Judy was in limbo. The world happened around her. She looked numb on the outside, but a tempest of shame and affection raged inside.
Claire was the only one to see it. Judy followed them onto the landing as Blanche led him downstairs. He stole a mournful glance up at her before the door closed. Not wanting to be alone, Judy went to her sister’s room, threw herself across the bed, and wept.
Believing her sister’s seduction attempt failed, Claire stroked her hair until she fell asleep.
When Wren Chares walked into his reception room two weeks later to find Judy Adams sitting there, he told his secretary to push his next appointment back thirty minutes. Extending his arm, he had to resist wrapping it around Judy’s shoulder as he ushered her in to his office.
As soon as the door closed, her eyes filled with tears and her lip trembled.
“Are you sick?”
“I’m stupid! I’m so, so sorry. I wasn’t thinking straight. I should have considered–”
He held up a hand, silencing her. “Are you sick?” he repeated.
He closed his eyes with a sigh of relief.
“I just feel so stupid!” She lowered her head. Her hair fell over her face, but she could not hide her sniffles.
Chares wrapped his arms around her. “You’re not stupid,” he assured her. “You’re young.” He kissed her hair. “You need to tell me if you start to feel sick – the moment you feel sick. Don’t tell your parents; Come straight to me.”
Raising her head, she nodded. When she looked into the doctor’s dark eyes, she was touched by the concern she saw there. After two weeks of fearing he hated her, it made her melt. She pressed her lips to his.
She had only come to apologize.
Chares had warned her not to tell her parents if she got sick. Although confused, she took it to heart. So when she was in the middle of dinner when her stomach turned, she set her napkin aside and opened her mouth to excuse herself. But words didn’t come out. Welsh rabbit, already semi-digested, came out instead.
So much for hiding it from her parents.
Claire got sick after Judy did, turning their parents’ suspicion upon the food. They called the physician at home. He spent two minutes with Claire, then gave her a ginger beer to settle her stomach. He spent a significantly longer time with Judy.
When Chares emerged from Judy’s room, his face was grim and pale. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and cleaned his glasses. After he returned them to his face, he repeatedly drew the handkerchief through his fingers,
“Mr. Adams, may I please speak with you – alone?”
Henry Adams looked the physician from head to toe and gave a curt nod. He led Chares to his office. After a moment, the door was thrown open.
“JUDY!” he bellowed, storming back upstairs.
Chares flew after him. “Mr. Adams, I haven’t finished!”
Adams threw open the door to his youngest daughter’s room. Both girls were sitting on the bed, clinging to one another. Blanche shot up from where she was sitting on the edge of the bed.
“Daddy, don’t!” Claire cried, blocking her little sister.
Adams grabbed her golden hair and yanked her off the bed.
“Henry!” Blanche screamed, covering her mouth.
“Who is he?” Adams grabbed his youngest. Pulling her to her feet, he shook her.
“Mr. Adams, control yourself!” Chares pried the man’s hands loose and stood between them. Judy grabbed the back of his blazer and buried her face in it. “It’s me,” he confessed.
To confirm this, Judy’s hand slipped around his chest. He clutched her fingers.
“I’m the father.”
Blanche’s hands flailed as she searched for something to hold on to. Finding nothing, she fell to her knees.
Chares kept his voice calm. “I will do right by her,” he said. “We will marry and raise the child together.”
Adams’s face went from red to purple. “You did this on purpose,” he said in a low voice.
Chares furrowed his brow. “Don’t be absurd.”
“Who are you? You’re nothing by an olive-nigger! Get out of my house!”
Clenching his teeth, Chares squeezed Judy’s hand. “I won’t let you hurt her.”
“She’s my daughter and I’ll do with her as I wish!” He was yelling again, jabbing the air with a finger. Chares shook his head and refused to move.
“We–We’ll call the police,” Blanche stammered.
“Mother!” Claire cried.
“Yes, I’ll call the police!” Adams repeated.
Judy took a deep breath. Chares felt her release his blazer. “Go,” she whispered. “I’ll be OK.” She slipped her hand out of his.
Keeping one eye on Adams, he turned to her. “I will do right by you… and our child.” He touched her face and squeezed her hand again. He turned to nod to Blanch. “I will see myself out!”
Judy pushed him toward the door. It was the last time he ever saw her.