“How horrible for your parents.” Truman felt ill.
“Yes, but I think it’s what steered my mother toward midwifery.”
Truman’s respect for Deborah tripled. “Your mother is amazing.”
“Look at this.” Excitement filled Mercy’s voice as she tapped the monitor screen.
Truman skimmed the article she’d indicated. It was about a local trial that’d just finished. Antonio Ricci had been convicted of three counts of first-degree murder and four counts of battery. The photo with the article was a mug shot of an angry man in his thirties. “I don’t see what caught your attention.”
“His wife testified against him,” Mercy read. “Describing his frequent assaults. The jury struggled to understand her as she spoke through a wired jaw, reportedly broken by her husband.” She paused. “The wife’s name was Olivia Ricci.”
Could she be Olivia Sabin?
“And look at the name of the presiding judge near the bottom of the article.”
“Malcolm Lake.” Truman’s mind began to spin. “Holy shit. If that’s our Olivia, here’s a connection to the judge.”
“I’m calling Dr. Lockhart. She’d know if Olivia’s jaw had been broken.” Mercy punched numbers on her phone.
Truman read the article again. Slowly this time. It was never clearly stated, but he gathered from the reporter’s inferences that Antonio Ricci was some sort of enforcer. Someone who did the dirty work for his boss. But the boss was never named in the article. The Sopranos in Central Oregon? Truman shook his head. Not possible.
“Thanks, Natasha.” Mercy ended her call. “Olivia Sabin shows evidence of an old break in her mandible. Natasha added that there were several old healed fractures in the other bones of her face. She has to be the Olivia in this article.”
“That’s terrible.” Truman enlarged the old photo of the wife beater, seeing the evil in his eyes. What kind of man has to beat on a woman? “I think being sent to prison is motive for killing both Malcolm Lake and his ex-wife. Is this guy still locked up?”
“Let’s find out.”
Morrigan looks nothing like me.
I don’t care. My daughter is willowy and slight while I curve everywhere. She will never be described as voluptuous. My skin is a pale mocha and hers is nearly transparent, with a touch of rose. The bone structure of her face is delicate and ethereal, nearly the opposite of my full cheekbones and brows. I carry the genes of people who embraced the sun and toiled in its heat. I don’t know her history.
I see her real mother in her pale eyes and fine hair.
But she is my daughter in every way.
There are many ways to end a pregnancy, and my mother knew most of them. She was skilled with herbs . . . poisons . . . She knew just how much would cause a woman’s body to reject the new life within it. She refused to physically remove a baby; potions were her only tools. But she was adamant in providing this service. Her only rule was that the pregnancy couldn’t show yet.
The women who came with even the smallest baby bumps were sent away, told to talk to their doctors. These women were often angry, screaming at her, blaming her for their position. My mother would hold firm.
I was there when a woman brought her daughter across the mountain range from Salem one February. I smelled their indecision before they entered our home.
“They’re undecided,” I whispered to my mother as we watched them near our door. “The girl is terrified she’s making a mistake, and the mother is confused.” I paused. “It goes against their hearts.”
The women entered, and we learned the girl was seventeen, a senior in high school, a top student, and had been accepted to college with a full-ride scholarship. A blessing, her mother said, because they were extremely poor; college would have been out of the question. She would be the first in her family to go to college.
Two pregnancy tests had confirmed the daughter’s suspicions, and she believed she was three months along. She swore they’d used protection and had been shocked to discover a month later she was pregnant. There were seven months before she left for school.
My mother brought them tea, and I scented the calming herb she’d added. The girl wouldn’t pick up her cup and stared at it as if it held the poison.
“It is safe,” I said, smelling her fear. “We will talk first.”
Her hands shook as she tentatively drank.
Her blue eyes were wide and innocent; she was still a child no matter her incredible performance in school. I studied her straight blonde hair with a bit of jealousy. She was the girl I’d always wanted to look like. Even at the ripe old age of thirty, I was jealous of her teenage perfection. Yet their lack of money showed. Their car was nearly as old as my mother’s, and their clothes showed heavy wear and carefully repaired seams. A sour smell of desperation hovered around both of them.
Over tea we listened to them talk. My mother always talked to her “patients” first. She needed to know they had thought through their decision. Within moments we knew these two women were not ready.
My mother raised a brow at me, and I asked the daughter if she’d like to see the goats. We separated the two of them. My mother kept the mother drinking tea and the daughter followed me to the barn where two baby goats suckled from their mothers. She was charmed, as I’d known she would be. Baby animals and human girls were one of the most perfect pairings in the world.
“You are scared to do this,” I finally said, watching her pet the mothers.
“I don’t want to,” she answered in a low voice. “But I don’t see any other choice. I can’t let this change the direction of the life I want.”
“Man proposes,” I said quietly.
“What?” A confused blue gaze met mine. Soft shades of yellow and lavender surrounded her. I smelled baby roses and new lilacs: innocence.
“Just talking to myself.”
The girl lay both hands on her stomach. “I can’t feel anything. I haven’t seen any changes. Yet I know there is a life inside me.”
“May I?” I asked, gesturing to her stomach.
She was hesitant but nodded.
I smiled and moved slowly, not wanting to spook her. I gently set my fingertips on her flat belly and closed my eyes.
Fresh-mowed grass, violets, cut lemons. The scents assaulted me. I’d expected subtlety, but the baby’s life presence was strong. Pale pinks flashed in my mind, and I knew it was a girl.
My eyes flew open and I jerked my hands away.
“What is it?” the girl cried.
“Nothing,” I told her. “I thought I’d shocked you,” I lied.
“I didn’t feel it.” Suspicion floated in her blue depths.
“Have you considered adoption?” My knees felt like water, and I gripped the edge of the goat pen for balance.
“Yes, but it seems complicated.”
“I can place the baby for you. No papers. Nothing needed.”
Her face cleared. “You can?”
“You don’t want to end the pregnancy, do you?” I asked gently. “There is another option.”
The two women drove away thirty minutes later. A plan was in place. It was doubtful her pregnancy would show much during the rest of the school year. Olivia would deliver the baby in late summer.
And I would keep her.
The months of her pregnancy dragged for me. I was impatient and worried she’d change her mind. I had no peace until their car parked in front of our home that summer.
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