Genevieve, age seven, sits on a bench in the back yard of Rhiannon and Abigail’s home in Seattle, her head lowered, tears streaming down her cheeks. It has been two weeks since her father’s death and nearly a week since his memorial service at MIT and she still can’t accept that she’ll never see him again.
It was New Year’s Eve and the Duchards were hosting their yearly party for friends and colleagues. The night had been special for Genevieve because her parents had agreed to let her stay up for the first time ever to usher in the new year. More people had shown up than expected and halfway through the evening, they were running short on beverages and snacks, so Paul excused himself to make a run to the grocery and liquor store. When he didn’t return in a timely manner, Rosalind tried to call his cell, but her calls rolled to voicemail.
“Where is he?” Rosalind remarked. “It’s not like him to ignore his calls.”
A half hour before midnight, the doorbell rang and Rosalind went to answer. She was gone a long time then returned and spoke to a colleague who lived nearby. She went to Genevieve.
“Genni, I have to go out for a while,” she said. “Natalie will stay with you until I get back.”
“Mom, what is it?” Genevieve said. “Where’s Papa?”
“He’s at the hospital,” Rosalind said. “There’s been an accident.”
“Is Papa okay?”
“There’s nothing to worry about. Perhaps you should go on to bed.”
“I want to stay up to see the new year. You promised.”
“Genevieve, I don’t have time now. Please go to bed and Natalie will stay with you.”
Genevieve isn’t sure exactly what happened, but what she managed to piece together by eavesdropping on the adults is that on his way back from the store, her father was hit by another driver. She isn’t sure if he was alive when they put him in the ambulance, but it sounds like he wasn’t when they got to the hospital. Rosalind gets very quiet when Genevieve asks questions and hasn’t shared many details otherwise.
After the memorial service, Rosalind decided to visit Rhiannon in Seattle and she and Genevieve packed and headed west.
Genevieve hears the back door open and close and a few seconds later, feels a hand on her shoulder. She looks to see Abigail there.
“Hey, Genni. Can I join you?”
Abigail sits and puts her arm around Genevieve, who leans against Abigail, crying. Abigail presses her head to Genevieve’s.
“I wish I’d known Paul better than I did,” Abigail says. “You’re so lucky to have had a father who was always there for you.”
“I miss him so much,” Genevieve says. “He came to all my recitals at school. We used to play guitar together. He always checked my homework.”
They sit in silence for a long time.
“Hey, let me ask you something,” Abigail says. “How would you like a big sister?”
Genevieve sits up. “A sister?”
“That’s right. You know what? I am adopting you.”
“Absolutely. As of now, you are my Little Sis. You like that?”
“I do. That’s awesome, Abby.”
When Rosalind and Genevieve headed to Seattle, Rosalind said it was only for a visit, while they grieved. Instead, they stay nearly a month before Rosalind informs Genevieve that she’s rented an apartment and will be enrolling Genevieve in a new school.
“Why are we moving here, Mom? I don’t want to leave Cambridge.”
Rosalind hugs her tightly.
“You have to excuse your old Mom once in a while. I know you miss your father. Well I miss him, too. Being in our house, in Cambridge, at school — I expect to see him everywhere, and when I don’t, I get really sad. He was my first and only love — before you came along, of course — and losing him took a lot out of me.”
“I understand, Mom. But that’s where all my memories are.”
“The good thing about memories is that they’re portable. We don’t have to be connected to a place to be connected to a person. Your father will always be with us — in our hearts, in our memory. We don’t need to be in Cambridge to be near him.”
When Genevieve tells Abigail, she’s sympathetic to Genevieve’s concerns, but at the same time she’s happy for the opportunity to build a relationship with her Little Sis.