ACT 1

As Olivia approached the farmhouse, she could hear the phone ringing through the open window adjacent to the front door. However, in between trying to juggle her youngest daughter, her purse and a bag of groceries in her arms, fitting the key in the lock was proving to be quite a challenge. By the time she managed to get inside the house, and put down her purse and groceries, the answering machine had picked up the call. Rather than immediately pick the up the message, she decided the infant required tending first; she’d get to the message later.

 Olivia took a long breath then resettled the very tired Francesca in her arms. Murmuring soothing tones to her daughter, she laid her down in the playpen, and then covered her with a nearby blanket. She then moved to the kitchen and put the bags up on the table before putting away the groceries. Natalia was going make lasagne for supper, so Olivia kept those ingredients toward the front of the refrigerator. When she was done, she stood and looked up at the clock on the wall.

 It was 3:30 in the afternoon. Olivia smiled as she recalled that today was one of the days when Natalia took Emma after school for some one-on-one time together. It was a routine they’d developed so that Emma didn’t feel like she was being left out. Sometimes, they’d go to the park and play, or do pretty much anything Emma wanted, within reason. Olivia and Natalia both knew their older daughter had a penchant for big excitement with the imagination to match and, after a visit to her dad’s, she decided she wanted a horse. It took a bit of fancy verbal footwork on Olivia and Natalia’s part to dissuade her. Natalia had pointed out to the girl that it wouldn’t be fair to the ducks if they had to share Emma with the horses.

 She chuckled softly, remembering Emma’s exuberance every time she came home from an outing with Natalia, and the way the girl regaled her with every detail. Today, since it was nice and sunny, the plan was for them to go over to the park with a soccer ball. Natalia had mentioned it would probably be close to 5:00 before they got home, so Olivia decided that in the intervening time, she might as well get some work done while Francesca slept. She poured herself a large mug of coffee from the carafe on the counter.

 Returning to the living room with her coffee, Olivia set the mug on the table in front of the couch and caught a flash of the blinking light on the answering machine.

 The first two messages were Beacon-related; Greg wanted to confirm some bookings with her. Normally he’d have run those past her assistant, but Keira had left early for an appointment and Greg was under the impression that these bookings needed immediate attention. The third message, however, caught her attention. The soft Hispanic tone and sound of the voice was vaguely familiar, yet at the same time belonged to someone Olivia had never met.

 “This message is for Natalia Rivera. This is her mother. Her grandmother is dying and would like to see her. She’s at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chicago. If you need to call, you can reach me at 312-555-6982.”

 Olivia nearly dropped the phone. Unless it was about Rafe or Gus, Natalia never mentioned her family, and most of those stories had been about her grandmother, of whom the younger woman had been very fond. Olivia also knew that Natalia had been on her own, and out of touch with relatives, since she was sixteen and pregnant. Nevertheless, she knew her partner would be upset when she heard the news.

 Knowing that, Olivia chose to set aside the paperwork in favor of preparing supper. She took the baby monitor into the kitchen, and then started preparing the food. She was a perfectly good cook, and she knew the other woman would appreciate it. Grabbing the bell peppers, celery, onions and mushrooms out of the fridge, she began to chop and scoop the vegetables into bowls. Then she began the job of cooking up the ground beef in a frying pan. While she worked, she considered how best to break the news to Natalia.

She had just finished the lasagne when Emma barrelled her way through the kitchen door, dropped her backpack on the chair, and began babbling excitedly about her day. Hardly able to follow the rapid chatter, Olivia held up her hand and said, “Whoa there, Jellybean. Quieter...and slower. Francesca’s sleeping.” Olivia had said with a smile on her face to offset the commanding words. “Actually, why don’t you wait to tell me at suppertime, which will be soon? Go on upstairs and get cleaned up...How did you get mud on your cheeks?” Olivia asked as she brushed her thumb against Emma’s cheek. Out on the porch, Natalia could be heard rustling about, presumably taking off her coat, and as the other woman entered the kitchen, Olivia looked up and smiled before returning her attention to their boisterous daughter.

 Bouncing on the balls of her feet, Emma said in a hushed, yet no less excited tone, “I was trying to tell you! The ball landed in the rain water from yesterday. I was running to get it and slipped a little in the puddles.” Suddenly, she stood tall, her bearing becoming suffused with pride. “I didn’t fall, though.”

Olivia looked her over from head to toe and noted the dirty sneakers on the kitchen floor. Glancing pointedly at her daughter, she pointed to the porch by the backdoor, “Shoes, missy,” she spoke, as she nudged Emma towards the porch so she wouldn’t traipse any further through the house. The girl got her shoes off quickly and came back to stand in front of her mother. “Now, go get cleaned up and we’ll have supper, and you can tell me all about your afternoon.”

 Emma nodded before quickly taking off through the living room and up the stairs, not being quiet at all. A sudden wail came from the direction of the living room, indicating that Francesca had woken from her nap. Olivia and Natalia both grinned and shook their heads, as Emma’s “herd-of-elephants” style of taking the stairs frequently woke the baby.

 “Olivia, that smells divine. Let me go feed our youngest and then I’ll help you with dinner. How long was she asleep?”

 “About an hour-and-a-half. Listen, Natalia, I’ve got to tell you something,” Olivia said as she put the lasagne into the oven and then followed the younger woman into the living room.

 Retrieving Francesca from the playpen, Natalia sat on the couch and prepared to breastfeed. She looked up and spotted the older woman fidgeting nervously with the band of her ring. “Olivia, what is it?”

 “There was a message today on the answering machine. I don’t know how to say it.” Olivia’s forehead creased and she brought her hand up to scratch at her chin. She hated to cause the younger woman any pain. Even as she fretted, Olivia glanced up the stairs, listening for any sign that Emma’s return was imminent, because she definitely didn’t want the child to overhear this bit of bad news.

 “Olivia, you’re starting to scare me. Is it about the girls?”

 “No. It was from your mother.” Olivia stopped for a moment, and then moved over to sit on the couch beside her partner, and put one arm around a profoundly shocked Natalia. Her other hand came up to caress the younger woman’s face. “Sweetheart, your grandmother...your abuela that you told us about...she’s in the hospital. She’s dying and she’s asked to see you.”

 “No...Abuela Hernández?” Natalia questioned very quietly. She sank back into the couch, not quite believing what she’d heard.

 “I don’t know, sweetie. She just said your grandmother.”

 “No, please, no.” Natalia buried her head against Olivia’s chest as she cradled her daughter against her breast.

 While Olivia held her partner close, the tears the younger woman shed soaked through her shirt, though she paid them no mind.

 After several moments of quiet crying, Natalia moved back slightly so she could see Olivia’s face. Wiping away the tears, Natalia whispered, “Olivia, I...” and then faltered, unsure what to say.

 “I wrote down the information your mother left. The message is still on the machine. I wasn’t sure if you’d want to listen to it.” Olivia sat back against the rear of the couch, pulling Natalia against her, and she pressed a kiss to the side of her head.

 Natalia closed her eyes tightly as more tears threatened to fall. She knew Olivia could be very tender and supportive with her, but the love she felt pouring from her partner right now far surpassed anything she could have ever anticipated. “I love you, Olivia. So much.”

 Breaking the emotion of the moment, their infant daughter let go of her suction on Natalia’s nipple and fussed a bit. The younger woman covered her breast then brought the baby up to her shoulder and rubbed her back to get her to burp. The rubbing was as much for her daughter’s benefit as it was for her own. She heard Olivia let out a giggle as Francesca brought up a loud burp. When Natalia looked over at her partner with a dismayed look on her face, the other woman only laughed harder. After a moment, despite the somber mood, Natalia joined in on the laughter for a minute before she started crying again.

 Aware of the time that had passed, and knowing that Emma would soon be coming back downstairs, Natalia pulled away again a bit and brushed the tears from her face. “I don’t know what I should do.”

 Olivia reached up to cup Natalia’s face in her hand and then caressed her cheek with the back of her hand. “Natalia, they are your family. As much of an estrangement as there has been between you and your family, I think you’d regret it if you didn’t see your grandmother before she dies. I know that the prospect of seeing your parents must be terrifying you right now. I wish I had some advice to offer.”

 Natalia sighed, and then drew her bottom lip in with her teeth. “I know. You’re right. I need to do this.”

 Olivia paused a moment, then looked Natalia directly, seeing the sadness in her partner’s brown eyes.

“Remember though that you have another family - this family we have here. We will always be here for you, and I will always love and support you, no matter what you decide. However, Em will be down in a minute or two. Why don’t you take Francesca up to the nursery and finish feeding her. I’ll check on supper and be here to listen to Emma tell me about her day. Come down when you’re ready.”

 “I repeat: I love you. What did I ever do to deserve you?” Natalia smiled and tilted her head to the side while maintaining contact with Olivia.

 “I usually ask myself the same question about you.”

 “Any conclusions?”

 “You are my family; you and our children. You are my home.” Olivia stopped and smiled, which turned into a wry grin as she continued. “I finally figured out what I’ve been looking for all my life, though it took us forever to get here.”

 “That’s awfully sappy of you.”

 “Don’t repeat that. I have a reputation to maintain.”

 “Uh huh,” Natalia muttered as she stood up somewhat unsteadily with her daughter in her arms. The other woman reached out to steady her until she got her bearings. Resettling the feeding blanket over her shoulder, Natalia rested Francesca against it and then turned toward the staircase. “What reputation?” Natalia said with a smile as she climbed the stairs.

 Olivia chuckled to herself as she stood and moved into the kitchen. Natalia was right, the food did smell divine. She opened the oven door and looked in at the bubbling mozzarella on top of the lasagne. Just as she finished pulling the hot dish out and putting it on the counter, Emma came rushing into the kitchen.

 “Em, sweetie, what have we told you about running in the house?” Olivia asked with a raised eyebrow.

 “Not to,” Emma replied a little guiltily.

 “Right. Now, will you help me get the table set? Then you can tell me all about your day at school and your time with Natalia this afternoon.”

 “Yay!” Emma went over to the drawer and pulled out the silverware and napkins then placed them on the table. After that was done, she pulled the footstool over to the counter and pulled down three plates from the shelf. Olivia grabbed the glasses from the cupboard and put them on the table. “Mommy, where’s Natalia?”

 “She’s just finishing feeding Francesca. She’ll be down shortly.”

 “Okay. Oh, hey, Mommy? Guess what? Ms. Warner said we’ll be doing a dia...dio-rama?”

 “A diorama? What about?” Olivia asked, remembering the last big school project Emma had and hadn’t told them what she was going to do.

 Emma finished setting the table before she faced her mother. “It’s about our family and our city. We get to make little mini buildings and things. Can you help me make a mini-Beacon?” The girl gave her most charming smile when she saw her mom nod. “And maybe Grandpa Buzz can help me make a mini-Company.”

 “Grandpa Buzz, huh?”

 “Yep. Since he’s Francesca’s granddad, he can be mine, too.” Emma stopped for a minute then looked up at her mother, curious but slightly hesitant. “Mommy, do you think Granddad Alan would be mad at me if I call Buzz ‘Grandpa’, now?”

 “Oh, Jellybean. No, I don’t think Alan would mind.” For all his faults, and there were many, in the last few months before he died, Alan had started to become a genuine human being. Perhaps it was due to Phillip’s illness and Alan’s desire to put things right. Whatever the reason, Olivia was glad he had come around and she knew the older man had loved her daughter. She put her arm around Emma and kissed the top of her head.

 Natalia pushed off the doorframe where she’d been watching the last half minute of the exchange between mother and daughter. “How are my girls?”

 Emma looked up at Natalia and smiled. “Good, Ma. How is Sweet Pea?”

 Nothing about Natalia’s bright smile gave any clue to the sadness that roiled beneath the surface. “Good. She’s fed and now she’s sleeping. Now, we should get some supper, and get your homework done.” She grabbed the pot-holders and put the pan of lasagne on the hot pad on the table.

 Emma continued to tell her mothers all about her day, what the other children in her class were doing, and relaying her afternoon adventures with Natalia at the park.

 ****

 

As supper ended, Olivia looked over at Natalia and noticed that despite Emma’s exuberant mood, the younger woman was unsurprisingly distracted. She heard her daughter call Natalia’s name twice, without being answered, and saw the girl turn and look at her questioningly.

 “Em, sweetie, can you go up and get your pyjamas on? Get started on your homework. I just want to make sure everything is okay with Natalia. After, we’ll come check your homework and read you a story.”

 Concerned, Emma looked over at Natalia, and then back to her mother. “Okay.” She got up from her seat and put her dish in the sink before heading upstairs.

 After Emma had left the kitchen, Olivia placed a hand on Natalia’s arm to draw her awareness back to the present. Once she got the younger woman’s attention, she spoke to her. “Natalia, we need to let Emma know what’s going on, especially since we’ll be going out of town. We also need to call Phillip and Frank. You need to let Frank know we’re taking Francesca out of town.”

 “Oh, God. I wasn’t even thinking about that.” Natalia dropped her head into her hands. “What are we going to tell Emma?”

 Olivia placed her hand on her partner’s arm. “We tell her the truth; that your grandmother is dying.” She paused a moment, and then placed her hand under Natalia’s chin. She coaxed the younger woman’s head up so she could look into her eyes, and she tried to reassure her. “Emma will understand that.” The older woman stopped to consider a thought then shook her head. “I wonder if we should bring her with us or have her stay with Phillip. It’s not going to be much fun for her; all adults around.”

 “She’s old enough to decide what she wants to do. You’re right, though, we need to tell her about my grandmother. It’s just hard.” Natalia sighed deeply and dropped her head down, feeling all at once like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. With her head slightly bent, she turned and looked at Olivia. “I haven’t seen my family in nearly twenty years. What do I say about that?” Natalia was starting to get a little anxious.

 “Emma’s had so much to deal with in such a short time and she’s adapted rather well. I know a lot of that, in the past couple years, has been thanks to you. Natalia, you’re one of the strongest women I know.” Olivia grasped Natalia’s hand, palm to palm, and threaded her fingers through the younger woman’s. She grew solemn as she continued, “I’ve tried to never willingly lie to my daughters. I believe that if we just tell her the truth – that you’ve been separated from your family for most of your life – it won’t matter to her why. She loves you.”

 “I know. I’m just nervous.”

 “Come here.” Olivia spoke softly, drawing Natalia into her arms. “I’ll be right here with you.”

 After a moment she felt Natalia begin to relax. “I’m going to go up and get Emma to come down; then we can talk with her.” Olivia pulled away to go upstairs, but not before placing a kiss on Natalia’s forehead.

As soon as her partner disappeared up the stairs, time seemed to slow and Natalia began to fidget, needing something to keep herself busy.

 She stayed into the kitchen to heat some milk for hot chocolate for each of them. Hearing Emma’s giggles, as the young girl and her mother returned to the living room, was like a balm to her soul. Sighing heavily with nervousness, Natalia joined them as she carried the steaming mugs into the room.

 “Here you go; hot chocolate all around,” Natalia said as she placed the tray of mugs down on the table.

 “Yay!” Emma grinned widely.

 “Emma, sweetie, Natalia and I need to talk to you.” Olivia looked at Natalia then looked back at her daughter.

 “Is something wrong?” Emma hesitated as she looked between both of her mothers. She’d had a lot of losses and knew how people looked when they had sad news.

 “Emma, remember when I spoke about my abuela?” Natalia clasped her hands together on her lap, to calm the tremble of anxiety she felt.

 “The one who told you about making New Year’s wishes?” Emma nodded and smiled as she remembered Natalia talking about the old woman; and about their first New Year’s together as a family.

 “Yes, that’s her, sweetie. She’s in the hospital and she’s dying.” Natalia’s voice grew strained with the effort of holding back tears. “She’s dying and she’s asked me to see her.”

 Emma’s shoulders deflated. “Like Granddad Alan?”

“I’m not sure. I don’t know much right now. I need to talk with my mother a little bit later, but I do need to go home to Chicago to see my abuela.” Natalia unclasped her hands and immediately her fingers began to toy with her skirt.

 Emma looked to her mother. “Are we all going?”

 “Em, we’d love you to be with us, but there probably won’t be a lot for you to do. You’d find it pretty boring. You could stay with your Dad if you wanted or you can come with us. That is your choice.”

 Emma looked at her mother, and with solid determination announced, “I love Daddy and I’m glad he’s feeling much better, but Natalia is my family, too.” The young girl turned her attention to her other mother; she gave her a hug. “She needs me now.”

 Natalia felt tears build up along her lids, threatening to spill. “I love you, too, Emma. And you are my family.”

 Olivia reached over and ruffled her daughter’s hair. “Okay, Jellybean, it’s going to be an early day tomorrow. Natalia and I have some planning to do. Why don’t you go finish your homework and then I’ll be up to read you a story in a little while? Come here and give me a hug.”

 Emma did just that, then went and hugged Natalia again before heading up the stairs to her room.

 Natalia lifted her mug and took a big drink then looked over at Olivia. “That went better than I was hoping.”

 “She’s resilient, and smart.” Olivia spoke proudly of her daughter. Then in a slightly more somber tone, she added, “Now, I need to call Phillip and you need to call Frank.”

 “Ugh. Thanks for the reminder.” Natalia shrugged.

 “It’ll be okay, Natalia.” Olivia ran her hand over Natalia’s back comfortingly.

 Olivia picked up the now lukewarm mugs of hot chocolate and took them to the kitchen. She took her cell phone out of her pocket and placed a quick call to The Beacon to get a contact number for the Hyatt Regency in Chicago; and then she called that hotel to book adjoining suites for their family for the week. She didn’t know how long they were staying, but she figured that it would not take more than a week. It was unusual to be able to book a suite on such short notice, but she had the benefit of it being off-peak season. Once that was settled, she placed a call to Phillip. After a short conversation during which Olivia continued to be surprised by how supportive Phillip was of her relationship with Natalia and of their family, she moved back into the living room to find her partner pacing the room. She heard part of Natalia’s conversation with Frank and went over to the younger woman, enveloping her in a hug from behind. Olivia could feel the woman noticeably relax at the contact.

 “I don’t know, Frank. Probably a week. My grandmother’s dying.” Natalia sighed. Her interactions with her former fiancé had improved, but occasionally there were moments of frustration. “I still have to talk to my mother to find out more details, but I don’t know how forthcoming she’ll be. I haven’t seen her in nearly twenty years, and our parting was less than amicable...” Natalia dropped her head forward and exhaled sharply. “Yes, Olivia and Emma are coming with me and Francesca. Frank, they are my family, of course they’ll be there...We’ll be leaving in the morning, probably by 10am...Okay, good night, Frank.” Natalia pressed the off button on the handheld portable phone before replacing it on the charger.

 Olivia placed a kiss on the side of Natalia’s neck. She then brought her hands up to rest on the younger woman’s shoulders and felt the tension in her shoulder muscles. Gently, she began to rub the muscles and when Natalia whimpered and her head dropped forward, Olivia applied more pressure.

 “Oh, God, that feels good.”

 “There’s more where that came from.” Olivia pressed a gentle, soothing kiss to Natalia’s neck. “Was Frank giving you a hard time?”

 “A little. Just wanted to know how long we were going to have Francesca out of town. He half-suggested that maybe he and Blake could look after her. But I don’t think he was that serious.” With their heads close together, Natalia felt her partner’s head shake slightly.

 The hotelier brought her arms around her partner, and rested her head on the younger woman’s shoulder. “Okay, why don’t you head upstairs and get ready for bed. I’m just going to lock up and shut off the lights down here. I want to check on Em and read her the next chapter of her story.”

 Natalia nodded and headed up the stairs to the nursery, to check on the youngest member of the Spencer-Rivera household. Francesca had started to fuss and Natalia knew that her daughter was close to her last feeding before everyone went to sleep. She checked the infant’s diaper first and changed her before she picked her up and brought her over to the rocking chair.

 ****

 

Olivia tucked the sheets up around her sleeping daughter. It had taken three chapters of  Children of the Lamp: The Akhenaten Adventure before Emma’s blue-green eyes shut. Olivia loved this quiet time with her daughter. It gave her a peace of mind that never failed to help her relax. Until recently, Emma had been the only thing she felt she had done right in her life. Now she had Natalia and Francesca to add to this list, but it would never change her bond with her middle daughter. For so long, it had been just the two of them.

 Olivia leaned down and pressed a gentle kiss to Emma’s forehead. “Love you, Jellybean,” she whispered and then stood and turned off the table lamp before leaving the room. She quietly pulled the door shut, then headed down the hall to the nursery. She could hear Natalia singing a lullaby to Francesca.

 “Hiya, sweetheart,” Olivia said quietly as she entered the room. She moved over to Natalia and placed a kiss on her lips. “Have you talked to your mother yet?” Olivia asked the younger woman as she took their sleepy infant daughter from Natalia’s arms and placed her in the crib.

 “No. Not yet. I don’t know what I’m going to say to her. The last words we spoke were in an argument. Actually, that’s not completely true. Papa was yelling, Mama wasn’t saying much at all, but she wasn’t stopping him either. And I was a mess.” Natalia looked over at her little daughter, who was already soundly sleeping.

 “I remember my abuela was always so kind to me. She lived with us in our apartment in Chicago. I missed her so much after I was kicked out.” As she spoke, Natalia’s voice had become so quiet that Olivia had to strain to hear her words. “When I was at the unwed mother’s home, I’d send letters to her, but every one of them ended up in my mailbox marked with ‘Return to Sender’. I don’t think it was her...who was turning them away. But I don’t know which of my parents was responsible.”

 “Oh, sweetheart. Come here.” Olivia reached her hand out to Natalia and pulled her into a standing position, and then enfolded her into a tight hug. After a little while, the younger woman pulled back; track marks from the tears that silently streamed down her face plainly evident.

 Olivia ran her hand down Natalia’s arm until she reached her hand and took hold of it, leading her out of the nursery and to their room.

 Once inside, Natalia climbed up on the bed. She sat with her back against the headboard and pulled her knees up to her chest. Her chin came down to rest on the arms she’d crossed on top of her knees. A few strands of dark hair tumbled down over her face, having escaped the ponytail.

 When she spoke, she looked up at Olivia but didn’t change her position. “I cried myself to sleep more times than I could count in that first year. I was scared and alone, except for Rafe growing inside me. I didn’t know what to do. They were my parents. How could they just dismiss me like that?”

 Olivia moved over to the bed and climbed up to sit next to Natalia. She rested a hand on the other woman’s arm. The older woman thought for a moment before she spoke, since she wasn’t sure how to broach the conversation without sounding insensitive to her partner’s state. “I don’t mean to detract from anything you’ve told me, but I do actually know what that feels like.”

 Olivia paused; her voice sounded a little strained as she continued. “Only unlike you, I didn’t want the pregnancy. I didn’t think it was any gift from God, or anyone. Sure I love Ava like crazy now, but when I was pregnant, all I could think of were the circumstances surrounding her conception.” She brought a hand up to touch Natalia’s face as she drew it towards her own; making sure that the other woman could see her sincerity.

 “At least now, you have the opportunity to interact with your parents as an adult; a confident, beautiful woman with so much love it overwhelms me at times. I never had the chance, and I want that for you.” Olivia finished softly.

 “Thank you.” Natalia spoke with more conviction now than she had had all evening. Gathering her strength, she reached for the portable phone on the nightstand. “Well, if I’m going to do this, I might as well do it now. Do you have the number?”

 Olivia fished the slip of paper with the information from Natalia’s mother out of her pocket, where she’d stored it since the afternoon, and handed it to the younger woman. She was about to get up from the bed when she felt a firm hand on her arm, holding her in place.

 “Please. Stay,” Natalia pleaded. “I need you with me. You give me such strength, and right now I can use all of that I can get.”

 “Okay.” Olivia leaned back against the headboard and pulled Natalia towards her and the younger woman rested against her for a moment before she dialled the number for her mother.

 A weary but familiar voice answered the phone and Natalia shivered. The strained tones of her mother’s voice brought her memories from twenty years ago back into sharp focus.

 “Mama?...Yes, this is Natalia.” She paused a moment and frowned. She glanced at Olivia and saw her frown as well, apparently reading her tension. Natalia continued, “Mama, I didn’t take my own sweet time getting back to you, I wasn’t home when the call came...It was a shock to hear from you, that is all.”

 The tension in Natalia’s face seemed to spread through her and Olivia could feel it. The hotelier strengthened her hold on the younger woman and pressed a kiss against her forehead, hoping to give her comfort as the conversation continued.

 “Mama, I have a family I had to take care of...Yes...Can we please not get into this right now?” Natalia sighed, wearily. “How’s Nana?” At her mother’s lengthy response, all the fight seemed to drain from Natalia and her head dropped to Olivia’s shoulder.

 Olivia curled her partner more tightly against her own body, feeling the sobs shake the woman’s form. She felt the phone drop onto her chest from Natalia’s hand. When Olivia heard a questioning voice come from the other end of the line, she picked up the phone.

 “Hello? Mrs. Rivera. My name is Olivia Spencer. I’m a friend of your daughter’s...Not at the moment. She’s very upset...That’s neither here nor there. If you could give me the information about Mrs. Hernández, I’ll relay that to Natalia shortly.” She listened as the other woman told her about the condition Natalia’s grandmother was in.

 “Thank you. We’ll be driving up first thing tomorrow morning...No, that’s okay. We’ve already booked a hotel room. Thank you.” Olivia felt a small amount of smugness over the tone of frustration in Natalia’s mother’s voice as she disconnected the phone call and reached over to place the phone on her nightstand, and then returned her arm to rest around Natalia’s body. Nobody was going to treat Natalia with any amount of disdain, no matter how related by blood they were.

 Both women were emotionally drained by the time they’d changed into pyjamas and curled up together, drawing comfort from one another. While sleep came relatively quickly for them, it was an uneasy sleep as they both were plagued by memories of the past.

****