'And there was still no sign of Meredith.'
"Sorry, I've got that stuck in my head now." Gerard grinned.
"She's made quite an impression on you." Jennifer said grimly, looking faintly irritated.
"I wish you could've heard the things she was saying to me before you came in. I know adults that aren't that mature." He paused "I wonder why they didn't show us her case file."
"She probably wasn't there when we first looking." Jennifer replied with a shrug of her shoulders.
"It just blows my mind how a kid go through as much as she must have and still turn out like that." Gerard said, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel.
"You sound like we're sorry we're not adopting her instead of Meredith." Jennifer couldn't stop herself from saying it. Gerard was really starting to get on her nerves.
"No, of course not. I just hope she gets the right break. That's all." Gerard reached over and took Jennifer's hand "You know I wouldn't trade our little girl for anybody." Jennifer smiled at him.
Back at the orphanage all the girls were getting ready for bed. Sister Abigail was inspecting them but she was starting to get worried as she paced up and down the endless lines of little girls "Where's Meredith?" She asked one of the other nuns. The other nun shrugged and Sister Abigail went into the room of older girls "Have any of you seen Meredith?" She asked. Everyone shook their heads and looked concerned. Nobody had seen Meredith since dinner time.
Sister Abigail asked the other nuns to help her search for Meredith. They looked around the whole orphanage. The playroom, the art room, the chapel, all of the classrooms, the laundry room, the bathrooms... But all of them were empty. Every other girl was getting ready for bed. And there was still no sign of Meredith.
A young nun, Sister Judith, walked downstairs into the dark storage area. She was used to little girls hiding down there and jumping out at the nuns for fun. There were plenty of places to hide down there "Meredith?" Sister Judith called, looking around "Meredith, are you in here? Come out, we're getting really worried." She turned around and found a closet. The door was slightly ajar. Sister Judith walked towards it. Then she opened it. And nearly gagged at the what she found.
It was dark but Sister Judith could make it out. Meredith was dangling from the ceiling, the 'travel turtle' was on the floor nearby and so was a chair lying on it's side.
"We'll be back later with Meredith." Gerard said down the phone to Mia.
"But I miss you so much Daddy."
"I know you do but we had to stay in the hotel for the night because Meredith lives so far away from us. We're going to pick her up in a minute though." Gerard smiled "Tell Jude and Eva that me and Mommy said hello and that we can't wait to be back."
"I will!" Mia grinned "Bye Daddy!"
"Bye Beautiful." Gerard replied, hanging up his mobile phone. The moment he hung up his phone rang "Hello?"
Jennifer was in the bathroom drying her hair and she heard Gerard answer the phone. Her heart sank. She couldn't hear the conversation but somehow she knew what they were about to tell him. She knew that it definitely wasn't good news. She came out of the bathroom and looked at Gerard. The look on his face confirmed Jennifer's fears.
The sky had turned gray. Jennifer and Gerard were outside the hotel, staring at the parking lot, both of them smoking a cigarette. Jennifer's eyes were completely red "The birth family is claiming her body." Gerard said awkwardly, trying to break the unbearable silence between them "They're planning a private service." He waited for Jennifer's re-action but she didn't re-act. Gerard himself was pretty annoyed. Why did Meredith's birth family only want her when she was dead? Gerard continued to see if Jennifer would finally say something "Sister Abigail thinks she might have been playing something called 'The Choking Game'. It's kind of a schoolyard dare. You try to get rush by someone choking you until you almost pass out. There have been cases where kids have tried it alone and accidentally hanged themselves."
There was a pause until Jennifer said in a distant voice "So that's it? She just vanishes from our lives?"
"We can have our own service." Gerard replied "It's important that we-"
"I've been in greif counsilling for almost a year and a half. If you say that word 'closure' then I'm going to claw your eyes out." But her tone wasn't angry, just matter-of-fact. Gerard wanted to say something but held his tongue and waited for Jennifer to speak again "Maybe we're not supposed to do this."
"No. Don't say that."
"I try to have a fourth baby and I have a miscarraige. We try to adopt and she dies the night before we bring her home. That doesn't sound like somebody's trying to tell us something?"
"Meredith didn't die to teach us a lesson. We didn't make this happen."
"It doesn't make a difference. I can't go through this again."
"So let's not. Let's adopt Penina."
Jennifer glared at him "Her body's barely cold and you're already thinking about replacing her?"
"We can't replace Meredith anymore than we can replace Jessie." Gerard whispered, putting his arm round her "But we can't help her anymore either. And right now, Penina is alive and in need of a family."
"We have to at least wait until-"
"Until what?" Gerard asked "I don't want to waste another year of our lives wishing for something that we can't have. I want us to feel like a family again."
Jennifer sighed "Let's see what Sister Abigail thinks."