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She opened the folder, and all our eyes went to it, hoping for our first glance at the answer, the big question coming to a close. But the print was small and light, numbers cascading down the page in a table.

“We are an AABB-accredited lab that provides results with an accuracy level that meets requirements for the courts as well as immigration agencies.” She tugged out the top sheet of paper. “When we have a case that includes a child whose parentage might involve issues of custody across international borders, we have to dot a few more i’s and cross a few more t’s.”

She turned the page around. “Our test looks for sixteen genetic matches. In this column,” she pointed to the first segment of the table, “we have the child’s genetic markers.” She tapped the next column. “Here are the alleged father’s.” Her fingers trailed down the numbers in the rows.

I could already see the tally at the bottom: 99.9%. But I wasn’t sure which way it went. It talked about exclusions.

“Sometimes our combined index falls into a gray area, depending on the mutations in the markers, but in this case, the conclusion was sufficient to satisfy both a court and the embassies.” She looked up. “It proves without a doubt that the child and the father are related.”

Rosa let out a breath, her hands flat on the table. Gavin’s jaw was tight, the muscle twitching, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he tried to swallow.

I couldn’t think, the words still hanging in the air like laundry on a line. I blinked, working to believe it, trying to let them penetrate.

Gavin reached for the page and moved it toward him, staring at the numbers. I felt Tina’s presence behind me, her hands on my shoulders like she had done the day before, in the lab.

Then everything came at me at once, like I’d just broken the surface of the ocean, gasping for breath, my chest heaving. I wasn’t crying or making any sound, just sucking in air.

“Breathe, Corabelle, breathe in,” Tina said.

Gavin turned to me, his hand on my back. “It’s okay, baby. We’re going to be all right. We’ll figure this out.”

“She just got discharged yesterday,” Tina said to the social worker. “She’s had pneumonia.”

“Should I call someone in?” Abigail asked.

“She’ll be okay,” Tina said. “Let’s give her a moment.”

I listened to all this impassively, as if they were talking about someone else. All I could see was Gavin as a child, his expressions, his impish grin, the swirl of his hair over his ears. I realized I had seen it all along in Rosa’s son, and I had known, but was unwilling to acknowledge it.

“That’s better,” Tina said. “Keep breathing. Take it slow.”

The room came back to me, Gavin, leaning in, pulling me to him. He shouldn’t do that, not in front of Rosa. She loved him, she was the mother of his child, his living child, not the dead one, not the one that was not meant to be his.

I pushed away from him, standing up, suddenly wishing I was still in the hospital, a room to go to, a place to shut the door and not have to rely on anyone to take me home. “I need a moment,” I said. “Tina?”

“I’m right here.” She wrapped her arm along my shoulders and I realized what a friend she had become, someone I had scarcely known only a few days ago. I did not know how I would have gotten through this without her.

“Corabelle, please don’t walk away,” Gavin said. “I’m not going anywhere. I love you.”

Rosa stood up too. “I am not here to take Gavin. That is not what I want.”

“Later,” I said. “Later. Let me think about this.”

But Gavin was unrelenting. “If you’re leaving, I’m leaving too.”

“We can work out the papers some other time,” Abigail said. “There is no rush here.”

I walked toward the door, Tina beside me. “Let’s go to the art room,” she said. “We’ll clear your head.”

Gavin tried to follow, jerking the door wide. “I am not letting you go, Corabelle.”

I whirled around. “I may not give you that choice.”

“Okay, let’s go,” Tina said. “Gavin, go figure out your forms. You have some obligations now. Straighten all that out. Give Corabelle some time.”

I turned away, trying not to look at Gavin’s face but seeing it anyway, his stricken expression, his clenched fists, his despair. I felt it too. I felt it all. I’d always felt it. It seemed like I always would.

34: Gavin

The social worker came to the door. “Gavin, I would suggest you give her a little time to absorb this. It’s a big blow, and even without your history, this would be hard for her.”

“What history?” Rosa asked.

I turned around, realizing Rosa knew nothing about Finn, only that I’d chosen to cut off my chances at fatherhood long ago. Bitterness coursed through me. “It must have been real rich for you to realize you were pregnant when you knew damn well I was only in Tijuana because I never wanted to have a kid.”

Rosa dropped back into a chair. “Rich? I do not understand.”

My head was exploding with pressure. “When I met you, you knew I didn’t want kids. That’s why I was in Mexico. To get cut, remember?”

She folded her hands in her lap. “I remember, Gavinito.”

“Don’t CALL ME THAT.” My voice echoed through the room and out into the hall.

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