She drives away from the attorney's office with his instructions weighing her down. What did she just pay him for? The suggestion that she do more, try harder, search for answers herself? Everything is still up to her. She has committed her will to something beyond her control; a jet shot to the moon without a pilot. It could all explode in three seconds.
There is the pinpoint of starlight she is following, and the ashes from his grave blowing in her face. She is taunted by unseen voices using unnecessary force. Deep in the dark box where she locked her daughter's father he scratches a hole in the top and joins the band of devils: "You will never get a penny from me."
For long moments she contemplates what has been. She recognizes her life as peaceful and her daughter as content. She knows that stirring "things up" like this is dangerous. Calling family, asking, "Did he have a hairbrush?" is going to alert people, cause them to question her. Question her reasons for why this is happening now, not thirteen years ago. She knows that hunting for tissue samples or blood samples is as useless as looking for the hairbrush of a dead man. None of these things exist.
When she walks through the door at work she is met by funeral wreaths, a faux tombstone, barbeque chicken, and everyone except her is dressed completely in black. They let her in because her sandals are black. Ron is quitting and moving to Alaska, and this funeral is his going-away party.
Ron: (Huge grin) Hey baby!
Her: Hi Ron, am I glad to see you.
Ron: Oh yeah? Are you closing with me tonight?
(she fixates on his hazel eyes)
Her: Yes, and I know you are exactly the right person to answer my questions.
Ron: (laughs, jumps onto the counter) What's up?
Her: What do you know about DNA?
Ron: What do I know about DNA? Are you kidding?
Ron: I know everything (staring at her chest).
Her: Not that! Hey, let's talk about DNA tonight, okay?
Ron: Sure. Right on. You got it.
Her: Later then (they smack their palms together).
Suddenly, she feels tingles behind her ears, down the back of her neck and across her shoulders. She remembers the attorney told her to ask around at work, at the hospital. When she takes her lunch break, providence has placed the manager of the lab at the table next to her. He's very large, with a blood pressure problem, and has a pock-marked face, but she's talked to him before.
Her: Hi, Jon.
Jon: Hi, what's up with you today? (chomps hard on his burger)
Her: (stirring her yogurt) Oh, I wondered what you know about DNA?
Her: Yes, DNA (everybody together now: DNA).
Jon: Hmmm. What's going on?
Her: I want to know if paternity can be proven with grandparent DNA.
Jon: Why not use the father's DNA?
Her: The father is dead.
Jon: (frowns) How long has he been dead?
Her: About six months.
Jon: Too bad. Paternity is usually proven with the father's sample.
Her: (weary) Yes. I know. But have you heard of doing it this way, with the grandparent's DNA?
Jon: No. Never. Doesn't mean it can't be done though (wrinkles brow, looks at the ceiling).
Her: What do you think the chances are with one grandparent versus two?
Jon: What's the difference?
Her: There is only one grandparent living.
Jon: This is tough.
Her: (feels deflated) How long do hospital labs keep patient blood and tissue samples in storage?
Jon: No longer than seven days. Why?
Her: I wondered if they would keep them longer if the cause of death was undetermined.
Jon: Hahaha! Don't think so. Morgues do that, though.
Her: Okay, thanks anyway.
She finishes lunch and walks slowly down the hall, binding all of the threads of her hope gently together and tucking them under her badge of courage. She wonders how she will feel at the end of this day. Beaten or winning?
(Much later, around 8pm, she and Ron are alone and their work is at a standstill.)
Ron: Yeah, what's up?
Her: Tell me what you know about DNA.
Ron: Don't make me laugh (guffaws). I have done extensive research on DNA.
Her: Can paternity be proven with a grandparent's DNA?
Ron: Certainly. A child can be matched with fifty percent of a father's DNA and so it takes twenty-five percent to sequence a grandparent to a child.
Her: That's all?
Ron: That's all. It's cut and dried. There's a match or not.
Her: Have you heard of it being used in paternity cases before?
Ron: No. But it doesn't matter. Any genetics lab can perform the test. If--who are we talking about?
Her: My daughter and her paternal grandfather.
Ron: Ah. Okay. Have a buccal swab done on each of them and if there is a twenty-five percent DNA match, then he's the grandfather.
Her: (yelling) How come no one else knows this?
Ron: Good question. Who else have you talked to?
Her: My attorney and Jon from the lab.
Ron: Forget Jon, he's a moron. Your attorney's never done this before?
Her: No. And that's what worries me; that no one in this county or even the state will have heard of it and the court will throw it out as a waste of time.
Ron: Time for a new attorney.
Her: Good idea.
Ron: Go online, do a Google search, and find some information to back you up. Then find another attorney.
Her: What about the genetics lab the attorney referred me to?
Ron: (exasperated) Why didn't you mention them before? CALL them and ask your questions.
Her: And then?
Ron: If they say the DNA can be matched--and any bona fide genetics lab will--then get your match and go to court. Simple as that.
That night when she walks out of the hospital to her car it is raining. She isn't wearing a coat and all the way down the bark dust path raindrops pelt her head and sting her face. Inside the car the windows are steamed and she gazes through them, the mist, the moisture, and tears rain down her face. She imagines what it will be like to feel justified, to succeed in vindicating her daughter's birthright. She sees a future where her daughter doesn't lack for anything, and she knows that no matter how scared she feels now, she cannot stop here.
The windshield wipers are on high, slapping right to left, red-not-dead-red-not-dead. She cannot lose her badge of courage now. Not while there is the slightest chance of reaching into death and pulling out life; raising a father from his grave. Side by side, her hands grip the steering wheel, she holds her breath and prays: God, for my daughter, build a bridge and let me cross. The wipers keep slapping, her tears stop falling, and she drives straight ahead into the unknown.