She felt like things had finally gone back to normal...
Rachel sat up in bed, ignoring her heaving stomach. "MAMA!" she screeched, "What are you doing in my room?!"
Sonja fixed a stern look on her daughter. "What about Rio?" she asked.
"I'm not hurting my son, Mom! How could you say that to me?!" Rachel yelled, jumping from the bed.
"You're hurting your son because he's missing out on time with you. You are his mother. His world revolves around you. You will never get this time back with him!" Sonja said angrily, starting to get choked up. "Why do you think I stopped fixing drinks & working at the dive bar when I got pregnant with you?" she added softly. "You were more important than my love of partying..."
Sonja wrapped her arms around her daughter and hugged her tightly, wishing she could absorb all of her unhappiness. "I know, baby. I know..." Resting her cheek against Rachel's head, she rocked her gently, soothing her as she'd done when she was just a little girl.
Fresh tears sprang to Rachel's eyes. "He wouldn't be very proud of me right now," she said miserably.
"Then change your behavior. Stop all this partying and be a good mother to your son."
"Good girl. Now, go take a shower and freshen up. I'll be downstairs."
Haley sighed deeply with relief. "Oh, thank goodness! I was so worried you'd be mad at me!"
Rachel tentatively picked up the drink and sniffed at it.
Maritza rolled her eyes. "Don't smell it! Drink it!"
Rachel pursed her lips, shooting Maritza a side-long glance, but gamely drank her concoction.
"Oh my gosh! I do feel better!" she said, amazed. "Thanks, Maritza!"
She was told that she needed to get special permission to tour the exterior bio-dome gardens. She'd arranged to meet one of the lead scientists, Caleb Shyster for a guest pass. She eyed the three scientists and tried to gauge which of them Mr. Shyster was, discounting one for obvious reasons...
She cleared her throat. "Mr. Shyster?" she asked, turning towards the older gentleman.
"Yes, it's a pleasure to meet you, too," she told him.
Caleb pushed his glasses up on his nose. "So, I've been told that you're doing a study of the local wildlife and are looking for specimens. A very worthwhile endeavor! Have you had much success?"
Maritza was slightly taken a back. Nobody ever expressed an interest in the data she'd accumulated. Rachel just complained about having reptiles in the house, while Haley's chief concern was sketching their likenesses.
Caleb looked down at the cat at her feet. "Very interesting," he said, clearly fascinated. Maritza waited expectantly for a few moments before clearing her throat, "And I was told I'd have access to the exterior gardens?" she prompted.
"Oh! Yes! Of course!" Caleb said, embarrassed to have been caught drifting. "How absent-minded of me! Come this way, I'll lead you back. You have free reign, but I must admit to being interested if you find any fauna, unusual or otherwise. You'll let me know?" he pressed. "Professional courtesy and all?"
"Oh, of course!" Maritza assured him.
Bernie shrugged. "Yeah, sure. No problem," he told her. He'd do just about anything to spend a little extra time with Rachel!
"I... uh... " Bernie stuttered, looking down at Rachel's hand.
Rachel smiled. Bernie was just the kind of guy her Dad would be proud of her for dating.