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Abigail closed the door. “Gavin, try to stay calm.”

“Calm? You’ve obviously never met my father. He’s the one who was never calm. And I’m just like him.” I pointed a finger at Rosa. “And thanks to you, now we’ll have another little fucked-up kid to fuck up more kids.”

Tears slid down Rosa’s face, and I turned away, pissed as hell. Damn it. What the hell was this life trying to do to me? I shouldn’t be around anyone. I shouldn’t be with a fucking soul. Send me to some fucking island.

“Let’s talk about this rationally,” Abigail said. “Gavin, sit down.”

I moved to the far end of the table and dropped into Corabelle’s chair.

“Nothing has to change right this moment.” She tucked the paper inside the folder. “Rosa, are you in the US legally right now?”

Rosa stared at the table, tears dripping onto the surface.

“I’m guessing that’s a no. I’m not here to report you. I just need to know your legal status.”

“She borrowed a border crossing card,” I said.

“Okay.” Abigail pulled a pen from inside the folder and jotted some notes. “Are you planning to get Manuel’s immigration status changed so he can be here in the United States with his father?”

Rosa still didn’t answer.

Abigail reached across the table to rest her hand on Rosa’s wrist. “You have many options here, but if you get deported after we change Manuel’s legal status, you can get sent back without him. We need you to think this through so that we do what is best for everybody.”

“The boy needs his father,” Rosa said.

Abigail glanced at me. “You realize that Gavin’s only obligation will be for child support, and even that can be challenged if you keep the boy in Mexico and do not allow visitation.”

Jesus, they were acting like I wasn’t even there. “I’m not a total asshole,” I said.

“Really?” Abigail shot at me. “Because you were putting on a pretty good imitation of one.”

She was right. God. I had forgotten everything, the promise I made in ICU, the plans in my head just that morning. “I need help,” I said. “I can’t do this by myself.”

Abigail’s free hand reached for mine, creating a bridge between the three of us. “You aren’t by yourself. There’s going to be a lot of people involved. We can get you counseling. We can get you legal aid. But you two are going to need some patience. You have to realize this isn’t going to happen overnight. And you do have to decide what you mean to each other, what you want from this new family that has been formed.”

“I plan to marry Corabelle,” I said. “If she’ll have me after this.”

Abigail nodded. “So you can work on that.” She turned to Rosa. “Do you want to try and immigrate with your son, or return to Mexico?”

“I do not want to be in Gavin’s way,” she said. “I just cannot keep the boy on my own.”

“Are you able to help her financially, Gavin?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what she needs.”

“See, those are the easy answers.” Abigail let go of both of us and returned to her folder. “I’m going to hold on to these papers for now. Rosa, let’s get you and your son safely in Mexico.” She turned to me. “You can plan to visit, help her get settled. I’ll get you appointments with the embassy, some legal aid, and we’ll start the paperwork. In the meantime, get to know your son. I think you’ll find as this settles out, the answers will become simpler.”

“Do you have anywhere to go?” I asked Rosa. “Will your brother kick you out?”

“I don’t know,” Rosa said. “He always helped me before, but the family is angry.”

“Why don’t we call him?” Abigail said. “That sounds like a place to start. You and I can go to my office. Is your boy all right? Do you need to get him?”

“He is with my cousin,” Rosa said. “He is okay.”

Abigail stood up and pulled an envelope from her folder. “Here is your copy of the DNA testing.” She handed it to me. “We’ll be in touch with you. Stay in touch with Rosa.”

I nodded and got up from the chair.

Rosa wiped her eyes and turned to me. “I am sorry I was not careful. But I am not sad about Manuelito. He is the best thing. A joyful boy.”

“I should have known better. I just wished I had known before.”

“This is my fault. I think he live okay with Letty.”

“He was meant to be with you.” I shoved the envelope in the pocket of my jacket. “We’ll figure this out.”

“Ask her, Gavin,” Rosa said. “Do not wait.”

“Ask what?”

“To marry. Ask her today. Very soon. She will not wait. I know a woman’s heart. You must do it now.”

I glanced at Abigail, but her expression was unreadable.

Maybe Rosa was right. I knew exactly what I had to do.

35: Corabelle

I sulked in the back of Jenny’s car. Tina sat in the passenger’s seat, and the two of them were already talking about restaurants and music like they were old friends.

“I don’t see why anybody would want to go to the beach on a day like this,” I said. Out the window the sky was bright and the wind was actually sort of gentle, but the air was still cold.

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