Otto straightened. “Mr. Cox will agree to pay for the refresher courses, but they must be completed within a predetermined time.”

“My main concern is supporting my children and making a new life for myself,” Rosie said.

“You have meetings and volunteer commitments every night of the week,” Zach taunted. “If the kids live with me, they won’t be eating packaged dinners.”

“Do you plan to do all this cooking and caring by yourself or will you be hiring your assistant to do it for you?” Rosie was half out of her chair, so outraged she felt like screaming.

“Please,” Sharon Castor said, again placing her hand on Rosie’s arm. “Yelling isn’t going to solve a thing.”

“I want my children with me,” Zach insisted.

“Allison and Edward belong with me,” Rosie countered.

Sharon Castor and Otto Benson exchanged looks.

“In instances such as this, when both parents have strong feelings about the custody of their children, it’s best to work out a joint custody plan.” Otto spoke first, laying the suggestion on the table for Rosie and Zach to examine.

“How would that work?” Zach asked, his temper cooling.

Rosie’s own sense of outrage was partially mollified, although she hated the idea of her children being exposed to Zach’s girlfriend. Joint custody wasn’t a new concept by any means, but it wasn’t something she wanted to consider. Frankly, she’d assumed that Zach would rather not have the kids getting in the way of his new relationship. She’d also assumed that his arguments to the contrary had been intended as leverage against her.

“I recommend that the children spend four days with Rosie,” Sharon Castor said, “then three with Zach.”

“And the following week,” Otto Benson added, “they’d be four days with Zach and three with Rosie.”

Sharon nodded.

“What about child support?” Zach asked.

Leave it to him to ask about money.

Otto explained that in situations like the one described, there would be no child support paid. However, all expenses for the children, such as braces, summer camp and clothing, would be shared.

At first Rosie fumed that Zach would dare to bring up the subject of support at all, but the more she thought about it, the better she felt. This was an opportunity to prove to Zach that she didn’t need him. He’d figure out soon enough that he needed her, though; he’d never appreciated everything she did for him. She’d be free to make a new life without having to depend on him for anything and that was the way she wanted it. Perhaps joint custody was worth considering.


Grace couldn’t afford a single night in a luxury hotel in downtown Seattle, much less two, but she booked the weekend anyway, using a discount coupon. Next she went to see Maryellen at the gallery. Her oldest daughter had been avoiding her since Christmas. Grace wasn’t putting up with any more of that.

“Hello, sweetheart,” she said, grateful that Maryellen was alone in the gallery.

Maryellen looked slightly apprehensive, and Grace knew she was searching for an excuse to cut this visit short. “Hi, Mother.” She acknowledged her with a brief nod. “To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?”

“I’ve come with an olive branch.”

Her daughter regarded her warily. “Why is that? Have we argued?”

“Not exactly, but lately whenever we’ve been together, I’ve tried to ferret out information about the baby’s father and your plans. That was a mistake.” Maryellen had refused to answer any of her questions, and Grace suspected that whoever had fathered her daughter’s child wasn’t yet aware of the fact. Her biggest fear was that he was a married man. Maryellen’s reaction to her probing led her to suppose exactly that.

Maryellen smiled. She wasn’t as pale as she’d been a month ago and anyone looking at her likely wouldn’t guess that she was pregnant. But Grace saw it in a hundred different ways and was amazed that she’d somehow missed her daughter’s first pregnancy. Other than that one brief reference, Maryellen hadn’t mentioned it again. At times Grace wondered if she’d imagined it.

“I got us a hotel room in Seattle,” Grace said, explaining the reason for her visit.

“A hotel room? What for?”

“Our first and—hopefully annual—mother-daughter getaway weekend.”

Maryellen raised her eyebrows. “And Kelly’s coming?”

“I hope so.” Grace knew her daughters weren’t exactly on the best of terms. Kelly felt hurt and angry that Maryellen hadn’t told her about the baby. Grace made it a practice not to get caught in the middle of their disagreements, but right now that was difficult because Kelly was angry with her, too.

Kelly had always championed Dan. She felt betrayed by her father—and now Grace was dating Cliff Harding, which she viewed as yet another betrayal. Maryellen’s decision to keep her pregnancy a secret had been the final offense in Kelly’s eyes.

“If Kelly agrees to this, then I will, too,” Maryellen told her.

“That’s what I was hoping you’d say.”

That evening she called her younger daughter. It was no easy task convincing Kelly to escape to Seattle for a weekend, but Paul encouraged her. Her husband, knowing Kelly was miserable, insisted this would be a bonding time for him and their son.

In the end, much to Grace’s delight, Kelly agreed.

Friday evening, the three of them took the Bremerton ferry into Seattle and got a taxi at the waterfront. The young driver, clearly a recent immigrant, leaped out of the cab and opened the door for them, then hurried around to the driver’s seat.

This was an adventure for Grace, and she was determined to spend a memorable weekend with her two beautiful daughters. “It’s a pleasure to have such a gentlemanly driver,” Grace told him, her spirits high.

“Thank you, Mrs.,” he returned as he drove away from the dock. His English was broken but they all made an effort to understand his comments and questions about the city. He headed to the hotel on Fourth Avenue

and pulled alongside the curb, where the doorman stepped forward to open the car door.

Grace paid the driver and added a healthy tip. “Welcome to America,” she said.

“Thank you,” he said and bowed his head. “God bless America.”

“God bless America,” she repeated.

The hotel lobby was plush and expansive, with a huge marble pedestal in the center boasting the biggest floral arrangement Grace had ever seen. They walked leisurely to the registration desk and checked in; Grace managed not to wince when she handed over her VISA card. A few minutes later they were escorted to their room by the bellman.

After Kelly had phoned to check on Tyler, she relaxed. This was the first time she’d been away from her son for more than a few hours and she missed her baby.

Sitting on one of the queen-size beds, her youngest daughter wrapped her arms around her knees. “Do you have names picked out yet?” she asked her sister.

There was a tense moment before Maryellen answered. “Not really…Actually, I’m hoping for a girl and if the baby does happen to be one, I was thinking of naming her Catherine Grace.”

“That’s a beautiful name.”

Grace felt tears prick her eyes, but she quickly blinked them away, not wanting to subdue the evening’s mood by getting sentimental and weepy. She so longed for this weekend to be perfect. She wanted to laugh with her daughters, to talk and reclaim the closeness they’d once shared.

When Dan disappeared, the three women had lost more than a husband and father; their sense of family and security had been damaged. For herself, Grace needed answers but at this point it didn’t matter what those answers were.

In the meantime, it was as if they were holding their collective breath. They’d been left suspended between what they knew and what they didn’t. There were no answers to account for Dan’s disappearance—just doubts and questions. Because of this, a rift had slowly developed between them. It was that rift Grace was trying to heal.

They woke early the next morning, eager to explore and play tourist. They started with the Pike Place Market, eating hot rolls and drinking exotic blends of coffee on the street. They walked between long stalls, laden with every kind of fruit and vegetable. Grace liked the seafood stands the best. Fish, crab, shrimp, clams and scallops were displayed on beds of crushed ice. They cheered with the rest of the crowd as the fishmongers tossed large salmon to one another.

They ate lunch on the waterfront under gray, overcast skies. Next they toured the Seattle Aquarium and saw the Imax film of the eruption of Mt.Saint Helens, a tourist favorite. By the end of the day, they were giddy with exhaustion. No one was eager to go out again, so they ordered pizza, which was delivered to their hotel room. They sat on the beds, ate with their hands and laughed over paying an outrageous three dollars for a single can of soda out of the room’s minibar.

Despite being tired, they stayed up, dressed in their pajamas and robes, and talked away the night. Each avoided the subject of Dan and all the conjecture that surrounded his disappearance. Nor did they discuss Maryellen’s pregnancy, other than to come up with possible boys’ names. Yet both subjects were very much on their minds. Like Grace, neither of her daughters was willing to risk the fragile peace they’d discovered.

Sunday when they checked out of the hotel, Grace was tired, and more than a little regretful that their time had come to an end. Yet she was exhilarated to have shared this special weekend with her daughters. It was everything she’d hoped it would be.

“Let’s do this again,” she said as they sat in the ferry terminal and waited to walk onto the boat.

“It won’t be as easy next year,” Maryellen said. “Not for me, at any rate. I’ll have the baby.”

“Bring her,” Kelly insisted.

“Her?” Maryellen joked. “You sound very sure that I’m going to have a daughter.”

“It’s a girl,” Kelly said confidently.

“How can you possibly know that?”

“I just do.” She crossed her arms and stretched out her legs, leaning back against the hard wooden bench. “In my heart, I knew Tyler was a boy long before he was born and I have the strongest feeling that you’re going to get your little Catherine Grace.”

Grace had no idea whether her daughter was guessing or if she did indeed “have a feeling.” In any event, she figured Kelly had a fifty percent chance of being right. Most importantly, she saw her daughters laughing and joking together when only a few days ago she’d thought that might never happen again.

When she’d booked the hotel, Grace’s rational self had said she couldn’t afford this; now she knew it had been worth every penny.

Roy McAfee looked away from the computer screen and glanced down at the Sherman file on his desk, a file that grew thicker by the week. Months earlier, Grace Sherman had hired him to discover what he could about her missing husband. So far he’d struck out. He’d come across a number of potential clues, but they’d all gone nowhere. Roy took this case personally and felt decidedly frustrated by his lack of success.