For the Girls' Sake - By Janice Kay Johnson


O + O DOES NOT = B. So why was she even nervous?

Oblivious to the salt-scented breeze and the familiar whoosh of the broken surf, Lynn Chanak stared at the envelope in her hand. Open it, she told herself. Then you can quit worrying about nothing.

And nothing was just what it would prove to be.

That Portland lab had mixed up somebody else’s blood with Shelly’s. It was dumb to let the results shake her even for a minute. Poor Shelly had had to endure being stuck with a needle again, which still made Lynn mad, but it was done, over with, and now with the results from the new lab she’d be able to refute her ex-husband’s ridiculous accusation.

There was no way a second lab would make the same kind of mistake. Lynn and Brian both had Type O blood; she’d once been foolish enough to think that meant they were made for each other.

With both parents having Type O blood, Shelly had to have the same.

So why not open the envelope?

"Mama!" Lynn’s three-and-a-half-year-old daughter tugged at her sleeve. "See what I found?"

The small hand cupped a flame-red, wave-polished chunk of agate that beachcombing tourists would have killed for.

Lynn smiled in delight and hugged her daughter. "That’s a pretty one! You’ve got sharp eyes!"

She sat on a gray, winter-tossed log on the beach, the pile of mail in her hand. This was a daily ritual for her and Shelly when the shop was closed. Wait for the mail, don sweatshirts against the sharp breeze, and then walk the two blocks from home to the rocky beach, famous for the sea stacks that reared offshore. Otter Beach had been a tiny lumber town until the Oregon coast became a favorite tourist destination. Now streets were lined with art galleries and antique shops, and prime beachfront real estate was taken by inns and bed-and-breakfasts.

Lynn’s bookstore was one block over from the main street. The upstairs of the old house was home, the downstairs her business. During tourist season, she stayed open six days a week. By the time winter storms pounded the coast, she only bothered to open from Thursday through Sunday for locals and for the few hardy souls who came for romantic weekends and beachcombing after storms deposited Japanese floats and agates on the shore.

"I’ll give this to Daddy next time he comes," Shelly announced. "C’n you save it for him, Mommy?"

"You bet, sweetie," agreed Lynn, hiding her dismay. How was she going to explain to a three-year-old why Daddy wasn’t visiting anymore?

Giggling, Shelly wormed her hand into the pocket of Lynn’s faded, zip-front sweatshirt to deposit her find. The chunk of agate joined the crab claw and the mussel shell entwined with dried seaweed that she’d already collected.

For a moment Lynn watched as Shelly wandered away. She looked so cute in her denim overalls and rubber-toed sneakers, her mink-brown ponytail straight and sleek. Lynn tried hard to see what Brian did, but how could she? This was her daughter.

So what if her own hair was a warm, wavy chestnut-brown, if Brian was blond? So what if Shelly’s eyes were brown, while Lynn’s were green and Brian’s blue? Kids didn’t always look just like their parents. In fact, they hardly ever did. The genes that created a person were the threads of color in a Persian carpet, thousands of bits of wool, woven together with a complexity that defied any ability to say that a certain blue came from such and such a sheep. Shelly might look like some forgotten great-grandmother. Did it matter that her face wasn’t a reflection of her father’s?

Apparently it did to Brian. He’d always been unreasonably jealous, both before they were married—when Lynn considered possessiveness romantic—and after. The marriage had been a mistake, a terrible mistake. Guilt ate at Lynn every time she thought about Brian, because she knew the failure was hers. She shouldn’t have married him. He was right when he had believed she didn’t love him enough.

But she had never been unfaithful. There hadn’t been another man; probably never would be, now that she knew she wasn’t capable of the kind of passion a lifetime commitment required. She hadn’t given Brian any reason to suspect she was seeing someone, so it outraged her that now he should claim Shelly wasn’t his.

Lynn bitterly resented having to put a three-year-old through the scary process of having blood drawn, but she’d done it. Not just because she needed Brian to keep paying the child