Rhiannon Worthy sits on the couch in the living room, her carryall beside the coffee table and its contents spread out before her on the table. There’s a letter, addressed to her daughter Abigail from the Oregon Health and Sciences University, accepting her for studies there, and a large notebook opened to photos of a majestic house with a long driveway through a well-maintained garden. There’s also a spiral notebook with Rhiannon’s writing all over the pages, next to her car keys. She’s looking over a passage that reads, “No Nan. Visiting Mom all day.”
Abigail steps into the living room and presents herself to her mother. She’s dressed in a blue plaid skirt, and a short-sleeved, pressed, white shirt. Her long, dark hair is pulled back into a ponytail. She’s wearing a little foundation and eyeliner which highlights her chestnut-colored eyes, and lip gloss.
Rhiannon rises and examines her closely, her right, index knuckle pressed against her lips. With her left arm, she signals for Abigail to turn, then nods.
“This will make the right impression,” she says, holding her right index finger up and shaking it.
“Mom, I think this is a really bad idea.”
“I don’t recall you offering any workable counter proposals. These are desperate times which require desperate measures.”
“I’m not sure I’d describe the situation as desperate. I don’t have enough scholarship money to afford an out-of-state school. I can go to college here. Maybe get a job.”
“You deserve the best education you can get at your first-choice school. I do not want you to have to work your way through school. Trust me, I’ve been there.”
“You seem to have done pretty well for yourself in spite of that, Mom. Besides, didn’t Aunt Rosie pay for most of your college?”
“Actually, the money my father left for me paid for it, but I worked. That money only covered tuition. I had expenses.”
“This isn’t going to work.”
“Who’s the responsible adult here?”
“Do you really want me to answer that?”
Rhiannon goes about gathering her car keys and loading her carryall, which she drops onto the coffee table. “When we get there, be polite. She needs to like you.”
“So, good cop, bad cop.”
Abigail sits beside her mother on the couch and releases a frustrated sigh.
“What makes you think she’ll even see us?”
Rhiannon puts aside her handbag and slides over the notebook which she flips to a page showing closeup photos of the main house. She pushes it in front of Abigail.
“Look at that. There’s only the one, ornamental gate, which is never closed, providing no deterrent at all, and the cleaning staff comes in the afternoon.”
“Dr. Hawkins isn’t going to be there, right? I mean, if he’s going to be there, I’m not going.”
“He won’t be there, and you are going. Elspeth is the one who pulls the strings in that family. She’s usually roving around doing her happy homemaker stuff in the morning.”
“Doesn’t she have an assistant who screens people?”
“No.” She slides the spiral notebook over and points. “This is the day Nan visits her mother in the assisted living facility.”
“How is it you know all this?”
“The facility is in our network. I looked her up and made a few calls.”
“Technically, that’s called stalking, I believe.”
“I only followed her one time. When I saw her turn into Crestwood, I headed home then ran a search when I got back to the hospital. Our medical group has been giving her mother the best of care since her stroke last year — something Nan’s very appreciative of, I should point out.”
“That’s very specific information, Mom. I doubt you got all this from a computer search.”
Rhiannon hesitates, then says, “Okay, I may have phoned her with a survey.”
“Yes. A friend who works in the call center got me one they use. I called from there so it would look legit.”
“I recorded her answers — most of them anyway. She couldn’t praise the care her mother is receiving enough.”
“This isn’t instilling me with confidence, Mom.”
Rhiannon ignores Abigail and picks up her carryall, closes and stuffs her notebooks into it.
“Now, when we get there, I do all the talking, unless she questions you, got it?”
“No problem there.”
“Good. Get your jacket and let’s do this. If we hit traffic right, we should be there before noon.”