Worthy, Part 43

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The venue for the band Neil found is called T.J. Bailey’s and it’s a few blocks off the square in Decatur. It’s patterned after a cozy neighborhood bar, but seems way too polished for the traditional, lived in feel they’re aiming to achieve. Leah and the Caines are there, along with a moderate crowd of mostly people in their twenties. Alyssa states upon arriving that she’s not feeling well, but wanted to get out before the child is due in a few weeks.

The band opens with several covers, then breaks into their original stuff. In addition to songs Abigail wrote are a couple of Sarah’s and several by Neil. At their first break, Sarah handles merchandise, while Freddy takes a smoke break. Neil, Abigail, and Genevieve sit with Leah, Alyssa, and Tim.

“Feeling any better, Alyssa?” Genevieve asks.

“No. Still out of sorts. I think it’s gotten worse.”

“What’s wrong?” Neil asks.

“I haven’t felt right most of the day,” Alyssa says. “My back has been killing me and my stomach’s acting up. I’ve been having these weird spasms all afternoon.”

“Weird spasms?” Neil asks. “How far apart would you say these are happening?”

Alyssa shrugs. “Right now? Maybe three or four minutes.”

“So they’ve increased?”

She nods.

Neil considers this, then signals to the server. “Could I talk to a manager please?”

“Is there a problem?”

“Yeah,” he says, indicating Alyssa. “She’s about to give birth.”

The server hurries off.

Tim leans toward Neil. “Hang on. The baby’s not due for two weeks.”

“Babies tend to operate on their own schedules,” Neil says. “She’s in labor.”

“Shouldn’t I be in more pain?” Alyssa asks.

“Not necessarily,” Neil says.

“He’s right,” Abigail says. “It’s different for every woman.”

A bearded man approaches Neil. “Hi, I’m Ted. I hear we have a medical emergency.”

“I’m not sure I’d go that far,” Neil says. “But we could use an ambulance. In the meantime, is there a private room we could use?”

“Sure, the office. It has a couch.”

Ted signals for them to follow.

“Abby, you come with me,” Neil says. “Sarah and Genevieve, you and Freddy are now a trio.”

Genevieve looks at Sarah and says, “We probably play enough instruments between us to handle things nicely.”

“Absolutely,” Sarah says. “Good luck!”

Tim helps Alyssa to her feet.

“But my water didn’t break,” she says.

“That doesn’t always happen,” Abigail tells her.

Leah stands. “There’s no way I’m not going to be in there.”

“There may not be room,” Neil says.

“We’ll make room,” Leah replies.

“Leah, could you just hang out and get the check?” Alyssa says. “We probably aren’t coming back.”

“Sure. Give me your keys. I’ll have Genni bring your car.”

Tim, Alyssa, Abigail, and Neil follow Ted to the office. Neil gets on his phone and calls 911. He identifies himself as a paramedic, gives them his information and informs them he’s with a woman giving birth at T.J. Bailey’s in Decatur.

In the office, Neil has Alyssa lie on the couch. He goes to examine her.

“What are you doing?” Tim says.

“Hello, experienced paramedic here. I need to see how far along she is.”

“Oh. Yeah. What should I do?”

“You’ve been taking lamaze classes, haven’t you?” Abigail says.

“Yes,” Tim says. “Ah! Right.” He gets in position and starts Alyssa on her breathing exercises.

“Okay, the bad news is there’s a major pileup on the connector which has a lot of ambulances tied up,” Neil says. “The good news is I’ve done this before.”

Abigail leans in. “Should I get Winn on the phone?”

Neil looks at her. “I repeat, I’ve done this before.”

Alyssa moans. “I felt that.”

“This child will not be denied,” Neil says. “You’re doing great.” To Abigail, “Could you round up as many clean linens as possible, preferably white.”

“Like the napkins?”

“Yeah, those will be perfect.”

Alyssa moans again.

Neil checks. “The baby’s crowning. Man this kid is anxious to get out here.”

Abigail confers with Ted and he takes her to the kitchen where they gather a stack of napkins.

“This is exciting,” Ted tells her. “I’ve never had a baby born at an establishment where I worked.”

“It’s kind of a first for me, too.”

They arrive back in the office just in time to hear Neil say, “Okay, one more. Big push.”

Alyssa moans again. Just then, a siren is heard outside. Ted steps to the door to direct the paramedics. Neil holds up the baby to show Alyssa and Tim.

“It’s a girl,” he says. He hands the baby to Alyssa and says to Abigail, “Time?”

She looks at her phone and says, “9:45.”

A paramedic steps through the door. “Hawkins what are you doing? Not even out of orientation and you’re already delivering babies?”

“What took you guys so long?” Neil says with a chuckle. “Good thing I was on the ball.”

The paramedics examine Alyssa and the baby, then prepare them for transport to DeKalb Medical.

Abigail steps out and goes back to the music room. She sits with Leah.

“Congratulations, Aunt Leah. You have a niece.”

They hug.

Genevieve catches Abigail’s eye from the stage and shrugs. Abigail calls out, “Girl.”

Genevieve leans into the mic and says, “Hey everyone, it’s a girl!”

The audience reacts with applause. Leah signals the server and orders champagne all around, then steps out to catch Alyssa before she leaves.

Worthy, Part 42

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Abigail goes by Leah’s office to pick up Genevieve who’s been helping out to learn more about what Leah does. They’re scheduled to practice with the band that night. Neil has found them a local gig to get them a warm up for an upcoming open mic night.

“Hi, Abby,” Leah says as she buzzes Abigail in. Since the receptionist went on honeymoon, Genevieve often sits in for her, but after five, Leah always buzzes people in.

When Abigail enters the main office, Leah and Genevieve are having a slight disagreement. Genevieve is holding a packet.

“No. I can just send it to his office Monday,” Leah says.

“You don’t have to. We’re going to Decatur. His house is on the way.”

“What are you two arguing about?” Abigail asks.

“Just some paperwork relating to the embryos. Steven needs to look over them before we sign. I’m making Genevieve joint custodian.”

“I think he needs them right away, so I want to run them by his house on the way to practice.”

“How do even know where he lives?” Abigail says.

“Google Maps,” Genevieve replies. “East Lake is close to Decatur, isn’t it?”

“In a roundabout way,” Leah answers. “Depends on where in Decatur.”

“Neil said a few blocks from the Attic.”

“You know, he’s going to get tired of you always popping in on him.”

“He’s never said one word to me about it.”

“You’ve never been to his house before.”

“What if he’s on a date?” Abigail says.

“He’s not. I asked if he had plans for the evening and he said he’d just be hanging out at home.”

“That doesn’t mean he’s not on a date.”

“All right, you can take the papers,” Leah says. “But I do not want a phone call from him. Understand?”

“Fine.”

When they arrive at Steven’s house, he answers in a T-shirt and running shorts.

“Genevieve, long time no see. Leah called to say you were headed over. Hello, Abby. Are you in the delivery business too?”

“No, we’re going to band practice nearby.”

He invites them in.

Steven’s house looks very lived in with an old leather couch near the center, several bookcases, and a long console table against one wall that’s loaded with family pictures.

“I can’t chat for too long. I’m expecting company in a little while. My aunt Rachel’s coming over.”

“Rachel?” Genevieve asks.

“Yeah. Rachel Lawson.”

Genevieve gives him a wide-eyed stare.

“Rachel Lawson is your aunt?” She thinks about it. “Hang on. Your sister’s Rebecca.” She puts her hand over her mouth and gasps. “Oh my god, you’re Stevie.”

“That’s what my family used to call me. Yes. You know Rachel?”

“Are you kidding me? I love that woman. She was Mom’s care giver during her last few months.”

“Yeah. She was working on the West Coast until early this year. So she was taking care of your mother?”

“She was wonderful,” Abigail says. “I only met her a few times, but she was always so kind and attentive.”

“I don’t know what I would have done if she hadn’t been around,” Genevieve says.

“Yeah, that’s what she does. She helped me through the deaths of my mom and Becky.”

“Well then I’m sticking around because I want to see this woman again.”

“By all means. She’ll have a friend with her. Claire.”

“Yes, she talked about Claire,” Genevieve says. “I wasn’t clear on their relationship, though.”

“I’m not sure they are either.”

Steven goes to change clothes.

A short while later, the doorbell rings and Steven admits his aunt and her friend. Rachel is in her fifties and still very striking, with dark hair streaked with grey and wearing little makeup. Her friend Claire appears much younger, probably late thirties, and is dressed in a sort of punk rock fashion with leather and chains which jangle when she moves. The pair seems comfortable around one another, but exhibit no obvious signs of affection toward each another. Abigail has a difficult time imagining them as a couple.

Steven greets them, then Rachel notices Genevieve, who rushes to hug her. Abigail also greets Rachel and they all chat for several minutes before Abigail reminds Genevieve they need to be somewhere. Rachel and Claire both know Leah, and Rachel promises to give Genevieve a call there.

Once they arrive at the studio Neil found for them to practice, he announces when the warm up gig will be. The best date he could arrange with a local establishment is Monday, August 5. No one’s really happy about performing on Monday night, but otherwise the arrangements meet with their approval.
 

Worthy, Part 41

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Abigail flies back to Seattle Saturday morning and is met at the airport by Rhiannon. She waits until the following Monday before letting her mother know of her decision to relocate. 

“I’ll miss you kiddo,” Rhiannon tells her, “but I am so proud of you. I hope I get a chance to meet these ladies who are making all this happen.”

“You’re going to visit once in a while aren’t you?”

“You bet I will.”

“They’re anxious to meet you as well. Especially Leah, who remembers Aunt Rosie talking about you all the time.”

While Abigail’s at work, making arrangements for her replacement, Rhiannon heads to Abigail’s apartment to see what items she can use, so Abigail won’t have to pack household items. By the time Abigail returns, Rhiannon has filled a couple of boxes.

The rest of her time there is a whirlwind of activity, visiting friends, getting her finances in order, and finally having one last gig with the band. Since Sarah joined them, they’ve taken a slightly progressive turn, though their song selections are as eclectic as ever. Neil tells her he’s sorry to see her go, but is glad she hooked up with Winn, and he’s sure they’ll run into one another again.

Rhiannon gives Abigail a few names of people to look up, and after another tearful ride to the airport, they say their goodbyes again. 

“Remember, I have a conference there in September. We can hang out in the evenings,” Rhiannon says.

“Sure thing, Mom.”

A few weeks after she’s settled in, Abigail enters the Caine residence and is greeted by Alyssa. “Abby, you have a visitor.”

Before she can say much more, Neil enters, holding a drink.

“Hey, Sis.”

“Neil, what are you doing here?”

“Nice to see you, too. I can’t drop in on my kid sister once in a while?”

“Is everything okay?” Alyssa asks.

“Yeah. This is the new normal for me,” Abigail tells her.

Alyssa excuses herself and exits into the kitchen.

“Where’s Sarah?” Abigail asks Neil.

“She’s in Decatur.”

“Why is she —? No, don’t answer that. Tell me she is not looking at apartments.” 

“No. Of course not.” Long pause. “She’s looking for a job. We’ve already found an apartment.”

Abigail sinks to her knees, then falls face down onto the floor and pounds her fists in the tiles. “No, no, no, no!” She rises and circles around the entire room before confronting Neil again. “Do you not get that the whole idea of setting you up with her was to keep you from following me all over the place?”

“Whose idea do you think it was?” Neil says. “I agreed with it, but she was all pumped up about starting her singing career where the Indigo Girls started.”

Abigail lets this sink in. “Who came with you?” 

“Freddy rode with us but he may not stay.”

“Freddy. Perfect. He understands that the move from the West to the East Coast doesn’t make me any less gay, right?”

“I think you made it perfectly clear the last time this came up.”

“That never seems to register with Freddy.”

“Don’t worry about it. I think he and Annie may be giving it another shot.”

“And that’s a good thing?”

“No, no, they’ve been in counseling.”

“That makes me feel way better.”

“Face it, Abby, you’re stuck with me. Besides, Genni’s here and I like how she sounds with the band.”

“Are you saying the entire band is moving here?”

“Ah, no. Actually just me and Freddy and he probably won’t stay. But seriously, you’re telling me there are no musicians in Atlanta.”

“So what, you, Freddy, and Sarah will be a trio?”

“We’re signed up for open mic at Eddie’s next week. Always room for keys and sax.”

“Genni will be thrilled.”

Worthy, Part 40

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When they arrive at Winn’s home in Grant Park, Abigail introduces Alyssa and Tim.

Winn says, “Roger’s busy in the kitchen at the moment but as soon as he emerges, I’ll do the honors. The kids have to finish their homework before we let them roam around.” He focuses on Alyssa. “How much longer until your little one gets here?”

“Dr. Stafford estimates mid- to late-August.”

“Rhonda Stafford?” 

Alyssa nods. 

“She’s top notch. You’re in great hands with her.”

When Leah and Genevieve arrive, Abigail notes that while they are wearing different outfits, the style is very similar, jeans with an expensive top, and boots. Genevieve is also wearing a loose vest that’s not buttoned with the sleeves of her shirt rolled up and the shirt untucked.

“Did you get new clothes?” Abigail asks Genevieve.

“Yeah, you like them?” Genevieve models for her.

“Not your usual style.”

“They’re casual but elegant.”

“I see Leah’s already having an influence on you.”

“I can’t explain it. It’s like she says something or does something and I think, yeah, I can see that. When we were shopping, a shirt or a pair of shoes would catch my eye and before I even said anything she’d point to it and say, what about this?”

“Nature versus nurture, I suppose. Leah has a very strong personality. Just don’t be too overwhelmed by her.”

“Look, I’m going to have to cover an entire lifetime with this woman in just a few weeks. We’re not quite to the teen rebellion stage, yet. Besides, I’ve been told I have a pretty strong personality myself.”

“That’s true. Now we know where you get it.”

Roger enters from the kitchen with a tray of drinks he sets on the table, indicating which are alcoholic, and introduces himself to everyone. He’s a marketing specialist who moonlights as a party planner and Abigail notes that he has a fussy nature with details which probably serves him well in his second job. He and Leah seem to hit it off and spend several minutes having an animated discussion about a mutual acquaintance they discover they have. 

Roger announces that dinner will be ready shortly and asks Winn to check something in the kitchen. Abigail tags along for help.

“Winn, can I get your opinion on something?” She says, once they’re alone. “I have a decision to make and I want to sound you out on it.”

“Sure, if you think it might help.”

Abigail explains the offer Leah and Alyssa made her a few days ago.

“I hardly know these people and they’re willing to fund my entire education.”

“Can they afford it?”

“Oh yeah. Many times over.”

“Have they asked for anything in return?”

“Just that I live up to my fullest potential.”

“Then they must see something in you that they believe in. There’s no shame in accepting someone’s generosity. Education is very expensive and not everyone has a rich doctor or wealthy philanthropist backing them up like I did. Remember, its not how you get somewhere. Its what you accomplish once you’re there. I think you definitely have the potential to accomplish a lot.”

She hugs him.

“Thanks. You’ve been a big help.”

“I’m always here if you need a sounding board, plus I can help you with the application process. Let you know what they might be looking for.”

They head back out to the living room. Abigail addresses everyone.

“Before we have dinner, I have an announcement to make,” Abigail says. “Recently an opportunity has come up for me to attend medical school in Atlanta and I’ve decided to do it. Provided I get accepted, of course.”

“Really?” Genevieve says. “You’re not leaving?”

“I have some loose ends to tie up back home, but yes, I’ll be moving here.”

Genevieve runs across the room and gives her a big hug. “That’s great, Abby! I’m so happy.”

“Yeah, me too.”

Everyone else congratulates her. Roger disappears into the kitchen before returning and pronouncing dinner served.

 

Worthy, Part 39

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Abigail is lying on the bed in her room at the Caine residence. Toward the end of the previous week, Alyssa invited Abigail and Genevieve out to her house to hear what Steven concluded regarding custody of the embryos in deep freeze in Massachusetts. At that time, Alyssa offered to let Abigail and Genevieve stay with her and Tim for the duration of their trip to help them defray costs. 

The evening yielded many surprises, the greatest being that because of an error in the agreement between Genevieve’s parents and Leah, that Leah never relinquished custody of the embryos produced and, as a result, is still Genevieve’s legal mother. After much discussion, Genevieve decided to move into a spare room at Leah’s condo, which is just a few blocks away from the Georgia Tech campus, where Genevieve has decided to start school in the Fall. 

She and Genevieve haven’t seen much of one another since then, except for the previous day, when Alyssa, Tim, and Leah took them out to see some sights around town. Winn has invited them all over for dinner Wednesday evening, extending his invitation to Leah and the Caines once Abigail filled him in on the details. Other than that, Abigail has been planning how to spend her last week in town.

Alyssa taps on the door and looks in.

“Are you free this evening?” she asks. 

“I don’t have plans, other than hooking up with Genni if she’s not doing anything.”

“Then let me take you to dinner. There are some things Leah and I would like to discuss with you.”

“Sure. Just let me know when to be ready and whether I need to dress up.”

When they arrive at the restaurant, Leah is already there.

“Is Genni joining us?”

“No,” Leah says, “they’re having some sort of event on campus for students who’ll be enrolling in the Fall.”

“We wanted to speak to you alone,” Alyssa says.

“Is everything okay? There’s nothing wrong with Genni is there?”

Leah shakes her head. “This isn’t about Genevieve. It’s about you. At this point, she doesn’t know we’re talking to you.”

They order drinks. 

“What do you want to talk to me about?”

“We know you’re scheduled to head back to Seattle at the end of the week,” Alyssa says, “and we’d like to propose an alternative.”

“I don’t understand.”

“When we spoke at the house a few days ago, you indicated you’d be interested in attending medical school,” Alyssa says. “We’d like to make that happen for you.”

“Alyssa’s right. We have more than enough money, and can’t think of a better use for it than helping you achieve your goals.”

Abigail doesn’t know how to react.

“That — that’s very generous of you. Frankly I’m in shock.”

“We figured you would be,” Alyssa says, taking Abigail’s hand. 

“We don’t expect an answer right now,” Leah says. “We’re just putting it out there for you to consider. We realize you’ll probably need some time to decide what’s best for you.”

“Where would I stay?”

“You can stay at the house with Tim and me,” Alyssa says. “We both like the idea of having a med student around with the baby coming. If the idea of staying there for free bothers you, you can always help out around the house, though we won’t expect that of you.”

“This is just a lot to take in,” Abigail says. “How would I ever be able to pay you back?”

Leah and Alyssa laugh.

“We would consider this a grant, not a loan,” Leah says. “An investment, if you will.”

“Investment?”

“In your future,” Alyssa tells her. “We think you’re worth it.”

“But it’s so much money.”

“Trust me, we can afford it,” Leah says. “I’m in charge of our father’s estate and he left behind more than enough to fund several generations of our family.”

Alyssa touches Abigail’s shoulder. “Like Leah said, we’re not expecting an answer right now. We want you to make the best decision for you.”

“This is crazy. I never imagined something like this.” Abigail puts her hand over her eyes then takes a deep breath. “Okay. I’ll think about it. I mean really think about it.”

Leah says, “That’s all we ask.”

Worthy, Part 38

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Abigail waits in the visitors’ center of the CDC’s facility in Chamblee. Winn enters and approaches her with a brisk step, wearing a military uniform. He is almost a carbon copy of his father, but thinner and with slightly darker hair. Abigail waves. 

“Abby, hi. Good to meet you in person.”

He gives her a warm hug.

“Neil didn’t tell me you’re in the military.”

“Commissioned corps, US Public Health Service. We’re the first line of defense when something threatens the public’s health.”

Winn signs her in and hands her a visitor’s badge.

“We’ve got a pretty good cafeteria here. You should find something to your liking.”

He leads her out of the center into a long, windy corridor between buildings. Winn uses his badge to admit them to the next to last building. He gets a tray of food and waits for her just before the cashier. 

“You weren’t kidding about the selection,” she says as he pays for their lunch. 

“I spend a lot of time here when I’m not on a detail or at my practice.”

“So you still see patients?”

“Wednesdays and Fridays. Mainly established patients. I haven’t taken on any new kids lately.”

They sit at a table near the windows.

“It’s a beautiful campus.”

“Hope you didn’t catch a whiff of the dump.”

“Dump?”

“DeKalb county has a garbage dump next door. Some days it’s more apparent than others.”

“I didn’t notice. Why would they build the campus near a dump?”

“One of the enduring mysteries of the government, I suppose.”

Abigail looks him over, then shakes her head and chuckles. “It’s weird. You look so much like your Dad, but don’t sound anything like him.”

“Yeah, there’s a lot Dad and I don’t see eye to eye on. Like Roger.”

“Who’s Roger? 

“Here, he’s considered my partner or significant other. In ten or twelve other states, he’s my husband.”

“You’re gay?”

“Neil didn’t mention that?”

“Neil didn’t tell me a lot. Just to look you up.”

“That’s Neil for you. I understand the two of you have gotten rather close.”

“That’s an understatement. Sometimes I can’t seem to get rid of him.”

“My little brother is certainly an experience.”

“I fixed him up with one of my friends from high school to distract him.”

“Did it work?”

“So far.”

They continue to talk as they eat. When they’re done, Winn gives her a tour of the campus and the office where he works. Whenever they encounter one of his colleagues, he introduces her as his sister.

Back at the visitors’ center he says, “What did you think?”

“Intriguing. There’s so much going on here.”

“Think you might want to make a career out of something like this?”

“Would I get my own uniform?”

“That’s a separate process. You don’t need to work here for that, though many do.”

“Thank you so much for giving me the tour.”

“I want to have you and your cousin over for dinner before you leave. You can meet Roger and the kids.”

“Sounds like fun. Just give me a call and we can set something up.”

They say their goodbyes and Abigail heads back to the bus stop.

Worthy, Part 37

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Abigail and Genevieve enter their motel room and drop their bags near the table. At lunch, they ran into Leah and Alyssa, and after a rather contentious conversation, they confessed to why they are here.

“Well that didn’t go quite how I expected it would,” Genevieve says.

“Why did you have to bring up Tim? You’ve been on my case day and night about not giving away the store when talking to Alyssa and you go and name drop her husband.”

“I don’t know. It just slipped out.”

“And why did you think Leah would buy that ridiculous story about Rosie being in Israel?”

“She wanted to phone Mom. I had to tell her something.”

“What about the truth? What’s the point of lying to her?”

Genevieve goes to the bed and sits. “At least we don’t have to move.”

“Don’t we? If the person who does the wifi here catches up to us, I can’t imagine the motel will just let bygones be bygones.”

“Leah said she’d call him off.”

Abigail shakes her head. “The only good to come out of this is that we can at least operate above board now.”

“True. Plus I might get to see Steven again.”

“Steven. Don’t go getting all starry-eyed over him. He might be married.”

“I didn’t see a ring.”

“That doesn’t necessarily mean anything you know.”

While waiting for Genevieve earlier, Abigail checked in as Zelda and found a message from their cousin Barbara stating that her pastor was encouraging her to adopt the remaining embryos that were produced when Genevieve was conceived. At lunch, they learned Leah had received a phone call from a lawyer with the clinic which she referred to her attorney.

Genevieve lies back and props herself on her elbows. “I can’t believe Barbara is trying to get her hands on the embryos. She seemed really nice when I met her as a kid.”

“Religion can change people. I hope this Steven Asher lives up to his reputation. How old is he?”

“I don’t know. Mid-twenties maybe.”

“That doesn’t sound very long to be practicing law.”

“Leah sounded confident he could figure something out. I can always look him up.”

“That sounds like a good idea. I need to look someone up myself.”

“Your brother?”

Abigail nods. “Neil didn’t give me many facts about him other than he goes by his middle name.”

“He works for the CDC, right?”

“Yes. He’s also a pediatrician rather than a surgeon. I’m sure our father loved that.”

“That is one dysfunctional family.”

“Tell me about it. Jillian told me early on that whoever made the decision to raise me away from them did me a favor.”

“Sounds like it.”

Abigail slides over to the phone. “In fact, I’m going to call him now. I could use something to take my mind off this afternoon.”

Genevieve rolls off the bed. “I’ll go check out Steven.”

She gets on the computer as Abigail dials a number Neil gave her.

“Oh, Winn, hi. I didn’t expect you to pick up your own phone. This is Abigail Worthy. Neil was supposed — oh, he did. Yes. I’m looking forward to meeting you, too. Tomorrow?”

She covers the phone. “What are you planning to do tomorrow?”

“I think I may go by Tech.”

Abigail nods. “It looks like I’ll have some time tomorrow. That sounds great. Sure, just text me the directions. I’ll see you then.”

Abigail concludes the call. “Wow, he sounds nothing like his father.”

“That’s a good thing, right?”

“I guess. He says he works at the Chamblee campus. He’s invited me to lunch.”

“Sounds like we’re both finding new families.”