“There’s a certain comfort that comes with age, which I’m sure you’re discovering. One learns to be far more discerning with one’s time and attention. It’s very liberating.”
They enter the study and Elspeth directs them to sit on the couch.
“Since it looks like we’ll be here a while, I’m going to get us some refreshments. I have lemonade, other soft drinks. I also have wine, even though it’s not yet noon. In fact, I believe I’ll have a glass myself.”
“The wine sounds tempting, but lemonade for me,” Rhiannon says. Abigail nods.
Elspeth exits and returns a few minutes later with a tray containing a pitcher and some glasses, and a wine bottle and glass. She sets it on the table and removes the wine and glass then retreats to her chair.
“I’m surprised you haven’t asked about Daniel,” Elspeth says.
“I don’t really care anymore. The last time I saw or spoke to Danny was when I told him I was pregnant. We see how that worked out. It’s bad enough I have to see him on television every Thursday at the hospital.”
“Yes, the Medical Minutes. I had very little influence on his decision to do those. The only bright spot is that they require Daniel to be in Los Angeles during the week.”
“He’s not practicing medicine anymore?”
“He consults on special cases and still performs surgery when the injury warrants someone of his expertise, but otherwise he’s found the money’s much better playing a doctor than being one.”
Elspeth takes a sip of her wine and says, “Your mother’s still living, isn’t she?”
“If you can call it that. My sister moved back to Seattle a few years ago with her daughter so she’s there to share part of the responsibility. I do have to thank you, though. The facility you found for her has been excellent.”
“They’ve always gotten high marks. I’m glad to hear she’s receiving exemplary care.”
“So, I suppose we could continue to exchange pleasantries —”
“Yes. Obviously, you’re here for something, which I assume is monetary,” she says. “Please state what it is and hopefully we can conclude this matter quickly. I have the garden club coming in a little while.”
Rhiannon motions to Abigail, who stands.
“It’s simple. Baby needs a college education.”
“Ah, yes, that’s right. The one thing that struck me about you before. You never ask for anything for yourself.”
“What do I need? The one thing I thought I wanted was Danny and he didn’t even have the guts to face me when you ended our relationship.”
“Very insightful,” Elspeth says then turns to Abigail.
“As for you, young lady. What’s your area of interest?”
“Science,” Abigail says, “Biology, actually.”
“No. Well, could be. I’m interested in genetics.”
“How are your grades?”
“I was a national merit scholar junior and senior year.”
“Don’t you qualify for scholarships?”
“I do but they’re not enough.”
“I assume you applied for an Armstrong Fellowship.”
“I did. Just missed the cut. They awarded twenty. I was twenty-one. That’s why I don’t have enough.”
Elspeth considers this.
“Well, let’s see what we can do about that.”
Elspeth reaches for the phone. She speaks to Rhiannon, “Before we proceed any further, I need assurances from you that you’ll not be coming around every other month hitting me up for more.”
Rhiannon chuckles. “It’s been eighteen years, Elspeth. I think I have a pretty good track record.”
“Yes, I do have to commend you on that. Still, you’re here now.”
“These are special circumstances. I hope you’d do whatever’s in your power to insure your child has all the advantages.”
“Well, seems we do have that in common.”
Elspeth dials a number.
“Roger. Access the file on Armstrong applicants, please. Last name Worthy. That’s her. What was her ranking? That close? What made the difference? I see. As it turns out, I have a surplus of funds so it appears this is her lucky day. Yes. Thank you, Roger.”
She hangs up and looks at Abigail.
“Well, it appears you’d have made the cut if you’d had another extra curricular activity.”
Abigail shrugs. “I had to drop out of band to get a job when Mom’s union went on strike for a few months.”
“No matter, you’ll be receiving formal notice within a week.”
Abigail can hardly contain her enthusiasm. She says to Rhiannon, “I don’t believe this actually worked.”
“I said it would,” Rhiannon says. “Once she met you how could she say no?”
The door to the study opens and a young man with ginger hair, who appears to be Abigail’s age enters.
“Here you are,” he says to Elspeth, then notices Abigail and Rhiannon. “Oh, hey.”
Elspeth regards him with suspicion. “Neil, why are you out of school?”
“They let us out because of graduation.”
“Yeah, we had practice this morning and they said we could leave.”
Neil turns his eyes back to Rhiannon and Abigail. To Abigail he says, “Do you know Jillian?”
“I don’t think so,” Abigail says. “Who is she?”
“She’s my sister,” Neil says. “You kind of remind me of her.”
“This is Ms. Worthy, an — associate of mine, and her daughter Abigail.”
“Cool. Can I borrow the van? The guys want to practice.”
“I suppose so,” Elspeth says. “If I were to call the school, I assume they’d confirm your version of events.”
“Call, I don’t care.” To Abigail, he says, “Do you play?”
“I played saxophone in the band at school, also guitar, and I sing.”
“We should jam sometime.” He steps over and kisses Elspeth on the cheek. “Thanks, Mom.” He waves to Abigail and Rhiannon as he exits. “See you around.”
“If you didn’t already figure it out, that’s my youngest, Neil.”
“Do I really look like his sister?”
“I wouldn’t mistake you for her, but there’s a resemblance.” She points to a photo on a table near Rhiannon. “That’s her in the middle. Probably when she was around your age.”
Rhiannon picks up the picture and holds it so Abigail can see. It features Neil, much younger, a girl around Abigail’s age and an older young man. Abigail bears a slight resemblance to the girl.
“This is your oldest son, right?” Rhiannon says, to which Elspeth nods. Rhiannon shakes her head. “He definitely looks like his father.”
“Fortunately, he got his temperament from my side of the family.”
Rhiannon replaces the photo. “One thing I’ve always wondered about. You’ve never asked me for any proof that Abby is Danny’s daughter.”
Elspeth laughs. “Being married to Daniel was proof enough.” She sits up in her chair. “Is there anything more you need from me?”
“I think we’re squared away,” Rhiannon says.
“I have the garden club coming in an hour and will need to coordinate with the caterer.”
Elspeth walks them back to the front door.
“I would wish you luck, Abigail, but luck is for those who don’t value hard work, and it sounds like you do. Please check in once in a while to let me know how you’re doing.”
“I’ll do my best.” She and Elspeth shake hands.
“As for you, Ms. Worthy, let’s keep any further reunions few and far between.”
“No problem there.”
She and Abigail exit and go to their car. As they’re driving away, Rhiannon says, “What was that you were saying about this being a bad idea?”
“I still think it was crazy,” Abigail says, “but you were right.”
“Elspeth is a good woman. She’s only ever wanted to do what was right.” Rhiannon reaches over and runs her hand over Abigail’s hair. “Of course it’s easy to impress someone when you’re a superstar.”
“It’s true. Just remember, I’m always here for you, kiddo.”
“I love you, Mom.”