Rachel Lawson walks through the main terminal at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, looking for a familiar face. She received a call from a colleague, Rhiannon Worthy, a few days ago, looking for a caregiver to assist her sister Rosalind, who’s dealing with end stage cancer. Rosalind has a teenaged daughter and Rhiannon stated a preference for someone with experience dealing with young people. After listening to Rhiannon’s description of Rosalind’s condition and the family dynamic, Rachel concluded she would be well-suited for the job and offered her services.
Since the late-90s, Rachel has made her home in Atlanta, initially moving there to care for her sister Sharon who died from cancer in 1997, and Sharon’s two children. After her niece Rebecca was killed in a car accident and her nephew Steven went away to college, Rachel pursued counseling and got her doctorate in Psychology. She’s also a field consultant with Journey From Night, an organization devoted to combating sex trafficking and the exploitation of women. Since Atlanta is a major transportation hub, the organization stays very busy.
She hears her name and looks to see Rhiannon waving to her from several yards away. Rachel goes over and Rhiannon greets her with a hug.
“I am so glad you’ll be here working with Rosie,” Rhiannon says as they move toward baggage claim.
“My privilege,” Rachel says. “How’s your niece holding up?”
“Genni’s trying to be stoic about it for Rosie’s sake, but she’s really hurting.”
“Totally understandable,” Rachel says. “Hopefully, I can bring them both some comfort.”
At Rosalind’s house, they’re greeted by a young woman with curly auburn hair who Rhiannon introduces as her niece. From the moment Rachel meets Genevieve, she has the strong sense she knows her. Something in how Genevieve behaves or how she carries herself is very familiar to Rachel, but she doesn’t recognize Genevieve and can’t imagine where they would have met. Though her former brother-in-law lives in Tacoma, Rachel has never visited there or Seattle, and she’s not been to the Boston area for more than quick business trips in the past several years, well after the Duchards moved away. When Rachel asks, Genevieve says she has never been to Atlanta.
“Mom’s resting right now,” she says. “But she wants me to let her know when you arrive, so excuse me a moment.”
She disappears into a back room. Several minutes later, the door opens and Genevieve steps out and turns to offer assistance and is met by a terse, “I’m fine.”
Genevieve holds the door. A thin, pale woman wearing baggy clothes that were once form fitting, and a weathered Boston Red Sox cap steps through the door. Though it appears to be taking every ounce of strength she has to move, she greets Rachel with a pleasant smile and a firm handshake.
“Dr. Lawson, a pleasure to meet you. I’m Rosalind Duchard.”
The name registers with Rachel, and it dawns on her who she’s reminded of when interacting with Genevieve.
“Please call me Rachel,” she says.
“Nonsense,” Rosalind says. “It’s rare I get to interact with colleagues anymore. I’d like to maintain a bit of decorum.”
“I’m fine with that,” Rachel says.
“I can still call you Rachel, right?” Genevieve says.
“You certainly can.”
Rhiannon hugs Rosalind, who motions toward the couch, “Let’s have a seat and get to know one another.”
As they’re sitting, Rachel says, “I believe we have a mutual acquaintance.”
“I’m friends with Leah Walker in Atlanta and she’s talked about her work with you at MIT.”
“Now there’s a name I haven’t heard in a while,” Rosalind says. “How is she?”
“She is a very busy woman,” Rachel says. “I honestly don’t know how she manages it all and I’m a bit of a workaholic myself.”
“We were rather close, at one time, but we haven’t been in contact since Genevieve and I moved here. Mind you I only ever heard from Leah once in a blue moon after she went back home following grad school.”
“Well, I can tell you she has gotten a second doctorate and runs her own security firm,” Rachel says.
“I would expect nothing less out of her,” Rosalind replies.
They speak for several minutes, until Rosalind indicates that she needs a break. Rachel rises with her and accompanies her back into her room, discussing how she typically handles a care situation.
Later, she meets with Genevieve.
“I get this sense that I won’t need to sugarcoat anything about this situation, which is good, because I prefer honesty,” Rachel tells her.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Genevieve says. “I’m under no delusions of a miraculous recovery.”
Rachel touches Genevieve’s hand. “There’s always hope. But, realistically, it’s best to focus on the here and now. Take the time to be with your mom. Say those things you’ve always wanted to tell her.”
“I’m glad you’re here,” Genevieve says. “Mom needs someone like you.”
“I’m here for you, too,” Rachel says. “Don’t forget that. Whenever you need anything, to talk, to cry, to vent. I’m here. You can’t offend me. I’ve heard it all.”
Rachel settles in well with the family. Several days after starting, she and Rosalind are in the living room while Genevieve is in school.
“Has Leah ever spoken to you about Genevieve?” Rosalind suddenly asks.
“Genevieve? No. She mentioned you have a daughter, but mainly she’s talked about your influence on her when she was a student.”
“I see,” Rosalind says. “I don’t know you well, obviously, but I feel I can trust you.”
“I’m happy to hear you say that,” Rachel says. “Trust is vital in my line of work, as you might imagine.”
Rosalind looks away from Rachel and seems deep in thought. “I need to know that anything we discuss will be held in strictest confidence. Even if it involves people we both know.”
“Of course. I’m legally and ethically bound to respect your privacy.”
Rosalind considers this for a long time, then leans forward and faces Rachel. “Please make yourself comfortable, Dr. Lawson. There’s a lot I need to tell you about Leah and Genevieve.”