Late Friday afternoon, Abigail is in her room getting ready for dinner. Neil is picking her up shortly and they’re meeting Rhiannon and Genevieve at an Italian restaurant. Someone knocks and Abigail is surprised to find Neil accompanied by Jillian, who enters without waiting for an invitation.
“So. Where are we meeting Mom?” She walks around, surveying the room.
Neil follows her in. “I am so sorry. She just showed up at my dorm. I couldn’t get rid of her.”
“You are not coming with us,” Abigail says.
“Why not? I’ve never met one of the other women in person as myself before. This could be very informative.”
Abigail glances at Neil, who shrugs.
“Do not start with my mother,” Abigail says. “She will out crazy you.”
“I love a challenge.”
Jillian rolls her eyes. “Okay, okay. I can’t promise to be on my best behavior, but I’ll try.”
“You’ll have three of us to contend with if you don’t.”
“I’m not on your side in this one either,” Neil says.
“Didn’t think you would be,” Jillian says. “Neil said something about Italian. It’s not Olive Garden, is it?”
“No. Anton’s,” Abigail says.
“One of my favs,” Jillian replies. “What are we waiting for?”
At the restaurant, Rhiannon and Genevieve are waiting in the vestibule. Jillian takes an immediate interest in Genevieve.
“You must be Abigail’s cousin. Quite the prodigy, I hear.”
“This is Jillian?” Rhiannon says to Abigail, who nods.
“Awkward, I know,” Jillian replies. “But I’m willing to endure if you are. Hope you’re up for some questions.”
“What did I tell you?” Abigail says to her, to which, Jillian responds by zipping her lip and pretending to lock it.
“This should be interesting,” Rhiannon says. To Abigail she whispers, “Thanks for the warning.”
When they’re seated Jillian sits so she’s facing Rhiannon, and immediately orders a glass of Merlot.
“That sounds good,” Rhiannon says to the server. “I’ll take a glass myself.” When the wine arrives, Rhiannon takes a sip then says to Jillian, “You’ve obviously got something on your mind, so why don’t we get that out of the way first, so we can enjoy dinner.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Jillian replies.
“You’re sure about this, Mom?”
“Why not? We’re all adults here, aren’t we? Except Genevieve, of course, but she’s mature for her age.”
“Are you kidding,” Genevieve says. “This sounds like fun.”
“Neil?” Abigail says.
“Don’t worry about me. This is typical dinner conversation at our house.”
“So, Ms. Hawkins, what would you like to know?” Rhiannon says.
Jillian takes a drink, then leans forward. “Where to begin? I guess the most pressing question is, what the hell did you see in him? Trudy said he was sleaze city. I mean, you’re a nurse; you’re obviously intelligent. How could you be taken in by his act?”
“Your father pursued me for six months. Even after I went back to pediatrics. He was always finding reasons to drop by, consulting with a colleague or checking on patients who weren’t his.”
“And yet, in the end, you fell under his spell, didn’t you.”
“I wouldn’t put it quite like that. He caught me off guard. He seemed conciliatory enough. Talked about you as a matter of fact. You and your older brother, that is. It wasn’t the scheming lothario doctor who won me over; it was the doting father who seemed to take a lot of pride in his kids.”
“Interesting. I suppose there was a time he doted. More so over Danny than me, I’d say.”
“Oh, no. He talked far more about you.”
“I think he was worried. I like to think it’s because he acknowledged the type of person he was, but I may be reading too much into the situation.”
“So, you thought he’d be the perfect person to start a family with, I suppose.”
“Not at all. That was the farthest thing from my mind. I didn’t want to get pregnant and certainly not by him.”
Jillian glances at Abigail. “Should you be hearing this?”
“It’s okay, we’ve had this conversation before,” Abigail says.
“Just because I didn’t want to get pregnant didn’t mean I wasn’t willing to go through with it once I found I was. Believe me, I never had any delusions that your father would remain in the picture.”
“Is that why you didn’t take any money?”
“That was part of it. I just wanted to go home and get on with my life and thought if I accepted anything I wouldn’t have that option.”
“Yeah, Mom’s pretty thorough. She’d have probably sent you to Canada.”
“There were worse alternatives,” Rhiannon says. “Look, I knew I had options, but I have never regretted my decision. I also knew there would be challenges, but other women made it work and I figured I could, too.” Jillian considers this. “Anything else?”
“Not at this time.” Jillian shakes her head. “Damn. I think I actually like you. That’s unexpected.”
“For what it’s worth, you don’t seem so bad yourself.”
They clink wine glasses.
“Wow, this is a first for me, too,” Neil says. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jillian at a loss for words.”
“Don’t get used to it,” she says. She picks up a menu. “If I may suggest, the fettuccine Alfredo is to die for here.”
“How’s the lasagna?” Genevieve asks.
“You pretty much can’t go wrong with anything here,” Neil says.
As they’re waiting for appetizers, Jillian points at Genevieve. “I hear you’re a computer whiz. Do much research on the Internet?”
Genevieve exchanges a glance with Abigail. “Oh, I’ve been checking you out, if that’s what you mean. When Abby said you investigated everyone, I decided to investigate you.”
“Let’s hear what you’ve got,” Jillian says.
“Be careful what you ask for,” Abigail tells her. “Genni?”
“If you’re really serious,” Genevieve says.
“Sure,” Jillian replies. “Do your worst.”
Genevieve retrieves her laptop and types on it. “Okay. Jillian Hawkins, San Francisco.” She reads over some info. “I’m guessing the Trudy you mentioned is Trudy Abercrombie, since she’s the joint owner of your townhouse.”
“You found our townhouse?”
“Yeah. Why did you refinance last year?”
“We needed to make some improvements. Where did you see that?”
“Liens are listed with the property records. I guess being a pharmaceutical rep pays well, since it’s going to take forever to pay that off.”
“I do okay,” Jillian replies.
“Are you kidding? There’s no way you’re not pulling down six figures.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Your company doesn’t publicize salaries, but you’ve been a top salesperson for at least three quarters and that always comes with bonuses.”
“Impressive,” Jillian says.
Genevieve reads over something. “Did you know Trudy’s wanted in Bolivia? Something to do with an anti-government protest in 2005.”
“No. I thought the human rights organization she was with took care of that.”
“The Bolivian government doesn’t seem to think so. They’re not seeking extradition, but I’d steer clear of there if you’re planning a vacation.”
“Damn. You’re better than the ex-cop I have checking people out. He spends too much time on legwork. I need to hire you.”
“I don’t investigate people I know.” Genevieve closes her computer.
“You don’t know my hourly rates,” Jillian says. “Plus, there’s per diem.”
Genevieve considers this. “Hmm. Let’s discuss later. I’m assuming you can figure out how to contact me.”
Jillian winks and gives a thumbs up.