The Handmaiden

Peace statue, Atlantic Station, Atlanta, GA.

Leah Walker steps up to the door of Rosalind Duchard’s home in Cambridge, Massachusetts and rings the bell. She’s there to meet with Rosalind and her husband, Paul, about a request they made of her at a previous meeting. Leah is still undecided on what her answer will be, but Rosalind has promised to have a legal agreement drawn up to spell out everyone’s responsibilities and the legal consequences of everything.

She’s met at the door by Paul, a man in his fifties, somewhat overweight, wearing horn-rimmed glasses, and a madras shirt.

“Leah,” Paul says, with little enthusiasm. “You’re early. Rosalind isn’t back yet.” He makes no effort to invite her in.

“Can I come in anyway?” Leah says.

Paul considers it. “Oh. Yeah. Sure.”

He steps aside to allow her entry.

In the year since becoming Rosalind’s lab assistant, Leah has come to regard her as a mentor and friend, and Rosalind has successfully wrested from Leah’s aunt, Margaret, the title of “second most important” woman in Leah’s life. Around MIT, faculty, staff, and students recognize that talking to Leah is almost the same as having Rosalind’s ear, and some faculty members prefer Leah’s accessibility to wading through the sea of interpersonal issues they have to navigate to work with Rosalind. Leah and Rosalind spend most of the day together, and many evenings, depending on the time of year, or the grants Rosalind is managing. Their close working arrangement often draws the ire of Rosalind’s husband.

Leah has only had a few interactions with Paul Duchard, but they’ve been icy and uncomfortable. He always greets her with a stern look, and an over abundance of sighs and eye rolls. She’s found his reactions rarely change, regardless of how polite or friendly she tries to be around him. On the occasions they’ve been alone when she’s visiting, any interest she shows in getting to know him is met with monosyllabic responses, and it isn’t out of the ordinary for Paul to excuse himself whenever Leah and Rosalind are talking, even when they’re chatting and not discussing academic matters. Leah suspects Paul may have Asperger Syndrome, but whenever she’s broached the topic with Rosalind, she always dismisses Leah’s suspicions, telling Leah she just needs to get to know Paul better.

Paul leads Leah to the living room, where she sits on the couch. He takes a seat in an overstuffed chair that has a guitar leaning against it.

“You play guitar?” Leah asks.

“Yeah, picked it up when I was in high school,” he says. “Some of my colleagues in the Math department have a jazz band. We play at clubs around town.”

“Really? I never knew that,” Leah says.

“Well, there’s a lot you don’t know about me, Leah,” Paul says. He folds his hands in front of him and glances at the clock. “Rosie should be here anytime now.”

They sit in awkward silence for several minutes.

“Can I ask you something, Paul?” she says. “I mean, since we have a little time.”

“What is it?” Paul asks.

“What exactly have I done to piss you off?” Leah says.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Paul says without facing her.

“Like hell you don’t,” she says. “Almost from the moment I met you, all I’ve gotten is attitude. You’re short with me. You give me a hard time every time I call here for Rosie. I’d just like to know what’s behind it.”

Paul sighs. “There’s no big mystery, Leah. I don’t like you. No reason. You just rub me the wrong way.”

“Perfect,” she says. “Another one of those guys, eh?”

“Those guys?” Paul says. “What does that mean?”

“I’ve been dealing with guys like you my entire life,” Leah says. “You’ve got some kind of bug up your ass about strong women, or women in science, or whatever.”

“My feelings toward you have nothing to do with your being a woman in science,” Paul says. “Do you honestly think I could have married Rosalind Worthy if I’d had any reservations about that? If not for other factors, I’d probably be your champion.”

“What other factors might those be?” Leah says.

Paul stares at her, considering something. Finally, he says, “Your father is Paxton Walker isn’t he — the Walker behind Walker Development?”

“Yes, he is,” Leah says.

“I wasn’t sure at first,” Paul continues, “but after Rosie gave me a few more facts, I pretty well confirmed it.”

Leah shakes a finger at him. “You’re from Atlanta. Rosie never mentioned that.”

“She knows I went to Tech,” Paul says. “But she doesn’t know much about my early history. I’ve been a little mysterious about that, and she hasn’t really pressed me on it. It’s mutual. There’s quite a bit I don’t know about her past either.”

“Okay, spill it,” Leah says. “What’s your beef with my father?”

“You’re no doubt familiar with Dunkirk Estates?” Paul says.

“It was my father’s first major development deal. It made him a millionaire,” Leah says. “You lived in Dunkirk Estates?”

“No,” Paul replies. “My family and I lived in The Commons, which is what we called the neighborhood your father demolished in order to build Dunkirk Estates.”

“Wow, small world,” Leah says, mostly to herself.

“Yeah, too small, apparently,” he says. “We were sent packing, along with a community of over fifty families after Walker Development greased the palms of county commissioners to have them claim eminent domain on our homes.”

“So, call a lawyer,” she says. “If you had a valid claim to the property, you could have fought the county’s decision.”

“We couldn’t afford that,” he says. “Besides, the bulldozers were out there the following morning. We barely had time to finish packing.”

“What does any of this have to do with me?” Leah says. “I’m not my father. I was a child when he built that development.”

“No. But you benefited from it just the same, didn’t you?”

“For your information, my father and I had a parting of the ways before I started MIT,” Leah says. “He’s not paying for any of this.”

“What difference does it make if you’re being financed directly from him or through your trust fund?” Paul says. “You’ve still gotten all your advantages from his blood money. It’s what got you here.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” she says, “the mastery of coursework and long hours of studying were hardly a factor. Do you even know what my GPA was at Wellesley? That’s not a walk in the park, you know. Plus, I was jointly enrolled here for my last two years.”

“I’m not discounting your intelligence or drive,” he says, “but you’ve had opportunities handed to you most people cannot imagine.”

“You don’t seem to be doing so bad, yourself, Paul,” Leah says. “Whatever your upbringing, you seem to have overcome it.”

“Was there ever any question where you’d go to school?” Paul says. “Any doubt you’d be able to finance it?”

Leah looks away. “No. Not really.”

“Well in my case, there was quite a bit,” he says. “My family couldn’t afford to send me to school. My mother and father both worked outside the home just to scrape together enough to keep a roof over our heads. I’ve had to work my ass off most of my life for opportunities you routinely take for granted. You’re right. I’m doing very well now, and I earned every damn penny of it.”

“What’s that they say about the sins of the father?” Leah says.

“Look, I don’t hold you personally accountable for the things your father did,” Paul says.

“Could have fooled me,” she replies.

“You need to understand,” he goes on, “there were lives connected to every dollar your father made and you benefited directly from all of it.”

Leah stares at him a long moment, then shakes her head and chuckles. “Kind of ironic, isn’t it, the role I may end up playing for you and Rosie.”

“That’s Rosie’s idea, not mine,” Paul says. “I told her I couldn’t care less if our children were Jewish. I haven’t set foot inside Temple since the day I watched them bulldoze the only home I’d ever known.”

“Then why me?” Leah says. “There are at least five Jews on her Wall of Stars. Esther Gershon outshines me in pretty much all her academic accomplishments. She’s not married yet.”

“Rosie insisted,” he says. “She has this criteria in her head; math and science; Jewish; you don’t want children of your own. You seem to meet all her requirements. She calls you her star student, or something like that.”

“What the hell does that mean?” Leah says.

“How should I know?” Paul says. “Rosie says all sorts of crazy stuff. I tried to tell her the edict to marry proper Jewish women was from Ezra, post-exile. It’s not even mentioned in Genesis, but she’s obsessed.”

“Yeah, I wondered about that,” Leah says. “I seem to recall Leviticus has provisions for men carrying on their family line — surprise, surprise — but I don’t recall it being very explicit about women. Well, there’s Ruth.”

“Also Second Temple period,” Paul says.

“Yeah. Whatever,” Leah says, waving her hand dismissively. “Look, I’m not terribly enamored with the idea of future offspring sharing your DNA either, though, granted, they’ll definitely kick ass academically. This isn’t about us, though. It’s about Rosie.”

“Agreed,” Paul says.

“It’s not like we’ll be otherwise bound to one another,” Leah says. “If Rosie comes through with the agreement I requested, I’m prepared to wash my hands of the whole affair once the donation is done.”

“I could get behind that,” Paul says. “Plus, I have to agree. Given your academic credentials, any offspring should definitely have a strong math and science foundation. You’re a scientist; your father was an engineer. What did his father do?”

“He was a grocer,” Leah says. “Walker Groceries in Georgia and the Carolinas.”

“Multi-generational privilege, what do you know?” Paul says. “A typical southern tale.”

He picks up his guitar and starts improvising a Jazz riff. “Are you musical?”

Leah shakes her head, with a chuckle. “In high school, I tried trumpet, violin, and saxophone, and was pretty horrible on each one. If I get enough wine in me, I can usually do a mean Blues harmonica, but I doubt Dylan or the Stones will be calling anytime soon. As far as singing, I can usually hold my own in a chorus, as long as there are enough other voices to drown me out.”

“Yeah, I don’t have much of a voice either,” he says. He improvises several more bars on the guitar.

“You’re pretty good at that,” she says. A thought comes to her. “Say, maybe you can explain something to me. What is Rosie’s deal with May 23rd?”

“What do you mean?” Paul asks.

“When I asked her to be my thesis advisor, she didn’t want to take me on without knowing me better,” she replies. “So, I suggested she could hire me as her lab assistant.”

“Right.”

“She was showing me some stuff afterward,” she says, “how she does her grading, what not. The subject of my birthday came up — it was a couple of days away — and when Rosie learned I was born May 23, 1969, she sort of freaked out. Well, as much as Rosie freaks out.”

“What did she do?” Paul says.

“She walked away from me, thinking,” Leah says. “Then she stared at me a long time and confirmed I was born May 23, 1969. After that, she said, ‘Isn’t that something?’ Then she told me she’d reconsidered and agreed to be my advisor after all.”

“That’s odd,” he says. “But, like I say, I don’t know much about Rosie’s past. She’s never mentioned anything about that date. Her birthday is in March, and we were married in June.”

The front door opens and closes.

“Guess that’s Rosie,” Leah says. “Looks like there’s no turning back now.”

“It’s looking that way,” he says.

They face the door, to await Rosalind’s entrance.

Another Mother World Premiere in August

Artwork for Another Mother by G. M. Lupo, by Lauren Pallotta, featuring Rylee Bunton as Genevieve.

My play, Another Mother, will have its world premiere at the 2017 Essential Theatre Festival, which starts July 28. My play premieres August 4, at the West End Performing Arts Center, directed by Peter Hardy. Another Mother tells the story of Genevieve Duchard, a young woman who learns that the circumstances of her birth aren’t as she’s always believed them to be, and sets out to learn the truth. Tickets and Festival passes are available at the Essential Theatre’s website. Another Mother runs in repertory with Lauren Gunderson’s play, Ada and the Memory Engine, which begins July 28.

Worthy, Part 32

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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.”

“Lucky 13?”

“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.

“Hello, mother.”

At that very moment, Abigail has an idea which she shares with Genevieve. “How would you like a graduation trip to the East Coast?”

Worthy, Part 31

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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.”

“Which is?”

“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.”

Worthy, Part 30

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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?”

Worthy, Part 29

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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.

Worthy, Part 28

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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.”