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PART FIFTY-THREE

Stacie’s hands had long ago migrated from the table top to her lips. “Oh my God. Karla, I’m so sorry,” she said, reaching her right hand across the table and placing it palm upward before the distraught woman.

“Oh,” Karla responded, failing in her attempt to check the guttural emission of emotion that sprang forth in wordless anguish, “it’s alright. Now, I mean. Wasn’t then,” she said, patting Stacie’s offered hand.

“Oh, Lord! When he found out! First, he swore it wasn’t his. He blamed Duncan, like that boy would a even known what to do at that age! Then he told me to get an abortion which I considered for all of half-a-second. I was raised knowing that abortion’s wrong and that Jesus puts us on this Earth for a reason.

“Course, lots a things I was brought up to believe turned out to be one-hundred-percent bullshit, but I do thank God every day for me not aborting Skylar. She’s about the only good thing that I’ve had in my life since that fall way back in oh-eight.

“Caleb tried cajoling, pestering and threatening. Then he got his daddy and mama involved. I felt like a tiny pebble being thrown around by a tidal wave. I think they tried to get my mama to work on me, but she wasn’t having none of it. I was borned four-twenty-six and Skylar was born six-twenty-four; Our dates being so, what? Symmetrical? I thought it was a sign from heaven! Some sign, huh? Course I was 1994 and she weren’t born till oh-nine.”

Suzann allowed the tear to roll down her face unhindered. “This had to be unbearably difficult for you. My son-in-law down in Jamaica didn’t want to marry my Roxanne when she found herself pregnant. She and Edmond were both very young and he didn’t want to take responsibility for their child. Once Lise was born he came around. They’re happy now, all four of them. Marguerite, their second daughter, was born just over a year ago.”

“How old is your daughter? Roxanne did you say? I’ve always loved that name,” Karla said with a smile.

“The same age as you are. But Skylar is six years older than Lise. It must have been very difficult to become a mother at, what? Fifteen?”

“Yes, ma’am. Just turned. And it was. In a lot of ways.”

“I can’t imagine,” Stacie whispered. Shaking her head, she added, “I was born a year before you. Ides of March 1993.”

“Ides a March?” Karla replied, “I think my daddy used to sing one of their songs.”

“‘The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones,’” Suzann declared. “Julius Caesar, Act three scene two, I believe. And I need another drink,” she added waving to Loren.