“I am really happy. Joy is healthy, and now I have my baby Skylar.”
Trent laughed! “Your baby! I bet you have to wrestle Sharlee for her.”
“It happened sooner than we expected, but we are so glad that we have Skylar now. She’s just what our family needed to bring us all together. Dale and Noah are getting along better since she’s been born. They’re still not exactly friends, but I’ve caught them smiling at each other more.”
“I guess that is a start in the right direction. The reason I called, Alissa, is that I have some news for you.”
Alissa’s breath caught. She didn’t know if it would be good or bad news. After Joy had become sick, no one in the family was a match to donate marrow. If Alex had not come forward, there was no guarantee that Joy would have survived long enough before she was at the top of the list of those needing donors from the registry. Even though Joy had recovered, Alissa had asked Trent to try to find out if she had any relatives from her mother’s side of the family. She felt that it was time for both she and Crystal to know, whether good or bad.
“As to who Crystal’s father was, there is really no way of learning who he was at this point. Even your mother didn’t know. She believed that it had to be one of her prostitution clients, but after she came out of jail she was not very discriminating as to who she was “with” like she was before she was incarcerated. She no longer ran her call girl and drug operation, and she didn’t have the success that she had before.” He paused, not sure of how to explain to Alissa without hurting or offending her.
Trent continued. “Before she went to jail, you know that your mother dealt drugs, and that she had her own call girls working for her. After she was released, she not only dealt drugs, but she became addicted. She ended up working for a pimp. After talking with those who knew her, it became clear that the only reason that she had kept Crystal was that she intended to one day break free from her pimp and use Crystal as the first girl in her own new prostitution ring.”
Alissa wasn’t surprised to hear it. She had guessed how her mother intended to use Crystal.
Trent told her more. “Her pimp washed his hands of her, and she ended up going even deeper into drugs and prostituting herself. She’d got Crystal hooked on the drug and distributing it for her as well. That’s how they ended up with those charges against them before they fled Sunset Valley and came to find you.”
Alissa was so happy that she had her sister and had been able to help her when she’d needed her most. Crystal’s spirit would have been broken, and she might have even died if she had remained under their mother’s control.
“I’ve found your grandparents, Alissa.”
Her mother would never answer Alissa’s questions about whether her grandparents were still alive and eventually her mother’s angry reaction to the questions had taught Alissa to quit asking.
“Yes they are still alive and well. Your mother grew up in small town in New England, called Clearwater. Her family was very conservative and well respected in the community. Your grandfather was French and your grandmother was American. They met when he was sent from France by his company for a job. He transferred there to Clearwater and they married and raised a family.”
“You also have an aunt and two cousins. Your cousins also have children. Their children are all teenagers. There are two boys and a girl.”
She asked him, “Do they still live in Clearwater?”
“No, they live in France. Your grandfather accepted a new position with his company when your mother was in college, and the family moved then.”
“My mother was in college?”
“Yes. She attended for two years. She was going for a degree in Fine Arts, but she dropped out and decided to pursue a singing career. From all accounts she was a very talented singer and could have done well if she had worked at it. I’ve spoken to many people who knew her over the years, and it seems that your mother always dreamed of being wealthy. She wanted to be among the rich and powerful, but didn’t want to do it the hard way. She met people who convinced her that satisfying a need for “fun” for the wealthy would lead to wealth for herself.
Of course it didn’t work out the way she had planned. Her family had cut all ties with her after trying without success to get her to change. The final straw was when she stole your Aunt’s identity and opened up checking and credit card accounts in her name. The family didn’t press charges, but made it clear to your mother that she was no longer to have any contact with them until she had turned her life around.”
“Yes, I have. I’ve met them, Alissa. With everything that you’ve been through, I wanted to check everything out myself. You’ll have to forgive me for being so protective, but you and Dale are like family to me.”
“Awww, thanks, Trent! Of course, I understand, and I appreciate it. You are family to us too!”
“They are very nice, hard working and decent people. They own a small family run vineyard in Champs Les Sim, France. It’s been passed down through generations in your grandfather’s family. They are not super wealthy, but they are comfortable. Their wealth is tied to the land. I guess your mother wasn’t satisfied with that. They had no idea that either you or Crystal existed! They were thrilled when I told them about you and showed them pictures of you and your family. They want to meet you.”
They talked a while longer and then Alissa went to find Dale. She told him the news and then called Crystal. They decided that Alissa should be the one to call their grandparents. During the conversation there were a lot of happy tears from Alissa and her grandparents. They made plans for her and Crystal to go and visit them soon. Alissa and Dale had thought it best for she and Crystal to go alone for this first visit and bring the rest of the family at another time. Alissa couldn’t believe that when she had visited Champs Les Sim in the past, she’d had family there all along!
“I just received a call from a buddy on the force in Riverview. The body of a woman washed up on the riverbanks a couple of weeks ago. It has now been identified as the body of Betty Simovitch.”
“No, and the file on her disappearance has been closed. The case is just too cold. The good thing is that you and Alissa no longer have to worry about her.”
“Yeah, even after all of this time, it’s a big relief; and I know it will be for Alissa too!”
Alissa and Dale hugged each other after he told her about Betty. It surprised Alissa to realize that she had not thought about Betty for quite a long time, but she still was very relieved to learn that Betty would not ever be a threat for her and her family again.
Alissa thought that a change would be good for her and decided to take Cara with her on her trip to France. Cara had been a lot younger the last time the family had gone, and since she intended to become a professional photographer, Alissa believed that taking pictures of the beautiful scenery in France might lift her spirits. Cara was excited when she found out that she was going too. Joy was quiet after she was told that Alissa was going to France.
Joy didn’t answer, but Alissa had guessed the problem.
“Is it because I’m going away for a little while?”
Joy nodded her head, yes.
“I won’t be gone for long, and Daddy be here with you. So will the rest of the family.”
Alissa was a little perplexed by Joy’s reaction. Alissa had been away before, and Joy had even gone many times to see her grandparents in Florida without Alissa. She had never reacted in this way. Alissa wondered if it was some insecurity Joy still had after her illness.
Alissa talked it over with Dale, and she decided to take Joy with her as well. She knew that eventually Joy wouldn’t worry about their being apart; but for now, they needed to make her feel secure. Cara could look after Joy when Alissa and Crystal needed to talk with their grandparents about adult matters. Aiden and Shawn were fine with not going this time. The plans for the trip were finalized, and they would leave at the end of the month.
Dale had wondered the day before when Christian had asked him if Noah was still in school. Obviously Noah and Christian didn’t like each other, and so Christian’s question had been surprising. Ordinarily Dale would still be at his practice at this time of the day, and Noah would still be in class. It was a fluke that they both got home so early. Dale found it an odd coincidence that Christian had selected a time to visit Sharlee when neither he nor Noah would be expected to be at home. It gave him an uncomfortable feeling and for the first time, a slightly negative view of Christian.
Noah didn’t like seeing Christian holding his baby. Skylar was looking at her Dad, and she was like a little antenna. She sensed that her Dad was upset and started wriggling in Christian’s arms. Sharlee was surprised because Skylar had never behaved that way with anyone else. Noah headed for Skylar, but Dale beat him to it. He took Skylar from Christian and kissed her cheek.
“Thanks for the gift, Christian.”
Noah walked Christian to the door and then went over to Dale and Sky. Dale held her for a few minutes longer and then handed her over to Noah.
Noah hugged Sky tightly, and she laid against her daddy’s shoulder, perfectly content as she went to sleep. Sharlee hadn’t expected Christian to visit either, but she could understand that he’d want to see Skylar. Especially since he knew how difficult her pregnancy had been. However, if her mother hadn’t been home too, she wouldn’t have let him inside.