Dr. Margie, Dr. Ward's daughter, opened the clinic's front door and stepped onto the porch. Everyone knew that Margie held the verdict of whether or not the abortion was final.
"You can go home now," Dr. Margie announced. "It's over."
Libby hung her head. She had hoped for a different answer. The picketers slowly moved toward their cars.
"Can I go with you to your appointment?" Libby asked.
"What about school?"
"I've already missed half a day."
"Sure, I need company."
"Dad!" Libby called.
Brother Anderson came to the porch and greeted Stephanie. "Hello, Stephanie. How's First Church in Jackson treating you? We certainly have missed you here."
Stephanie stood, and Brother Anderson gave her a heartfelt hug. His eyes were moist as he looked at her again. "Did you come here for a story?"
"No, sir," Stephanie replied shyly.
"Dad," Libby interrupted, "Stephanie has an appointment with Dr. Ward. May I stay with her?"
"I could use a friend right now," Stephanie injected. "I'd drive Libby home afterwards."
Brother Anderson put his arm around Libby and gave her a big hug. "That's my girl. Always a friend."
Then he shook his head sadly. "Dr. Ward and Dr. Bill have the Wilson twins in incubators. One of them weighs only eight ounces -- the smallest baby ever delivered alive. How can they fight so hard to save those twins and then kill Reta's perfectly healthy baby? As far along as Reta was, I bet her baby weighed every bit of two pounds. I just don't see how they could bring themselves to do it."
"Could it be," Stephanie suggested, "because the Wilson twins have a loving home, and Reta's baby doesn't?"
"Dr. Ward and Dr. Bill have no trouble placing babies in good homes," Brother Anderson explained. "This town is full of their babies. I'd like to think that they are not aborting children, but then the Retas come along."
"Stephanie," Margie called, "Dr. Ward will see you now."
Brother Anderson, dejected and shaking his head once again, bid Libby and Stephanie farewell.
The examination room was filled with pictures to ease the minds of nervous children. Stephanie felt like one of them as she sat on the edge of her chair.
Dr. Ward entered with a solemn look but smiled when he saw Libby.
"What brings you here?" the doctor asked her in his slow but soothing Southern drawl.
"I met Stephanie while I was protesting. She said I could be with her to hear the test results."
"So you two have become friends. That's wonderful. Stephanie needs a friend right now, especially you."
Dr. Ward's smile faded, and his expression turned as serious as before. "Stephanie, I have bad news and good news. Then I have more bad news and good news. Are you ready?"
Stephanie took a deep breath as Libby took hold of her hand. "Yes, I'm ready."
"The tests show that you have leukemia—probably the same leukemia that took the life of your mother. That's the bad news. The good news is that we now have a cure for this cancer. With treatment, you can live a normal life. Without it, you have six months to a year."
Stephanie inhaled but couldn't speak.
"Are you ready for the other news?"
"Yes," she managed.
"Chemotherapy and a bone-marrow transplant are necessary to cure your cancer. You have no immediate family for a bone-marrow donor. The chances for a match outside of your family are one in two hundred thousand."
Stephanie hung her head. "So it's hopeless?"
"No, that's the other good news—there's hope. I know where to find someone with at least a three-antigen match for your transplant. That will be enough. A six-antigen match would be perfect."
Dr. Ward took a breath. "We also have some embryonic tissue to supplement the bone marrow donation."
Stephanie jerked upright. "You have what?"
"He has your baby's umbilical cord," Libby interjected. "He has mine and those of every baby delivered at this clinic."
Stunned, Dr. Ward faced Libby. "You know about Stephanie's baby?"
Libby nodded in agreement.
Dr. Ward turned to see Stephanie pale and visibly shaken. "I saved all the umbilical cords. I always thought they might come in handy some day. Stem cells from that cord will help save your life, but we still need the right donor."
"I'll be a donor," Libby volunteered. "My friends will volunteer to be donors also."
Dr. Ward smiled and put his hand on Libby's shoulder. "Libby is already on our donor list. She had a school friend with cancer."
"Her sister turned out to be a perfect match for a donor," Libby added. "After her bone-marrow transplant, she was cancer free. She plays basketball at our school now."
"We need to act soon," Dr. Ward insisted. "You will check into Baptist Hospital on Monday to begin chemotherapy. Expect to lose your hair."
"It will grow back," Libby added.
"How can you be so sure there is a donor for me?" Stephanie asked.
"Trust me on this one."
Dr. Ward looked at Libby. "I am delighted that you and Libby have become friends. Libby is one of my success stories. I delivered her into this world, found her a good home, and she has blossomed beautifully. Now all she needs is a good mentor. Stephanie, I think that should be you. With a little help, Libby could be a great writer."
"Dr. Ward—" Libby looked into the doctor's eyes as a child would her father—"Stephanie's baby was due the same time I was born. Would it have been a little girl?"
"A little girl, just like you."
"Wait a minute!" Stephanie protested. "I didn't want to know that."
"Your daughter could have been my best friend." Libby kept looking at Dr. Ward, not daring to look at Stephanie.
Stephanie raised her voice. "Libby, you must have lots of friends. You're probably the most popular girl in your school."
"I'm not. Everyone my age has to be cool. They act silly and play games. I grew up around adults and can't take their silliness. My friends are like me. They don't fit in. I think your daughter would have been one of my friends."
"Well!" Stephanie said in exasperation. "Then I guess if the baby would have been a boy, you could have lost your husband!"
Libby looked back into the doctor's eyes. "Stephanie had three friends with the same due dates. Was one of them my mother?"
The doctor smiled as if he'd realized Libby was weaving her trap..
Libby continued her imploring look. "Their names were Gail, Terri, and Brenda."
"I can't tell you, Libby. If I did, that would be the end of my mission to save babies. I can't talk mothers out of abortions if they don't come here to have their abortions. If I give out their names, my mission is over."
"But how will I ever find my biological mother?"
"I'm sorry, Libby. I can't risk everything by telling you who your mother is."
Tears ran down Libby's cheeks. "I'll never find out who my birthmother is ... and I really want to know," she whispered.
"What do your parents think of your interest in finding your birthmother?" Stephanie asked. "They raised you and love you. Doesn't it hurt their feelings?"
"My parents love me and want me to know my birth mother. They have five other children and ten grandchildren. I'm not their only child. They would do whatever they could to help me find her."
"So when you find this woman, what are you going to do? Stick out your hand and say, 'Howdy, I'm your biological daughter?'"
"I'm not going to shake my mother's hand!" Libby protested. "I'm going to curl up in her lap."
"You're getting pretty big for that. But it would make a great photo opportunity and cover story. I hope I'm there to cover it when it happens."
"If you help me find her, I'll give you an exclusive." Libby raised her eyes to the ceiling in a daze. "I have so many questions. Why did she give me up? Then sometimes I worry about her. Is she in trouble? Does she need my help? How can I help her if I don't know who she is?"
"I'm sorry, Libby," Dr. Ward said slowly. "I can't tell you now. Maybe someday."
Tears continued to stream down Libby's cheeks as Dr. Ward left the room.
Stephanie took her hand. "Libby, stop crying. You're a big girl."
Libby wiped the tears from her eyes. "My father says I should express myself."
"And just what are those tears supposed to say?"
"That this means a lot to me! That's what they say. I can't choose not to cry. The tears come by themselves."
"I'm sorry," Stephanie apologized. "I remember when my heart was young and tender. I wasn't afraid to cry in those days. But after crying two weeks over Sonny, I haven't cried since. Tears are too painful for me."
"Sonny hurt you so much that you can't cry? That is sad!" Libby said.
Stephanie could tell by her new friend's eyes that she meant it. But it was time to change the subject.
"I have new flowers for my parents' graves," Stephanie said. "Would you stop by the cemetery with me on the way home?"
"Sure. Do you have an extra flower for me?"
"I have two long-stem roses. Would one rose be enough?"
"One rose is perfect," Libby answered.
Taken from "A Scent of Jasmine" by David Dockery (OakTara, www.oaktara.com). The entire novel is available from amazon.com, christianbook.com or barnesandnoble.com. Used by permission of the author and publisher. David Dockery is a Mississippi geologist and member of Pocahontas Baptist Church near Jackson. To read the first chapter of Baptist Press' serialization of "A Scent of Jasmine" by David Dockery, go to http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=34444. For subsequent chapters, go to BP's "Search Stories" tab and search by date.
Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net