Baby Maker

By: Jenny Jax

Chapter One

I ran my hands through my hair and inhaled deeply. I knew this part of the job was going to be far from fun, but I didn’t bet on it sending me into paroxysms of panic as soon as I was parked outside the door.

I reached for my phone, and found my fingers trembling a little—seriously? Was I being that much of a baby about this? I was supposed to have the safety of the kid at the forefront of my brain, not my own stupid sense of fear or panic. This was what I had trained for. I had nothing to be worried about—I just needed to pull myself together and get myself in hand. I dialed Amanda’s number, and held my cell to my ear, drumming my fingers distractedly on the steering wheel of the car.

I mean, it didn’t help that my first job had come on the same day that I heard that my apartment was being fumigated. I’d known it was coming, and yet I’d been too distracted to set myself up with a place to stay. I was looking at forking out cash for a hotel room, just because I’d been too busy to shoot off a text to one of my friends and ask for a couch. Idiot.

The phone rang a couple of times before she picked up, and as soon as I heard her voice down the line, I felt myself begin to relax. There was just something about Amanda, something that made me feel safe and at home and like I could take on anything. That’s what made her such a good supervisor, I guess, especially for work like this—if you couldn’t convince the staff that you were on their side no matter what, then the whole thing sort of went up in smoke, didn’t it?

“Hello?” She answered her phone expectantly, sounding at once as though she had been waiting for my call the whole day.

“Hey, it’s Mona.” I ducked my head so I could peer out the window and towards the house. “I just wanted to double-check that I had the right place. And the right details.”

“You know you can’t call me every time you go out on call,” Amanda reminded me gently, and I nodded, forgetting for a second that she couldn’t see me.

“I know, I know,” I agreed. “I just want to be sure. It’s my first time, cut me some slack.”

“Okay,” Amanda replied, and I heard her rustling about at her end of the line. “You should be at forty-eight Linwood Lane. The child you’re visiting is Ella, and you’re just doing a general check-up. The father has had some trouble with the cops over the years, and we want to be certain that she’s being taken care of.”

“Thank you,” I sighed. I knew I couldn’t put this off any longer. This is what I’d been trained for, and I couldn’t pretend that wasn’t the case any longer.

“Are you going to be okay?” Amanda asked, concerned. “If you feel like you can’t carry this out, I can find someone else who could cover—”

“No, no, I’ll be fine,” I cut across her firmly. I wanted to prove myself to her, and running away from my first assignment wasn’t going to make that happen anytime soon.

“If you’re sure…”

“What’s his name again? The father?” I asked, pinching my phone between my shoulder and my ear and gathering my stuff.

“Jasper, but he goes by Jazz,” Amanda answered, and I could hear the hint of incredulity in her voice—she wasn’t very good at hiding it, and I’d known her long enough to understand when she thought she was hearing something intensely stupid.

“Jazz?” I repeated. “Like the music?”

“Like the music,” she agreed. “He’s had some checks before, and nothing’s come of it—he’s been pretty good to the rest of the people we’ve sent down over the years, so you shouldn’t have a problem.”

“What’s his criminal record for, then?” I wondered aloud, then stopped myself. “No, I don’t want to know. I’m heading in now—thanks for talking with me.”

“Good luck,” Amanda replied, and I could hear her smiling down the phone. Maybe it was pride, maybe it was just relief that she wasn’t going to have to bail out one of her brand-new social workers on her first day.

I hung up the phone, grabbed my ID, and strung it around my neck. Okay, this wasn’t going to be that bad. He was a nice enough guy, by all accounts, and the little girl was meant to be a sweetheart. I just needed to get myself out of this damn car and go talk to them. So why did it feel as though my ass was pinned to the seat? I grabbed my clipboard and clutched it to my chest protectively, as though I could put that between me and the world and no one would ask any questions.

It was only my first week on the job, and it had been a pretty steep learning curve. I mean, social work was never going to be an easy line of work—I had known that when I got into it all those years ago. And I had spent long enough tagging along with other social workers to understand that it was okay if things didn’t go exactly to plan as long as the kid was safe.