Tuesday, March 11, 2014


      Jeannette had a bruise all down her right side the next morning, and three stitches in her cheek from Mrs. Evans' multiple rings, but she came to the funeral. Dr. Halliday stood on her right side, and Mr. Thomas on her left, with Max and Nathan right behind her. All of Brody's co-workers from the dealership and his basketball pals formed a protective ring around her that only Mr. Allenby, the current Evans family lawyer, dared to penetrate.
      The poor man looked guilt-stricken as he approached with a sheaf of papers an inch thick. Knowing how her mother-in-law treated all those who weren't entirely in support of her, Jeannette supposed Mr. Allenby would soon be set free of service to the Evans clan. She hoped the man appreciated how his display of conscience had left him better off in the long run.
      "I hope my demands are included in that," Jeannette said as her protective escort parted to let the man approach. He had always made her think of a cracked dime store vase wrapped in gold foil and silk ribbons.
      "Well, no..." He sighed and raked one well-manicured hand through his still-thick hair. "There is an agreement you will take back your maiden name, renounce all claims on the Evans family, and cease your lies."
      "Not a lie. I've got the tests to prove that," Dr. Halliday said with a loud harrumph calculated to be heard across the crowded, too-quiet room. He had served in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for fifteen years and still carried himself as if he wore the natty red uniform under his gray pinstripe suit.
      "Mrs. Evans believes the story is a... fabrication, either created out of hysteria or to deliberately inflict emotional pain on her and her family."
      Jeannette surprised herself by smiling. It trembled in the corners. She had lain awake after Max joined her in the big double bed -- and she was more grateful for the company than she could express -- thinking hard and planning until nearly four a.m., trying to predict how Mrs. Evans would react to her public loss of control and humiliation yesterday. Somehow, demanding Jeannette sign papers denying the existence of her baby hadn't been among all her wild imaginings.
      "I'm not signing that, because that would be admitting to a lie. I don't lie. Not even to salve her pride. But it won't matter, anyway, because I'll never mention her or her family or Glenwood ever again. Certainly never to my child. And I am moving far away from here, where no one cares who the Evanses of Glenwood are, so why talk about them? I'll leave Glenwood. Gladly. I'll change my name. Gladly. But she has to sign a paper giving up all rights and claims on me and my child. Brody's child. Forever."

      "Sweetheart," Mr. Thomas muttered, "if she doesn't, I'll ask for a permanent restraining order." He took the papers from Mr. Allenby. "Let my company lawyers look this over and we'll get back to you."

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