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Chapter 4

Nick’s reaction to Ginny’s call surprised her. Instead of expressing relief that she would honor Julie’s request, he asked about her work, Brian’s emotional state and her physical health. He seemed relieved when she told him Mike Weathers was a potential buyer for her shares of Roark & Eriksson, and that she was working fewer hours.

“That’s good news, Ginny. I’ve been at a loss about how to proceed. As Julie’s lawyer, her wishes and Molly’s needs have to be my main concerns, but I don’t want to increase your stress level. On the other hand, decisions have to be made. The sooner Molly is settled, the sooner she can begin to heal. My guess is that she will need some kind of therapy.”

"Is she acting out?”

“No, just the opposite. She’s obsessed with being a model child. She keeps apologizing to Abigail for inconveniencing her, and she refuses to cry. She hasn’t cried since the day Julie died. I don’t think that’s normal behavior for a child."

Ginny sighed. “It’s certainly not healthy. Sooner or later, she will have to deal with her pain. Julie obviously told you that I have never been able to turn away from a hurting child. You put all those photos of Molly in the folder to hook me, didn’t you?”

“Guilty as charged. Molly needs our support until we can find a person or persons to provide a home for her. Hopefully, Ruth Northrop will be able to offer suggestions. The tragedies Ruth suffered might have hardened her, but I refuse to believe that she’s heartless. Julie’s death will be painful for her to accept, but we can hope that meeting Molly will bring her some measure of comfort.”

“Maybe, but nothing I’ve read about Ruth Northrop’s behavior suggests that she will welcome my phone call, forgive Julie or recognize Molly as kin. She is legally blind, so it’s reasonable to assume that her blindness will influence any decisions she makes. She's in her seventies, Nick. It's possible that she's showing signs of early dementia."

“Don't buy trouble. Blindness is a handicap, but it doesn't negate the friends and contacts that she’s made over the years. If she decides to take Molly into her home, she can hire a nanny." He paused before adding, "Even if she hasn’t forgiven Julie, Molly is her own flesh and blood. If nothing else, she’ll want to protect the Northrop name.”

Ginny sighed. “Sorry. Sometimes I see the negative instead of the positive. Before I make a call to Ruth, I would like to spend some time with Molly. Would it be possible for her to spend the week-end with Brian and me? I don’t want to do anything that Child Services will question.”

“No problem. I’ll call Abigail and set up a time for you to pick her up. Since you will be in the area, I would appreciate it if you would stop by my office. I have a few more legal documents that Ruth will undoubtedly want her lawyer to look over.”

"Of course. My son Brian wants to meet you and Abigail, so he'll be with me."

Ginny was grateful that she wasn’t making the trip to New Holland alone. She expected Brian to gripe when she asked him to accompany her. To her astonishment, he agreed without hesitation. She should have realized that he would empathize with Molly; he understood grief and pain. He was surprisingly eager to have a part in making the child's life easier.

Brian used the hour and half drive to New Holland to check real estate listings. By the time they reached the city limits, he had found three homes that, on paper, fit the criteria they were looking for. He and Ginny had spent several evenings, one Saturday morning and one Sunday afternoon driving from one open house to another. Their search for a home they both liked had been fruitless and discouraging.

The landscape between Archdale and New Holland reminded Ginny of the farming community in Iowa that she visited as a child. Her Aunt Selena and Uncle Bobby raised cows, horses, pigs and chickens on their twenty-acre farm. One of her fondest memories was watching Uncle Bobby draw water from the well on their property while she stood waiting for her first deliciously cool drink of well water. During her visits she spent innumerable happy hours whiling away the days in a tire swing that hung from the tall oak tree in her aunt and uncle’s front yard.

New Holland, Summerfield and Archdale are recognized as sister cities. On the map, the cities form a triangle. New Holland is at the northern tip of the triangle. Archdale is sixty miles southwest, and Summerfield forty-five miles southeast. Family oriented folks gravitate to Archdale because of the parks, good schools and laid-back atmosphere. Summerfield is known for it’s historical district and stately old homes. New Holland is a progressive city with a population of 300,000. The city has a population large enough to support two hospitals, a trauma center, two museums—art and science—a regional airport, a nationally known technology company and several large business centers. One section of the downtown has been designated as an arts district, with galleries, jazz bars and breweries. A warehouse, originally owned by a textile company, has been converted to condos. The millennials love them.

Ginny’s wandering mind was brought back to the present by Brian’s sharp cautionary words, “Mom, pay attention. You’re in the wrong lane.”

Fortunately, a driver in the turn lane slowed so that she could ease into the left lane. She waved her thanks.

“I hate driving in New Holland.”

“You could let me drive!”

“Ha. Then I really would be a basket-case.”

Traffic slowed to a crawl when Ginny turned onto Cambridge Boulevard, the southern artery leading to downtown New Holland. Specialty shops, antique shops, coffee shops and restaurants bordered both sides of the boulevard all of the way to the heart of downtown. There was at least one mall with nationally known department stores on each of the four arteries leading into the city.

In early December, Ginny and Carol planned a day of Christmas shopping in New Holland before the mob mentality set in. Last minutes gifts were purchased in Archdale. The selections were limited, but the sales associates were friendlier and incidents of road rage happened less frequently. There had been a time when Ginny loved the hustle and bustle of big cities, but those days were long past.

Nick’s law office was located in Westend, a mixed neighborhood of quaint shops ethnic restaurants and homes. His office was in a beautifully restored Victorian home that had been rezoned for business.

When Ginny and Brian entered the reception area, an attractive middle-aged woman greeted them warmly. She spoke directly to Ginny. “Hi, you must be Ginny Roark. Welcome to McLeod and McClusky Law Offices.”

“Yes, I am. And this is my son Brian.”

“Hi Brian. I’m Melanie. Mr. McLeod is expecting you. If you go up the stairs, his office is on the right. I’ll let him know that you are on your way up.”

Nick ushered them into his office. Except for the massive photograph hanging on the wall behind his desk, his office was a stereotypical lawyer’s office, cherry wood furniture and book-lined shelves.

“Nick, I’d like for you meet my son Brian. Since he’s intimately aware what it’s like to lose a parent, he suggested that the drive home might be more comfortable for Molly if there was someone closer to her age in the car.”

Nick shook Brian’s hand. “Good thinking, Brian. I’m glad you’re here.” He saw Brian’s eyes go to the framed photograph behind his desk. “New Holland at night. Beautiful isn’t it?”

“I’ll say. Who’s the photographer?”

“Justin Shepherd. He’s a client of mine.”

Brian broke into a smile. “I thought that was one of his photographs. I saw some of his works in a gallery in Archdale.”

“If you’re interested, I’ll take you to his studio one day.”

With that, Nick became a fast friend of Brian’s.

After Ginny had the documents in hand, she asked about the calls Nick received from Child Services. In addition, she wanted clarification about several other details about Julie's life.

Nick didn’t have all of the answers. “Why don’t you ask Abigail. She knew Julie better than anyone else, and as Molly’s caregiver, she is aware of Mollie’s likes and dislikes. I’ll give her a call and let her know that you and Brian are on your way.”


“She invited me to tea, so I’ll see you there. Initially, I thought about refusing her invitation, but Molly and I have become buddies. Abigail has told her who you are, but to her you are strangers. I’m hoping that I introduce you and Brian, she will accept you as friends. Just so you know, she has been told that she has a great-grandmother but not that you plan to contact Ruth.”

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