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“We’ve talked it over,” I said. I began to worry a little aboutwhat was going on here.“We love her. Maybe someday we will have more children, butnot now. Now is so hard. We move around so much, we have226TH EBE A NTR E E S
nothing, no home.” Esperanza was sobbing. This was no act.Estevan handed her a handkerchief, and she held it to her face.“Try, Ma?” Turtle said.“That’s right, Turtle,” I said quietly. “She’s crying.”Estevan reached over and lifted Turtle out of her arms. Hestood her up, her small blue sneakers set firmly on his knees, andheld her gently by the shoulders and looked into her eyes. “Youmust be a good girl. Remember. Good and strong, like yourmother.” I wondered which mother he meant, there were so manypossibilities. I was touched to think he might mean me.“Okay,” Turtle said.He handed her carefully back to Esperanza, who folded herarms around Turtle and held her against her chest, rocking backand forth for a very long time with her eyes squeezed shut. Tearsdrained down the shallow creases in her cheeks.The rest of us watched. Mr. Armistead stopped fidgeting andMrs. Cleary’s hands on her papers went still. Here were a motherand her daughter, nothing less. A mother and child—in a worldthat could barely be bothered with mothers and children—whowere going to be taken apart. Everybody believed it. PossiblyTurtle believed it. I did.Of all the many times when it seemed to be so, that was theonly moment in which I really came close to losing Turtle. Icouldn’t have taken her from Esperanza. If she had asked, Icouldn’t have said no.When she let go, letting Turtle sit gently back on her lap,Turtle had the sniffles.Esperanza wiped Turtle’s nose with Estevan’s big handker-chief and kissed her on both cheeks. Then she unclasped thegold medallion of St. Christopher, guardian saint of refugees, andput it around Turtle’s neck. Then she gave Turtle to me.Esperanza told me, “We will know she is happy and growingwith a good heart.”“Thank you,” I said. There was nothing else I could say.Soundness of Mind and Freedom of Will227
It took what seemed like an extremely long time to draw up astatement, which Mrs. Cleary shuttled off to type. She came backand was sent off twice more to make repairs. After several roundsof White-out we had managed to create an official document:We, the undersigned, Mr. Steven Tilpec Two Twoand Mrs. Hope Roberta Two Two, being thesworn natural parents of April Turtle Two Two, dohereby grant custody of our only daughter to Ms.Taylor Marietta Greer, who will from this day for-ward become her sole guardian and parent.We do solemnly swear and testify to oursoundness of mind and freedom of will.Signed before witnesses on this———dayof———, in the office of Jonas Wilford Armis-tead, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.