Ginny planned to stop in Selma for a late lunch, but the meeting with Ron and Mike Weathers ran longer than expected. She was predisposed to like Mike because he was a friend of Ron’s, but he exceeded her expectations. He was brilliant, but his priority was open-mindedness. He believed that management needed to remain attuned to the ideas and needs of co-workers and clients. His sense of humor was a definite plus. When tensions were high, laughter helped.
Selma, one her favorite haunts, is one of those charming little villages that tourists, who are into crafts and antiques, adore. A half-dozen artists have studios in and around town. On Main Street alone, there are two specialty shops, a gallery, three antique shops, an upscale coffee house and Betty’s Luncheonette, an old-fashioned restaurant that still had an old-fashioned lunch counter. People come from miles around for one of Betty’s home-cooked meals, especially her fruit pies and homemade ice cream.
Before Ginny and Carol married, the friends occasionally drove over to Selma to eat lunch at Betty’s. Nine times out of ten, Ginny ordered meatloaf. She wasn’t a fan of any meatloaf but Betty’s was delicious. She’d spent hours trying to duplicate the recipe but hadn’t succeeded.
The last time she’d been to Betty’s was a week before Sam died. When he was returning from an out of town business trip, he phoned to invite her to meet him at Betty’s. It was one of those impromptu dates that they both loved. Meatloaf wasn’t on the menu that day but the pot roast tasted just fine.
She felt a tinge of regret when she passed the cut-off for Selma. Another time.
Ginny wasn’t a frequent visitor to Summerfield, but thanks to her GPS, she located the Buena Vista neighborhood without difficulty. The homes were predominantly Greek Revival, Tutor, Georgian and Queen Anne styles. The Northrop home was a gorgeous brick Queen Anne style home with porches on the first and second floors.
A middle-aged woman opened the door seconds after Ginny rang the doorbell.
“Can I help you?”
“Hi. My name is Ginny Roark. I have information that I need to share with Ruth Northrop.”
“I’m sorry Miss, Mrs. Northrop doesn’t see anyone without an appointment.”
“I think she’ll want to see me. I’m here in regard to her granddaughter, Julie.”
The woman’s hand flew to her mouth. She stepped back from the door so that Ginny could enter. “I’m Grace Meadows, Mrs. Northrop’s housekeeper. Make yourself comfortable in the living room. It’s the room on your right. I’ll let Mrs. Northrop know that you’re here.
Ginny’s first thought when she entered Ruth’s home was that it reminded her of one of the Newport mansions. A beautiful curved staircase rose majestically to the second floor. She found it almost impossible to imagine the Julie she knew walking down those stairs wearing tattered jeans and a t-shirt.
The living room was elegant, but Ginny didn’t have time to closely examine Ruth’s furniture choices because the lady of the house entered the room. Her voice was melodic. “Grace tells me that you have news about my granddaughter, Julie."
As gently, but as succinctly as possible, Ginny shared the news about Julie’s illness and her death. She handed her the folder that contained all of the documents that Nick had provided. “There is a letter to you from your granddaughter. I understand that your sight has been compromised, but I’m sure that Grace or your lawyer will read it to you.”
If Ruth was saddened by the news, she didn’t show it. She was all business. “Why are you here instead of her lawyer?”
“I an not sure, but I suspect that is because I am one of the few people Julie trusted, even though we weren't close friends. She specifically asked that I contact you.
"You will find Molly’s birth certificate and recent photos of her in the file. Currently, your great-granddaughter is staying with me. After her mother became ill, Molly's longtime babysitter Abigail Jones stepped in to help. Abigail has known Molly since she was a toddler. Child Services is hovering about eager to snatch Molly up and put her in foster care. That was Julie’s greatest fear. You, as her next of kin, are legally responsible for her. Her future is in your hands.
“Her lawyer and I are hoping that you will take Molly into your home or recommend someone who will. We are aware of your physical limitations, but you have the resources to hire a nanny.”
“Where is Molly?”
“She’s with a close friend of mine. My teenage son is also with her. Brian lost his dad, so he feels very protective of your great-granddaughter.”
Ruth reached for a magnifying glass on the table next to her chair. She opened the folder, thumbed through the documents checking each one until she reached Molly’s birth certificate. She examined it closely, returned it to the folder, and then examined one of Molly’s photos. She closed the folder and said, “My great-granddaughter will not go into foster care. Until arrangements can be made, what do I need to do to see that she gets the care she needs?”
“Brian and I have become very attached to Molly. We will be happy for her to remain in our home until you have made other arrangements. I would suggest that your lawyer contact Child Services and convey your wishes to the social worker who has been harassing Julie’s lawyer and Molly’s caregiver.
“If your lawyer has questions, have him contact Nick McLeod. His card is attached to the folder in your hands. Nick has Julie’s original will.” She paused before adding, “You owe him a debt of gratitude. He was there for Julie during the last two weeks of her illness.”
When Ginny returned to her car, she sat staring at Ruth’s home. The phrase “looks can be deceiving” came to mind. The house looked inviting, but there was a vague sense of something not quite right inside. She shrugged. She’d carried out Julie’s wishes. What more could she do. She punched in Nick’s phone number. “Hi, It’s Ginny. Ruth will speak to her lawyer today.”
“That’s a start. What was your impression of Ruth?”
“She still beautiful, but she’s a cold fish, Nick. If she was moved when she learned that Julie was deceased, she didn’t show it. When I arrived, her housekeeper, Grace, informed me that Ruth didn’t see anyone without an appointment. She backtracked when I told Grace who I was and why I was there.
“On the drive to Summerfield, a thought occurred to me. Shouldn’t Molly’s biological father have a say so in Molly’s future? That is, if he can be identified.
“I’m working on that, Ginny. Since I don’t have a name it will take luck or a lot of digging to locate him. Ruth might know. If she does, she might chose not to tell us. Did she ask to meet Molly?”
“Molly, Brian and I are invited to dinner day after tomorrow. In the meantime, she will invite Christine, Julie’s mom, and her husband Roger. Apparently, there’s still some animosity between Ruth and her daughter. When I mentioned Christine, there was a flash of anger in her eyes. That was the only sign of emotion during our entire conversation.”
By the time Ginny picked up Molly from Carol’s, evening shadows were beginning to creep in. She wanted to get home before the lawn service left. Her realtor Denise had an open house scheduled for the next day, and she wanted the lawn to show well.
She was surprised to see carol's son Cal, his dad Ed, and Brian working with the crew. “Molly, sweetie, would you run tell the guys that lasagna will be ready in an hour and everyone’s invited.”