As soon as Molly was tucked into bed, and Brian had disappeared to his bedroom, Ginny called Nick. She had sent him a text message earlier to let him know that Molly had not melted down when she met Ruth. He wanted details. He asked that she call no matter the time. He answered on the first ring.
“Hi, It’s Ginny.”
“Thanks for calling and thanks for the text. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to hear that Molly didn’t take an instant dislike to Ruth.”
“Ruth won her over when she agreed to let Molly borrow a photo album that has dozens of photos of her mom.’
“Sounds promising. How did you find Ruth? Does she seem to be adjusting to Julie’s death?”
’She didn’t mention Julie, but my guess is that she’s trying to keep her emotions in check. Every time she looked at Molly, tears welled in her eyes and her voice trembled. The evening would have been pleasant if Christine hadn’t been there. She doesn’t give a fig about her daughter or her granddaughter. She’s a narcisstic prick. Pardon the language, but that’s the only way to describe her.”
“You don’t have to worry about Christine sabotaging Ruth. Ruth’s lawyer had her sign a document stating that she signed over any legal rights she might have.”
“Seriously? Good for Charles Cantrell. Did I tell you that he was at Ruth’s?”
“No. You didn’t but I can't say that I'm surprised." He paused before adding, "There’s something you should know, Ginny. When Charles called to talk about Julie’s will, I realized that I should have delved into Julie’s background before I became involved. It should have occurred to me that Charles was Ruth’s lawyer, but it didn’t. He’s my ex’s dad. Charles and I don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, so I make it habit to steer clear of him and his cases, or I did until Julie came along.”
Ginny was stunned. “Could your connection to him affect Molly’s future?”
“No. Charles might not be my favorite person, or I his, but he’s a professional. He won’t let his personal feelings get in the way. I just thought you should know.”
“I wondered why he was there. He listened more than he talked, so I couldn’t determine whether he had encouraged Ruth to welcome Molly into the family or turn her over to Child Services.”
“He’s was playing the objective bystander role. After Charles called, I rang Susan, his daughter. She told me that Ruth's husband George and her dad were boyhood friends and that Ruth was a classmate. George and Ruth married young, but Charles was in his thirties before he met his wife Nell. He was briefly married to a woman who was an alcoholic before he met Nell. What I’m getting at; Charles and Ruth have weathered storm after storm and survived with their bond still intact. I doubt she makes a move without consulting him.”
“Good to know. Nick, I don’t normally ask acquaintances about their personal life. In this instance, I think I need to ask about yours since you are Charles’ ex son-in-law. Why did you and Susan split up.”
“There are three things that will tell you all you need to know about my marriage.
"1.I should never have married her. Susan was too young, or I was too set in my ways. Take your pick.”
2.She is now happily married to David, and they have a two-year-old son.
3.She occasionally comes to me for advice. Charles would prefer that she consult him.”
“Sounds like Charles has an ego problem.”
“Maybe. I’ve tried to get her to go to her dad. She says that I’m easier to talk to. I have a lot of guilt where Susan is concerned. It’s a miracle that I didn’t turn her against marriage.”
“Marriage is a two-way street, Nick. One more question. Are you still in love with her?”
“No. I’m not sure I ever was. I was flattered that a lovely young woman her age was attracted to me.”
“Now that I understand the situation, I won’t ask about her again.”
“My failure at marriage is not a secret, Ginny. You didn’t mention Roger. What was your impression of him?”
“He seems nice enough, but why would a man of principle stay with a woman like Christine?”
“Good question. There’s one more bit of information that you need to know. I have the contact information for Julie’s ex-boyfriend, Sean Kendrick. I haven’t been in touch with him, so I don’t know have a bio to share.”
“Sean is either a complication or the answer.”
It was two weeks before Nick called with news about Sean. “Sorry for the delay. Sean asked for time to come up with options that work for Molly and for him. He called late yesterday. He’s saddened about Julie’s death. I could hear the pain in his voice, so it’s safe to say that he was in love with her. He said that he was devastated when she broke off the relationship. Not knowing why was hard on his ego. He didn’t begin to date again until he was a college junior. At they time, he methodically planned his life and he’s stuck to that plan.
“He claims that if he had known about Molly four years ago that he would have taken a job that didn’t require so much travel. If all goes well, he’ll be able to make a career move in two years. If he walks away now, the change will affect his earning power. If that happens, he will not be able to adequately support a family.
“He and his fiancé broke off their engagement once because of schedule clashes They aren’t willing to postpone their wedding again. Katie is building a career as a model. She’s twenty-three, and she hoping to work five more years if she can remain marketable. She hasn’t been around children, so she doesn’t feel that she’s qualified to take on a seven-year-old daughter.”
“At twenty-three, I can understand that, but I don’t understand a dad turning his back on a daughter.”
“He’s not turning his back. He doesn’t think that his lifestyle is right for a child who’s been traumatized. He wants his child to be happy and emotionally healthy. He would like visitation rights, if it can be arranged. He and Katie would like for her to vacation with them, and also come for short holiday visits. Not this year because they are having a Christmas wedding. In addition, he doesn’t want to spoil her holidays. He and Katie are strangers to her.”
“I want to be angry with him, but he’s obviously thinking about her welfare. I had hoped that Sean would be the answer.”
“This isn’t all bad news. The more people who love Molly, the healthier she will be.
“I drove over to Summerfield last Saturday to meet Ruth. She told me that you and Molly had come for a visit that morning. How did the visit go?”
“Molly’s taken a shine to Grace. She respects Ruth, but she’s not quite ready to accept her as a relative. I promised Ruth that we’d be back next Saturday morning.”
“Have you started packing for your move?”
“We have. A consignment shop agreed to take the furniture that we won’t have room for at the new house. The owner is sending a truck next week.”
“Sounds like just the ticket. What’s going on at Roark & Erikkson?”
“Ron and Michael make a great team. Now that Michael and I have agreed on a price for my shares of the business, I’m leaving the firm. My last day will be next Friday. I’ve already sent applications to two middle schools. If I don’t get a full-time job, I’ll go back to substitute teaching.”
“So, things are finally falling into place for you?”
“I hope so. There are still days when I have crying jags, but they are less frequent. I miss Sam and always will. Molly has made a difference. It’s been good for me to think about her grief instead of my own. She’s been good for Brian, too.”
“If Ruth doesn’t come up with a name or names soon, will you consider adoption?”
Ginny was stunned that he asked. “No.”
“You won’t even give the idea some thought?”
“Molly needs stability. As a transitional family, we worked, but our situation is unstable. As I mentioned, Brian will be headed off to college next fall. My future is still uncertain. If Molly is to thrive, she doesn’t need to be shuffled around. She has a world of potential, but she needs therapy and nurturing. I am already overextended mentally and emotionally.