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     “Jessie, remember not to look into the patients’ rooms when we walk by,” said her mother.

      Jessie Hanson balanced a vase of autumn flowers in one hand and a small package tied with yellow ribbon in the other. Her thick blonde braid, the color of wheat, bounced as she walked. With eyes the shade of blue cornflowers, she looked like many of the Swedish people living in Fairfield.  “I’ll bet Mrs. Novak is so excited about her baby, mom.” She checked her coat pocket with her elbow to be sure her new camera was still there. She’d received it from her parents on her thirteenth birthday last week. “How long will she be here?”

     “I think they go home tomorrow. Oh, here’s room 323.”  Mrs. Hanson knocked lightly on the closed door.

     “Come in,” said a soft voice.

     The room was filled with bright flowers in pretty vases.  Red and yellow leaves drifted past the window at the end of the sun filled room. It was a perfect October day in Nebraska. Jessie loved this time of the year.   She put the flowers and gift on a table by the door.                                                                   

     Anna Novak sat in a chair holding her child. Anna had dark curly hair and eyes that were almost black. Her skin was rosy and her smile was sweet. Jessie thought Mrs. Novak was gorgeous.

     Jessie walked to the new mother and looked down at the baby. “Oh, he’s beautiful! He looks just like you, Mrs. Novak.”   Jessie touched the child’s tiny hand and looked at the bracelet around his wrist.  Little blue beads spelled out NOVAK.  She took her camera from her coat pocket. Is it okay if I take his picture? Everyone wants to see what he looks like.”

     “I don’t know, Jess,” said her mother. “ Maybe the flash is bad for him.”

     “It’s alright,” said the baby’s mother. “I’d like that.”

     Jessie aimed her camera over the pretty infant. He was asleep and seemed unusually calm for one so young. His hair was black and curled but looked like he’d already had a trim at the barber’s. And his lips were a blush pink. Just then he woke up and looked solemnly at Jessie with lovely dark eyes. She snapped the picture. “ I’ll get it developed and make an extra copy for you and Mr. Novak,” Jessie said.

     “Thank you. The hospital picture isn’t that good. And thank you for the flowers. They’re lovely.”

     “Look at his hair­­­­­­­­—all those curls,” said Mrs. Hanson. “And those eyes! Aren’t you thrilled?”

     Anna Novak smile and her eyes gleamed with tears. “Beyond thrilled.”

     “Here’s a little present for…what did you name him?” asked Mrs. Hanson.

     “His name is Andel,” said Mrs. Novak.  She kissed his forehead. “That’s Czech for angel. And Stefan after my father.” She took the gift and opened it. “This is perfect. A silver spoon and fork.”   

The Willow Lane Mysteries take place in the 1980's

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