Family Merger (Chapter Five)

Kathryn had never been reluctant to ask her questions, yet she found herself searching for a reason to turn the conversation to a different subject. "They're only for men looking for a serious relationship with me."

"Assume I'd like to have a serious relationship with you."

Kathryn had memorized her list long ago, but at that moment every item on it flew out of her head. He was the father of one of her girls. He was everything she'd argued against her entire life. There was no denying the sexual attraction between them – she could feel it even at this moment – but he had to know she wouldn't consider him as a possible candidate for a serious relationship, certainly not one that could result in marriage.

"I don't know why you'd make such a joke, but I don't consider it very funny."

"Who said anything about jokes? I'm no different from any other man. I'm attracted to beautiful, sexy women. You have this sleek, elegant, stylishly cool look, but I get the feeling a cauldron of hot emotions is seething just below the surface."

"You've been watching too many operas."

"You're rigid in your ideas. This indicates even more strong emotions. People only fight hard about things that are important to them."

"I see you include pop psychology in your repertoire." She was beginning to get irritated.

"I find you extremely interesting. No good reason, I just do. I guess you might call that chemistry."

Now he was telling her he liked her against reason. While he was taking all of those classes to round out his education, he should have taken one to teach him what not to say to women.

"In case you're interested, you're failing my preliminary test so badly I wouldn't even consider asking you the questions."

He laughed and looked at his watch. "We've got to go. My plane should be almost ready."

"You go on. I'll catch a cab."

"Not on your life." He put several bills on the table and got up. "Come on. You've got to tell me how to pass your preliminary test. I'm anxious to get to those questions."

They talked about his trip while they waited for his limousine. She was surprised he still meant to fly back to Charlotte after the next meeting. He would be gone for just one day.

"You won't get any time to rest."

She didn't know why she was worried about him getting enough sleep. He was a grown man. He didn't need her to tell him when to go to bed.

"I can sleep on a plane. In a taxi, too. The only thing that bothers me is jet lag. I can't ever seem to adjust to the change in time."

They had started on a meaningless discussion of ways to combat jet lag when they got into the limousine. He slammed the door on the limousine as well as on their conversation.

"Now tell me how to pass this test of yours."

Okay he asked for it. "To begin with, never tell a woman you're interested in her in spite of yourself."

"I didn't say that. I meant I don't know what it is about you that appeals to me so much. But it's early days. I'll figure it out."

"And no woman wants to be told she's so sexy men lose control over themselves."

"Bull. Every woman likes to think she has that effect on men. She may not want it to happen, but she likes to think it could."

"Well I don't."

"Okay, you're an exception. What else?"

"She doesn't want a man to tell her he knows her better than she knows herself."

"I never said that."

"You said I was a mass of seething emotions."

"Hell, everybody's a mass of emotions. If they don't seethe, you might as well be dead."

She was getting uneasy. He was knocking over all her objections. "And we don't like to be told things we do are unimportant."

"You don't like me calling your home for wayward girls an avocation?"

"They're not wayward. They've just made a mistake."

"Okay, I withdraw the wayward part, but I stick to it being your avocation. Lots of people are more devoted to their avocations than their vocations. It just depends on how their life falls out."

"It's more than an avocation."

"If you got married and had children, would you give it up?"

"No."

"If it came to a choice between the shelter and your family, would you give it up?"

"If it comes to a choice between Cynthia and your job, will you give it up?"

"I asked you first. And before you say I'm not playing fair, I'll remind you I've missed two days of crucial meetings."

She didn't know why she had to keep reminding herself he had left his meeting, that he had spent most of the day trying to figure out what he needed to do to reach a better understanding with his daughter. He was leaving for Geneva in an hour, but he was coming back at the end of the meeting. At least he said he was. That's more than she'd expected. And whether she wanted to admit it or not, it had changed her opinion of him. Maybe that's why she'd agreed to come out with him tonight. He was proving he wasn't the kind of man she'd thought.

She wouldn't allow herself to ask if he might turn out to be the kind of man she wanted him to be. She wouldn't allow herself to want anything when it came to Ron Egan. He was much too dangerous.

"I can't answer for sure," she said. "I guess I'd give up the shelter, but I'd make sure it stayed open."

"You don't sound very sure. Not a very good recommendation for your feelings about the importance of family."

"It's hard to be convincing about a hypothetical situation."

"You don't think it could still happen?"

Did she? She had become very cynical about men. Most who were too rich were playboys. Those that were too poor were fortune hunters or were so ambitious they felt work and success were more important than family. If she did marry, it would have to be to a man who had the same or very similar values to her own.

Did she think she would find him? She didn't know. Her last dates hadn't encouraged her to be optimistic. She'd enjoyed her time with Ron more than time spent with any man she'd dated in years, and he was the opposite of everything she wanted. At least that's how it had seemed at first, and she was inclined to stick with her first impression, especially since Ron's charm and sexual pull on her were affecting her judgment.

"I believe I'll get married," she said, "and not because I'm so desperate I have to lower my standards."

"Who said you were desperate? I bet you didn't like that very much."

"Would you?"

"I've been desperate and survived, so it wouldn't bother me. You never have. I think it might scare you."

"It made me mad." At first. She'd started to feel afraid later. Was she being too rigid in her standards, too demanding in her expectations? Was she overestimating her own value?

"I expect it did. Who said it?"

"A very successful attorney who thought my family connections were just what he needed to turn his law career into a political success. He decided I'd be a perfect political hostess." She didn't know why she was telling Ron all of this. She hadn't told anyone, not even her sister.

"He was right. He just wasn't smart enough to see you didn't want to be judged on your suitability for his career plans. The right man would want to marry you even if you were exactly the wrong kind of wife for him."

"I wouldn't want anybody to marry me if I was wrong for him."

"You know what I meant."

She did, and she was surprised he would say something like that.

"You didn't expect me to say that, did you?"

She wished the interior of the limousine wasn't so well lit. Nothing in his words or his tone of voice implied it, but she could tell he was disappointed in her.

"No, I didn't, but I should have."

She could tell her answer, or her honesty, caught him by surprise.

"Why?"

"I didn't stop to realize you'd probably been treated like that many times by people who didn't consider you in their class but were willing to work with you because you could be useful to them."

"It's happened a few times, but I was using them just as much as they were using me."

She didn't know if he really believed what he said, but he would never have held on to that rusty trailer if slights and snobbish treatment weren't important to him. He wanted to remember what it felt like to be powerless, to be treated like a nobody, to be passed over for people who were much less capable.

"I never thought of it like that," she said. "I guess we all use people."

"The trick is to be fair about it. Now, I want to hear those questions. You've stalled long enough."

"There's no point. Half of them don't apply to you, or I already know the answers."

"Such as?"

"Have you been married before and how many times? How did your last relationship end? Have you ever gotten a woman pregnant? Do you have any children? How often do you call your mother? You can't answer that because she died years ago."

"I'd probably call her every couple of weeks."

Right in the middle of the acceptable range. "How often do you clean your own bathroom? But that doesn't apply either because you have a maid."

"I didn't always?"

"Okay how often did you clean your bathroom when you were in college?"

"I didn't. I lived in a dorm. And we had a communal bathroom."

"At Harvard and Yale?"

"I was a scholarship student, remember."

"Okay, how often did you clean your room?"

"I cleaned my half every week. My roommate only tackled his when he went home on vacation and had to pack up all his dirty clothes for the maids to wash."

Okay, he probably wouldn't leave his underwear on the bathroom floor, but he wouldn't complain if she dried her panty hose on the towel rack.

"Do you have any vices? What's your favorite one?"

Ron laughed. "I don't have time for vices. I work all the time, but you probably consider that a vice."

"What's your favorite female body part and why?"

"You're kidding."

"No."

"Will you tell me your favorite male body part if I answer?"

"This is my quiz. I get to ask the questions, and you get to answer."

"Okay, in case I answer wrong, I'm warning you, I know karate."

"I know jujitsu."

"Hell, I'm impressed you even know the word. Okay, I like breasts, lips, and eyes, not necessarily in that order."

That confused her. She'd never had an answer quite like that.

"Want to explain?"

"I like breasts because, well, I'm a guy and that's what guys do. I like lips because I love to kiss. I like eyes because if the woman has a sense of humor, they sparkle."

He was doing too well. It was time to throw him a curve. "If you were to dress a woman for a very special occasion, would you have any preferences for the dress and heels she wore?"

"I sure would."

Uh-oh. Danger sign. About the only notice real men took of dresses and shoes was to make sure a woman was wearing them.

"If it was a real important occasion I'd want her to wear something black. That way if anything spilled on her, it wouldn't show."

She nearly choked with laughter. "Do your dates often spill food on themselves?"

"No, but it's best to plan ahead."

"What about heels?"

"They can't be so high she can't stand up for thirty minutes without complaining her shoes are killing her. Why do women put their feet into shoes they know are going to hurt? No man would do a damned fool thing like that. This is fun. We've got time for one more."

"How long do you wait before trying to have sex with a woman?"

"That's too easy. I wait until she wants it as much as I do."

They had arrived at the airport. The limousine came to a halt at the curb. "Save the rest for next time. I've got to run." He reached for his briefcase.

"Is that all you're taking?"

"I left everything in my hotel room. I'll be back the day after tomorrow. I hope you can talk Cynthia into seeing her friend."

"I'll try."

"And plan something for us to do. I love my daughter, but I'd like to spend part of my day with you."

Kathryn didn't know why she should be feeling breathless just because a man said he wanted to spend time with her. It wasn't as if it hadn't happened before. Only everything Ron did felt as if it were happening for the first time. She remembered that was a line from some song and smiled.

"What's funny?" Ron asked.

"I just thought of a line from a song."

"That's a good sign. Music is the soul of romance."

Then he stunned her by pulling her out of the limousine. She started to remind him that security wouldn't let her see him off at the gate, but it was quickly apparent Ron wasn't thinking about boarding gates. He took both her hands in his and drew her close.

"I enjoyed this evening. I'm glad you decided to come with me."

"I didn't think I had a choice. If I declined, you'd have come after me." She knew immediately she'd said the wrong thing. It wasn't what she felt. It wasn't what he deserved. "I didn't mean that. I – "

"You're almost as bad as Cynthia. You don't trust people like me to like you for yourself. I don't blame you for the most part, but I'm going to prove I'm different. Now I've got to run."

Without warning he kissed her soundly, picked up his briefcase, turned and headed toward the terminal at a run. She stood there like a statue, her gaze following him, remaining on the door long after he'd entered and disappeared from her view.

It was foolish to attempt to deny this man had a powerful effect on her. On the surface he appeared to be exactly the kind of man she avoided. On the other hand, he felt like the kind of man she was looking for. She'd dated other good-looking men, many more personable, at least initially, but none had affected her as Ron did. She couldn't decide what it was about him that made the difference, but there definitely was a difference.

She wasn't supposed to like him, but she did. Regardless of how well he answered her questions, no woman interested in a family, a husband who would come home to dinner and remain faithful to her, would take him on. There were simply too many challenges, too many hurdles. She should never have become involved with him. She should have limited herself to making sure he didn't force Cynthia to go home against her wishes. She was crazy to have let him talk her into giving him sensitivity training.

She had been so sure it would be a simple matter to convince him he needed professional help. Not only had she overestimated her ability and underestimated his understanding, she hadn't once mentioned professional help. Then she'd let herself get seduced into going out on a date with him. She had to be losing her mind. Maybe something about this man engendered insanity in people around him. Maybe that was the secret of his success.

"We'd better go, miss," the limousine driver said. "The police will give me a ticket if I stay here any longer."

Kathryn's sense of her surroundings came back with a jolt. She was still standing on the sidewalk outside the airport terminal staring at the door as if she expected someone to come through any minute. She turned and got back in the car.

"Do you want to go home?" the driver asked.

"Yes." She gave him the address and settled back in the deep, luxuriously cushioned seat. It seemed almost a metaphor for what was happening to her. She was being virtually swallowed by the deeply seductive personality of Ron Egan, pulled into an intoxicating illusion that was as fleeting as it was unsubstantial. Tomorrow would come, or the day after, and everything would change. Once he got back in Geneva, got swallowed up in the excitement of his work, Ron might forget to come back.

He knew Cynthia would be safe. Kathryn would look after her. Why should he take a leave of absence from the career he loved? Cynthia would soon be off to college, a career or marriage. She would have a life of her own. She wouldn't need him, might not even have a place for him. Telling him he ought to take time off for his daughter was another piece of supreme arrogance on her part. In ten years of running the shelter she'd never done anything like that. She was an administrator, not an advisor.

If Ron Egan did come back in two days, she had to be prepared to send him away. Being around him was too dangerous.

"Are you going to see Leigh?" Kathryn asked Cynthia. The four girls were having breakfast. Ruby was moving around, putting food in front of the girls, making it plain she expected them to eat every bite.

"I don't know," Cynthia said.

"I don't see why not," Lisette said. "You can't stay locked up here forever. Besides, you'll want your old friends around after the baby's born and you're ready to go out again."

Kathryn was certain Lisette never considered letting the fact she was a mother interfere with her social life. She probably didn't see the two as having anything to do with each other.

"I think you ought to see her," Julia said. "I don't see why having a baby should cause you not to be friends anymore."

"What do you think, Betsy?" Kathryn asked.

Betsy was so painfully shy she blushed when anybody spoke to her. Kathryn couldn't imagine what stratagems the father of her child had used to seduce her. Betsy blushed, stammered and stared at her glass of milk before she answered.

"I don't think I could see anybody," she said. "I'd be too ashamed."

"Cynthia's not ashamed, and neither am I," Lisette announced. "Having a baby is proof your boyfriend is crazy about you."

Kathryn hoped Lisette learned some tact one of these days, but she wasn't holding her breath. Kerry had been to see her every day, two and three times on occasion, but it couldn't have escaped her notice that none of the other girls had received visits from their boyfriends.

"That may be true," Kathryn said to Lisette, "but getting pregnant while you're in high school can ruin your life if you're not careful."

"It won't ruin mine," Lisette declared. She swallowed the last of her toast and milk. "I'm going to marry Kerry, and our parents will take care of everything."

And they probably would. After they got over being angry. Her mother was already begging her father to let her come home. And if she was reading things right, Kerry's mother would do anything for her adored son. She just had to talk her husband into going along with it.

"I've got to get dressed before Kerry gets here," Lisette announced. "Come on, Julia. You promised to help me."

The atmosphere in the room seemed to go flat after the two girls left.

"Lisette is right," Kathryn said to Cynthia. "You can't shut yourself away from the world just because you're going to have a baby."

"I don't want to shut myself away. I expect I'll meet other girls who have babies, who'll want to talk about something besides boys, football games and who's dating whom this week."

Kathryn laughed. "I hate to disappoint you, but mothers talk about the same things. Only it's husbands, golf and whose marriage is rocky and possibly headed for divorce."

"I'll never get divorced," Cynthia said. "Betsy and I have decided we don't want to get married."

Betsy turned bright red and excused herself before she could be expected to give her reason for such a decision.

"I can understand why you feel like that now, but you might change your mind in a few years."

"No guy is going to want to marry me. I'm fat, boring and so smart I scare boys silly. On top of that I'll have some other guy's baby."

"Lots of men marry women who already have children. That happened to two of my friends just last year."

"It won't happen to me."

"I wouldn't close any doors just yet."

"Have you closed your doors?"

Kathryn's first impulse was to pretend she didn't understand the question, but she changed her mind. "No, I haven't."

"Are you going to date Daddy again?"

Kathryn nearly choked on her coffee. "What made you think we were on a date? We were talking about you."

Cynthia looked a little unsure but she forged ahead. "You were out with him practically all of yesterday. That must mean you like each other."

"I spent the day trying to help him understand you better."

"What about last night?"

"We talked about a lot of things. I have to learn to understand your father if I'm going to help him understand you."

"He'll never understand me. He doesn't want me."

"You're wrong there. He loves you very much. He just doesn't realize you can't put children in a corner and expect them to wait patiently until you have time to take them out again."

"Margaret says Mama never expected Daddy to do anything with me. She says Mama encouraged him to spend all his time working."

"Did Margaret know your mother well?"

"She came to work for them when Mama got pregnant. Daddy was determined she would have everything other wives had."

"Is your father worried about you doing things other kids your age do?"

Cynthia rolled her eyes. "All the time. I can't get him to understand that fat girls with genius IQs aren't exactly the most popular kids in school. They don't get invited to everything, especially trips and overnights."

She laughed, but Kathryn could tell it was without humor.

"I remember this one ski trip he found out about. He hit the ceiling when he found out I hadn't been invited. It didn't make any difference that I didn't know how to ski and didn't want to go, he was determined I was going to be invited. He even offered to put pressure on one of the parents to invite me." She shuddered. "Can you imagine? I wouldn't have been able to hold my head up after that. Everybody would know."

"I don't imagine the parents would tell."

"Are you kidding? It was the Bensons. They blab everything they know."

"At least his heart's in the right place."

"I wish I could make him understand I don't want all these things. I don't enjoy parties. I just stand around watching other people have fun. I certainly don't want to go on overnight trips. I'd have to room with some girl who'd rather be with someone else. Then somebody has to let me tag along with their group even though they don't want me."

"You father just wants you to be accepted. He doesn't want you to have to go through what he went through as a kid."

"I know. Mama went through the same stuff. Margaret said it's worse for girls, especially if they're not pretty. Mama was pretty angry about things like that."

It didn't surprise Kathryn that Ron's wife was acutely aware of any social slights. That was the kind of thing a woman would be more concerned about than a man.

"I think it's natural for a father to want the best for his daughter, especially since you're his only child."

"He probably wanted a son instead."

Kathryn supposed that was a big worry for every girl in a family without boys. When you were the only child, it had to be even more troubling. "I don't know if your father misses having a son, but he's never said anything that would indicate he isn't perfectly happy with you."

"He'd want a son to go into business with him."

"Women are rising to all levels in business these days. Your father said women had given him some of his hardest fights."

"He never talks business with me. He only wants to know who my friends are and what parties I've been to. Thank goodness I won't have to deal with a debutante ball now."

"There's no reason you can't still make your debut."

"I don't want to."

"Have you told your father?"

"Yes, but he won't listen to me. He says I'm too young to know what's best for me."

"You're not too young to know what you want in this case. I think he ought to consider your wishes."

"Will you talk to him?"

"Sure."

"Do you think he'll come back when he said?"

Kathryn wasn't willing to share her own doubts with Cynthia. "You know your father better than I do."

"Daddy's usually very good about keeping his word –  Margaret says you can swear by it – but nobody's ever asked him to miss a meeting."

"Or possibly lose a big deal."

"Yeah," Cynthia added, clearly not encouraged by that thought. "What he needs is something more important to him than this deal."

"What he needs is something that's more important to him than his work. Your baby might be that. Some men are crazy about their grandchildren."

"He's not going to get his hands on my baby," Cynthia cried, suddenly very upset. "This is my baby."

All the warning signs Kathryn had observed earlier sprang to mind. There was something wrong here, and she had to find out what it was.

"What he needs is a wife," Cynthia said. "Do you think you can find somebody to marry him?"

Kathryn was certain her laugh sounded forced. "I run a shelter for young women, not a dating service for their fathers."

"He dates all the time. I'm talking about someone who'll marry him. It shouldn't be hard to find somebody. He's good-looking and rich. Leigh says he doesn't even look old. Don't you know some nice woman would like him well enough to go out with him?"

Kathryn didn't want to tell Cynthia how easy it would be for a woman to like her father very much. Neither did Cynthia need to know Kathryn found her father so attractive she temporarily forgot that though they seemed to have a lot in common they disagreed on most fundamental matters.

Kathryn got up to refill her coffee cup. "Your father will remarry when he's ready."

"Not if he never stops working."

"I'm sure he meets lots of women in his work."

"Not the kind I'd want him to marry. He needs somebody who'll take care of him, somebody who's not interested in him becoming the most famous businessman in the world. He needs someone like you."

Kathryn didn't like shocks, especially when she was pouring hot coffee. They were unpleasant and caused her heart to beat uncomfortably fast.

"A woman like me wouldn't know what to do with a man like your father."

"Why not?"

"Well first of all, he travels all over the world all the time. I prefer to stay close to home. He doesn't seem to need friends and family. I think friends and family are very important."

"But you don't have any friends and you hardly ever see your family."

Kathryn looked down at her coffee as she stirred in the artificial creamer. "I wasn't talking about myself."

"You said you thought – "

"That was a slip of the tongue."

"I think you'd be perfect for him. You're beautiful, smart and you know how to meet important people. That's just the kind of wife he needs."

"That may be, but I'm not the wife he needs." Kathryn picked up her cup and came back to the table. "Besides, we have some fundamental disagreements about what things are important in life. Starting with you and your baby."

"If he got married, he wouldn't have time to worry about me and the baby. Besides, he'd probably say it was something his wife should take care of. And if he married you, it would be perfect because we agree on everything."

Kathryn settled back in her chair. "Not everything. For example, I'm very uneasy about why you're having this baby and why you chose to come here."

It was immediately obvious she'd hit a sensitive spot. Cynthia grabbed her plate and got up to take it to the sink.

"Don't run away," Kathryn said. "If we're going to talk about why I ought to marry your father, then we need to talk about why you decided to have this baby. Did you decide to have it?"

Cynthia didn't run away, but she kept her back to Kathryn.

"No. It was an accident."

"An accident you didn't try very hard to prevent?"

"If you mean I didn't refuse to have sex, then I guess you're right."

"I was thinking more along the lines of agreeing to have unprotected sex more than once."

Cynthia didn't answer.

"Was this your first time?"

"Do you think boys line up to have sex with somebody like me?"

"I think you liked the boy, but I don't believe you liked him enough to want to have a baby with him. That would imply you want to marry him like Lisette wants to marry Kerry."

"He wouldn't marry me even if I wanted him to. He'd probably deny he's the father."

"You said he doesn't know so you can't know how he would react."

Cynthia swung around. "What do you think he'd do? He's seventeen. This would ruin his chances of a football scholarship. And my father would probably kill him."

"Your father will certainly be very angry, but I doubt he'll resort to violence. However, that's not the issue. The issue is this is his baby – "

"It's my baby!"

" – as much as it's yours," Kathryn said, pushing a point Cynthia obviously didn't want to address. "You have to let him make his own decision about what to do."

"I won't tell you his name."

"I don't want you to. I'm just saying the baby doesn't belong to one parent any more than the other."

"Mama said men weren't interested in babies. She said babies belong to their mothers."

"I expect the boy will want to stay as far away as possible, but you've got to give him the chance to decide. Talk to your father about it when he gets back."

"If he gets back."

"If Margaret says you can swear by what he says, then I'm sure he'll be back. If anybody knows a man better than his wife, it's the housekeeper."

"Margaret says he ought to get married again. She says it's not good for a young man to be without a wife. She says he'll meet all kinds of women who'll give him diseases."

"I'm not sure this is something Margaret should talk to you about."

"I know all about STDs. Everybody does. That's another reason I think you ought to marry him. I know you haven't been – "

"This conversation has gotten entirely off base. Leigh is coming by this afternoon. You don't have to see her if you don't want to. But if you keep putting her off until she gives up, you'll always wonder about her friendship, and that will be doing her a disservice. If you're the kind of friend you'd like her to be, then you owe her that opportunity."

Cynthia looked mulish.

"Now you have lessons to do if you're going to keep up with your schooling. And I have bills to pay if I'm going to keep this shelter running."

But an hour later Kathryn gave up and pushed her checkbook aside. She couldn't get Ron out of her mind. Or Cynthia's crazy notion that she should marry him. There wasn't a single reason she could think of to recommend the idea, so she didn't understand why she couldn't get it out of her mind. She didn't have many friends and she barely got along with her family. That wasn't a recommendation for becoming the wife of a man like Ron Egan. He needed someone who could understand his need to be the world's greatest overachiever. And achieve social acceptance which she knew he would ultimately find meaningless.

She couldn't understand why she couldn't stop thinking about him. She had to figure out what it was so she could get over her obsession.

It wasn't really an obsession. Maybe it was just fascination. But when she was with him, differences didn't seem to matter. He was a charismatic man. She guessed that's what made him so successful in the business.

But she wasn't with him now, and differences did matter. Still, they didn't seem insuperable. Common sense told her they wouldn't be easy to overcome. They came from different worlds and were poles apart on how they felt about it. He wanted to conquer her world. She wanted to ignore most of it.

She'd never thought of walking into a ready-made family, husband, daughter and grandchild. A man who already had a grandchild might not want more children. And then there were the inevitable differences over how they should handle the situation. She would always be an outsider because Cynthia was his daughter, not hers. And this didn't even begin to take into consideration the possibility that Cynthia might be jealous of any children she might have. Children might say they didn't value money, but few things could break up a family more quickly than squabbles over who was going to inherit what.

Kathryn closed her desk and got up. She needed something to take her mind off Ron. Her friends had been begging her to let them take her shopping. They said she never bought anything really nice for herself because she saved all her money for the shelter.

Today she felt like buying a new dress. Maybe even shoes and a bag to go with it. She'd call two of her friends. They'd enjoy it even more if they could share being amazed she had finally broken down and agreed to go shopping. Then once she bought the dress, she'd have to think of somewhere to wear it. She'd let them help her with that, too. They'd try to match her up with some guy they thought would make a perfect husband, but she wouldn't go out with him unless she wanted to. This was really an excuse to see her friends again.