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She snapped the mirror shut. “That I am. I’m going to have to start visiting Corabelle more often. Daily, in fact.” She stuck the silver case in her pocket. “You going to the star party tonight?”

“Not sure. Corabelle insists I go to class like normal.”

“You skipped this morning.”

“I know. I couldn’t make myself drive over there with this hanging over my head.”

“Makes sense to me. They didn’t talk about anything I couldn’t understand. So you know it was pointless.”

The elevator opened on our floor. “I think you don’t give yourself enough credit.”

She stepped out ahead of me. “I know. I just like playing the dingbat and lowering everyone’s expectations.”

“Somebody’s going to see right through that ruse.” We turned down the hall. “But probably not that TA.”

“Nah. He likes me dumb. But not Dr. Malachi. I would be smart for him.”

Corabelle’s door stood wide open. She was alone for the moment, sitting cross-legged in the middle of the bed, dressed in the jeans and sweater I’d brought early that morning to spare her having to wear her mother’s clothes. She looked practically normal, other than her surroundings. This might be her last day. We were hoping.

“Where are the parental units?” Jenny asked, flopping on the end of the bed.

“Coffee,” Corabelle said. “They’ll be back in a sec.”

“Game plan?” Jenny asked. “Because there’s a doctor in the house I want to convince to come out and play.”

“I bet,” Corabelle said. “But he might not have enough time for you.”

“That’s why I’ll pick three. A man for every shift.” She twirled her pink hair thoughtfully. “Maybe a heart surgeon, a respiratory therapist, and…hmmm. An anesthesiologist.”

“That’s just weird,” Corabelle said.

“I like diversity.” Jenny jumped up and paced the room. “Okay, so I snatch the Rotheford clan and take them to your place. Let them pack.” She whirled around. “Anything I need to steer them away from? Porn? Lube stash?” She glanced at me. “Manly unmentionables?”

“Nope,” Corabelle said. “Just have them pack things in case I have to stay a lot longer. Be your usual Jenny self. Deliberate over outfits. Be annoying.”

“Hey!” Jenny plopped back on the bed. “I’m a curiosity. Never an annoyance.”

I grunted, and Jenny shot daggers at me. “You people do not appreciate originality.”

“I’m about to appreciate it a whole lot,” Corabelle said, passing her the keys to her apartment. “We need at least an hour. So no rush.”

“Got it.” Jenny stuck the keys in her pocket. “So you going to be all right? Facing the beast?” She looked back and forth between us.

Corabelle uncurled her legs and stood next to me. “We’re a fortress.” She tucked her hand inside the crook of my arm, and I held on to it. “Impenetrable.”

Her parents came back, and the room erupted into a chorus of introductions, air kisses, and over-the-top Jennyisms. I checked my phone. Five minutes until our appointment in the lab.

Jenny caught my eye. “Well, let’s get this show on the bandwagon!” She headed for the door. “I have to take my new favorite mom and dad to hit the town.”

When they were gone, Corabelle squeezed my hand. “Now we just have to make sure the nurses don’t try and stop me.” She moved into the bathroom to run a brush through her hair, frowning at the reflection. “I wanted to put on makeup, but that seemed too suspicious.”

I leaned in the doorway. “You don’t need it.”

She faced me, and in her expression I saw all the anxiety that I felt. “But she—”

I pulled her in to me. “She’s just someone I once knew. You’re beautiful. You’re perfect.”

Her arms came around me, and I hung on to her. In the mirror, her black hair fell down her shoulders, covering my arm. I examined my reflection to be sure no trace of uncertainty would betray me. This was just something to get through. It would go our way.

26: Corabelle

As soon as we had successfully passed the nurse station and gotten to the elevator bank, I pulled the blue surgical mask off my face.

“You sure that’s safe?” Gavin asked.

“I don’t care. I can’t handle it right now.”

He nodded, his fingers gripping mine. His face was unreadable. I wasn’t sure what the moment meant for him, how certain he might be that the boy wasn’t his. I imagined having his past meeting his present like this had to be difficult.

Tina waited for us outside the entrance to the lab. “Paperwork,” she said, holding out a clipboard. “I assume you want the accredited legally admissible test or you would have just bought an over-the-counter one at a drugstore,” she said.

“Yeah. I looked at those,” Gavin said.

“They take too long,” I said. “This is next day, right?”

Tina nodded. “And it will hold up in court if you need it. It’s $200. You have that?”

“Yeah.” Gavin took the clipboard. “Should we go in?” He took a step toward the gray door. Through a narrow window I could see a counter with a woman sorting through a stack of papers.

Tina stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. “Rosa’s already here. That’s why I waited outside. You ready for this?” She was looking at me.

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