To fill her free time until she hears from Emory, Abigail volunteers to help Steven with a project. His sister, Rebecca, who died in a car crash in 2005, had a blog and published numerous articles in online publications around the region. Steven has wanted to compile them for publication, but has never had the time or know how in tracking down all Rebecca’s posts. A few years earlier, Leah managed to salvage a number of files from the hard drive of Rebecca’s laptop, which was severely damaged in the crash, and supplies Abigail with a CD of the text files she was able to save, and Steven has continued to pay the annual fees on Rebecca’s main blog account, so those posts are still there. For the rest, Abigail will need to mine the Internet. She employs Genevieve, who’s more than eager to assist, and whose research skills rival those of Abigail’s.
For background, Steven suggests that Abigail meet with Claire, who was dating Rebecca at the time of her death. Claire invites Abigail to meet her at a club where Claire works as a sound engineer one afternoon while she’s setting up and testing some new equipment. Abigail hopes to gain insight into Steven’s sister, but also has some curiosity about Claire and Rachel’s relationship.
“Steven said you and Rebecca had a rather contentious relationship.”
“That’s an understatement. He should know, though. He saw enough of it close up, poor guy.”
“Why’d you stay together?”
“Rachel’s always saying I’m drawn to lost causes. Becky was certainly that. She was so out of control when I first got to know her, I was afraid she’d harm herself if I left.”
“That sounds serious.”
“I guess the psychologists would say it played on my need to save someone.”
“What finally happened between you?”
“After she settled down, we both started to lose interest, but she got killed before we could resolve anything.”
“Steven told me you didn’t date for a while.”
“I don’t date now. Steven used to attribute the tendency to my relationship with Becky, but the truth is I just don’t like to date. It’s certainly not for lack of offers. Some of the women who hit on me are more aggressive than some of the men. Becky sure was.”
As they talk, Claire lets down her guard and her speech drifts from the indistinct Atlanta accent she’s developed back into more of a slow drawl common to middle Georgia where she’s from.
“Becky liked being with other women. She thought she was hiding it from me but she wasn’t very subtle about it.”
“I’m guessing that was a problem.”
“Sometimes. I kinda understood it though. They gave her something I never would.”
“You’re telling me you and Rebecca never had sex?”
“I only had sex one time in my life and that was forced on me. If it ever happens again it’s going to be my choice.”
Abigail lets the topic drop, not wanting to pry too much into Claire’s private history. Instead, she decides to ask about Rachel.
“Would you mind if I ask you a personal question?”
“Ask. I’ll let you know if I mind.”
“Are you in love with Rachel?”
“I love her and I’d do anything for her because she’s the kind of woman I’d be if I could.”
“But you’re not together. At least, not a couple.”
“That’s her decision and I understand her reasons but it’s not for me to say what those are. I care enough for her to honor her decision.”
“She cares about you, that’s obvious.”
“Lost causes. It’s enough for me to be near her.”
“You don’t identify as a lesbian.”
“What does that even mean? The man I grew up thinking was my father thought I was just because I had a good friend when I was in school. We weren’t doing anything and I didn’t even think of her that way. He just looked at us with his twisted and perverted mind and decided he had to stop it. I don’t even ask myself that question anymore because he and my mother beat any curiosity I might have had out of me when I was sixteen.”
“You don’t have to—”
“No, that’s all right. Leah and Rachel helped me to see that I don’t have anything to be ashamed of. All I can tell you is I don’t like men, but I got a lot of good reasons that don’t have anything to do with that. Maybe if I’d stayed home, didn’t have so much trouble with my family, I might have met some guy, got married and settled down. That’s what was expected of me and I didn’t have reason to question it.”
She turns so she’s facing Abigail.
“When I first came to Atlanta, I got a job as a waitress and when I was old enough I worked in bars. Guys there would hit on me all the time and I hated it. Not just their words but the way they’d look at me. Even when I wasn’t dressed sexy, they’d stare like hungry animals. It’s why I started bartending in gay clubs, because the men there left me alone. With the exception of Steven Asher, almost every decent man I’ve ever known has been gay. I can be any way I want in front of them and they don’t care; they just accept me or ignore me.”
“I can understand that.”
“I am who I am because of the circumstances of my life. Rachel accepts that. Becky never could. You ask me if I’m in love with Rachel. How could I not be?”
They talk for another fifteen or twenty minutes and when they conclude the interview, Abigail gives Claire a long hug. “Take care of yourself, Claire.”
Abigail ends her day back at her room at the Caines’ with Gloria, discussing their favorite topic.
“We can always get married in Seattle,” Gloria says.
“But your family’s here. Mine is mostly here now, except for Mom, and I don’t think she’d have a problem traveling. Even if we get married there, it won’t be recognized here.”
“Think we’ll ever be able to get married in Georgia?” Gloria says.
“Maybe. Probably not for a long time, though.” She lies back and leans against Gloria. “Just one thing. If we decide to hyphenate our names, yours should come first.”
“Why do you say that?”
With a laugh, Abigail says, “Otherwise, we’d be Worthy Savages.”
Gloria thinks about it, then they both burst into laughter.
“Hey, that would be a great name for our act, though,” Gloria says. “Worthy Savage.”
Abigail considers it. “You’re right.” She sits up in bed. “I think before we talk about marriage, we should at least have our own place. As accommodating as Alyssa and Tim are, I know they want to raise a family of their own.”
“Agreed. House or condo?”
“Condo. Who wants to cut the grass.”
“I don’t know. I kind of like working outside. Having a garden would be nice.”
“There you go, then. That’s the issue that finally comes between us.”
Gloria swats her with a pillow. “Considering we’re nowhere near affording a studio apartment in Atlanta, we have quite a while before we need to decide on long-term accommodations. I’ll wear you down.”
“Something to look forward to.”
“How’s the project coming along.”
“Steven thinks his sister wrote enough for a book, but honestly, I think there’s too much for one book. She published an original blog post once a day for nearly two years, plus she published weekly in five or six local publications for more than a year. For all her faults, being diligent in her writing wasn’t one of them. On top of that, Steven says she kept a diary for as long as he can remember.”
“Need any help?”
“Yes. Genni’s helping me compile things and she’s a decent writer and editor, but she’s taking classes now so her time’s limited.”
“Put me in, coach. I edited my campus newspaper in college, and I know my way around a computer. You can attest to my literary skills.”
“Welcome aboard, then. What do you know about this Cloud stuff?”
“Quite a bit. They’re using it at the hospital.”
“Wonderful. We can set up some type of collaborative effort with Genni.” She sits up. “I heard from one of Rebecca’s former friends who’s an agent. When she found out I was working on this, she asked me to send her a sample chapter when it was ready. Turns out she was talking to Rebecca about it before she died and knew a publisher who was interested.”
“That’s a good start. Show me what you have so far.”
They move to the computer and start reviewing files.