Abigail has never before been to a private home that has a parking lot. As they move down the long driveway to the front of the house, she’s struck by the sheer grandeur of the place. She’s certain the building is larger than the high school she attends in Seattle and the surrounding gardens are breathtaking. She almost feels she’s in a movie but can’t decide if it’s a comedy or drama. With Rhiannon in control, it could turn out to be either.
The woman they’re going to see is like a mythical figure to the people in Portland. Elspeth Armstrong Hawkins is a descendant of one of the earliest families of white settlers to the west coast. While many went west looking to make their fortunes in gold, in farming, or in herding, the Armstrongs made theirs by supplying settlers with the necessities to survive. Starting in California, they worked their way up the coast, moving from dry goods and supplies, to general retail, to specialty retail. By the time Elspeth was born, her branch of the family had moved into banking and finance. Elspeth was particularly noted for her philanthropy. Losing her entire immediate family in a car crash when she was in her early twenties, she went on to honor their memories by building hospitals, and funding grants and scholarships for deserving students. Abigail herself had applied for an Armstrong fellowship but was informed she’d just missed the cutoff.
They exit the car and Rhiannon gives Abigail a quick check, straightening her dress and fussing with her hair before declaring everything, “Perfect!”
They go to the door and Rhiannon rings the bell. Elspeth, an older woman with red hair that’s streaked with grey, answers and greets them with a pleasant smile. She’s dressed in a floral top and light slacks and has a dignified air about her. She apparently doesn’t recognize Rhiannon.
“Good morning. What can I do for you ladies?”
Being as close to Elspeth as she now is, Abigail feels a strong sense of apprehension and wishes she was somewhere else.
Rhiannon wastes no time getting to the point.
“Hello again, Elspeth. Rhiannon Worthy. I tried to steal your husband. Remember me?”
Elspeth displays no emotion but stares at Rhiannon for several long seconds.
“Yes, I thought you looked familiar. It’s been a while. What do you want?”
“This is our daughter Abigail — and by ‘our’ I don’t mean you and me.”
“Yes, I know what you mean. Why are you here?”
“May we come in?”
“I can’t imagine how that would be a good idea.”
“I’m pretty sure you don’t want to discuss this on your front doorstep, do you?”
Elspeth looks between Abigail and Rhiannon.
“I knew you’d be back. I just knew it. If this is about money, have your lawyer contact mine.”
“Lawyer?” Rhiannon laughs. “We can’t afford a lawyer. If you refuse to see us, we’ll just go directly to the press.”
Elspeth considers this a moment then addresses Abigail.
“Please tell me she’s bluffing.”
Abigail shakes her head. “No. I wish she was.”
Elspeth considers it a moment then opens the screen door.
“Please, come in.”
Rhiannon nods. “I knew you’d see it my way.”
As they enter, Elspeth says to Abigail, “Is she always like this?”
“I’m afraid so,” Abigail replies.
“You have my deepest sympathy.”