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Chapter 3

Tuesday, when Ginny left work, she met her good friend Carol at Lucinda’s—their favorite lunch spot—for a late brunch. The café’s décor was delightful, but it was the view outside the oversized windows and the quality of the food that kept customers coming back. The regulars kidded Maurice, the owner, about being a frustrated gardener. During the growing season, the cafe was surrounded by profusely blooming flower beds. On balmy days, dining on the patio was a delightful experience, almost like dining in a magnificent flower garden. Maurice had even addressed the gloom of winter. The trees bordering the patio twinkled with strategically placed white lights. All in all, dining at Lucinda’s was magical.

Ginny and Carol’s long-standing lunch dates came to an abrupt halt when Ginny stepped into the administrative assistant position at the firm. Both woman had missed their weekly get-togethers.

When the their regular server Mimi Jordan welcomed them back, Ginny grinned. “You have no idea how much we’ve missed being here, Mimi.”

“The feeling is mutual. The quiche today is your favorite, Ginny. Sun-dried tomatoes, ham and swiss cheese.”

“Lovely. I’d like fresh fruit as my side.”

Carol said, “I’m going to make this easy for you Mimi. I’ll have the same. And, don’t forget the muffins.”

As soon as Mimi headed to the kitchen to turn in their order, Ginny sighed. “I feel like a prisoner who has been paroled. Say a prayer that Mike Weather will be just what the firm needs, Carol. As much as I want continued success for the firm, I have my interests are elsewhere.

“Don’t misunderstand. The staff is great. The work they do is excellent, but I don’t have the knowhow or the desire to work in an engineering firm.”

“That’s because you adore working with kids. Speaking of kids, do you plan to honor Julie’s request now that you will be working part-time?”

“You know me. When children are in crisis, my adrenalin starts pumping. On the other hand, I sense that complications are going to arise, and I don't need any more stress in my life."

"What does Brian have to say about Julie's request?"

"Brian’s onboard. He’s tender-hearted like his dad.”

“And his mom. You’ve been volunteering for food banks, and other service groups as long as I’ve known you.”

“The thing that convinced me that I couldn’t turn my back on Molly was a call to Nick from Child Services. The social worker wants to immediately place her with a family, take her away from her caregiver Abigail. For now, the agency wants to bypass Molly's great grandma altogether. Perhaps, as they claim, the placement would be temporary, but I doubt it. If Molly enters the system, it will be next to impossible to get her out.”

“Their argument isn’t logical. Didn’t you tell me that Abigail has been taking care of Molly since she was a toddler? Isn’t it better for the child to be with someone who already loves her and knows her needs?”

“That's the lawyer's thinking and mine. Nick claims that the agency wants to edge out Abigail because she’s seventy-two.”

“Then you better get involved before Social Services moves in. Have you called Ruth Northrop?”

“No, but I did some research on the Northrop clan over the weekend. George was a highly respected dentist. For years, Ruth dabbled in art in her free time. After George died, she gave up her job as a trainer and began to paint full-time. Two galleries in Summerfield show her paintings or did at one time. Several years ago, she began to lose her eyesight. Since then, collectors have been paying high prices for her work.

“Word on the street is that Ruth has become something of a recluse. A phone call seems like an unnecessarily cruel way for her to hear about her granddaughter's illness and death. But what pretext can I use if I call about a visit?”

“I don’t know her well enough to venture a guess. Why wasn’t she informed about Julie’s death?”

“Abigail Jones, and Nick McLeod were the only two names that were listed as emergency contacts on her medical records. Julie made arrangements for Nick to handle her burial and the few bequests she made.” Ginny took a photo of Molly out of her purse and handed it to Carol.

“Oh, my. What a lovely child. I have to believe that her great-grandmother will forgive and forget her estrangement with Julie when she sees this child.”

“She's adorable. I need to meet Molly, Carol. I can’t plead her case if I don’t know anything about her.”

“I agree. So, call Abigail and tell her that you want to arrange a visit. If she’s as obliging as the lawyer says she is, she will be happy to hear from you. Then, after you have time to evaluate the situation, bite the bullet and call Ruth.”

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