The taxi swung into the dark street near the church, its headlights flashing across the high brick walls of the church building. Busi moved across the seats as the taxi stopped. Her feet reached for the pavement, and she felt the firm hand of the gaadjie on her arm as her feet touched the cold grey tar.
Looking back, she saw a frown of concern on the gaadjie’s face. “Enkosi,” she said absently, and turned to face the church as she heard the door slide shut.
The taxi pulled away.
Busi quickly crossed the tarred parking lot in front of the church, heading for a clump of trees and shrubs growing to one side. She stepped under the dark shelter of the trees and looked towards the building.
The entrance was floodlit by large lights. Busi blinked and then looked down at her sleeping baby. She snuggled her closer.
In the wall on one side of the entrance Busi could see a large rectangle of silver metal. The “Baby Safe”. She breathed a sigh of relief. There it was. She stepped a little closer. She could feel her heart beating faster in her breast. She looked down at her baby once again. The little girl was beginning to stir. Busi felt a prickling sensation in her breasts and an instant later felt the front of her shirt wet with milk. Her baby stirred again and made a low, whimpering sound.
Busi began to walk. “Do it now,” she said to herself, stepping out from the shelter of the trees. “Come on, Busi.”
Busi continued to speak gently to herself as she crossed the damp, dark green lawn in front of the church building. She glanced over her shoulder, suddenly imagining that Parks and his wife were pulling up in the car park in their black car. There was no one there. The street was deserted.
In five long strides Busi found herself in front of the wide silver drawer set into the wall. She reached out with one hand and wrapped her fingers around the silver handle on the drawer. It was hard and icy cold.
Busi looked up and read the instructions printed on a square of silver metal set into the wall above the safe.
Press the green button to open the safe. The safe will open. Place the baby into the safe. Shut the door. When it is sealed the red light will show.
Busi pressed the green button. She felt the safe unlock as she pulled on the handle, and the drawer began to open.
Carefully she shifted her baby in her arms. The drawer yawned open. She peered inside. It was padded and she could feel warmth coming from it. Busi looked down at her baby and the little girl opened her eyes and looked up at her. It was too much to bear. Through her tears the baby’s face blurred until she could hardly see her any more. Slowly, gently, Busi moved her baby out from under her coat. Her hands were trembling so badly that she was afraid she might drop the baby as she lifted her up towards the safe.
A pain like no other she had ever felt before was tearing, searing, burning in her chest. For a moment it felt to her as if she would fall to the ground. She cried out, but then bit her lip to silence herself.
Busi lowered her baby into the safe and as she touched her for the last time, sobs began to rack her body. She placed the letter, crumpled now and stained with tears, on top of the bundled blanket. Then she looked away, and, placing both hands on the safe handle, Busi slowly shut the safe. Instantly the red light went on.
Busi turned from the safe and ran.
She crossed the damp lawn again, and stumbled back in amongst the trees and shrubs on the edge of the church yard. She fought her way through the vegetation until she found a protected place near the church wall, behind a tree with low, hanging branches. She sank down onto the moist soft soil and fallen leaves, pressing her hands to her mouth to stifle uncontrollable gasps of grief.
It was the longest three minutes of Busi’s life.
“Where are they?” she said aloud to herself, “Why doesn’t anyone come?”
Panic surged inside her. What if her baby remained sealed in the safe and nobody came? What if she could not get her out again? What if she was hungry and began to cry?
Busi was just beginning to move out again from behind the tree when she saw a small red car swinging around the corner. Its headlights flashed along the church wall as it turned, very quickly, into the church parking lot.
Busi hid behind the tree again.
The door on the passenger’s side of the car opened, flooding the interior of the car with light so that Busi could see two people inside. A woman leapt out and ran towards the church building, carrying a large bag in one hand. A man slammed the driver’s door and ran after her. The woman with the bag reached the church door first. Busi could hear their voices as they quickly unlocked the large door, and went inside.
“Yes, it has been activated,” she heard the woman say. “It looks like there’s a baby inside.”
And then both of them disappeared inside the church building.
Busi stayed hidden amongst the plants and trees in the far corner of the church yard as she watched the sky turn pink and orange with the arrival of dawn.
She remained still, and waited.
Eventually she heard the door open, and both the man and the woman came out. They walked closely together, the man carrying the bag and the woman carrying Busi’s baby, now warmly wrapped up in a large pink blanket.
Busi pushed her face up against the hard bark of the tree trunk, feeling its roughness. Every part of her wanted to cry out to them; her whole being wanted to run out from behind the tree and take her baby from them.
But Busi did not move. Her breath came out in short, sharp sobs, and she pressed her fist into her mouth so that she would not be heard.
The woman climbed into the car and Busi could see her bending over her baby and cuddling her close.
The man opened his door, and then paused as he looked around the church grounds. “I don’t think she is far away,” he said aloud, before he climbed into the car. “This must have been the hardest thing for her to do. I hope she knows that her baby is totally safe with us. I wish there was a way to let her know that we will care for her child in the very best way that we can.”
And then he got into the car, closed the door, and drove away.
Busi sank to her knees. She buried her face in the soft, damp leaves and clutched handfuls of the dark soil. The sky was light when she slowly stood up again. Unseen, she climbed out from among the shrubs, and, unseen, she stumbled back into the street, now busy with morning traffic. Her face was muddy and tear-stained, and her swollen breasts ached.