"I love the way Ophelia looks at you," Meadow told her husband, as he was helping the little girl with her potty training.
"Complete trust and adoration," she observed.
Orlando praised Ophelia for her efforts, picked her up off the potty and put her down at the activity table with Marcus.
"Yes, the three of us got very lucky with her," Orlando remarked.
Like her big brother, Ophelia was an agreeable child who never gave her parents any trouble.
She was always eager to learn new skills,
and Meadow thought she was a fast learner.
"You're Mommy's little star--yes you are!" Meadow told her. 'Your birth parents must have been smart,' she thought to herself.
Meadow devoted a great deal of time and care to Ophelia, perhaps trying to compensate for the girl's having been abandoned as an infant.
But, since Ophelia had been so young when Meadow had found her at the Church of the Good Shepherd, the child probably retained no memories of her life before being adopted.
Ophelia adored her mother, and seemed to try hard to please her,
and she and Marcus were inseparable.
"Boy, those kids could not look more different," Orlando remarked one evening. "Hair, skintone, facial features--everything."
"Shhh," Meadow whispered, "don't let them hear you," although both she and her husband knew that they would soon have to reveal to the children that Ophelia was adopted. Marcus was due to start school in the fall, and his parents didn't want him to hear any potentially upsetting news from another child.
Marcus and Ophelia played so nicely together that occasionally their tired parents were able--after feeding the children and dressing them in their PJs--to leave the two alone and go upstairs to bed, confident that they would be able to hear any crying via the open stairway that connected the two floors of the farmhouse.
Ophelia and Marcus seemed to relish their late-night time together.
Listening to the giggling, Meadow asked her husband, "What do you think they're talking about down there?" as he snuggled up behind her.
"Probably conspiring to take over the world," he answered sleepily.
The toddlers would play with their toys until they got tired,
and then would crawl onto their blankets and go to sleep side by side.
"Remember the kitchen guys are coming this afternoon," Orlando reminded his wife early one morning as he was doing dishes.
"It will be so great finally to have a dishwasher," he added.
"And Calista's coming by this morning," Meadow said. "She's bringing over some clothes for Ophelia that she got in Paris while she and Randy were on vacation."
"We sure picked a generous godmother for Ophelia," Orlando laughed.
Calista and Randy had not gone on a honeymoon after their wedding, since Calista had been pregnant with their son Christopher at the time, had had quite a bit of morning sickness, and consequently hadn't felt up to traveling.
The couple had recently bought an old warehouse that Rebecka had found for them, and they decided to take a vacation while Kennedy Cox's architectural firm (where Randy worked as the business manager) supervised renovations to the old brick building to transform it into the kind of upscale space that Randy wanted for the high-end car dealership he planned to open.
Before Calista arrived, Meadow fed Ophelia,
and continued her potty training,
before turning her attention to Marcus.
"Ophelia's hair has gotten long," Calista commented.
"Yeah, I like it," Meadow replied, putting Marcus down near his sister. "It looks so much more feminine."
"Can you stay for lunch?" she asked her friend.
"No, I've got to head over to Randy's car dealership," Calista answered. "Today's opening day, and I want to give him as much support as I can. Oh, before I forget, here's a present for my godchild."
When Orlando came home from work, Ophelia was playing on the jumpy horse. "What is that you're wearing, honeybun?" he asked his daughter, picking her up.
"It's a present from Calista," Meadow explained.
"Oh, how cute!" Orlando exclaimed.
"Now you look just like your godmother!!"
Randy's new business, London Motors, was housed in a former warehouse.
Kennedy's architects had outdone themselves in redesigning the space,
which housed two automotive display platforms, plus a small room in which Randy could take a break--nap, eat, shower--if he needed.
Calista didn't require any such amenities, since she had brought her throne to the dealership, and could sit in it whenever her needs decayed.
"Now remember the plan, honey--" Randy told his wife, "we stick with our premium price. It doesn't matter if we don't sell any cars our first day. This is a high-end dealership, and we don't discount. Let's just try to raise the business up a few ranks, and build our sales skills, and that will pay off eventually."
The new store didn't attract many customers till early evening,
but finally got its first star, which Randy used to get a lower wholesale price on cars.
As he'd planned, he and Calista worked on their sales skills,
and, to his surprise, Calista kept up with him in this regard.
Business picked up later in the evening, so Randy wanted to stay open.
Calista sat in her throne for a while,
and, once refreshed, she attended to customers while Randy took a nap.
The next morning while chatting up a customer, Calista wrangled a discount on home furnishings,
and Randy was surprised, but pleased and proud, when Calista got her gold sales badge before he got his.
And Randy was astounded when Calista actually made the first sale for London Motors.
"That's great, honey!" he exclaimed, amazed.
Soon thereafter, Randy got his gold sales badge,
the business got to Rank 5, and Randy was able to get the biggest discount available.
"Okay, time to close up shop and head for home," Randy announced.
"Why?" asked Calista. "I don't know much about business, but it seems to me that we've just started to get some momentum here."
"Yelena's Rule No. 1," Randy responded, quoting his business idol.
"Or Rule No. 5," he mused, "or something like that: get your business to Rank 5, then close it and have your spouse re-open it. Because you can get business perks much faster by going from Rank 0 to Rank 5 than you can by going from Rank 5 to Rank 10. So we'll go home, I'll close the business, you'll buy it, and we'll start again tomorrow and get cash awards!"
"Okay," Calista said, a little confused, though she was happy to be getting home to Christopher. "I'm sure Granddad needs a break by now."
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Join us next week as Christopher Gothier London (who, as it turns out, isn't that much younger than Ophelia--whose exact age her adoptive parents don't know) grows up suddenly. Randy and Calista have a mild argument about priorities, sales pick up at Rebecka Realty, Meadow saves the day, and someone falls instantly in love.