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Danielle Steel

“You’re back! Or are you still on the road?” the voice said in a cheerful tone. It was her sister, Rebecca, in L.A.

“I just walked in,” Ginny said with a smile. They sent each other text messages regularly, but hadn’t spoken in a month. And she had forgotten that she’d told her when she was coming back.

“You must be exhausted,” Becky said, sounding sympathetic. She was the family nurturer, and the older sister Ginny had relied on all her life, although she hadn’t seen her now in three years. But talking to each other, e-mail when it was possible, and texting kept them close. Becky had just turned forty, and was four years older than Ginny. Becky was married, with three kids, and lived in Pasadena, and their father, with slowly but steadily developing Alzheimer’s, had lived with her for two years. Her father couldn’t live alone anymore, but neither Becky nor Ginny wanted to put him in a home. Their mother had been dead for ten years. He was seventy-two years old, but Becky said he looked a decade older since he got sick. He had worked in a bank, and retired when their mother died. He had lost his lust for life after that.

“I’m tired,” Ginny admitted, “and I hate coming back this time of year. I was hoping to be here before this and out again by now, but my replacement showed up late,” she said, closing her eyes, and fighting not to fall asleep as she listened to her sister’s voice. “I’m hoping they send me out again pretty soon, but I haven’t heard anything yet.” It cheered her up thinking that she wouldn’t be in New York for long. It wasn’t the apartment that depressed her, it was having nothing to do between assignments, and being useful to no one in New York. There was nothing she wanted to do, except leave again.

“Why don’t you relax? You just got home. And why don’t you come out here for a visit before they ship you out?” She had already asked Ginny to spend the holidays with them, but she had said no, yet again.

“Yeah,” Ginny said, sounding noncommittal, as she pulled the rubber band out of her hair, and her long blonde hair cascaded down her back. She was much prettier than she knew, and didn’t care. Her looks were no longer important in her life, although they had been before, in a distant faraway time that had ceased to exist three years before.

“You should come out before Dad gets more confused,” Becky reminded her. Ginny hadn’t seen the slow but steady deterioration and didn’t realize how bad it had gotten in the last few months. “He got lost two blocks from the house the other day—one of my neighbors brought him home. He couldn’t remember where he lives. The kids try to keep an eye on him, but they forget, and we can’t watch him all the time.” Becky hadn’t worked since her second child was born. She’d had a promising career in public relations, which she gave up to raise her kids. Ginny was never sure she’d done the right thing, but Becky seemed to have no regrets. Her son and two daughters were teenagers now, and were keeping her busier than ever, although Alan was always helpful to her, and with their dad. He worked in electronics, and was an engineer, and provided Becky and their kids a solid, stable life.

“Should we get Dad a nurse, so it puts less burden on you?” Ginny asked, sounding concerned.

“He’d hate that. He still wants to feel independent. I don’t let him walk the dog anymore, though—he lost him twice. I guess it’s going to get a lot worse, and the medication isn’t helping as much as it was.” The doctors had warned them that the medication would only slow things down for a while, and after that there was nothing they could do. Ginny tried not to think about it, which was easier when she was far away. Becky lived with the realities of his situation every day, which made Ginny feel guilty, but she did try to sympathize with Becky when she called. She couldn’t go back to L.A. It would have killed her to move back. She hadn’t even been there for a visit since she left, and Becky had been amazingly understanding about it, in spite of having to deal with their father by herself. All Becky wanted now was for her sister to visit him before it was too late. She tried to convey that to Ginny without making her feel guilty or terrifying her. But the prognosis for their father was poor, the disease was progressive, and Becky could see changes in him every day, particularly in the last year.

“I’ll visit one of these days,” Ginny promised, and meant it when she said it, but they both knew it wouldn’t happen before she left on her next trip. “What about you? Are you okay?” Ginny asked her. She could hear the kids in the background—Becky didn’t have a moment to herself all day.

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