The baby was beautiful. She was brand new; only a few weeks old. Holding her was something special; she was the first baby I'd ever held. She was just the slightest bit fussy, but that didn't matter. I tussled her soft brown hair and rocked her back and forth, humming a little lullaby.

I vividly remember that baby's mother. I was her landlord; Jillian had lived in my basement apartment for two years. She had always been a good tenant. She was quiet, she always paid her rent on time, and she never gave me much trouble. After a while, she started inviting me down for dinner. We started becoming friends. We would sit up talking about our lives, and she would even bring me to my doctor's appointments.

One day, Jillian knocked softly on my door. I opened it with a smile, but something was wrong. She was in tears. She sobbed on my couch for hours.

"What's wrong?" I asked after she calmed down a bit.

"He skipped out on me," she replied. She didn't need to say more. Her deadbeat boyfriend. She'd told me about him several times. He'd cheated on her more than once, drained her bank account, and generally acted as a waste of space most of the time.

"You're better off without him," I'd told her. It only made her cry harder.

"I'm pregnant," she said.

I was the one who drove her to the hospital. I was there with her as she gave birth. Jillian didn't have anyone else. I almost felt as though I was witnessing my grandchild being born.

After the birth, Jillian didn't even want to hold the little girl. I didn't think anything of it. I'd never had a child of my own. I just thought she needed some time to bond with her baby. But things didn't change when I brought Jillian home. She took her baby into her apartment without a word. I don't even think she ever gave the little one a name.

A few weeks passed. Jillian never again came around. I could hear the baby crying, though. Crying and crying and crying. Finally, I decided to go down there myself and see about her.

I knocked on the door. No answer. I knocked again. No answer. The baby was still crying.

"Jillian?" I called. No answer. Finally, I just used my key.

"Jillian?" I called again. The apartment was eerily silent and exceptionally clean. It didn't have that lived-in look that it had always had. The hardwood floors were shiny. There was not a speck of dust to be found. There was not a single thread out of place. It seemed utterly alien.

I walked to the bedroom. The baby was lying on the bed, bawling her little eyes out. I picked her up and rocked her gently. The crying didn't stop, so I laid the child back on the bed and did my best to ignore it.

I did a quick walkthrough of the apartment. Jillian wasn't there, but on the kitchen counter, there was an envelope with my name scrawled across the front. Inside was a letter and several hundred dollar bills.

"I can't do this," the letter began. "Looking at her makes me think of him. I have to get out of here. I left you the rent for the rest of my lease. You've been a great friend to me, but I beg you not to look for me. I'm starting over. Skipping town. Don't waste your time trying to find me, because you won't. Please don't think I'm cruel for leaving my baby. We're better off without each other."

I stared at the letter, reading it over and over, for several minutes. I think I knew from the beginning that Jillian hadn't properly bonded with her baby, but I never imagined she would leave. I pocketed the money and tossed the letter in the trash.

I walked back to the wailing baby. I wasn't quite sure what to do. I was old; nearing the age when I would need someone to care for me. And I certainly wasn't without my own ailments. Hell, my health was never good. How could I raise a child when I could barely afford my own doctor bills? No, I certainly couldn't handle her.

I picked up the phone and tried to dial Jillian's cell. The buzzing in the dresser drawer told me she had left without it.

I looked back to the poor baby. How easily she had been totally abandoned, just as the cell phone had been. Both were reminders of a life Jillian preferred to leave behind, minor inconveniences on the road to her happiness.

"What can I do with you?" I asked. I weighed my options. I considered adoption for just a minute, but I thought of my little sister and immediately crossed it off my list. Just after my little sister was born, my mom skipped out on us. Just my daddy, a sick child, and a new baby. He couldn't handle it. Gave my sister up. The next I heard of her, she was roaming the streets, whoring herself out to buy drugs. I looked into the little one's face and knew I couldn't let her have that sort of life.

I picked her up and marveled in her beauty. She was brand new. The first baby I had ever held. By this point, she was only a little fussy, but that didn't matter anymore. I tussled her soft brown hair and rocked her back and forth.

"Your momma's gone away, and your daddy's gone to stay," I sang quietly, "Didn't leave nobody but the baby."

"It's okay," I whispered to her as I carried her to the bathroom. I drew the bathwater and checked the temperature. The last thing I wanted to do was burn the little one. The crying stopped, and I smiled, happy I could finally calm her.

"Go to sleep, you little baby," I sang as I gently lowered her into the warm water. Slowly, I walked away, watching her from afar, sad that this was the best I could do for her.