Robin tapped another search into her laptop, jotting down words on a small notepad beside her computer before continuing to chew on her pencil. Her work existed beyond the office, and while Tara slept and Willow focused on clearing out the guest room, the prosecutor touched up on her computer skills.
The research was more to help her brush up on her legal references and comparison of cases through the database accessible through her office's website. She didn't regret calling off work and although there wasn't a specific project for her to do at home, she wanted to be on call in case Willow needed her.
Pausing at the sound of her cellular phone ringing, Robin frowned at the unidentified number before answering.
"Hello, Robin Hawthorne speaking." Her greeting was followed by the overjoyed and slightly relieved voice of Paula Evans.
"Ms. Hawthorne, this is Paula Evans. I can't begin to say how happy I was to hear from you," before Robin could speak, the woman went on in an almost girlish tone. "Thank you so much for taking my case, I didn't think-," her face flushed on the other end, Paula took a moment to breathe.
Seeing her chance, Robin spoke up. "Mrs. Ev- Paula," a smile teased the lawyer's mouth. The excitement coming through the receiver was one more reason why she loved her job. "First, let me thank you for returning my call so quickly." After a brief pause, she was interrupted.
"Well, honestly, I wasn't certain whether or not you would accept," Paula said, sighing, "I've gotten the run around so many times that I've thought about giving up all together."
"Well, I'm very happy to see that you didn't. Too many people give up when it seems as if everything is stacked against them," after the subtle compliment, Robin continued. "As for not accepting... I wouldn't have taken the case if I didn't think it was worth it, and I do, so you have nothing to worry about."
Scooting away from her desk, Robin grabbed her planner from the bed and rolled back to her laptop. "I think the best way to start would be to arrange a meeting. When is best for you?"
"Today, I can meet you this evening," newly energized, Paula's eagerness came out full-force. "I can come into your office now if that would be best."
Robin grinned and waited for the older woman to calm down, "I'm not in my office today, but..." she paused, checking her watch, "um, do you mind holding for a minute Paula?" The brunette, after a "no" from the other line, set her phone down on the desk.
The option of a home visit briefly crossed her mind but faded. Even though Robin was sure that Mrs. Evans couldn't possibly be aware of Tara's condition or the recent events that led to the blonde's stay at her and Willow's home, the thought that Tara would awaken to find an unfamiliar face wasn't something the prosecutor wanted to put the former patient through.
Willow sneezed and wiped a smudge of dust from her forehead. "Hey," a knock on the doorframe moved her attention from the dusty bookshelf to her best friend.
"H-," the redhead sneezed. "Sorry," the doctor smiled, "What do you need?"
"Would you mind if I stepped out for a short time?" Robin asked, smiling down at her dusty roommate.
"No, go ahead," Willow glanced over her shoulder to her closed bedroom door, "Tara should be asleep for a few more hours. I'm good here." She motioned toward the various boxes stacked against the wall.
"Thanks," Robin moved to leave but poked her head back into the room, "I shouldn't be too long, and I'll pick up some allergy medicine on the way home." Willow smiled at her thankfully before she hurried back to her room.
While she waited at the arranged meeting spot, Paula had time to consider the possibilities of finding her daughter. And while the hope had been renewed, the past shadowed her expectation that her daughter would even want to see her. Was her search futile? Her thoughts rewound to that chilly morning of late autumn so many years ago.
The door slammed shut before reopening, "Do you even care about what I think? How I feel?" The angered voice questioned.
A woman of her late thirties froze with her back toward the fuming younger woman. "Of course, I care." Shaking with equal parts compassion and rage, she faced her daughter. "I love you Na-."
"That is not my name." The mother ignored the fierce interruption and went on.
"I am your mother, how can you stand there and think that I don't care about you. I have never ever made you think you weren't important to me." Taking a shaky breath, she continued, "You are all I have," tears stung the corner of her tired eyes. "I have always tried to give you everything you've ever wanted-."
"Then why won't you give me this? Why can't you accept that this is who I am?" The younger woman's eyes pleaded, "Haven't I always done what you've asked? Been the perfect daughter... Why?"
"Because you have shamed me!" The declaration burst forth from her mouth before she could stop it.
It was one of the worst statements a child ever wanted to hear. Society's view of her meant nothing, but to see the reflection of shame in her own mother's eyes was an irreversible blow.
Choking on the thick tears, the daughter jerked back when her mother moved to comfort her. Deeply regretting what she had said, the older woman dropped her arms. Her face crumbled with misery as she began to cry, watching while her daughter desperately attempted to control the sob that ripped through her body.
Nodding as the salty water spilled down her face, the young woman turned and left.
What could the mother have done except watch her go. The bond had been broken, shattered evenly against two bruised hearts.
Robin was alarmed when she spotted her client nearly catatonic. Paula's eyes were downcast, lost, and full of pain. Wordlessly, the prosecutor sat opposite the quiet woman, and reached across the table to grip a cold, trembling hand.
She didn't know what memory Mrs. Evans was lost in, and merely held the woman's hand. The gesture of comfort eventually brought Paula out of her thoughts. She jerked into the present as her eyes rose, beat with sorrow.
"S-Sorry, I was thinking about some things," she reached for a napkin and began to blot her face, visibly self-conscious about her daydreaming.
"No, it's... Are you all right?" Robin asked, continuing to hold Paula's hand.
"Yes, I'm fine." The former nanny inwardly chided herself. How could she dig up such a painful memory in public? She knew it was foolish, and sighed.
"Are you sure?" Concerned, the attorney leaned forward, "We can reschedule. It's not a problem."
Mrs. Evans was truly grateful for the dark-haired woman's concern. Would her own daughter come to look upon her with such compassion?
"I'm okay, really," she insisted.
"Okay," Robin knew not to push, "We should start then." She only brought a notepad and some pens. Technically it was their first official meeting, which meant that the lawyer didn't expect much other than the general information.
"I suppose I should start from the beginning," Paula received an encouraging nod before continuing. "Nadia... that's what I called her," she paused, frowning.
Remembering that her client had used the same name during the first meeting, Robin made a mental note to ask the daughter's real name once Paula finished.
"Nadia was born out of wedlock b-... her father was a married man and I was just a silly girl," she hesitated, "I didn't know what I was doing." She opened her small handbag and found the snapshot of her daughter.
The listener briefly glanced down at the photo but chose not to interrupt as the older woman began to recount her daughter's childhood.
Donnie kicked the tire of his truck as his hands flexed into a fist. What was he going to do? His sister's disappearance would not go over well with his father. He knew that they hadn't received the news earlier because of the bogus information they gave the hospital when Tara had been admitted. He always believed that the next of kin information wasn't important until something happened, and who would've thought that Tara would get a brain and decide to leave. How in the hell did she pull it off?
"What are we going to do?" His cousin Ricky asked as he fearfully approached the angry man.
He needed some time to think and knew that it was going to be his ass when his father learned of what had happened. How far could she have gotten anyway? He knew that the police was looking for her but... but if he found her first? The idea sounded much better than getting his ass kicked up and down the west coast.
"We're going to find her," Donnie finally answered. "She couldn't have gone far, probably hiding out in some abandoned building somewhere."
"What about Uncle, we have to-." Two hands grabbed Ricky's shirt-collar.
"Dad doesn't find out, got it? We're going to find her and we're going to take her back with us, end of story." The older man released his cousin's shirt, tossing him back a little. The shaken boy remained silent and dutifully entered the car after Donnie.
The eldest Maclay hadn't the slightest clue of where to begin but started the car and drove off.
Paula had relaxed in the company of the young woman. She had told her every detail she remembered from her daughter's childhood and was getting into the teenaged years.
"They were so close," she smiled, remembering. "Nadia and Tara always-"
"Tara?" Robin interrupted, surprised by the name.
"Yes," Paula said, slowly. "Tara is my daughter's half-sister, they had the same father," the woman prepared to continue, but noticed the extremely confused expression on Ms. Hawthorne's face. "Is something wrong?"
The prosecutor hesitated while thoughts crowded her mind. Mutely, she shook her head, "Go on."
Mrs. Evans' eyed the woman strangely but continued with her story. "They, uh, they didn't find out that they were sisters until the year Nadia left. I kept it secret from her for so many years," she sighed, heavily, "maybe... maybe if I had told her earlier, things would've been different." The former nanny paused, summoning a distant memory, "Her father rejected her when she was born, and I knew the news would upset her... he hasn't heard from her either..."
Robin was only half-listening. It couldn't possibly be the same Tara, but she couldn't convince herself otherwise. She remembered that when she had first seen the blonde, that the woman looked familiar. Her eyes dropped to the picture on the table, the slight resemblance was uncanny.
"...Hawthorne?" She heard her name and looked up to see the former-nanny's troubled eyes.
"I-," Rubbing some of the tension from her forehead, Robin carried on, "Mrs. Evans, I... I know that this may seem extremely unprofessional, but would you mind if we, um, rescheduled?"
Paula almost frowned in disappointment but couldn't ignore the sudden change in the other woman's behavior. "Have I done something wrong?"
"No, no, I... I have a sick friend at home, and I'm a little worried about her," the prosecutor cursed herself, hating that she needed to lie.
"Oh, then of course not, I'm sorry I kept you so long," the older woman said, apologizing.
"No, I'm sorry," Robin began putting her notebook into her briefcase, "I have enough to get started. I'll be calling soon to reschedule," she stood. Her eyes lowered to the coffee table, "Can I borrow this?" The lawyer touched the photograph.
Unquestioning and believing that Ms. Hawthorne wanted the picture for the investigation, Paula agreed.
"Thank you." Robin said, smiling genuinely. They exchanged ‘goodbyes' before the attorney hurried out of the coffee shop.
"I can't believe this," the redhead muttered, staring down at the glossy image.
"So you think it's true," Robin said. She had told her roommate about Mrs. Evans and the photograph, adding small pieces as she remembered them. The doctor had also filled her friend in on what little information she had.
"Her daughter has been missing for eight, almost nine years," the prosecutor explained, "I first thought she may have just-."
"Wait, go back," Willow, who had been pacing, stopped, her eyes lost in thought. "How long?"
The dark-haired woman saw a shadow cross her best friend's features, "Eight years... what?"
"Tara was admitted eight years ago." The doctor frowned over the new information. She saw a similar expression on Robin's face, "That's not a coincidence."
"We need to find her sister." A short feeling of dread passed through Robin when the words left her mouth. Her shoulders rose from against the back of the couch, and leaning forward she crossed her arms atop her knees.
"Do you think she's still alive?" Willow asked, having also felt the brief anxiety.
"We'll know soon," the prosecutor could only shrug. "What are we going to do about Paula? Do you think we should tell her?" Robin watched her roommate as Willow stood in the foyer near the steps.
"I don't know," Willow bit her lips, reasoning. "Tara's starting to adjust, what if seeing Mrs. Evans triggers something? I mean, we don't know everything that's happened between them."
Robin paused, remembering, "Well, what about when she gave you the address?"
"Yeah, but we don't know why she wrote it," the redhead countered. "It could've either meant that she trusted her, or that Mrs. Evans had something to do with Pines View. I don't want to take the chance."
Willow blew out a frustrated breath and looked up the stairs.
"Let me come with you," the younger girl pleaded. Her eyelids crinkled in the corners, sloping because of the heaviness.
"You know, I can't Tara." Turning her sorrowful gaze away from her little sister, the older blonde continued packing. "It has to be this way, at least for a few months. Then I'll come for you, okay?" Even as she said the words, she knew they would never be fulfilled.
Anger and lies filled the space between them, "You're... You're really going to l-leave m-me with t-them?"
The woman faced her sibling, "It'll be easier for you when I'm gone, Tara. I'm doing this for you," she tried to forge a smile, but her lips merely twitched and never curled.
"No, you aren't," the accusation shocked both women, "you're leaving me just like everyone else. All the people I love leave and everyone I ha...," she trailed off, hating the flood of emotion that swept over her.
"You have to be strong, okay? I'll be back, I promise," she caught a glimpse of disbelief in Tara's eyes and looked away.
"Do you remember that weekend we spent at the beach?" She met her sister's gaze. Tara nodded, silent as she slouched on the bed. "The tide was out by at least a quarter of a mile and I made you follow me."
Tara smiled through the pain, "I t-thought I would sink."
"But you didn't," the older blonde said, "even as the sand melted between your toes and the patches of water got deeper... you didn't sink."
"You told me you wouldn't let me," Tara said, remembering.
"And I won't," tears clouded the elder's vision, "I won't let you sink, Tara." She flung her duffle bag strap over her shoulder, "I promise I'll be back for you. It won't be so bad, you'll see," moving forward, she hugged her sister. "I love you," trembling lips pressed against Tara's forehead, before she quickly released herself from the sniffling blonde.
The door shut with a silent click, but managed to shatter the heart of the young woman left behind. Could she sever herself from the rest of the world and continue to live?