When Lily Smith retired from the orphanage, no one was really surprised. She was old, and she was starting to have trouble hearing, and seeing, and her ability to look after many children was failing.
All the children were sad to see her go, and spent an entire month raising enough money to give her a good farewell party. She was touched at the effort. She herself had bought each of them a small present, just a little trinket, not really costing much because she didn't have much money to spend.
Her husband was still working, he had a good job in a bank, but he mostly earned enough to keep them from starving or dying of thirst, and a book each pay day.
His study had a heap of books. It was his hobby. From floor to ceiling, on every wall, were bookshelves, full of books. He kept them organized by what the books were about, and then further by the alphabetical order of the author's last names. He had fantasy books, history books, horticulture books, books about marine life, all sorts of books.
His study wasn't the only room, either. Peter and Lily Smith slept in two different rooms, an agreement of theirs so they wouldn't have to split the room they shared in two. Lily decorated her room in bright colors, and posters, and poems, and every single thing she'd ever been given by one of the children at the orphanage.
Peter had more books. Floor to ceiling bookshelves covered every wall of the room he slept in, which was a fair bit bigger than his study, and not only that, but he had books piled everywhere about the room as well.
He hadn't read all of his books, and he didn't think he ever would. But he collected the books anyway. He had friends, of course, who sometimes borrowed them, always giving them back, of course. And of course there were his children.
Lily and Peter Smith had two grown up sons. Fabian Smith was a banker, like his father, with a young son of his own, and a lovely wife. George Smith, was a scholar, so far unmarried, and unyielding to his brother's protests of his preferred partners.
The two rooms that these two boys had grown up in had been debated over. Peter and Lily hadn't wanted a single room each of their son's rooms, but that's what they'd gotten. Lily's was full of craft things, from glue, to sequins, to material, to knitting needles. Peter's room… had more books.
This one was more organised though. While the room Lily had, which had been George's old room, was messy and unorganised, Peter's had floor to ceiling bookshelves, with the books all arranged precisely. It had a bed, for when one of their sons stayed over, or they had a friend stay over. A set of draws by the bed, with a reading lamp on it. This was in the middle of the room, away from the books.
In George's study, he also had a desk, with a computer and a laptop on it. The desktop was mostly used as a back-up for the laptop. They both had in their database, the title, author, subject, and description of every single book he owned. Which, as I'm sure you can understand by now, is a lot.
Lily's retiring hadn't been a huge surprise, but neither had her giving the orphanage all her contact details. She would never, until the day she died, give up children if they were in need.
It just so happened, that on the beginning of the new year, the first she'd ever seen without being at the orphanage, celebrating with the children, that she was offered the chance of the life time.
On the second of January, she had decided to read. She took out one of the craft books that Peter had, which in her idea was a very limited section, she was often suggesting he buy more, and was in her recliner chair reading that book when she heard the doorbell.
Now, Lily had been working in the orphanage for so long now, that she never had any friends who wanted to call in to see just her. They were mostly Peter's friends, who came when he was home from work.
She got out of her chair, carefully marking the page in her book, and went to see who it was.
Mary Ann Leeway was an orphan who had never been adopted. When she was finished school, she decided to work at the orphanage, rather than begin to make her own way in the world.
And here she was, on her old friend's porch, a bundle wrapped tightly in her arms and clutched against her breast.
'Mary Ann!' Lily's face lit up as she saw the young woman, and of course she let her into the house without any hesitations. 'What brings you here?' She asked, peering at the bundle with undisguised curiosity as she led her once-colleague into her living room. The fire was on, warming the room, making it toasty, and Mary Ann sat down in one of the armchairs near to it, which was across from the recliner Lily had been on before.
'May I offer you something to drink, or to eat?' Lily asked as she sat down once more, moving her book from the seat of her chair before she did so.
'No thank you, Lily. I'm here just to ask you a favor.' Mary Ann started unwrapping the bundle she'd been holding, and Lily peered closer to see. Two bright green eyes blinked and looked back at her. Lily almost fell off of her seat. Not because she hadn't been expecting it, but because of the intensity of the gaze those two green eyes seemed to hold.
'Her name's Delilah.' Mary Ann explained, when she'd unwrapped the bundle and laid the baby, Delilah, out on the blankets that she had been wrapped in, on the floor.
'Why can't you keep her?' Lily asked. As she watched, the girl kicked with her feet which were an inch or two in the air, and sucked on her balled fist, staring with that same green eyed gaze at Lily.
'Well, I'll start at the beginning.' Mary Ann said, sliding slowly off of her chair to sit down next to the baby girl and sit her up against her crossed legs, which seemed to make it easier for her to stare at Lily. 'She was dropped off at Christmas, by a man who wouldn't tell us anything. She was wrapped in these blankets, and had a note that had her name written on it. That was it. The man, refusing our questions, left as soon as he'd dropped her off.'
Mary Ann had started running her fingers along the baby's spine, which brought a gurgled giggle from Delilah, which made Lily unable to focus properly on what Mary Ann was saying.
'Everyone loved her… At first.' That made Lily's head snap up to look into those faithful brown eyes of the old orphan.
'At first?' She asked, her voice unsteady. She didn't know what it was about this conversation, about this day, about this baby, but it made her uneasy.
'Well, she is gorgeous.' Mary Ann commented, which Lily couldn't help but agree with. Delilah was still only a baby, she can't have been born long before Christmas day, with a delicate face, that seemed pointed and softened. She had a delicate nose, that was thin and precise, but not exactly sharp. Her ears were slightly elongated, coming to a soft point at the tip. Her eyes were angled softly, but had that wide intensity of youth, with that bright glaring green. Her eyebrows were sharply positioned above them. She already had a head of dark brown curls, which Mary Ann was now playing with.
'But, she rarely made any noise, the giggle you heard before was the first noise she's made in the past couple of days. And for some reason the other children seem wary of her. So do the rest of us. I think it's her eyes. I'm the one who's supposed to look after her, and I just… I can't.' Mary Ann looked down, and Lily noticed what she said was true. Not only were those eyes disconcerting, but she didn't make normal gurgling sounds she'd heard babies make before.
'Please?' Mary Ann asked, her voice portraying a thin edge of desperateness. 'Please take her.' She lifted Delilah up, her hands under her small arms, and Lily, her heart torn, couldn't let the poor girl go back. She picked her up, and held her against her breast, which only gave her another wide green stare. Mary Ann smiled gratefully.
'Don't worry! We'll check on her to make sure she's settling in. And I know you'll look after her.' Were her parting words, as Lily lead her back to the front of the house, and opened the door for her. Mary Ann hugged her old friend, who had always seemed like a kind, or sometimes disapproving, parent to her, before she was on her way, pulling her cloak on and moving through the snow, back to the beaten up car that the orphans learned to drive in, and back to the orphanage.
As Lily waved her friend goodbye, she was startled by seeing Lily's arm raised too, in the same shape, moving in the same way. Telling herself it was just a child mimicking a gesture the nearest adult did, Lily went back inside, and upstairs, to set up the old cot she'd used for her two boys.
She decided that when she could sleep through the night, Lily would put Delilah's cot, which it now was, in the guest room, that had once been Fabians. Because they didn't have any other rooms, because it would be a good room to grow up in, and because it would wake Lily, or even Peter, up in the middle of the night if there was a screaming baby.
Kissing her forehead, Lily rocked the small baby to sleep, before wrapping her up nice and warm in the cot, and going back downstairs to read once more, her ear, not as keen as it once was, listening out for that tell-tale scream, which never came.