Isabel put the bag with the food on the table and set the drink beside it. She plopped down into the chair. "I can't stay but just a second this evening," she said to Lucia. "I have some things I've got to do now, and I don't have time to eat with you or to talk long. How are you doing?"
"I'm fine. I finished another word search. Do you want to see?"
"Not now, dear. Maybe later." Isabel took the chili and chicken wrap out of paper bag. She also removed a spoon and the napkins. "I got you the grilled chicken wrap, a small chili and your drink. Will that be okay until later, until quitting time? Then I can get you a treat or something."
"Uh-huh," Lucia said. "Mama? Are you okay? You know, with Papa gone now and all of the problems we have now?"
Isabel didn't feel okay about much of anything today, but she said she was okay. They would work things out.
"Do you sometimes wish I wasn't here?" asked Lucia. "That you just had you to take care of?"
"Of course not. What gets into you to ask such a question?"
"It's just that it seems always so hard for you, Mama. It'd be easier for you without me. I just don't contribute anything, do I?"
"Yes you do! No it would not be easier. You are my daughter, and I love you; we are connected. If I didn't have you, I would not want to live. Not here, not anywhere."
Isabel glared out into the darkness through the window-wall. She thought how it represented their situation in life. Somewhere up there, though, she knew there were stars and the moon.
"Someday maybe it will get better, my daughter. Until then, we need to keep on doing what we've been doing and hope that Papa can get back to us."
"What can I do, Mama? How can I help?" Lucia asked.
"Look into the darkness. Try to find the stars and the moon up there." Isabel looked again out into the night, pointing her finger in that direction, indicating for Lucia to look out there too. "There is light out there, up in the dark sky. It is a long way off, but it is there." Isabel wobbled to her feet. "I have to go back to work now. You stay here, okay. Do you have more puzzles to do?"
"Uh-huh," Lucia said. "Besides that, I have the big dark sky to look up into. I need to find the light up there. We need to find the light, Mama. And bring it closer to us."
Isabel hulked away. Lucia watched her go and then turned her gaze back to the window in the dark sky.
Mary Lou called Steve Benson. She thought she could finish his case and be done with it with one simple bit of information from him. That would make one less case to debrief Clark Porter on. Benson answered his telephone.
"Steve, this is Mary Lou," she explained. "I'm trying to finish up this matter about your payment to Alta Financial Group, and how the payment, assuming you made it, should be treated on your upcoming tax return. Do you have a minute?"
"Yeah, I guess, if it doesn't take too long."
"No. It'll just take a minute."
She asked Benson for the information, and Benson started giving her a response.
If it didn't take too long? Mary Lou thought. What kind of response was that? What did that mean, anyway? It was pretty vague, but typical of what she had come to experience from many of her clients, who wanted the best advice and representation they could get without being too responsive or having to pay too much for it.
Sometimes, the whole process was very tiring, and Mary Lou wondered whether she had made the correct decision to enter into the field of accounting instead of doing something else --- something like investigative reporting, which she had considered doing for a while ---, something without the stigma attached to it being an accountant had. But she had been at Telford and McDonald for seven years now, doing this type of work and advancing up the line in the firm. She couldn't very well give up on it now, even though sometimes she dreamed of doing just that. She guessed it was pretty typical, though, of anybody working in accounting.
It was not the sexiest occupation, or the one that paid the most money. Now, because of its mendacity, she was looking forward to working with Mark Goodrich, doing something different. More and more, she was hoping that the unnamed friend of William Telford was Senator Orrin Orr, Bob Orr's father.
Now, that could be exciting.
She finished the Benson case and opened the next file.
It was one she would have to give to Clark Porter. It was too complicated for her to complete in the remaining time she had.
She picked up the next file. Same thing.