Strained — Part 4

By KG MacGregor

© 2002


Chapter 11


"I tell you, Southwest Airlines might be just a taxicab in the sky, but at least they know how to get the goddamn doors open!"

Lily nodded knowingly at the businessman as they all cooled their heels waiting for a gate agent to drive the jet bridge to the plane’s door.

"What? They weren’t expecting us?" another man groused.

"Oh, Marge, look who dropped in! It’s a planeload of people!" the first mimicked sarcastically.

As they had taxied to the gate, the pilot boasted of their early arrival into San Francisco International; a clear mistake given the fact that no one was available to greet them. No one anywhere had ever actually arrived early, Lily guessed.

Passengers watched through the small windows as the jet bridge finally moved toward the plane, backing up twice so that it actually aligned with the plane’s door. By this time, most on board were willing to leap across a four-foot gap, baggage and all.

Lily spotted the familiar Honda in the passenger pick-up line, feeling guilty at the number of passes Moss must have made in this traffic.

"Hi. Sorry I’m late."

Moss handed her a cup. "Me too. Your coffee won’t be as hot."

"Bless you!" Airplane coffee was possibly the worst.

"There’s a preliminary hearing first thing this morning. Her PD says we should be able to get in to see her right after that. He wants to get this out of the way." Kristy’s public defender was irate that his client hadn’t just signed the forms. He needed to have her focused.

"So where are we headed now?"

"I thought we’d hang out at the courthouse, then walk over to the jail when it’s over. What’s all that?" he asked, gesturing at the briefcase she carried.

"Work. Case files. I have to be in court tomorrow for placement hearings on eight kids. I thought I could finish prepping these on the plane."

"We can probably find a quiet bench at the courthouse if you want to work while we wait."

The attorney had already tried working on the way up, but her mind kept wandering to the meeting with her sister. Unable to concentrate, she’d finally put the folders away.

"Do you think we could slip into the courtroom for the hearing? I mean, I know it depends on what they’re talking about, but if it’s open, would you mind if we went in?"

"You want to get a look at her, huh?"

Since she’d gotten the call from Moss the night before, Lily had played out the jailhouse scene a hundred times in her head. What would she say to this stranger? Would she feel a connection as the woman’s sister? Would she even want to?

"I just think it would be easier to face her at the jail if it wasn’t the first time."

"I don’t have any idea what she’s going to want from you. But if you don’t mind some advice, I’d suggest that you try to limit the discussion to Andy. That’s what this is all about."

That certainly simplified it. If she could just go in and convince the woman that Andy would be better off living with her in LA, they’d be done. The attorney had been doing just that sort of thing for other children for seven years. But it had never mattered this much.

Moss reached the parking garage and began the circular climb, finally finding a narrow space on the seventh level. At the main door, they passed through the metal detectors and Lily submitted to a search of her briefcase. Elevators took them to the third floor, the criminal court division of San Francisco County, where Judge Madeline Wostyk had been assigned to the Graves case.

Moss gave the tall varnished door a gentle tug and to his surprise, it gave way. Both could see that the door opened at the side of the courtroom, rather than at the back. Their entrance would not go unnoticed.

Taking a deep breath, Lily entered shaking, immediately meeting the expectant green eyes of her younger sister, seated at the defendants’ table alongside her attorney and the man Lily recognized as Kenneth McGinnis. Hurriedly taking a seat in a row near the back, the small blonde positioned herself behind a taller man who would shield her from Kristy’s view. Sliding in beside her, Moss casually patted her knee as a gesture of support.

Seeing her sister in person for the first time had been a rush. There was simply no other way to describe the sensation. Lily’s heart had quickened noticeably as redness crept up her neck. To a woman who was not easily intimidated, the emotion was incomprehensible.

To calm her nerves, the attorney turned her attention to more comfortable ground; in this case, to the matters of the court.

Today, there was no evidence or argument. Judge Wostyk was ruling on several preliminary motions, including whether or not to allow cameras in the courtroom. The case had sparked national interest, as Peyton Graves had served on several business and philanthropic boards. His threatened candidacy for governor had become the model for strong-arming politicians to remember their extreme constituencies. Recognizing this interest, and dismissing out of hand the argument that the case could possibly become more sensationalized, the judge ruled that cameras would be allowed, but under the usual guarded conditions.

Wostyk then handed the prosecution a victory, allowing all of the physical evidence that had been gathered thus far to be admitted during the trial. The public defender had sought to suppress first the pawn tickets and items from the Graves home, which he argued were discovered in an illegal search; and all subsequent discovery of blood and DNA, as they would not have been obtained without benefit of the aforementioned items. Only the murder weapon was left unchallenged.

Moss discreetly approached the bailiff’s desk with a business card, asking that it be passed on to the public defender. Lily squirmed uncomfortably as she watched the attorney speak softly to her sister before both turned to look her way.

In a final proclamation from the bench, the trial date was confirmed for a week from Monday. There was no gag order in place, so the parties were free to posture for the press. Four deputies stood to escort the handcuffed prisoners back to the jail.

"You ready for this?" Moss asked.

With a single nod of her head, the attorney grimly walked into the hallway. "How far is the jail?"

"Just a couple of blocks. Let me go firm this up, and I’ll be right back." Moss walked back inside to the defense table and spoke briefly with the public defender, who gave his approval.

Kristy’s public defender had identified Lilian Stuart as an attorney so that she wouldn’t have to wait until evening visitor hours. He was very eager to have this out of the way, and quietly, as negative press about a neglected child would reflect poorly on his client.

Security at the jailhouse was much tighter than it had been at the courthouse. Lily placed her small handbag in her briefcase, leaving it with Moss as she proceeded through a physical search. The San Francisco County Jail wasn’t much different from the one in LA, she thought. Following a guard into the gated elevator, then through two locked checkpoints, she finally reached the area set aside for attorney-client consultations.

A simple table stretched across the width of the small room, two chairs on each side. Lily sat with her back to the windowed door, forcefully calming her jagged nerves with peaceful thoughts: the LA beach at night, the San Gabriel Mountains…. The sound of the opening door brought a tingling to her spine. It was time.

The deputy escorted the prisoner to a chair on the opposite side of the table, explaining in an official monotone the procedures for the visit. Kristy would remain seated at all times. When Lily was ready to depart, she would knock on the door. A deputy would be posted directly outside the door, peering in from time to time.

Finally alone, the women silently appraised one another, both fascinated at the facial resemblance. More incongruous were the dissimilarities: Kristy was thin and frail, with an almost white complexion. Lily was muscular, her tanned face and arms evidence of her outdoor life. Lily was a natural blonde; it was difficult to discern Kristy’s natural color. Since her arrest, her hair was a dull red, almost burgundy, with lighter roots. Tough to get the Clairol in here, Lily surmised.

"So you’re my big sister," Kristy started.

"So it would appear."

Kristy smirked, folding her arms across her chest. "Guess Mother had some secrets."

"Lisa Parker went to jail when I was four years old and I was put up for adoption by the state." After all these years–and last year’s cleansing visit to the cocktail lounge where her mother worked–the bitterness about the circumstances surrounding her adoption was gone. Had she not been separated from Lisa Parker, she might well be wearing an orange jumpsuit too. "But just so you know, you’re not the only one surprised here. I…had no idea you existed until I saw you on TV."

"I was on TV?" Kristy seemed amused, even proud.

Lily didn’t answer, not sure how to address the woman’s silliness.

"How did you know it was me? I mean, that I was your sister?"

"Well, first of all was the physical resemblance. Then when they said your name was Parker, I was pretty sure. So I had somebody I knew at social services look you up."

"Social services," she sneered. "What is it they call that? An oxymoron?"

Lily waited for the woman to elaborate, but apparently she felt her statement said it all.

"Lilian…I bet they call you Lily because it’s cute."

"As a matter of fact, they do."

"Lilian Stuart. Lily Stuart. Little Lily Stuart." Kristy mocked her sister’s name. "So what was it like growing up with the Stuarts? Lots of brothers and sisters around the Christmas tree, I bet."

"No, it wasn’t like that at all." How much did she want to tell this woman who seemed to resent her very existence? "I was adopted by my first grade teacher. It was just the two of us."

"Ah, a teacher’s kid. And now a lawyer." Kristy was back to her amused tone. "Ironic, isn’t it? You are a lawyer. I have a lawyer…Say, how about you being my lawyer?"

"Sorry. Criminal law isn’t my thing." I wish I could have been your lawyer 20 years ago.

Silence hung for several moments as Lily weighed whether to broach the subject of Andy herself, or wait until Kristy satisfied her curiosities.

"So why do want Andres?" Now the prisoner’s tone had turned suspicious.

"Because he needs a place to live where somebody will care about him." That was the easiest answer, and Lily hoped that Kristy would just accept it.

"I’m told he’s doing okay. That’s what the social worker says anyway."

"Andy is okay. He’s safe. He has a comfortable bed. He gets three meals a day, but nobody cares whether he likes his food or not. Nobody cares that he spends the night on the couch because he keeps the others awake with his asthma. Nobody cares about much of anything, as long as he doesn’t misbehave."

"Why do you care?"

Lily knew she was going to have to answer this question carefully, as the naked truth–that without more caring intervention, Andy might end up in this very jail–might trigger a defensive or hostile response.

"Kristy, I…I don’t know what it was like for you at home when you were growing up. I remember some things about when I was there–not a whole lot–but I’ve read some of the social workers’ reports and the court proceedings. The bottom line is that our mother didn’t take very good care of me." That was Part One.

Shifting uncomfortably in her chair, Lily continued. "When they took me away from her for good, I lived in about seven different places before Eleanor Stuart took me home. There isn’t a day that I don’t look back on that and think of it as the luckiest day of my life. It was the first day I can remember getting a hug from a grownup." That was Part Two.

Kristy was listening, but she wouldn’t make eye contact with her sister. No doubt she was thinking of her own life with Lisa Parker.

"I went to see Andy at his foster home a couple of weeks ago. He was very shy when I first got there, but after a while, he played with me. He talked to me and he showed off; and when I left, I asked him for a hug. I don’t know why, but I got the idea that he hadn’t had one in a very long time. That’s when I decided that I wanted him to come live with me. Kristy, he’s a wonderful little boy. And he deserves to have somebody care about him." And that was Part Three.

The redhead continued to stare at the floor, masking whatever emotion simmered under the surface.

"I never hurt him, not once."

This was the opening Lily had needed. "But somebody did, Kristy. And you did what was best for him then, giving him up so he’d be safe. I’m asking you to do what’s best for him now. Let me take him back to LA."

"Who’s Anna Kaklis?"

Shit! "She’s my partner."

If Kristy were at all surprised, she didn’t show it. Most likely, she had read the documents carefully–what else did she have to do?–and had already realized that her sister was gay. "Is she a lawyer too?"

"No, she sells cars."

"She must be pretty good at it. Nearly half a million a year?"

And that’s just her salary, kiddo! "It’s family money. They own a few dealerships." It wasn’t exactly a lie, now that Anna had completed her stock distribution to include David, Kim and herself.

"Well I’d say you sure landed on your feet."

The resentment had returned to the prisoner’s voice. Lily needed to bring her back to the issue at hand.

"So will you sign the papers for Andy?"

"I’ll think about it." The wheels were already turning in Kristy’s head. Andres was the only thing she had that someone actually wanted. If she and Kenny beat this, like he kept saying they would if they both kept their mouths shut, Lily and her partner might be willing to give them money for the "privilege" of keeping her child. And if they didn’t beat it, she didn’t give a flying fuck what happened to anybody else. "I’m through here. Call the guard."


Lily emerged from the secure building feeling as though she’d made her best case. Andy’s fate would ultimately come down to what kind of person his mother was.

"How’d it go?" Moss asked. Lily’s face was unreadable.

"She’s going to think about it…whatever that means."

"That’s probably a good sign. If she didn’t come right out and say no, I think her attorney will keep the pressure on her over the next few days."

Lily nodded pensively. "Maybe you’re right. Listen, would you excuse me for just a couple of minutes. I need to make a phone call."


The attorney removed her cell phone from the compartment inside her briefcase and walked across the courtyard to a bench. When all she wanted was to leave a message for Anna, she would dial the direct number to her office. But when she needed to speak to her partner, she called the receptionist. Carmen always knew where her boss was.

The car dealer took the call in the empty conference room. "This is Anna Kaklis."

"Hi, sweetheart."

"Lily! How did it go?"

"Okay, I guess. It was pretty weird, though."

"What did she say? About Andy, I mean," she asked anxiously. In other words, was Lily bringing home a small child tonight or not?

"She said she’d think about it. I honestly don’t know what she’s going to do."

Anna could hear the disappointment in her partner’s voice. "I’m sorry sweetheart. I know how much you wanted this." If Lily was her usual self, she wouldn’t talk about it all once she got home. "So you’re going to head on back here?"

"Yeah, I’ll probably get a cab as soon as I finish up with John. Listen, I was thinking about something on the way up here, and after the way things went with Kristy, I wanted to call you."

"What is it, hon?"

"I…I was thinking about what would happen if she said no, you know, how I would feel about it. Now that I’ve actually seen her, I’m pretty sure I’d be very disappointed, probably even angry. But if I get that way, Anna, I don’t want you to ever think that it’s because what we have isn’t enough for me. It is enough. You’re the only thing in the world I really need."

Anna was deeply moved by her partner’s declaration. She knew in her heart that Lily somehow needed this child too, but that need was for Andy alone, not because she needed to fill a gap in her life.

"Sweetheart…I love you too." That said it all. "So what time will you be home?"

"I’ll probably go into the office for a couple of hours to get ready for tomorrow. Maybe we’ll just order a pizza tonight. Okay?"

"That’s a deal. Safe travels." Anna started to hang up. "Oh, and Lily? It’ll work out, baby. If she says no this time, we’ll just try something else."

God I love that woman! Lily closed her eyes and said a silent "thank you" that Anna Kaklis was in her life.


Chester announced the arrival of his taller mistress as Lily was putting the finishing touches on their Friday night dinner.

"Lily? Holly’s here," Anna called from the family room.

"Hey! I haven’t seen you in a while." Lily followed the excited dog in to greet the new arrivals. Holly was the sales manager at Premier BMW, and Chester’s dog sitter when she and Anna went out of town. "How about joining us for dinner? We’ve got plenty. I’ll just add another plate."

"No, I can’t stay. Ravi’s fixing chicken curry tonight." Holly’s new husband taught physics at Loyola Marymount. In a joking way, Anna had tried to warn her about those professor types.

"She needs to borrow Chester this weekend," Anna explained. "Is that alright with you?"

Lily was perplexed. "Of course, but why anyone would need a basset hound–especially this one–is beyond me." Oblivious to the insult, the hound presented his soft white stomach for scratches.

"Didn’t Anna tell you? We got a new Labrador, and he’s driving us nuts. We thought maybe he could use a calming influence. If this works out, we may go to the shelter and pick out an older dog."

"You got a Labrador? I always thought you’d get a dachshund." The blonde was going somewhere with this, but Anna couldn’t tell where.

"A dachshund?" Holly repeated gullibly. "Why did you think that?"

"Well, you being from Texas and all."

Neither Anna nor Holly could make the connection.

"Why would my being from Texas mean I’d get a dachshund?"

"Aren’t you guys always telling people to get a long little doggie?" Lily stepped back quickly from the swat that would accompany her partner’s groan.

"Oh, Ravi’s going to love that one," Holly grinned. At least someone appreciated Lily’s brand of humor.

"What if you left Chester and took Lily?" Anna suggested.

"Oh, right! Can you imagine what my dog would be like by Monday?"

Lily retrieved Chester’s leash and three cans of his food. "Just make sure the learning process only goes one way, Holly. We don’t have any use for a basset hound that acts like a Labrador. If you ruin him, you keep him."

Chester happily dashed out the door to the waiting convertible. The dog had no loyalty.

"What’s for dinner?"

"Mmmm…something you like."

Anna spotted the spread on the table first. "Tapas!"

Lily had set out a wheel of brie, Anna’s favorite tapenade, a small slab of smoked salmon, and a thinly sliced seeded baguette. As the car dealer took a seat, she added the final dish.

"You made gazpacho!" In the center of the chilled bowl was a tower of finely chopped peppers, tomatoes and onions, with a scoop of guacamole on top. "When did you have time to do all this?"

"I only worked until noon today. We interviewed a new guy this morning for the part-time slot. I liked him a lot." Lily would go to full-time in three more weeks when the funding kicked in, picking up referrals from a Hispanic women’s shelter.

"What was he like?"

"He’s just out of school at DePaul. He’s African-American, he’s gay, and he moved here to be with his partner. He’d really like to take over the cases from the AIDS grant. Plus, he did a lot of housing work at the student clinic in Chicago."

"You liked him?"

"A lot. We talked to a couple of people earlier who were just looking for work, you know, anything at all to get started. But they all want to get a little experience so they can move on. This guy–his name’s Allen Avery–acts like he really wants to do this kind of work."

"So you think Tony will hire him?"

"Definitely. And if he’s good, I’m sure we’ll find a way to get more funding so he can come on full-time."

"Sweetheart, how are you going to feel about going back to work full-time? Are you going to miss having time off during the week?"

Ever since the possibility rose that Andy might come to live with them, Lily had been thinking about this a lot. "I’ve been sort of thinking about…staying at part-time."

"Oh yeah?" Anna was surprised to hear of this new development.

"Yeah. I was just thinking…you know, if Andy comes to live with us, it might be hard on him to be in day care all day. Maybe if he were older, but he’s just so little."

Anna hadn’t really considered all that. "You mean you’d stay at part-time so you could be home with him?"

"Well, I think it would probably do him some good to be with other children his age, at least some of the time." Lily almost always recommended day care, or a pre-school program like Head Start for the children she dealt with. They needed to learn social behavior. "I thought maybe he could go to pre-school for half a day, and I’d pick him up in the afternoons."

Anna nodded. They sure didn’t need the money, and it made sense that it would be good for the child. "But what about on Thursdays, when you’re in court all day?"

"We’d have to make some special arrangements for that. Maybe you could take Thursday afternoons off," she teased.

Anna’s face went nearly white, her eyes wide with…was that terror? Surely, Lily wasn’t suggesting that she be left alone with this boy.

"Whoa! I was just kidding." Lily was surprised, and even slightly disappointed at the reaction on her partner’s face. "We could work out something else for Thursdays. Besides, it’s all a pipe dream now anyway. I don’t even know what’s going to happen."

The call came as they were loading the dishwasher. Kristy had signed the papers.


Chapter 12


Interstate 5 was a desolate stretch of highway, especially from the bottom of the Grapevine to the cutoff for 101.

Every other time I’ve driven this, it’s taken forever, Anna thought. Today it’s like we’ve gotten here in no time at all.

"Boy, this is a long drive, isn’t it? Seems like it’s taken forever today." Lily interrupted her thoughts, reaching across the console to lay her hand in the driver’s lap.

"It’s going to be a really long day," the dark-haired woman answered noncommittally. They had left the house at six a.m., two travel cups of steaming coffee getting them as far as Gorman, where they stopped briefly for a drive-thru breakfast.

Lily was plainly excited.

Anna was terrified. This was really happening. On their return trip, they’d have a small child in the back seat, coming to live with them and to change their lives. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, she wasn’t so sure. What if he didn’t like her? What if they were unable to control his behavior or meet his needs? Anna had witnessed a number of behavior problems among the children at Kidz Kamp; Lily had explained that most of these youth had poor role models at home, and that being with other children in foster care often brought out the worst in even the best kids.

"I told John I’d call when we got to San Jose." Lily dug for her cell phone and dialed the number Moss had scribbled on his business card. He would not be in his office on Sunday, but was willing to meet them and handle the exchange at the foster home.

"Hi John. It’s Lily. We’ve just gotten to San Jose, so I guess we’ll be there in about 45 minutes. You still want us to come to the house?"

Forty-five minutes!

"I remember how to get there…. Yeah, I picked up a few things for him yesterday."

That was certainly an understatement. Moss had called back on Saturday morning with Andy’s sizes, recommending that Lily get several items for him. The boy had very little clothing of his own, and no toys at all. The attorney had called her sister-in-law, unsure of where to shop for the right things.

"Just go to Target, Lily." She used the French pronunciation of the discount department store. "Kids grow so fast, they get dirty, and they don’t give a damn about labels. You know who would love to go? Mom! Call her, she’ll know just what to get, and she’ll have a ball."

Lily and Martine had had a field day buying clothes: underwear, socks, shorts, t-shirts, jeans, sports sandals, two bathing suits, two nice shirts and a sweater. Lily discovered that she loved kids’ pajamas, and bought five different sets; along with slippers that looked like racecars, right down to the headlights that flashed with each step.

Next came the toys. Lily went heavy on the cars, buying two sets of a half-dozen matchbox cars, a plastic dump truck and a long red fire truck with moving ladders and hoses. To service these vehicles was a gas station and garage. Thirty feet of plastic segments snapped together to make roads and intersections; signs and stoplights completed the set.

At Martine’s suggestion, Lily also picked up a set of three toy boats. "Bath toys," her mother-in-law explained.

Lily thought of passing altogether on the standard teddy bear, but Target had a special on bears dressed in Dodger uniforms. That was a must.

"Just follow the signs toward Candlestick Park." Lily found herself shaking with excitement, Anna with anxiety. At Lily’s direction, the driver wheeled the X5 into the open space behind John Moss’ Honda.

"You ready for this?" Lily eyed her nervous partner.

Anna nodded hesitantly.

"I love you, baby. I hope you know how much it means to me that you’re willing to do this."

Despite her trepidation, a small smile made its way onto Anna’s face. She’d do anything for this woman beside her. "Well, what are we waiting for?"

Lily got out and walked around. Together they crossed the street and climbed the steps to the second floor entrance. Mary Beth Shull met them at the door.

"Welcome back."

"Thank you. Mary Beth, this is my friend Anna Kaklis." Friend? That was weird, but Lily found she didn’t want to share her personal life with this humorless woman.

"Pleased to meet you." Anna shook the foster mother’s hand formally.

"And this is John Moss." From the kitchen doorway, the slender man took two large strides across the living room, holding out his hand to the tall woman.

"Hi John. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you. Lily and I both really appreciate your hard work." Anna’s eyes darted around the room, where two small boys sat quietly in front of the TV. They looked too old to be Andy, she concluded.

"It’s my pleasure. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you as well." Lily’s partner was strikingly beautiful, he thought. "Do you two want to go upstairs and meet Andy, or would you like me to bring him down?"

Lily shrugged, imagining that the boy was hiding again.

"Here’s his stuff," Mrs. Shull offered, handing Anna a brown paper grocery bag, folded down over halfway, foster care’s unofficial suitcase. The boy really had very little. "John said you’d gotten some things for him, so I won’t worry about sending the other things. I’ll keep those on hand in case I get another one that doesn’t have anything."

That was fine with Lily, but she wanted Andy to have at least a few familiar belongings. "Are his favorite things in the bag?"

"No, his favorite t-shirt is in my rag pile. It’s ragged and it has a hole in the side. But he loves it. I practically have to hide it to keep him from wearing it every day."

"Would you mind if we took it?" Lily persisted. "I don’t care if it’s dirty. I just want him to have something he’s comfortable in."

Mrs. Shull left to retrieve the dirty shirt. Moss had started up the stairs.

"You want to come up or wait here?" Lily posed the question to her partner.

Anna looked about anxiously. "Do not leave me alone."

Lily chuckled. "Calm down, Amazon. We’ll be out of here and on our way soon." Taking her partner’s elbow, they slowly followed Moss up to the small bedroom.

The frying pan or the fire? The tall woman wasn’t sure at all that getting out of here was the answer to her fears.

Entering the bedroom at the top of the stairs, the pair found Andy sitting on the edge of the lower bunk, his feet far from reaching the floor. In his hand was the small matchbox convertible, the one Lily knew was his favorite. From his stained cheeks, it was apparent that he had been crying.

"Hi Andy," the blonde said softly, smiling as she stepped toward the obviously surprised child.

Anna watched the boy’s face light up, at once captivated by the red-rimmed green eyes that reminded her of Lily’s. He was dressed in dark blue gym shorts, with a white t-shirt and tennis shoes. A small scrape on his knee had scabbed over.

"Surprised to see me, huh?"

He nodded, never taking his eyes off the smiling face.

"So I guess John didn’t tell you the big news. I’m going to take you home with me today. Would you like that Andy?"

The boy didn’t answer, warring within on whether or not going with this woman that he liked was worth giving up the security of this place he had gotten used to. Worst of all, Mary Beth had told him this morning that he couldn’t take any of the little cars.

Lily squatted down to eye level with the wide-eyed youth. "Andy, do you remember when I told you that a friend of mine liked cars? Well, here’s my friend. This is Anna, and she knows everything about cars. How about that?"

Andy shifted his eyes worriedly to the car dealer, then back to Lily.

"Hi, Andy." Anna squatted alongside her partner, gently touching the boy’s shoulder to say hello.

Interesting….Lily thought. I don’t know which one of these two is more afraid. "So you ready to go, pal?" The blonde woman stood and held out her hand to the small boy.

"I have a few papers for you to sign," Moss interrupted, "and Mary Beth has written up a few things about this young man here that might help you get to know each other over the next few days."

When they reached the bottom of the stairs, Anna’s worst nightmare came true: Lily, John and Mary Beth disappeared into the kitchen and she was left alone by the front door with the small boy.

Standing less than a foot away from the towering figure, Andy had to tilt his head straight back to see this other woman who knew all about cars. Anna felt his eyes on her, glancing down then back up. He continued to stare until finally, she spoke.

"Andy, do you like dogs?"

Quickly the boy shook his head, his wide eyes clearly frightened.

Uh-oh! Damage control was definitely in order. "Big dogs are scary, aren’t they?"

Andy nodded along with the tall woman.

Anna knelt alongside the child. "Even dogs that are only this big are scary, too, aren’t they?" She held her hand even with boy’s chest.

Again he nodded.

"But dogs that come up to only here aren’t scary at all, are they?" This time, she held her hand just below his waist and shook her head no.

Obviously conflicted, Andy didn’t answer.

"Especially when you sit on the floor and they…lick you on the face!" Anna quickly trailed two fingers across the boy’s cheek, causing him to squeal and cover his smiling face with his hands.

"What’s going on in here?" Lily was delighted to hear the laughter, even more so because Anna was undoubtedly the cause.

"Nothing. We were just talking about dogs…licking you on the neck!" This time, she tickled the boy’s neck with those same fingers and he dissolved in giggles, reaching out now to return the favor.

"Andy, you know this is not a playroom," Mrs. Shull warned sternly.

Stunned by the senseless reprimand, Anna quickly stood and held out her hand to the boy. "Andy, why don’t you tell Mrs. Shull goodbye, and we’ll go on out to the car?" Andy, why don’t you tell Mrs. Shull to piss off….

"Bye," he answered, not even turning to look at the foster mother who had kept him in her home for the past two months.

"Thanks, Mary Beth," Moss interjected, steering Lily to the door as well before she could deliver a parting shot. Social services needed people like the Shulls; the alternative was unimaginable.

As they approached the car where Anna and Andy waited, John finished his instructions. "I’ll be in touch with Sandy at least once a week. If you need me for anything, you have my number."

"I think we’re going to be fine, John," the attorney assured.

Anna opened the back door of the X5 and motioned toward the back seat. "Do you want some help, or can you climb up there by yourself?"

Eager to show off his climbing skills to this new person, Andy gripped the car frame with one hand and the door with the other, pulling himself onto the running board. From there, he scampered easily onto the floorboard, then knee first into the seat, turning finally to face the front.

"Nice job." Anna pulled the seatbelt across his tiny body and matched it to its mate, double-checking the security with a firm tug.

Lily stopped her as she reached for the driver’s door. "Oh no, you don’t, Amazon. You drove all the way up here."

Anna continued into the driver’s seat, snapping her own seatbelt into place. "You know what they say about possession."

Lily rolled her eyes, thanked the social worker one more time, and walked around to the other side. From the passenger seat, she had a direct view of their new charge. Andy squirmed as he burrowed his shoulders into the plush leather of the seat, his hands wandering across the textured bench.

Anna pulled away from the curb and executed a tight U-turn. Waving one last time to Moss, they were headed to LA.

"Andy," the car dealer began. "This car is called a BMW X5. Can you say that?"

He seemed genuinely interested in this piece of information, and Lily helped him repeat the name.

"And now this: BMWs are the best cars on the road."

Lily smiled and repeated it herself with animation, then helped Andy with the phrase. His formal education on cars was officially underway.


Barely 30 minutes out of San Francisco, the small boy had hardly made a sound. From her vantage point, Lily could see the fear and doubt on his face. "Is something wrong, Andy?"

Immediately, tears sprang to the youngster’s eyes, but words were not forthcoming. Thoughts of change could be overwhelming to small children as they imagined themselves in new and different places.

"It’s okay. You shouldn’t be afraid."

Anna had been watching him in the rearview mirror, and had an idea. "Lily, how about getting on the phone and finding out where the BMW dealer is in San Jose?"

"I know where it is. Why? Is something wrong with the car?"

"No, I just have an idea, that’s all."

"Are you going to share or keep us in suspense?"

"Suspense is good." She winked at her partner, who proceeded to direct her along the expressways that would take them to Stevens Creek Boulevard, or "Auto Row" as it was known locally.

Twenty minutes later, they were pulling onto the lot, squeezing into a tight space between a customer’s car and a brand new 330i with its hood up.

"I won’t be but a minute if you want to just wait in the car." Anna got out and disappeared into the busy showroom.

Andy stretched his neck to see all the cars on the lot, wishing he were tall enough to see the inside of that one right beside them. He had never seen underneath the top before.

Lily took a moment to peruse Mary Beth Shull’s handwritten notes on the boy while he was in her care. His last physical was in January, but she had taken him to the doctor three times during his relatively short stay in their home. One of the visits was asthma-related, and Mrs. Shull had concluded that the persistent coughing was–at least partially–attention-seeking behavior.

What a load of crap! Lily fumed as she thought again about the child being exiled to the sofa at night because of his difficulty breathing.

The attorney flipped through the pages quickly to find out what the other two visits were for. The physician’s word jumped off the page: enuresis…bedwetting. Not a big surprise, really. The boy wasn’t even four years old yet. From her notes, though, Mrs. Shull was convinced that this was Andy’s passive aggressive response to her demands for discipline. In her mind, the child was both lazy and spiteful, caring nothing about himself or the trouble she went through each morning to dry his bed. As far as Lily was concerned, if Andy was doing it on purpose to protest his treatment, well…good for him!

The tall woman emerged from the showroom with a small white plastic bag, accompanied by a salesman who carried a large box. Opening Andy’s door, she reached in and unbuckled the belt.

"Why don’t you scoot over to the other side for a minute, Andy?"

The child quickly complied.

The salesman removed the bulky piece from the box, stripping away the plastic wrap to reveal a car seat. Efficiently, he demonstrated how it melded into the seat, securing it by the seatbelt. Anna adjusted the shoulder straps for an older child, and held them back while Andy crawled in. Most four-year-olds were just leaving their car seats, the salesman had explained, but once he saw the undersized child, he realized the advantages of the accessory.

Andy realized it instantly as well. From this new vantage point, he could see the shiny black motor inside the car next to him without having to stretch his neck. It was amazing!

Anna thanked the salesman and climbed back into the driver’s seat. "Andy, do you remember what the best cars are?"

Lily helped him by whispering. "BMWs," he answered.

"That’s right. And do you remember what kind of car this is?"

Lily waited while he thought. "Five."

"That’s close. It’s an X5, and this one is Lily’s car. My car is different. My car is called a Z8. Can you say that?"

"Z8," he repeated clearly. That one was easy.

"Good." Reaching into the white bag she’d brought with her from the showroom, she drew out a small box and passed it through the console. "This is what my car looks like." It was a matchbox Z8, just like the custom imported convertible that sat in their garage.

His formal education on cars continued.


Anna pulled into the driveway and pressed the button for the garage door opener.

"I’ll come around and get him," Lily said, keeping her voice low so she wouldn’t wake the sleeping child.

It was after nine, and Lily thought it best just to let Andy continue his restful sleep. They had stopped for dinner at a family restaurant in Bakersfield, the women unable to stomach the idea of two fast food meals in one day.

Both were on the lookout for evidence of the boy’s picky eating habits, and were pleasantly surprised to see him eat most of his fried chicken pieces and French fries. Anna even persuaded him to try a small bite of the coleslaw, laughing as the boy tried gallantly not to make a face.

Andy wasn’t at all what the tall woman had expected. Her fear of the child had temporarily vanished the moment his foster mother scolded him for actually having fun. In that instant, she understood exactly what Lily had said about what he needed to thrive. With the car seat and toy car, she had found favor with the boy, but she couldn’t bribe him with gifts over and over.

Now that they were home, Anna found herself once again daunted by the prospect that they were now responsible for this small person. Fortunately, Lily seemed willing to take the lead; and it was likely that Anna’s role would be minimal. She would leave for work at seven, like she did every day, and come home 12 hours later. If tonight were any indication, the child would probably be asleep soon after that.

Lily unbuckled the shoulder harnesses and gently lifted the sleepy boy from the SUV, drawing him to her chest. Tucking one arm firmly underneath his buttocks, she used her other hand to guide his head to her shoulder, where he promptly returned to dreamland. Anna got the door, then forged ahead of her partner to turn on lights. When they reached the boy’s bedroom, Lily knelt down to seat him on the edge of the bed.

"Andy? I need you to wake up for a little while so you can change into your pajamas and go to the bathroom. Can you do that?"

The boy opened his eyes, taking in his new surroundings. There were two beds, but he couldn’t see anyone else. Would he be the only boy in this house, like he had been in the house before Mary Beth? There were two large pictures of cars, one over each bed. There was a desk like the one Mr. Shull had in the corner of the living room, but this one was smaller, and it had lots of books on the shelf over it.

The tall woman walked over and laid the small sports car on the bed beside him. He was glad she had bought it for him to play with while he lived here.

Lily opened the top drawer of the chest and took out a pair of pajamas. "Andy, why don’t you go to the bathroom and then wash your hands and face while I get your bed ready?"

Wordlessly, he scooted down off the bed and walked toward the room where the tall woman had just turned on the light. Once inside, he closed the door, pushing against it with his hip until he heard the click of the catch. Mrs. Shull got angry when the boys left the door open.

"I need to get a couple of plastic trash bags from the kitchen," Lily said as she rushed past her partner. Moments later, she was back.

"What are those for?"

"I read the notes from Mrs. Shull on the way down. She says Andy wets the bed. I can go tomorrow and get a plastic liner for the mattress, but these will do for tonight." Hastily, the two women pulled the sheets down and spread the trash bags, retucking them just as the small boy emerged from the bathroom.

"Did you wash your face and hands, pal?" Lily asked.

She’s got this mother thing down pat, Anna thought.

Andy nodded. He liked the footstool that stood in front of one of the sinks. It was easy to reach the water and he didn’t get his shirt wet.

"Okay, why don’t you put these pajamas on and I’ll see if I can find your new toothbrush." Lily looked at her partner and asked, "Will you help him with the buttons?"

Anna sat on the bed as Andy shyly took off his t-shirt. Clumsily, he slid his arms through the armholes and started to button. Sure enough, he began the task with trying to put the first button through the second hole.

"Let me help, Andy." She reached out and guided the first button home, then the second. "Can you do the rest?"

It was painstakingly slow, but eventually he finished. Anna held out his pajama bottoms and he quickly pushed the shorts over his shoes.

"Andy, why don’t you take your shoes off next? That makes it easier to get the pants on." Nothing to this mother stuff, she thought smugly.

The boy promptly sat in the floor and tugged off his shoes, not bothering with the double-knotted laces. Taking the pants from the tall woman’s outstretched hands, he pulled them up past his knees, then stood and continued to his waist.

"Here you go, Andy." Lily appeared in the bathroom doorway with a toothbrush and toothpaste. "Let’s do this last thing, and I’ll read you a story before you go to sleep."

Andy dutifully obeyed, and with Lily’s hand guiding his up and down, the job was soon finished. "Good job!" she praised enthusiastically.

Lily was mildly disappointed to find that Anna had left the room. She could hear her lover on the phone downstairs.

"Let me show you a couple of things before you go to bed, okay?"

The boy nodded. He had barely said a word since he had awakened.

Lily bent down and scooped the small child up in her arms. Walking out the bedroom door, she stopped on the landing at the top of the stairs. "If you wake up tonight and need something, just come into this room. But be careful right here. I don’t want you to fall down the stairs."

She continued onward into the master suite. "Anna and I sleep in here. If you need something, you can come in and wake one of us up. It’s okay."

Walking back down the hall, she heard her partner closing up and turning out the lights. It had been a very long day and they would go to bed soon.

"Okay, pal. Do you have anything you want to ask me before you go to bed?"

"No," came the small voice.

Back in his bedroom, Andy got under the covers as Lily selected a book. Turning off the overhead light, she used the soft light from the bathroom nightlight to find her way back to the bed, where she switched on the bedside lamp.

"Want to sit up a while so you can see the pictures?" she offered.

Eventually the boy settled into her side and she began reading the short book, stopping on occasion to point out pictures or ask questions. She was pleased that Andy was paying very close attention to the tale of the talking toys.

"Okay, I’m going to stop here so you can go to sleep now. I’ll read the rest of it tomorrow night. Would you like that?"

"Yes," he answered, sliding down in the bed.

Lily straightened the covers and knelt down low. "Andy, I’m really glad you’re here with us. Anna’s glad too." With those assurances, she delivered a small kiss to his forehead. "Goodnight, sweetheart."

Lily turned off the bedside light and walked out, leaving the door barely ajar so that a small stream of light would creep into the room from the hall. A nightlight at the top of the stairs lit the entire landing.

The exhausted blonde found her partner in the bathroom getting ready for bed.

"I’m beat," Anna said.

"Me too. Who were you talking to on the phone?"

"My girlfriend. I told her I couldn’t get away tonight. I…didn’t know you could hear."

Lily popped her lover with a washcloth. "Not funny, Amazon."

"It was Holly. I asked her if she’d keep Chester for a few more days until Andy got settled."

"Chester! I forgot all about Chester."

"Don’t worry, I won’t tell him." Anna wrapped her arms around the smaller woman and let her lips chase away any thoughts that there could ever be anyone else. "I love you."

"I love you too. You were great today. I think Andy likes you."

"You think?" Anna knew he liked the car, and he had certainly enjoyed their little game that Mrs. Shull had interrupted. Still, she knew it would probably take quite a while for the little boy to loosen up around either of them.

"Definitely. I can’t believe you got him to try the coleslaw."

Anna chuckled. "Did you see his face?"

The women traded their perspectives on the day as they finished getting ready for bed. Anna followed Lily’s lead and kept her nightshirt on as she got into bed.

"Is this how it’s going to be?" she asked, running her fingers along the ragged purple tank top.

"Just until he gets used to being here. I told him to come on in if he had any problems. Later on, we’ll teach him about knocking on doors and waiting for permission. I think we’ll be able to go back our…natural state then."

"Let’s hope he’s a fast learner."

Alone in his room, the small boy laid awake long past the time when the adults turned their lights out, knowing with a certainty what would happen if he fell asleep.


Chapter 13


"And this is the kitchen," Lily told the child as they entered the brightly lit tile room where her partner sat reading the paper and drinking her second cup of coffee.

Getting Andy up had started out badly. He held the covers tightly as Lily tried to pull them back.

"Come on, Andy. Let’s go downstairs so we can have breakfast with Anna before she leaves for work."

Still, he refused to move.

"Are you worried about something, sweetheart? Did you wet the bed last night," she asked quietly, doing her best to keep any sign of rebuke from her voice. Seeing the tears rush to the frightened boy’s eyes, she quickly added, "It’s okay if you did, Andy. Those things just happen. It’s because you’re still little. When you get older, it won’t happen anymore. It’s not your fault."

This was definitely a new message. Mary Beth had gotten angry and upset every morning.

"Let’s clean you up a little bit and get you some dry pajamas, okay?"

Andy followed her into the bathroom, where she helped him out of his wet things. He didn’t seem to mind when she pulled off his underwear. Gently, she washed his legs and buttocks with a washcloth, finally handing it to him. "Can you wash this part yourself?" She gestured to his private area. "You shouldn’t let other people touch you there, okay?"

"It’s private," he said in agreement. Mary Beth had said the same thing when he took his bath.

"That’s right." Lily was relieved to see that he’d already gotten some early training on that. Many of the children she encountered in her work were not so lucky.

"Good morning, Andy," Anna looked up to an adorable sight: the boy holding her lover’s hand as he took in his new surroundings. He was wearing fresh pajamas, and his new car-like slippers. She had heard the pair laughing as he walked again and again toward the full-length hallway mirror, where he could see the headlights flash with each step.

"Can you say good morning to Anna?" Lily coaxed. Little by little, they hoped he would open up.

"Good morning," he finally said.

"Go on over to the table and I’ll bring you some breakfast."

Anna moved the newspaper from the padded bench that bordered the bay window. "Sit over here by the window, Andy."

They boy’s eyes went wide as he climbed up on the seat and spotted the swimming pool for the very first time. "What’s dat?"

Almost shocked that he had spoken, Anna followed his pointing finger to the pool. "That’s a swimming pool. Do you like to swim?"

The boy shrugged his shoulders. He had never been swimming before.

"We’ll give a try later, okay?"

Lily brought his cereal and juice, and took the opportunity to tell him that he must never go out to the swimming pool by himself.

Anna checked her watch and stood. "I need to go to work. You two have a good day." Quickly, she gave her lover a peck on the lips, not sure what the new rules were about showing affection. She got her answer when she felt the tug on her shirt.

"I know you can do better than that."

Anna smiled and delivered a loving kiss that Lily felt all the way down to her bare feet. As she pulled away, she felt another pull. Lily jerked her head discreetly to the small boy who was intently pursuing the little round oats in his bowl.

Okay. Anna wasn’t sure what to do here, but decided just to go for it. Slipping around the table on the padded bench, she gave the child a soft hug and a kiss on top of his head. "I’ll see you tonight when I get home, Andy. Have fun today."


Hal looked up from his desk to see his wife once again navigating the doorway with a heavy-laden stroller and a toddler in tow.

"Again?" he asked, already knowing the answer. Catching the jubilant Jonah as he raced into the room, Hal stood and gave his wife a welcoming kiss. "Hello, beautiful," he cooed into the stroller at Alice. "So where’s my lunch?"

On cue, Anna entered with soft drinks. "Your pizza will be here in about 10 minutes. Hi Jo-Jo!"

The boy squirmed down to give his aunt a hug. Anna was suddenly struck by the difference between her reaction to Jonah and to Andy. With her nephew, the show of affection was clearly automatic. She never had to stop and think about what she should do; she just did it naturally. With Andy, she weighed her words, and questioned at each juncture how to show the child affection.

Of course, there were differences between Jonah and Andy, she reasoned. She had been close to her nephew since the night he was born, and he was after all, her sister’s child. Is that why Lily seems so natural around Andy, because he is her nephew?

"So you have a little one in your house now, eh?" Kim was excited to hear all about Andy, but sensed that this little emergency session wasn’t so that Anna could boast about the new addition.

"Yeah, we brought him home last night."

"How did it go?"

"Okay, I guess."

Kim was almost amused at her sister’s discomfort. The very thought of someone who wielded Anna’s power and confidence being intimidated by a four-year-old made her itch to be a fly on the wall at the Brentwood home.

"Tell me what he’s like."

"Well, he’s cute, very cute. He’s got curly brown hair and big green eyes like Lily’s." That was Anna’s favorite part. "He’s pretty small, not much bigger than Jonah. He doesn’t say much, but Lily says he might open up once he gets used to us. He’s got a gorgeous little smile." Anna smiled herself when she thought of the tickle game.

"He sounds adorable. I can’t wait to meet him. Maybe we should have a play day next weekend so that he and Jonah can get together."

"Maybe so. That might be fun." Anna twirled a pencil as her thoughts of Andy went on.

"Was there something else you wanted to talk about, Anna? The last time you called me down here, you were panicked about him coming. What is it you’re feeling now?"

Anna sighed. What she was feeling was guilty–very guilty about her reaction to having Andy in their home. She wanted to talk, but she was almost ashamed of what she might say.

"Kim, I’m going to tell you some things that I’m not very proud of. I need to know that this conversation will never leave this room."

"Anna, you should know by now that I don’t tell your secrets. I never have."

Anna nodded her agreement and sighed again. "I…it’s…I think it’s going to be hard to get used to having a little kid in the house all the time." There was a lot more to it than that, but that was as good a starting place as any.

"Well, I know what you mean by that. It’s definitely different. But Hal and I had a lot of time by ourselves before Jonah. Plus, we had nine months to get ready for him."

"How do you guys deal with it?"

"Well that depends on what you’re asking. We still have sex." She grinned, anticipating the blush that her candor would produce. She was not unrewarded.

"But that’s just one thing," Anna answered. "We’ll figure that part out if I have to set the alarm for the middle of the night." It was pretty high on Anna’s priority list to sort that out soon. "But it’s more than just having our private time, it’s…pervasive. He’s going to be the center of breakfast every day, and of dinner every night, and pretty much everything we do together."

Kim was beginning to understand the problem. Her sister was jealous. "You know, little kids are like that. They need things; they need a lot of attention. And they pretty much need it all the time, because they don’t understand yet how other people fit in."

"I know, and that’s why I feel so…guilty. Andy really needs Lily right now, and I’m afraid I’m going to resent it."

Anna’s omission of how Andy might need her also didn’t escape the redhead. Maybe that’s what her sister needed to confront.

"Do you think it’s possible that Andy might need you too?"

"Oh, I don’t think so, really. Lily pretty much takes care of everything."

"How do think Lily feels about that?"

"I don’t know. I think she likes it."

"You mean she likes doing everything or she likes doing it by herself?"

Ouch! That stung a little.

Kim went on. "I love my children, Anna, and no matter how many times I’ve threatened to sell them to the gypsies, I enjoy doing things for them. But I want Hal to enjoy it too, and not just because I sometimes need his help. I want him to be able to share the feeling with me, and I want my children to know that they can depend on their daddy too."

Anna immediately made the connection to her friend Carolyn, who wanted to share everything about Sarah with Vicki. Kim was saying the same thing about Hal. So far, Anna had gone through all the motions of supporting her partner–agreeing about what was best for Andy, changing things in their home, driving to San Francisco to get the boy–but without a genuine need of her own. No, she did what she did because it was the right thing to do, an obligation to both her partner and her own sense of reason.

"Sister, listen to me." Kim reached out and took the dark-haired woman’s hand. "You and Lily said you didn’t know how long Andy would be with you. If it’s only a little while, it probably won’t be a big deal. But if it’s longer, you’re going to need to work this out with Lily. Otherwise, one of you is eventually going to have to make a choice."

Anna didn’t want to hear that part at all. Leaving Lily was out of the question, and she knew she’d do anything to have her partner stay. If Andy lived with them forever, she’d figure out how to make it work.

"We’ll work it out, Kim. I just need to grow up."

"Anna, you have a right to your feelings. You made an unselfish choice about bringing Andy into your house, and there may be times that you wish you hadn’t. But you can’t ever let that little boy think that he’s the problem. He won’t be able to deal with that."

That much Anna understood. Andy’s self-esteem needed a boost, not a blow.

"And I’m here for you anytime you need someone to talk to. Hal’s a great babysitter, and we can have a standing Monday appointment, as far as I’m concerned."

"We just might, Kimmie." Anna loved her sister, and just realized that they’d made it through this whole deep conversation without a single sarcastic remark.

"That’s fine with me. With a little luck, horror stories about Andy might make me feel better about my own kids."

The car dealer chuckled. That smartass was the sister she knew and loved. "Thanks for coming down again."

"No problem. So ask Lily about all of us getting together next weekend. Jonah has toys, but you guys have a pool."

"We’ll do it. Maybe you can bring a few toys. I don’t know what Andy likes, except for cars."

"He likes cars?"

"Loves them."

"Sounds like an omen to me, Sis."


Day by day, Anna, Lily and Andy settled more and more into their new routine. Lily had gotten the boy into a pre-school program near their home, and on Wednesday night after Lily’s AA meeting, the three had gone to dinner at the home of Anna’s parents. It was important for everyone to meet, since Martine had stepped up to fill in as babysitter on Thursdays when Lily was in court.

Lily had made Allen Avery’s day when she asked Tony to take the young man on full-time. For the time being, she would continue at part-time, and would seek additional funding if she decided to expand her work hours.

By Thursday night, the blonde had had the "knocking on the door" talk with the boy, and the lovers enjoyed their first intimate evening since getting their new addition. All in all, things seemed to be going well for everyone.

On Friday, Anna brought Chester home. Despite his initial fears, Andy was delighted with the dog, and the basset hound too seemed to enjoy this new addition. Anna showed the child how to scratch Chester’s belly, and sure enough, Andy got the licks in the face that she had promised in San Francisco.

The Sunday play day turned into an all-day family pool party, with Andy finally loosening up a little. He was thrilled when Anna and Hal tossed him back and forth in the water, and Jonah’s dinosaur inner tube was perfect for kicking the length of the pool and back.

Sandy and Suzanne stopped by for burgers later in the afternoon as the social worker completed her obligatory "home visit" so that she could report back to the agency in San Francisco.

"You guys did a great job on the bedroom upstairs," Sandy congratulated her friend.

"Everything you said was perfect. The bed, the step stool, the nightlights. I think he’s settled in pretty well," Lily said.

"Are you and Anna doing okay?"

"Yeah, I think so. At first, it was…I don’t know…like she didn’t know what to do, so she just stepped back and let me take care of everything. But look at her now." Both of the women smiled as they watched the tall beauty playing in the pool with the two boys and the others. Even George had joined them, while Martine had volunteered for Alice Duty.

"You guys are going to turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to Andy Parker." Those were the very words she had shared with John Moss.

"I hope so, Sandy. But who knows how long he’ll get to stay here. I think that sister of mine could change her mind on a whim."

"Maybe, but with that trial starting tomorrow, I think she’s going to be too busy to think about Andy at all. It wouldn’t surprise me if you and Anna were driving him to his high school graduation."

That thought both thrilled and frightened Lily. She and her partner hadn’t really talked about Andy being here permanently. But in the week he’d been there, she already knew that she wouldn’t want to see him go.

Anna was herself loosening up with the small boy today. It was easier to interact with him when she was around the other adults, especially when they were playing with such spontaneity. All of them worked hard to balance their time and attention between the two boys.

Lily had put her on the spot one night, telling Andy to ask her to play with him and his cars on the floor in the family room. There was no way she could graciously decline, but she felt a little self-conscious at first. Eventually, she learned all of Andy’s "rules" and began even having a little fun motoring the miniature car through the boy’s grid of streets in the make-believe town. The best part was telling Andy that she kept hearing the engine knock on the matchbox Cadillac. He listened again and again, finally proclaiming that he heard it too.

"So how come you’re not in the pool?" Sandy asked.

"Well somebody has to cook! And besides, Anna and I went in with him this morning before everybody got here so he wouldn’t be afraid. He said he’d never been swimming before."

"That’s hard to believe. Look at him. He’s fearless."

"Yeah, I think he trusts Anna to keep him safe. Probably the first time he’s trusted anybody," she added cynically. "Hey, dinner’s ready. Suzanne, you want to see if you can get those guys out of the pool?"

Always eager to eat, Suzanne walked to the water’s edge and made the announcement. Gullibly, she offered her hand to Hal as he started up the ladder, and found herself sailing headfirst into the deep end, tennis shoes and all.


Jury selection in the Peyton Graves murder trial dragged into its second week, not at all unusual for a case with an abundance of pretrial publicity, not to mention the possibility of a death penalty. Lily followed the news faithfully, but little was released during this period. The public would know nothing about the jurors until after the trial.

A 12-person jury, with two alternates, was finally seated on the second Thursday. Amid vehement protests from defense counsel, Judge Wostyk decided to forge ahead with opening arguments on Friday. That put the defense at a decided disadvantage, since the prosecution could use the entire day to outline their case, not giving them a moment’s opportunity to rebut what was said. The jury would take home that story–and only that story–for the entire weekend.

Lily concurred with the defense that it was bad news for them, but she couldn’t cite a single a case that was overturned on appeal because of a scheduling decision like this one. A tough break was what it was, probably neither the first nor the last for McGinnis and Parker.

The attorney had programmed their PVR system to record Court TV each day from nine a.m. to five p.m., the usual court day minus an hour and a half for lunch. She would watch as much as she could, but she didn’t want Andy to see his mother under these circumstances.

Staying home on Friday, Lily was able to watch the beginning of the trial live. The prosecutor first told the jurors that the state would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Kenneth McGinnis and Kristy Parker had brutally murdered Peyton Graves at his home on the night of March 25th. Piece by piece, he detailed the state’s evidence: items belonging to Graves and pawn tickets for other items, found in the possession of the accused; bloodstains that matched Graves’ DNA found on Kristy Parker’s jeans; hair samples found at the scene that matched Parker’s DNA; and finally, the murder weapon, a bloody knife found wedged between two newspaper racks near Graves’ home.

The prosecutor went on to hypothesize about what the defense might say with regard to this damning evidence, and attempted to poke holes in what he called "a completely implausible scenario." Lily used this technique sometimes herself, designed to "inoculate" the judge or jury against any evidence they might hear later.

When she returned at 1:30 from picking up Andy after pre-school, Lily played with him for a while in his room, then encouraged him to take a short nap. That gave her a few minutes to catch up on the afternoon court session. The prosecutor was still rolling, talking about the brutality of the crime, and why it warranted the death penalty. He prepared the jury for the pictures he would show: pictures of a man who had been viciously killed in a rage by two people who cared nothing for the sanctity of human life, "those two people," he said, pointing to McGinnis and Parker.

Lily took notice of her sister’s appearance in the courtroom. She was dressed in a simple skirt and round-collar white blouse with buttons up the front and flowers on the right breast pocket. She had probably never worn anything like that in her entire life. Her hair was brown, not the burgundy it had been, and the roots had been freshly dyed.

Since she first appeared in court at the nine a.m. session, Lily had noticed a subtle change in her sister’s appearance. At that time, she was calm and collected, sporting an almost defiant air. This afternoon, she seemed rattled, staring at the table and fidgeting with a paperclip. To Lily, she appeared childlike and frightened.


Startled by the small voice, the attorney fumbled with the remote to turn the TV off before the child spotted his mother.

"Hi there. Did you have a nice nap?"

Andy nodded, obviously still sleepy.

"Come here and sit with me."

Little by little, Andy was getting closer to the women in this new house, especially this one. So far, they had both been pretty nice, and neither one had yelled at him for anything. The tall one was kind of scary sometimes. She didn’t say very much, so he wondered if she was mad at him for something that he did. He started to climb up on the sofa beside Lily, but she grabbed him instead and pulled him into her lap.

"Do you like living here, Andy?"


"I thought so. What do you like about it?"

"I like my room, and my toys, and Chester."

"Uh-huh. What else?"

"I like the swimming pool."

"Anything else?"

Andy was in a quandary. He really liked Lily a lot, but what if he told her and she didn’t like him?

Lily could see that he was stuck, maybe even too shy to say anything else. "You know what I like, Andy? I like you. I think you’re a very good boy, and I’m very glad that you live here."

That got a bashful smile, which in turn, earned him a fierce hug.

"Let’s go to the store and get something good for dinner, okay?" For the first time in his young life, the child had a say-so about what foods he might have for dinner. His personal favorite was macaroni and cheese, but he also liked mashed potatoes and gravy. Lily explained that people usually had one or the other for dinner, but seldom both. She allowed him to pick out one vegetable–it was a house rule that he would try at least three bites of a vegetable each night–and she would choose the others. He had chosen broccoli, saying it reminded him of "little trees." That in turn reminded Lily of the Cornish hens she had always called "little chickens."

She was pleased that Andy’s appetite had improved somewhat over the past couple of weeks, and had passed this information on to John Moss by email. The best news was that the boy hadn’t had a single asthma attack, even after Chester came back home. All of this translated to a healthier, happier, well-adjusted child.

Andy’s new chore at dinner time was to scrape the dog food out of Chester’s can into his bowl. Both boy and dog liked this, though dog thought it took much longer when boy did it. Dog was right.

"Hello, everybody!" the car dealer called from the family room.

"There’s Anna. Go tell her what we’re having for dinner."

Andy rushed into the family to greet the tall woman. "We’re having pork chops…and macaroni…and little trees…and applesauce…and…." Quickly he ran back into the kitchen to look at the table. "And bread," he announced as she entered the kitchen.

"Hi baby." Lily stopped stirring the macaroni and cheese and gave her lover a welcoming kiss.

"Something smells good…could it be…pork chops?"

"Did somebody tell you that already, or did you just guess?"

"I told her," Andy squealed.

Anna looked in the pot and rolled her eyes. She hated macaroni and cheese. A lot. But it was Andy’s favorite food, and since they were trying to get him to eat some of everything, he had asked why she didn’t have to eat some of everything too. Very astute lad.

"How would you like to have a couple of visitors on the lot tomorrow?" Lily asked as they were sitting down at the table. "I think Andy would really enjoy seeing where you work."

"I don’t know," Anna teased. "I just work around a bunch of cars. You don’t like cars, do you?"

Andy’s eyes lit up. Anna had his undivided attention.

"Which cars are the best?"

"BMWs!" he practically shouted.

"Right answer! Why don’t you come around two? I’ll give you both a tour."

Lily’s phone interrupted their dinner–again! "Just let it ring." And ring it did. Voicemail picked up after the fourth ring; but no sooner had it stopped than it began ringing again.

"Fine!" Lily stormed off, ready to give some poor telemarketer an earful.

"Hello!" she barked. "She what? John, you can’t be serious. What on earth could she want with me?"

By her lover’s tone and the general conversation, Anna put it together that John Moss was on the phone, and this call was about Kristy.

"Did she even say anything about…him? Did she even ask how he was doing?" Lily looked across the room at the child, who was digging into his macaroni and cheese, oblivious to the fact that he was the subject of the call.

"That’s just great, John. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I have to talk with Anna. I can’t believe she thinks she can just snap her fingers like that." Lily was fuming. "What can she do if I say no?"

Anna watched her lover slowly calm as she listened to Moss’ reply.

"What do I need to do?" Removing a pen from the drawer, Lily jotted down the public defender’s name and telephone number. "Okay John. Normally, I’d say thanks for calling, but I could have done without this one."

Lily returned to the table, no longer interested in dinner. The three made casual conversation until Andy had finished most of what was on his plate.

"Andy, why don’t you go set up your streets in the family room, and I’ll come and play with you in a little while, okay?"

When he was gone, Anna reached over and clasped her lover’s wrist. "She’s asking for you?"

Lily nodded grimly. "She wants to talk to me on Sunday night, then she wants me to come to the trial and sit behind her."

"That’s ridiculous. Just tell her no."

"Anna," Lily paused, knowing that she might have to go against her partner’s wishes here. "John says she threatened to pull Andy out of here if I didn’t come. She told him that she would ask to have him placed with our mother instead." The very thought of that made Lily physically ill.



Oh, nooooo, Mr. Bill!!! Part 5

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