They arrive at Jillian’s townhouse and Neil rings the bell. Several minutes pass before the curtain in a nearby window parts, and Abigail briefly catches sight of a woman, though she’s not there long enough for Abigail to get a good look. From inside, there’s the sound of multiple locks being unlocked.
Jillian opens the door for them and lingers beside it while they enter. Once they’re in, she closes it and locks all the locks again. She’s about Abigail’s height and build and looks as though she’s made no effort to prepare herself to receive guests, other than throwing on some clothes, an oversized Berkeley sweatshirt with the sleeves ripped off and dark tights underneath with a pair of pink Uggs flip flops on her otherwise bare feet. Her face is sans makeup and her messy dark hair is pulled back and held by a scrunchy.
“Jillian, this is Abigail,” Neil says.
Jillian approaches Abigail, scrutinizing her very closely. She addresses her comment more to Neil than Abigail. “I don’t think we look that much alike.”
“Nice to meet you, too,” Abigail says.
“Neil says you’re gay,” Jillian continues.
Abigail looks from Jillian to Neil, who shrugs and says, “I told you what to expect.”
Abigail looks back to Jillian. “Yes, that’s right. Something we have in common I understand.”
“Yeah, well consider yourself lucky. I’ve spent the last six years being known in the Portland press as Dr. Hawkins’ lesbo daughter. Say what you will about your circumstances, at least you’ve avoided that. There’s something to be said for anonymity.”
Jillian moves away from them.
“Do you drink?” she says.
“Wine or beer, if that’s what you meant,” Abigail says, following Jillian into the next room, trailed by Neil.
“Of course that’s what I meant,” Jillian says. “Otherwise I’d have just offered water or soft drinks.”
“It’s kind of early, isn’t it?”
Jillian gives her an exasperated look. “If I’m going to have to talk about my mother’s sperm donor, I need to fortify myself. I don’t like to drink alone — at least not with other people around.”
“I’ll have whatever you’re having, then.”
“Wine it is,” Jillian says. “Neil?”
“Ah, no. I’m driving.”
Jillian disappears into the kitchen. Abigail looks at Neil who motions for them to sit on the couch.
“See? You thought I was kidding,” he says.
“I will never doubt you again.”
Jillian returns with a bottle of Merlot and two glasses in one hand and a bottled water in the other. The water she sets in front of Neil, and one of the glasses in front of Abigail. She transfers her glass to her free hand and fills Abigail’s glass with wine.
She takes the bottle to a seat across from where they’re sitting and sits then fills her glass and takes a long drink, emptying half the glass, which she refills. She sets the bottle aside.
“Sorry I didn’t get dressed up, but I figured, what the hell, it’s just family.”
“Not a problem,” Abigail says. “Neil didn’t mention what you do for a living.”
“I’m a rep for a pharmaceutical company.”
“Well, it’s kind of the family business, you know.”
“I’ve seen your picture. You don’t look that much like it in person.”
“I probably look older. They’ve been photoshopping my image into family portraits for several years. Whoever does it just flips my picture and changes the color of my shirt.”
“Your mother’s the nurse, right? The one in pediatrics.”
“That’s right. Neil said you’ve probably done your homework.”
“She didn’t take any money, you know. I thought that was kind of weird. Usually when they can’t have the good doctor they want some kind of compensation. Not your Mom. She just left.”
“That’s not what it was about for her.”
“That’s what they all say. Most don’t get pregnant, though. In the pantheon of floozy-dom, not taking any money under those circumstances is somewhat admirable.”
“I’m not sure I like that characterization. My Mom is not a floozy.”
“That point is debatable. She had an affair with a married man with young kids. I was one of those kids. Dr. Hawkins came home every night bouncing his baby daughter on his knee like everything’s perfect when all along, he has a honey on the side.”
“Look, that’s on him, not her. He was the one who knew what the stakes were.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know. Dashing doctor and all. I bet she felt really stupid when Mom told her it was over. All of them do.”
Abigail starts to respond but reconsiders.
“How many do you know about?” Abigail says, taking a quick glance at Neil.
“Most of them. You know, you’re not the only kid. This nurse from the Philippines had a son. Mom had her shipped off to Hawaii. Despite that, she still took quite a bit of convincing.”
Jillian rubs her fingers together, indicating money.
“Is this why you don’t talk to your father any more?”
“I suppose Neil told you about Trudy?”
“There were always rumors, whispers, conversations abruptly ending whenever I’d walk into a room. It’s just not something a girl wants to believe about her father.”
She slides forward in her chair and leans toward Abigail.
“Understand, I was perfectly content to be a good little closeted lesbian girl around my family, frilly, frumpy, coquettishly demur about my intentions to marry, introducing Trudy as my roommate. Then that bastard had the gall to put the moves on Trudy in our house and then try to make it sound like she came on to him. I knew he was lying. That was it for me. My eyes were open. I decided right then and there to be myself and while I was at it, I’d be his worst nightmare — a woman who doesn’t worship the ground he walks on.”
“You stay in touch with your mother, right?”
“My mother gets it. Yes, we stay in touch. She doesn’t mind visiting me here. We like having her.”
“So that’s it for you and your father?”
“Look, I’m not a religious person, but if someone I care about ever suffers any type of head trauma, I’ll fall down on my knees and pray that Daniel Hawkins gets the call. Otherwise, I feel way too close to him just being on the same coast, let alone in the same room. He’s a brilliant doctor but otherwise a complete waste of space. I don’t know if it was your mother or mine who made sure you never knew him growing up but whoever it was deserves your undying gratitude. There’s no end to the amount of grief you were spared as a result.”
Jillian goes to refill her glass and finds the bottle empty.
“Let’s take a break here, kids,” she says as she rises, holding the bottle. “Neil, you know where the bathroom is if either of you need it.”
Jillian exits into the kitchen.
“That was intense,” Abigail says.
“I warn you, she’s just getting started.”