“What was his name?” asks Belle.
“Jim Garnet,” Rachel answers. “At least, that’s what we knew him as.”
“We?’ asks Belle.
“My family,” Rachel says quietly. She turns pale.
“Are you all right?” Belle asks.
“I-I don’t know.”
“Here, lie down on the couch,” Belle suggests. “I’ll get you a drink. I have a feeling you have a lot to tell me.”
“Thanks for taking care of him, mom,” says Amanda.
“Oh, it’s no problem,” Carol answers. She turns to Lucas. “We had a great time, didn’t we, Lucas?” Lucas nods. “We learned our ABCs today. Can you still remember them?” Lucas nods. “Good, ‘cus I’ll test you on them tomorrow.”
“Are you sure you can watch him tomorrow?” asks Amanda.
“I don’t see why not?” Carol replies.
“What about your work?”
“What about it? I sit in the office doing paperwork all day. It’s nice to take a break sometimes. For the most part, Lucas is very quiet. But, we take breaks and now that spring is finally here, we take walks.”
“I can’t expect this of you. We should have thought about that before we agreed to all this.”
“What’s the difference,” says Carol. “If you had a child and had to go back to work, do you suppose I’d let you put the child in daycare?”
“I don’t know. I’d never thought about it. But I don’t know how the others will feel about this arrangement. I mean, they each took him in and spent a lot of time with him.”
“It’s not the quantity, but the quality of time that’s important,” Carol points out. “Are you suggesting that you wouldn’t be a good parent just because you’ll have to put your child in someone else’s care? C’mon. You know better than that.”
“I don’t mean that,” explains Amanda. “It would be different if it was my own child. No one can question me on that. But, it’s just that we all wanted to offer him a home and it doesn’t seem fair to the others that I could have such a strong case, yet not be there for him during the day, and sometimes the night. I have the least experience with raising a child.”
“I won’t disagree with you on that point. But, you all have a claim on him and it’s hard to say who has the strongest claim. This is an experiment for all of you. No one said that it would be easy on anyone. You can’t have expected that in the end, everyone will still be fighting for him. You have to think about what will make him happiest.”
“That’s what we’re trying to do and I’m afraid I’ve already concluded that Michael and I are probably not going to be the answer.”
“It’s too early, yet. But, be honest with the others and see what they think. There’s really no reason that you should abort the experiment just because you feel guilty.”
“Does this mean we get another shot at our boutique?” asks Leslie.
“No,” says Carl. “I’m sorry, honey, but that’s still on hold.”
“But the landlord’s going to ask for the rent. How are we going to continue paying all the expenses if we’re not making any money?”
Carl sighs. “I guess you’ll have to go back to your old jobs for a while. Just until we get this sorted out.”