking for the address. The house was below the street level and we had to walk down thirty or forty steps to even catch a glimpse of it, but once we did, we could see it was huge. It was a Spanish bungalow style house surround by palm tree and jacaranda. There were rose bushes lining the walkway and Bridget could hardly contain herself from sniffing every bush. I rang the doorbell and after a minute or two an Amazon woman with long silver-blonde hair with a Virginia Slim cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth and a tall glass of what looked like a vodka and tonic answered the door.
“Are you Nicky?” I asked.
“Ah, you must be James, and this lovely lady is Maria, eh what? Please, do come in.” She was everything that I imagined she would be when I talked to her on the phone. Very British and very attractive, around thirty-five or forty, I imagined. Bridget, who was behind the rose bushes, finally came to the door and made herself at home. She saw a big gray cat on the couch and immediately began to chase her. Not a good start.
“Oh my God, is that a dog or a mountain lion? She’s huge!”
“That’s Bridget Bardog.”
“Bardog? Now that’s a good one.”
I regained control of Bridget and we were invited in and we gathered around the fire in the living room. Nicky invited us to sit on the wicker couch and asked if we wanted a cup of tea or anything.
“A cup of coffee would be great,” I said as I followed her into the kitchen. I knew Maria would want her usual Diet Pepsi.
“Is instant okay?” she asked as she went to the fridge grabbed a bottle of Stoli out of the freezer and refilled her tumbler and it was only ten-thirty in the morning. I could tell by the slight slur in her voice that it wasn’t her first. While waiting for the water to boil we starting talking about our situation and I mentioned my family’s British connection and all the Anglo-Saxon musical relationships I had in the past.
Back in the living room Maria sat there smiling and smoking her Marlboro 100’s and only spoke when she was asked a direct question. After about an hour of laughing, drinking coffee (for me) Diet Pepsi (for Maria) and Vodka (for Nicky), she told us that she would have to speak with her landlord about the dog. Pets were allowed, she said, but one the size of a horse would be something she would have to get approval on from the powers that be.
She called the next morning.
“James, this is Nicky Graham, the woman on Pacific View.”
“I know who you are, Nicky. I could hardly confuse you with anyone else.”
“Right. I just wanted to say that I am dreadfully sorry, but the landlord wouldn’t approve your application. I had to tell him about the dog. It’s a dirty rotten shame, too. I really like both of you so much. We would have had great fun together.”
“Well, I appreciate that, Nicky. Thanks for getting back to us so quickly. I guess it’s back to the drawing board.”
“James, anytime you and your lovely lady want to come by for a visit, just give me a holler. I mean it.”
“Thanks. We just might take you up on that offer.” Goodbye.”
We didn’t get the room in the house but we did visit her. In fact, we became really good friends. She was one of the only people that supported me in my situation, and it was good for me to have that support. I felt I was all alone,(except for Maria and Bridget) and having someone to talk to about things was something I desperately needed, even though she was a sweet but hopeless drunk.
We eventually found a two bedroom, downstairs apartment on Fuller Street between Santa Monica Boulevard and Fountain near La Brea with a small backyard with orange and eucalyptus trees. It was in a very Jewish part of town, which made Maria feel like the token Nazi or something. There was a market right down the street which would later become a Trader Joe’s and a Russian restaurant which had cheap lunch specials, things like beef Stroganoff , corned beef and cabbage and borscht—except I hated borscht. We had plenty of room in the apartment and I rented a piano and promised to give Maria lessons. We began to eat healthy. I cooked stir-fry in the wok my mom had given to me and lots of salads. I only drank beer and Maria had quit the booze and drugs completely. She still smoked like a chimney; well two out of three isn’t bad.
It was now nearing the first of August and the doctors had told us the due date was going to be the end of September of the beginning of October. I had no idea she was that far along since she was only now beginning to show, although by the middle of August, she did look like she swallowed a ten pound bowling ball. It wouldn’t be long now, and I wondered if she was really going to go through with it. She would have to give up a child, just like her mother had done to her. It was a vicious cycle of heartbreak and denial. Yes, I wondered what was going to happen. She tried not to think about it.