Midday on Thursday, Alyssa calls Genevieve to invite her and Abigail to Alyssa’s home on Friday for a cookout, so she and Leah can get to know them better. Abigail rents a car and, using the directions Alyssa supplies, navigates to John’s Creek early on Friday. They arrive at the front door a little before eleven.
Alyssa opens the door and greets them both with hugs. “Welcome Genevieve! You must be Abigail.”
“Abby,” she says.
“Any trouble finding us?”
“Not at all,” Abigail says. “Your directions were perfect.”
They enter. A woman Abigail recognizes as Leah sits in the recliner near the couch. She rises as they enter.
“Please, make yourselves comfortable,” Alyssa says.
“Leah, this is my cousin, Abby,” Genevieve says. Leah shakes her hand.
“This is a lovely house,” Abigail says. “Is your husband around?”
“Tim’s out back, getting the grill ready,” Alyssa says. “I’ll introduce you later.”
Abigail and Genevieve join Alyssa on the couch. Leah returns to the recliner,
“Alyssa, did I mention someone tried to crack my computer system the other day?”
“Oh yeah. Did you ever find out who it was?”
“Obviously amateurs. Probably a couple of bored high school kids trying out a password cracker they found online. Certainly not very swift. I traced the IP address back to the source in about ten seconds.”
Genevieve gives Abigail a worried look. “So, like Russia, or something?’
“No. The Hermitage Motel on Ponce. I contacted their wi-fi admin and we’re working on trying to pinpoint who they are and if they’re still around.”
Alyssa focuses on Abigail and Genevieve. “Where are you girls staying?”
“We’re kind of between places now,” Abigail says. “We were in a hotel — ah — north of Atlanta.”
“Yeah, nowhere near Ponce,” Genevieve says, “wherever that is.”
“Why are you moving?” Leah asks.
“We want to be closer to downtown,” Abigail says.
“Is this your first time in Atlanta?” Alyssa asks.
Abigail nods. “It is.”
“And why didn’t Rosie come with you?” Leah asks.
Genevieve seems flustered. “I told you. She’s in Israel.”
“Israel?” Abigail says, giving Genevieve an incredulous look.
“I don’t understand what prompted her to go there now,” Leah says. “I’d think she’d want to stay in the country with you going away to school.”
“What can I say? Mom’s always been obsessed with Israel.”
“No. She hasn’t been,” Leah says. “Rosie was obsessed with the account of Israel in Genesis, not the country.”
“You know Mom. Always an enigma.”
“I found her eccentricities rather predictable.”
“So, you’ve been accepted to Georgia Tech,” Alyssa says to Genevieve. “Must be exciting, the prospect of starting a new school. Have you visited the campus yet?”
“Yes, I went on Wednesday,” Genevieve says, “Other than that, we’ve just been doing some sightseeing.”
“I’d be anxious to explore a new city, too,” Leah says. “What have you seen in town?”
Abigail glances at Genevieve, then says, “Well, we haven’t really gone anywhere. Just walked around mainly.”
“We went to that doughnut place, where we watched them making the doughnuts,” Genevieve says.
“You mean Krispy Kreme?” Alyssa says.
“Yeah, that’s it,” Abigail replies.
“The big one?” Leah says. “On Ponce? A block from the Hermitage?”
Genevieve glances at Abigail, and says, “They’re a chain, aren’t they?”
“Let’s cut the crap, shall we?” Leah says. “Maybe the reason you haven’t seen anything is because you’ve been holed up in your motel room trying to crack my network.”
“Why would we do something like that?” Abigail says.
“I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me?” Leah says. “And before you answer, the wi-fi manager at the Hermitage is Reuben King, third year computing major at DeVry. I sent him a discount code for a web security class I’m teaching in the fall at Georgia Perimeter.”
“Forget that,” Genevieve says. “We have bigger things we need to discuss.”
“Yes, I suspect we do,” Leah says. “Now, from here on out, you should assume we know the real story, because we do. I just want to hear you say it. Where is Rosie and why didn’t she come with you?”
Genevieve doesn’t respond, but, instead, looks at Abigail, who says, “Aunt Rosie died from cancer in January.”
“Now we’re getting somewhere,” Leah says. “Why are you here?”
Genevieve crosses her arms and remains silent.
“I’ve been investigating our family’s DNA heritage,” Abigail says. “After Rosie died, I ran a sample of Genni’s DNA. She didn’t match any of the women in our family. Not even Rosie.
“Too bad you can’t talk to your mother about this,” Leah says to Genevieve.
At last, Genevieve breaks her silence. “If, by mother, you mean the person who contributed a tiny amount of genetic material to get the ball rolling, then I am talking to her.”
“Hallelujah!” Leah says, raising her hands. “All our cards are on the table. Have you really been accepted to Tech?”
“Yeah, that part’s true,” Genevieve says.
Alyssa slides forward on the couch. “I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you’re both the person I know as Zelda Burch.”
“We are,” Abigail says. “We posted Genni’s DNA results on FamilyFind DNA. You’re a perfect match.”
“Princess, I warned you about that, didn’t I?” Leah says.
“Ruth, Debby, and Tamar are there too,” Alyssa says.
“Yeah, the Rosales sisters,” Abigail says.
“They’re our aunts,” Alyssa says. “Our mother was Sarah Melinda Rosales.”
Genevieve takes out the photo of Melinda and holds it up. “We know. You really shouldn’t have so much stuff set to public on Facebook. That’s just asking for trouble.”
“Now you sound like Leah,” Alyssa says.
Leah replies, “She’s right. Here’s all the evidence you need.”
“Which one of you sent me the recipe for hummus?” Alyssa says.
Abigail raises her hand. “That was me. Did you like it?”
“Oh, yeah. Big hit at the Memorial Day picnic.”
“Yes! Mom will be pleased.”
Leah says, “So, let’s have it. What else do you know?”
“We know your mother died from an aneurysm in her forties,” Genevieve says. “About the same age you are now.”
“Mama suffered from migraines her entire life,” Alyssa says. “As far as I know Leah doesn’t.”
“How do you even know this about our mother?” Leah says. “That’s not on the Internet.”
Genevieve replies, “I did some digging at vital records and requested a copy of her death certificate and your father’s, Leroy Paxton Walker.”
“Leroy?” Alyssa says with a note of surprise in her voice.
“That’s his name, isn’t it? It’s on his death certificate and Leah’s listed as the respondent.”
“Yeah. I did that,” Leah says.
“Daddy hated his first name and stopped using it when he was in graduate school,” Alyssa says.
Leah motions to Genevieve. “The more important question is, what do you want from me?”
“What makes you think I want anything from you?”
“You traveled across the country to seek me out. You must want something. Could it have something to do with the embryos left over from when you were conceived?”
Abigail glances at Genevieve. “You know about those? Zelda’s connected to Barbara on Facebook and got a note from her two nights ago, stating that her pastor encouraged her to seek custody of them.”
“Yes,” Leah says. “We know all about your cousin’s claim to the embryos, so let’s talk about that next. Steven?” Everyone looks around. Steven does not appear. “Steven? Your presence is required.” Still no response.
After a beat, Leah rises and exits into the kitchen. The backdoor opens, then closes and Leah calls to Steven from outside.
Genevieve says to Alyssa, “Do you have a pool?”
“We sure do.”
Abigail regards Genevieve with puzzlement. “Why are you asking her about a pool?”
“We’re not going to be talking about this all afternoon, are we?”
“Yeah, we might. If we didn’t come here for a barbecue, we certainly didn’t come for a pool party.”
Alyssa chuckles. “My husband is actually grilling. The pool — we’ll see.”
Leah returns with Steven trailing her holding his briefcase.
“Hello, everyone,” he says. “Leah and Genevieve, please, join me.”
Steven sits on the couch. Genevieve moves close to him, perhaps a little more than she should. Leah returns to the recliner.
“The clinic’s legal advisor sent me a copy of the petition Ms. McKenna has filed with the local attorney’s office and I’ve reviewed it carefully with Ron Naphtali, one of the senior associates,” he says. “The basis of Ms. McKenna’s case is that given Genevieve’s youth and inexperience, she’s unfit to be a valid custodian for the potential lives represented by the embryos.”
Genevieve shakes her head. “How much experience does it take to maintain embryos in deep freeze?”
“Her concern seems to be that you’ll dispose of them,” Steven says.
“I wouldn’t do that. They’re all I have left of my father. I don’t know what else I’ll do with them, but I wouldn’t just trash them.”
“That’s assuming you’re the sole custodian and that doesn’t appear to be the case.”
“It’s not just me?”
“No, I’m afraid it’s more complicated than that,” Steven says.
“How can this situation be any more complicated?” Genevieve asks.
Steven looks at Leah. “Do you want to tell her?”
“No, no. You’re doing fine,” Leah says.
“Okay.” Steven turns to Genevieve. “Genevieve, as your father’s sole heir, you are the custodian of whatever — um — portion he donated to the process. But whoever drew up the agreement Leah signed with your parents patterned it after a deed of gift, not as a custody document.”
Abigail asks, “Who drew up the agreement?”
Leah says, “Paul’s brother.”
“Uncle Marcel?” Genevieve says. “He’s a real estate attorney. He wouldn’t know anything about custody documents — or ethics. He’s been on the lam since he skipped the country after the real estate market went belly up in ‘08.”
“Which is apparent in how he structured this document,” Steven says.
“My mother was obsessed with details,” Genevieve says. “Why would she leave this one item up to someone so unqualified?”
Leah says, “The agreement was for me, not Rosie — to avoid the very situation we find ourselves in now.”
“Why didn’t you just talk to the clinic’s legal team?” Steven asks.
“I wouldn’t set foot inside the clinic without an agreement with Rosie and Paul,” Leah says. “Rosie knew me. We didn’t need an agreement. I’d never try to claim Genevieve. I wanted something in writing to protect me before we went any further.”
Steven acknowledges this. “Unfortunately, an important detail was overlooked.”
“What was it?” Abigail says.
“Leah never relinquished custodial rights to the eggs she donated,” Steven replies.
“Wait. I was one of the embryos that came from those eggs,” Genevieve says. “What are you telling me?”
“Rosalind’s parental rights were not clearly established with the document Leah signed,” Steven says. “Once your father died, Leah had a valid case not just for being one of the custodians of the embryos, but for being your legal mother.”
Everyone is silent. Finally, Abigail says, “Congratulations. It’s a girl.”
“No. No. Mom’s listed on my birth certificate,” Genevieve says. “How can that be?”
“As I said, the situation is very complicated,” Steven says. “Your mother is listed on your birth certificate because of the agreement she signed with Ms. McKenna, your birth mother. Barbara had the foresight to consult with the clinic’s legal team, but, since Rosalind wasn’t the valid custodian of her part of the embryos — and according to Ms. McKenna wasn’t honest about who was — that agreement may not be valid either.”
“So, who’s my mother?”
“Biologically, I am,” Leah says. “Legally?”
“Good question,” Leah says. “Ron said he’s glad I’m handling it and not him. What I can tell you is that you’re both custodians of the embryos. I had a very extensive conversation with Ms. McKenna’s attorney yesterday, and he says she’s willing to meet with you to hash everything out.”
“When and where?” Leah asks.
“At the clinic in Boston, whenever the two of you can agree on a time,” Steven says.
Genevieve looks at Leah and says, “Looks like we’re getting the band back together.”
Leah shakes her head. “Perfect.”