The company where Abigail works handles all the genetic processing for FamilyFind DNA, which allows people to research their genetic heritage in addition to developing their family trees and connecting with matches. She proposes that Genevieve set up an account with them, so she can transfer her results for comparison with their database, which Genevieve does. Abigail sits down with Genevieve a week after her eighteenth birthday in April to review her matches. Abigail has already noted an extremely close match, a woman in the Atlanta area named Alyssa Caine, whose icon is that of a fairy princess, and whose username is “princess81”.
“Must be a Disney fan,” she remarks to Genevieve.
There are also a number of strong matches from a study of the Levy family, including three women who identify as sisters named Rosales from around Charleston, South Carolina. Their relationship to Alyssa Caine, if any, is unknown, but Genevieve seems to be similarly related to them. Abigail’s research into the surname suggests they’re most likely of Sephardic Jewish origin.
“Let me introduce you to someone,” she says to Genevieve.
When Abigail was still in college, she created an alter ego for herself on Facebook called Zelda Burch. Zelda is ultra conservative, pro-life, pro-NRA, pro-death penalty, and claims to be a stay-at-home mother of three. Her favorite activity, other than attending church, is to collect recipes, which she frequently shares with her “family” on Facebook. She also posts inspirational memes with cute baby animals, and frequently shares the results of click bait online polls she’s taken: in a former life, she was John the Baptist, and the Brady Bunch character she’s most like is Cousin Oliver.
Since college, Abigail often uses Zelda to troll anti-gay groups around the area. To learn more about Genevieve’s birth, she’s used Zelda to establish contact with her cousin Barbara. From posts on Barbara’s page, Abigail has determined that Barbara was “betrayed” by a cousin into acting as a surrogate for “some other woman’s baby”.
Abigail introduces Genevieve to Zelda and shares what she’s learned so far about the circumstances surrounding Genevieve’s birth from Barbara. Genevieve has an insight and looks up Alyssa Caine and while poking around Alyssa’s photos, they get their first shock. Alyssa has a photo of her mother posted, Sarah Melinda Rosales Walker.
“Do you see what I see?” Genevieve says.
Alyssa’s mother could almost be Genevieve’s twin.
In response to a friend request, Alyssa sends them a message to determine how she knows Zelda. Genevieve uses her social engineering skills to learn from Alyssa that her older sister once lived in Boston. Abigail calls up a list of Rosalind’s publications from MIT in the 90s.
“Alyssa’s maiden name is Walker,” Genevieve says.
“Between 1993 and 1997, one name keeps popping up, Walker, Leah J. She’s co-author on most of your mom’s research papers from that time and primary on more than a dozen with Rosie as co-author.”
“Leah. That’s her. It has to be.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“Lucky 13. I know what it means now.”
“Never mind. It’s just something my mother used to say.”
Abigail searches Google for Leah Walker in Atlanta. This takes her to a page for L. J. Walker Security Consultants.
“Hey, check this out. Looks like she went back home.”
Abigail clicks the link for About. A photo of Leah appears along with her profile. Genevieve walks over and looks at the photo.
At that very moment, Abigail has an idea which she shares with Genevieve. “How would you like a graduation trip to the East Coast?”
Abigail enters her mother’s home and drops her bag in the living room. Rhiannon comes in and is surprised to see her.
“Hey, kiddo. Twice in one week?”
“We need to talk.”
“This sounds serious.”
“Did you know Genni isn’t Rosie’s biological daughter?”
“How do you— You ran her DNA didn’t you?”
“So you do know.”
“Of course. Rosie didn’t keep secrets from me.”
“How long have you known?”
“I’ve known Rosie couldn’t have children since she was in college. When she announced she had Genni, I figured she must have adopted. I didn’t learn the whole story until they moved in with us.”
“She used an egg donor and a surrogate. Our cousin Barbara.”
“Barbara the religious freak?”
“She was a little less so back then. Actually she was kind of sweet.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Abigail asks.
“Rosie told me not to tell anyone. She didn’t want Genni to find out. The only people who knew were me, Rosie, and Barbara’s family.”
“And you didn’t think I should know?”
“You were barely a teenager when they moved in. I wasn’t going to dump all that on you.”
“You’ve had a lot of time since.”
“Would you have wanted to know if you couldn’t tell Genni? Trust me, it’s not knowledge you want to conceal from those you love.”
Abigail considers this. “I see your point. She knows, by the way.”
“I guess that was inevitable. How’d she take it?”
“How do you think? She’s devastated. I cheered her up a bit by telling her I’d help her try to figure out who her bio-mom is.”
“If anyone can, it would be you.”
“Do you know who the donor is?”
“No idea. That’s information Rosie took to her grave. I asked when it first came up and she said I didn’t need to know. She told me Barbara didn’t even know a donor was involved and was really pissed when she found out. I think that’s what pushed her down the religious path.”
“That’s what Barbara meant. When I talked to her, she was very critical of Rosie and told me to tell her she remembers. I almost feel sorry for her.”
“What I do know is that Rosie always thought whoever it was would come back and claim Genni.”
“That’s why they moved so much.”
“Yeah, that was part of it.”
“I wish you’d trusted me with this. When I was looking at Genni’s results, I was sure I’d made a mistake.”
“Does it not occur to you that Rosie might have planned all this?”
“Why would she have planned it this way?”
“She was nuts. Haven’t you figured that out yet? Of course a normal person wouldn’t have kept something like this from her child, but Rosie wasn’t normal. She had to know Genni would want to join your DNA study once she was gone. It’s probably why she was so adamant about not letting her join while she was alive.”
Rhiannon goes to the counter and retrieves a packet which she holds as she speaks to Abigail.
“What difference does it make, anyway? You and Genni have a great relationship. Would knowing she’s not your biological cousin have changed any of that?”
“No. But it might have helped prevent me from finding out the way I did.”
“I’m sorry you had to learn like that. But you knew Rosie had cancer all those years ago.”
“I didn’t know how radically they treated it. I never imagined she was unable to conceive a child. But, I have to confess I’ve never thought Genni resembled anyone in the family. I just thought she took after her father.”
“That’s because you never met Paul in person. She doesn’t look much like him either.”
Rhiannon takes the packet to Abigail.
“Speaking of Barbara, why did you have to call her about that study of yours?”
“I just asked if she wanted to contribute a sample.”
“I know she turned you down. She gave me an earful on the phone about people playing God.”
“She called you?”
“Yes. She also sent me this.”
Rhiannon hands her the packet. Abigail examines the contents, finding it to be brochures about a program at Barbara’s church.
“Pray away the gay?”
“Yes. Barbara understands that you probably won’t want to move to Massachusetts, though she did say she’d accommodate you for a good cause. She recommended several similar programs in this area.”
“All right. I thought I had heard every ridiculous idea there was, but this?”
“She suggested I take it to the Lord in prayer. I didn’t mention that the last time I was in a church was the one and only time Mom and I visited her family when I was little.”
Abigail puts the packet under her arm. “I’m sure I have a file someplace just for this. Tell me what else you remember about Genni’s birth.”
“Like I said, Rosie just sort of announced she had Genevieve. After Rosie moved in, she said she and Paul wanted a child that matched their competencies in math and science.”
“I assume they were successful.”
“Rosie seemed to think so. I mean, look at Genni.”
“So probably a scientist, mathematician, or computer expert. It’s a start.”
Abigail has finished processing Genevieve’s DNA results, and today she’s analyzing them. She immediately sees something’s gone wrong.
“This can’t be right,” she says to herself.
She looks up to see her supervisor enter.
“Hey Kyle, I need you to verify some results,” Abigail says.
“Something you can’t verify yourself?”
“I just want a second set of eyes to take a look.”
“You know this stuff better than I do. If you’ve reached a conclusion, it’s probably right.”
“I don’t want it to be right. I want you to look at this sample and tell me what I did wrong.”
He starts to respond, but Abigail silently pleads with him.
“Okay. Let me see what you’ve got.”
She hands him the file.
“It’s my mtDNA study. The top results are for the individual I’m comparing.”
He examines the results.
“Any possibility of contamination?”
“I took the sample and analyzed it myself. If it’s contaminated, I’m the one who contaminated it.”
“I see nothing wrong with your work at all. Going by these results, there’s no way this woman is related to this family.”
“But she’s my cousin.”
“Then she must be adopted. You didn’t know?”
Abigail becomes upset.
“This can’t be right. It can’t be.”
“Abby, stop letting your emotions overrule your judgment. The science doesn’t lie. You know that.”
She looks away from him as a tear runs down her cheek.
“How am I going to tell Genni?”
Rosalind dies in early January, 2013.
Despite Rhiannon and Abigail’s offers to take care of arrangements, Genevieve insists on handling these herself. She alerts the few friends Rosalind had in Seattle, and members of the family who live nearby. Rosalind’s wish was to be cremated and disposed of as Genevieve sees fit. She does not contact MIT because she doesn’t know who to contact or if anyone there would even remember Rosalind.
On the day of the funeral, Genevieve is the first to arrive with Abigail getting there soon afterward. Genevieve makes an unusual request.
“I want to contribute to your DNA study. All I have left of Mom is that part of her that’s in me. Maybe this will help me feel closer to her.”
Since Abigail does field research, she always has testing kits with her, so she goes ahead and takes a sample.
Once they’re done, Abigail accompanies Genevieve into the chapel where the service will be performed.
“I told them to leave out all the god stuff because I know Mom wouldn’t like all that. But I’m going to read that passage from Corinthians about love. It’s always been one of my favorites and it doesn’t even mention god.”
“That will be great.”
Rhiannon arrives and gives Genevieve an update on the relatives she’s heard from who’ll be attending.
“Might have a good crowd,” Abigail says.
Genevieve positions herself near the door to greet anyone who shows up and Abigail and Rhiannon stand nearby for support. The room is set up for forty people and Abigail is happy to see the staff has to bring in extra chairs. She counts fifty-four altogether, mostly relatives, and several people she doesn’t recognize who must have been friends.
Once everyone’s settled, the funeral director welcomes everyone then introduces Genevieve. She thanks everyone for coming and invites them back to Rhiannon’s house for a reception afterward.
“My mother and I aren’t very religious, but there’s one passage we both like a lot.”
Genevieve picks up Rosalind’s urn and holds it in her arms. “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”
Watching her, Abigail sees the little girl she’s always cared for transform into a confident and well-spoken young woman, and can’t recall a time when she was more proud of Genevieve.
After Genevieve finishes, she invites others to share their memories of Rosalind and a few stand and say a little. Finally, Genevieve once again invites everyone to the reception, then concludes the service.
Abigail and Rhiannon both go to Genevieve and hug her simultaneously.
“That was beautiful, Genni,” Rhiannon says. “Rosie would be so proud of you right now.”
Abigail keeps her arm around Genevieve. “How are you holding up?”
“I’m doing okay. I’ll be better when I can get out of this dress.”
Genevieve says a few words to the funeral director, then thanks him for the service. Finished with all the formalities, the three of them head back to Rhiannon’s.
Abigail receives a call from her aunt Rosalind, requesting a meeting that afternoon. Rosalind has just completed her latest treatment for cancer and sounds a bit subdued on the phone, but assures Abigail she’s doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances. Rhiannon has been keeping Abigail up-to-date on the course of treatment someone in Rosalind’s condition would be receiving and Genevieve, who’s the only one allowed to visit Rosalind at the treatment facility, has been updating Abigail on Rosalind’s progress. Still, Abigail isn’t quite prepared for how Rosalind has changed when she opens the door for Abigail at her house. Her weight has dropped considerably and all her hair has fallen out. Rosalind wears a Red Sox baseball cap to hide it. The once vibrant and robust woman Abigail is used to seeing now seems like a wisp of her former self.
“Can I get you anything?” Rosalind asks as she leads Abigail down the hall to the living room.
“Oh, I can get myself something. I know my way around the kitchen.
“I may be a bit incapacitated, but I’m still capable of seeing to the needs of my guests. What’ll you have?”
“Water would be fine.”
Abigail sits on the couch as Rosalind disappears into the kitchen and returns a moment later with a tray containing a pitcher of water and a glass which she sets in front of Abigail.
“Is Genni here?” Abigail says.
“No,” Rosalind tells her. “I wanted to speak to you in private.”
She sits in an easy chair across from Abigail.
“Is everything okay?”
“No it isn’t. At my last checkup it was determined that the treatment isn’t having any effect. The cancer’s spread.”
Abigail covers her mouth. “No.”
“We’re focusing now on managing the pain. I’ve told Rhiannon but I think she already suspected it. She’s recommended a colleague of hers who specializes in what comes next.”
“I am so sorry to hear that, Rosie. Does Genni know?”
“Not yet. I’ll speak to her tonight when she gets home.”
“Is there anything I can do for you?”
“As a matter of fact, there is. If anything happens to me before Genni turns eighteen, I’d like you to be Genni’s guardian.”
Abigail has taken out a tissue and is dabbing her eyes with it. “I’d be honored to be. Why me and not Mom?”
“Rhiannon’s going to be my executor and that will be quite a job. I didn’t want to dump too much responsibility on her. But, more importantly, you and Genni have a great relationship. She trusts you, confides in you. I think you’ve always sort of looked out for her. Plus, you’re a very responsible young woman and I know you’ll make the right choices for her.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“Please be sure that she knows that everything I’ve ever done for her, it’s because I care so much for her.”
“I think she knows that.”
“It’s possible she could hear things, or learn things that might make her question it. I want you to make sure she never doubts my love for her.”
“I don’t understand, Rosie. Is there something you’re trying to tell me?”
Rosalind smiles. “Of course not. If you ever need to, you can always count on your mother. She’s as good a sister as she’s been a mother.”
“Sure, no problem.”
“Promise me that you’ll always be there for Genevieve. She’s going to need a lot of guidance after I’m gone.”
“You don’t even need to ask, Rosie. Of course I will. She’s my little sister.”
“I’m so glad the two of you had the opportunity to get to know one another and bond like you have. It makes what comes next more bearable.”
Abigail goes to Rosalind and sits on the arm of her chair then puts her arms around her aunt, barely containing her emotions.
“You can count on me, Rosie. Always.”